Essentially, the debates between Sam Harris and Jordan B. Peterson are an exercise in good faith, in the willingness to talk to those we fundamentally disagree with for the purpose of finding some new and higher truth. There’s something to learn here …
Oh, and we’ll learn it from you? I remember talking to my students about argument. I would say to them, “There is only one kind of person you can never convince of something.” They would look confused and think. Some would joke and say, “Republicans?” I’d chuckle and say, “No.” Others would say, “Idiots?” Some would simply give up and throw their hands up in the air. But the answer is quite simple:
“Those who already agree with you.”
The beauty of the Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson debates is that these are two people from wildly different backgrounds, different struggles, and fundamentally different belief systems. And it is in that space that conversation (Sam Harris concludes, it is the only way forward.) can produce change. Only in that space can there be real growth for the listeners and the speakers. It does not necessarily happen immediately, but now we have this conversation on record like Hitchens vs. The Catholic Church or the Lincoln Douglas debates. This conversation allows for us to retread this particular space in time and see it from many different contexts and perhaps see if history will decide that it was important.
People never change, fool! Many people feel this way. People never change. You hear that nihilistic mantra constantly, and the negativity with which it is spouted feels to me like a person who wishes they were wrong, that they’re dying to be proven wrong. I believe this as it concerns changing people with truth: I believe that every person when confronted with truth MUST change. I believe that people don’t generally change drastically, but they tend to move slightly more toward the direction of the proposition or they have their worldview confirmed and move further to a surety in the value of their beliefs. A third option is this: “And [God/truth] hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them …” – Exodus 7:13a. People do change. They must change when confronted with the truth … the question is, how?
I’m sure people are dying for your hot take. Honestly, I’m not going to give a judgment on this conversation outside of recognizing the importance that this sort of thing can happen. I have long respected the works and thoughts of Sam Harris … though there are certainly a number of points that I disagree with. Dr. Peterson also has important things to say, but I am no disciple, and it’s important to recognize that we are talking about frail and finite beings, and guess what … everyone is wrong at some level.
What I’m proud about is that there is a hunger at this moment for good faith discussion and debate between opposing sides. The goal isn’t to get a soundbite or flame someone, but rather, it is to find some place to learn, to grow, and be edified. And THAT is why these debates are so important. That is why we must recognize the idea of good faith and a charitable reading of a person because if we can’t do that for others … why should we expect others to do that for us?