I’ve been doing a bit more lurking on James McGrath’s blog recently, and even got into a couple of arguments.
I am very convinced that evolution accounts for the diversity of life on earth.
I am persuaded that Jesus was a real historical person.
On James’s blog there are plenty of people who believe strongly that I’m wrong on each account (though, funnily enough, not on both!). And arguing with either group is just an exercise in beating one’s head against a plank of wood. The same arguments, styles of argument, and patterns of discussion come round and round and round. And get nowhere. I recently commented that I thought doing that kind of blog argument
a) had never changed anyone else’s mind
b) had never changed my mind
c) had never failed to end in name-calling
So here’s my challenge. If you want to argue for creationism, say, then find some scientific position that you are convinced by. You might be pretty convinced by the germ theory of disease, say, or atomic theory, or heliocentrism, or a spherical earth.
Then find the forums where the people who disagree hang out. They will be there. There are places where flat-earthers hang out, disproving the scientific consensus. Or places where geocentrists discuss how Galileo was wrong, and so on. Go and convince them of the true science.
If you’re into challenging historical consensus, do the same. If you are a mythicist, try going and convincing holocaust denialists that they are wrong. Go and sample the arguments used against you, and the patterns of debate, and how no matter how often you point out the historical facts, they will be twisted and ignored, and so on.
That’s the challenge. To experience what it is like to challenge the beliefs of folks who are totally convinced that the academic establishment has a huge conspiracy to hide or misrepresent the truth.
But not just to experience their intransigence. More importantly to experience your own inability to make progress. The way things you say get misunderstood, the your points are treated. The way that you feel utterly unable to cover even the basic information without misrepresentation. And the way you and they so easily end up impugning each other’s intelligence.
I’m not suggesting that these beliefs are equivalent. I’m not suggesting mythicism is just like holocaust denial or flat-earthism. They aren’t. That’s not the point. The point is not the academic approach to the evidence. But how online arguments go. I hope if you take the challenge, you’ll at least be able to to understand why those who argue against you seem so devoid of any good arguments or evidence. And why online discussion is not a good place for constructive debate.
As for me, I can’t think of an academic hegemony I feel strongly is wrong. I’d love to go and sample the other side. But I can’t think of how.