Dr. Vallicella’s “life-enhancing illusions” are not free. They have baggage. And they are incompatible with a commitment to reason. They do not “enhance” my life, nor that of countless others.There's good a slippery slope argument here:
- We can't know some statements at all (God exists), so it's OK to believe what you want, either way.
- We can't know some statements with confidence (extraterrestrial intelligence exists), so it's OK to believe what you want.
- We don't care whether some statements are true or false (insert some arcane fact here), so it's OK to believe what you want.
- We can't know some statements with certainty (vaccines are safe), so it's OK to believe what you want.
The morality of truth is not like other ethical beliefs. It does not simply consist of arbitrary rules that have evolved to manage interpersonal relations. The fundamental principle of truth morality is to not fool yourself; if you don't bend over backwards to avoid fooling yourself, all the ethical "rules" in the world aren't going to help you. Indeed the rules won't help you even if despite your best efforts you still manage to fool yourself.
Most of us believe as true what we are taught to believe; most of anyone's beliefs are received. It's "economically" impossible for each individual to independently subject every belief, or even most beliefs, to full, rigorous skeptical inquiry. Hawking says that black holes emit radiation, and I believe it. I know enough physics to follow his argument, and it seems plausible, but I certainly have not investigated every scientifically plausible alternative hypothesis. The best I can do is keep my eyes open, and if I chance across a counter-argument, to evaluate it with an open mind: to look at the argument itself, and not prejudicially dismiss it because it contradicts what I already believe.
The problem is that the religious and the woo-woos assert as true statements that are either false or neither true nor false. They say God really does exist; they say vaccines really do cause autism. The present their beliefs as firmly in the realm of truth, but when pressed for justification they retreat to the realm of preference (and often outrageously assert that skeptics are indifferent to the truth). Anyone who actually cares deeply about the truth can see this position as nothing more than rank hypocrisy and outright fraud.