Friday, June 29, 2007

Win Modern Debates, here's how!

In debating modern issues, the first weapon that must be adopted into your arsenal is: "that's just your opinion". This is the nuclear warhead in all informal debates, and some formal ones. Here's how it works: when it becomes obvious you're loosing because your opinion isn't sufficient to carry the weight of your argument; you lob those words into your opponent's camp. He will then spend his time marshaling facts and information to support his position-like you care-thus give you time to advance emotionally based attacks like accusing him of mean spiritedness and lacking compassion. This keeps you on the offensive which is always best in debating.

If your opponent becomes flustered at your emotional attacks, this will provide a wonderful opportunity for retreat with the two of the one-two punch. This is accomplished by accusing your opponent of being a very angry person as you withdraw from the debate with an announcement of your unwillingness to debate such hostility. If there is any sign at all of frustration, this is sufficient for your scheme if you draw enough attention to the frustration.

If this method begins to fail there's a flanking maneuver which I call the "duck and jive". This is where you change horses mid-stream because the horse you're on is drowning. It is accomplished by dumping a previously held position mid-debate, and taking up a new one . You might have seen this in Abortion debates where one suddenly finds himself debating capital punishment, or the virtues of freedom, or some such thing as that.

It is best to never take up a defensive position. But if you actually have a position, and its worth defending, there is a position that appears to be a defensive one but isn't. I call this the "faux defense" and its best employed along side the "fat line center" tactic, which I'll discuss later. This is best used when your own position is being challenged and is accomplished by charging your opponent with being judgemental and intolerant. This causes him to retreat from an otherwise offensive maneuver, and to again take up a weaker position of defending his motives rather than advance a strong argument. In the mean time you continue harassing attacks on his character under cover of a faux defense. You will be aided in these attacks by the notion that your opponent's defensive position implies there is something to defend; all the while portraying yourself as taking a stand against judgemental bigoted attacks. You can catch an example of this on the floor of the Senate or Congress just about any time there's a debate. It's also prevalent in political campaigns.

In conjunction with the faux defense, the so called "fat line center" is a wonderful way of keeping everyone confused. Otherwise know as a faux-neutral, it derives its name from the axiom that there is a line of demarcation delineating positions in a debate. To take advantage of this technique one "fattens the line" so to speak, to enable himself to ostensible position his argument as a neutral one rather than "taking sides". Often labeled "moderate" this gives the appearance of neutrality thus shifting the playing field in such a way to make the opponent's position appear extreme. It also allows one to couch all his arguments from the perspective of "reasonableness". This is a very powerful position from which to better relate to the subjective thinker who has only himself as a reference point; and so is always neutral. This method will draw on his emotions and elitist tendencies proving very effective in the ultimate goal of his persuasion.

For the finishing touches use what I call "ice the cake", so named because it sugar coats what is actually a final jab as you end the debate. You accomplish this by summarizing your position by employing the two words "I Just". This perhaps is the most sneaky little trick that the modern debater can employ, and it's effective too because those two words have a way of armor plating your opinion. It really is quite amazing; you can actually say anything you want following those two words and there can be no response. Take the abortion debate again for example, a final statement could be: "I just don't think its right for an old rich man in Washington to be able to tell me what I can and can't do with my body". On the war in Iraq one could say: "I just think that we should all get along", "I just don't think its right to kill"; or on immigration: "I just think that if someone wants to make their life better, we shouldn't stand in their way, that would be mean".

Once the debate is over always declare yourself the winner. If the matter comes up again, refuse to debate it while claiming that the debate is over then continue to advance your position as if it isn't. Then harp on the need to move forward and stop waisting time with endless debates. Remember that if conventional wisdom-whether real or imagined-supports your position lean on it. If it doesn't, claim it a gray area, and then lean heavily on the argument that "we can't know". It always helps to add urgency to your argument so that you can advance a weak position simply by declaring: "what if I am right?".

One last word of warning. Do not ever engage in private debate, for that would be a waste of your time. To convince an opponent is never the purpose of a debate, but rather to persuade the subjective spectator. You will find all these tactics quiet effective to the end of persuading subjective thinkers, and there is more than an abundance of them to persuade. And you have not won until they are persuaded. Happy debating.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

I am now reading “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins”. Dawkins is a proud atheist and this book is aimed at proselytizing religious people away from their faith in a god to a faith that there is no God. The first chapter takes care of laying some ground work. He begins by making the case, using Albert Einstein, that there are many well know and respected scientist who, when quoted out of context, can sound as if they themselves believe in a god. He points out that this "god" is not a supernatural god. He finds this confusing, and so do I, and I agree with him that these scientist shouldn't do this. He also says that “it is possible that religious readers will be offended by what [he has] to say, and will find in these pages insufficient respect for their own particular beliefs…[and] It would be a shame if such offence prevented them from reading on...[also there is] A widespread assumption…that religious faith is especially vulnerable to offence and should be protected by an abnormally thick wall of respect…”(pg23) I scratched my head initially on this one. Then I thought of the respect that one religion is given and I found myself agreeing with him on this as well. He went on to make this same case himself using the recent events in Denmark. The last sentence of the first chapter disclaims “I shall not go out of my way to offend, nor shall I use kid gloves…”. The first sentence of the second chapter he calls the “God of the Old Testament…jealous…petty, unjust, unforgiving, control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticide, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully”. For someone to hate the God in which I have faith doesn’t offend me; my goodness how would I make it through the day? But for the people he is presumable trying to enlighten, I wonder why he thinks they will continue to read after a diatribe like that?

Incidentally, I found myself as a Christian agreeing with him more than I ever thought I could. This is so because his arguments are, by his own admission, against religion. This makes sense because as an atheist that’s all that remains. I am not an atheist and I don’t have respect for religion, so I’m sure as an atheist he has even less.

I've only read two chapters but there’s nothing surprising so far. All such books, as far as I can discern, are about the same thing: power. The main thrust is that religious people should not vote because they are deluded. I think it was Voltaire who said “if there is no God, all things are permissible”. If there is no objective basis for morality, then the only question that remains is'n't what is right and wrong, but rather who gets to decide? The secularist then finds democracy problematic because of what he sees as the deluded ignorant superstitious religious voter imposing his beliefs of right and wrong onto society. In the end it all comes down to amassing raw power. While reading this book I put letters in the margins to aid in later research; P for power, R for religion, and E for evolution. The P’s already outnumber all the other letters put together, and I suspect this trend will continue because P is all that’s really left if there is no God.


OK so I’ve been tagged by Pat J. Here are seven things about me

1. I went scuba diving on a coral reef off of Cat Island in the Bahamas. I didn’t know they were fragile and probably killed a half mile of it.

2. I did four static line skydives in Jackson GA.

3. I lived on a houseboat for a year and had a sail boat on the same dock.

4. I lost the sailboat off the coast of Georgia when my mask broke after capsizing. The coast guard came out and hovered over my friend and I for awhile, and I could see the rescuer looking down at me shaking his head like I was a moron. Then they flew away and we washed ashore.

5. I spent a month living on San Pedro Island in Belize where I volunteered for an organization called Wings of Hope. while there I had only one free day and I sailed a catamaran from San Pedro Island to Caye Caulker and back. I thought I wasn’t going to make it back before dark and was contemplating beaching on the south end of San Pedro.

6. I flew a Cessna 172 down into and out the side of Mt. St. Helens, and a Piper down into the Grand Canyon before doing so was outlawed.

7. The most wonderful thing I’ve ever experienced is being married to my wife and watching my children grow up!

Friday, June 15, 2007

To Suffer Loss, or Gain Suffering?

A house in our neighborhood burned down today. I was alerted to the fire by my wife who, while out running errands, saw the smoke and phoned. Curious I stepped out the front door to check it out, and sure enough there it was. A plume of smoke was rising out of the neighborhood near by, and I watched for a moment before returning to the air-conditioned comfort of my living room. I was convinced there was nothing I could do.

But my heart hearkened back to an era when the smoke would have elicited a different response from me. A time when the smoke would have drawn me to the scene, not as a sight seer, but as a much needed hand in fire fighting, or to assist in some other way. After extinguishing the fire there would've been an opportunity to assist in other ways and there would have probably been a house raising as well. Today if I had gone to help I would've been told by the fire department professionals to stay behind the yellow tape. The house will more than likely be rebuilt by an insurance company, so there won't be any house raising. That will be done by the professionals versed in construction and the myriad details of building code. So ultimately I can happily go about my business without having to be bothered by it at all.

Such is the luxury of living in the modern world in a modern culture. As a society, for the time being anyway, we have successfully put suffering at arms length. But I can't help but wonder if the price humanity has paid to avoid suffering is not higher than the price of suffering itself. Even as I consider this article, my honest response is telling. I cringe and recoil at the thought of being bothered and imposed upon by my neighbor's woes, and I have no youthful fantasies about suffering with my neighbor either. I also know enough about suffering to understand that there's a reason why modern man goes to great lengths to eliminate it from the realm of his existence. But still this event has given me cause to feel somewhat plagued by the loss of something; something that can only be gained, I fear, through suffering.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Why I'm a Republican

This is reason one of one hundred, at least, reasons why I'm a republican. Read the first paragraph of this article. There was no shame on the part of the media to identify the party affiliation of the aggressor. I think of this as a good thing because I want to know what my representatives are up to, and I might not ever find out if they're Democrats. In order to compare, I Googled William Jefferson because there was a piece about him on the Cox home page recently. I picked the very first one and this is it. Strangely absent in this article is a party affiliation. OK, so there is a capital D-La in the second paragraph. Thinking that perhaps I was being a little too biased, I selected the next of the Googled Articles. The word Democrat was displayed predominately in this one, but I get the feeling as I read the article that he is a victim of partisan politics. Read the first few paragraphs here and try to imagine a similar article on Tom Delay. But I see this as ultimately a good thing because I am under no illusions that just because a politician has an R after his name he is a good politician. If Democrats know the same thing about their representatives, if would be difficult to determine how. But because of the media's eagle eye on Republicans we hear about it if one sneezes. This is as it should be and I say again one of many reasons I'm a Republican.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Truth and the Church, Part Three

As I listen to sermons, many times I ask the question "if I believed that Christianity was one of many valid religions, could I still listen to this sermon as a truth rather than the truth"? Sadly the answer is often yes.

Francis Schaeffer addresses this issue in his book Escape from Reason. He blamed the communication gaps between speaker and listener on what he called differing "thought forms". This gap occurs when the words being used by the speaker have different underlying meanings for the listener. According to his book, the thought forms that challenged the Church in his day were those of thesis, antitheses, and syntheses. He admonished the Church in his time to understand that the Gospel must be presented in a way to penetrate that kind of thinking.

Present day I am of the belief that the Gospel is often being derailed in this same way, by the relativistic spirit of this age. George Barna's research would seem to confirm that belief as he cites an amazingly high number of Christians who see their religion as only true for themselves. As I gladly evict the Rajah from my head and thoughts forever, I will refer to him one last time. If the Church of Jesus Christ is to be the salt and light it was called to be in our day, the Rajah must also be evicted from the Church and the door diligently guarded to prevent his re-entry.

The Folly of the Rajahs, Part Two

As pointed out in the previous post, the true position of the Rajah is no better or different than the blind men to which he was supposedly imparting wisdom. His balconied position was ultimately one of self exaltation which depended on the blindness of everyone but the blind men to pull off. The intended point of the fable is:

Beyond the obvious absurdity of this statement, if widely accepted, it can also prove to be dangerous. According to Josh McDowell, the most often quoted scripture from the Bible fifty years ago was John 3:16. The most oft quoted scripture today is Mathew 7:1, "judge not lest you be judged". I will talk more about the church next time, but this trend is indicative of the culture as a whole and it's inability and unwillingness to judge. In this age of terrorism, this cultural weakness is made to order for an enemy born out of, and codified, not by a nation state but by a religion. There can be no doubt that Mohammad Atta was committed in his religion, and that that commitment puts the Rajah in a predicament from which his lack of judgement has him ill equipped to extricate himself.

Where there is no revelation, the people perish or cast off restraint.
(Proverbs 29:18)

If history teaches us nothing else at all, it teaches us that it teaches us nothing at all. The writer of Ecclesiastes was correct when he said "there is nothing new under the sun". It would seem that all nations rise only to answer the Siren call to their destruction. Today that call is "there is no truth", or better yet: "all is true", which is the same thing. This statement, which permeates Western culture, embraces blindness. Although allowing for the casting off of restraint for a little while, it has a simultaneous effect of diminishing a culture's ability to resist a strong and confident culture from imposing itself. This point is proven as the flagship of secularism, Europe, finds itself more Islamified year by year through Muslim immigration . As this religion gains more prominence and power, multiculturalism will be no obstacle for Islam's refusal to except it's multicultural designation as "a" religion. It appears apparent that Islamic advancement will not be a peaceful one. For this reason the road ahead is fraught with many dangers, but perhaps the most insidious danger of them all is the folly of the Rajahs.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Rajah and his Folly, Part One

This is the first of a three part series analyzing and drawing logical conclusions from the ancient fable from India about a Rajah and six blind men. Part two and three will take a look at the damage that the wrong conclusions drawn from the fable are having on society and, more importantly, the Church. To be sure, these conclusions are not the problem, but the symptoms of a more insidious problem: illogical thought processes and the worldview that follows them. As those with a relativist's worldview have used the fable as an aid in explaining an illogical ideology, so will I use it to expose the fallacy of it's argument, and to show how this thinking has permeated the entire culture including the Church.The fable has been popularized in recent years by it's frequent use in illustrating how all religions contain different truths about the same God. Following is a brief synopses of the fable:

  • Visiting the Rajah six blind men, upon entering the palace courtyard, encounter an elephant for the first time. Examining the elephant with their hands, each describes it according to the part he is touching. One says "the elephant is like a tree" (the leg), and another: "the elephant is like a rope" (the tail), a wall (it's side), and so on. The blind men soon begin to argue loudly in their disagreement over the nature of the elephant. The Rajah, awakened by the commotion comes to his balcony and informs the blind men that they are only examining a part, and that they must examine the whole animal to know what an elephant is like.

Though the fable is useless in revealing any truth about God, or religions for that matter, it does inadvertently reveal some truth about the person who would use it to that end. This can be seen by considering the positions and attributes of the players and who they represent. There are the blind men arguing in the court yard; they represent religions. There is the elephant who silently stands there being large; he represents God. And there's the sleeping Rajah who is elevated above the fray, and of course, can see all. He's not suppose to represent anybody, but he ends up representing the relativist.

The thrust of the fable is suppose to draw our attention to the blind men because of their closed-minded, and stubborn refusal to accept all religions as equally valid. But I'd like to divert the reader's attention away from the blind men and toward the person using the fable to make his relativistic point. As one listens to the story, the first question that should be asked is: who does the story teller most relate to? The answer of course is not those dogmatic blind and intolerant religious people arguing down in the courtyard; but rather the reasonable and seeing Rajah standing in his elevated balcony. This is the very reason the fable fails in making it's point. No person has ever escaped the bounds of our existence to be in a position from which religions can be objectively observed as they seek God. So claiming to be wise, they become fools. This is also the reason the fable makes it's unintended point: that those who think all religions are valid are the real narrow-minded blind men. They are blind to the fact that if differing religions disagree, only one can ultimately be true; they are narrow-minded in their lack of willingness to consider the possibility that any one can be true, and true to the exclusion of all others. It also reveals their utter ignorance on matters of religion, and their hypocrisy in the fact that though they themselves are blind, they accuse others of being so.

It has been said that ideals have consequences, and I would add that as of late, so do worldviews. In part 2 I will discuss the dangerous consequences for society of the real narrow mindedness illustrated by the Rajah.

Friday, June 1, 2007

A Debate with "Progressive"

I have been debating the last few days with progressive on his blog Forwardly-Thinking. If you're interested in reading this debate click here.