An Ambitious Fiction: We Hold These Truths …

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

More beautiful words were never written. But if the gentlemen who penned our Declaration of Independence intended that “We” to refer to the nascent America as a whole, rather than to themselves only, then it’s largely fiction.

I am agnostic and lacking in faith but, paradoxically, the only portion of that glorious sentence above that rings true to me is the “Creator” part. Because I do believe that, throughout human history, men have believed the reality of a creator to be self-evident. I think evolution has wired us that way, to seek an explanation for our existence and our purpose and, if necessary, to invent one.

But is man’s equality self-evident? Does anything about human history teach us that something in nature or nature’s God suggests to men that every other man is in any essential sense his equal? I don’t think so. I believe we are created equal, but I don’t believe that is self-evident.

I’m not talking here about the superficial inequalities of physiology and circumstance but rather of the equality the founders meant: equality of value and worth and, yes, of rights as a fellow human being. These are the aspects of equality that make our rights intrinsic and fundamental to, and inseverable from, each of us: that makes them, in a word, unalienable. That is the equality that has, for most of our history, been far from self-evident — that in fact is still not embraced by much of the world’s population.

This post was inspired by Stina’s post “Where Rights Originate,” which asks a deep, important, and ultimately unresolvable question. She inspired an interesting discussion, and you should go read it.

My purpose here is much more modest and practical. I want to make the simple point that, wherever rights come from, and regardless of what we believe about where rights come from, nothing that we cherish about our rights or our equality is really self-evident. Rather, it must be taught, and it must be taught early: The torch of freedom has to be passed on to each child long before he or she becomes an adult.

If we are going to restore our nation, we will have to reclaim our children. Home school, private schools, and church schools offer an alternative to public schools and their increasingly sinister and tyrannical administrations. But confronting the public schools is essential, which brings us back to the need to assert our right to free speech and free assembly.

The current efforts of the Brandon administration to silence parents, to caricature them as terrorists for challenging the authority of school boards, suggests that the public education establishment understands how unpopular its policies are and how vulnerable those policies are to pushback from outraged parents.

Push back. Keep pushing back. And make sure that your children are learning those truths that, unfortunately, aren’t really self-evident: that we’re all created equal, and that our rights are integral and essential — despite whatever they may be learning in school.

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    The reason I believe it is self-evident, is that Judaism teaches very early that we are all created in the image of G-d. I don’t think anyone intended to suggest that an infant would understand that without being taught; it would be self-evident to a sentient being, one who believes in G-d. And if you know that everyone is created in the image of G-d, that implies many things, at the very least those listed.

    • #1
  2. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    The reason I believe it is self-evident, is that Judaism teaches very early that we are all created in the image of G-d. I don’t think anyone intended to suggest that an infant would understand that without being taught; it would be self-evident to a sentient being, one who believes in G-d. And if you know that everyone is created in the image of G-d, that implies many things, at the very least those listed.

    Susan, I appreciate that thought. And I might agree that, to everyone raised with a real knowledge of the Judeo-Christian tradition and what it teaches, it might, with a bit of reflection, be self-evident.

    But it isn’t self-evident to those brought up in, say, the Islamic faith. Nor, more importantly, is it self-evident to those who swim in our Judeo-Christian-inspired culture but who haven’t been taught, explicitly, what that tradition implies or taken the time to ponder what that tradition actually teaches.

    We need look no further than our increasingly antithetical-to-freedom Christian denominations (or consider the voting patterns of America’s Jews) to realize that, even to the faithful, precious little is “self-evident.”

     

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    The reason I believe it is self-evident, is that Judaism teaches very early that we are all created in the image of G-d. I don’t think anyone intended to suggest that an infant would understand that without being taught; it would be self-evident to a sentient being, one who believes in G-d. And if you know that everyone is created in the image of G-d, that implies many things, at the very least those listed.

    Susan, I appreciate that thought. And I might agree that, to everyone raised with a real knowledge of the Judeo-Christian tradition and what it teaches, it might, with a bit of reflection, be self-evident.

    But it isn’t self-evident to those brought up in, say, the Islamic faith. Nor, more importantly, is it self-evident to those who swim in our Judeo-Christian-inspired culture but who haven’t been taught, explicitly, what that tradition implies or taken the time to ponder what that tradition actually teaches.

    We need look no further than our increasingly antithetical-to-freedom Christian denominations (or consider the voting patterns of America’s Jews) to realize that, even to the faithful, precious little is “self-evident.”

     

    But Hank, our founders wrote these words, at a time when Christianity was the dominant religion. They were reminding us that these beliefs, especially religious ones, were our heritage. They wanted us to acknowledge their truth back then, and could not have envisioned how they would be desecrated and rejected. Although Ben Franklin probably had an inkling.

    • #3
  4. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Hank, which Christian denominations do you perceive as being antithetical to freedom?  I can think of the folks at the Westboro Baptist Church, who I view as quite fringe, but I think that they’re a tiny group, and you may have something else in mind.

    • #4
  5. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    But Hank, our founders wrote these words, at a time when Christianity was the dominant religion. They were reminding us that these beliefs, especially religious ones, were our heritage. They wanted us to acknowledge their truth back then, and could not have envisioned how they would be desecrated and rejected. Although Ben Franklin probably had an inkling.

    Susan, I think the founders made it clear that they thought these self-evident truths had to be defended through a tight framework of Constitutional restrictions, lest people would either forget or ignore them and take away our rights. What I don’t think the founders could anticipate was the degree to which the nation would turn away from faith. I think they were skeptical about the politics, but probably not about the religion.

    The founders were declaring our independence from another government that was itself informed by the Judeo-Christian tradition. Did they pause to wonder why our inherent rights and equality weren’t self-evident to King George? I don’t know.

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Hank, which Christian denominations do you perceive as being antithetical to freedom? I can think of the folks at the Westboro Baptist Church, who I view as quite fringe, but I think that they’re a tiny group, and you may have something else in mind.

    Jerry, those that embrace social justice principles, so-called “reparations,” radical environmentalism, and sanctuary movements, for example. I wasn’t thinking of the despicable folk of Westboro Baptist, whom I think are simply hateful frauds and poseurs. I had more in mind the major denominations that increasingly align with the political left.

    Which reminds me how much I like Mormons. I know a lot of people in the Christian community have a problem with them, but I find the LDS’s blatantly pro-Constitutional conservatism refreshing. I would wish that more denominations followed suit, but then they would run afoul of John 18:36 even more than they do, and that would be a disappointment.

    • #5
  6. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    But don’t stop there. Keep going.

    That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

    Have we reached that point, too?

    • #6
  7. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    EJHill (View Comment):

    But don’t stop there. Keep going.

    That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

    Have we reached that point, too?

    You’re asking my opinion about whether or not we have reached the point where we should consider abolishing our government?

    No. Not even close.

    • #7
  8. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    The Imago Dei points to the self-evidential truth.

     

    • #8
  9. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Stina (View Comment):
    The Imago Dei points to the self-evidential truth.

    Thank you, Stina. I did watch it, and enjoyed it. It might be more persuasive to people of faith than it is to me.

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Susan, I think the founders made it clear that they thought these self-evident truths had to be defended through a tight framework of Constitutional restrictions, lest people would either forget or ignore them and take away our rights. What I don’t think the founders could anticipate was the degree to which the nation would turn away from faith. I think they were skeptical about the politics, but probably not about the religion.

    The founders were declaring our independence from another government that was itself informed by the Judeo-Christian tradition. Did they pause to wonder why our inherent rights and equality weren’t self-evident to King George? I don’t know.

    Great response, Hank. You’re right about our founders. And if King George had agreed with them, we probably wouldn’t have left England!

    • #10
  11. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):
    The Imago Dei points to the self-evidential truth.

    Thank you, Stina. I did watch it, and enjoyed it. It might be more persuasive to people of faith than it is to me.

    I don’t expect you to agree to it or to be converted by it, but all of that is evident in scripture. So assuming the Christian culture and foundation of the philosophies of the day, you can see how they would come to the conclusion of self-evident.

    I’m only trying to convince you of why they were self-evident.

    Just because King George was having a hissy fit doesn’t mean England wasn’t already on a trajectory to this. Most of Europe was, too. It took 200 years from the first peasant revolts in 1300-something to the reformation of the 16th century. It took an additional 200 years from then to the concepts put in our founding documents. Ideas moved slowly at that time. The speed of the last 100 years is an historical anomaly for ideas.

    The Christian foundations were at work in all that time.

    • #11
  12. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

     

    Henry Racette: I’m not talking here about the superficial inequalities of physiology and circumstance, but rather of the equality the founders meant: equality of value and worth and, yes, of rights, as a fellow human being. These are the aspects of equality that make our rights intrinsic and fundamental to, and un-severable from, each of us: that makes them, in a word, unalienable. That is the equality that has, for most of our history, been far from self-evident — that in fact is still not embraced by much of the world’s population.

    I strongly disagree with gist of  this statement. All over the world, in culture after culture, going back to tribes, the idea that human beings have rights.

    They just don’t agree who counts as a human being. 

    • #12
  13. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: I’m not talking here about the superficial inequalities of physiology and circumstance, but rather of the equality the founders meant: equality of value and worth and, yes, of rights, as a fellow human being. These are the aspects of equality that make our rights intrinsic and fundamental to, and un-severable from, each of us: that makes them, in a word, unalienable. That is the equality that has, for most of our history, been far from self-evident — that in fact is still not embraced by much of the world’s population.

    I strongly disagree with gist of this statement. All over the world, in culture after culture, going back to tribes, the idea that human beings have rights.

    They just don’t agree who counts as a human being.

    Bryan, I know people talk that way — about some people being human and others not — but I don’t think it’s really the case that they believe it. If anything in life is really self-evident, it is that humans are humans, regardless of color or ethnicity. I think it’s just expedient sometimes to pretend otherwise, when trying to justify enslaving people, exterminating Jews, etc.

    • #13
  14. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

     

    Henry Racette: I’m not talking here about the superficial inequalities of physiology and circumstance, but rather of the equality the founders meant: equality of value and worth and, yes, of rights, as a fellow human being. These are the aspects of equality that make our rights intrinsic and fundamental to, and un-severable from, each of us: that makes them, in a word, unalienable. That is the equality that has, for most of our history, been far from self-evident — that in fact is still not embraced by much of the world’s population.

    I strongly disagree with gist of this statement. All over the world, in culture after culture, going back to tribes, the idea that human beings have rights.

    They just don’t agree who counts as a human being.

    Our tribe has rights. Particularly the rich males. Other people outside our tribe don’t really count.

    • #14
  15. D.A. Venters Member
    D.A. Venters
    @DAVenters

    Thought provoking post, which I really enjoyed. I can’t say I have any great authority for this (appropriately enough) but I think “self-evident” as used here doesn’t necessarily mean “obvious to everyone,” but rather something that a properly morally trained and conditioned mind can, and should, accept as true without evidence.  Or something like that. So, it’s perfectly possible for smart well-meaning people to disagree, but if they were to gain the right perspective or attitude, this truth would be evident without the need for ordinary logical proof.  I’m not putting this idea into words very well, but it’s something like that.

    • #15
  16. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    D.A. Venters (View Comment):

    Thought provoking post, which I really enjoyed. I can’t say I have any great authority for this (appropriately enough) but I think “self-evident” as used here doesn’t necessarily mean “obvious to everyone,” but rather something that a properly morally trained and conditioned mind can, and should, accept as true without evidence. Or something like that. So, it’s perfectly possible for smart well-meaning people to disagree, but if they were to gain the right perspective or attitude, this truth would be evident without the need for ordinary logical proof. I’m not putting this idea into words very well, but it’s something like that.

    That seems like an entirely plausible interpretation. I have no idea if it’s true; I’d like to think that smart, well-meaning people with more than a little perspective on humanity would reach liberal principles similar to those of our founders. I kind of think they might. I just don’t know, and I can’t imagine any experiment that would allow us to find out.

    As I think is probably obvious, I was really just using the Declaration of Independence as a rhetorical jumping off point for making the case that we need to teach our children, most of whom may be smart and well-meaning but none of whom have much of a perspective on humanity.

    • #16
  17. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    My own impression, from the study of history, is that the United States was something quite new.  The truths that were declared to be self-evident by our Founders don’t seem to have been recognized or adopted elsewhere.  This leads me to agree with Hank that they are not self-evident in the sense of being obvious to everyone.

    If you study history, I think that there’s a better argument that the divine right of kings is self-evident.  That’s how things operated in most places and times, at least since people began organizing at levels larger than small tribes.

    There are some partial exceptions to this.  Ancient Greece had democracy, though with slavery, and though it didn’t last.  Ancient Rome had a representative republic, though with both slavery and significant class inequality in representation, and this, too, didn’t last.

    Prior to our Revolution, there were movements toward the American model in the Dutch Republic, and in England’s Glorious Revolution.

    • #17
  18. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I had more in mind the major denominations that increasingly align with the political left.

    Many or most of the “mainline denominations” have walked away from the absolutely essential doctrine, the inerrancy of Scripture.  They seem to be vying for the job of official state religion.  Doing so moves formerly Christian denominations into the realm of heresy.  I have many, good, solid Christians in some of these denominations, still there for a host of reasons, but in spite of the drift of their national bodies.  But many are indeed moving to solidly “conservative” denominations and congregations.  

    Many people declare themselves to be Christians, but they aren’t.  Upon questioning, one quickly discovers that they don’t really know what that means.  

    • #18
  19. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    Bryan, I know people talk that way — about some people being human and others not …

    From what I have read it seems that nearly every Indian tribe on this continent referred to themselves as “the people” and reserved that appellation for members of the tribe. It also tends to explain their treatment of captives.

    • #19
  20. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Quietpi (View Comment):
    Many or most of the “mainline denominations” have walked away from the absolutely essential doctrine, the inerrancy of Scripture.

    I’ll resist responding because (1) it’s kind of off-topic and (2) I’m an agnostic and so don’t really have a dog in this fight.

    Oh, shoot.

    I don’t think that the inerrancy of scripture is the “essential doctrine” of Christianity. I think that acceptance of Jesus Christ (“No one comes to the Father except through me.”) would be the essential doctrine, were one to pick just one. I don’t think inerrancy even makes the list — and even if I were a believer I think I’d find inerrancy a tough pill to swallow, given the conflicting Biblical source documents available.

    I know that Catholicism and some (primary American) Protestant denominations lean heavily into this doctrine, but I’ve never thought it had a sound basis in Biblical scholarship. It’s kind of like Reform doctrine to me, one of those things that some groups embrace but that seems to me to be reading too much into the texts. (Full disclosure: I think Trinitarianism is similarly tenuous, scripturally speaking. But that’s a much more tendentious subject.)

    • #20
  21. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Quietpi (View Comment):
    Many or most of the “mainline denominations” have walked away from the absolutely essential doctrine, the inerrancy of Scripture.

    I’ll resist responding because (1) it’s kind of off-topic and (2) I’m an agnostic and so don’t really have a dog in this fight.

    Oh, shoot.

    I don’t think that the inerrancy of scripture is the “essential doctrine” of Christianity. I think that acceptance of Jesus Christ (“No one comes to the Father except through me.”) would be the essential doctrine, were one to pick just one. I don’t think inerrancy even makes the list — and even if I were a believer I think I’d find inerrancy a tough pill to swallow, given the conflicting Biblical source documents available.

    I know that Catholicism and some (primary American) Protestant denominations lean heavily into this doctrine, but I’ve never thought it had a sound basis in Biblical scholarship. It’s kind of like Reform doctrine to me, one of those things that some groups embrace but that seems to me to be reading too much into the texts. (Full disclosure: I think Trinitarianism is similarly tenuous, scripturally speaking. But that’s a much more tendentious subject.)

    I worry that this one may be a rabbit-hole.  Sorry, I sort of started it with my #4 above.

    Everybody can do what they want, as always, but my suggestion is that we stick to Hank’s original points.  A discussion on inerrancy would be fun, in my view, but maybe it would be better on a new thread.

    That last sentence does make me realize that I have a strange sense of fun.  :)

    • #21
  22. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Agreed it’s not self-evident. Even Locke, the source of these ideas, said nothing of the sort, and gave reasons for them.

    I do wonder, though, if by “self-evident” they just meant that these were the first principles of government, the foundational principles.

    • #22
  23. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Agreed it’s not self-evident. Even Locke, the source of these ideas, said nothing of the sort, and gave reasons for them.

    I do wonder, though, if by “self-evident” they just meant that these were the first principles of government, the foundational principles.

    I said this at Stina’s great thread, too, but I think that the phrasing of the sentence strongly supports the interpretation that it was a statement of axioms, not an assertion of fact.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident . . .”

    • #23
  24. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Quietpi (View Comment):
    Many or most of the “mainline denominations” have walked away from the absolutely essential doctrine, the inerrancy of Scripture.

    I’ll resist responding because (1) it’s kind of off-topic and (2) I’m an agnostic and so don’t really have a dog in this fight.

    Oh, shoot.

    I don’t think that the inerrancy of scripture is the “essential doctrine” of Christianity. I think that acceptance of Jesus Christ (“No one comes to the Father except through me.”) would be the essential doctrine, were one to pick just one. I don’t think inerrancy even makes the list — and even if I were a believer I think I’d find inerrancy a tough pill to swallow, given the conflicting Biblical source documents available.

    I know that Catholicism and some (primary American) Protestant denominations lean heavily into this doctrine, but I’ve never thought it had a sound basis in Biblical scholarship. It’s kind of like Reform doctrine to me, one of those things that some groups embrace but that seems to me to be reading too much into the texts. (Full disclosure: I think Trinitarianism is similarly tenuous, scripturally speaking. But that’s a much more tendentious subject.)

    I worry that this one may be a rabbit-hole. Sorry, I sort of started it with my #4 above.

    Everybody can do what they want, as always, but my suggestion is that we stick to Hank’s original points. A discussion on inerrancy would be fun, in my view, but maybe it would be better on a new thread.

    That last sentence does make me realize that I have a strange sense of fun. :)

    For better or worse, I share your sense of fun — at least in this regard. 

    • #24
  25. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Headedwest (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    Bryan, I know people talk that way — about some people being human and others not …

    From what I have read it seems that nearly every Indian tribe on this continent referred to themselves as “the people” and reserved that appellation for members of the tribe. It also tends to explain their treatment of captives.

    Same in Africa.

    • #25
  26. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: I’m not talking here about the superficial inequalities of physiology and circumstance, but rather of the equality the founders meant: equality of value and worth and, yes, of rights, as a fellow human being. These are the aspects of equality that make our rights intrinsic and fundamental to, and un-severable from, each of us: that makes them, in a word, unalienable. That is the equality that has, for most of our history, been far from self-evident — that in fact is still not embraced by much of the world’s population.

    I strongly disagree with gist of this statement. All over the world, in culture after culture, going back to tribes, the idea that human beings have rights.

    They just don’t agree who counts as a human being.

    Bryan, I know people talk that way — about some people being human and others not — but I don’t think it’s really the case that they believe it. If anything in life is really self-evident, it is that humans are humans, regardless of color or ethnicity. I think it’s just expedient sometimes to pretend otherwise, when trying to justify enslaving people, exterminating Jews, etc.

    Henry, you have said in the pasty your understanding of history is not what you wish it was. I imagine this applies to psychology too. 

    The reality of tribes is that other tribes are the other. Many ancient languages use words that imply or outright say that people of other tribes are less than human. It may be totally alien to you, but trust me, this is the reality. What you call “pretend” is reality to the people who believe it in every way that is important. In fact, putting other homo sapiens into a non-human category often makes them even different than animals, worse. 

    • #26
  27. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: I’m not talking here about the superficial inequalities of physiology and circumstance, but rather of the equality the founders meant: equality of value and worth and, yes, of rights, as a fellow human being. These are the aspects of equality that make our rights intrinsic and fundamental to, and un-severable from, each of us: that makes them, in a word, unalienable. That is the equality that has, for most of our history, been far from self-evident — that in fact is still not embraced by much of the world’s population.

    I strongly disagree with gist of this statement. All over the world, in culture after culture, going back to tribes, the idea that human beings have rights.

    They just don’t agree who counts as a human being.

    Bryan, I know people talk that way — about some people being human and others not — but I don’t think it’s really the case that they believe it. If anything in life is really self-evident, it is that humans are humans, regardless of color or ethnicity. I think it’s just expedient sometimes to pretend otherwise, when trying to justify enslaving people, exterminating Jews, etc.

    Henry, you have said in the pasty your understanding of history is not what you wish it was. I imagine this applies to psychology too.

    The reality of tribes is that other tribes are the other. Many ancient languages use words that imply or outright say that people of other tribes are less than human. It may be totally alien to you, but trust me, this is the reality. What you call “pretend” is reality to the people who believe it in every way that is important. In fact, putting other homo sapiens into a non-human category often makes them even different than animals, worse.

    Bryan, you could be right. But I’ll stand by my previous comment, because I do think it’s closer to the truth. 

    • #27
  28. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: I’m not talking here about the superficial inequalities of physiology and circumstance, but rather of the equality the founders meant: equality of value and worth and, yes, of rights, as a fellow human being. These are the aspects of equality that make our rights intrinsic and fundamental to, and un-severable from, each of us: that makes them, in a word, unalienable. That is the equality that has, for most of our history, been far from self-evident — that in fact is still not embraced by much of the world’s population.

    I strongly disagree with gist of this statement. All over the world, in culture after culture, going back to tribes, the idea that human beings have rights.

    They just don’t agree who counts as a human being.

    Bryan, I know people talk that way — about some people being human and others not — but I don’t think it’s really the case that they believe it. If anything in life is really self-evident, it is that humans are humans, regardless of color or ethnicity. I think it’s just expedient sometimes to pretend otherwise, when trying to justify enslaving people, exterminating Jews, etc.

    Henry, you have said in the pasty your understanding of history is not what you wish it was. I imagine this applies to psychology too.

    The reality of tribes is that other tribes are the other. Many ancient languages use words that imply or outright say that people of other tribes are less than human. It may be totally alien to you, but trust me, this is the reality. What you call “pretend” is reality to the people who believe it in every way that is important. In fact, putting other homo sapiens into a non-human category often makes them even different than animals, worse.

    Bryan, you could be right. But I’ll stand by my previous comment, because I do think it’s closer to the truth.

    You might want it to be true, but it is not, based on studies of people throughout time. This is actually something I have some training in. 

    So we will have to agree to disagree. Your truth vs. my scientific training

    • #28
  29. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    I truly respect and appreciate the inputs, interpretations, history and analysis. Wonderful discussion. This why I might renew my Rico membership… Keep it up! You might get me for another year. 

    • #29
  30. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: I’m not talking here about the superficial inequalities of physiology and circumstance, but rather of the equality the founders meant: equality of value and worth and, yes, of rights, as a fellow human being. These are the aspects of equality that make our rights intrinsic and fundamental to, and un-severable from, each of us: that makes them, in a word, unalienable. That is the equality that has, for most of our history, been far from self-evident — that in fact is still not embraced by much of the world’s population.

    I strongly disagree with gist of this statement. All over the world, in culture after culture, going back to tribes, the idea that human beings have rights.

    They just don’t agree who counts as a human being.

    Bryan, I know people talk that way — about some people being human and others not — but I don’t think it’s really the case that they believe it. If anything in life is really self-evident, it is that humans are humans, regardless of color or ethnicity. I think it’s just expedient sometimes to pretend otherwise, when trying to justify enslaving people, exterminating Jews, etc.

    Henry, you have said in the pasty your understanding of history is not what you wish it was. I imagine this applies to psychology too.

    The reality of tribes is that other tribes are the other. Many ancient languages use words that imply or outright say that people of other tribes are less than human. It may be totally alien to you, but trust me, this is the reality. What you call “pretend” is reality to the people who believe it in every way that is important. In fact, putting other homo sapiens into a non-human category often makes them even different than animals, worse.

    Bryan, you could be right. But I’ll stand by my previous comment, because I do think it’s closer to the truth.

    You might want it to be true, but it is not, based on studies of people throughout time. This is actually something I have some training in.

    So we will have to agree to disagree. Your truth vs. my scientific training

    Bryan, there’s a difference between the language people use and what they actually believe. We can study the language. It’s harder to know what they believe. 

    I suspect that if we analyze the way they treat people versus the way they treat every other living thing, we will discover that they treat even people they say are not people as if they were people – albeit sometimes in a cruel way. And I think we will find that they treat no other animal the way they do people, in numerous important respects.

    • #30