Part of a series which began with Fake news and the ethics of belief.
It would be unfortunate if this meant losing sight of why I think this stuff about belief and evidence matters.
I am therefore going to backtrack a bit and, at risk of repetition, spell out what for me is the point of all this.
My starting point is that I think both fake news and unjustified religious belief are both wrong and dangerous. I would be first to admit that plenty of other things are also wrong and dangerous in this world. But these are my targets for now.
One thing fake news and unjustified religious belief have in common is that, probably by definition, they are both examples of unjustified belief. Another is that they can both be incredibly powerful, so much so as to seem at times almost unassailable.
It should therefore come as no surprise to someone who thinks as I do that the recent events in Washington DC serve as a scarily perfect illustration of almost every word in the previous paragraph. Rampant Christian fundamentalism feeds the flames of election fraud monomania, which in turn feeds the flames of rampant Christian fundamentalism.
This stuff is frightening, and it is easy to feel powerless. It may not be much, but it would be good if we could at least say something about how to tell an unjustified belief from a justified one.
This is what keeps bringing me back to William Clifford’s evidence principle (‘it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence’). I don’t think it’s 100% right, but where it’s right seems to me far more important than where it’s wrong. I don’t want to just dismiss it and give up. Instead I want to see if it can be whittled down (and/or built up) into a principle of good and safe believing.
© Chris Lawrence 2021