What does it actually mean to be a freethinker? For a quick definition, I went to Wikipedia.
Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds opinions should be formed on the basis of logic, reason, and empiricism, rather than authority, tradition, or other dogmas. The cognitive application of freethought is known as “freethinking”, and practitioners of freethought are known as “freethinkers”.
Freethought holds that individuals should not accept ideas proposed as truth without recourse to knowledge and reason. Thus, freethinkers strive to build their opinions on the basis of facts, scientific inquiry, and logical principles, independent of any logical fallacies or the intellectually limiting effects of authority, confirmation bias, cognitive bias, conventional wisdom, popular culture, prejudice, sectarianism, tradition, urban legend, and all other dogmas. Regarding religion, freethinkers hold that there is insufficient evidence to support the existence of supernatural phenomena.
I believe we see way too much of the logical fallacies within the atheist/skeptic community. We see people that make claim to authority on a topic that clearly are not an authority. For instance, I would never agree to give a talk, or sit on a panel at a convention to talk about something that I either knew very little about, or nothing at all. To the convention attendees though, because you’re asked to speak on a subject, people believe that you have at least some knowledge on that subject, maybe having read some peer-reviewed papers on the subject. Some people come to talk about certain subjects and already have a pre-determined mindset either pro or con on the subject without having done the necessary research that would validate their conclusion.
We also see people that are blatantly dogmatic in their views and will not couch any dissension. If you and I cannot have a reasonable dissagreement on a topic, then one or both of us need to stop and reconsider our position. We need to see if what we’re arguing is actually based on evidence, or is something we believe because, well, we’ve always believed it. “Liberals will destroy America”, “Conservatives hate women”. Give me your evidence for claiming either one of those.
Too many people, in the online community, call another person a “troll” just for disagreeing. You know what I ask? What’s your evidence? If the person can provide even a modicum of evidence, we actually have a basis for a reasonable discussion. But calling someone a “troll” because you disagree with their viewpoint, isn’t productive.
Are there real trolls? Sure, but we need to be able to discern the difference between a troll and a person that just happens to disagree with a particular position. We need to, if discernment fails, to give the benefit of the doubt and not automatically assume “trollish behavior”.
And lets stop with the name calling, shall we? Reasonable people don’t refer to people as jerks, morons, idiots, etc., because they happen to have a different point of view. What I try to do? A little light mockery. Just having some fun with them. Of course, there are some people that just can’t take that type of response and go off on me. That tells me where they really are.
I’m not trying to police anyone’s speech or behavior either online or in their personal encounters with others. I’m not asking anyone to shun another person because of their behavior or their opinions. I’m not asking, “Can’t we all just get along?” either. Reasoned disagreement and argument is healthy. The operative word here though is “reasoned”.
We could probably all learn from one another if we just took a step back and stopped talking and started listening.
Okay. I’m probably a cunt.