W.K. Clifford, mathematician, says:
It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything on insufficient evidence.
Every time we let ourselves believe for unworthy reasons, we weaken our powers of self-control, of doubting, of judicially and fairly weighing evidence. We all suffer severely enough from the maintenance and support of false beliefs and the fatally wrong actions which they lead to.... But a greater and wider evil arises when the credulous character is maintained and supported, when a habit of believing for unworthy reasons is fostered and made permanent.
T.H. Huxley, biologist and Darwin's Bulldog, says:
It is wrong for a man ["or woman," said in an Eric Idle voice] to say he is certain of the objective truth of any proposition unless he ["or she"] can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty.
Brand Blanchard, philosopher, says:
...that where great human goods and ills are involved, the distortion of belief from any sort of avoidable cause is immoral, and the more immoral, the greater the stakes.The reason for the position of these thinkers is this: Our actions are guided by our beliefs. If our beliefs are mistaken, our actions may be immoral.
What do you think? Is it reasonable to apply the word immoral to a person's beliefs? Or must we reserve that term for actions? Or can we call a person's beliefs immoral only if their resulting actions are immoral? I don't know what I think.
(Acknowledgements to T. Schick Jr. and L. Vaughn for posing this question and collecting these quotations in their book How To Think About Weird Things.)