You disagree, now what

My wife teaches a grade 2 class. They were learning a song which another teacher (I’ll call her Mrs. Smith) had begun teaching them on a day when my wife was away from school. As they were going over the words, my wife was teaching them a slightly different wording than the other teacher had taught them. Continue reading

A child’s use of logic

My wife gave my daughter a chore. After several minutes my daughter came down from her room to negotiate with my wife.

“You need to come and help me do my job.” (I should mention that she has a difficult time completing chores unless she gets a LOT of help).

She continued before my wife had a chance to respond.

“You cannot just tell me what I’m supposed to do without helping me do it. That’s like the evil step-mother in Cinderella. You need to help me.”

I had a tough time containing my laughter as I overheard this, but it reminded me that logic and reason are not some kind of social construct that gets imposed on humanity as we grow up, but they are tools inherent to the human thought process. If I were to take her reasoning and spell it out slightly more formally it might look like this.

  1. You gave me instructions for chores that I am required to do, but you have not offered to help.
  2. Cinderella’s step-mother gave Cinderella instructions for chores that she was required to do, but Cinderella’s step-mother did not offer to help.
  3. What Cinderella’s step-mother did was wrong, therefore,
  4. What you did was wrong.

It’s a classic argument from analogy. Of course, there’s more to the equation than her simplistic Disney-inspired interpretation of the facts, but I’m actually quite proud of her for eloquently articulating her perspective, and providing reasons for it. She negotiated well for her age.

And I enjoyed getting a good chuckle out of her negotiation tactics. Oh, the innocence of children…

John Loftus debate

I had the pleasure of attending a debate last night between John Loftus and Randall Rauser, co-authors of the book “God or Godless?” During the debate Loftus had all the passion of a fundamentalist preacher and you could almost smell the fire and brimstone. Except, he was the Atheist! Rauser was the calm, cool and collected presenter. Loftus was also remarkably condescending about religious believers in general, calling all of us “delusional” on multiple occasions. All-in-all I was very unimpressed with his aggressive tone, his condescension and his general lack of etiquette.

But I had a chance to chat with him one-on-one after the event. He was a different man! He was relaxed, he was calm, and the insults were (mostly) gone. We didn’t talk for long, but he was definitely willing to have a gentle dialogue on these issues without resorting to name-calling and condescension. He was willing to explore the issues instead of pounding his opinions into whoever would listen.

What happened? I have a theory. The major difference between the formal event and our one-on-one chat was the venue. In the debate he had an audience. He had a reputation to uphold. At public speaking events adrenaline can get pumping and one can take on a different persona. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I could never possibly say that I know Loftus well enough to really comment on the reason for the difference, but I would wager a guess that the reason lies somewhere between adrenaline and an audience.

Most of us will never do a public debate where we have to defend our views (unfortunately – it would probably be a good learning opportunity) but sometimes we do have “public” discussions online. If you get into lively discussions at Facebook, or on discussion forums or what have you, there is a known audience. When you know other people are listening in, does your persona change? I suspect mine might change a little. In some ways this is unavoidable; it’s only human. We get nervous. We don’t want to “lose.”

I need to re-iterate my opinion (and yes, it is merely an opinion; I could be wrong) that most people should avoid online discussions of major life issues for this reason. Instead, go for coffee with people where you are face-to-face with them and nobody is listening. If you do engage in online discussions try to make them private; just email. If you end up having public discussions be very careful how you behave yourself. I’ve poked around briefly at Loftus’ blog and, unfortunately, the fundamentalist preacher mode is alive and well there too. Case in point.

The Loftus during the debate was a man who I would have been glad to personally escort from our city if somebody gave me the authority to do so. The Loftus I chatted with post-debate was a man I would have loved to go for coffee with and chat for hours. Be the second kind of Loftus in all your conversations, even public ones.

The truth in love

If you’ve poked around at the other site I blog at ( then you’ll know that I’ve had a lot on my plate in the past couple of weeks. My wife had a cardiac arrest on April 16. It’s been a long haul, and it’s not done yet, but all indications are that she will recover quite well.

One part of her journey on the road to recovery is brain rehab. A cardiac arrest means blood is not flowing to the brain on its own. With lack of oxygen the brain starts to lose some neural connections and some brain function is lost. I’m not a doctor, but that’s my lay-level understanding. So she has begun brain rehab.

Her first Occupational Therapist (I’ll call her Alice) was an absolute delight to watch in action, and she gave me pause to reflect on how we communicate the truth to people. Continue reading

Mature, gracious debater

Debates are inherently confrontational, right? The entire point is to make your opponent look like an idiot by puffing yourself up, isn’t it? Debates certainly do serve a different purpose than run-of-the-mill conversations, but even within a debate setting it is certainly possible to engage in a reasoned and compelling defence of one’s own perspective without denigrating one’s opponent. This was recently exemplified by Dr. Craig.

I should offer a quick disclaimer. I have not watched this debate (I had other plans that evening) so I am trusting the following report. The source is reliable, though, and what he says is consistent with what I have seen of Craig in the past so I have every reason to believe that what follows is spot on. However, even if he is dead wrong in his assessment (that’s unlikely) we should strive to exemplify what he describes.

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Dialogue with a gay activist

The dialogue recorded at this link is a fabulous example of doing many things right in a conversation with somebody you disagree with. Peter Kreeft was taking a class that was being taught by a homosexual activist. Kreeft hoped to chat with his professor (whom he calls “Art”) about his views, striving to open and clarify their respective views on the subject. Kreeft is right to observe that rarely happens when discussing homosexuality.

But I dare say it did happen in this case. Even Kreeft comments that he was not disappointed. Continue reading

Koukl talks to a waiter

I enjoyed listening to the opening part of Greg Koukl’s show Stand to Reason some time ago. You can find it by scrolling down to November 18, at this link. Very briefly, Koukl had a fascinating chat with a waiter, but the conversation simply didn’t go anywhere! They talked about all kinds of interrelated stuff that was all connected to the big questions of life, but they didn’t get anywhere in their conversation. The waiter’s thoughts and reflections were widely scattered and generally incoherent. Understandably Koukl found this rather perplexing and a little frustrating.

How is it possible to talk for that long with a single person, about so many subjects, and simply not make any real progress in the conversation? Quite simple, actually. Continue reading

Unbelievable radio interview – Mormonism (part 2)

I already blogged about part 1 of the interview between two Christians and a Mormon on the Unbelievable radio program. I had some thoughts about the second half of the interview. In my view part 2 went downhill from part 1. They continued to treat each other with great respect but Dayton (the Mormon) started sidestepping major issues, avoiding giving straight answers and so on. Even though everybody was still cordial and respectful Dayton started sounding for all the world like a politician avoiding an issue instead of somebody defining and defending their views with clarity and confidence.

But first some general observations. Continue reading

Unbelievable radio interview – Mormonism

I recently enjoyed part 1 of a two part radio interview hosted by Justin Brierley over at the Unbelievable podcast. Brierley contributed the least to the dialogue and mostly facilitated the conversation between his two guests, Bobby Gilpin of the UK Partnership for Christ and Charles Dayton, a lifelong Mormon.

I enjoyed it for several reasons, all of which highlight many of the points I make in Arguing with Friends.

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You can make a difference!

One of the hopes I had for this blog was to use it as a forum to share experiences and debrief the good, the bad and the ugly. I have had a few people who have been generous enough to share their stories (see here and here) and I’ve used a number of my own (here, for instance) and I have also found a few on the internet (like this one). But I have to admit that I need more stories. If I am going to keep up this feature then I need people share their successes so we can all see an example of how to do this correctly, and I need examples of failures so we can consider what went wrong and learn from other people’s mistakes.

Perhaps that feels a little too personal; just a little too invasive. What does it look like to have your story shared?

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