Why we must unconditionally protect freedom of speech

Is a cartoon worth a human life? At first glance you would say no. However, appearances are deceptive here: not only our freedom, but also the survival of the human species benefits from integrity in thinking, and in this respect from absolute freedom of expression.

Humans and humanity as information processors
Evolution is basically information processing. Evolution is the product of the confrontation of our genotype (the DNA blueprint in our genes) and the resulting phenotype (our bodies) with the natural environment (including other organisms). In billions of years of evolution, the genotype of our species has expanded and adapted until we have grown from two single strands of bacterial and archaeal DNA housed in a simple cell into a complex multicellular organism capable of solving the mysteries of life. to unravel space and time.

This process took place only through the endless exposure of our genome to ever-changing challenges. Our ancestors have survived global disasters such as a catastrophic asteroid impact, a gamma-ray burst, and what may have been a massive volcano eruption. Each disaster has usually selected the toughest survivors. The catastrophic disaster at the end of the Permian 252 million years ago, with more than ninety percent of the species on Earth perishing, paved the way for the ancestor of the dinosaurs (and thus birds), the Chicxulub weft for groups of mammals including the primates, our group.

Some subtler cartoons by Charlie Hebdo wittily portray the supposed inventor of Islam, the merchant Muhammad ibn Abdullah. Source / Copyright: Charlie Hebdo Magazine

Technical and cultural evolution
Economic, social and cultural competition is subject to similar evolutionary pressures. The “DNA” of a bicycle, for example, is the CAD construction drawings, specifications and assembly manuals of the various parts and the entire construction, and the mental blueprint in the brains of bicycle repairers, where the phenotype is the bicycle itself. A beautiful, strong and pleasantly driving bicycle is sold more often, so that the manufacturer can further develop the bicycle and other bicycle manufacturers take over elements. The same mechanism also occurs with cultural elements such as language, ideologies and religion. A religion that is more successful at converting people and preserving the faith is ahead of those that discourage or prohibit conversion, or have too weak a grip on the minds of their adherents. religions, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, succeed best in this.

Why Do Religions Exist?
Religions stem from the same urge that led to the emergence of science: the need to understand the world around us and the meaning of our existence. Religion arises from the physical and metaphysical ideas of the time when religion originated. These ideas are framed, usually by a founder (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism) or group of founders (Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism) and institutionalized in subsequent years as a result of confrontation with other religions and philosophies. The canon (collection of sacred writings) is established and classes of institutionalized bearers of knowledge of the religion emerge, such as monks, gurus, priests, theologians and ulema. This gives religions an additional evolutionary advantage: full-time professionals whose existence depends on the presence of large numbers of believers who give their tithes. These professionals are constantly inventing new ways to bring in believers, maintain their faith, and prevent apostasy. This explains the caste system among Hindus, the emphasis on repentance as the only way to save people from hell among Christians, and the draconian punishments of Muslims leaving Islam.

Do Religions Have Value?
Religions frame ideas and hinder scientific and metaphysical thinking. In principle, religions thus have a negative influence on human survival. Elements of religions can be exceptionally useful. Think of the protection of the family, interpersonal ethics, the stimulation of abstract thinking and the provision of a metaphysical reality that creates a distance from the observable reality and thus stretches the world of thought.
The over-representation of Jews and, to a lesser extent, Christians among scientific pioneers suggests that these religions contain elements that promote the development of theory, induction and critical scientific thinking. While primitive Judaism is very similar to current Islam, later rabbinical Judaism has a more playful, more equal relationship with the supreme god. Also “lernen”, the emphasis on learning, is very important in contemporary Judaism. As far as scientific knowledge is concerned, this is of course very useful in scientific practice. This also applies to Christianity, which focuses more on the esoteric domain and thus (after the devastating defeats suffered by the Catholic Church against Galileo and the Copernicists, and the Protestant heretics) opposed natural science much less and in some cases even promoted. In short: religions can still have a positive value on balance, depending on the ideas they contain. However, this is more the exception than the rule. This also explains why in distinctly atheistic countries like both China's, the Czech Republic and Japan, the practice of science and technology is at a higher level.

Freedom of speech is higher than religious dogma
The essence of evolution is information processing. Our technical and cultural evolution is in fact an extension and a logical continuation of biological evolution. To give up freedom of speech because a mythical supreme being, or a legendary founder, of a religion might be offended is to halt the evolution of human thought and culture. If a religion is unable to refute ridicule or criticism, then this religion loses out in the war of ideas. Just as it is not permitted in the Netherlands or Belgium to extort consumers, it must also not be permitted to make religious criticism impossible with improper methods. If a religion like Islam is unable to survive without intimidating its critics with murder and manslaughter, then this religion must disappear from the face of the earth for good. Anyone calling to kill critics in order to silence them is an obstacle to the evolution of humanity. They are principals of murder and therefore guilty of murder. They should be treated like terrorists. Humanity is better off without them.

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