This post concerns an ongoing point of contention over at Deacon Duncan's blog. Originally drafted as a comment to this post, I decided it was probably too potentially incendiary, and I certainly don't want to stir up more of the crap over there that I'm speaking against here. Still, a catharsis needs to cathars, and this one's been sitting at about 9.5 centimeters for quite a while. It was time to push.
Duncan: First of all, my comments here are not meant as a criticism of your intent, nor am I questioning your right to manage your blog in whatever way you see fit. I appreciate most of the content here, including much of that with which I vehemently disagree. We learn. We sharpen our skills, and our arguments. Hell, sometimes we even change our minds! However, regarding the subject who’s obviously at the center of this tempest-in-a-teapot, I have a few thoughts.
This perambulatory ‘conversation’ (and yes, I use the term loosely) concerning miracles, their nature, verification and the like, has been going on for, what, 3 months? My take is that it still resides, languishing, at square one, and will remain there interminably. I predicted this would be the case from early on. That’s why I dropped out, though I came back a couple times to take some shots born mainly out of sheer frustration...and maybe a naive hopefulness aimed at getting the train back on the tracks (if it ever was). My foible, I suppose. Still, I believe time has shown I’m not the only one who sees this whole thing as an epistemological black hole from which no light will ever emerge; at least, as far as any real headway regarding the content of the conversation is concerned. You’re probably right that there’s some peripheral benefit derived from the sparks at the event horizon, to extend my analogy. But I’m not so sure those gains balance out the sense of utter futility I think many commenters have concerning this seemingly endless, circular discussion.
You’ve said that you discourage discussion about motives, but I wonder...can a clean break always be made between the comment, and the one who makes the comment? I’m not suggesting that we should be overly disparaging or cruel, but there’s bound to be some spillover from time to time, if you know what I mean. For instance, when I accuse someone of speaking in bad faith, or of being a sophist, these are opinions derived from what I like to think is a careful analysis of what he’s said. When someone constantly misleads, misdirects, changes implicit meanings through semantic wrangling, moves goal posts, hijacks every position onto an epistemological merry-go-round, and simply glosses over every point that he can’t wiggle out of, what’s one to say? Nothing? Of course one can just shrug it off, and continue to reiterate, and reiterate, and reiterate...but when does turning the other cheek become just getting slapped around? Eventually, it’s natural that people are going to get pissed off. Somebody once said they wished they could argue with a computer, the computer being less prone to emotional argumentation, more rational, yada yada yada. In this case, I’m afraid said computer might be forced to use it’s automatic cd-rom eject for other than specified purposes.
Lastly, it’s plain that the commenter I’m speaking of has a history of derailing conversations, and of instigating the sort of behavior you’ve felt a need to speak out against today. Now, I have no problem with verbal fisticuffs, nor of ideas that shake up the status quo. There’s also a certain benefit in being exposed to such elementary apologetical tactics, I guess. But what I see here is contention for contention’s sake, and it seems like the law of diminishing returns becomes applicable at SOME point, doesn't it? I haven’t addressed the guy in a couple months, I think, and he’s STILL disparaging myself and others in absentia over at his own blog. Of course, he has every right to do so, but I think these actions are indicative of his character and motivations. He once accused me of having a conflict fetish, or something along those lines. What might be an accurate psychological diagnosis based upon his own modus operandi, not to mention his self-aggrandizing temper tantrums (amusing though they sometimes are)? Narcissistic Martyr Complex, perhaps? I ask you in all sincerity, must such a personality be indulged forever?
This will be my only (rather long, admittedly) comment on the matter. Offered in the spirit of fairness, and nothing more.