On debating the worthwhile

Sean at Cosmic Variance has a really good essay on what we should do as part of normalising non-belief is engage serious people, rather than the creationists. He has a nice matrix, and suggests that we should engage worthy opponents, not the (which is not what Sean says) batshit crazies.

5 thoughts on “On debating the worthwhile

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with Sean on this one. But it should be noted that recently, when Jerry Coyne did just what Sean is suggesting–wrote a well-argued, thoughtful negative review of books by Ken Miller and Carl Giberson–he was immediately attacked by Barbara Forrest and Chris Mooney for his lack of “civility”. According to some mindsets, it’s always wrong to make a case for unbelief.

    And I do think there’s also a place for ridicule and mockery. Even the craziest ideas can take on a false appearance of legitimacy and slip into the mainstream if people aren’t wary of them. A lot of it just has to do with how these ideas are perceived. Ridiculing truly insane beliefs–birthers, creationists, holocaust deniers, etc.–ensures that these people won’t be able to adopt a false mantel of legitimacy without actually earning it.

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  2. I don’t know if you need to engage the creationist movement per se, but the natural theology that underlies it is one of the, if not thee most popular reasons for belief that people will offer when attempting to explain why their theism is justified. You have to engage that if you want to challenge their views. But the case is even more problematic here. Creationism oft acts as a microcosm for what goes on in apologetics in general. Indeed, virtually every attempt at theistic justification can be viewed as a “creationism” of its true native field. The moral argument is just as ridiculous to ethics as the biological design argument is to biology.

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  3. For what it is worth, I don’t think Hugh Ross is making less sophisticated arguments than St. Augustine. Hey, he has the benefit of time on his side. They’re both crackpots in modern terms. I don’t see why one should be treated as a serious, worthy (if dead) opponent and the other as a joke. Well, I think I do see the difference. St. Augustine has the benefit of developing a reputation as an important figure in the history of thought. That air of seriousness is what’s carrying the day here. But that’s ultimately superficial.

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