• Argument by Academia

    Having been subjected to this twice this week (so far, it’s only Monday), I wanted to talk about it.  The argument by academia (or as I also call it: The “I’m smarter than you, therefore I win” argument) is a special case of the argument from authority.

    Basically, this argument is where one of the debaters insists that his argument can only be understood by someone who has read a several thousand page tomb of mostly irrelevant material in order to find something that the guy is talking about.  One commenter (in the discussion here) suggested that we not use a particular definition of religion and instead use his version of religion (that would include communism as a religion) referring to not one, but two academic treatises about the subject.

    It’s not that he’s wrong, but he refuses to make the effort to explain himself.

    In another discussion on another forum, the commenter insists that we read his 50-odd page “theory”.  We can’t even get him to explain it.

    I’m not an academic.  In fact, the vast majority of the people in the world are not academics.  We are not all Bible scholars or biochemists or philosophers.  Of course, most of us aren’t football players, musicians, or artists.  That doesn’t stop us from watching football, listening to music, or enjoying art.  Likewise just because I’m not a Bible scholar or a biochemist doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the subject and know something about it.

    However, that doesn’t mean I have the time, energy, or inclination to read a thousand page book just to get what someone else is thinking.

    My question is, why can’t you just answer the question? Why can’t you talk about your own thoughts without telling someone to read something else.

    While I was a teacher, I learned two things very quickly.  The first is, if you don’t really understand what your talking about, then you can’t teach it to someone else.  When you’re talking to someone, you can only BS your way so far before they start calling you on it.  If you can’t answer those questions, then you credibility is shot to hell.

    The second thing is that if you should be able to explain yourself, using your own words, pretty easily.  This was how I confirmed my students learned what they were supposed to.  A teacher should excel at this and they should also excel and changing how they describe something so that if someone doesn’t get it, then they might another way.

    If the receiver of the message doesn’t understand you, then it’s your fault.  You might have thought he was smarter than he actually is, you might not be able to tone down your message, or you might not be able to speak his language, but its your fault he doesn’t understand you.  Now, when I ask questions, it’s because I’m interested in the answer.  Even when it’s a question about silliness like ID, Christianity or Big Foot.  I really want to understand the argument.

    Nine times out of ten, what I find is that the person talking really doesn’t have a clue what they are talking about.  ID people don’t (in general) understand science or evidence.  Christians (in general) have massive cases of confirmation bias (which is the entire point of John’s Outsider Test of Faith). Big Foot believers, well, they ain’t got no body.

    When I ask for evidence, don’t try to interpret what I’m really asking for.  Just present the blasted evidence.

    When I say, here’s the definition I’m using (with a citation), don’t tell me I’m wrong and then demand that we use another definition.  That’s just defining away the issue.  Ask Michael Behe how well that’s worked out for him.

    When I say, here’s the evidence for my position, don’t ignore it.  It’s evidence and it has to be dealt with.  If you have evidence that shows mine evidence is wrong, then let’s see it and talk about it.  Don’t just say “you’re wrong”.

    I’ve been wrong before.  I’ll be wrong again.  It happens.  But if you want to convince me I’m wrong,be prepared to support yourself… a lot.

    Category: CreationismCultureEducationPhilosophy


    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat