Monday, May 25, 2009

What is "rational" public discourse?

Last week the Los Angeles Times ran a provocative opinion piece by Charlotte Allen,
Atheists: No God, no reason, just whining,
with the subtitle, "Superstar atheists are motivated by anger -- and boohoo victimhood". The article is worth reading. It concludes:
What atheists don't seem to realize is that even for believers, faith is never easy in this world of injustice, pain and delusion. Even for believers, God exists just beyond the scrim of the senses. So, atheists, how about losing the tired sarcasm and boring self-pity and engaging believers seriously?
The article got some very strong negative reactions from atheists. Some claimed the LA Times should not have printed it, as it was so filled with "hate". The response from P.Z. Myers (who Allen singled out in her article) is interesting. It is so filled with sarcasm, caricatures, and simplistic generalisations, that to me it only supports Allen's point.

So what do I consider are some hallmarks of rational discussion and argument?
  • Absence of anger, sarcasm, abuse, ridicule,...
  • Respect for others and their points of view, even when we strongly disagree
  • A desire to understand preceding attempting to be understood
  • Ackowledgement of subtleties of interpretation and evidence.
  • Thoughtful engagement with scholarly work, especially primary sources
"Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger"
James 1:17

1 comment:

  1. Sounds a lot like becoming Intellectually Virtuous - one of the set texts for our 2nd year Philosophy course.