Is Arrogance a Sufficient Test of Truth Claims?
by Ed LeBlanc
Is arrogance a sufficient test of a truth claim? In other words, can a claim of truth of a belief or a proposition be proven false if that claim is made in an arrogant fashion? I asked myself that question after watching a documentary on the making of the 1968 science fiction movie classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. In one of the interviews, an astronomer was talking about intelligent life on other planets. He believed that it would be pretty arrogant of human beings to believe that they are the only intelligent life in the universe. This was not the first time I have heard of this line of thinking in favour of extra-terrestrial intelligent life but I was suddenly struck by the word arrogant. I realized that his argument hung solely on this one word and it made me question if the test for arrogance has sufficient weight to evaluate truth claims made or perceived to be made in an arrogant fashion.
Few people appreciate arrogance in others. Arrogant people have a tendency to generate strong negative emotions in others who are around them. Truth claims can be made by anyone but if someone makes such a claim in an arrogant fashion, especially when they do so to make themselves appear superior or self-important, does that automatically make the claim false?
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In the case of human beings being the only intelligent life forms in the universe, such a claim is commonly seen as being self-centred. Astronomy has demonstrated that humans are but a small speck in the vastness of the cosmos however, until ET makes that long awaited call to Earth, it has yet to disprove that human intelligence or consciousness is unique in the universe.
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The Arrogance Principle, as I call it, is based on the belief that if a truth claim is made in arrogance or self-importance, that claim is false. The foundation of the Arrogance Principle is the Copernican Principle which demonstrated, through science and mathematics, that the sun does not revolve around the earth and that the earth and humans are not at the centre of the universe. The Copernican Principle has been extended to bolster the belief that humans are not alone in the universe. To claim otherwise would be a sign of self-centred arrogance. Thus self-importance becomes the central pillar of the Arrogance Principle.
It can be argued that the Copernican Principle disproved the arrogant view that the earth is the centre of the universe. However, the Copernican Principle proved this not by a test of arrogance but by observation. The presence or absence of arrogance had nothing to do with the veracity of the Copernican Principle. The Arrogance Principle, unlike its Copernican cousin, is not based on hard science. It has everything to do with emotion and perception. And as we shall see, emotion and perception are not reliable tools in the testing of truth claims…
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