Quinn O’Neill at 3quarksdaily has commented on both tone and content of the reason vs religion “debate”, suggesting, among other things, that freedom of religion requires that all views be treated with respect and tolerance.
Russell Blackford disagrees, on what appear to be largely technical grounde, with the reference to freedom of religion, saying “O’Neill puts on airs as if she is an expert on freedom of religion, but she is obviously ignorant about it”.
Jean Kazez (who I was led to by a posting by Gurdur) correctly points out that Blackford’s excessively legalistic and historical definition of “freedom of religion” is not the only reasonable one, and that the concept has evolved over time. Kazez also calls Blackford’s response “uncivil” but I don’t really think it’s out of bounds nor that it misrepresents O’Neill’s position.
He’s just wrong. And maybe too full of himself to understand that that might be possible.
Despite all that, I do think O’Neill’s analysis is short of the mark.
For example, she says the following:
“Suppose you could choose either to maximize human rationality or to maximize human happiness. For most of us, even for the most strident advocates of reason and critical thinking, I suspect the choice would be happiness or well-being.”
One problem with this (as with all naive utilitarianism) is how to define cumulative “well-being”.
For anyone who takes total human “happiness” as the ultimate goal the following questions come to mind:
If a drug were available which created unending total individual happiness without shortening lifespan or impairing normal function – but at the cost of imposing an irrational but apparently harmless delusion, would you take it? recommend it? give it to your children?
And if the effectiveness and harmlessness of the drug was dependent on having everyone take it, how much harm would you be willing to do in order to make that happen?
If happiness is the ultimate value, then might not a rational utilitarian who had found such a drug reasonably decide to sacrifice reason, and even to cause huge immediate suffering, in order to reach the ultimate goal of having ignorant bliss eventually be the lot of all future generations?