Sunday, December 23, 2007

The War on Ignorance

P.Z. Myers has an interesting take on the efficacy of ridicule in getting people to back down on the creationism in schools front.

His point interests me mostly because I'm glad to see some progress, but let's face it. This is the worst possible way to make progress ever. It's depressing, in fact, that the only way for reason to win is for it to make the irrational look stupid until they shut up, relying on the hope that reasonable people are indeed the majority.

Call me an idealist, but wouldn't it be a billion times better if we could get the irrational to think rationally instead? Is that even possible, at least, on the scale we're hoping for? My belief that people are all fundamentally rational has been shaken a lot recently, and this really doesn't help.

1 comment:

Ashley said...

I've found that the only way to effectively convince anyone of anything is to first decide what they value.

For a scientist, it's important to them to be deeply rooted in evidence and rigorous methodology. This means that when you're talking to a scientist, this is the REAL value on the table. You're not discussing Topic X. You're discussing whether or not they are what they want to think they are.

This is very different when you're dealing with religiously-motivated ideologues. They value different things. They value the age of their arguments (hence 'traditional') and their apparent universality (hence 'moral majority' and other similar terms).

This means that when you're debating (to use the term loosely) with one of these people you won't convince them with evidence. Evidence doesn't touch on their values. You have to either erode the historical basis of their claim (which is why evolution is so scary to them, along with accompanying claims that the Bible may not be historically accurate), or point out that they're not representing All Good Godfearing Men.

That's why ridicule works. They have no strength if not the age of their argument and the number of people shouting it. Ridiculing them isolates them. Sometimes it's all you can do.