Readers: I value your criticism so much that I want to give evidence that your criticism makes a difference here.
One major correction came when cartesian lambasted me for misrepresenting Plantinga’s views, suggesting that I should actually read Plantinga’s work instead of just reading summaries of his views written by skeptics. I saw this as a moral failing on my part, so I corrected my post and wrote a new post which apologized for my failure and praised cartesian’s criticism.
Other times, readers have literally changed my mind about something substantial. Most notable was my first interview with Alonzo Fyfe, which – along with his book, which I purchased 5 minutes after the interview ended – led to my conversion from moral anti-realism to moral realism. Talk about a worldview shift!
Another paradigm shift occurred in the comments of my post Common Atheist Mistakes. I had originally written that just as religion is partly responsible for the Crusades and 9/11 and other evils, so too is atheism partly responsible for the anti-theistic genocides of Stalin and Pol Pot, and it is unfair of atheists to blame religion for 9/11 while denying the influence of atheism on Pol Pot’s genocide of theists. Several readers, especially toweltowel, helped me to realize that neither theism nor atheism can contribute to violence, since there is nothing inherently violent about either position. Instead, certain specific worldviews can contribute to violence, for example those which venerate scriptures that advocate violence against unbelievers (Christianity and Islam, for example). I originally argued against toweltowel’s position, but now I am persuaded by it, and I changed my original post.
Some more examples of successful correction:
- In Top 20 Evil Bible Stories, I listed “God kills a man for not impregnating his brother’s wife.” Reginald commented that it would be fairer to say “widow,” since the brother was dead at the time. So I changed it to “widow.”
- On Ugly Stuff Craig Has Said, I wrote that William Lane Craig claims that atheist lives are meaningless, despite the obvious fact that many atheists find a great deal of meaning in their life. Kevin commented that this isn’t quite what Craig meant – he only meant that on atheism, life lacks ‘objective’ meaning, which is perhaps false but not ugly. So I removed that item from the list of ugly things Craig has said.
- On my post about the Christian philosophers’ petition against gays, Victor Reppert commented to explain why he signed the petition without necessarily thinking gays are evil. I then added a summary of his comments to the end of my post.
- On a post about words and abstract objects, cartesian commented to correct my representation of Plato’s idea of the Forms. I fixed my post.
- I ended up apologizing for my Sexy Scientists post.
Why I like criticism
I do not see many bloggers who react to criticism as positively like I do. I certainly do not see many who literally invite it. An obvious question might be: “Why do you like criticism?”
I like criticism because I have been very deluded and ignorant before, and I want to be less wrong in the future. I like criticism because it sharpens my critical thinking skills. I like criticism because it opens my mind, flexes my mind, challenges my mind. I like criticism because it is often productive – and when it is not productive, I can easily discard it with no harm done.
My question is, “Why do other people not like criticism?”
Perhaps it has something to do with ego. Maybe people feel their value is threatened when they are wrong or ignorant about something, and they want to protect themselves. I can understand that, but my brain doesn’t work that way anymore. I consciously chose to train it such that my ego was not threatened by attacks on my thinking.
And maybe people don’t like criticism because it lessens their influence. People who appear to be always right can have lots of influence. Herds follow a fearless leader, not a self-questioning and open-to-criticism leader. Politicians never get anywhere by highlighting their intellectual defects.
Maybe people don’t like criticism because much of it, especially online, is useless name-calling that wastes time. I think it’s pretty easy to ignore worthless criticism. My eyes recognize it in a split second and I can skip to the next comment. But also, I don’t get much of that here because my readers are pretty great.
Why I like praise
But let’s face it: I also like praise. Along with most bloggers, I get relatively little of it because people usually only comment if they disagree. Readers, I ask you: Please comment when you like something. If you don’t leave positive comments, then I don’t know what is reaching people and what is not. Also, leaving praise will help bring you more of the stuff you like, as it will motivate me to write more posts like that in the future.
The value of readers
Readers, I doubt you understand how much I value you. I do write because I want to influence people, but I also write because I want to learn. You are my sounding board, and I want you to show me why I’m wrong about some things. I want you to change my mind. Thanks, and keep up the good work. We are all trying to peacefully talk our way toward a better world, one baby step at a time.