You don’t know yourself

People don’t always know what they believe.

Lots of people think they believe that everyone has a right to believe whatever they want to believe.

They are committed to believing that the police have a right to believe them guilty of a crime they did not commit – and the judge and the jury and the general public.

But they don’t believe that, so they don’t believe that everyone has a right to believe whatever they want.

So, they want to draw a line.  But there is nowhere to draw it which permits anyone to believe something just because they want to.  Wherever they try to draw it, they have to have some version of “Don’t believe unless you show that your belief is either supported by the evidence or is harmless.”  But showing that a belief is harmless means showing that it is harmless when you know you do not have any evidence for it.  When you know that you do not have any evidence for a belief, you can show that it is harmless but you can’t bring yourself to believe it.  So, for all practical purposes, this amounts to “Don’t believe unless you show that your belief is supported by the evidence, full stop.”

In fact, “it is,” as W. K. Clifford declared, “wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything without sufficient evidence.”

And, since that is true, we all have an obligation not to misinform others, so that we do not cause them to believe when they should withhold belief.

“Thou shalt not bear false witness,” no matter whether you are witnessing to others or to yourself.

Clifford warned:

The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things … but that it should become credulous … for then it must sink back into savagery.

This process is already in progress in at least one country.

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