Thursday, 23 February 2012

why being offended, and demanding respect for your beliefs, is a bogus argument.

1. On demanding respect. Here I submit a paraphrase from Marc Rees:

a) You can't expect me to respect beliefs that were not properly formed, that is, derived from logic, mathematics, and empirical or statistical evidence, through empirical methods, or the scientific method. I do not respect beliefs derived from drug usage (of any form), inspiration (divine or otherwise), hearsay, or old texts of dubious provenance. The reasons I have for rejecting these ways of "coming to believe" are as follows: in the case of drugs, your brain is not functioning properly; it is misfiring. In the case of inspiration: you may see an old man with a beard telling you something or other - but who is to say who that old man is? All religions have a chief deity who is an old man. He could be any deity - even one you don't believe in. He could be the devil. As for hearsay: unless you're citing a peer-reviewed academic journal, merely repeating what someone else has said does not give it any credibility or weight. Because it has not been peer-reviewed by experts. Lastly: old texts. Our knowledge has grown; our technologies are testament to this. Thus, the older a text is, the more likely it is inaccurate, since it is a pioneering work rather than a well-established peer-reviewed work.

b) You can't expect me to hold that you have a right to have your beliefs respected. There's no such thing as a right to a belief. The only belief you've a right to hold is one that is properly formed (see (a) above for the definition of 'properly formed'). And even then, it may be still subject to scrutiny and revision. That's what science is about.

c) You may not demand respect as a person because you hold certain beliefs. Poorly-formed beliefs will lead you to make poor judgments and probably inappropriate or violent actions which do not take cognisance of the empirical facts. It is therefore likely that you will be a worse person if you adhere to improperly-formed beliefs.

Therefore, I cannot respect beliefs because of a demand. I only respect properly-formed beliefs, and persons who hold properly-formed beliefs.

2. On claiming that your offence is an argument against my criticisms of your beliefs.

a) Your emotional state is irrelevant to the facts of the world.

b) Your emotional state is irrelevant to whether you or I came to hold a belief by proper means.

c) You do not have a human right to not be offended

d) Offence is a state arrived at when your ego is too invested in your beliefs. A person who has properly-formed beliefs need not be invested in his or her belief states, or feel the need to be offended when others doubt them, simply because 'the truth will out'. If you persist in believing you can fly off a cliff, and I offend you by saying to you that you're delusional, your riposte, that I am delusional and that you can fly, holds no water for me. As soon as you step off the cliff, I will be proven right. That is the empirical method.

e) I find it offensive when people do not use their "god-given" intellect (as the saying goes), and take a look at the evidence and logic that pervades scientific materialism. Does this offence state of mine now suddenly make me right? Of course not. Just because I offended you, and you offended me, doesn't make us both right.

f) The only way to settle a dispute is with common ground. What do we have in common as humans? Mathematics. Observation. Bodies. Senses of sight, touch. The ability to measure. Science, in other words. Thus, the only way to settle a dispute is the scientific method. Because any other method - divine revelation, for example - will not be shared in common between us. Whereas we can both agree to look, measure and calculate.

I therefore conclude that your claim to be offended is not an argument against my arguments at all.

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