We Have to Raise the Bar
I realize I've not written anything on here in quite some time. I've simply been busy doing other things.
At any rate, I see no point in dilly dallying since we all have much to do. I've been watching the Hitchens/Craig debate hosted at Biola University earlier this year. For those of us familiar with both Hitchens and Craig I don't think anything said will surprise us (though I've not yet watched the entire debate so I'm not positive).
However, one thing has appalled me: The comments. I believe one of the great advantages of Youtube, blogs, Facebook, Myspace, etc... is the ability to interact with a caliber of people we may not find otherwise. And certainly readers of this blog know that I love interacting in comment threads, some of which grow to be incredibly long.
As I looked at the comments on the Hitchens/Craig debate youtubes I noticed a complete and total lack of depth and philosophical understanding on both sides (theists and atheists). For example, one commentator said that all of Dr. Craig's arguments are "fallacious" and have been "disproved". Obviously I disagree with such a statement, but even if I agreed with the proposition I would still be angry about it. Simply saying something is fallacious does not make it such.
It's well and good to disagree with Dr. Craig, I don't question anybody's right to disagree. But if I disagree with you I'm not simply going to say "your arguments are fallacious" as if by saying that I've discredited your entire case. If I say "your arguments are fallacious" I'm required to explain how they are fallacious. If I disagree with a deductive argument I must disagree specifically with one (or all) of the premises and explain how they violate some rule of logic.
On this blog we've discussed the Kalam Cosmological argument in the past. My skeptical readers have at the very least explained what premises they disagreed with and why they disagreed with them. And at that point we've had dialog. But if someone says "The Kalam argument is fallacious" without specifically pointing out a fallacy all I can do tilt my head and wonder.
Based on this I believe we have got to raise the level of dialog between skeptic and believer. If we don't we'll simply come to a standstill and possibly a shouting match.
This is not the only level on which we must raise the standard of dialog, however. Even in the midst of specific disagreements I've noticed (and have been guilty of it myself) people make assertions without a clear understanding of underlying presuppositions. A good example here can be found in the relativist. Of course there are different types of relativism (moral, epistemological, etc...), but every relativist denies the objectivity of something. However, it's impossible for a relativist to completely deny the objectivity of something without assuming the objectivity of something else.
If we specifically look at truth, a popular relativist mantra is "there is no absolute truth". However, this is an absolutist statement. If this is true then there is at least one absolute truth, and an infinite number of necessary qualifying statements. To be consistent (and this assumes the logical rule of noncontradiction) the relativist must say "There is no absolute truth except this one, and all statements verifying it ad infinitum". Thus such a statement is self-defeating and not justifiable.
That is just an example, but for progress to be made in the skeptic/believer dialog we have got to get beyond simply repeating our truisms and mantras and engage at a deeper level of thought the underlying issues at stake.
And there are many underlying issues and presuppositions that need to be brought to light. I'm tired of discoursing with people who believe happiness is the great end of mankind when they have simply assumed that without examining why they've assumed it. And I'm sure my skeptical friends are tired of discoursing with theists who have simply assumed things about the relation of knowledge and faith without understanding philosophical foundations for knowledge (as a theist I'm tired of dealing with this one).
I realize we will profoundly disagree on some things, but we have got to raise the bar on our standard of dialog if we ever wish to move forward.