MetaCognitions: Respect of a Deeper Sort


Polar bear males frequently play-fight. During...

Polar bear males frequently play-fight. During the mating season, actual fighting is intense and often leaves scars or broken teeth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a skeptic for the last seven years or so, I see a need to view those I find inspiring as human beings, including their shortcomings. That goes also for people I genuinely like. I generally like those I respect, but that is not a necessary condition of respect. I’m of the view that you cannot look to any one person or source of information as a font of wisdom, or as any sort of infallible guide to Truth™.

It’s important to avoid an uncritical and dangerous respect for authority that the unscrupulous are all too willing to exploit.

Far better to recognize that everyone harbors at least a few false beliefs, even those they may not know they believe. That definitely includes me. And there are even beliefs we don’t even know we have until they are brought to our attention, true and false alike.

You might believe that polar bears do not use smartphones to talk over long distances, even if you didn’t know that before now. Not that anyone’s ever given a really good reason for believing that they do, Internet memes notwithstanding. This belief may be connected to other beliefs you might also have about polar bears; about their known lack of technological savvy; the problems with effectively using such small devices with their massive paws; that no polar bear has ever been known to be a customer to any wireless service provider, or have had such devices made to order for their aforementioned paws. There’s also the known lack of complex spoken language skills of polar bears compared with primates — that last is hardly a compelling reason, I’ll admit, given that many humans who do use smartphones also seem to lack such skills 😉

*Ahem*

While most of us generally believe things about the world which are true, there are many false claims we accept as well. All of us. That includes even prominent rationalists, who may hold opinions and views that should be rightly and roundly criticised when brought to light.

It’s perfectly normal to like and sometimes venerate those we respect, and to celebrate those who’ve passed on. But I think that a genuine, deep, and abiding respect means respect in knowing them as fallible however we may look up to them, with flaws, warts, and all.

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