Reason and Its Rejection

The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is Reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall.

Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself–that is my doctrine.

To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.

Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.

It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.

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A friend recently sent me these and several other quotes from Thomas Paine, and I was struck–once again– by how far we Americans have come from the insights of the Enlightenment and the basic, foundational principles and values that motivated so many of this country’s founders.

Last night, there was another debate among people aspiring to occupy the Oval Office, and anyone trying to evaluate their fitness for that position had to be appalled.

When did we lose sight of the essential role of reason in human affairs? When did we allow fear to overcome logic, distrust of “the other” to trump recognition of our common humanity? When did expertise and intellect become suspect, nuance and ambiguity a threat, moderation and intellectual modesty evidence of cowardice?

And the million-dollar question: can Americans recapture reason and sanity? Or is our country going to spectacularly self-destruct?

54 thoughts on “Reason and Its Rejection

  1. Stuart, re: the SAT information you shared. That was then. This is now.

    From Chapter 11 of the IN DOE Office of Student Assessment:

    The state will cover the cost of the PSAT/NMSQT exam administered for all grade 10 and 11 students enrolled in Indiana accredited public and nonpublic high schools. Providing the PSAT/NMSQT for 10th grade students has become common practice for many states, as the assessment offers many opportunities, including the following:
    a. Students and parents receive an earlier and better gauge of their postsecondary preparation;
    b. Students have time to adjust 11th and 12th grade schedules based on individual data;
    c. Schools may use AP Potential™ to identify students who demonstrate potential in specific Advanced Placement content areas.
    d. Schools may use the Summary of Answers and Skills™ tool to help inform instructional practices based on student skills; and
    e. Students and parents have access to a variety of college, career and SAT preparation tools, including My College Quickstart™, that are beneficial throughout high school.

    In the Budget Bill (HEA 1001) recently passed by the Indiana General Assembly, lawmakers appropriated enough PSAT funding to include the exams taken by 11th grade students. This will enable those students to not only be better prepared for the SAT, but will also remove any financial obstacle to those who wish to try to earn a National Merit Scholarship™.

    http://www.doe.in.gov/assessment

  2. No, Louie, you didn’t quite cover it all: You didn’t mention:
    “BOOTS ON THE GROUND” a currently and temporarily stalled Republican warmonger mantra, stalled long enough for the electorate to forget that Republicans who spout it favor Dubya’s wars while trashing Obama/Kerry and their Peace Through Diplomacy.

    No Nobel Peace Prizes for Republicans!

  3. Hi there. I enjoyed your blog and don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade, but the second of these quotes, “Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself,” is actually by Robert G. Ingersoll from his “Liberty of Man, Woman, and Child.” Just a correction, do carry on. (And I’ve added a link to the Thomas Paine Friends organization, if you or anyone else is interested.)

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