03 May 2008

"Fundamentalist Atheists," Godwin's Law, and Blake's Law

Godwin's Law (or Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies) is a descriptive adage first proposed by Mike Godwin in 1990:
"As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."
Now that Usenet newsgroup discussions have been superseded by blogs, wiki talk pages, and other discussion areas, this would probably be updated:
"As an internet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."
Godwin's Law is often invoked in online discussions to caution us against the use of exaggerated comparisons and is often conflated with fallacious arguments of the "reductio ad Hitlerum" type.

Some would suggest that anyone who invokes a Nazi analogy has "lost" the online debate.

For discussions involving atheism and skepticism, a similar adage is Blake's Law:
"In any discussion of atheism (skepticism, etc.), the probability that someone will compare a vocal atheist to religious fundamentalists increases to one."
Or in simple terms, most comparisons to Nazis or fundamentalists are not true attempts at dialog but rather rhetorical devices intended to shut down discussion through name-calling.

And once a person has invoked a "fundamentalist = atheist" comparison, it's pretty apparent that an honest discussion is over.

We're lucky that YouTube and the Internet were not around in 1968 ...

The following quote is from a Newsweek special feature on Martin Luther King's legacy.

It mentions the title of his final (and undelivered) sermon:
On Thursday, April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. had retreated to room 306 of the Lorraine Motel, worrying about a sanitation strike in Memphis and working on his sermon for Sunday. Its title: "Why America May Go to Hell."
This sermon title was for the sermon he would have preached if he had not been assassinated.

In case anyone is curious, the first ARPAnet network (the grandparent of the modern internet) didn't come online until November 1969.