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Belief and Its Effects
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I like Robert Sawyer, and found these excerpts from his Locus interview interesting.

However, this particular bit struck the wrong chord with me:


The philosophy of my books has always been rationality as the most prized of human virtues. Far-Seer, Fossil Hunter, and Foreigner took three of the turning points in human intellectual development: the discovery that we werenít at the center of the universe (the Copernicus, Galilean revolution), that we werenít the handiwork of God but the product of evolution (the Darwinian revolution), and the discovery that we didnít even have conscious control over a lot of what we were doing but were driven by unknown subconscious forces (the Freudian revolution). All three of those are interesting for us, but they arenít crucial. As much as I decry the Creationist movement getting evolution out of the schools, what you believe doesnít actually affect anything in the world.


(emphasis mine)

Um...what? What you believe doesn't affect anything in the world? Well, I suppose Sawyer's countering the postmodern assertion that reality is somehow a social construct. But I don't know exactly what he meant by this.

I hope he's not asserting that beliefs do not have consequences (which is one way of reading his statement). If you believe, as some people do, that modern medical care is somehow unholy, and that prayer is the only proper way to deal with sickness or injury, this belief is going to have profound effects (e.g., if you choose to treat your child's pneumonia with round-the-clock praying instead of medicine).

Obviously, the beliefs of the public and those who lead us bear upon policy decisions that affect us all. Carl Sagan strongly made this argument in The Demon-Haunted World. The ignorance and superstition of our fellow citizens is not harmless folly; in a democracy the decisions of our peers affects us all. Thus, we have a vested personal interest, as well as a moral obligation, to combat ignorant and superstitious beliefs.

Then again, Sawyer may not have been refuting this idea at all. I don't know.


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