Come Pick a Useful Fight with me in NYC

Oh, were we speaking of piercing rhetorical armor?  My mistake

This weekend, I'm in New York City for the alumni debate of my college group, and while I'm in town, I'll be giving a talk on productive ways to have arguments this Saturday (August 10th)  at an event cohosted by the NYC Less Wrong meetup group and Ergo (a rationalist group).Now, if by productive arguments, you mean quick and dirty ways to win, I think you may be a bit more interested in Words that Work or The Strategy of Conflict.  But when there's a difference of opinion, at least one of yo … [Read more...]

The Besetting Sin of Bloggers

magpie

Yesterday, Mark Shea posted a mea culpa about the way he's interacted with some of his ideological sparring partners.  And, for me, there was one part that really hit home: [M]y attitude toward Public Figures is much the same.  I tend not to see them as human beings, but as sort of semi-fictional characters.  People who don’t fully exist but who are In the News and therefore symbols or representatives of ideas.The upshot is this: Irony of ironies, a friend asked me today if I had contacted L … [Read more...]

Anyone have an ideological immersion course?

vous comprenez

Yesterday, Chris Hallquist put up a post in the Atheism channel titled "Everyone in America should fail to learn a foreign language" which I quite enjoyed, especially this section: So they can have the experience of failing to learn a foreign language. You can learn a lot from failing to learn a foreign language. You learn about how languages work. About the features of English you never thought about before even though they’re around you constantly. About the ways in which English did … [Read more...]

Four Tips for Public Speaking

debate-rostrum

During a call for post topics, I signed up to write a post on speaking tips for LessWrong, which is up today.  I thought it might be fun to cross-post here.  Most of it is tailored to talking, but it can be applicable to writing anything from comments to posts.  I've done a fair amount of debate and murderboarding (helping people prepare for interviews) so these are the four tips that help the people I've talked to have the most marginal improvement:Fortissimo! Don't apologize for ta … [Read more...]

Can We Play Not-Nicely Better, Please?

And speaking of sparing feelings without pulling punches, there's been a donnybrook going between Tom McDonald (Catholic) and Hemant Mehta (atheist) and JT Eberhard waded in yesterday.  I'm not planning to tag in exactly, but I would like to suggest that they have a slightly different fight.Both Tom's original post mocking atheism and Hemant and JT's rejoinder seemed pitched particularly to their own sides, so, even though the posts got pretty heated, it has kind of the effect of a flurry of … [Read more...]

Am I enabling blasphemy?

hand over mouth

While the commenting system changes over, some disputes in the content of the comments stay the same.  And there was a recent tete-a-tete I'd think needs a post worth of response.  In Cam's reply/objection to Scott's essay on suffering and optimal search strategies, Cam went through a couple of the usual objections to theodicy and then exclaimed: Why are there multiple types of suffering? Is your deity a sadistic fuckhead? Let’s accept all of the arguments offered by the author. This entire syst … [Read more...]

Watch me discuss the Ideological Turing Test at Chicago Ideas Week!

Chicago Ideas headshot

In October, I was one of the religion panelists at the Chicago Ideas Week conference. My co-panelists included Eboo Patel (interfaith activist), Lauren Drain (fled the Westboro Baptist Church), Theodore Ross (his family hid their Judaism) and Julia Sweeney (atheist and comic).Since we were a diverse group of people, my talk was on having better arguments about religious disagreements, instead of just agreeing to disagree.  My talk was based on some of the principles of curious, charitable … [Read more...]


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