A given?

In the final of three blog posts I’ve written about the fall out from the recent Steve Moxon event, I wanted to comment on an interesting debate point raised on the Leeds Skeptics Facebook group, where someone claimed that some things we should just accept as true.

There are some things that should be a given in any skeptical society

I’m not making this up. Someone in a Skeptics group genuinely just said that there are some things we should just not question.

Of course, the equality of our fellow human beings is something incredibly important and something that when challenged, we would defend rigorously. But to suggest we should just same some things on faith is a violation of the very definition of skepticism. But more to the point, such an attitude undermines our own argument. Our position is that all our members are equal and we take this position because we’ve reviewed the evidence, and that is the case. To rule out a debate on it entirely is simply unskeptical.

Let us not forget that we have equality today because someone WAS skeptical about the prevailing idea that black people were inferior to white people, or that women didn’t deserve the rights as men did. Thank the god that I do not believe in, that someone had the courage to challenge these ideas that were just held as true at the time, so that today we can have equality.

After all, if we’re in the right, we shouldn’t be afraid to challenge our own ideas. As I’ve written before, I entertain the idea of cheating on my girlfriend. Why? Because I know I will never do it. I’m secure enough in my relationship, and I know I love her so much, that I can safely consider the possibility without worrying. I know this, because I’ve challenged my own beliefs, and because they still hold true, that only makes them stronger. As Norman summarises…

Not sure how anything can be a ‘given’ in a skeptical society? Surely the point of a skeptical society is that all view points are subjected to a rigorous process of critical analysis, regardless of whether it agrees with our world view or not.

One could argue that it is the very ‘givens’ of our own world views that require even more in depth challenging.

Challenging your beliefs only makes them stronger (or they turn out to be wrong – but I’m as certain as you can be that this won’t turn out to be the case for equality). But perhaps I underestimate how secure people actually are in their beliefs. I mean, are attendees worried that others are going to be won over by bigoted arguments?

Secondly go to the event, witness said MRA speech, and more than likely become angry at the shit he’s spouting. If you decide to argue with him you’d better have the support of the room otherwise you will get shouted down and feel even worse. At the very least you will be sat in your seat seething, possibly feeling upset or unsafe depending on how many other members are agreeing with the speaker.

I’m sure this wasn’t mean this to be in any way offensive, but she did just imply that that everyone else who attends Leeds Skeptics are at best are sexiest bigots who would shout her down if she tried to call someone on sexist nonsense he was spouting, and at worse a bunch of rapists would threaten her safety. Talk about promoting bad gender stereotypes. But it goes on…

What good would come out of it [the event], to balance against the aggressive sexism and racism that we’d almost certainly have to sit through and which would be at best uncomfortable for people who aren’t white males?

Is she seriously suggesting that white males don’t find racism, sexism or any bigotry offensive? It’s incredibly insulting, and sexist (and racist for that matter), but more than that, I think it shows that there is a real need for careful consideration of what we all hold to be true and bring open to the principle of challenging our own ideas.

As I’ve already said, challenging well founded beliefs only makes them stronger.



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This entry was posted on Sunday, July 15th, 2012 at 12:33 pm and is filed under Religion & Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.