The Free Exchange in the Marketplace of Ideas

by guest blogger Max Andrews

The English poet John Milton did well when he said that “Truth will rise to the top through a free and open exchange in the marketplace of ideas.”  I am so encouraged when I have and see a substantive dialogue with someone concerning an issue.  This is certainly important in every day discussions, blogs, and teaching.  I assist in managing and teaching an Intro. to Philosophy course at university and I always encourage my students to make us work hard to convince them of what we believe to be true.  Do not simply sit there and take what I say and teach prima facie–challenge me, challenge the thoughts, challenge your thinking.

This marketplace is critically important in scholarship.  I appreciate scholarly societies and journals like the Evangelical Philosophical Society and The Society of Christian Philosophers who have atheists participate in the discussions like Graham Oppy and Sean Carroll.  Peer-review is critically important.  I appreciate the role of referees and reviewers in this process by offering their criticisms.

My concern is the upsetting trend of rejecting this free exchange in the marketplace.  I recent wrote a blog post, Dawkins and PZ Myers on William Lane Craig–That’s It? and New Atheism’s Cancer and Eventual Cause of Death: Monologue, where I criticized Richard Dawkins’ and PZ Myers’ refusal to dialogue with [arguably] the world’s leading Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig.  Dawkins and Myers are two major leaders in the new atheist movement yet all they want to do is monologue.  Unfortunately, this is going on in the Christian sphere as well.  I recently publicly criticized Al Mohler and Norm Geisler for their unwarranted attacks on Mike Licona for dissenting from a popular interpretation of a Matthean passage (See My Support and Endorsement of Mike Licona).

We need to put our views in empirical harms way.  It is virtuous to be intellectually open minded and, I believe, we have a moral obligation to follow the evidence.  We should encourage dialogues, especially with the best persons of the other position for the best dialogue available.  We should allow scholarship to play its role in researching opposing views and and in keeping our own views accountable.  We need to have a reasonable allowance for dissenting views.  There is a way to respectfully disagree and argue against another position.  Calvinists and Arminians may respectfully disagree.  Molinists may disagree with the other camps along with open theism.  Allow Darwinists a seat at the table and conversely allow design and agency proponents to defend their case.  It’s hard for me to say, but we should even allow young earth creationists a seat at  the table and hear them as well (phew, that was difficult for me!).

We need to have substantive dialogue and allow reasonable room for dissent.  There is no room for monologue in a genuine pursuit for the truth.  We need to have our beliefs be accounted for by others.  We need to have a desire for the truth and not me so dogmatic that what we currently believe is all there is.  In the words of Augustine, we must “hear the other side.”

Max Andrews is a philosophy graduate student whose graduate research is in philosophy of science and religion. Max blogs regularly at his website Sententias.

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