We have to get rid of the nauseating paradigm whereby all opinions are equals between them. Because they’re not. Eventually, every opinion should be considered, prima facie, as having an appearance of validity. Be given the benefit of the doubt. But only in the form of a presumption that would not be irrebuttable. Because to offer equal value to all opinions is to offer each one of them a sanctuary in which to take refuge in last resort when all reason has abandoned its cause and only the force of habit keeps her valiant. It’s giving a bedrock, an immovable foundation to rootless prejudices, the noxious whiffs of which can, therefore, claim immunity by traveling themselves into virtuous equality with every principle of reason.
American creationism is a topical example of the ideological apocalypse that can result from the misuse of methodical doubt. Recently, American politicians, from Texas to be precise, were pushing for legislation that would de facto allow teachers to teach creationism and introduce it as the equal of Darwin’s theory of evolution, in that both are theories that have not been formally proven. And the theory of evolution is indeed one, in the epistemological understanding of the term. In the sense that we will never be able to completely prove that our emergence is due to the path of evolution because it is not possible to provide direct and complete empirical proof of our evolution over millions of years. We can only provide circumstantial evidence, which is nevertheless all consistent with this theory. Without exception, over centuries of research. And that these proofs, although they do not directly trace the path, nevertheless draw more and more precise contours as they accumulate. And today, the number of indirect proofs of the theory of evolution makes it a theory with an extremely high degree of certainty, which is further supported by each new discovery. So yes, this degree will never reach 100%, as it is materially impossible unless we could retroactively create a black box of the Earth, and therefore the theory of evolution will always remain formally one. But creationism, on the other hand, is not based on any scientific data and solely resorts to mysticism to justify the inconsistencies encountered. Consequently, no, the theory of evolution and creationism are not two theories of equal value. Proponents of creationism are, of course, free to intrude into the margin of error of the theory of evolution in an attempt to demonstrate its inaccuracy, with reasoned argument. Moreover, they are most welcome to do so, because by stimulating controversy they can either further sanitize the basis of a theory, or tear down a shaky building and rebuild a stronger one. As J.S. Mill pointed out, dogmatism, one way or the other, leads to nothing but cerebral death and immobility. But if it is necessary to guarantee freedom of opinion in that it allows a permanent questioning and a continuous process, it is just as essential to guard against excessive relativism, the subsequent pitfall being a consensual shipwreck of reason.
While everyone may have a different opinion, not all opinions have equal value. The opposite case would place negationism, creationism or platism on the same level as their scientifically established alter-ego, lending them stilts that would allow them to avoid all the construction inherent to a system of thought in order to rise directly to the status of an idea, accepted by default. Including racism, nazism, and the whole range of toxic ideas that have and continue to poison the history of humanity.
In other words, while everyone is free to explore the different ramifications of his or her thinking at will when one of these reaches a dead end, one must resolve to turn back to explore others, and not force the elasticity of his or her reason to try to push back an irremovable wall.
And this applies, in particular, to human rights. If we accept ab initio the paradigm of equality between each individual, we must also accept the principles that flow naturally from it through the exercise of reason or make the open choice to recuse ourselves from it. For example, one cannot deny an individual his or her inalienable right to freedom of expression, while claiming it for himself on the basis of human rights. This includes, and even more strongly so, denials for reasons such as religion, membership of a sexual, visible or any other minority, or to deny the individual the right to express one of his or her essential characteristics, which are otherwise guaranteed and validated for those of the majority. Because, as Tocqueville pointed out, democracy should not be confused with the tyranny of the majority, otherwise the Orwellian scenario of all human beings being equals, but some being more equal than others, would be the result.
No one can force you to adhere to an opinion. But if you adhere to the principles of reason equality between individuals, you have a primary duty to guarantee, both passively and, if necessary, actively, everyone’s freedom of expression, to the obvious extent of defamation and incitement to hatred. And you have a moral duty to question, as painful as it may sometimes be, your beliefs and prejudices, to test their validity: the fact that not every idea has the same value does not mean that your own has a superior one.
“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” Noam Chomsky
cover credits: google.com