Accurate Understanding and Respectful Attitudes
      Students in my high school learned valuable lessons about understanding and attitudes from one of our favorite teachers, who sometimes held debates in his civics class.  On Monday he convinced us that "his side of the issue" was correct, but on Tuesday he made the other side look just as good.  After awhile we learned that, in order to get accurate understanding, we should get the best information and arguments that all sides of an issue can claim as support.  After we did this and we understood more accurately and thoroughly, 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 goal was a rational exploration and evaluation of ideas in a search for truth, for true principles (corresponding to reality) that are a useful foundation for thoughts-and-actions because, when combined with good values, they lead to wise-and-effective strategies, policies, and decisions.

      In this website, we want to encourage accurate understanding and respectful attitudes by avoiding "Monday without Tuesday" indoctrination, by accurately and respectfully describing the main views on each topic.  Parts of the website, and even the overall website, may not be perceived by everyone as being NEUTRAL, due to both perception (because many people prefer a treatment that is biased in favor of their own views, and they consider a treatment to be "neutral" only if it is biased in this way) and reality (because it is impossible to say anything substantial in a way that is totally neutral).  But we will try to be FAIR by treating different perspectives with respect, and by providing an opportunity for representatives of each perspective to clearly express their own views and criticize other views.
      Even though we won't have total agreement about everything by everyone, we can make the process of agreeing (about many things) and disagreeing (about a few things) more enjoyable and productive.  We want to use productive communication — in an effort to achieve understanding and mutual respect — in our search for truth.
      A search for truth?  Yes.  This is not a postmodern website.  We are dedicated to the rationality of logic and faith, and the compatibility of logic and faith.
 

AN APPENDIX, regarding opportunities for understanding-and-respect in one part of the website:

An interesting educational application, which illustrates principles that also apply in other areas where a "multiple perspectives" approach can be useful for improving understanding and respect, is the hotly debated area of Questions about Origins where you'll find "intellectual drama in the conflict of ideas."  A page about Understanding and Respect in our Search for Truth about Origins contains the ideas above, and more, including this excerpt:

      ... 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."

 
 

 
This page, written by Craig Rusbult, is
http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/ua.htm

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