Acceptance for the sake of tolerance


So let’s talk about something that happened on this blog recently. I had an exchange with another blogger, a regular on this site. This particular blogger and I do not see eye to eye on religious or scientific matters. I like to think of myself as an open-minded person, and I’ll usually do my best to hear people out on things I disagree with, and I’m willing to put my own beliefs and practices under the microscope. However, this last exchange resulted in me doing something I thought I would never do.

I banned someone from this blog.

I wrestled with the prospect for awhile before I actually did it. Right up until I followed through, I thought that doing so would make me a bad person or some kind of bigot. But then I stopped to think about a few things.

If this were the real world, this person and I would not be friends. We have nothing in common, and I would go so far as to say that this person’s worldview is harmful to society in general. If this person came to my door to “spread the good word” I would close the door on them and that would be it. The bottom line is this: if I wouldn’t tolerate certain things in real life, why would I suddenly do so online, on this blog?

This blog is for me. It’s my platform. It wasn’t created to serve as an outlet for other people to espouse ideas that I find dangerous. And that’s ultimately what solidified my decision. I realized that in every exchange I’ve had with this person, instead of talking about the facts of the matter at hand, we ultimately ended up discussing his beliefs. I was essentially giving him and his ideas free advertisement on this blog.

In the past I’ve written that just because everyone is entitled to free speech doesn’t mean we’re obligated to take every idea seriously or hear everyone out. It was time to start taking my own advice. And I don’t feel bad about it. Disappointed, maybe, that the dialogue between us was never productive. But I have no interest in a battle of wills, or in allowing someone to spread scientific inaccuracies, falsehoods, or religious dogma on this blog. If there’s one thing I can’t stand and that I think is detrimental to the human race, it’s science-deniers.

In case you’re curious, here is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Essentially what it came down to is that I was accused of a bait-and-switch argument because of how I “conflated” things like natural selection and mutation with evolution. In reality, this accusation only carries weight if you change what evolution is. Natural selection, mutation, etc. are all part and parcel of evolution, and to try to separate them has no scientific basis. Then there’s the old tried and true accusation that science requires faith, that subjectivity is a valid scientific argument, etc. Then I’m treated to a marvelous diatribe about how I’m being paradoxical by claiming that evolution happens over time, yet citing “fast” examples. Again, though, this is not mutually exclusive with the idea of evolution: small changes happen “quickly” and add up over long periods of time to create larger changes. This doesn’t seem like a difficult idea. Then there’s a wonderful false equivalency regarding human beings evolving superpowers, etc.

Ironically, all of the arguments presented by this blogger fall exactly in line with the very arguments that the original post dealt with: absolutely none of them deal with objective fact. Instead, what I get the pleasure of dealing with is someone quibbling with me over definitions and whether science requires faith. It especially went sour when this person claimed that only creationists have the clarity of mind to be objective about the world, and that scientists have to do mental gymnastics to make sense of the world.

I don’t know how to deal with that. And more importantly, I don’t know why I should have to. I feel that by just engaging this person’s ridiculous ideas and beliefs, I’m automatically validating them. And I’m not supporting bad ideas anymore just for the sake of being tolerant and open minded. I’ll debate the facts behind a concept or idea with someone gladly. But no longer will I allow this blog to be a platform for sneaky rhetoric, blatant scientific inaccuracies, or biblical arguments.



One thought on “Acceptance for the sake of tolerance

  1. You showed more patience for a long period of time with that guy then I would have to be quite honest. I stupidly chose to engage him a couple of times and regretted it. He simply isn’t a very bright man, who regurgitates a lot and thinks he understands it, but it’s clear he simply doesn’t have the intellectual fortitude that you have and thus can’t make a reasoned argument to contest the points you make. Ideally you do want to read other points of view and it’s important whether it changes your opinion or not, you grow intellectually by at least considering these things. But this guy is relentless and I’ve never seen him concede a point once, and he should, because he is wrong about a lot. But he has belief, and he’s old, and you won’t be able to shake him, so you are better off worrying about your own mental health at some point.

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