07 February 2009

Holocaust Deniers and the Tyranny of Thought

The Pope is now apologizing for the beliefs of a Bishop about the Holocaust. Bishop Richard Williamson believes that gas chambers were used to cleanse Jews but doesn't believe that any were actually killed in them. For this, he may face expulsion.

Lest I get labeled as a Holocaust denier, let me just say that his claim seems absolutely absurd. And for that reason it doesn't need to be censored - just outed. If someone says, "It is not raining outside," when it is, you don't have to shut him up - you just have to point people's attention to the weather outside. Ideas do not need to be censored or promoted - they need to be thought through and proved or disproved (or left in the category of indeterminate) on the basis of logic or evidence.

Rather than order this Bishop to recant, how much more powerful would it be to force him to defend his beliefs in a public forum where he'd be forced to confront testimony and proof from tens to hundreds of thousands of people and sources?

We don't want to teach children that ideas can be dismissed as wrong or absurd by authority. It is better to teach them why some ideas get discarded as ineffectual or evil or simply stupid. The point is not to approve or disprove ideas based on the power of the authorities behind the ideas; the point is to approve or disprove authority based on the power of the ideas behind the authorities. Freedom is a package deal.


Anonymous said...

Yes, to approve or disprove ideas based on the facts. FACTS.

We must not become the thought police. Political correctness is a nasty, nasty thing.

Tim Coulter said...


Speaking about denying facts and the weather.

Spend a little time here, and follow some of the links.


What if it is the Sun instead of Man that is responsible for the earth warming and cooling? Now that is a revolutionary thought.

Every hear the term Occam's Razor?

Curious to hear your thoughts about the facts. ;-)


David said...

Leave it to the Pope to apologize. Bishop W doesn't "believe?" I find it difficult to believe one could put forth such a hypothesis without offering corresponding facts. It's akin to something that crazy guy who runs Iran would say. Maybe the Pope should negotiate with the Bishop.

This goofball Clergyman is already confronting testimony and proof and eye witness accounts so well validated they need not be reconstructed to disprove this absurd assertion.

In this case the lesson is that authority needs to be exercised swiftly when it's required. Action is required. Expulsion is appropriate. Recanting shouldn't be an option here.

As to "Ocam's Razor" - yeah. I'm with that reader. The simplest explanation is nearly always the best one.

Anonymous said...

He's interviewed in Der Spiegel here. He sounds like a hard-core anti-Semite.

I have to say, this pope seems less politically aware than any pope in my lifetime. He's just constantly creating inadvertent controversy; Pope Magoo.

Anonymous said...

This is not just for children because children grow up to be adults... and most haven't checked or changed their filters since they first created them when they were in their sensitive period for justice in (around)second grade.

Big Al said...

Reading about Bishop Williamson led me to think this thought first: Why oh WHY is this guy straying from celebrating the Gospel? And then I thought, Why oh WHY did the Pope ever reinstate this yahoo? Did the Pope have a VERY senior moment and forget or not check up on why Williamson was excommunicated in the first place?

I knew it was going to be hard to replace Pope John Paul, but did somebody rig the Cardinal vote system when they selected Pope Magoo (*LOVE* that moniker, ThomasLB}?

K-Kix said...

Maybe, just maybe the Bishop needs to be exorcised?!!!

Ron Davison said...

Pinky & Tim,
What is the old talking head song? Facts just twist the truth around?
Facts are ,themselves, the product of theories or at least perceptual apparatus. Facts need a theoretical construct to have meaninng and that is, of course, where things get sticky.
Tim - I read the first of these links. I like the notion that global warming is not a real problem. And that certainly is a possibility. I guess what I don't understand is what this refutation rests on. It was odd that the author said that global warming has been going on since the Medieval Ice Age and then said that it wasn't actually occuring. I'm not sure what to make of that (it isn't happening but it's happening for reasons that have nothing to do with human activity? It can't be both). But is the basic premise that semi-smart guys like us with access to the Internet know more about this than the experts? Or that there is a conspiracy? And in this situation, waiting for the facts seems a little, well, after the fact.

I suppose it is ideal to think that either reason or censorship is going to put an end to bad ideas ... but in the end, I think that we make more progress in eradicating bad ideas by outing them than by censoring them.

Pope Magoo - I love it. And what are the odds that the guy who headed the office that was morphed from the Office of the Inquisition would be tone deaf to public opinion?

it would be interesting to test for when people are most open to the acceptance of new theories. I wonder how teaching for learning as a mode of continual acceptance of new theories would change education?

Maybe the pope and the president both need more careful vetting processes. But, to be honest, I love the reminder that both are falliable.

I like this idea, although I think he's actually done more to leave the heads of critics spinning.

David said...

I think censorship of ideas is bad, even for bad ideas. Removing bad people from positions of authority is not censorship but appropriate action. He's not advocating a new theory. He's repeating an old lie. He doesn't need to be vetted. How about water boarded?

Anonymous said...

Water boarding! Yesssss!

just kidding, Ron!!! ;-)