Re: MEMETICS: The Triumph of Reason

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Tue, 21 Jan 1997 12:39:28 -0800 (PST)

> Now David Musick asks: Is there any reason to be optimistic that
> Reason will finally prevail?
> David answers in the affirmative. I disagree. I don't think reason will
> finally prevail. I think what will happen is, the word "Reason" will be
> increasingly invoked as a code-word, but reason itself will not prevail
> on the internet any more than anywhere else. On the contrary:
> the very people who go on and on about "Reason" will be the first to
> *quell* inquiries into matters that they don't want to see discussed.

What is your evidence for this assertion? In my brief participation
with this list, I have been quite vocal about reason, but I also have
practiced it. I have not "quelled" any inquiry, in fact I'm the only
one who called de Garis's observation a valuable one and suggested
study of it. I've also stood up for free inquiry against restraint.

The one exchange I see where I might have appeared dogmatic is the
"Alternative Medicine" thread. But even there, I was quite clear that
I was not suggesting dismissal of any particular line of inquiry, but
I was arguing that certain practitioners should be morally judged as
charlatans precisely because the /do/ dismiss lines of inquiry that
have proven effective. I have nothing but respect for a doctor who
tells a cancer patient "Chemotherapy has a reasonable chance of saving
your life, and we know it pretty well. It will also make you weak,
nauseous, bald, and miserable. There are some untested therapies that
you might want to use as well, and there's experimental drugs you may
want to join a study for. Here's what I know..." On the other side,
there is the practitioner who says "Chemotherapy will make you sick.
Doctors just pump you with drugs because drug companies can make more
profit that way. Hundreds of people swear by my herbal therapy, and
many have gone into complete remission." This latter man is morally
culpable for the deaths he hastens by denying proven treatment. I
remain open to criticism of my moral judgments, but I don't see why I
should withhold them.

It is a common criticism of reason by its enemies that it is just
another dogma. But they're wrong. They are identifying one feature
that the two share, i.e. "strongly held belief", and thereby equating
them, which conveniently ignores the other feature of dogma that is
just as critical to its definition: closed to criticism. This latter
is the distinguishing feature of dogma, not the former. And so long
as strong, vocal, unfailing advocates of reason understand that one
difference, it will always win.