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Do you know about the Silver Ring Thing? Don’t feel bad, neither did I until a few minutes ago. I think that means we’re old.

Basically you wear a $20 silver ring to demonstrate that you’ve sat through a 2-hour pro-abstinence stage performance incorporating “high energy music, special effects, fast-paced video, personal testimonies, and comedy all delivered in a concert-style approach with which teenagers can respond and relate.” (It would be a real shame if you went and ordered one of those rings despite never having participated in a SRT program. A real shame.)

While it may seem like a strange accomplishment to commemmorate with jewelry, it is apparently popular enough that a bunch of secular kids felt left out and have created their own Secular Pinky Swear:

I, First Name, Last Name strive to live my life according to progressive, secular values, not dogma or superstition.

Wait a minute. “Progressive values”? Where did that come from? What does that have to do with secularism?

Digging deeper, it looks like it’s part of Principle #6:

Without losing sight of the importance of diverse viewpoints, I will encourage others to appreciate the value of reason, compassion, equality, and other enlightened principles that make the world a better and safer place for humanity, now and in the future.

“The importance of diverse viewpoints”? If there is one thing we don’t believe in here at YRIF, it’s “the importance of diverse viewpoints.” Actually, can I have that back? If there’s one thing we don’t believe in, it’s god, but if there’s a second thing then it’s “the importance of diverse viewpoints.”

The following are all “diverse viewpoints”:

Do you notice what else they have in common? They’re all colossally stupid. The only “importance” secularists ought to recognize in them is the importance of pointing out that they’re not true.

Kids, if you’re going to go to the trouble of proclaiming secular values, don’t half-ass it. If you want to be “courageous in the face of cultural pressure,” then be courageous! Supporting “diverse viewpoints” in the abstract means you’re supporting just about anything!

Might I suggest that you substitute my principle #6a:

In appreciation of the importance of non-stupid viewpoints, I will encourage others to appreciate the value of reason, compassion, equality, and other enlightened principles that make the world a better and safer place for humanity, now and in the future.

Doesn’t that sound better?

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5 Responses to “Silver Ring Things and Secular Pinky Swears”

  1. I tend to agree. We’re either confident enough in our root values (above-mentioned reason, compassion, etc) to be able to identify some claims as exceedingly unlikely or harmful, or we give up entirely on knowing what to convince people of, and on moving consensus in productive (“positive-truth”) directions.

    But what’s probably at work here is the desire to strike a social balance. Unbending adherence to principles (even demonstrably better ones) disinclines people who feel they have differing opinions from making common cause with you against the problem you hope to face. By being more accomodating, you can gain greater prestige from wider swathes of fellow tribe-members. Sure, you wouldn’t want to simply get along with everyone; the offensively-wrong must be told they are wrong, and that they will not have their way. But absolute values in either direction seem simplistic, the hallmarks of superstitious and childish thinking. The goal might best be served by compromise.

    So, it commonly happens that they sacrifice some degree of logic-strength to gain a (perceived) greater degree of group-strength.

  2. Tom says:

    Bzzt! Bad argument. That some diverse viewpoints are dumb does not make valuing diverse viewpoints dumb.

    The value of encouraging diversity is that it’s an antidote to the empirical fact of group-think, and intellectual monocultures are open to a wide range of abuse.

    So something like this might be better: “Without losing sight of the dangers of intellectual monoculture, I will encourage others to appreciate the value of reason, compassion, equality, and other enlightened principles that make the world a better and safer place for humanity, now and in the future. I will actively fight against anyone who uses ‘think for yourself’ to mean ‘everyone should think the same way’, and will encourage logically coherent and empirically justified criticism of my own conclusions and those of others.”

    And if you’ve never met anyone who uses “think for yourself” to mean “everyone should think the same way” you’ve never met an objectivist.

  3. Joel says:

    The value of encouraging diversity is that it’s an antidote to the empirical fact of group-think, and intellectual monocultures are open to a wide range of abuse.

    I (strongly) agree with you on the dangers of intellectual monoculture.

    But what is the point of caveating calls for “reason, compassion, equality, and other enlightened principles” with an appreciation of diversity? Are we in danger of a “monoculture” of reason? Should I be worried about abuses of “compassion”? Those are problems I’d like to have!

    Is it really so important to encourage people who don’t believe in reason? People who don’t believe in compassion? People who don’t believe in equality? At this point in time, you can count me out.

    Once the atheist monoculture takes over and starts stagnating, then maybe I’ll gain a greater appreciation for unreason and cruelty and indifference and “unenlightened principles.” But not yet.

    And if you’ve never met anyone who uses “think for yourself” to mean “everyone should think the same way” you’ve never met an objectivist.

    I have a chapter on them in my book!

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