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View Diary: I am a fundamentalist (278 comments)

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    AaronInSanDiego, Lonely Texan


    In order to make it easier to follow our exchange, and keep our comments relatively  short, I will number your replies to quotations and respond  in kind.

    1. An ends justifies the means argument in defense of irrational decision-making based on emotion and intolerance of critical thinking and examination of beliefs is empirically "bad" in that is produces predictably negative and/or ineffective and/or unpredictable results.

    The alternative produces more predictable results that are closer to intended results.

    1. We should define our terms. "Humanistic philosophy," at least the kind I subscribe to, is derived entirely by rational means, posits principles who efficacy is testable, and is subject to revision based on the standard rational practices of falsification.

    Therefore, your distinction between rational grounds and humanistic philosophy is unclear, and meaningless in my understanding.

    1. I made no assertion that the former precludes the latter, so this is a straw man argument.
    1. The Declaration of Independence is not the subject of this diary, is not a legal document that forms the basis of our laws, and is not a rational statement. It is a polemic. Proving or disproving any of its assertions does not affect the basis of our laws, nor does it affect the basis of my critique of this diary.
    1. Agreement on this tends to support my argument that "fundamentalism" is not the right description of an approach to what the Constitution says. (Note: When a rationalist uses the term "right" or "wrong", they are not using that term as a moral value judgment, they are using it in the more logical and/or utilitarian meaning of correct and/or useful, vs, incorrect and/or useless.)
    1. I use "impose" not in the literal sense of enforced government thought-policing, but clearly in the sense of social imposition of cultural norms. My concern here is exactly the same concern as when someone defends the Constitution as an articulation of our "God given rights", or claims that America is based on "Christian values". Neither of those statements, in and of themselves, result in the instantaneous detention of atheists by the police, but they are nonetheless an imposition of particular, exclusionary values on others.

    More importantly, by their exclusionary, fundamentalist nature, they preclude the opportunity to find common ground upon which to base a discussion that might lead to changing minds and resolving disputes.

    If we are satisfied with mere assertion - "I am fundamentalist about this!" "Well, I am fundamentalist about that!", and don't value the need for rational justification of beliefs, and don't value critical examination, questioning and challenges to beliefs, then we, practically speaking, will never resolve any conflicts by any means except force.

    1. I should have used the term "ethical argument" rather than "moral". Ironically, your comment proves my general point about this diary - "moral" is commonly understood to involve some kind of dogmatic or nonrational principles. Here, I meant it in a different weay. I could rant about how religion has no right to appropriate the concept of "morality", and how that leads to belief that atheists are "immoral", but I prefer instead to refine my terms in a way that is useful to promoting continued discussion between us.

    So, substitute "ethical" where I wrote moral.

    As for your assertion that nothing can be rationally argued except in the realm of mathematical laws, that is, ironically, an argument not in the realm of mathematical law. It is also one that is easily empirically refuted.

    For example, I can argue rationally that providing condoms to teenagers is more effective at preventing unwanted teen pregnancies than abstinence education, and provide the evidence to support that argument.

    1. This diary, and my response to it, are not about whether or not the Bill of Rights is "good" (although that is defensible on purely rational grounds, topic for another debate).

    This diary, and my response to it, are about the utility of using "fundamentalist" and "sacred" in relation to the US Constitution.

    1. The relevance is that fundamentalism, even as defined in this diary, involves unquestioned, absolute belief that brooks no challenge. This, I argue, is a counterproductive way to teach and debate and intend to persuade. It is, rather, a recipe for blind opposition and continued conflict.

    Which, I can rationally argue, are not good things, in the rational sense.

    1. "American principles" is clearly one of those slippery terms that mean utterly different things to different people, and I appreciate you calling me on a careless use of the term.

    A better way of articulating it would be to argue that treating the Constitution as "sacred" and approaching it in a "fundamentalist" manner contradicts its content and the stated intent of its authors and its legal interpretation by the very judicial system it created to periodically review  and interpret it.

    Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

    by RandomActsOfReason on Wed May 05, 2010 at 12:11:16 PM PDT

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