The Importance of Playing Devil’s Advocate
I was recently in a Biblical Literature class where my Professor was asking us why humans have similar customs and stories throughout the world. This included such things as an aversion to murder, or a story about a flood destroying much of life on Earth being a trend in many religions. Some students suggested that it was because we are created in God’s image, being imbued with knowledge of his morals in some way in addition sharing a history as God’s people. I, on the other hand, said it was obvious that this occurred because we are all descended from a group of early humans that arose in Africa many thousands of years ago. I then proceeded to say how most traditions and rules we have are the result of social norms being drilled into us through many years of evolution.
Now before you all start composing your harshly worded comments, I must add that I am not a believer in Evolution for reasons that are not the point of this particular piece. Why then did I argue for Evolution if I do not believe a word of it? Well, I was simply trying to play Devil’s Advocate.
Now any debater will tell you that you must define your terms. Therefore, according to Oxford University Press, a Devil’s Advocate is, “A person who expresses a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments.”
With that out of the way, again we ask why would I play Devil’s Advocate in this situation? The answer is that I easily get bored in class when everyone agrees, and so I wanted to throw a wrench in the machinery. Well, it is a bit deeper than that I suppose.
Now there is nothing wrong about everyone in my class sharing, or at least not contesting, the view that we are created in God’s image. However, when they leave the classroom, they will be bombarded with arguments from culture saying they are wrong and Evolutionary Theory is the only explanation for life that makes any sense. If they have not been sufficiently prepared for this argument, then they will likely crumble before it, or, at the very least, not be able to mount any sort of a convincing argument against it.
Conversely, if they are prepared for it in a safe environment beforehand, and know how to deal with them, then maybe they will actually be able to win a few debates with non-Christians. Moreover, as thinkers we should equally prepare for these things. Just because you do not believe an argument, does not mean you should not investigate it and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. I think all people should read works like, The Origin of Species, The God Delusion, The Quran, and The Bible. After all, if we are to arguments, we must know them, and reading their defining works is the best way to prepare for the conflict that shall inevitably erupt.
Therefore, educate yourself about ideas and arguments you do not agree with, debate these ideas with people, and become stronger through this. Then you will have the power to win arguments, both with others and those you shall inevitably have with yourself as to whether what you hold to be true is actually so. Thusly, I challenge each and every one of you.
Thank You and Good Afternoon,