Why is Barry Arrington Stifling Dissent at UD?
|February 16, 2012||Posted by Barry Arrington under Intelligent Design|
If you visit some of our more vociferous opponents’ websites that is the question being asked. The answer, of course, is that I am not stifling rational argument on this site. In fact, just the opposite is true; my purpose has been to weed out those who refuse to engage in rational argument so that rational argument can be pursued by those who remain. Since, however, recent modifications to this site’s moderation policy have caused such a brouhaha, I feel compelled to lay out a formal defense.
1. The Rules of Thought.
The rules of thought are the first principles of right reason. Those rules are:
The Law of Identity: An object is the same as itself.
The Law of Non-contradiction: Contradictory statements cannot both at the same time be true.
The Law of the Excluded Middle: For any proposition, either that proposition is true or its negation is true.
Importantly, the second two laws really boil down to the first law. As the Wikipedia article explains:
The law of non-contradiction and the law of excluded middle are not separate laws per se, but correlates of the law of identity. That is to say, they are two interdependent and complementary principles that inhere naturally (implicitly) within the law of identity, as its essential nature. To understand how these supplementary laws relate to the law of identity, one must recognize the dichotomizing nature of the law of identity. By this I mean that whenever we ‘identify’ a thing as belonging to a certain class or instance of a class, we intellectually set that thing apart from all the other things in existence which are ‘not’ of that same class or instance of a class. In other words, the proposition, “A is A and A is not ~A” (law of identity) intellectually partitions a universe of discourse (the domain of all things) into exactly two subsets, A and ~A, and thus gives rise to a dichotomy. As with all dichotomies, A and ~A must then be ‘mutually exclusive’ and ‘jointly exhaustive’ with respect to that universe of discourse. In other words, ‘no one thing can simultaneously be a member of both A and ~A’ (law of non-contradiction), whilst ‘every single thing must be a member of either A or ~A’ (law of excluded middle).
Thus, anyone who rejects the law of non-contradiction or the law of the excluded middle also rejects the law of identity and vice versa.
Note that the three laws of thought cannot be proven. They are either accepted as self-evident axioms – or not. The fundamental principles of right reason must be accepted as axioms for the simple reason that they cannot be demonstrated. There is no way to “argue for argument” and it is foolish to try to do so. If one’s goal in arguing is to arrive at the truth of a matter, arguing with a person who rejects the law of idenity is counterproductive, because he has rejected the very concept of “truth” as a meaningful category.
And just here is the rub. If a person rejects the laws of thought, he is not disagreeing about the evidence. He is not disagreeing about the logic. He is not disagreeing about meaning. He is saying, essentially, that the terms “evidence,” “logic” and “meaning” are meaningless concepts. It does no good to show such a person that his statement is self-referentially incoherent, because self-referential incoherence is exactly what he intends and he is not bothered by it. Whitman captures this attitude nicely:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
The issue, then, is not whether persons who disagree with us on the facts and logic will be allowed to debate on this site. Anyone who disagrees about the facts and logic is free to come here at any time. But if you come on here and say, essentially, that facts and logic do not matter, then we have no use for you. Would any of my readers try to argue with a person who tells them that he is going to employ the means of rational argument to demonstrate that rational argument does not exist. Of course not, because such a person is either a fool or evil or both.
Anyone who says a proposition can be simultaneously true and false demonstrates that his understanding is deeply disordered. It is pointless to argue with him, because he has rejected the basis of all argument, and arguing with him will only cause confusion and frustration, which is why Ibn Sina (Avicenna) famously wrote: “Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned.”
Of course I am not suggesting that anyone should be beaten or burned and neither was Avicenna. He was employing hyperbole to demonstrate that it is useless to argue with someone who rejects the first principles of argument. As someone else has said, that person does not require an argument; he requires therapy.
2. Argument on this Site
Anyone is free to come onto this site and, abiding the rules of rational debate, engage in rational debate. We will not, however, tolerate those who refuse to abide by the rules of rational debate any more than we would get into a boxing ring with someone who announces in advance that they do not feel bound by the rule against hitting below the belt.
If we are wrong, show us that we are wrong. But don’t try to tell us that we can be wrong and right at the same time.
If the evidence is against us, show us how the evidence is against us. But don’t try to tell us that the evidence can exist and not exist at the same time.
If our logic is faulty, point out to us how our logic is faulty. But don’t try to tell us that the fundamental principles of logic are false.
For example, I just put up a post on the tautology question. Anyone is free to come onto this site and try to convince me (or, more importantly, the lurkers) that what I have said is not true. No one is free to come onto this site and try to convince me that it is “true” that there is no truth.
Some have made the ludicrous suggestion that I have banned all Darwinists from this site. Do you really mean to suggest that there were only eight Darwinists in all of the blogosphere and I’ve banned them all and UD is now destined to become an echo chamber for all time? Piffle. There are literally millions of Darwinists with access to the internet. And every single one of them who is willing to abide by the rules of rational argument is free to come onto this site and do their very best to show us we are wrong.
But to those who wish only to engage in vain and useless babbling that serves only to sow the seeds of confusion, discord and error, I say go spew somewhere else.