Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Dictionary--A Tool, Not An Argument

Could somebody explain to me why there seems to be this fad in the blogosphere to trot out a favorite dictionary every time an issue is being discussed, point to a definition, and go "AHA, look, I can find a dictionary that agrees with my view, you lose!" It seems that, in some circles, this passes for reasoning. In fact, relying on a dictionary to define your reality is, at the end of the day, just another way to allow somebody else's opinion to replace your own (assuming you think the dictionary ends all discussion and cannot be controverted by the rational mind).

I'm not saying dictionaries aren't helpful--sometimes I use them for spelling, or to get just the nuance I am looking for when I want to say exactly right thing, and no more. But oftentimes dictionaries just confuse the issue, particularly when knotty problems of philosophy or religion are in view.

For example...what is the soul? Do I want to look at Webster's dictionary to explain this to me? If I read it's definition, will I then understand the soul? One of the synonyms given in most dictionaries for "soul" is "spirit", and vice versa--however, does that mean that soul and spirit are the same? I don't happen to think so, but there are apparently some bloggers who would refer to a dictionary, say, "Look, the dictionary says..." and walk away smugly sure that they had defeated me in debate by virtue of being in agreement with a book...

Hmmm...Yet, if I were to say, "The Bible says..." I would not even get the words out of my mouth before I would hear the resounding "slam" of minds going shut all across the blogosphere. Now, my Book has been around for several thousand years, and it contains wisdom far beyond any dictionary, and I'm even willing, in a discussion with a non-Christian, to treat it (solely for purposes of the discussion) merely as a tool in a debate, not as a final arbiter of every dispute. Yet many seem to fear and loathe the thought that they might even have to discuss the Bible's contents, while clinging to every word of their dictionary like a lifeline.

Just think about it--the next time you want to discuss something intelligently, put away that urge to grab the dictionary first thing...try applying reason to fact and come up with a real argument.

"Stop The ACLU" Blogbursters

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