Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Emptiness of Ridicule

I am convinced that humor has a place in argumentation. I post a cartoon once a week, after all. Sometimes humor can get past the defenses and make a point when nothing else can. And humor can contain within it a legitimate argument, one that deserves to be taken seriously. But simple ridicule is another matter. The kind of argumentation which consists in merely putting another person down serves no real purpose and makes no real point. It is often the result of a person's not having real confidence in their position. They cannot argue and do not really understand both sides of the issue well enough to make real arguments, so they ridicule. We see this more and more among the modern breed of atheist. But there are also those Christians who are taking up this approach. However, it is a pitfall to be avoided.

The first problem with this is that it cannot really convince anyone. The reason it cannot is that there is no logic in it. Anybody, no matter how inadequate their position is, can call names. But calling names, because there is no substance in it, cannot persuade; it can only intimidate. Now some may think this sufficient, but for the Christian who is looking for a real change in heart and attitude, it is superficial. And it is a persuasion that is only liable to last as long as the intimidator is around or until they meet someone more intimidating. What is more likely is that you will produce two groups held together by intimidation, neither able to convince the other because they have no basis of discussion. It becomes nothing more than a shouting match. And often, by ridiculing people you just confirm them in their views. Ridicule tends more to feed the ego of the one who uses it than convince others.

Also, ridicule is based on the idea that your position is obviously right and no intelligent person can differ. For any position seriously held by two differing groups, this is simply not true; there are generally arguments on both sides. And the person who cannot see both side generally does not really understand the issue. There may be a view that is clearly right, but until you can see and weigh the arguments on both sides, it is hard to see what it is. Even those who hold to obviously extreme views like "the earth is flat" and  "Elvis Presley is alive and appearing today" deserve to have their views refuted and not just mocked.

Therefore, we should avoid using this approach. Also, we should not be impressed with those who use it. We should do what we can to turn them to arguments of substance. But we should avoid being put off track by such things. For they say more about the speaker's attitude than the truth of their position.

No comments:

Post a Comment