Quote of the day

The disagreement between George Borjas and me on the desirability of guest workers is an interesting one to expand upon, not because this will change either one of our minds, but because it may help others evaluate their own views.

Dani Rodrik

This point about the usefulness of conversation is often lost by the interlocutors. The ones engaged in debate often feel like they’re in it to win when in fact their debate is most useful to the spectators still forming their opinions.

This may be the kernel of my concerns about the way science is communicated to the lay public. Often, we’re given “the truth” as determined by science rather than exposed to the real debates raging in science; we don’t get to see the scientific method in progress and we don’t get to learn how to think like a scientists. When Dawkins, or whoever, attacks IDers they come off as dogmatic as the IDers themselves. Certainly, Dawkins isn’t going to change the mind of the IDers and spectators of the debate learn nothing except the fact that Dawkins is a jerk.

I think this was the point I was trying to make a couple years ago:

there’s a fine line between legit criticism of evolution and wacko/nut job criticism. I think your tone in this debate turns off lay-people because in attacking the latter, you appear to be attacking the former. It feels like you’re making evolution sacrosanct, impervious to criticism. Let us peer into your world. Show us how you investigate inconsistencies or vagaries in the theory. Instruct us on how one thinks critically about evolution. Please don’t lecture us about how wrong ID’ers are and how they are whack-jobs. We know this. Instead, show us the beauty of your subject and in the light of its beauty, the crazy talk will become self-evident.

3 thoughts on “Quote of the day”

  1. I think such debate is necessary to ward off this mentality, as neatly described by Richard Feynman.

    Laws, theories, and faith must be challenged! If you’re wrong, the challenge is an opportunity to learn something new. If you’re right, the challenge tempers your belief, forcing you to consider it in new ways. Either way, you come out of the debate with something.

  2. Pretty simple point, I think. Wonder why people can’t get it.

    Also, even if you’re convinced of your rightness and the debate leaves you with nothing, know that observers of the debate will come away with something. At least, you’d think this would alter your debate strategy to try to have observers leave the debate closer to your point of view.

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