January 2, 2012

On Being Constructive

hatersDo you write a blog or comment on those written by others? Do you contribute content and/or comments to Reddit? If so, you know that it is a hell of a lot easier to shit all over someone else's work than to create one's own. Putting one's ideas out there for all to see entails exposing them to criticism; criticizing someone else's ideas involves virtually no risk. This is particularly true of Internet-based communication. Saying the equivalent of "this is stupid" in a comment or downvoting someone on Reddit without providing a valid reason is much easier than attempting to contribute to the discussion in a meaningful way.

When you get a group of people together, there is going to be disagreement. This is just as true of atheists as it is for anyone else. It would be absurd to suggest that we should quash our disagreement because this would stifle progress and increase our risk of falling victim to all manner of errors. We actually benefit from our disagreements.

For me, the key distinction lies in the difference between criticism that does not advance the discourse and criticism that is truly constructive. Disagreement must happen for the atheist movement to be healthy. It can even be intense and heated at times, but it offers far more when it remains constructive and does not devolve into ad hominem attacks.