|We live in an age of decreasing respect for truth
and beauty. It seems that no one has the patience to listen to any argument
which cannot be compressed into a sound byte. No civilization can continue
to exist if all important decisions are made on the basis of sound bytes.
Even the academic world has begun to greet the search for truth with sophisticated
The cult of free inquiry opposes this trend. We believe that true assertions
should be actively sought. All assertions must be tested to see if they
stand on sound ground. What constitutes sound ground? For questions of
fact in the visible world, the "scientific method" has been a successful
method for testing. But there are other questions for which the scientific
method does not seem to apply. Is there a God? Do I love my wife? What
is the self? It may be difficult to specify an infallible method.
However, we do request that a sincere effort be made. All resources
of the whole person should be used in discovering the truth. Intuition
should be used. Logic should be used. Answers should be cross-checked against
We are searching for the answer that is true, not the answer that makes
us feel good, not the answer that our parents believed in, not the answer
that will be well received by our neighbors.
Representations of truth and beauty have value.
This the first principle of the cult, is a religious foundation. After
all, truth is an absolute value. Almost everyone will agree that knowledge
can be useful on occasion. But how often is it comforting to believe a
soft lie rather than look an ugly truth in the face? When is a elaborate
falsehood to be used in supporting a political position? What would motivate
someone to support the truth regardless of expediency? Our cult supports
truth not only as a tool to obtain other goals that we may have, but as
a way to express meaning and decency.
We have heard many lectures on our duty to help our fellow man, but
we wonder why it is overlooked that, in most cases, the most effective
way to help our fellow man is to make the truth available? It has often
been observed, perhaps tritely, that human power flows from knowledge.
The cult of free inquiry is a minimalist religion. All cult assertions
flow from our respect for truth and beauty. We could take organizational
positions on many other questions, but that would disqualify the cult as
a forum to address those questions. Our support of truth does not require
us to proclaim our views on every possible issue as an organization. Our
members can do that individually using their own voices.
The creation and spread of such representations
does take place in social context.
This is trivially true. Human societies inherently depend on a division
of labor. All significant activities require different people to interact.
The idea that Romulus and Remus created Roman civilization after being
raised by wolves is a myth.
Common decency is needed to provide a favorable
The cult does not define common decency. Philosophers could argue that
question for a thousand years. We hope that people will exhibit enough
common decency in practice to allow an advance in culture to proceed. Let
us practice common decency now, and figure out how to define it later!
Private communications should be protected with strong unescrowed encryption
wherever possible. This will allow tentative and personal matters to be
discussed without fearing the acts of uncivilized third parties.
However, unsound social justifications of false
assertions should not be accepted as truth.
The war continues because "God is on our side". What is the evidence
that God is, in fact, on our side? It takes courage to ask such a question
in a mob atmosphere.
Over simplifying, we may say that relativism is the view that truth
is split. The cult has no problem with this. Let the advocates of relativism
support the idea that truth is split with strong facts and arguments. Social
relativism is the view that regardless of whether truth is in fact split,
we must pretend that it is, in order to have social peace. The hallmark
of social relativism is the words "in your
opinion". The phrase is used to dismiss any assertion that makes someone
uncomfortable without having to address the specific facts and arguments
that may support that assertion. Social relativism pretends that all assertions
are equal, so there is no point in trying to determine which assertions
are true, especially if an assertion makes someone uncomfortable or threatens
their "self-esteem". The cult totally rejects social relativism. Social
relativists abandon the search for truth because they do not believe that
disputes can be addressed in a civilized manner.
Peaceful discussion and debate between different,
even contradictory points of view has often resulted in an advance in knowledge.
Often someone will actually go out and collect evidence in order to show
up "those fools on the other side". Sometimes the new evidence points in
an unexpected direction.
Suppression of unwanted assertions has often
hampered the advance of knowledge.
If an assertion is suppressed, it can not be determined if it is true
Declarative questions must not be solved by
an appeal to force.
Disputes are opportunities to advance knowledge. The chance is lost
if the question is obscured by force. We do not need the large piles of
dead bodies. If the energy of dispute can not flow in a destructive direction,
perhaps it will be forced to flow in a constructive one.