Thursday, February 27, 2014
N Things About X
The trouble is short assertions don't leave much room for argument. It is more democratic. I want to know what people think. Thumbs up or thumbs down. I find that very useful when the person writing the post knows a lot more about the subject than I do. If someone gives me 10 facts on Syria that is useful. I won't know why he believes all those things to be true but I might not want to spend the time to do that anyway.
Still I think logic matters. You need more than a sentence or two to make an argument. So these posts contain mostly assertions and very little reasoning. The same goes for Facebook and Twitter. Good for some kinds of information but not good for doing any actual analysis or responding to a serious objection.
What I think is dangerous is that they move us away from thinking about issues and towards simply accepting what others are saying. If you are exposed to more assertions and fewer examples of well reasoned analysis then we often assume those people must have reasons for their opinions and they are likely right. The trouble is those people are in the same situation. They are basing their opinions not on data and intelligence but on other opinions. So opinions based on very little can be assumed to be based on something substantial and repeated and retweeted until they become common knowledge without ever being scrutinized.
Ironically, one word one could use to describe accepting opinions rather than thinking is "faith." You have faith that other people's opinions are probably right. It makes it ironic because it puts us into the whole faith vs reason question. Society is supposed to be trending towards reason and away from faith. Yet reason is the component getting lost here. We still have faith. We just choose a less demanding faith. Like faith in another person or a political party or a celebrity or whatever. Catholicism is a demanding faith. One of the key demands it makes is we engage is reason. Hard work. Those who have faith in reason often don't want to do the hard work of actually reasoning themselves. They leave it to others.