Friday, September 29, 2006

6 Commonly Believed Things That Are Wrong

Ironically, Daily Irreverence "corrects" six common "misconceptions" with scientifically and historically inaccurate information. One would, I'd guess, think this odd. However, it's not really that unusual. I'll refer you to my post on Alexander Nussbaum's article, "Orthodox Jews and Science".

How is it that we correct others with our own inaccuracies or make use of bad science in "defense" of science/skepticism? How is it that many who claim to be defending reason do so in a highly irrational manner? (I refer you to my post "The Left's Thought Police" as well as to the controversies surrounding my "extreme atheism" column and the cyberlynching tactics used by my detractors.) How is it that some skeptics aren't very skeptical when it comes to what they want to be true? How is it that we can so accurately see the faults of others while readily ignoring our own?

We're human. Humans aren't known for humility. Instead, we're known for:

1.) Believing anything we want to be true.
2.) Mistaking perception for reality, how things seem for how things are.
3.) Wanting to be right to the point that we can't acknowledge even the possibility of being wrong.
4.) Maintaining our perceptions of ourselves at the cost of truth.
5.) Seeing anything that damages that perception as a threat.
6.) Running off at the mouth (or the keyboard) without thinking.
7.) Making lots of honest mistakes.
8.) Making no distinction between what others believe and why they believe it to the point that we assign nefarious motives to beliefs we don't understand.

Humility is the key to overcoming these faults. We must be humble enough to question how we see things, to give others due consideration, to ask why rather than to assume motive, to accept the limitations of our own knowledge, to challenge ourselves with the same vigor as we challenge others, to "step into" another person's perspective without judging, to think before reacting, and to remain silent once in a while. Then, we have to be humble enough to admit that we don't or can't do any of these things as often as we should.

Personal addendum: I must admit that humility is, for me, far more a goal than an accomplishment. Most who know me will tell you that humility is not something I have in large measure. (As opposed to intelligence, talent, charm, etc. which I have in abundance.) Others will tell you that I'm far more humble than those other people realize. (The persona is not the person.) From my perspective, I'm trying to be humble. Really, I am. I just don't like letting other people know when I've accomplished it. (I wouldn't want to brag.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, cultural reletivism, the great disabler of actual discussion in America!

Here is the left's biggest problem, we've convinced ourselves that we're not allowed to question anybody's beliefs about anything because we are afraid of stepping on anyone's toes.

Well not all ideas are created equal! Some are better reasoned, better supported by evidence, and more likely to be correct and we have every right (if not the responsibility) to defend them and try to promote them. When we refuse to stand up for logic and reason, we open the doors to illogical extremism.

This doesn't just mean that we should stand up to extremists. Moderate proponents of illogical ideas (such as supernatural entities) serve as validation for extremist variations of those moderate ideas. The moderate community also serves as the recruitment grouds for extremist groups.

I think that this (at least in part) explains the vitriolic response that many atheists had to your column of a few months back. A considerable portion of the atheist community feels (with very good reason) that moderate religious belief serves as an unwitting accomplice to extremist religious violence. Any person who holds up a book and says "this is the word of god" validates the extremist who attempts to carry out the violent actions towards un-believers, apostates, and other groups proscribed by the Bronze Age mythology contained within that book. This is why many atheists feel that it is their duty to challenge people on their religious faith and why so many of your readers were upset by your comments.

1:41 AM  

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