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Are you now reading an "enemy of thought"?

There's an intriguing article by Alan Jacobs on Christianity Today titled Goodbye Blog: The friend of information but the enemy of thought. Jacobs argues that "the particular architecture of the blogosphere is the chief impediment to its becoming a place where new ideas can be deployed, tested, and developed." The problem: the immediacy of blog communication — instant posting, instant commenting — does not allow time for the development of thought. Too many of us read, react, and write comments conveying our reaction. Jacobs draws a comparison between today's blogosphere and another advance in communication technology:

As I think about these architectural deficiencies, and the deficiencies of my own character, I find myself meditating on a passage from a book by C. S. Lewis. In his great work of literary history, Poetry and Prose in the Sixteenth Century, Lewis devotes a passage to what he describes, with a certain savageness, as "that whole tragic farce which we call the history of the Reformation." For Lewis, the issues that divided Catholics and Protestants, that led to bloodshed all over Europe and to a seemingly permanent division of Christians from one another, "could have been fruitfully debated only between mature and saintly disputants in close privacy and at boundless leisure." Instead, thanks to the prevalence of that recent invention the printing press, and to the intolerance of many of the combatants, deep and subtle questions found their way into the popular press and were immediately transformed into caricatures and cheap slogans. After that there was no hope of peaceful reconciliation.

On a smaller scale, the same problems afflict the intellectual and moral environments of the blogs. There is no privacy: all conversations are utterly public. The arrogant, the ignorant, and the bullheaded constantly threaten to drown out the saintly, and for that matter the merely knowledgeable, or at least overwhelm them with sheer numbers. And the architecture of the blog (and its associated technologies like rss), with its constant emphasis on novelty, militates against leisurely conversations.

(Hat tip to Mirror of Justice.)



It sound like Jacobs picked a lousy example to support his argument and that Lewis oversimplified history. The reformation is usually dated to the sixteenth century, but it developed over time, it didn't just erupt. It was preceeded by the Hussite Wars that started at least twenty years before the introduction of the printing press into Europe. At any rate, religious disputes were always as likely to be resolved through force of arms or treachery as reasoned discussion. Without the printing press, the Protestant leaders and the Catholic Church wouldnt have peacefully resolved their differences, although it's possible that the Protestants wouldn't have attracted the following to sucessfully defy the Church.

Though I agree with the gist of the article, I'm surprised that Jacobs undercut his argument with such a dubious example, even if it came from C.S. Lewis.

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