It’s not out of uniformity that new ideas arise. Open, unrestricted and vigorous debates refine good ideas, produces new hopes, new beliefs, and new thoughts. They improve on old theories and expand our understanding of the world. And on top of all that, they protect science and democracy.
Most of us don’t spend much time with people whose beliefs differ dramatically from our own. Moreover, even when we do spend time with such people, we seldom discuss our differences. We talk about the weather, not about climate change; about our recent vacation, not our recent abortion.
Though this is widely socially endorsed, we are still very guilty. Shutting up about what we believe keeps us close-minded and allows us not to be busted. If we have a crazy thought and keep it to ourselves, there’s less chance someone will say, “Are you fucking nuts?’” Meaning, one of the quickest ways to find out if we’re wrong is to state what we believe to everyone.
Debates are why we have two major parties in Congress. One party says, “We have a great idea.” The other says, “Wonderful! Put it on the table.” They’re questioned. And after a while, the first party says, “We withdraw our great idea. We forgot about those questions.” In other words, debates are only productive if they lead to a consensus.
In other words, the cure for a fallacious argument isn’t the suppression of the argument. It’s a better argument. As John Stuart Mill said, “Silencing an opinion is a peculiar evil.”
Persecuting unpopular wisdom and allowing only one side to be heard isn’t the way of science or democracy. When censorship is imposed, education ceases to serve its purpose. We end up with a herd of fanatical bigots. This is dangerous.
Let those that we disagree with practice their freedom of speech and expression, even if it goes against our ideas. Both sides deserve respect. Science and democracy thrive on openness and the willingness to be judged. Meaning, wide-ranging debate is a necessary part of the process.
However, tyrannical governments, both ancient and modern, silence freedom of speech. The sedition act in 1917 tried to make criticism of the Federalists a crime. And currently, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled Google must block some results worldwide.
But remember, intelligence can only be had by unrestricted debate. Not debating goes against our beloved freedom of speech.
The Royal Society, at its inception, pushed for a radically new approach. It would allow new findings to be discussed openly and published for all to read. In this way, knowledge would advance quicker.
Science was now a game that anyone could play. Anyone could propose a new idea. And, no idea was exempt from challenge. This is what made the scientific revolution, revolutionary.
It’s useless to have the free speech when no one contradicts the government, to have freedom of the press when no one is willing to ask the tough questions, the right of assembly when there are no protests, democracy when less than half the electorate votes, separation of church and state when the wall of separation is not regularly repaired!
Through disuse, these rights and freedoms become lip-service with no meaning.
Debates are healthy and necessary for mankind.
To your success,