Saturday, May 19, 2018

"You don’t have a right to believe whatever you want to"

That's the title of an article in Aeon.

Beliefs are factive: to believe is to take to be true. It would be absurd, as the analytic philosopher G E Moore observed in the 1940s, to say: ‘It is raining, but I don’t believe that it is raining.’ Beliefs aspire to truth – but they do not entail it. Beliefs can be false, unwarranted by evidence or reasoned consideration. They can also be morally repugnant. Among likely candidates: beliefs that are sexist, racist or homophobic; the belief that proper upbringing of a child requires ‘breaking the will’ and severe corporal punishment; the belief that the elderly should routinely be euthanised; the belief that ‘ethnic cleansing’ is a political solution, and so on. If we find these morally wrong, we condemn not only the potential acts that spring from such beliefs, but the content of the belief itself, the act of believing it, and thus the believer.

. . .

In exploring the varieties of religious experience ... the ‘right to believe’ can establish a climate of religious tolerance. Those religions that define themselves by required beliefs (creeds) have engaged in repression, torture and countless wars against non-believers that can cease only with recognition of a mutual ‘right to believe’. Yet, even in this context, extremely intolerant beliefs cannot be tolerated. Rights have limits and carry responsibilities.

Unfortunately, many people today seem to take great licence with the right to believe, flouting their responsibility.

. . .

Believing, like willing, seems fundamental to autonomy, the ultimate ground of one’s freedom. But, as Clifford also remarked: ‘No one man’s belief is in any case a private matter which concerns himself alone.’ Beliefs shape attitudes and motives, guide choices and actions. Believing and knowing are formed within an epistemic community, which also bears their effects. There is an ethic of believing, of acquiring, sustaining, and relinquishing beliefs – and that ethic both generates and limits our right to believe. If some beliefs are false, or morally repugnant, or irresponsible, some beliefs are also dangerous. And to those, we have no right.

There's more at the link.

The problem with this perspective is simply this:  Who decides what is factually, objectively, empirically true or false?
  • The pseudo-science of eugenics was so highly thought of in the early 20th century that it led to official "programs [that] included both 'positive' measures, such as encouraging individuals deemed particularly 'fit' to reproduce, and 'negative' measures such as marriage prohibitions and forced sterilization of people deemed unfit for reproduction".
  • The Nazi Party in Germany was convinced, on the basis of eugenics and other "sciences" that today we know to be false, that certain races were superior to all other races, and that the latter could (and should) therefore be treated as "subhuman".
  • Philosophers have argued for centuries about the foundation for human knowledge, awareness, ethics, etc.  So have theologians from various religious traditions.  There has never been consensus among them - but does that mean we can automatically judge any or all of them to be "wrong"?  On what grounds?  Religious belief has seldom, if ever, been founded on logic and fact - more on belief in and acceptance of some form of divine revelation, which by definition is not susceptible to scientific analysis.
  • Courts of law have to decide on guilt or innocence of suspects - but there are countless cases where their verdicts have been overturned, because they made their initial decision on the basis of faulty or fraudulent evidence, or false witness statements, or whatever.  They can only decide on the basis of facts as presented to them, and those "facts" may or may not be accurate.

I could go on, but the point is clear enough.  If you say that I don't have the right to believe whatever I want to, what gives you the right to say that?  If you argue it's because the facts are on your side, how sure are you of those facts?  Climate change is a good example.  The foundational elements of the eco-warriors' case have been systematically debunked over and over again, until their fanatical repetition of those discredited elements begins to seem more like religion than science.  There is no scientific consensus, as they claim, and the science is not settled.  Why, then, should I permit them to classify my skepticism as unrealistic or untrue?  From their perspective, likewise, why should they permit my skepticism to influence their belief in what they regard as "settled science"?

As soon as anyone decides that he, or she, or they, have the authority to decide whether or not my beliefs in any area are correct or not, and are therefore permitted or not, then I have precisely the same right to make that decision about what they believe.  There are two edges to that sword.  As to enforcing their beliefs over mine . . . that way lies civil war.  It's been tried before, and we all know the results.  And yet, we fail to learn the lessons that are so clear.  What are Facebook and Twitter doing now but imposing what they believe to be right upon their users, by blocking views that differ from theirs?  They are telling their users that they will decide what views they will be allowed to see, because they know better than their users what is right and appropriate.

This will not end well.



Eccentric Cowboy said...

I'd like to take the time to also debunk the logical flaws within this guy's argument. However, I think it would be infinitely more fun to post it in front of the transgender movement. Then I would sit back and watch the fun as the Left eats more of its own. >:)
However, I will not do so. As tempting as it is!

However, you are absolutely correct in that this argument is a double edged sword. Yet many people consistently fail to think ahead and recognize this.

waepnedmann said...

My English 101 prof would have stripped you naked and chased your namby-pamby "beliefs" around the classrom with a switch (which, she was quick to point out she meant figuratively, not literally).
Your "beliefs"? Pfft!
What are the facts?
When I see a sentence begin with "I believe..." or "I feel..." the red flags, flashing lights, and sirens start up.
The passive voice is sign of a lack of facts. It is used to manipulate.
The problem is that people's beliefs and feelings get them and/or other people bankrupt, injured, and/or killed.
Beliefs tie into emotions. That overides logic.
Emotions have caused the death of more people than ...well, anything!
You are right.
This will not end well.

Rob said...

I today's world beliefs can be public opinions created by the media, repeated often enough & loud enough to accepted as "fact".

HMS Defiant said...

I think waepnedemann and I shared teachers with the same philosophy. Lead a sentence with, "I feel" or "I believe" and the prof went no further. He didn't give a rat's patoot what you felt or believed. He wanted a cogent argument based on facts.

I am kind of surprised at the stubborn resistance to facts enjoyed by all global warming eco-warriors. No facts will change their mind or change the basis of their beliefs. In a way they remind me of people like bishop Cranmer and Nicholas Ridley. Of course the modern eco-warrior would go to the stake whining every inch of the way that burning him would just contribute to global warming.

Glen Filthie said...

And today we see the blowback from those hard nosed profs: your feelings are everything, your self esteem is more important than your education, and we are to believe that although we are all beautiful and wonderful, we are all the same too. Our universities are moral and intellectual waste lands.

You want facts, Pastor? Fine: the average black IQ in America is 85. Mohammed Ali had an IQ of 79 which is considered mild mental retardation in white people. The US Army did a study on IQ and found that below IQ 83, recruits became a tactical liability because they couldn’t follow simple instructions, and the need to baby sit them overshadowed any net contribution they could make to their units. Let us indulge this crime-think further: based on that entirely valid metric and facts that are a matter of public record, 40% of blacks are too stupid to hold a simple job.

I don’t like it either, but those Nazis weren’t entirely wrong about some things. We all have unpleasant truths we would rather ignore. And when truth and reality get nasty with us because we would rather believe crap - we get Nazis. Or close relatives like SJW’s, feminists, socialists, marxists and outhouse scientists like environmentalists. I think ultimately this will end well. In the coming strife Darwin and Murphy are going to kill a whole bunch of people that seriously need it.

paul said...

Another view that seems to be more rational:

Aesop said...

The flaw in Glen's logic would be to leap to the belief that "average" therefore equals "everyone", for any given race or group. That was the entire eugenics movement, in a nutshell.

Then you throw out a Booker T. Washington, Thomas Sowell, or Larry Elder, simply (and simplistically) because of the pigmentation of their skin. As skin color tells you jack and squat about the individual and their mental abilities, it's a false correlation (well-deemed by courts over time as "suspect", and for good cause), every time it's applied. Knowing a person's race is not predictive in any meaningful way, it just means the raw odds are lower for a given group, but it tells you nothing, functionally, about the person. We're dealing with people, the ultimate one-of-a-kind situation, not vetting the ratio of good parts to bad parts from a given widget supplier.

It's the exact same reason we don't reflexively dismiss Swiss patent clerks, lest we overlook an Einstein.

The 40% of blacks too stupid to hold a job are their own problem.
If I'm hiring, I want the 60% who are capable of holding one down, and more importantly, the percentage of that subset willing to do the work once they're given the job. The 10% who are rockstar geniuses will sort themselves to the top of any pile, like they do, in due course.

Nothing in their racial category will inform that selection.
The only test for whether someone is a good worker is observing the quality of the work they do. If they can't leap the hurdle of filling out the job ap to begin with, they're probably not going to need to worry about getting that chance. But then again, that's why you sort before you interview, and interview before you hire, to weed out the non-suitable candidates, and keep the best ones to pick from.

And anyone who asserts that Muhammad Ali (AKA Cassius Clay) had an actual IQ of 79, or anything in that ballpark, is entirely unfamiliar with his eloquence back in the day, and probably himself an idiot. The assertion is simply snortworthy, and contrary to all actual evidence of history.
What he allegedly scored on an Army test during the draft for the Vietnam War is codswallop, starting with the assumption that the test itself was a fair one, or assuming against interest that he was trying to get the highest score possible, with first prize a trip to a rifle company in Vietnam, humping a ruck in the boonies, and dodging booby traps and AK-47 fire.
Under those circumstances, some people would deliberately fail an eye test, let alone an IQ test.

Just like fishing, I don't care about how many fish that I catch are too small. They just get thrown back.
I measure and keep the monster whoppers, because that's the point of the exercise.

It's the same reason no one went on and on about Babe Ruth's 1330 strike-outs.
That's measuring the wrong identifier.

On the topic of the OP, people are and should be free to believe whatever they like. If it's nonsensical, it marks them for the idiots they are, always a useful indicator to other people.
I'm similarly free to consider them objectively to be morons.

What they do with those beliefs, however, is the point at which humanity and the state both have a keen interest in what you may and may not do.

I don't care what's in your head, from a proscriptive standpoint.
I'm watching your hands.
Nobody ever hurt anyone with a thought.
They just ring all the idiot bells sometimes.

takirks said...

Folks like Glen put entirely too much faith in the artificial crap represented by the IQ tests.

I have never had faith in those things, mostly because I'm someone who has a "knack" for taking and passing tests. I've gotten "A" grades on standardized tests where I know nothing about the subject of the test itself, but have been able to parse out the correct answer simply from reading the questions and answers. Bloody hell--I once took a practice exam for the Engineer in Training tests, and scored considerably higher than a West Point graduate with a genuine degree in mechanical engineering...

Tests don't mean squat, really. And, even the best IQ test is really only measuring the ability to do well on that specific test--They are manifestly not proxies for general intelligence. You hand someone a written intelligence test, and what you're going to find out after they take it is only how well they take written intelligence tests. Past that? You're really risking the appearance of a fool.

I once worked with one of those "low IQ score" blacks. He may not have had the "book learning" I did, but as far as what I'd term "situational intelligence", and being able to "read" other people, then using that to get them to do what he wanted them to do...? I was not even in his sport, let alone league. But, if you gave him an "intelligence test", you'd have termed him a low-grade intellect with little to contribute.

takirks said...

I would submit that what you're looking at with regards to the quality we term "intelligence" is really very poorly conceived... You're actually measuring someone's adaptation to a set of artificial conditions, a game we play called "modern civilization". Sure, you may do really well as a city dweller, going to school and having a professional skill, but... How well would you do, dropped into some Ice Age tundra, or African savanna? What will all your vaunted intelligence do for you then, Mr. Specialized for Civilization? Would you show up so smart, pitted against a smilodon? Would you survive, as a respected part of a hunter-gatherer band?

I think we've made a huge error in conceptualizing these issues as ones of superiority and/or virtue; what we should really be looking at this stuff as would be better termed as "fit for purpose". If your innate set of gifts granted by whatever hard-coded biological features make you "you" aren't adapted to the life you're leading, well... You're gonna have problems, and maybe you'd be better suited for a different lifestyle. As well, perhaps your innate characteristics aren't suited for the life you can lead; then perhaps we ought to take that into account, and ensure that whatever can be achieved by nurture is indeed achieved, in your case. Superiority and virtue don't come into it, at all; you're not a "better man", a "natural nobility" because you test well, and fit into a modern technological civilization. All you are is better adapted to what, in the final analysis, is actually a very complex game we humans are playing with each other.

Glen Filthie said...

Virtue signalling aside, girls... Africa is what it is.