Communication

Mouseover: Anyone who says that they’re great at communicating but ‘people are bad at listening’ is confused about how communication works.

I love xkcd 🙂

Seriously: how can we communicate better?

21 Replies to “Communication”

  1. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    The first step toward communication is changing your goal from converting the other person to enabling the other person to paraphrase your position.

  2. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    In a conversation, one attempts to understand what the other people are saying. The “principle of charity” applies. There is some give and take. We will often repeat what the other person said, but as a paraphrase. We do this, because we are looking for feedback on whether we understood the other person properly.

    A formal debate is more like a gladiators contest. We aren’t trying to understand the other side; rather, we are trying to score debating points against them. The principle of uncharity applies (if there is such a thing) – that is, we take an interpretation which puts the other side in as bad a light as possible. If the other side paraphrases what we said, then we accuse them of bad faith.

    Internet debates don’t quite fit either picture. But they are often more like the formal debate than the conversation, particularly when the topic is contentious.

  3. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    I never watch debates and hardly ever watch lectures. Debates are just painful for me because both sides are deliberately exaggerating the other side’s flaws and deliberately not respecting the other side’s opinions.

    I’m not always charitable on the internet, but I’m always interested in hearing the best the other side has to offer.

    I liked gpuccio for a while, because he put up an interesting argument from evidence. I stopped liking him because he compared my understanding unfavorably with that of five-year olds, then went off to have a chuckle with the boys.

    His argument was new to me and I worked pretty hard to understand it. I was disappointed that he did not try to understand mine.

  4. Flint
    Ignored
    says:

    I wonder if communication is truly a problem here at all. Sure, now and then we see cases of unintentional misinterpretation, as surely should be expected given the various orientations, backgrounds, knowledge levels, and abilities to articulate complex nuanced positions. But these are generally cleared up quickly when those involved figure out what’s happening and make an effort.

    For the most part, though, what we have here isn’t a failure to communicate, but rather a failure to adopt uncongenial ideologies. Evidence-oriented contributors aren’t about to succumb to magical poofism as an “explanation” of anything. And those with a theistic orientation are equally unlikely to set their gods aside as irrelevant or imaginary.

    And let us not play word games here — ID is a theological position plain and simple. The only veneer of science involved consists of post hoc attempts to derive a non-negotiable divine entity from His Works – or perhaps more accurately, to presume Divine Design and struggle to dismiss as implausible any other explanation, strength of evidence notwithstanding.

    Recall the Dover trial when Behe basically tetified that Design is a property of an object, like mass or color, manifestly self-evident to any observer armed with the necessary religious orientation. All of these discussions seem to amount to efforts to show why Design is or is not self-evident in principle, when it’s in-your-face obvious to Believers, and impossible even to operationalize for non-Believers.

    I don’t think religious faith is something easy to communicate to someone who doesn’t share it. Maybe we can aim for tolerance, patience, or thoughtfulness. But if the barrier is religious conversion. communication will stop at that point.

  5. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m patient. Science gradually finds regularities in nature that supplant intervention hypotheses.

    Heck, in the decades I’ve been following this debate, nearly every anti-evolution bastion has fallen. Michael Denton went from “Theory in Crisis” to “Nature’s Destiny.”

    Behe went from irreducible complexity meaning that no part of an IC structure could be removed to The Edge. Behe has capitulated entirely on common descent and the fossil record.

    I’m convinced that ID advocates are, on average, learning and as a result, retreating.

    When they arrive at some form of Deism, the argument will be over.

    Some of us would like it top be over in the middle of a thread, and some would like to live to see it over, but it’s more likely to be a long, drawn out retreat, with no obvious victory.

  6. Cubist
    Ignored
    says:

    I think Flint has pretty much pegged it. Creationists, within which category ID-pushers fall, are caught between the ‘rock’ of Science really, really works, and the ‘hard place’ of Science has refuted one of the bedrock Truths upon which I have built my life/identity/persona… and when you’ve got that kind of contradiction in your beliefs, the cognitive dissonance can be murderous. Seems to me that most/all Creationist behavior can most-sensibly be explained as attempts to resolve the cognitive dissonance they suffer from.

  7. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    Hmmm, what could possibly have prompted this? :0)

    There will always be some form of Creationism, for so long as people need religion in their lives (ie as long as there are people). There is a kind of linkage effect – take on board the message of Jesus, and you get, for free, this Prologue of the doings of various tribes whose God seemed a bit more communicative in those days with, right at the front, an origins story.

    For me, I got bored with seasonally crayoning in the various stories in RI lessons round about the age of 10. But for many people, particularly in certain parts of the world, there is a fervour that I cannot even conceptualise. Apart from the occasional JW at the door, I would not even encounter religion. But when one’s interest is biology, and particularly when one goes on the Internet, one finds a vociferous bunch of people who aren’t content to let their religion guide their own lives, but want to extend this outwards. And one of the blockers is that ol’ Theory of Evolution. Even in my local library in not-very-religious Britain, little cards fall out of the evolution books directing one to a website to find out the Truth. Like the inhabitants of Crikkit in Hitchhikers’ Guide, when they discovered a universe outside their cloud-shrouded planet:- “it’ll have to go”.

    I don’t even know why I get sucked into the debate, to be honest. I’m not evangelising; I don’t go knocking on people’s doors asking if they’ve heard the News about differential reproduction in a population of replicators. I’m never going to say anything to the Joe’s of this world that will make a blind bit of difference to them, and I’m not interested in scoring points. I set off thinking the other person might be as interested as I am in working out how the various mechanistic processes interact, but soon get pulled up short. Still, I am interested in other points of view, and I enjoy the writing process, so it’s not time wasted (though perhaps I should be directing it at a more receptive audience!).

    And I guess, attempting to paraphrase the opponent’s position, they set off thinking their opponent will be as interested as they are in the kind of bedrock security that religion offers them, and how the ultimate source of that is manifest in the deep complexities and beauties of Nature.

    But in neither case does snark or intellectual superiority help. Plenty of the former creeps into my posts, particularly in reaction (some of those UD guys are seriously … but yes, there is AtBC as well). But I edit most of it out again before posting!

  8. Joe G
    Ignored
    says:

    Yup- When IDists say “A girl with kaleidoscope eyes” evos hear “A girl with colitis goes by”

  9. William J. Murray
    Ignored
    says:

    When fundamental beliefs rely upon the soundness and truth of what one is discussing/debating, what is going on is not an exchange of ideas, but a defense of personal ideology.

    I could probably have a great exchange of ideas with anyone here about any number of topics, but when those topics stray into belief-system sensitive areas, communication changes into something personally threatening – which is why they tell you, in social situations, never talk about politics or religion, because those two things usually access the defense mechanism.

    When you’re defending your belief system, communication doesn’t really matter. What matters to most is winning – at any cost. When people on both sides toss vitriol and invective at every opportunity, you obviously are engaged in a land war over dearly-held territory.

  10. Toronto
    Ignored
    says:

    William J Murray: “When fundamental beliefs rely upon the soundness and truth of what one is discussing/debating, what is going on is not an exchange of ideas, but a defense of personal ideology.”

    I’m not sure what you mean here.

    Don’t you mean, “When what one is discussing/debating relies on fundamental beliefs…”?

  11. Joe G
    Ignored
    says:

    ID is a theological position plain and simple.

    Materialism is a theological position with all of its pproponents being plain and simple.

  12. Elizabeth
    Ignored
    says:

    William J. Murray:
    When fundamental beliefs rely upon the soundness and truth of what one is discussing/debating, what is going on is not an exchange of ideas, but a defense of personal ideology.

    Could you expand on this? I don’t understand what you mean, exactly. What sort of “fundamental beliefs” are you talking about, and what kind of “fundamental belief” would not “rely on the soundness and truth of what one is discussing/debating”?

  13. damitall
    Ignored
    says:

    Joe G: Materialism is a theological position with all of its pproponents being plain and simple.

    Do you mean “Theological Materialism” or “Materialistic Theology”?

    Surprisingly from you, neither sounds coherent – but do tell more.

  14. Joe G
    Ignored
    says:

    damitall: Do you mean “Theological Materialism” or “Materialistic Theology”?

    Surprisingly from you, neither sounds coherent – but do tell more.

    Exactly! Neither are coherent, that is the whole point.

  15. Flint
    Ignored
    says:

    Joe G: Exactly! Neither are coherent, that is the whole point.

    ??? The “whole point” is that no matter how your statement is interpreted, it’s incoherent? In all honesty, I’ve suspected that’s the whole point for some time now.

  16. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    WJM:

    When you’re defending your belief system, communication doesn’t really matter. What matters to most is winning – at any cost. When people on both sides toss vitriol and invective at every opportunity, you obviously are engaged in a land war over dearly-held territory.

    If communication doesn’t matter, how can anyone ‘win’? “Baggle greeb shaislkjjs!” “Agoodgsla geiufy whjhjajh!”. I win!

    Where I think you err is in your view that this is symmetrical – we have an entire thread devoted to this, so I doubt anything I say will change your mind. But evolution does not serve the purpose that religion does.

    I am no more ideologically committed to atheism than I am to not-following-football, or not-liking-opera. But anyway, evolution really has little to do with atheism in my mind. And I am no more committed to evolution than I am to any other body of theory. I think I understand it, and can therefore get pretty testy when people who don’t understand it start bloviating about what a pile of crap it is. But don’t mistake that testiness for ‘defence of ideology’. Why is this particular area of scientific argumentation ideological, but not quantum theory, atomic theory, the Principle of Moments (a euphonious name!)? Only because it matters deeply to YOU. You would argue that they are all worldviews, but any dispute that arises within them is based upon argumentation on the evidence as well as the interpretation. These disputes can be resolved by investigation. But this is not a dispute within such a framework, but between an evidence-based framework and one that relies upon being born in a particular part of the world and being sufficiently convinced by the holy text that is popular in that part of the world.

    I don’t ‘need’ evolution in any intellectual sense. I would drop evolution like a stone if a better theory came up. That would include ID, if there was anything better than what has currently been offered in its favour. But this will all be water off a duck’s back to you, and this is a source of some frustration to me. I can’t describe my worldview in my terms; it must be placed upon me as a label by people who know nothing of how I think or feel, nor who understand that position in any sense, simply on the basis of a few words I may type on the Internet, which immediately label me as one of ‘them’.

    It’s this whole Cornelius-Hunter-style “Religion drives science and it matters” hogwash. Materialism is the only ‘religion’ that lacks an extra-material cause, a static text, ritual, moral code, indeed belief in anything in any but the most trivial sense – “I believe that this may be correct”. And it’s the one religion whose supposed adherents do not self-identify. Which is to say, not a religion at all, in any sense of the word beyond “(metaph: that pursued with enthusiam)”.

    But I am sufficiently experienced in these debates to know that the more I protest, the more will it be seen that ‘my religion is showing’. The only way is to be silent, to not communicate at all – anything said will be seen as evidence that my deeply-held worldview is at stake!

  17. Joe G
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller:
    WJM:If communication doesn’t matter, how can anyone ‘win’? “Baggle greeb shaislkjjs!” “Agoodgsla geiufy whjhjajh!”. I win!

    Where I think you err is in your view that this is symmetrical – we have an entire thread devoted to this, so I doubt anything I say will change your mind. But evolution does not serve the purpose that religion does.

    I am no more ideologically committed to atheism than I am to not-following-football, or not-liking-opera. But anyway, evolution really has little to do with atheism in my mind. And I am no more committed to evolution than I am to any other body of theory. I think I understand it, and can therefore get pretty testy when people who don’t understand it start bloviating about what a pile of crap it is. But don’t mistake that testiness for ‘defence of ideology’. Why is this particular area of scientific argumentation ideological, but not quantum theory, atomic theory, the Principle of Moments (a euphonious name!)? Only because it matters deeply to YOU. You would argue that they are all worldviews, but any dispute that arises within them is based upon argumentation on the evidence as well as the interpretation. These disputes can be resolved by investigation. But this is not a dispute within such a framework, but between an evidence-based framework and one that relies upon being born in a particular part of the world and being sufficiently convinced by the holy text that is popular in that part of the world.

    I don’t ‘need’ evolution in any intellectual sense. I would drop evolution like a stone if a better theory came up. That would include ID, if there was anything better than what has currently been offered in its favour. But this will all be water off a duck’s back to you, and this is a source of some frustration to me. I can’t describe my worldview in my terms; it must be placed upon me as a label by people who know nothing of how I think or feel, nor who understand that position in any sense, simply on the basis of a few words I may type on the Internet, which immediately label me as one of ‘them’.

    It’s this whole Cornelius-Hunter-style “Religion drives science and it matters” hogwash. Materialism is the only ‘religion’ that lacks an extra-material cause, a static text, ritual, moral code, indeed belief in anything in any but the most trivial sense – “I believe that this may be correct”. And it’s the one religion whose supposed adherents do not self-identify. Which is to say, not a religion at all, in any sense of the word beyond “(metaph: that pursued with enthusiam)”.

    But I am sufficiently experienced in these debates to know that the more I protest, the more will it be seen that ‘my religion is showing’. The only way is to be silent, to not communicate at all – anything said will be seen as evidence that my deeply-held worldview is at stake!

    LoL! Way to NOT respond to what William posted.

    And nice equivocation with “evolution”-> ID is not anti-evolution. If organisms evolved by design, they still evolved, ie evolution.

    But OK if you think you understand “evolution” give us a testable hypothesis for any bacterial flagellum evolving via accumulations of random mutations.

    BTW materialism has its “holy trinity” too:

    Mother Nature + Father Time + some still unknown processes. And until you come uo wth some positive evidence to support your position it will remain a religion.

  18. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    Imagine Christianity but without the holy books, the churches, the priests, rituals, holy days, saints, prayers and belief in gods.

    It’s called Unitarianism (among other names). I believe Newton dabbled in it. Maybe Thomas Jefferson. Most scientists have been deists or near-deists. Certainly the enterprise of science has been about finding regularities in nature rather than finding evidence of miracles or intervention.

  19. Joe G
    Ignored
    says:

    As I said- whether it is acknowledged or not-

    As for redefining words- well that is your position’s MO- that is the only way ID = religion, to redefine both.

  20. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    Old lawyer joke: When the truth is with you, pound the truth. When the evidence is with you, pound the evidence. When truth and evidence are against you, pound the table.

  21. Elizabeth
    Ignored
    says:

    Joe G:
    As I said- whether it is acknowledged or not-

    As for redefining words- well that is your position’s MO- that is the only way ID = religion, to redefine both.

    Well, I don’t think that ID is religion. I think it’s bad math, mostly. What I find frustrating, is that whenever I, or anyone, attempts to address the bad math, the responses are often about religion, or the evils of atheism.

    The bad math happens to support a religious view point. And so it is difficult not to conclude that the reluctance to engage with the math has to do with reluctance to endanger a religious position.

    Which I find sad, because rejecting the ID inference from biology as fallacious does not entail rejecting the idea that the world was brought into being by an intelligent creator.

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