What is Freethought?
#1
The purpose of this thread is to discuss and refine this post on Nirmukta.com. The idea behind the post is to present a one-link solution to the problem of people constantly misunderstanding what we (at Nirmukta) and the word "freethinker" are about. I think the completed post would be a community resource, and I encourage everyone to present ideas to add, remove or modify the post so as to best fulfill its purpose!

Please note that for general discussion on what constitutes freethought we have a separate thread here. If you have misgivings about the term, or are unsure if you subscribe to it, please respond on that thread. This thread is marked as important for a specific purpose as mentioned above.

Post follows:

Which of the following do you subscribe to?
Atheism, Skepticism, Rationalism, Agnosticism, Secular Humanism, Naturalism.

Many of us would describe our ideology as influenced by some or all of the above ways of perceiving the world around us. We also recognize that all of these ideas differ from each other to various degrees and in various ways, primarily from an epistemological (knowledge) point of view, but also in the area of focus prescribed by each of these ways of thinking. While most of us recognize that the goals that we have in common can best be achieved if we all work together, the entire movement has gotten caught up in branding issues. This awareness has brought into the fore the need for an all-encompassing term that subsumes the focus and meaning implied in all of the above ideas endorsing a reason-based worldview.

‘Freethought’ is one such term.

The word ‘Freethought’ does not simply represent the meaning implied in the coming together of the words ‘Free’ and ‘Thought’, contrary to what most people, including many freethinkers, seem to think. It is actually an idea that has been around for about more than 300 years.

The word ‘Freethought’ refers to a set of philosophies that adopt science, reason and logic as tools for understanding the natural world, rejecting sources of authority and tradition, such as religion, that claim infallible truth and require blind allegiance. The Freethinker magazine was first published in England in 1881 and is still around as a website. Today, the word ‘Freethought’ is used as an umbrella term encompassing a number of ideas including skepticism, application of the scientific method (scientific naturalism), philosophical naturalism, atheism, rationalism, humanism etc.

A common misconception is that freethought implies treating all ideas equally. This could not be farther from the truth. Freethinkers are extremely discriminatory of bad ideas, and adopt a refined reasoning process in judging factual claims.

It should be remembered that organized promotion of freethought is a political ideology, even if freethought itself is not. The process of building a culture of freethought involves first creating communities of freethinkers- people who can find and communicate with each other, while living amongst the masses of people who are not freethinkers. Once these communities begin to come together online (and off), much good can be accomplished through activism. This includes campaigning to establish equal rights and fair representation in society for all freethinkers/atheists/non-religious people, campaigning to be protected from discrimination based on religious belief (or, in this case, non-belief), to end religious indoctrination in government-funded public schools, to end tax exemptions for religious causes, working to advance a science-based public policy, working to advance the role of science in our educational, medical, judicial and various other social systems, and campaigning to eradicate the dangerous, pseudoscientific and superstitious practices that plague our culture.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#2
I just realized that I had linked to the wrong page on Nirmukta in the introductory post, and this has been corrected.

http://nirmukta.com/what-is-freethought/

I'm bumping up this thread to elicit some input. The regional groups have been requested to announce the new group names (;City; Freethinkers), and there is a bit of push-back from some members. The format for the names was picked by open polling. I hope those of us in agreement can discuss with these fellow rationalists the term and our rationale for going with it.

The 'What Is Freethought' page will be posted on these groups. Please present your input now! Hammer
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#3
IMO just Nirmukta with city/ place name is sufficient. It says it all.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
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#4
(11-Mar-2011, 08:17 PM)Sajit Wrote: IMO just Nirmukta with city/ place name is sufficient. It says it all.

Sajit, we had a preliminary discussion and opened up the naming to the members of Indian Atheists and Nirmukta. The poll was publicly posted on facebook, and City Freethinkers was the clear winner. In retrospect our entire strategy might have been the wrong approach. In any case, we are now stuck with it. We have proposed referring to the groups individually as Nirmukta's (City) Freethinkers in public statements.

The issue currently is that the members of the Delhi group (and one member of the Mumbai group) are not in favor of the term 'Freethinker", mostly because they are committed to the Atheist label.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#5
Continued from here.

(30-Sep-2011, 05:15 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote:
(30-Sep-2011, 04:31 PM)rtved Wrote: Obviously free thought in this forum is not that free.Thumbdown

I think we should name a new fallacy for this.

Technically, this is the Genetic fallacy, or more specifically, a form of the genetic fallacy known as the Etymological fallacy.

Since the general case is defined well as a fallacy, how about formulating a 'law' specifically referring to the "free thought"-in-lieu-of-"freethought" etymological fallacy?

"As disagreement increases in discussion with religious apologists on a freethought forum, the probability of invocation of the etymological fallacy approaches 1."

Modifications are welcome and naming rights is up for grabs.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#6
I propose "The Free Law".

And a dumbed down definition targeted at people who go by the that law - The Free Law manifest itself freely when the free in "free as in beer" is conflated with the free in freethought. (We can use the full definition amongst ourselves).
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#7
(30-Sep-2011, 09:17 PM)Lije Wrote: I propose "The Free Law".

+1
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#8
(30-Sep-2011, 09:31 PM)Ajita Kamal Wrote:
(30-Sep-2011, 09:17 PM)Lije Wrote: I propose "The Free Law".

+1

another +1
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#9
I propose the "Homophone Fallacy"
As in freethought and free thought sound the same, but vastly differ in definition and spelling.

Biggrin

Nick.
"It's alright, I rarely meet anyone who's able to read it properly. Although personally, I never thought that it to be an odd of a name. Once I give people the pronunciation, they tend to remember my name by easily associating me with it. A unique face, a unique moniker."
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#10
(30-Sep-2011, 09:17 PM)Lije Wrote: I propose "The Free Law".

And a dumbed down definition targeted at people who go by the that law - The Free Law manifest itself freely when the free in "free as in beer" is conflated with the free in freethought. (We can use the full definition amongst ourselves).

Just to be clear, the "free" may be used in multiple different meanings, including as in "free beer", for it to be fallacious in the context of "freethought". The etymological fallacy applies if any meaning of the standalone word "free" is used other than those covered under the composite word 'freethought'. Therefore, "thinking free of sleep-deprivation" is not covered in the meaning of freethought and would be making the etymological fallacy, but "thinking free of religious authority" is covered under the meaning and wouldn't be making the fallacy.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#11
This image by Lalit makes the distinction between "freethought" and "free thought" pretty clear:

[Image: nx9K94c.png]
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#12
Unfortunately, I feel that "freethought" is a historical term that can't possibly describe the movement now.

I saw an interesting video in which Richard Dawkins and Neil DeGrasse Tyson are talking. Dawkins is talking about a cosmological discovery and says, "well I suppose I have to believe it." Tyson cuts him off and says, "Now, I won't make you believe anything," and gets applause.

But of course Dawkins has to believe it. He has neither the background nor the time to evaluate cosmological claims! Freethought cannot be about evaluating every single idea that comes your way using reason.

I read a similar article on when mathematicians "believe" a theorem. Math is such a huge subject that you just can't be expected to know how to prove every theorem that's published each year.

For example, it's a theorem that a^n + b^n = c^n has no integral solutions greater than 2. It's Fermat's Last Theorem, and Andrew Wiles proved it in the 90s. I guarantee that noone here will be able to understand the proof of it, however. (Google it!)

The caveat could be that you believe things only if you have the hunch that they were proved using science and reason. But frankly, Creationists use reason. They use it wrongly, but they don't think so. And we all, I'm sure, have made a bad argument at some point but believed in our own conclusions. If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty epistemology, I don't think there's any justification for the "freethought" label. In another thread, Captain Mandrake talks about testing Newton's gravitation law to prove it. I doubt he's actually done it himself though! And I don't have the resources to test Einstein's theory-- I trust that Eddington did it right!
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