We can only know so much, and the limitations of both our minds and our social contacts may explain why we differ in our opinions and assumptions. by Dale Husband
Friday, January 16, 2009
One of my most basic axioms is that there can only be one truth and one standardof right and wrong as far as empirical facts as well as ethical standards go, but that the limited vision and knowledge of human beings makes us unable to know absolutely what that truth or thatethical standard is; we can only approximate it in our minds. If this is true, how does one explain the incredible diversity of opinions regarding what is true as well as what is ethical? Why the clash between Creation and evolution, between various religions, and between supporters and opponents of the death penalty, abortion rights, or other political and moral issues?
I believe that we humans, for all our intelligence, are still limited in our minds as well as our preceptions of reality. We can only know so much or sense so much and thus when we form opinions based on our knowledge and preceptions, we are prone to error. The problem comes when clashes between people with different opinions occur. Often, debates result in which efforts are made by both sides to show that the other side is in error. Usually, however, most supporters of both sides refuse to budge in their positions, and so the debates prove fruitless. Why is that,if we all live in the same universe, use the same senses, and sometimescommunicate the same ways? What's stopping us from reaching the same conclusions?
I think the primary factor in people stubbornly clinging to an opinion, even if it is highly questionable, is that a community has formed among holders of that opinion, and there is the ever present fear that being willing to change your opinion to fit all the facts you know would lead to one being ostracized by that community. To reinforce the social bonds of that community, its leadership will put out propaganda, distorting the facts and the issues to demonize the ones opposed to the goals and beliefs of the community, even going so far as to accuse the opponents of being dishonest and unfair, without any clear evidence for this. This gives doubting members of the community all the excuses they need to put aside their doubts and remain in the community.
As an Honorable Skeptic, I find that totally unacceptable. Over the course of my life, I've been in and out of several communities, having been a Southern Baptist, an agnostic, a Baha'i and an agnostic once more. Sure, leaving those religious communities when I became disillusioned with their teachings was painful, but in the end I felt being liberated from unfounded dogmas was worth the agony. Sadly, most people seem unable to make that transition. I consider them weak. Meanwhile, they consider me disloyal and without firm principles, which only shows the depths of their own delusions. It was BECAUSE of my principles that I abandoned them and I had more to lose socially than gain from doing so.
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Posted By: Walt Thiessen
Date: 2009-01-17 14:47:16
Speaking as a member of a community that is very much in the minority, does not live in a particular region of the country, and which rarely has more than a handful of members in any given regional community, I can assure you that your hypothesis is 100% wrong where I am concerned. If you are correct that there is only one truth, then your hypothesis must therefore be 100% wrong.
The notion that I hold onto my libertarian beliefs because I'm afraid of ostracization if it abandon them can only be described as laughable. The pressure to confirm is very much in the opposite direction from the one I travel in.
The fact remains you are a member of a well established community (libertarians) within the larger community of the United States. Often, a smaller community will maintain itself by an attitude of opposition to the larger community and reinforce that attitude through separation of some kind, even if that separation is more psychological than physical. I've noticed that the Libertarian Party, while running many people for public office since it was founded in the early 1970s, has not yet succeeded in actually electing anyone to a federal office, not even a single member of Congress. Even Bob Barr, who ran for President as a Libertarian last year, was a Republican when he served in Congress. And Ron Paul is someone who ran for President as a Republican last year, but is also libertarian in his views. There seems to be a barrier to actual Libertarian Party members serving in Congress, and that concerns me.
When I look at the positions of the "libertarian" members of the Nolan Chart web community, they seem to be mostly at the far corner at the top. Of course, the chances of Libertarians gaining power would increase if their party would moderate most of its positions and open itself to a more diverse membership, but those who favor this may be accused by some hardcore members of "selling out" and that the dissenters are not "real" Libertarians. You don't call that ostracism? When friendships end within a smaller community, it can be painful for the one rejected, even if he is accepted by a larger community. Change is always painful, as I have understood from my own life's experiences.
When I speak of absolute truth or absolute rightness, I do not refer to any one position of the Nolan Chart. Obviously, most Libertarians think the uppermost part of the chart is right and the others are wrong. But how do they know this? History shows that even in democratic societies, absolute freedom appeals to very few and that people naturally turn to government for enforcement of laws, providing of services, and acheivement of some of our greatest accomplishments. Would we have achieved putting men on the moon in 1969 through private means? I don't think so. There was no material profit in that.
So I consider political dogmatism, in the form of assuming any one part of the Nolan chart is right for all societies, to be destructive. Rejection of dogmatism of all kinds is an absolute of mine. I regard truth as being found through empirical means, not through rationalist methods.
>" Rejection of dogmatism of all kinds is an absolute of mine. I regard truth as being found through empirical means, not through rationalist methods."<
I have to go along with you on this Dale. Actually I think we come closer to truth when we weed out those things that are false, rather then looking for things that support our beliefs. I always question the methods used to arrive at a conclusion. Usually what I see is a positive methodology which simply reinforces a belief adding more fuel to the believers dogmatic assertions. But it doesn't demonstrate the assertion as being true.
I consider political dogmatism to be in the same vein as religious dogmatism. I find this mostly with conservatives who live by a set of canons put forth by Russell Kirk in the 1950's. He gave the movement it's name. Now we see another would be conservative evangelist in Mark Levin putting out a "conservative manifesto". Canon's?...manifesto's? These are dogmatic belief systems no different than any religion. In order to call oneself a conservative, those principles of belief must be followed, like being a catholic, or a fundamentalist of one kind or another. But the problem with them is that none of them can be demonstrated as being true. When put to the task of defending them, the argument becomes circular, and the methodology is used to justify itself, which of course is illogical. It's like saying, "how do I know the Bible is true? Because God says so. How do I know God says so? Because it's in the Bible". In the end the argument faces the delemma of dogma vs infinite regression. Ultimately the conservative or justificationist must say, "Here I stand!". The rationale for that stand isn't based on anything more then an emotional connection to a principle which cannot be demonstrated as true.
I find Libertarians holding positions that I don't understand. The basic premise is the privatization of virtually everything. I'm waiting for the suggestion of privatizing the air that we breath to be the best answer for a cleaner environment.
In response to Mr. Brown's comments regarding the Bible, there are actually several ways to know the Bible is true.
1. Most historical documents at the time were commissioned by the leaders of the time, and the result is obviously that you end up with very flattering portraits of these same leaders no matter what they actually did or did not accomplish. But the Bible is unsparing in its depiction of the failures of man to live up to the standards asked of them. It clearly portrays men as the fallen, selfish, and sometimes cruel beings that we are.
2. But more compelling are the many clear examples of prophecy coming true - this is how the Bible truly substantiates itself, not through the circular reasoning that you suppose. There are hundreds of examples, but here are just a couple of the most obvious that come to mind. It was prophesied that Messiah would be nailed to a 'tree' to die, hundreds of years before the Roman practice of crucifixion had even been conceived. It was prophesied that they would cast lots for his clothes, that he would be buried in a borrowed tomb, etc. All these and dozens of other prophecies of Christ were fulfilled.
3. Eye-witnesses. In Hebrew law, the testimony of three witnesses to an event were enough to have it substantiated in a court of law. Jesus had many more witnesses than that, but at a minimum we could look at the 4 written gospels, or the fact that 11 of the 12 disciples died martyrs deaths rather than repudiate the gospel. If Christ wasn't who he said he was, and didn't rise from the grave, then why would 11 men be willing to die just to perpetuate a lie? I think we all know enough about human nature to know men would not be willing to die for a lie.
So there is actually ample evidence to know that what the Bible says is true, if you look at an honest assessment of the facts. What more compelling evidence from 2000 years ago does one expect? It's not like we can look at the video tape or ask for DNA evidence.
You started off good until you decided to label me and billions of other people as being weak and delusional. Why would you do that? You are one of the few who are unable to comprehend the real meaning of the Bible and find peace in it. That's your problem and you choose to see it that way. People always find truth in what their looking for. We have different opinions, and it seems like the New Atheist want everybody to have the same opinions, if not "they're weak and delusional". Is that a "freethinker"? This is all over the internet and TV. One would have to be completely blind not to see it. There's this mass need for statistic evidence to make Christians look stupid and violent. Ignoring the past 120 years of Atheist rule in Countries like China, Germany, U.S.S.R, North Korea, Cambodia, and others. There's this ignoring of Propaganda and blindness of "the other quotes" that would label Hitler as Christian. There has been 64 Church related murders in the past 10 years and only 8 Abortion related murders in the past 33 years in America alone. People can say "I'm a goddamn Christian" and laugh about it. The minute they do something evil, that quote is used to prove that Christianity influenced them to do it, but if they do something good, they're atheist and the quote is seen for what it worth. Why do some many atheist feel the need to bash a God that they don't believe in? To speak on violence in the bible, when they don't believe the bible to be true? We all have different opinions in life. To call someone names because of that, is elementary. That's what school kids do.
Posted By: Ross Williams
Date: 2010-04-01 14:05:15
What's stopping us from reaching the same conclusions?
Seriously? You don't know?
Personal desires. Self-interest. In short: bias.
It's apparent to me that you aren't an analyst - or if that is in any way included in your job description, you're not a very good one.
An impartial, dispassionate analysis of any body of data having any kind of size does not yeild a "right answer" and an infinite variety of "wrong answers". It yeilds a series of valid options that vary in their benefits and drawbacks. It is to this assortment of valid options that individuals impose their desires and biases and inappropriately declare one or another to be "right". And, as is always the case, "right" is that option which most closely follows any individual's self-interest. ...whatever form that self-interest takes.
Given the factual realities of your personal finances and available credit, your time off of work, your interests and your family's interests, which vacation is the "correct" vacation for you;
a week at a Disney resort
a week in a cabin in the mountains
a week at the in-laws
Which one is "correct"? Ans: none.
Facts "mean" different things to different people, and everyone gives different facts different weight. ...And that's only if they can agree on the body of facts.
In politics, you can't even do that much. Case in point: your facile understanding of libertarianism. To wit:
Obviously, most Libertarians think the uppermost part of the chart is right and the others are wrong. But how do they know this? History shows that even in democratic societies, absolute freedom appeals to very few and that people naturally turn to government for enforcement of laws, providing of services, and ...
Libertarianism is not based on anything close to "absolute freedom". And to the degree you can find those who claim to be libertarians who will say so, I can find you liars and knaves.
"Liberty" is what it is defined to be. Definitions have to be understood and comprehended, and transmissable from one to another. They, in short, have to be written down. Our "liberty" is written in the rather plain, straight forward wording of the Constitution - which doesn't come close to being an advocate of "absolute freedom". It is however an advocate of limited government, a government which wears relatively more shackles than The People do.
What history shows us, however, is that the trend is for government to absorb more and more power and control and, even [and especially] when they overstep their bounds, they will do so with bald-faced insistence that the bounds they've just overstepped allows them to overstep ... really, seriously, we mean it.
How else could we have a 4thAM which very clearly describes a "reasonable search" as one in which there is a "warrant" based on "probable cause" and "naming the person to be searched and items to be siezed", yet have road-side drunk searches, airport shakedowns and all the rest ... and all being glad-handed by both the left and the right of traditional American politics?
The libertarian does not say "I can do what I want, for I have liberty". The libertarian says "If you want to stop me from doing what I want, then you need to follow these rules, for 'liberty' here is defined that way".
The only shred of your smug denunciation that is close to accurate is the piece that dissenters to the local orthodoxy are ostracized. Yes. Libertarian orthodoxy often confuses libertarianism in foreign dealings as indifferentiable from pacifism or isolationism. And that is nonsense. The Constitution says nothing about what style of foreign dealings we should have, just that it must be ratified by the Senate [etc]. A high-handed and bossy foreign policy [re: Bush] is not incompatible with libertarianism; the only thing libertarianism would require is that if The People wanted that kind of foreign policy, they'd need to cough up the money to pay for it.
You can't tell this to some Libertarians. Some libertarians are just as smug and self-righteous as liberals.
New atheists wants everybody to have the same opinion...? My friend, put the crackpipe down and listen, for I am an atheist, I couldn\'t care less in who, what god you believe in because for me that concept doesn\'t even matter, having a religious view is only a right, like not having one. It seems you are the one who seeks to label atheists into pushovers or something, as I said put down the crackpipe down and think over the stupidity of your post. You are nothing more but someone who tries to point out fingers on atheists because they seem to bother you, I suggest you research what an atheist is before pulling another stupid comment like that.
Concerning the article, its good but I was hoping to have an answer on the question: To what extent are people willing to go in order to protect their precious opinions, I cannot answer this question by myself, so I was hoping for an enlightenment by someone who can. Thank you.