Framing: Duh

Over at scienceblogs there is a recurring argument debate about “framing”. My definition of framing is wording an argument in a manner that your audience is going to be most receptive to. It’s crafting an argument carefully with the goal of convincing people of its authenticity.

Using this definition its literally self-evident that if you want to convince people of something that you should approach your argument in a manner most likely to do so! That’s just obvious.

It’s a separate question whether you should have that goal or not. I.E. it would be a tedious world if everyone always spoke with utter care for maximum convincing power. I’m going to talk about religion differently if I’m with a bunch of atheists than I do if I’m at a funeral. Sometimes we preach to the choir and enjoy reveling in our superior views.

But, yes, if your goal is to convince, framing is a no-brainer.

Generally the framing debate at scienceblogs relates to the “new atheists” and the “battle of science and religion”. Dawkins and Myers alienate the people they are trying to convince, says one side. Dawkins and Myers respond: fuck you, we have every right to speak our opinions when and how we feel.

They are both right.

Dawkins and Myers do alienate the people they are trying to convince by focusing on the most radical and ridiculous examples of religion. That’s not all they do, by a long shot and I agree with them on literally almost everything. But they do alienate people. That’s a fact whether you like it or not. Religious moderates, who are an important political ally of secularists, are painted with the same broad brush as loonies like young earth creationists.

But on the other hand, and really more importantly, what Dawkins and Myers have done is say what they think. They used their best judgment. They have no responsibility to religious moderates, secularists or anyone else. Their words have been a very important part of the debate and we would be much poorer without them. We’re all grown ups and we should be able to handle it if it gets a little rough sometimes.

Framing: Duh

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