- 1. "Precisely define the question." Don't ask, "Does God exist?" but rather, "Does God as defined by [Augustine/the Pope/Maimonides] exist?" Or, "Is it the case that no God, by any definition, exists?"
- 2."Determine if you could accept either side if either was true. If you are not able, admit that you cannot evaluate the issue fairly and stop. There is no sense wasting your time on something you cannot do." Perfect. I have nothing to add, except to say that you're a coward if you're unwilling to evaluate an issue because you won't accept one of the conclusions.
- 3."List all the arguments, both pro and con. Remember though, the strength of each arguments is more important than just the number of arguments." Very important. Often people spend time listening only to those who agree with them.
- 4."Unfortunately, sometimes there are too many arguments to closely examine each one." Also, you might not be qualified to understand some of the arguments. "Have one person on each side prioritize the relative strength of both the pro and con arguments." Also, have them explain the arguments you can't understand and educate yourself sufficiently that you can understand, at least at a basic level, the arguments for both sides.
- 5."For each argument, examine the rebuttal. Every argument has a rebuttal. The rebuttal may be very good, extremely weak, or in-between, but every argument has some sort of answer." Yes. I'm often astonished at the weak arguments people will accept even for conclusions I agree with.
- 6."Likewise every rebuttal has a rebuttal."
- 7."After looking at all the arguments and rebuttals, determine which arguments 'stand' and which 'fall'." This is important. You must do this for two reasons: 1) that you aren't falsely convinced that there are x number of good arguments on one side and 2) so that you don't keep coming back to the same arguments over and over again. Of course, if you can't decide whether an argument is true or false, you should admit it.
- 8."If all the arguments for one position fall you are done." This is only true if the two positions are the only possible two. It's not true if there are other options, which is usually the case. For example, if evolution is false, it doesn't mean that Christian creationism is true. Likewise, if Christian creationism is false, it doesn't mean that evolution is true. If I say that apples are blue and you say that they're yellow, proving me wrong doesn't make you right.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
How To Decide Between Sides on Difficult Issues
I recently stumbled across the Christian webpage How To Decide Between Sides on Difficult Issues. Although I don't agree with all of their points, the overriding idea of the webpage -- that we should have a method for deciding on issues that have arguments on both sides -- is a good one. You can read their version, but I'd like to create my own version which borrows heavily from theirs:
Posted by Jewish Atheist at 2:17 PM