When Speech Feels Like Violence

Speech sometimes offends, even injures, our sensibilities. Alex Jones and the decisions of Apple and Facebook to remove his content illustrate this. But there are at least two ways speech can “hurt” us. Some hurtful speech stabs to the core of our self and our sense of dignity as a human being. Other times, speech threatens us because our inadequate cognitive defenses and filters fail to protect our psyche. I want to address the second kind of scenario because it is more “up to us” than the first kind. Epistemic Immune System My father endured numerous chemotherapy treatments during his battle … Continue reading When Speech Feels Like Violence

The Secret Life of a Double Agent

I was raised by hippes. They didn’t really stay hippies, though, except for the ageless Volkswagen van, a bookshelf full of Carlos Castenada novels, and a few other “hobbies.” But I imbibed much of the classic hippie ideology, including a healthy skepticism toward authority and a respect for good pot. So, it was a bit of a shock to my parents when I converted to Christianity in my junior year of college. I imagine they felt a bit like the parents of Alex P. Keaton in “Family Ties.” Several years later, when I graduated from college and was living on … Continue reading The Secret Life of a Double Agent

Fast Judgment, Slow Heart

We’ve always been good at jumping to conclusions and letting our prejudices run away with our reason, but now things are different. Our dumb ideas don’t just fizzle out, dying quietly in some back alley of our brain. We violently extract them from our imagination, like undeveloped offspring, and send them careening through cyberspace to assault everyone who will listen. Why? Because we can. In the classic sci-fi film, Forbidden Planet, we encounter a world where a massive machine empowers people to telepathically create anything by the power of thought alone. “Creation without instrumentality.” But they forgot that not all … Continue reading Fast Judgment, Slow Heart

Thinking About the St. Louis Protests

In my neck of the woods, there’s been a lot of talk about the recent protests in St. Louis. The protests concern the decision of the St. Louis Circuit Court to acquit police officer Jason Stockley in the 2011 shooting death of black driver Anthony Lamar Smith. What should the rest of us think about the protests? Should we “take sides?” Should we remain neutral? From the perspective of an epistemologist, there seem to be several ways your thinking might go. Here are four possibilities: You might simply form an automatic opinion based on your previous sympathies for either protesters … Continue reading Thinking About the St. Louis Protests

Evidence, Gender and God

My friend Ellie is transgender. When Ellie and I had coffee a while back, she told me that ever since she was little, she just knew that she was a girl. This wasn’t based on any medical or scientific evidence—it was based on simply turning inward and examining her own sense of self. Some of you will sympathize, others will scoff, but both Ellie and I appeal to the evidence of experience and introspection to support deeply held beliefs. How do we evaluate such claims? Ways of Knowing Well, consider first that everyone relies on introspection as a source of … Continue reading Evidence, Gender and God

Krista Tippett on Intellectual Humility in Religion and Politics

If you haven’t completely given up on politics yet, and you’re wondering how we can affect the way conversations play out in the public square, then you’ll enjoy this podcast. You may be familiar with Krista Tippett, host of On Being, a radio program and podcast. She discusses “Public Life, Social Humility, and the Religious Other” with Evan Rosa, host of the The Table podcast, produced by the Biola Center for Christian Thought. I find discussions like these immensely helpful to the pursuit of better thinking. Here’s the link.  Continue reading Krista Tippett on Intellectual Humility in Religion and Politics

The Epistemology of Racism

In the wake of recent events in Charlottesville, it is easy to stand back and point fingers at “those people” and think of the trouble as “out there.” There’s a certain comfort and reassurance that we aren’t like that. But much of the persistent problem of racism lurks in more subtle places. I suspect that for most people of color, they don’t often run into people waving flags and carrying torches. The sting of racism comes from the people they live around everyday—people like you and me. We can’t let Charlottesville, Washington and Ferguson blind us to our own contribution. … Continue reading The Epistemology of Racism