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Professor´s Huffington Post opinion piece receives nearly 3,000 comments

When Philosophy Professor Andrew Pessin´s opinion piece was published on Huffington Post, he planned to respond to each comment. But within hours, there were more than 1,000 comments, making his goal near impossible. Six days after the original publication, there are 2,829 comments. Read the article. In the piece, Pessin, author of the recent book "The God Question: What famous thinkers from Plato to Dawkins have said about the divine," describes four types of people who participate in debates about God: the reasonable theist, the reasonable atheist and, more commonly, the unreasonable versions of each - those who frequently talk but never listen. Today´s news cycle, he adds, encourages the unreasonable versions of each.

"We live in a sound bite culture where people have just a few minutes to make or score a quick point and get out," Pessin said. "The issues themselves are so important, and so complex, that they deserve far more attention than most media outlets can give." This structure encourages shouting matches that benefit neither side, Pessin added. "It does not have to be this way," Pessin says in the piece. "You can learn a tremendous amount from people with whom you disagree, as long as they are as committed to the act of inquiry as are you."

His argument immediately struck a chord with readers, and moved more than 2,800 of them to post responses on the blog´s message board. One commenter wrote, "I would love to have ´reasonable´ discussions where people respect each others´ opinion," while another commenter thanked Pessin for creating an online forum. Though people are responding to one another´s comments, Pessin believes social media does not create the same conducive environment for a discussion than face-to-face interactions create. "Social media have lots of merits and benefits, but nothing can substitute for genuine face-to-face when it comes to meaningful conversation," Pessin said.

May 25, 2010