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Monday, November 17, 2008

Staunch Defense of Ignorance

(Preliminary note - My wife, Debbie, has a medical condition. I cannot say what it is exactly right now, just asking for prayer from any of my readers who pray, that she will be healed. Yes, we immediately sought medical care. Thanks!)

Staunch Defense of Ignorance

SDI is an acronym familiar to those of you who are politically and/or historically savvy. The Strategic Defense Initiative was the defense system proposed during the Reagan years and dubbed "Star Wars" by the popular press. Versions of this initially proposed shield from foreign missiles have been put in place and are a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin to this day. But I am going to be using the term in a different manner in the next two or three posts. I am referring to the Staunch Defense of Ignorance from this sentence forward.

SDI is often experienced when discussing a topic and the discussion moves close to someone's intellectual sacred cow. The refusal to consider any position other than one's own, which is usually whatever the standard and normally accepted position by society in general or a certain segment of society in particular, accompanied by threats or anger or the cutting off of all discussion is typical of SDI. Other symptoms of this syndrome may include being faced with derision, expulsion from a group, exclusion from positions of power or simply being totally ignored as if one does not exist.

One reason this blog exists is to allow free discussion of topics that are controversial. I NEVER remove a comment that disagrees with me, even if it mocks me or in some way makes me look bad. I only remove comments that are foul or pornographic...or a couple of times I have removed a spambot post. So if you don't cuss like a sailor or liberal Hollywood movie actor I'll let you say anything.

I strongly believe that if you have an opinion you should be able to defend it. I have always posted links and often post entire articles on subjects rather than simply rambling on with my own unsupported opinions. Often commenters focus on one aspect of long and complex quotes and challenge me to support that aspect, stretching me. Sometimes they do it to ridiculous lengths and I just politely tell them to find something else to talk about but it is good for both them and for me that we all get a chance to say our piece.

While you may disagree with me concerning my positions on evolution versus creation, you cannot deny that I have posted thousands upon thousands of lines of information from various scientific sources, from biblical sources, from personal research and experience and many pictures illustrating points. I do not argue from ignorance but rather present information and proofs and challenge those who disagree to disprove what I say. Usually they cannnot but rather seek to find what they consider to be my weakest point and work hard to make me defend it. In focusing on these areas they to some extent concede many of my main points as far as I am concerned. I am quite sure they believe that if they can make any of my arguments look shaky they have destroyed my entire point of view. No matter what, dialogue ensues...

There are blogs and websites out there which disagree with me on certain issues that post lots of information. There are sites that agree with me that do the same. That we are free to do this in the USA and most other countries is a blessing. We all get a chance to present and defend our views.

What annoys me is a person who cannot or will not defend what they believe, but simply insist that it be accepted. If you cannot defend your position, how can you believe in it?

I was wondering how I was going to present my next post, which involves the obvious and arguably fanatical indoctrination of public school kids by ideologically slanted teachers. I have some strong evidences to present beginning with the case of one high schooler who challenged his teacher and the reaction he received for his efforts. I promise to make a post on this tomorrow. But I was trying to find the right terminology for the teacher, the right way to think of the method by which the student's questioning and challenging opinions were received and the style of the response.

My wife and I were talking today and it hit me...because I love her open mind and how we can talk about anything openly and I do mean anything. During the first year of our marriage and courtship I challenged her about two of her standard Christian beliefs and she challenged me on one of mine. Neither of us put up SDI but instead we heard each other out and considered the evidences and were challenged to study and talk some more on those three subjects. She changed my mind on one the point she challenged me with, I changed her mind on one and the third is still unresolved but I think I am bringing her over to my side. No one got mad or hurt and neither of us turtled up. It wasn't frightening to have to reconsider and/or defend our belief systems.

Sadly, my wife was once in a Bible study group at a church and a subject came up that turned out to be a sacred cow for the teacher and some of the other ladies in the group. Rather than let my wife present her point of view, the teacher insisted that she not speak up and contacted the pastor to ask him to shush her! If you can imagine, my wife and I decided we had better have a meeting with church leadership on the issue. I had a position in the church that I was going to resign if leadership was going to insist that we not even talk about a subject!

The good news was that the pastor was wiser than that ladie's group teacher and acknowledged that she had a problem. He pointed out that my wife and I were in the minority among church members on this issue but he himself thought it was a difficult portion of scripture that was worthy of consideration and discussion. However, the church had an official position and in order to avoid dissension he preferred that we say what we liked to people one-on-one but not teach it when in leadership positions officially. He asked us to be the grownups, in other words, and feel free to discuss it with any and all church members in individual situations but not teach it in classes because some with a weaker faith might be offended. We both understood. I might think that the Bible teaches that the moderate drinking of alcoholic beverages is perfectly fine, but if I am entertaining a recovering alcoholic I will have no alcohol in the house and certainly neither offer him any or suggest that I drink myself.

My wife left that ladies group, feeling that there was no point trying to communicate with SDI folks. But we had no problem remaining in the church. Some day, as a friend of mine said yesterday, we will get to heaven and no doubt we will all find out we were wrong about SOMETHING if not several things. God being much smarter than me, it can be hard for him to make me understand things perfectly.

But SDI is a sad and pathetic way to face a position that disagrees with yours. It is a way of closing off discussion and hiding yourself from any information other than what you have already accepted. It is commonplace in many communities in the world today. Here are some topics where disagreement with the lemmings is usually faced with SDI:

Global Warming. Those of us who point out the scientific evidences to disprove manmade global warming are called nuts, "deniers" or ignored.

Evolution. The topic of tomorrow's post.

Christianity. People often turtle up or get angry or literally run away rather than discuss the possibility of a Messiah.

But there are many such topics, or topics within these main topics, that are often met with SDI.

Are you often using SDI in your life? Do you run away from information and discussion in any areas? If so, I would say that your behavior is intellectually unhealthy. What good is a brain that doesn't get any use?

When you lift weights, your muscles get stretched and actually damaged, ripped and, as they heal, they get a bit longer and stronger. Thus, bigger muscles that can lift more weight. If you quit lifting weights and quit challenging muscles then your muscles don't grow and, in fact, begin to shrink. As I fight off my infection I am living this out. I have muscles that are not getting as much exercise. Not challenging my body it is becoming weaker and I will have a lot of work to do once I am healthier.

Your mind is like that. If you have your pet set of beliefs that you protect from challenges and stress then you will be protecting your mind from having to actually do anything and it will become weak and lazy. You will have viewpoints that you believe because you choose to believe them rather than because they have been tested in the crucible of discussion and presentation of information.

I would think that politicians and scientists and teachers would be among the people who would be most likely to avoid SDI and yet it is not so. SDI is commonplace in these professions, which is a bad thing for our country and our children. I have found that SDI is actually not uncommon in Christian circles as well. Ignorance. Defending ignorance, fear of ideas, fear of having your viewpoint challenged? Is that you?