The Danger of Dogma

Dogma is a dangerous thing, and no one is immune to it.

The almighty Google defines dogma as “a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.”

Dogma is dangerous.

This is dangerous, and it’s why if every religion was wiped out tomorrow, we’d still face many of the same problems we face now, just in a different form. Dogma is everywhere. It’s not just a religious problem.

Be honest with yourself: Have you ever shared a meme on Facebook or Twitter that calls members of the political party opposite yours lazy, stupid, heartless, or some other insult? Have you ever disregarded overwhelming evidence discrediting a belief you hold either because you didn’t want to admit you were wrong or it was easier than having to change positions? Have you ever decided that nothing, no amount of evidence, no arguments will ever change your religion or political leaning or change your mind on your political opinions or religious views?

If you’ve ever shared images like these, you’re probably guilty of dogmatic thinking.

If you answered yes, congratulations, you’re guilty of dogmatic thinking.

If you answered no, you’re probably lying.

Any time you place an absolute value on a belief you hold, regardless of the type of belief it is, you’re thinking dogmatically. I’m guilty of it as well. We all do it to some degree or another. It’s hard to accept that you might be wrong, which is why we hold to these beliefs, disregarding anything that contradicts them.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that defending your beliefs is dogmatic. To the contrary, providing reasoned discussion that leads to the acceptance or rejection of new ideas is the epitome of logic and reason. I’m simply saying that refusing to accept evidence countering your beliefs because it doesn’t fit with them is dogmatic.

For example, you might believe in homeopathy. You might believe that it works, and you might believe that it works better than modern medicine. But if you refuse to accept overwhelming evidence to the contrary, because it doesn’t fit your view of modern medicine, you are guilty of dogmatic thinking.

Dogmatic thinking is a problem, and unfortunately, I don’t think it’s one that can ever be fully solved, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to solve it. All I’m asking, regardless of your beliefs, is to, no matter how hard it is, accept that you might be wrong, and don’t dismiss counterclaims immediately. It might be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary if we want to have a rational society.

This is the written version of a video I posted on YouTube a few months ago.