Cognitive relativists hold that facts about the world are not absolute, but are relative to the individual. In other words, they assert that the truth is relative. At the same time, relativists attempt to claim objectivity for their position. But this is absurd. The relativist position is self-refuting. And beyond the philosophical argument, it is clear that there are facts about the world that apply to all of us. Gravity doesn't care who you are or what you believe; if you drop an apple, it will fall regardless of your beliefs. One may speculate as to the true nature of gravity, but the phenomenon is real. Relativism doesn't work. So why be a cognitive relativist?

It seems that at least some people are attracted to relativism because they believe that to respect all beliefs about reality is one way to avoid conflict with our fellow human beings. But what are the consequences of relativism? Should we respect all beliefs equally?

Should we respect Christian scientists who neglect to take sick children to a doctor because they think prayer will cure them? Should we respect those particular muslims who support doctrine such as capital punishment for apostasy or the idea that women are property? How about crystal healers who convince people with severe illnesses to forgo conventional medicine in favor of mystical ointments or rituals? Or psychics who tell a mother her daughter is dead when she is in fact alive? We've seen the results of irrational beliefs.

The Heaven's Gate cult is a good example. Cult members rented a telescope hoping to see the spaceship that they believed was trailing the comet. When they couldn't see the spaceship, they returned the telescope saying it was broken because they couldn't see the spaceship that they believed would be there. For them, belief came first, evidence second. At the end, they castrated and strangled each other.

Believing things on no evidence is generally not a good way to survive. The application of logic based on evidence is the best way to navigate and solve problems. I don't think we have to respect people for being irrational. You can avoid them, give them their space if you like. But we don't have to give special deference to people for being credulous.

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Comment by Glen Rosenberg on September 24, 2013 at 8:25am

Cognitive relativism, the philosophical m.o. for going fetal and living an insipid and value-depleted life...

Comment by Dyslexic's DOG on September 18, 2013 at 1:04am

At the moment I'm having arguments with a person believing in cosmic relativity or cosmic consciousness, as he believes that everything in the universe was created by consciousness, either the consciousness of living creatures or consciousness of god(s).  I find that a lot of relativism is self defeating or self destructive, such that even the existence of microbes destroys much of their claims. 

He cannot answer this question satisfactorily:  "What if a completely unknown object like an asteroid shot in from another universe, thus not within the consciousness of anything or god in our universe, and wiped out our entire planet without being detected, thus destroying all human consciousness before any were conscious of it's existence?

Wouldn't this event prove that reality and matter exists in spite of consciousness?

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on September 17, 2013 at 3:14am

Findings about objects depends on the accuracy of our instruments and their accuracy has improved with time and money.

Findings about people depend of the experiences and skills of those who hypothesize about them. I'm wary of those who claim objectivity.

Religion, in my not very humble opinion, is the biggest fraud that's ever been perpetrated. However, people who govern need people to be governable and religion can help.

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