Home > atheism, current events > Atheist Perspective: Driving Backward

Atheist Perspective: Driving Backward

Aristotle opens the Metaphysics with the idea that what people desire most is to know. It is inherent in our nature to want to know what we do not. In seeking the answers to all of the questions we are not doing something novel or unique but fulfilling what is inherent to our very being. The quest for what is unknown can never truly be fulfilled but still the search is what makes it worth it. The search can only move forward if we do not have to start over each time we begin.

There are those people that claim to have the ultimate knowledge, perfect knowledge of all things. A claim like this should always be met with skepticism and a demand for evidence. We should always distrust those saying that they know the unknowable. As Cicero once put it, “for what is more unbecoming than ill-considered haste? and what is so ill-considered or so unworthy of the dignity and seriousness proper to a philosopher as to hold an opinion that is not true, or to maintain with uncertainty a proposition not based on adequate examination, comprehension and knowledge.” (De Natura Deorum I.16-21)

Cicero is putting forth the Academic position that we should only adopt positions that we have adequately examined, and to suspend all judgment until the threshold of knowledge had been passed.

Our knowledge of the world must be built on what came before. Banning the previously earned knowledge is tantamount to pushing civilization backward. Our knowledge of biology, chemistry, and physics is demonstrable, provable, and we don’t have to return to the beginning each time we want to move forward.

This is the opposite of religious knowledge. This type of knowledge is the kind that forbids questioning and cannot be demonstrated. We know it because it was told to us, the people who did this teaching only know it because they were taught it by someone else, and on and on…till we arrive at someone telling us, “ipse dixit”–“the master said so.”

This is the type of reasoning that motivates religious knowledge, someone tells someone else and that person isn’t allowed to question it. My child knows how to add, we’ve worked out how addition operates–if she doesn’t believe me she can work it out herself. It is at least possible for this to happen. Nothing that we ought to teach the young should be based on the idea that some unquestionable authority has dictated it.

In some parts of the world the masters have dictated that inquiries into science, philosophy, and history are forbidden. These places can only be detrimental to the progress of the world. While I understand that they may believe their knowledge to be sacrosanct why does an understanding of the natural world violate this claim? It’s because their masters have made scientific claims about the world that would show that what is said is no longer true. This is why fundamentalists in the US push Creationism and its monstrous progeny Intelligent Design, it is why ISIS seeks to deny those within its sphere access to Chemistry, and why a large portion of the Muslim world pushes Creationism. Forbidding questioning will only make the world less intelligent resorting only to knowledge from authority, which isn’t knowledge but rather regurgitated factoids.

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Categories: atheism, current events Tags: ,
  1. September 23, 2014 at 5:41 am

    This is very well written, and so true. Thank you for sharing.

    • rdxdave
      September 24, 2014 at 6:13 pm

      Thank you for the compliment, I wasn’t too happy with it when I was done.

  2. September 24, 2014 at 7:49 am

    Reblogged this on The Atheist Me and commented:
    Killing curiosity will only lead is to the destruction of what makes us human.

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