A Christian’s Response to Censorship

One of the topics I often discuss is censorship. Censorship is a form of cowardice, weakness, and fear. It is the antithesis of the free exchange of ideas. If you are a Christian or merely a free-thinker, censorship has no place. As a Christian, the way you treat others should reflect the way that you want others (including Christ) to treat you. As a free-thinker, you should only accept your own arguments if they can remain after being assailed by your opponents.

The first example of handling dissent is a positive one. John C. Wright who refused to block someone. This commenter frequently promotes godless evil, but did not break the commenting rule:

“Please be courteous. You are replying to real people, who are fellow children of God.”

So, he left the choice up to each reader to decide for themselves whether they should listen. He could not, in good conscience, ban a fellow human created in the image of God. Since there was nothing more that he could productively say to the man, he remained silent.

Now, onto the second, negative example of handling dissent. In my last post one month ago, I discussed the reasoning errors in David Gudeman’s argument on the fallacious appeal to authority. There I noted his censorship:

“He deleted my comment. Having learned to expect such things from people who don’t like their opinions challenged, I saved my comment so I could post a rebuttal here.”

Before I wrote that article, I made sure to save a copy of my comment that still existed at his page. I had a strong suspicion that he would delete the original comment when he received the WordPress pingback and see my criticism of his position, even though that comment had been there for almost a year. Sure enough, the comments are now all gone. It was a disappointing, if predictable, response. You can read my original comment at the end of this post.

[UPDATE: The two comments are now back. At the time I wrote this, I verified that comments were enabled on other posts, but disabled on that one. They are enabled now. I will leave this post here for the record.]

When faced with someone who disagrees with you, you have a choice. You can do as John C. Wright did and show them the greatest kindness… or you can censor. You may not be able to change someone else, but your reaction says a great deal about you.

Do not censor. Do not fear. Do not be thin-skinned. The world bans that which it views as a threat. Christians must not be like the rest of the world.

For the record, here is my original comment to his article:

I searched through my RSS reader looking for that link from earlier today from that person talking about using “logic” wrong so I could post it here as a counterpoint. It would be hilariously ironic, of course, citing that authority to prove this wrong. Then I realized who had posted it. It’s as if the person who wrote this post didn’t read that post.

You don’t seem to understand the difference between deductive and inductive reasoning. An appeal to expertise is often not fallacious when using inductive logic, but it’s always a fallacy of deductive logic. Specifically, if you cite an authority, without evidence, as a premise to reason deductively, it is fallacious.

Yet even in an inductive argument, use of an appeal to expertise will still result in an unconvincing argument if agreement on the expert cannot be established. If you think that the chance of an expert being right is 94% and I think it is 49%, your argument will not convince me. You can call me unreasonable, and that might be true, but you’ll have to abandon your presumption and make an evidence-based argument if you wish to press your point.

So in practice, citing an authority is only useful if the person you argue with accepts your expert. While an appeal to expertise saves time for lesser, uncontested premises, expertise is nearly useless for major, contested premises. For example, if you say you were born on such-and-such a date, I’ll probably accept this. If you say you can fly like Superman, I won’t accept your expertise.

Now, if you want to avoid reasoning, then you can make an appeal to expertise to decide or defer an issue for you. People do this all the time and it’s perfectly reasonable. Since you are avoiding reasoning entirely, it can’t be a logical fallacy. You could be right, you could be wrong, but logic isn’t helping you decide that because you are not using logic or making an argument. So, instead of saying “logic says you should base your beliefs on what experts tell you”, say “it is wise to base your beliefs on what experts tell you.” It’s wack, but at least this way you won’t misuse the word “logic.”

An appeal to expertise is intellectually lazy. If someone is an expert, cite their evidence and arguments, not the fact that they have evidence and arguments. Merely citing authority often presages disinterest in rationally examining the evidence and steamrolling the debate.

You need expertise to reliably know who the experts are. This begs the question, which is why you should avoid using an appeal to expertise for critical arguments, unless you have no other choice.

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