The test for what is an extreme view is not the number of people who share that view but it’s lack of rationalism—Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri.
The former ITV chief-Stuart Prebble recognised this when he wrote in a report that looked at the BBC’s coverage of issues in 2013 that “the BBC cannot afford to rest on its laurels and it should ensure it does all it can to keep up with the ebb and flow of public opinion, which means avoiding over-reliance on Westminster voices, making efforts to find new voices even if they are contentious, and challenging their own assumptions on the accepted consensus.”
Sitting with the accepted consensus as an individual when in sincerity you do not believe in these views or hold doubt in such consensus does not challenge the issue, it just may make your life easy if that is all you care about—but some of us care about more, and rationalism sits on top of our ladder….
I respect a lot of people very much to respect their views and the saddest part of it is, these people do not even want their views challenged, pulled down and pot holes punched in them. Forgetting that, a good argument is one which can be falsified. Even beyond that, we must recognise the uncompromising status of rationalism and make it our prime quest.
Less than a century ago, it was a taboo to talk about women’s rights because that amounted to questioning the status quo and holding an ‘extreme view’, if the definition of an extreme view is anything but not what I just stated above.
It was a taboo not long ago even within the Church of England to question the concept of hell but the questions continued and when the Church could not find any sort of rationalism with the concept of hell, it dropped it recently by saying; Hell does not exist.
My point is; a lot can be compromised on in life but the key to our civilization lies in the importance we accord to rationalism and free thinkers. I understand that being rational means you have to think for yourself, far difficult than letting others think for you—by following what is already said or accepted without subjecting it to any critical evaluation.
As the writer and activist-Ayaan Hirsi Ali once said, it took her 10 years to move from being a die hard Muslim to a non-believer and this was only possible because she moved to Holland, surrounded by free thinkers and rationalists. The people you surround yourself with determine the flow of your mind and how critical you will become in your reasoning.
Of course it is easy to settle into the most popular view of the day, hiding yours even if the popular view fails the rational test and yours seems plausible. Even far better, it is no doubt good for the security and interest of the people you love or have connection with not to go against the strong flowing current.
Sam Harris cannot discuss any detail of his upbringing, family and even town/city of residence because he unceasingly question the popular ideological stands and beliefs, opting for rationalism and arguing that, free inquiry and dealing with the ontological questions with the tool of rational thinking is the way forward even if it is seen by a majority as diabolical.
The important question is; should we believe and say what the majority want or should we engage in “fierce” debates backed by rationalism? I hope even in the face of the ease and conduciveness of the former, you go for the latter; for killing of innocent Jews was once a popular view in Nazi-Germany. Ideas should not be judged and adopted on popularity contest schemes but on a scale of rationalism.
We live in a world with the rationalists on one side and the faith-fuls on the other, where you place yourself as an individual very much depend on your dedication to truth and whether you want to go against the ‘wrong flowing’ current or not.
As Martin Luther King, Jr said; “the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be”.