[extropy-chat] Putting God to Rest

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Tue Apr 24 10:25:19 UTC 2007

Damien writes
> [Lee wrote]
>> Here we have the intriguing conjecture that certain ideas are
>> objectively asinine!  Surely very few objective statements are
>> so loaded with insult and emotion (as was John's).
> If not asinine (stupid), what about somewhere between puerile and 
> anile? But are there not a great many ideas, Lee, that most on this 
> list would agree are stupid *on their face* given what is now 
> knowable by an intelligent adult? A child might indeed believe in the 
> Tooth Fairy; this is a puerile act of trusting acceptance.

Of course.  The whole point is how you phrase your, er, criticisms
to those who hold beliefs that differ from yours. You may say to
*me* that certain beliefs are incredibly naive, or what have you,
but what good can come of possibly making such an assertion to
the *holder* of that belief?  There is no real content to simply
announcing that a certain belief held by your interlocutor is puerile
or stupid.  It's not only rude; it's thoughtless, and *needlessly* 

> For an adult, it would be evidence of either stupidity, extraordinary 
> gullibility, or mental disorder. An adult today who insists that the 
> earth is flat and that no humans have stood on the moon is stupid, 
> not just badly informed, or perhaps being deliberately perverse and 
> unworthy of our attention.

I agree!  But if I knew that some people here on this list were
vociferously proclaiming that the NASA moon-landing was a
hoax, I would not choose to describe their beliefs as "stupid".
Again, what good can possibly come of it?  It degenerates to
mere name-calling (although for you or me to express to each
other such a description of that belief does save many words).

> It is rude and offensive to racists, anti-evolutionists and neo-Nazis 
> to call them fools and shitheads, but that is what they are.

You and John Clark do need to consult the literature on the
studies that have been done that establish the precise criteria
for being a shithead. (While you are at it, please do --- and 
here I am rather serious --- find out what qualifies one to be
an asshole. There have been a number of occasions back a
few years where I became almost convinced that the quality
of being an asshole could be objectively defined.)

> Name them for what they are, and hope that the sting of rejection
> from a prestigious corner of the community (the scientifically
> informed corner) shames them into thinking a bit about their favorite
> nonsense.

And they'll predictably retaliate in equally insulting terms, which
achieves nothing except to lower the level of discourse. People
are seldom *shamed* into changing their views;  you may indeed
succeed in certain places into shaming them into silence, but that's
hardly what I want to do either.

> But that is a hard thing to say, and perhaps shows a want of sympathy 
> (as Adam Smith put it).

He turned out to be right about almost everything else.


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