Friday, August 14, 2015

Internet Cut-&-Paste Polymaths

Greenfield Village, Dearborn
Recently I was in a chat room conversation about philosophy and religion. Some logical issues were being discussed by people who did not understand logic. 

I entered the cyber-room and made a comment I thought was clarifying. After all, I teach logic. There are logicians who know more than I, yet I felt certain I knew more logic than these chat-roomers. 

I made my point. 

Then, I suffered an attack. The attack consisted of a veritable feast of informal logical fallacies, some of which I quickly harvested for illustrations to be served up in my logic classes this fall. And, between my comments, I heard the sound of cutting and pasting as feverish internet intellects scuttled like spiders across the web looking for something, anything, that would prove me wrong.

Such internet "wisdom" is the ability to scour the web until you find the answer you want to hear. On the Internet non-scientists suddenly become scientists, religiously ignorant people become religion scholars (no sweat labor required), and ignoramuses evaluate the world. (I am, as philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset once wrote, a "learned ignoramus.")

Speaking of the Internet, what is it? Let me tell you. The Internet backbone is made up of many large networks which interconnect with each other. These large networks are known as Network Service Providers or NSPs. Some of the large NSPs are UUNet, CerfNet, IBM, BBN Planet, SprintNet, PSINet, as well as others. These networks peer with each other to exchange packet traffic. Each NSP is required to connect to three Network Access Points or NAPs. At the NAPs, packet traffic may jump from one NSP's backbone to another NSP's backbone. NSPs also interconnect at Metropolitan Area Exchanges or MAEs.-of-all-disciplines. 

What does that mean? How should I know - I've never studied it but I did Google it and paste it here!

Years ago I critiqued the atheist John Allen Paulos over his book Irreligion. Paulos personally contacted me and asked if I had actually read his book. I said no, just some reviews of it. He was kind and asked, "Why don't you read it?" Yes, I will, and I did. How foolish to evaluate something I had never studied. 

Then Paulos issued me an invitation to get together over coffee should I ever be in Philadelphia.Now that was cool. And, BTW, that was it! Imagine sitting with a cup of java discussing these things with no Internet access to fall back on, just whatever critical thinking abilities we have and what studies we bring to the table. This will leave the Internet Google-geniuses behind, since without their laptops the likelihood is that they've got nothing.

Thanks to the Internet we no longer need to do the hard labor of learning or researching. All we need to learn is how to find what we want to hear on the Internet whether we understand it or not.