I’ve been neglecting to post more entries to the blog lately, but it hasn’t been due to writer’s block. I’ve been writing a great deal lately, but the majority of my writing has been in online exchanges on stem cell research (from which came the ESCR debate series) or on intelligent design and evolution. You can follow the two ongoing debates about ID here and here (my involvement in the 2nd thread begins with post #37). I’ve certainly been learning much from preparing responses for these debates, and they have enabled me to sharpen my understanding of the issues. I certainly hope to present some of the key points from these debates in this blog in the near future, but one of the consequences of engaging in these discussions is that once you start, it’s hard to stop without seeming like you are conceding the argument.
One thing I’ve been seeing from the ID debates is that the vast majority of the arguments that people offer against the theory of Intelligent Design stem from a basic misunderstanding of what the theory is about. This has emphasized to me why as a teacher it is critical to fairly and accurately present both sides of a debatable issue, so that students can arrive at their own reasonable and informed conclusion as well as be knowledgeable enough to respond fairly to arguments from those who hold opposing viewpoints. And this is why I have been sharing direct excerpts from these debates in this blog, so that people can see the actual arguments that are raised against the positions that I take, rather than my (potential) misrepresentations of the opposing arguments.
I want my students to follow the evidence where it leads, not where I or anyone else says that it leads.
One other thing I’ve been learning through these debates is the importance of character, even in an online discussion with faceless opponents and nameless audience. In spite of the rather impersonal nature of these online debates, we must always remember that we speak as Christ’s ambassadors, as if He were making his appeal through us. How we say things can be just as significant as what we say.
There can be some mean-spirited people in these online debates. Rather than relying on reason and rationality in their arguments , they resort to ridicule and insult to try to make their points. It can be tempting to descend to the same disparaging tone, especially when these defamatory remarks tend to draw popular support. But even if this kind of attitude can win the argument, it would not be a victory if we lose the real battle over the hearts and minds of those that we encounter. I draw encouragement from these words from 1 Peter 2:15-17, 21-25:
For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.