Thursday, February 27, 2014

N Things About X

I like these kinds of posts. I can see why the trend towards them is huge. People like short posts that have a number of clearly stated assertions. They don't like posts that are long and ramble and when you are done reading you are not sure what they said. Posts that are structured this way are appreciated. Posts whose title indicates they are structured that way take it a step further. You are not just reading efficiently but browsing efficiently.

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.

Personally I am a thinker and not an opinion leader. Nobody accepts my opinion because they trust me. I am not the kind of guy that inspires that kind of trust. They accept my opinion because I make a good argument. So I need to get at least a few paragraphs most of the time. Does that mean I don't get read? It might. I don't think it should but people don't always do what they should. I do think a person degrades himself if he is too lazy to do any real thinking.

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.


  1. All this is spot on. I've thought the same thing. Hmm, we think alike. I guess that's why I've been reading your blog ever since it was Purify Your Bride!

    1. We do think alike. The best example is the title of your book. If protestantism was true ... So much of my conversion thinking fits exactly that line of reasoning. If you had given me the title and enough coffee and junk food I almost feel I could have written such a book in one sitting! Great that you did it though because I would have never promoted it as well as you.

      I just looked and found the latest news on your book. I guess it is being retitled and republished. Sounds good. 13600 copies is awesome.