Woe that too late repents

Heh heh. Andrew Brown answered my comments today. He said he admired my ‘rhetorical technique’ – by which of course he meant he didn’t, but anyway, I don’t think it was rhetorical technique, I think I was just pointing out his inaccuracy.

So I replied, and then he replied again.

What you are accusing me of is not getting the facts wrong. It is wrongly interpreting a passage that you read differently. I don’t think that’s such a monstrous offence in general and certainly not in this particular case where my interpretation was the plain and natural one. If bringing up children to be fundamentalists is comparable to child abuse, then the sanctions for it must be comparable too. If you shrink from such sanctions, then you should not imply that they are equivalent crimes.

Now there at last we get to grips with the thing. The trouble is that he said Dawkins said X when Dawkins didn’t say X, which is not wrongly interpreting a passage, it’s saying that Y said something when Y in fact didn’t say that. I pointed out that if he had changed just one word – if he had said Dawkins had implied or suggested – then it would have been a matter of interpretation; but he didn’t say that. I bet he wishes he had. I said that, too.

I don’t know, maybe this is an occupational hazard of journalism. It’s not exactly a secret that many journalists seem to think that an approximation is the same thing as a direct quote. But the fact that it’s common doesn’t make it good practice, or helpful, or accurate, or ethical.

And that’s especially true when one is disagreeing with someone; and all the more so when one is doing it in a polemical or irritable way. That is exactly the time to be extra careful about what one attributes to one’s opponent, 1. in order to be fair and guard against confirmation bias and 2. in order to give the opponent no extra advantage. I bet you can see that yourself. You didn’t do your argument any favours with that sloppy and tendentious approximation of what Dawkins said. I bet you’re well aware of that by now.

There’s also some depressing rationalization from underverse about why teaching children to believe in hell is not so bad, but I’m underversed out, so I’m not going to bother with it.

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