Belief systems and worldviews that are grounded in ideology, lacking even the slightest tinge of malleability, are fatally brittle. Because every ideology has multiple fundamental assumptions about what reality is AND what reality should be, evidence or ideas that contradict these sacred assumptions must suppressed by the ideology’s adherents so they don’t go insane from the discomfort of cognitive dissonance. Just like the house of cards collapses if a card is removed or added, so the ideological belief system collapses when exposed to new evidence about the world.
This phenomenon causes many people to ignore and suppress new discoveries about the world around them because it conflicts with some facet of their worldview – their ideology.
Too often, we are acutely capable of diagnosing and highlighting ideological, house of cards belief systems in our peers, but we are surprisingly handicapped when it comes to diagnosing our own fragile and brittle intellectual frameworks.
Progressives correctly note that many conservatives and Trump supporters continue to deny the science of climate change. They call it a hoax. They are unable to distinguish the scientific evidence of climate change from the religious dogma of militant climate activists. What progressives fail to do is highlight the ideological madness of the climate crusaders themselves. Climate activists like Greta Thunberg and politicians like Elizabeth Warren have stated that nuclear power is not part of the planet’s future. This is ridiculous. Nuclear power is the only clean energy source that is capable of producing power in the amount that we need. For America to be powered by wind and solar power, the entire Western hemisphere would need to be covered in solar panels and windmills. Why do these progressive activists demonize nuclear power? Because one of the dictates of their ideology, their house of cards belief system, is the intrinsic evil of nuclear power. In trying to save the world from the plight of green house gases, they vilify the only feasible solution to the problem.
What is the antidote to House of Cards ideological belief systems? Simply put, the rejection of ideological fundamentalism is both the destination and the journey in this case. There is at least a hint of truth in most ideologies, but no ideology only consists of truth and no ideology contains the entire truth. In “On Liberty,” legendary philosopher John Stuart Mill laid out a landmark defense of free speech.
Mill said that no opinion, including moronic and vile opinions, should be silenced because we arrive at knowledge of the world through the “collision of truth with error.” He offered three main arguments for why free speech should not be infringed upon.
- Because no one is omniscient, banning an idea may be hiding the truth.
- A free marketplace of ideas is the best way to find truth. Many have described Mill’s idea as a “marketplace of ideas” in keeping with the language of classical liberalism.
- Because no single idea is the whole truth, even those ideas containing only a sliver of the truth still help us come closer to the full truth.
Overall, Mills believed that the robust exchange of idea, which is the intention of free speech protections, will help preserve individuality, restrain the tyranny of social opinion or what Mill and many others called the “tyranny of the majority”, and guide the pursuit of truth.
Mill’s concept of free speech and the free exchange of ideas is a micro-mechanism for uncovering the truth of a specific, discrete and atomic issue. For example, arguments for and against the legalization of marijuana are acutely focused on that issue. The domain of the conversation is relatively small and whether or not arguments are considered germane to the topic is a function of whether or not they stay within the domain of the issue.
I propose a macro-mechanism for uncovering truth – an epistemological triangulation method that considers different ideologies about a comprehensive meta-narrative instead of different opinions about a specific, defined issue. Instead of considering different arguments and opinions related to a specific issue, this method involves the comparison of different ideologies to see which elements of each ideology are true, which are false and how the true pieces of all ideologies can be salvaged into a cohesive worldview. For example, when it comes to the role of government, consider a progressive, conservative and libertarian ideological position. All three of them are true in some ways and false in others. We need to find a way to mimic Mill’s free exchange of ideas concept on a macro scale.
I acknowledge that this isn’t easy. But it’s not supposed to be. It’s easy to settle for a fragile house of cards belief system. It’s hard to construct a robust belief system that can weather the disruption of new information and new discoveries about the world.
Remember, nothing in this world worth having is easy to acquire. Belief systems and worldviews are no different.