December 8, 2016

The Need for Rational Voices

Use your voice
I'm sad to report that we've losing another blog I have enjoyed, Understand Reality Through Science. The author, Tom Rafferty, became too frustrated with the lack of progress around science-based thinking and decided to stop blogging. This is a sentiment with which I can relate. It often seems like we are talking to ourselves and to a small like-minded audience much of the time. This results in the sense that we are merely shouting into the void, which certainly feels like an exercise in futility at times. In this brief post, I'd like to offer another perspective by expanding on a comment I left on Tom's farewell post.

It was clear to me long before the 2016 U.S. presidential election that we need more rational voices on a number of topics (e.g., politics, education, how we as a society should deal with the expression of bad ideas). It is even clearer now and in an acutely painful way. I say that not because I am disappointed with the outcome of the election (which I am); I say it because I am far more disappointed with the outpouring or irrationality and tribalism I have seen being expressed by secular individuals, many of whom describe themselves as freethinkers interested in promoting reason, on social media since the election. If I was not already convinced that we need more rational voices and genuine freethought, this would be more than enough to convince me.

This is what I had in mind when I wrote, "We need more rational voices even if it seems like few are listening to them." There are times when it seems so damn obvious that nobody is listening that I ask myself whether there is any point to hitting the post button. There are plenty of times when I find myself wondering why I bother. What always seems to bring me back is the memory of how many times in my life I have been profoundly influenced by good ideas expressed by even a lone rational voice.

If those who are truly aspiring to be more rational and who continue to earn the label of freethinker on a daily basis stop contributing the the public discourse, the rest of us miss out. But missing out on their contributions is unlikely to be the most serious consequence. As rational voices withdraw, something other than silence will fill the void they leave behind. And so, I continue to hope for more rational voices rather then fewer and for more genuine freethinkers rather than those calling themselves freethinkers but actually wallowing in tribalism.

Beyond mere hope, is there anything tangible that you or I can do in order to encourage and support those who are on the side of reason and freethought? Yes, I believe there are some things we can do that might make a difference. We can engage with the rational voices and genuine freethinkers. We can make sure they know we are listening, and we can express our appreciation for what they are doing. We can use the various platforms we have available to promote their work, helping to put it in front of a larger audience.
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