Sunday, 29 March 2009

Is intellectual honesty the same as morality?

(Posted at http://www.secularthought.org/node/54)

I spend more time than I should arguing with creationists. I can't help it: I'm offended by intellectual dishonesty and to be a creationist is to both ignore swathes of scientific evidence and yet to elevate pure speculation to the status of absolute proof. Creationists have no monopoly on intellectual dishonesty, of course and I don't mean to demonise them. However, the interesting part is that I suspect they tend to place more value on honesty than does the population in general.

I don't mean by this that they are more honest than the rest of us. I mean that creationists probably think about honesty more and hold it up as more of an ideal. I'm sure they don't think of their beliefs as intellectually dishonest, but when creationists are presented with evidence and proper argument, dishonest is what they become.

This leads me to the question of whether intellectual dishonesty is akin to immorality. It gives us an excuse to pick and choose what we want to be true and invent myths to back up any particular choice. We can't do that if we're intellectually honest. We have to go with the evidence.

Is intellectual honesty any different from the absolute standard of morality claimed by religions? Yes, because it is built on evidence and subject to peer review, rather than being defined in advance.

Does this distinction mean anything much in practice?

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