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Posted by on Apr 18, 2014 in Culture, featured, Skepticism, Society | 1 comment

Educate Yourself

As I have more and more discussions on-line one of the most common responses to rejecting claims that I have heard is “educate yourself”.

This is a utterly useless statement. It’s a throwaway. It’s a statement to make when someone has no interest in continuing the discussion. That’s usually (in my experience) because they cannot support their claims and don’t want it shown.

Why is it useless?  In general, there are two types of people who are engaged in these arguments. The first is people who have a particular belief structure and no amount of evidence will change their minds. The other are people who are trying to learn, trying to develop good arguments, and are amenable to evidence.

These first types of people will not educate themselves. They also (probably) think that they are more educated on the subject than anyone else… at least that’s my experience with creationists. These type of people have no interest in educating themselves. Indeed, they are actively trying to diseducate (uneducate?) others.

The second group probably are educated about the subject, but disagree. These people are willing to learn more, but the phrase “educate yourself” doesn’t say anything about how to do that. I talk to a creationist about genetics. He says “educate yourself” (or a variation thereof). How? I already read Science and other peer-reviewed journals. I’ve already read dozens of books, by leading authorities on the subject. How can I further educate myself? Where/what should I read to gain the level of knowledge that the opposing party suggests?

It’s a throwaway because it doesn’t contribute to the discussion. Again, it’s not giving a link to a website, a textbook, or other source of information. It’s merely a statement that the opposing party thinks that you are uneducated, but they have no interest in helping you.

This is one thing that I have never understood about creationists. When they yell at you for being too dumb to understand or say that you misrepresent their position or say that you don’t know what you are talking about… look at the one thing that they don’t ever do. They never point to a source[1].

Instead of being advocates for their position. Instead of being educators. They yell that everyone else is stupid. They yell that they are misunderstood. They even curse. But they do not educate. They do not, never have, taken even a few moments to explain, to give examples, to do the calculations that they claim to have.

That is just not making a good impression. The person who sits down and explains everything, in detail, time and again, may not be right, but at least he’s putting for an effort to educate. No just demanding that everyone accept his authority on a subject.

Finally, I’ve noticed that when someone has a relatively untenable position. They do something to get out of that situation and generally don’t further respond. The regulars at After the Bar Closes call this a “flounce”.

I will no longer engage with you meanies.

If the ‘meanies’ in question where merely asking for evidence to support a position, then that’s a flounce. It is usually stated as someone not discussing with a particular person (or a particular subject) until they have educated themselves. The implication here is that “I won’t talk to you until you agree with me.”

For many people (and groups), that’s exactly what it is. They don’t want you to be educated, they want you to agree with them. If you agree with them, then they think that they have power over you. Their 100,000 twitter followers are a valuable commodity to them and reinforces their need to control their environment (by controlling others).  Sadly, this includes people in every movement; creationists, skeptics, religious, humanist, theocracy, and democracy.

Personally, I have opinions about a great many things. It’s possible, even likely that many of them are wrong. Maybe I’m not educated enough on a subject. Maybe I don’t have a complete picture. Or maybe sufficient evidence doesn’t exist.

Telling me to “educate myself” isn’t going to change any of that. What will?

Evidence. Present a sound argument, backed by evidence.

I always try to assume that the person I’m talking to is interested in learning. So I try not to talk down to them. I present evidence. I don’t yell, I don’t ban them for presenting dissenting opinions.

Now, after several weeks of someone not even responding to the evidence, then I just stop talking to them. There’s no point. There’s only so many ways you can try to teach someone before accepting that they are not interested in having a discussion. They are there to convert or demand compliance, not come to a consensus. Still, even against this knowledge, I will try to respond in the best way possible to present my case with data and evidence to back it up.

This is in contrast to the person who demands “educate yourself”.

I’m happy to learn things, but I’d at least like a starting point.
_________________________
[1] That actually says what they claim it says.

  • Brenda Riese

    “The person who sits down and explains everything, in detail, time and again,” – that’s me. Then I get told that I am “talking down” or “belittling” the other person. It is always something.