The Necessary Virtue of Suspending Judgement

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In the “Information Age” we live in, we are confronted daily with issues, ideas, and news stories faster than our ability to absorb them can keep up. In days gone by (and I mean like two decades ago) the necessity for us to confront and formulate multiple opinions on so many things daily or even hourly didn’t exist. There may have been a “water cooler” discussion over some worthy topic at work, an important newspaper article to think about, or a story on the evening news to digest, but typically only a few a day.

Now, even when checking your home feed on Facebook, you are inundated with a host of earth-shattering stories and ideological challenges. Life on social networking isn’t all just cat pictures and Farmville anymore. Not only that, but the expectation of a response is as instant as the posting of the issue. When I scroll down my own feed at the moment, I see deadly protests in Venezuela, an article about the foolishness of snake handling churches, an article about people being buried alive, a treatise on the potential moral evils of the Judeo/Christian God, and varied responses to the recent “coming out” of Michael Sam and Ellen Page. That doesn’t even cover half of the pithy issues and stories that have been shared in the last day.

I, of course, share stories and issues as well. We all desire to inform and/or challenge our peers via our social networks about things that are important to us. Such interaction is a big part of what social networking is all about. Ironically, you will probably form an opinion of this blog entry, which addresses having to formulate opinions on articles, social network posts, stories, and blogs. That said, I want to encourage us all about this current reality in society; a reality where issues and ideas are constantly barraging us.

Here are some of the positives that result from this:

1. We are being tacitly encouraged to become faster thinkers and rely more on reason, evidence, and logic to ascertain good information and deflect the bad. If we cannot adapt to this social mode, we will be easily fooled and be reactionary to unsubstantiated claims. I chuckle when an “Onion” satire article inflames the sensibilities of a person who isn’t privy to such parody and “Poe” stories. I see this trend as a type of intellectual, “Natural Selection,” revealing the “fittest” for this new Internet driven world.

2. The Internet allows for us to be exposed to positive ideas, technologies, and relevant issues that we wouldn’t otherwise know about.

3. It is very hard for a person to be kept ignorant by those around them who would desire to limit their information access.

Here are some of the potential negatives:

1. Anyone, and I mean ANYONE can post anything they want and “trolls” are aplenty. Memes, photoshop, and slick looking, cheap or free websites can give the appearance of validity to an idea and the ability for people to share nonsense. Some of these are even dangerous. For example, when a person who needs effective medical treatment abandons such for the “essential oils” or “homeopathic remedies” they see in a meme or foolish article, they can actually die.

2. We can spend otherwise enjoyable time researching and formulating opinions on all the things we are exposed to. Ultimately though, it is on us to prioritize our time and shape our own online experience. If our exposure is stressing us out, we should curb internet time and/or rethink our “likes” and “friends list.” (I use the pronouns “I,” “us,” and “we” heavily as I consider these pros and cons because as we engage in online interaction, we are all in this new social world together)

All that brings me to an important consideration… Who says we need to have an instant opinion on everything? Who says we have to know everything? I think there is nothing wrong and everything right with asserting, “I’m just not sure. I’ll have to think about it and get back to you later.” Humbly saying, “I don’t know,” is also a glory in today’s world. In this modern Age of Ideas, intellectual humility and intellectual honesty is sometimes hard to come by. Of course, there are many things that you may have already considered and developed a position on. Share those positions straightaway of course, yet be willing to revise them if new data necessitates it.

Give yourself permission to take appropriate time to formulate an opinion or make a reasonable judgement regarding issues and ideas you think are worth considering. If you don’t have enough information at present, suspend judgement until you do. Then, you can do your due diligence to acquire sufficient data and/or perform needed philosophical consideration at an effective pace or at your leisure. You can also require those making certain assertions to provide their own evidence. It is not your responsibility to prove their ill-supported case for them or provide proof against a claim made sans evidence and reason. To quote Christopher Hitchens,

“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

In temporarily suspending judgement, you’ll also be teaching those around you that you require time to consider issues of importance and lean on rationality over emotional, knee-jerk reactions. Be an example of effective intellectual methodology among your peers. Fostering a less emotionally reactionary society wouldn’t be a bad thing. Such an intellectual climate is even more desirable as society becomes increasingly dependent (if that is possible) on Internet social networking.

So, what are your thoughts? (Take all the time you need) 🙂

*The meme at the top of this blog is my creation, but feel free to use it as you wish.

On the Now Infamous Buzzfeed, “22 Messages From Creationists To People Who Believe In Evolution”

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It has been amazing to see the speed at which the Buzzfeed article, “22 Messages From Creationists To People Who Believe In Evolution,” has blown up on social media. Not only that, but the passionate response from people on both sides of the theological and scientific argument has been huge.

Click the link to see the article:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/messages-from-creationists-to-people-who-believe-in-evolutio

Buzzfeed journalist, Matt Stopera, was live at the Nye vs. Ham debate last Tuesday. As I was making my way around the Creation Museum, taking pictures and writing notes before the debate, I saw Mr. Stopera actively working the crowd to get a balanced take and opinions from “both sides.” I did an on-camera interview for Jonathan Ryan from the, “Geek Goes Rogue,” blog on Patheos, but did not get to speak with Matt Stopera from Buzzfeed. I was impressed by his demeanor with the museum patrons and his efforts to get balanced coverage. Though the secular and non-young earth creationist contingent was in the minority at the event, it appeared easier for Matt to get “messages” from their side. As the appointed debate time drew nigh, he was still working hard to get enough message pictures from the creationist side to make the pictures even. 

Due to some things I’ve seen on social media stating that Buzzfeed was just trying to make people look stupid on the creationist side or that Matt Stopera was “leading” people in some way, I can say as a very close bystander, that is not correct. Matt would give the people who wanted to participate a marker and paper, then allow them ample time to reflect on something to write. He didn’t prompt them to write any particular thing. He told them to write anything they wanted. Also, he must have posted nearly, if not all the pictures he took, not just ones that made one side look better and the other worse. It appeared that he was able to actively interface with people from about 4:00 pm to 6:30 pm. That isn’t a lot of time to get 44 people to participate in such a two-sided coverage piece, but he was able to make it happen. I was impressed.

Click the link to see the contrasting, “22 Messages For Creationists From People Who Believe In Evolution”:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/messages-for-creationists-from-people-who-believe-in-evoluti

I have also seen no shortage of satirical photoshops of the pictures and serious responses posted by others this week, primarily to the creationist’s messages. See two of my favorites below.

“Answers for Creationists,” article by By Phil Plait:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/02/06/religion_and_science_answering_creationists_questions.html

“The Amazing Atheist Answers 22 Creationists”

Here are a few things I would like to mention based on the varied responses I’ve seen to the first “22 Messages” article online:

1. To my secular, scientific, and atheist counterparts: These are real people and most are probably nice, hard working folks. Just because you disagree with them, that is no cause to go “ad hominem” on them via social media. I’d almost guarantee you NOT ONE of the people in the pictures had any idea how HUGE the response to their messages would be. To the people who have kept their comments on-point, kudos. But, I’ve read quite a few comments on facebook and elsewhere criticizing the looks or build of some of the people in the pictures. I have also read some comments that are just very derogatory with nothing constructive or instructive said to refute the “message.” That is out of line in my opinion. If you despise the young-earth creationist ideology, attack the ideology. None of the people in these pictures have done anything to you or I personally I presume. Don’t attack them personally in a way not directly related to the issue, from a presumably safe vantage point on the Internet. It is a cheap shot and does nothing to further your own argument.

2. To Young Earth Creationists: Don’t assume all the people in the pictures are “angels” just because they believe like you theologically. One individual in the pictures sat next to me during the debate. He or she made an interesting remark about some people who should, “Go back to Africa.” The small group he or she was a part of had quite a few interesting things to say as the debate countdown was rolling. That being said, I don’t put that on creationists in general. Far from it. But, on both sides, this issue needs to be about the issue. Regardless of whether you or I think a person we disagree with is “a jerk” or “arrogant,” that means nothing relative to if they are correct. This is an issue about modern, evidence-based science and the supposed scientific authority of the ancient Bible text. To paraphrase Bill Nye, “Show me the evidence and you’ll change my mind.” If you are shown contradictory evidence, but yet your mind remains resolute in your beliefs, please don’t fool yourself into a self-evaluated position of intellectual honesty.

3. I was staggered by the simplicity and lack of insight in most of the “messages” and questions. I wonder if many of the people have bothered to give google a work out on these subjects to find relevant scientific data from valid sources. Also, many messages show a distinct confirmation bias from people who probably have never searched out the argument of the opposition. Most of the questions raised can be answered very quickly and comprehensively with just a bit of research. I am surprised that some or all of the people in the pictures saw their messages and questions as a knock-out punch to modern science and/or secularism.

4. My last bit of encouragement is as follows: Seek out honest dialogue over debate. Debate can be a wonderful thing and I was very encouraged by the turnout and response to the one this week. But, it only goes so far. Reach out to people if you want to change their minds in a constructive way. If you wonder what people of the opposing view think, ask them directly when you have opportunity. Engage in effective, personal communication whenever possible. Aggressive posturing rarely ever leads to minds being changed or relationships being built. We have the privilege to live in a Nation with true freedom of speech. Use it fully; just mix in a pinch of kindness and empathy as well.

If you have not yet seen the epic debate, click the link below:

-Copyright 2014, Luke Austin Daugherty

First thoughts on the Nye vs. Ham Debate and Creation Museum -Back at the Hotel…

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After creeping 15 miles in the level 2 snow emergency, I’m at my hotel and a little tired. But, I want to share a few “knee jerk” reactions from my experience at the “Creation Museum” and the Nye vs Ham debate today before hitting the sack.

Regarding the “Creation Museum”:

I arrived at 2:15 pm so I would have a little time to look around the main exhibit areas before they closed early at 4 pm. I ended up getting a ticket to the “Stargazer’s Planetarium” for the 3:00 pm show, which lasted 23 minutes, so my time in the museum was a bit rushed.

I have heard many good things, even from atheists, about the “presentation” of the museum. I’d agree that the fit and finish of the joint was pretty good. The animatronics were nice. The main animatronic display in the main hall, fitted with a pond, two baby T-Rex dinosaurs playing, a little girl holding a modern, domesticated carrot, and a gray squirrel did seem like a bit of a “mash-up” though. The graphic design of most of the different displays was very good as well, not to mention a stellar dragon-themed gift shop. (I almost broke down and bought a copy of their, “The Homosexual War: A Biblical View,” DVD because I wanted to find out what all the gays were REALLY up to, but I didn’t want to stand in the check-out line)

That said, I was literally AMAZED at the lack of real scientific data for a “museum.” For a good portion of the exhibits, there was quite a lack of scientific or even pseudo-scientific data. I was quite taken back really. I first walked in the main entrance, through “Dragon Hall,” which is a large hall that has several displays drawing a correlation between Bible dragons and apparently real dragons from folklore. Then, as you begin the walk through the main exhibits: “Starting Points, “Biblical Authority,” “Biblical Relevance,” “Culture in Crisis,” and more, (see link directly below for virtual tour of the museum) the place starts to just feel like a big, philosophical/theological argument based on Ham’s chosen Ancient Text. I did not feel like I was actually in a museum of any kind. I don’t think I would have even back when I would have agreed with Ken Ham on the majority of his theology either.

http://creationmuseum.org/whats-here/photo-preview/

Trying to make you scared of “sin,” evil secular agendas, suicide, hell, and more; the first half of the museum walk is a grand appeal to emotion. I would suppose for many who acknowledge Ham’s ideologies, getting whipped up emotionally before having weighty theological ideas implanted (or merely reinforced) into a mind primed by fear, must create a strong level of conviction for those beliefs. At the end of it, there isn’t an option left to disagree with the “Creation Museum’s” literal interpretations of the Bible AND NOT be evil, secular, a follower of “Naturalism Religion,” or in danger of eventual suicide, and/or illicit drug use.

Overall, the people at the Creation Museum did a very good job of making things streamlined at check-in and everyone was very nice and smiling genuinely. Though, I’ve never seen so much armed security at a private museum in America or “K-9 Units” walking through the crowd. Regardless, I support their right to have such security, though I wouldn’t have expected it there. They could put a manned .50 caliber machine gun on a turret in the parking lot for all I care. Just keep the safety on. I wouldn’t want one of my tires shot out if the guard sneezes with his finger on the trigger. (I kid, I kid)

Some of the kindly staff moving through the crowds, keeping an eye out, did seem to be a bit on edge though. When a group of what looked to be “secular religionists” like myself were laughing and looking at a pad of paper, I heard a staff person ask himself, “What’s going on here?,” with some worry and move near them to listen in. The staff must be concerned that the atheists are going to go full-on immoral at any moment, take a page out of the first chapters of Genesis, strip themselves bare, and run around naked…

The Debate:

I’ll keep this short, as I’ll write more later. Also, you can watch the debate for yourself at the link below.

I feel the most important thing to note from both Nye and Ham, came in the Q & A at the end. They were both asked, “What evidence would it take to change your mind.” (paraphrased)

Ham did not allow that ANY evidence whatsoever could changed his mind from the literal interpretation he has of the Bible and his personal revelations from God. He might deviate on some nuances about the details to a degree, but apparently not the basic “truth” of the Genesis account of creation, the Ark/Flood account, etc. He is a resolute and unchangeable no matter the “evidence.”

Nye had a ready list of potential evidence and data, which if they could be presented, would change his mind on important scientific items of note immediately.

All other things aside for now, I’ll assert that Bill Nye came out ahead in the “intellectual honesty” aspect of the debate. More to come!

http://debatelive.org/

The Debate is About to Begin! Nye vs. Ham

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I had a fun time perusing the “Creation Museum” this afternoon. Now, I’m waiting for the real fun to begin! The, “Debate of the Decade,” will be kicking off in just a few hours. 

Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham is like the Super Bowl for science nerds, theologians, young earth creationists, and non-theists. I’ll be blogging asap after the event is over. Follow my blog for all the updates! 

And, It’s not too late to watch the live stream online! Click the link below: 

http://debatelive.org/

Rolling to Kentucky in my ’94… To the Nye/Ham debate!

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I’ve got my “duds” packed and the tires are aired up on my ’94 Buick Roadmaster. I’m ready to go! Tomorrow, come rain or snow, I’ll be heading to the “Creation Museum” to see Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate over the origins of life and perhaps the universe. I’m very excited, as I’ve never attended such a high profile debate in person.

I’ll do my best to get some blogs about the event up asap. Please follow my blog for updates delivered to your via email or through WordPress.

Here is the link where you can watch the debate live, including a countdown timer:

http://debatelive.org/

You can also read my two previous blogs about the upcoming debate. See the links below:

https://lukeaustindaugherty.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/4-reasons-in-defense-of-bill-nye-debating-ken-ham/

https://lukeaustindaugherty.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/i-got-a-golden-ticket-im-going-to-the-nye-vs-ham-debate/