A Commonplace

What is a commonplace?



In Praise of Idiocy (and Against Scientism)

We need stupid people. We need dumb ideas. Stupid people have sex. It's what old Uncle Dick Dawkin's "selfish gene" wants. Dumb people. Fucking. Dumb people raising dumb kids with dumb ideas, talking offensive bullshit, talking reality TV, football, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, whatever it is dumb people talk about. Without them, the species would simply not survive. If the only people were sensible middle class people (say). The world would simply end. Because some of those dumb ideas aren't so dumb.

All this talk about free speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo affair seems to have obscure this fundamental point.

What's good about free speech isn't that what's said is good. What's good about free speech is that all manner of things get said - and most of it is stupid, offensive and downright dangerous but some of it's worth saying and the only way to make sure you get the good stuff is to let it all get said.

Are your really surprised by that? Have you met any people? Almost all of them talk nothing but trash. Most of the time. But some of the things that get said are true, valid, interesting, worth hearing. Some of them are really offensive but still entertaining. Some of the most important, interesting, valid, world-changing stuff is the stuff that offends the most people.

We need non-scientific thinking. We must do. Otherwise there wouldn't be so much of it about. If religion were that bad for us, there wouldn't be 2.2 Billion Christians, 1.6 Billion Muslims - for fuck's sake, there are two hundred thousand Zoroastrians and they've been going 2600 years. How did they managed that exactly if religion is so bad for you? And we're doing alright. There's 7 billion of us, something's fucking working - dumb people fucking, talking each other into bed with their dumb fucking bullshit, is a lot of it.

Think the world would be a better place if old Uncle Richard "Dick" Dawkin's had his way? If people believed only stuff you could proof through science and stopped believing in dumb old, Zoroastrianism? You're not thinking that clearly then are you?

Want to hear about some things science can't prove? Science can't prove that you're conscious. Science can't prove that any of you friends, family, nearest or dearest are conscious. And if we've got no proof of something existing, well (if we follow uncle Dick Dawkins arguments for the non-existence of God), then it doesn't exist, right? So none of your friends, or family - and certainly no strangers are conscious. Ascribing "other minds" to people is what Professor Dawkins calls "Magical Thinking." Never mind that "magically", illogically, unscientifically, assigning thoughts and feelings to those we love is what most of us think of as being human, humane, ethical, alive.

You want to hear a credo? I'll give you a credo.

People believe all sorts of random shit. Mainly because most of it doesn't directly affect their lives of others (or actually, even themselves) most of the time this isn't a problem. The trouble comes when it does actually affect other people - when it physically and materially affects the lives of others. Most of civilisation can be managed by simply allowing people to say and DO what the fuck they like as long as it doesn't hurt other people. Just being "offended" isn't being hurt.

Hurt means physically hurt (like being hit) or materially being affected (like not being able to marry who you want, or sleep with who you want, not being able to work), like having bits chopped off your genitals. That counts as being hurt. And yes, there are hard cases (abortion - are two people being hurt by making it legal? Or is one person being hurt by making it illegal - that's a fucking tough one), and we need judges, juries, priests and politicians to pontificate on these hard cases. But most of them aren't hard cases.

Stopping Muslim women wearing hats? That's not a hard case. It's a person, wearing a hat. Let her fucking wear it. What if you put a hat on, someone told you to take it off, how would you fucking feel?