contention

The prevalence of a spirit of contention amongst a people is a certain sign of deadness with respect to the things of religion. When men's spirits are hot with contention, they are cold to religion. - Jonathan Edwards

Friday, May 27, 2022

Appeal for multiple working hypotheses and dialogue: New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern at Harvard

This post is yet another appeal for recognition of multiple working hypotheses, but first an introduction. 

Some readers of this blog know that my wife and I visit New Zealand often because two of our kids live there. It's actually the last country we visited before returning to the U.S. from China because of Covid in early 2020.

The 9th hole on the golf course I played in Dunedin has an ocean view nearly as nice as where we live in Oregon.

Moving on...

The Prime Minister of New Zealand spoke at Harvard yesterday. Her speech is an outstanding discussion of how to have civil dialog and exchanges of views.

As a reminder, "President Russell M. Nelson lauded Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as “a peacemaker, a policymaker, a consensus-giver.” “She’s courageous,” President Nelson said of Prime Minister Ardern. “The world will discover they’ve got a real leader here. It’s an unlikely scenario, a young mother leading a great nation. ... We’re very impressed with her, she will have a great future.“

Prime Minister Ardern is the niece of Elder Ian S. Ardern, a General Authority Seventy and member of the Pacific Area Presidency.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/president-nelson-praises-new-zealands-prime-minister-during-visit-to-wellington?lang=eng

Some of her comments apply to discussions about Gospel topics, including those related to the Book of Mormon.

Everyone involved with religious discussions, particularly within the Church, should carefully consider her comments about how to exchange views and understand others.

I remain hopeful that the M2C and SITH citation cartels will, eventually, recognize multiple working hypotheses and engage in respectful dialogue so people can make informed decisions. So far, Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, Meridian Magazine and the rest have refused.

But hope springs eternal...

I realize many readers here will object to some of her political views, but in a way, that's the point. 

Some excerpts from her speech:

I doubt anyone has ever created a group titled “political views I disagree with, but choose to enter into respectful dialogue with to better understand alternative perspectives.”

As humans, we are naturally predisposed to reinforce our own views, to gather with people like us and avoid the dreaded sense of cognitive dissonance.  We seek validation, confirmation, reinforcement. And increasingly with the help of algorithms, what we seek, we are served, sometimes before we even know we’re looking.

... 

what is important here is not just what our young people learn, but how.

In a disinformation age, we need to learn to analyse and critique information. That doesn’t mean teaching ‘mistrust’, but rather as my old history teacher, Mr Fountain extolled: “to understand the limitations of a single piece of information, and that there is always a range of perspectives on events and decisions.”

Our history shows us the importance of this. But so too does our present.

You are, and will always be surrounded by bias. You will continue to be exposed to disinformation. And overtime, the ‘noise’ you are surrounded by will probably only get worse.

And perhaps that is why, when your own constitution was adopted, Benjamin Franklin was asked what had been created and replied “A republic, if you can keep it.”

If YOU can keep it.

Yes, diversity of voice in mainstream media matters. The responsibility of social media matters. Teaching our kids to deal with disinformation and the role we play as leaders all matters. 

But so do you.

How you choose to engage with information, deal with conflict, or confront debate, how you choose to address being baited, or hated – it all matters.

In the overwhelming challenges that lay in front of us, in our constant efforts to reach into the systems, the structures, the power, don’t overlook the impact of simple steps that are right in front of us.

The impact that we each have as individuals.

To make a choice to treat difference with empathy and kindness

Those values that exist in the space between difference and division. The very things we teach our children, but then view as weakness in our leaders.

The issues we navigate as a society will only intensify. The disinformation will only increase. The pull into the comfort of our tribes will be magnified. But we have it within us to ensure that this doesn’t mean we fracture.

We are the richer for our difference, and poorer for our division. Through genuine debate and dialogue, through rebuilding trust in information and one another, through empathy – let us reclaim the space in between.

After all, there are some things in life that make the world feel small and connected, let kindness be one of them.

full text here:

https://www.harvardmagazine.com/2022/05/commencement-2022-jacinda-ardern-address

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