Accurate Understanding & Respectful Attitudes

in Our Search for Truth about Origins Questions,

about Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Creation

 
      Accurate Understanding & Respectful Attitudes
      Monday and Tuesday:  In high school we learned valuable lessons about understanding and respect from my favorite teacher.  During a Monday debate, he convinced us that "his side of the issue" was correct, but on Tuesday he made the other side look just as good.  We soon learned that — if we wanted to get an accurate understanding — we should not be satisfied with the representation of a position that has been constructed by its opponents.  Instead, we should get the best information and arguments that all sides of an issue can claim as support.  When we did this and we understood more accurately, we usually recognized that even when we have valid reasons for preferring one position, people on other sides of an issue may also have good reasons (both intellectual and ethical) for believing as they do, so we learned respectful attitudes.
      But respect does not require agreement.  You can respect someone and their views, yet criticize their views, which you have evaluated based on evidence, logic, and values.  The intention of our teacher, and the conclusion of his students, was not a postmodern relativism.  The classroom goal was a rational exploration and evaluation of ideas in a search for truth, and for practical principles that (combined with good values) lead to strategies, policies, and decisions that are wise and effective.
 

 
      A "Multiple Views" Website
      As in my teacher's classroom, the goal of this educational website is a search for truth.  Therefore, you won't find one-sided "Monday without Tuesday" indoctrination.  Instead, you'll get accurate information about a wide range of perspectives.
      The overall result may not be perceived by everyone as being NEUTRAL, due to perception (because some people want a website to be biased in favor of their own views, and they consider a website to be "neutral" only if it is biased in this way) and reality (because it is impossible to say anything substantial, which is also one of our goals, in a way that is totally neutral).  But we will try to be FAIR by letting representatives of each perspective clearly express their own views and criticize other views, and by treating their views with respect.
      Exploring this area will be an exciting adventure for you, because the awesome creation of God is wonderful and exciting, and because there is "intellectual drama" in the conflict of ideas.  We won't always agree, and this will make it interesting for you.  But we can make the process of agreeing (about many things) and disagreeing (about a few things) more enjoyable and productive.  Consistent with our Christian beliefs, we want to encourage a more consistent use of productive communication — in an effort to improve understanding and mutual respect — as an essential part of our individual and collective searches for truth, in what we write and say, during all of our personal interactions.

      But productive communication, with understanding and respect, is often hindered by an overconfidence that spans a wide range of views.  Why are so many so confident?  Because most of us want our own ideas to be logically consistent, so we adjust our theories (about religion, science, and other aspects of life) until we become satisfied with the quality and consistency of our own ideas.  Thus, vigorous advocates for every view of origins confidently persuade themselves that they have The Answer;  as Del Ratzsch says, "each side can see the case as so utterly closed that the very existence of opponents generates near bafflement."
      One outcome of skillful evaluative thinking (often called critical thinking) is an appropriate humility — not too little, and not too much.  Each of our personal theories about origins (and other aspects of science, religion, and life) has a level of logically justifiable confidence.  The result of failing to recognize (or acknowledge) a rational level of appropriate confidence is described by Bertrand Russell: "Error is not only the absolute error of believing what is false, but also the quantitative error of believing more or less strongly than is warranted by the degree of credibility properly attaching to the proposition believed, in relation to the believer’s knowledge."

      A page about Quick Education explains our educational philosophy and strategy:
      This website will help you learn quickly, on two levels: introduction and exploration.
      INTRODUCTION:  First, we'll quickly provide a coherent overview of important ideas, to help you understand the ideas and their relationships.
      EXPLORATION:  And to help you explore more deeply, we'll provide links to pages that examine the ideas and relationships in more depth.
      In both phases we'll adopt a "multiple views" approach by explaining the views of people with different perspectives, so you can be well informed while you develop your own perspectives.  ...<snip>...
      We have searched the web and have selected pages — for introduction and exploration — that will help you learn quickly and well, because you'll be reading only high-quality pages.  This also makes it easier to use the website because you won't be overwhelmed with too many choices, so you can more easily decide what to do first and what to do next.
      But our selectivity is not censorship, and — for controversial issues, where views differ among Christians — in our website the range of views will be wide.  In this "multiple perspectives" website, our goal is to give you accurate information about a wide range of views.  We will try to be fair by providing an opportunity for representatives of each perspective to clearly express their own views and criticize other views, and by treating their views with respect.  Since a wide range of views will be cited, our disclaimer is important: "citing a page does not imply an endorsement by the ASA."

      A multiple-perspectives approach is consistent with the policy of the American Scientific Affiliation: "As an organization, the ASA does not take a position when there is honest disagreement between Christians on an issue.  We are committed to providing an open forum where controversies can be discussed without fear of unjust condemnation.  Legitimate differences of opinion among Christians who have studied both the Bible and science are freely expressed within the Affiliation in a context of Christian love and concern for truth."  { What are The Creationist Views of ASA? }
      As explained in the homepage for this part of the website, we don't claim to give you The Origins Answer, but we will help you explore Origins Questions.

 
      Why don't we all agree?
      Even when scientists have the same evidence, sometimes they won't all reach the same conclusion.  Does this show that "it's all opinion and prejudice" so you can ignore what they say?  Some Christians assert that in historical science the evidence is always inadequate, so the conclusions of scientists must be determined by their nonscientific beliefs.  Most scholars, including myself and most other members of ASA, think these "radical relativist" assertions are exaggerated, because science (including historical science) is built on a solid foundation — the logical evaluation of observable evidence — that provides a reliable way to learn about the fascinating world created by God.  We encourage you to explore the evidence and the claims made for various conclusions, and decide for yourself the extent to which different claims are scientifically supported.

      What should we do when we disagree?
      Sincere, respectful truth-seekers from all viewpoints, not just that of the Access Research Network, will agree with the ARN Approach for seeking truth, by using a critical evaluation of ideas, while being open-minded, humble, and kind.
      This page describes some basic principles about understanding and respect in our search for truth.  But the real challenge is to actually DO IT in this emotionally charged area that is filled with intense controversy because people have strong views about important ideas.
 




 
This website for Whole-Person Education has TWO KINDS OF LINKS:
an ITALICIZED LINK keeps you inside a page, moving you to another part of it, and
 a NON-ITALICIZED LINK opens another page.  Both keep everything inside this window, 
so your browser's BACK-button will always take you back to where you were.
 
 

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This page, written by Craig Rusbult, is
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Copyright © 1998 by Craig Rusbult, all rights reserved

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