Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Weapons of Mass Consensus

With the explosion of blogging, opportunities for dialog and increased understanding are blooming. Enormous quantities of discourse and freely expressed ideas rise like a vast, bottomless sea, a virtual torrent of voices.

One hopes some order emerges from this chaos, some minimum mass consensus. With so many sources to choose from, web surfers pause only to scan sites that appeal.
Civility and respect for the opposition should be prerequisites the audience insists on; bloggers and authors who exhibit contempt for the opposition deserve no attention.

No opinion changes because of a distant yell from across the room; or even being called a "moron" face-to-face. Only human beings commit folly; human beings, frail but moral creatures capable of errant foolishness but also capable of nobility, and always deserving of respect.

Engagement changes beliefs; engagement creates the recognition of errors. Dialog, civil discourse and genuine respect for differing views is the only valid path to forging any consensus. Name-calling and insults only firm the opposition, validating the sense of "otherness."

As bloggers and authors, we must decide the goal of our works; do we preach to the already converted, or do we try to reach out? Do we write off the opposition or do we attempt to gain respect for our own side? Sadly, most serious blogs serve as platforms for simple moral outrage with no genuine attempt made to reach out to opposing viewpoints.

As a writer, it helps to imagine the conversation taking place between friends who disagree but remain pals. Before placing fingers on keypad, visualize a friend who shares your intellectual curiosity but not your ideas. The appropriate tone will follow.

Here in Kansas, the evolution/intelligent design blogs exemplify lack of mutual respect, each side showing an appalling lack of restraint. Each claim the other misrepresents their views. The piece that would appear to be of central importance, exactly and precisely what is intelligent design and what is specifically right or wrong with it, does not appear to be prominent anywhere.

Underneath much of the commentary lies an unstated assumption: we do not need to seriously analyze or examine the other view because we already know, a priori, they err.

After surfing the net for several hours, I still do not understand exactly and precisely what "intelligent design" is and consequently cannot evaluate its claims for myself. Rants and rhetoric published for mutual support and mutual edification of each side abounds, but thoughtful analysis appears scarce.

As web surfers, we choose where to rest our eyeballs. Let us develop and demonstrate a mass consensus, to wit, "We prefer to be spoken to as equals."

If we agree on that, then agreement on other issues may become possible.

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