The Objective Standard And The Shapiro Principle

Published May 5, 2021
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This post is a reply to an article at The Objective Standard which in part reads:

The article (a) applauds Ben Shapiro’s recognition of the fact that religious people should be able to make secular arguments in support of the ideas they accept, (b) names this idea the Shapiro Principle, and (c) urges pro-liberty religionists and secularists alike to embrace this idea and thus to form a unified, reason-based movement in support of freedom, individual rights, and capitalism.

What’s not to like about that?

The Objective Standard

This was written and posted by Craig Biddle of The Objective Standard. The magazine/journal was pretty cool when it first launched, but the people behind it seem to have faltered. I find their reasoning on a number of intellectual issues troubling. This article, detailing the Shapiro Principle and it’s possible benefits, is a prime example of this trouble. This article is old, but Mr. Biddle continues to post it occasionally on The Objective Standard Facebook page. The contents of this article also show what kind of mindset many rationally-leaning people were in / are in and how it contributes to the degradation of the cause they so champion.

I have discovered over the years that many individuals with good intentions get too caught up in wishful thinking and their own desires to see the forest for the trees they want to cut down. They come across what they believe to be a good thing, such as rational thinking and secular philosophies of individualism, and decide that somehow they/we need to forge a new future where everyone follows those doctrines as opposed to the default mysticism/altruism. It’s understandable, as they want to live in what they perceive would be a better world. The problem is when the message becomes one of, “changing the culture,” and “influencing people,” particularly when it starts to become “at any cost.”

These individualists who maintain there is no “greater good,” or that it’s not relevant because “society” is a floating abstraction of individuals and has no will or welfare, suddenly turn around and project their goals onto this nebulous vacuum, only changing its name to “culture.”

But it follows that if there is no true objective society as its own entity, there is no objective culture as its own concept. Liana K distills culture as, I paraphrase, a collection of people’s wishes. At any given time any one person’s conception of “culture” is simply a conclusion from the perceived desires of all the people for which they care. If this weren’t true, there’d be no cults, no pop culture ‘gater’ movements, and no culture wars at all, because it would just be facts.

The problem so many in rational movements fall into, including whole institutions, is that when they place the success of their goals into the hands of this nebulous vacuum they become dependent on other people’s whims. For any reason whatsoever someone you hope might “see the light” can hinder your happiness and achievement. It makes you desperate for other’s approval, desperate for other’s ears and attention. It makes you end up on shitty YouTube shows as a side-show attraction for alt-right culture warriors and nobody takes you seriously.

It also causes you to concede and rely on idiots who like to use subterfuge and dishonest rhetorical tricks and devices to try to own (cause face it, you’re not ‘convincing’ anyone) other people as some resentful comeuppance in an effort to justify your efforts and beliefs. And there’s always an idiot willing to shill for you, or worse get you to shill for them. The misguided individual we’re focusing on today is Mr. Biddle, and his appreciation for the idiot Ben Shapiro whose seemingly only talent is ‘winning’ arguments.

Craig Biddle’s Appreciation Of Ben Shapiro

Craig writes that, as Shapiro alludes, trying to get people to use arguments that at face value seem incompatible with their intent is a useful tactic (known as The Shapiro Principle) because it’s a “step in the right direction”. That is, religionists (those who adhere to the tenets of any kind of religion; essentially faith-based thinkers) and secularists can form one semi-cohesive reason-based movement. What’s the point of this?

Well, many religionists allegedly value freedom (of course, usually only in-so-far as it supports what they do, otherwise, I’ve observed, they usually don’t give a fuck *cough* “gay” marriage *cough*) and many secularists value freedom, but if they work separately they are not as influential than if they could work together. However, faith-based arguments (God gave us freedom) aren’t compatible with secular-based arguments (we have freedom as a conclusion of our nature), and besides that, faith-based arguments are losing ground on the ideological battlefront.

After QAnon, Trump, essential oil hacks, and so many other people have really skewered and twisted “faith-based” anything into an incredibly hard to respect monstrous amalgamation of idiocy (not that it was far from it in the first place), many people just aren’t interested in hearing about it. The “culture” is drifting away from faith-based arguments in many ways because they’re frankly just not very useful. A reason-based argument, with facts, and other such things is much more appealing these days or at least, that’s the thought.

What could be useful though is the fervor, the loudness, and the large (but diminishing) influence religionists do have in the public sphere despite their shortcomings. If only there was a way we secularists could collectively tap into that. If only there was some way to get the religionists to act like us… if only there was some way to use the religionists and present some contradictory fake unified front hoping people won’t notice the inconsistencies. I mean, the President of the United States did it with great applause, so why not the rest of us?

Here is my reply to the article that I originally posted in the crevices of Facebook. It will help to probably read the original article(s) but it’s not essential. I argue that this “step” is not better than none, in fact, it’s worse.

The above article continues it’s proposal:

A few clarifying questions:

If the first step that a religious person must take in order to begin transitioning to a fully rational, fully secular worldview is to acknowledge that he should be able to support his beliefs with reason, evidence, and logic, then is it better for him to take that first step—or not to take it?

If a highly intelligent and extremely articulate religious person has gained great visibility and an enormous audience that deeply respects him, is it better for him to point out that religious people should be able to support their positions with secular arguments—or is it better for him to say, in effect, “Just stick with ‘I know because the Bible told me so’”?

If that same highly visible person does state the correct principle, and states it in concise and memorable terms, is it better to take advantage of this fact by prominently attaching his name to it—or is it better to say, in effect, “Whatever. That’s no big deal. Everyone knows you should argue strictly in secular terms. That’s old school . . .”?

If religionists do embrace the Shapiro Principle, will they in time be more likely to help establish a fully free, rights-respecting society—or less likely to do so?

In short, if you want religious people to move in the direction of embracing reason and freedom as matters of principle, is it better to acknowledge and encourage their steps in that direction—or is it better to ignore or mock such steps?

My thoughts exactly.

The Objective Standard

A Misguided And Dangerous Notion

[Mr. Biddle] (you) propose[s] that religionists and secularists alike can form a unified reason-based movement in support of freedom.

But they can’t, as anything that finds its foundation in the religion of the religionists is irrational, thus they can’t be reason-based. The idea is and has always been, to move people to abandon the faith-based concept and embrace the reason-based concept. Religionists, being religionists, by definition won’t do that (lest they not be religionists).

This idea of a “unified front” is contradictory and unachievable, and it [hinders] advocacy. “Religionists,” being those that are not just theists, but support a particular religion, are referred to as “religionists” because they are characterized in everything they say and do by their chosen religion. Just like you might be characterized as an Objectivist because everything you propose here is supposedly founded in Rand’s philosophy.

At first, this may seem like a “partisan” caveat; us versus them. I argue that this is a very important distinction because when many religionists talk about and argue for “freedom” on average they consistently (there are outliers) aren’t talking about the same freedom that the average “rationally selfish secularist” is talking about.

To a religionist, because of the nature of religion, freedom means the “freedom to act in God’s will,” whereas to a rational person it’s the freedom to act on our own will. This becomes very apparent when you somehow aren’t part of “God’s will” such as being homosexual, and many religionists who decry “freedom” promptly turn around and ban gay marriage. This is a demonstrable historical fact, one I do not wish to repeat.

I’m going to [assume] the questions in this post are rhetorical, and assume they have obvious answers (positions) we’re supposed to derive from them (hence the “My thoughts exactly,” at the end. You mostly only asked questions.)

If these ARE actual questions, then here are my answers:

As to the first position, I do not agree that the first step a religionist must take in order to begin “transitioning” to a fully rational worldview is to acknowledge that they should support their beliefs with reason, et al. This “step” is taken over and over again by [apologists] who like to play armchair logician with apologetics, but it never sways their foundation in religion.

The first step a religionist must take to move away from their worldview is to acknowledge that their worldview could actually be incorrect. Having to rely on, or couch arguments in, reason (et al) doesn’t automatically do this at all. Countless religionist evangelists try to use every underhanded (often fallacious) rhetorical trick in the book, some of which seem (or even are) logical, to gain converts because they can’t appeal to a belief people don’t have yet. But once those people concede, any logic is abandoned because, after all, it was a show.

Thus, I argue it is better for a religionist to have to acknowledge that they might be wrong by recognizing they can’t rely on logic because of their religion, rather than adopt logic as some pragmatic end to push one element of their agenda, “God given freedom.” (Which, as above translates to “freedom to act in God’s will.”)

It actually weakens the view that a religionist has of logic and reason if they believe they are able to wield it like some arbitrary tool to further whatever mystical agenda or goal has caught the eye of their whims and emotions. If they think that it’s just some throw away concept that can be bent to their own will, just gusts of philosophical air that sound persuasive, then there’s really no reason for them to suddenly consider it worth their time or respect. Why change your mind about reason and logic when obviously it can be used to say anything? If it can be used to argue anything, then, why should anyone believe the atheist, or Darwin, or science any more than the religionist?

The second position says it’s better for the famous and persuasive religionist (I don’t know about articulate) to point out that religious people should support their positions with secular arguments. I argue it is not, because it’s essentially teaching their adherents (to them and the religion) to couch and mask their agenda/argument in things that sound persuasive without revealing what they actually mean or [on what] they are based.

SOME who might think of themselves as religionists may advocate freedom as a secularist might mean it, and regard their choices as privately religious, in which case their argument is then genuinely secular anyway. Many religionists advocate their faith-based freedom (as it comes “from God”), and it’s plain to see their argument when the only context is where it came from.

Disingenuously change that context to something more persuasive, such as reason and logic like the apologists (since it doesn’t presuppose you have to already believe in a God) and it becomes insidious and two-faced. The result of this is a bunch of people who all “appear” to be advocating rational freedom, but only some of them really are. And those who aren’t can effectively “hide” behind those who are and their arguments until they decide they no longer need to when they have power.

This has historically played out many times, and in fact, it’s playing out right now with encouragement like this from you.

The third position I also find misleading and erroneous.

First, it assumes that Shapiro stated the correct principle, but he hasn’t. He’s stated that religionists should essentially present themselves as secularists even when the thing they’re fighting for isn’t secularist. If the freedom they are fighting for IS secularist, then the argument is consistent, but religionists by definition fundamentally aren’t secularists.

He’s saying we should all use reason and evidence to persuade each other, which is correct, but he’s also saying that when what we’re fighting for might not be based on reason we should use reason anyway (which you really can’t without lying.) THAT is the “Shapiro Principle” and it’s ugly. The idea we should use reason alone isn’t the “Shapiro Principle,” it’s old-school rhetorics. Conflating this different “Shapiro Principle” and old-school rhetorics is confusing and dangerous.

The fourth position implies that religionists haven’t embraced the “Shapiro Principle,” which for some is true, but many already have. Many politicians and advocates, particularly Republicans, argue for religionist-style freedom under the guise of secular arguments. Why do you think so many people don’t take these advocates seriously when they invoke Rand?

It’s not necessarily because the audience hates Rand, many times it’s because the audience knows the advocate is lying to them about what they actually believe. And they are lying to them!

You wonder if religionists will be more likely in time to help establish a fully free rights-respecting society, but we already have the answer in front of us ever since the Moral Majority took over the party known for individualism. The answer is as Rand predicted, chaos and hypocrisy: freedom touting religionists constantly turn around, once in power, and enact laws that limit freedom drastically (blasphemy laws, sexuality laws, marriage laws, first amendment issues, etc.) I know, I’ve had to suffer for a long time as a victim of this.

The fifth position assumes that religionists recognizing that they have to couch their arguments in reason and logic to be more persuasive means, as the first answer refutes, that they might think their worldview is wrong. No, it just means they are being that much more manipulative and dishonest. I for one do NOT want to encourage steps in that direction at all. I don’t want people saying what I’m saying if they don’t actually mean it, particularly if they’re already very influential, cause it’s not ACTUALLY what I’m saying. It is better to ignore them, and/or call them out for appropriating methods that aren’t true to their message or belief, such as I have done here.

It has been and will continue to be, the biggest detriment to the cause of all secularist freedom advocates if they continue to think they NEED or should align with irrational people, mystics, and their ilk, to pragmatically advance their agenda. It overshadows and taints everything they end up trying to do. It’s a bizarre narcissistic conceit this idea that we can “use” them to advance our ideas when we’re the minority, when in reality when they get into power (since they’re more influential) they usually turn on us as atheists. It’s suicidal and twisted to advocate that people should be intellectually dishonest simply to try to achieve a goal, when that dishonesty will never materialize the end result because, to paraphrase Rand, “no value can be predicated on a falsehood.”

This is the virtue of honesty and it’s a virtue you, and the ARI, and many other “change the culture” Objectivist advocates have turned their backs on (with posts like this) to try to pragmatically achieve this goal.

I will never “side” with irrationality simply because one day it might agree with me or sound like me. It’s irrationality, it does that sometimes because it’s random and makes no sense. Like a child babbling, a word may come out, but it does not have the same meaning as one who uses the same word to communicate.

Images Base On A Photo by Malcolm Lightbody From Unsplash

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