Yesterday’s post about the relationship between beliefs and desires came up in part because of my views on how one should treat evil people. It relates to the attitude that one should take to those whose religion promotes attitudes that tend to be harmful to others.
On the latter subject, I reject the view that one should be nice or respect those whose religious views promote actions that are harmful to others. The greater the degree of harm, the less respect one should give to those who hold that opinion. Near the bottom of the respect category in America are those fighting to inhibit research on embryonic stem cells, deny homosexuals the opportunity to live a life in compliance with their nature, and promote the idea that atheists are some lesser form of human life.
Defects in belief should be met with reason and respect. Defects in desire are immune to reason. Condemnation and ridicule are the appropriate response to these types of attitudes.
Yesterday, I wrote that no belief entails a desire. There is an exception to that. Humans quite often believe what they wish to be true. So, if we have evidence that a person believes something, and we know that there is no sound reason for that belief, we have reason to ask, “Of all of the infinite number of things that this person could have believed without reason, why did he pick that one?” In some cases, the best explanation for a person’s irrational belief is because he wanted to believe it. If he wanted to believe something that a person with good desires would not want to believe, we have reason to bring out the social tools of condemnation and ridicule.
Please note that this is clearly not a case of logical implication. This is a case of causal implication. A strong desire can cause a false belief.
This feature dovetails into the moral crime of epistemic negligence. I have described this as a condition similar to physical negligence. My example of a physically negligent person is a driver who fails to properly secure a load. He ends up putting other people at risk that the road will shift during transport and injure or kill other people. Somebody with a proper level of concern that others not get hurt would have made sure that the load was properly secured. Lack of care in securing the road shows evidence of a lack of concern for those who might get hurt.
The same is true of those who fail to secure their beliefs – particularly beliefs that put others at risk of harm. A person with a proper level of concern that his actions not harm others will make sure that his beliefs are well secured before he acts on them in ways that might harm others. A person who acts on beliefs without making sure that they are well secured demonstrate that they are people who are not concerned about the welfare of others. They have shown themselves to be intellectually reckless. Their failing also makes them an appropriate target of condemnation and ridicule.
In these types of cases, it is important to join in on the chorus of condemnation and ridicule. If these people are coddled and favored, then this will encourage others to adopt the same apathy to the victims of intellectually recklessness.
If we were to say nothing to condemn drunk drivers, if we were to ‘respect’ their choice to drive their cars while impaired, we can expect that this will only increase the numbers of drunk drivers. This, in turn, puts us and those we love at greater risk of harm. The same is true of we coddle and refuse to condemn reckless thinkers because they, too, put us and those we care about at risk of harm.
In fact, each year, if we hold the unjustified harms inflicted on others due to reckless thinking beside the harms done to others as a result of drunk driving, the latter is almost insignificant compared to the former. Look at any child whose well-being you care about. That child is orders of magnitude more likely to suffer harm as a result of a reckless thinker than a drunk driver. And, if that child should grow up to be a reckless thinker, this could well harm her as much as if she had become an alcoholic, given the poor choices that reckless thinking can inspire.
Any who say that we should silently respect those whose reckless thinking promote death, disease, injury, and destruction, are simply wrong. The only way to promote a greater love of wisdom and contempt for intellectual recklessness is by putting the tools of praise and reward to work on the former, and to greet the latter with condemnation and ridicule.
In fact, I will confess that this has been one of my greater disappointments in writing this blog. I have wanted to inspire more condemnation and ridicule. I have wanted to take those people who hold that there is something noble in showing silent respect to people whose recklessness puts others at risk and wake them from their stupor.
Against this, some may argue that I have a strange way of showing my devotion to the practice of condemnation and ridicule since I make comments critical of the likes of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and PZ Myers. However, my criticism of these authors has never been an objection to the fact that they use condemnation and ridicule. My objection is that they sometimes pick undeserving targets. They over-generalize, and condemn the guilty aline side the innocent. I am all in favor of condemnation, but condemnation should be tightly focused on those who are actually guilty.
This is quite consistent with believing that, against those who are guilty of intellectual recklessness, the morally concerned individual will not hesitate to express contempt, condemnation, and ridicule.
The guilty, once ore, are those who recklessly adopt a belief that puts others at risk of harm. The greater the risk and the greater the recklessness, the greater the ridicule and condemnation that they deserve.
If any protest this ‘meanness’, then the answer goes as follows:
Desires are immune to reason. They are, however, affected by praise and condemnation. The best way to promote an overall aversion to intellectual recklessness is to condemn, ridicule, embarrass, humiliate, or laugh at those who engage in intellectual recklessness. Refusing to do these things means tolerating the death, disease, injury, injustice, and other forms of harm that spring from reckless thinking – in the same way that tolerating drunk driving as just another lifestyle choice is to decide to accept the fatalities and injuries caused by drunk drivers.