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Miscellaneous Thoughts About Social Media Discussions, Part 1

May 8, 2020

One of the negatives of social media is the encouragement of irrationalism. Careful, reasoned, and logical arguments are rarely rewarded. What are often rewarded, and often reposted, are arguments and thought processes that utilize emotions and insults in order to easily score points against an “opponent.” In the midst of this culture, the COVID-19 pandemic has come. It is in this context that a few observations are offered.

First, we should be careful to remember that some churches decided to not meet publicly, before any legal mandates demanded it. Churches looked at the situation, and the severity of the disease, and decided the wisest thing to do was to hold off public meetings until the threat of the disease diminished. The Bible teaches that all men and women are made in the image of God. In light of this, we are not just to avoid taking life, but we are also to protect life at all costs. This is why Christians are pro-life. Because of this belief, many churches decided the best thing to do was to temporarily not meet publicly. Of course, there are various scientific arguments out there regarding COVID-19 being barely more dangerous than the flu. There is a lot of data out there, and the data is constantly changing. Unfortunately, there is a scientific argument being made for any person wanting to make any political point they may want to make. In light of it all, and for various reasons, many churches still believe that the best thing to do for the moment, is to continue to avoid large public gatherings. In these cases, we must remember that these churches are not meeting by their own voluntary choice and not because the government is preventing it. It is actually OK if people disagree with that decision, but we should not misrepresent why some churches are not meeting.

This leads to an important point related to the above. We must remember that Christianity teaches that we are not to bear false witness, nor are we to slander other people. Be very suspect of any arguments being made that begin with attacks on people’s character or that use demeaning epithets (i.e. insults) as opposed to reason. In logic this is called the ad hominem fallacy. It is an argument “against the man,” instead of his argument. This is not the Christian way to discuss these issues. We are commanded to correct those who oppose us with, “gentleness and respect,” (1 Pet. 3:15). Arguments on both sides are constantly making this error. We must be careful to not fall into this. We must make rational arguments, and are to ensure that all that we say is seasoned with grace (Col. 4:6).

One of the scientific arguments that is making its way around is being attacked because of the particular place the medical professional works. Because it is a for-profit organization, his argument is being dismissed. This is a textbook fallacy. The doctor may be wrong, but he is wrong if his data is wrong, or his interpretation of the data is wrong. He is not wrong because he works for a for-profit business. People’s place of employment has no necessary connection to the validity of their argument. Instead of attacking his job title, people should be actually dealing with his argument. Certainly, people may be motivated to have a particular belief based on their life situations, but simply looking at those situations does not disprove data, nor does it make a syllogism invalid. If we want to overcome the vitriolic character of contemporary discourse, we must fix our gaze on the arguments being made, and not on people and name calling.

Somebody once tried to discount one of my own arguments because growing up my parents were “upper-middle class.” Apparently all of my viewpoints are now invalid, and two plus two must not equal four because my parents made too much money. How does this have any relevance to a truth claim? Now that I am lower-middle class, do all of my viewpoints become correct? How little money must someone make in order to know that their ideas are true? What of the fact that the person stating it belonged to roughly the same class that I did? Would that not make his accusation itself wrong? And on a side note, according to the income brackets of the upper-middle class, my family fell below this mark. So, maybe two plus two equals four after all.

What is clear is that we must abandon ad hominems. Unfortunately, this type of arguing has a stranglehold on Americans. Christians must get good at identifying these, and dismissing them as illogical, invalid, and un-Christian ways to argue. It is very easy to feel like you can win an argument if you use insulting terms and classifications for your opponent. In a society more given to rationality, this will be looked down up as unworthy of intellectual discourse. For now, it gets many thumbs-ups and laughing emojis.

From → Miscellaneous

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