My Response Comment
+Casey Lee: I’m not a theist anymore. In fact, I’m an ex-Muslim. And yet I don’t believe your ad hominem attributions to others of being “an idiot” are constructive.
I may dispute what theists put forth as evidence, but if the video’s creators missed out saying, “Please check our website for other videos, articles and external links for what we present as evidence” should we really slam them? Any of us could make that editorial decision on videos for brevity and flow.
Why not suggest to them, “Hey Rational Religion team, I realize your video was short. Can you update your description box with more detailed arguments exploring the items you presented as evidence?”
Introducing the concept and mystery of abiogenesis is one of the pieces of evidence submitted. We are free to dispute that concept as truly being evidence. We are free to say, “That’s a well known theistic argument, and here’s a strong counter point to consider”. But to dismiss it seems to me, to be harsh. It’s a 6-minute video. It’s fair game for the folks at Rational Religion, IMHO, to make a 6 minute video instead of a 60 minute video and just introduce topics in brief.
If you are sincere in challenging the Rational Religion folks, you might write a comment saying, “Can you point me to a detailed discussion on the abiogenesis topic you’ve introduced, so I can evaluate your claims that it constitutes evidence?”
To close, it’s fair game for a video to introduce topics. The video didn’t claim to be a treatise on the best arguments for and against God using abiogenesis as the focus, for example. That may well be a 2 hour video. If such a video was made and failed to tackle the best counter arguments from non-theistic positions, then I’d call foul.
I think we also have to realize that not all content produced (articles, videos, etc.) are meant to be all things to all audiences.
I personally believe the “fine tuning” or “Goldilocks” position has strong counter arguments (e.g. twiddling multiple physical constants simultaneously, other types of life we can’t imagine, multiverses, etc.). I’d call foul if a video dedicated to that topic of moderate length didn’t consider the best of such commonly known counter arguments.
TL;DR: There’s a time and place for everything.
There are probably more egregious examples of poor etiquette in YouTube videos out there. This topic has been on my mind for some time however, and so this example, albeit mild, reminded me to speak up about compassionate dialog in general.
I know that as I put more content out there, I too will be critiqued. If I want that critique to be constructive and fair, I also have to be a proponent of this universal courtesy.
Levity, Ridicule, Mockery and Satire Welcome
Note that I am not suggesting that we avoid provocative devices like ridicule, mockery and satire. These have their place and can help add some colour to our arguments. In fact, I cherish such modes of expression and I believe that they can and often do, enhance an argument. I certainly intend to employ such in the future where I believe it serves to compliment the logical reasoning at the foundation of my positions.
Take for example the Rational Religion video Atheism Analysed! Is God Dead? Belief in the ‘Age of Reason’!. There are some playful jabs at non-theistic positions. Was I offended? No. Should I be? No. I actually enjoyed the video even more because it was so colourful.
(As an aside, I find the Rational Religion duo to be quite charismatic. They’re the type of guys that I grew up with, related to and enjoyed hanging out with the most growing up. Beyond the topic of religion, I’d love to one day break bread with these charming lads and share some laughs. Most of my closest friends who are Ahmadi Muslims are the deeply devout kind. But I digress!)
In fact, tastefully calibrated, I think such levity and ridicule can enhance one’s argument because being provocative on occasion helps us all jolt out of our complacency and bias.
In the same vein, when The Masked Arab uses playful mockery around the incidents that led to Sura Al-Kahf (Chapter 18) of the Qur’an in his video The Qur’anic Chapter that gave it all away…, he is also within his right. And I believe that this playful treatment enhances his argument because it jolts the viewer into shedding their indoctrinated scripts and considering the topic from a new perspective.
What We Should be on Guard for
In content mediums that are by nature terse (e.g. Twitter) or lacking context such as text without vocal intonation or facial expressions, I do believe that we need to cut each other some slack. If we’re really offended, give the other party an opportunity to clarify before crying foul.
You can examine a person’s body of work to also gauge their attitudes towards others — supporters and detractors.
This has happened to me in the past, and I’m sure it will again in the future.
I am generally quite restrained on social media. I know that anything that can be misconstrued will be jumped upon by detractors. While I shouldn’t have to be so guarded in how I conduct myself, I voluntarily choose to do so in order to keep the focus on my arguments.
Occasionally, I’ll employ levity and satire. Most of the time, it should be understood. Sometimes, I’ll even end with a sportive, winking smiley face to telegraph that playful emotion.
On rare instances, instead of addressing my arguments which precede the levity, detractors will feign righteous indignation, capitalizing on the missing adjectives, adverbs and pronoun clarifications that the constraints of Twitter can constrain a tweet to.
The most prominent example that comes to mind from my own interactions with some Ahmadi Muslims is this tweet/conversation from June 2016 regarding the characterization of women’s mental faculties in Ahmadi Muslim Qur’anic commentary:
.@islam_et_media No, most haven’t read much and/or are socially under pressure to conform. I’ll help raise awareness, though 😉
— Reason on Faith (@ReasonOnFaith)
For context, the blog post Men’s Superior Mental Faculties over Women covers the topic in detail, including how this levity was seized upon and misconstrued to shift the conversation. It also covers how Muslim women in the West in other denominations (such as Shia denominations) often don’t know what provocatively disturbing statements are present in their revered sources (such as Nahjul Balagha).
Let’s give others the opportunity to expand and to clarify.
Let’s remember that not every piece of content is meant to address every angle, especially if the piece is brief.
And let’s leave room for levity, humor, satire, mockery and other such devices of communication that can serve a purpose — whether to lighten the mood or to provoke us into re-thinking our positions with fresh eyes.