Dangers behind Relativism
2. Relativism vs Pluralism
2.1.relativism- hidden dangers
2.4. tests for truth
2.1. dangers behind relativism.
Relativism- the trend that denies the existence of absolute truth, and consequently claims that all ideas/beliefs are equal and lead to the same results – is not just false since it refutes itself but also unintelligent, intolerant and dangerous.
In the real life struggle between right and wrong, justice and injustice, life and death, we all realize that truth does and always will matter. It also matters tremendously in the realm of beliefs and worldviews.
As Einstein himself insisted, moral relativism is not justified by his famous theory of relativity- a scientific theory that has its own constants. “Considering how irrational relativism is, the suggestion that Einstein kicked it off could be easily seen as a massive insult to his intelligence.”
Relativism- a way to avoid conflict?
If someone says “there is no truth”, ask that person “is it true what you say?”
Is there truth? Is it exclusive/absolute?
Truth as a category must exist even if some are denying its existence and truth must also afford the possibility of being known.
But there are a few postmodernist trends that stand firm as huge blocks in front of a real communication and exchange of ideas. One of them is that it is politically incorrect to justify your beliefs. People have heard it so many times that they don’t even dare to stand against this idea. Quite a very fine line, until you don’t have to justify your actions either, right? The sister trend generated from this -or the other way around- is the one enounced above that there is no absolute truth.
Nowadays there are people who believe there are no absolutes – no moral absolutes, no religious absolutes, no absolutes whatsoever. These people usually claim that all absolutists claims are arrogant, narrow-minded and unjust and should be condemned. Of course, when saying this, they totally disregard the fact that their own strong claim against absolutes is itself an absolutist claim – but this specific category of people doesn’t seem to care much about the inconsistency of its views.
In the past, people held to the idea that if 2 different views contradict one another, then one of them must be true and the other false (absolutism). In the 21st century nevertheless, “skepticism and cynicism have become the hallmarks of sophistication and the knowledge of who we are has been left to the domain of the ‘uneducated or unscientific – since they are the only ones “naïve” enough to believe that truth may be absolute.” (1)
This category of people usually responds by “who cares anyway?” or by “why one of us has to be right and the other wrong?” They are usually less interested whether their views are right or wrong, but rather seem to want to make sure that nobody attempts to point out whether they were right or not. At the first glance, this attitude may be confused with tolerance and niceness while in fact it is rather complacent in its ignorance, inconsistent with reality, but more than anything, dangerous.
The fact that, in our world, the search for truth is becoming, incredibly enough, „forbidden” is one of the most important, and by far, most disturbing obstacle to overcome in any human being quest of understanding the reality that surrounds us. This post modernist trend is called “relativism”.
As Dick Keyes observed in his article ‘Pluralism, Relativism, and Tolerance’, these three words defining our century are the source of spectacular confusion in the current times.
While both pluralism and tolerance are at the same time facts and necessities, “relativism seems to be a real opiate for the masses. From the start, it discourages any serious analysis, ideas comparison and discussion of the most important issues we face, and dampens the challenges of pluralism, making people literally ‚sleepwalk’ through the most important choices of their lives. Life’s most important questions are no longer significant, since they are matters not of truth, but only of private opinion and preference, and have no final consequence.” (Dick Keyes)
What you believe is true for you, what I believe is true for me, all truth is relative, your beliefs and my beliefs are equal. Since there are multiple descriptions of reality, no one view can be true in an ultimate sense. Relativism says that truth is rooted in the individual hearer/receiver/observer rather than the source/author/fact. It is subjective rather than objective. It says that truth is determined by whatever you want it to be, that all truths are the same, and all truths are equally valid.
It sounds tolerant, doesn’t it?
The great mistake here is in the unjustifiable leap from toleration of differing opinions (and a human right to hold such opinions) to the granting of equal veracity to contradictory truth claims. This confusion is simply devastating to any honest search for truth and therefore to any quest of individual-and global- meaning.
Relativism – open-minded?
Allen Wood, Stanford University, in his article “Relativism” said: “Relativism never declares any belief absolutely true or false; this may make us think that it is open-minded.
But to be open-minded is to be disposed to think that you are fallible, that you could be mistaken in what you believe (so that what you now think is absolutely true might on closer examination turn out to be absolutely false). This is a thought a relativist can never have, because relativists are convinced that at any time all their beliefs are necessarily true (for them). You show open-mindedness by leaving open the possibility of changing your beliefs (coming to disagree with what you used to believe) when you are given good reasons to. But relativists can never have any reason for changing their beliefs, since relativism says that at every point their beliefs are already true (for them).
In short, relativism implies that that the right attitude toward our beliefs is always one of total self-complacency.”
Relativism claims to be the opposite thing from authoritarianism, dogmatism, closed-mindedness and intolerance while, in fact, there are many reasons to declare it just another version of all the above things.
Finally from a strictly logical point of view the statement that all beliefs are equally true is irrational in its essence since it implies its own denial, i.e. it is also true that all beliefs cannot be true.
In the real life struggle between right and wrong, justice and injustice, life and death, we all realize that truth does and always will matter.
See continuation at truth is absolute and exclusive
(Sources: Wikipedia, Stanford University paper of Allen Wood, ‘Relativism’. (1) Reprinted by permission. ‘Can man live without God?’ by Ravi Zacharias. Thomas Nelson Inc. Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved.)
Moral relativism justified by Einstein’s relativity?
Moral relativism did not start with Einstein’s theories. According to historians it dates at least to the philosophers of ancient Greece like the sophist Protagoras who is known to have said “man is the measure of all things.” Throughout history the idea that right and wrong are just human conventions, has actually been supported by different philosophers. One who contributed majorly to the rise of relativism is Friedrich Nietzsche who in the 19th century proclaimed that God is dead and suggested that the new man/superman creates his own morality in the service of his own will. By contrast, Einstein insisted in infirming any connection between his theories and a certain system of morals. He actually believed in a god as well as in fixed notions of right and wrong.
Also from a strictly scientific point of view there are constants in Einstein’s theories like in any other science field.
David Greenberg associate professor of History and of Journalism & Media Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick said in one of his articles:
“More to the point, the nature of Einstein’s ideas—that space and time are relative concepts—aren’t applicable to everyday encounters. Einstein said that time and space were relative to the observer’s frame of reference. But all human beings share the same reference frame. So we go about our lives as if Newtonian laws pertained—which, for all intents and purposes, they do. Newtonian laws betray us only when we’re dealing with objects approaching the speed of light, something the average person rarely does.
The relativity-relativism connection rests on the belief that Einstein said that “everything is relative,” “there are no absolutes,” or something to that effect. But he didn’t. To the contrary, Einstein saw his achievement as restoring order to our understanding of the universe after 19th-century discoveries in electricity and magnetism introduced anomalies Newton’s laws couldn’t account for. Einstein devised new rules to explain the discrepancies.
These rules posited, among other things, that (as Alan J. Friedman and Carol C. Donley have put it) “measurements of time, space, and mass are relative to the individual observer’s time-space reference frame.” That’s the part everyone goes nuts about. But, Friedman and Donley go on to note, “nothing is subjective or uncertain about those measurements.” In other words, for everyone who shares a particular frame of reference the measurements are the same. What’s more, the object’s measurements in one frame of reference can be used reliably to predict those in another frame; the measurements vary from frame to frame, but they vary in accordance with fixed laws. The upshot: Einstein didn’t demolish the basis for certainty in knowledge; he restored it.
Einstein himself often insisted that his theories had no relevance for anything except science. He called the hullabaloo surrounding his findings “psychopathological,” and he disabused those who would misapply his ideas. Asked what effect his theory would have on religion, he said: ‘None. Relativity is a purely scientific matter and has nothing to do with religion.’
…Considering how irrational relativism is, the suggestion that Einstein kicked it off could be easily seen as a massive insult to his intelligence.”
Read more about Einstein’s theories of relativity being distorted here.
Relativism- a way to avoid conflict?
Despite the fact that it is deeply irrational in its essence and contradicted by every possible evidence out there, relativism still seems to be rising.
The reasons are many. Some people are becoming afraid to stand against it, as pointed out previously, others seem to adopt it simply because their beliefs lack authenticity and they are not ready to defend them either by indifference or ignorance. Another category of people seems to genuinely believe they need to adopt it as a way to avoid conflicts, a way of showing ‘tolerance’.
But in matters of worldviews, belief systems, the only necessary condition to avoid conflicts is that one has enough respect of others and of their universal rights to believe whatever they desire to.
Embracing relativism is not a way to avoid conflicts if one respects the other person’s free choice. Not sharing ideas and not investigating the truth behind worldviews on the other hand is far more dangerous at both individual and collective levels.
Religions -some more than others- may have brought many conflicts in the world but history shows that during the 20th century alone, secularist/atheist regimes are responsible for more killings than all the religious persecutions of human history. (See The Guinness Book of World Records, category “Judicial” subject “Crimes: Mass Killings”). Also basic education in history teaches that the contributions brought by religions- again, some more than others- stand at the basis of human rights as well as of civilization and progress in many parts of the world. With a few exceptions, religions advocate peace and stand against violence, so conflicts seem to be rather part of human nature in general as well as the results of a wide diversity of human beings daily choices.
Finally as explained above, embracing relativism is not a way to show tolerance either since real tolerance in its essence presupposes someone is right and someone is wrong, which is another argument that implicitly denies moral relativism.