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Dogs vs Cats

Entry 1280, on 2011-03-24 at 19:51:34 (Rating 4, Skepticism)

One of the problems of being a freethinker is... well... it's that you're a freethinker! Look at the freethinking communities in modern society: skeptics, atheists, progressives, science supporters, none of them seem to have much political, economic, or social power. Why is this?

One reason I think is that freethinkers are hard to organise. It's like herding cats. Conservatives, traditional religious people, and other people who aren't that interested in more abstract things like art, science and philosophy, are often better organised. They are more like "pack animals", more like dogs. They work in a group.

Of course it's easier to work in a group when your belief system is based on an ideology or a dogma instead of being something you have developed yourself through years of careful thought and examination of the evidence and facts.

I have found that conservatives, for example, have a very uniform set of beliefs and you can often see exactly where those ideas came from - sometimes down to the catchphrases they use. And it's often very obvious that they haven't put the slightest thought into establishing the veracity of the beliefs they have adopted from others. They simply mimic what they are told someone with their worldview should think.

And it's not just the right which is at fault. I've heard some equally ridiculous nonsense from the more committed members of the political left. They parrot catchphrases from left-leaning political parties and NGOs and they clearly have put about as much research into what they think is real as the people from the opposite extreme. So this isn't a simple left versus right argument, it's a thinking versus non-thinking one.

So there seems to be significant agreement amongst the members of both political extremes. On the other hand the more freethinking types I mentioned above almost always disagree with each other. They're not likely to disagree over things that are clearly true but they will often disagree about the details and how to act to achieve a certain aim.

For example, almost all freethinkers will disagree with the idea of teaching religious dogma in schools, particularly when it is disguised as science such as intelligent design or creationism (note that these aren't actually science). Some opponents of this will say go on the offensive and make the creationists look like the fools they are. Others will say be nice because we don't want to gain an aggressive reputation. And others will say let religion be taught because kids can tell fact from fiction anyway (although often they can't).

But the conservative Christians will be almost united behind the idea that religion should be taught. They might not care whether it's disguised as science or not, but they will be a lot more united, committed and organised than their opponents.

It's easy to be committed when you aren't really interested in the facts. It's easy to be organised when you believe what your leaders tell you instead of being skeptical of their claims. And it's easy to be united when you refuse to think for yourself. So their ignorance, laziness, and corruption is actually a huge asset to the conservatives. When you want to stick to facts, fight fair, and think about the ultimate consequences of your actions it's hard to compete.

So it might seem that rationality, skepticism, and logical thinking are doomed. Well maybe they are since the majority of people don't think, act, or vote that way and in a democracy it's the majority that rules.

I don't think it would be good for the freethinking community to become more like their opponents and start becoming better organised politically through accepting a common ideology. For example, although I agree with some of what Greenpeace does I disagree with a lot too so I would never join that organisation. And although I disagree with almost everything New Zealand's libertarian party, Act, believe in, there are actually a few things that I agree with them about.

When you think for yourself nothing is ever black and white. The world is very subtle, nuanced, and interesting. I love that way of thinking but it's not going to lead to an organisation with any real political clout. That's unfortunate because it's really exactly what the world needs more of.

But I'd rather be right, moral and totally lacking in political influence than a mindless automaton who has political power but is just an extension of some corrupt religious or political group.

Oh, and one last thing: I've got nothing against dogs. I love dogs and aren't so keen on cats. But I don't think they are necessary a great model for human behaviour!

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