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Entry 844, on 2008-09-02 at 20:26:21 (Rating 5, Philosophy)

I don't usually find famous quotes very inspirational. Actually, I don't usually find anything very inspirational but I do appreciate clever, succinct ways of expressing big ideas. I heard two quotes recently which really express the way I think when I'm debating against people who deny the plain evidence which should be obvious to everyone.

The two major perpetrators of this grievous offence are, of course, creationists and the global warming deniers. I can almost forgive GW deniers because the whole question of climate change is complex and the political propaganda on the opposing side is quite insidious, but there's no real excuses for creationists any more.

So what are these two quotes? One is quite modern and the other is ancient. The first is from the Dalai Lama who said "to defy the authority of empirical evidence is to disqualify oneself as someone worthy of critical engagement in a dialogue." The second is from Plato, no less, who said "We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light."

The first really says that anyone who is not prepared to look at the objective, empirical evidence doesn't even really deserve to be given any respect and debating with them is a waste of time. I agree. Creationists really are pathetically out of touch with reality. Anyone who puts themselves in a position where they deny the obvious and believe a pitiful childish fairy tale really deserves no respect which is why I feel OK about abusing them.

I still engage creationists in debate which is probably a waste of time, but I feel like I have to try. Maybe some of what I say might just give them slight cause for doubt and maybe help them escape from their self-imposed prison of ignorance in the future.

Its interesting that a philosophical or religious (which is Buddhism?) leader should make such a scientific statement but surely following the objective evidence to establish the truth transcends science. In fact that is something I use to support the use of empiricism and logic in science. Its not just the best way to establish the truth according to the scientific method, its just the best way to establish the truth.

The Plato quote is just as meaningful in my opinion. I really think that many people who believe in mysticism, superstition, and the paranormal are scared of the truth. They know that if they start thinking sensibly or allow for the possibility that there might be an alternative view to their own then they might have to admit that their beliefs don't really make sense.

I see this a lot with global warming deniers. They aren't even prepared to admit that scientific research might have some merit. They just say there is a global conspiracy amongst scientists which means they don't need to take any notice of the scientific opinion. Why would scientists start a conspiracy which supported a conclusion which is the opposite of what the people who fund them want to hear? Wouldn't they want to give answers which made big business and the government happy so that their funding wasn't threatened? That seems obvious to me but, as I said, logical thinking is not the GW deniers' strong point!

Plato would not approve at all, and never would the Dalai Lama!


Comment 1 (1606) by SBFL on 2008-09-02 at 23:17:57:

When you mentioned the Plato quote "We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." (my emphasis), I immediately though of John 8:12 "Jesus said 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have the light of life and never walk in the darkness.'"


Comment 2 (1610) by OJB on 2008-09-03 at 16:14:14:

This is exactly why I don't usually take much notice of quotes (as I said in the original post). People can take them and warp them to mean whatever they want. Of course every leader says he is leading his followers into the light, I mean they are hardly likely to say "I'm leading you into confusion, a world of propaganda and superstitious nonsense" are they?

What we have to do is look past the superficial words and find out what's really happening underneath. Again, that's why quotes are often not a good way to support an argument.

What about the Dalai Lama one though? That's more difficult to reconcile with religion. He's effectively saying "give up faith and use the scientific method".


Comment 3 (1613) by Jim on 2008-09-03 at 20:38:57:

You can prove what you want with quotes...

Blind faith, no matter how passionately expressed, will not suffice. Science for its part will test relentlessly every assumption about the human condition. - E. O. Wilson

Faith is spiritualized imagination. - Henry Ward Beecher

The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, skepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin. - Thomas Huxley

But on the other hand...

Faith indeed tells what the senses do not tell, but not the contrary of what they see. It is above them and not contrary to them. - Blaise Pascal


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