Flowcharts Are Fun!

First, peruse this flowchart, created by an atheist group on how to debate with a Christian.  

It seems kinda funny at first (or incredibly offensive, depending on your sensibilities), but also seems to make sense.  I think that Christians and atheists could benefit equally by a flow chart of this type, but it also has some major problems with it that won’t help conversation or debate any.
1.  Can you envision anything that will change your mind on this topic?  This is the first make or break juncture in the flow chart.  If the Christian indicates no, then the debate is over since there is no room for true discussion.  I would imagine, however, that most people would answer No to this question.  If they thought there was something that could make them change their mind, then they would have already investigated that further and determined if indeed they did need to change their mind, and would change their mind if necessary.  Right.  That’s pretty idealistic, but hey, it’s Thursday.  
As a theist, I can’t imagine anything that would make me change my mind.  I might, however, be shown that certain types of information alter the nature or expression of my belief.  I would think that a non-theist would think the same thing.  They’re convinced that their view is correct.  The only real difference is that I truly believe that some sort of miraculous event could force a non-theist to accept the reality of God, however I can’t imagine that science will ever be able to disprove the existence of God.  Does that make me irrational and incapable of holding an intelligent conversation with someone?  I don’t think so – but this flowchart assumes it does.  
2.  If one of your arguments is shown to be faulty, will you stop using the argument (with everyone)?  Sure, I think this is fine, but it depends a great deal on how you define the term faulty.  I’m pretty sure the underlying assumption of this flowchart is that the only admissible evidence or proof is going to be empirically verifiable evidence, an incredibly narrow subsection of proof.  So if my argument relies on a non-empirical, non-scientific method, this does not automatically make my argument faulty.  It simply means that it is not predicated on the underlying assumptions or definitions about what an acceptable argument or proof is.  It is not necessary to cede to someone in a debate the definitional grounds on which the debate will be predicated.  In fact, agreeing on the definitions and terms and parameters of the debate is undoubtedly the single-most important aspect of the entire debate, particularly on this issue.  Proceed with caution.
That being said, if I can be shown that my argument is faulty, I will certainly adjust my argument as necessary to compensate or avoid the error.  However, that does not mean that I will agree to the theory of evolution because so-and-so claims that the evidence is absolute.  The evidence is not absolute, and those who insist that it is are demonstrating the very strength of faith which they often mock theists for.  
3.  Are you prepared to abide by basic principles of reason in this conversation?  Better define these carefully.  I certainly wish to abide by ground rules of logic, but the examples they cite are hardly demonstrative of this.  They may sound reasonable, but they are not necessarily principles of logic.  I would be happy to abide by principles of non-contradiction, and by rejecting logical fallacies of the formal and informal kind.  
But the examples given have to do with proof, and once again, the way the term proof is used here probably demonstrates a definition that means scientifically provable.  Something that can be demonstrated or proved through physical, empirical methods.  As I’ve said before, while this is certainly one form of proof, it is not reasonable to insist that it is the final arbiter of proof or truth.
The little disclaimer piece on the left-hand side applies equally to both sides in the conversation.  Very few people willingly seek out or agree to discussions in which they expect to be proven wrong, so it has to be acknowledged that both sides are equally reasonable in feeling that they are right and not expecting that they will change their opinion, while still being open to the possibility of hearing something in the discussion that would in fact lead them to change their opinion – if not instantly, then over time.
I can understand the frustrations that both theists and non-theists have when attempting to converse with one another.  Invariably, these stem from confusions and disagreements over the terms and definitions that the conversation will spring from.  By not clarifying terms and reaching some sort of awareness if not agreement about what constitutes proof or reason, the conversation is probably doomed from the outset, regardless of the intentions of the participants.  Both sides will think the other is being unreasonable or unfair, when in fact they’re simply being consistent with how they define terms.  
We shouldn’t be frightened of engaging in conversation with non-theists, but we do need to recognize that we need to lay the proper groundwork for a fair conversation.   That ought to be a proposition that they will agree to as well.  

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