Thursday, April 03, 2008

Dogmatism and truth

I've written a couple of times before on the connection between atheism, truth and the appearance of dogmatism and fundamentalism. But the point bears repeating in light of Lady Monchhichi's recent post. (I must apologize for missing her point. I am unable to respond to what anyone means; I can respond only to what they actually say.) She mentions a secondary sense of "dogmatism":
One definition of the word (provided by is: asserting opinions in a doctrinaire or arrogant manner; opinionated. Many of us, (including myself) when it comes to evolution, sound like arrogant assholes most of the time.
Yes, that's one definition of the word. No, it's not the first thing that pops into one's mind when some criticism is called equivalent to the point being criticized for no better reason than that both assert some position, without regard to the veracity of those positions.

Monchhichi cannot escape the irony that her criticism of the Google bomb tactic is by necessity every bit as doctrinaire and arrogant as the practice she seeks to criticize. She can't help it: If you think something is true, you must declare it in a manner that sounds dogmatic and arrogant. By saying something is true, you are saying that you are right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong. To anyone convinced of the opposite position, you cannot help but sound disrespectful and dogmatic. That's what "dogmatic" (in Monchhichi's sens) means: To assert something as if it were true. But if it actually is true, if it's provably true, it would be weaselly and dishonest not to assert it as truth.

Dogmatism is a pejorative word, and it is pejorative precisely as it applies to those who would assert falsity and bullshit as true. To paraphrase Barry Goldwater, tolerance in the criticism of error is no virtue, and "dogmatism" in the pursuit of truth is no vice.

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