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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Friday, July 27, 2012

Jerry Coyne on courtesy and posting behaviour

This is a superb post by Jerry Coyne over at Why Evolution Is True. There's much in it for us all to take to heart. I'm not going to repeat it all here, but the sentiments most certainly have my general support ... and I think they're worth passing on if you have a blog or site of your own.

It would be nice if we all saw the internet as a place for respectful discussions aimed at making intellectual progress, rather than, say, a site for war, or for imposition of our own ideas through whatever tactics appear necessary. I know Jerry has copped flak over specific incidents and issues, but if you look at the quality of his blog site, day in day out, over a period of years, it's a fine example of the sort of discourse that we want.

Really, I'm proud to have Jerry Coyne as a friend, even if we're fated (see what I did there?), to go on wrangling about issues to do with free will and the like, and he can take a bow for this particular contribution.

In Jerry's honour, a special bonus kitteh photo.

8 comments:

Steve Zara said...

That is a much-needed example of how to do things. Thanks to Jerry.

Peter Beattie said...

It would be nice if we all saw the internet as a place for respectful discussions aimed at making intellectual progress…

Exactly. And since this is a philosophically informed place, let me add two thoughts that expand on this theme:

» “Serious critical discussions are always difficult. Non-rational human elements such as personal problems always enter. Many participants in a rational, that is, a critical, discussion find it particularly difficult that they have to unlearn what their instincts seem to teach them (and what they are taught, incidentally, by every debating society): that is, to win. For what they have to learn is that victory in a debate is nothing, while even the slightest clarification of one’s problem – even the smallest contribution made towards a clearer understanding of one’s own position or that of one’s opponent – is a great success.” (Popper, The Myth of the Framework)

» “The aim in an open society is not to put up with ideas with which we disagree. It is to take them seriously and to criticize them—not necessarily as a way of condemning them, but as a way of trying to understand them, and of testing whether or not they are true, and learning from them, even if learning from them means learning how and where they go wrong. This is what Popper meant when he said that open society is ‘based on the idea of not merely tolerating dissenting opinions but respecting them.’” (Mark Notturno, Science and the Open Society)

… rather than, say, a site for war, or for imposition of our own ideas through whatever tactics appear necessary.

Yeah, but what if you just know you’re right? Then it almost becomes your solemn duty, in the interest of rationality, to make others fall in line. Which is exactly why Popper’s critical rationalism, based on a pervasive fallibilism and mindful of the fact that there can be no certain knowledge (and thus no “justification”), is so helpful for analysing and improving public discourse.

Russell Blackford said...

Yes, there's a lot to be learned from Popper relating to this.

Part of the trouble is that the internet is an immature technology. Its participants are having to relearn lessons that were, at least to some extent, learned by other participants in public conversation a long time ago. Not that shock jock radio (and increasingly shock jock TV) is any better - it's not just the internet.

Anonymous said...

"a fine example of the sort of discourse that we want."

I like Jerry's guidelines and the discourse on his site, but are these 'we'?

latsot said...

Whoops, I didn't mean to be anonymous. Carelessness.

latsot said...

Groan - I meant "WHO are these we?"

Not exactly demonstrating my ability to post today.

Russell Blackford said...

We? I'd say it's you and me. :)

(It's a way of speaking after all, not something to take literally - I may have readers who totally do not want civil discussion, etc.)

Jerry Coyne said...

Gee, thanks Russell, and the photo of the kitty is much appreciated. I'm proud to be your friend, too!

Cheers, mate.