Political Correctness and the Stifling of Debate over World Views

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No political correctness

One of the negative results of the tenured leftist radicals’ influence in academia has been political correctness–the aggressive advocacy of leftist ideology and the personal demeaning of those who disagree. Sometimes faculty members and students find that being demeaned by leftist professors and administrators is the least of their problem. I personally know two professors who were fired for attacking politically correct ideology. Both found other positions, one won a lawsuit against the school that fired him, but both are more hesitant to speak up against leftist positions, which is precisely what the radicals in academia want. At Vanderbilt University, Christian student groups are banned that do not allow those who disagree with the theological and moral teachings of traditional Christianity. This communicates the idea that traditional Christian views are not welcome in the public square of academia. When traditionalists are attacked, no rational arguments are given; rather, there are a plethora of personal attacks on those who oppose the leftist agenda, often vicious and using foul language. Such attacks are intentional and are an attempt to intimidate.

The most divisive moral issues in American society–the morality of procured abortion, active euthanasia, physician assisted suicide, the ethics of sexuality, including homosexuality, etc., are closely tied to specific world views. For example, the battle over the moral rightness of homosexuality is, to a significant extent, a battle between those who accept the malleability of human nature vs. those who believe in a stable human nature. This is not the only world view issue in this debate, but it is important, and a debate over different views on human nature and world views should be an important part of learning in academia. Instead, a new orthodoxy, more rigid than the most rabid of Christian fundamentalists, has invaded academia with speech codes, attacks on traditional Christians, dismissed students, fired faculty, and a shutting down of freedom of speech and free debate. Academia, the institution that should be at the heart of free debate that is essential for an educated human being, has become the New Inquisition, excommunicating all who disagree with a radical leftist agenda. Some schools have become more open since political correctness was identified, but traditionalists generally have a harder time in academia–that is bearable as long as open discussion of world view issues, including moral issues, is allowed to continue. Smaller schools that have not faced political correctness in the past, perhaps with some faculty and administrators falsely believing that they are being the wave of the future, may push for shutting down world view debates “to be like the bigger schools.” As radical faculty are hired who are loud, pushy, and intimidating, most faculty and administrators will give in to shut them up even if such cowardliness corrupts education. I have known liberal Democratic faculty who strongly oppose political correctness–hopefully the true liberals can join with conservatives in opening the university up to an open, frank discussion of world views. The faculty will learn more–and so will the students.

The Abuse of the Term “Hate”

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Logical Fallacies 1

Image by Mark Klotz via Flickr

As a long-time critic of brain death criteria and the current system of organ transplantation, I sometimes surf the web to check out discussion groups and blogs on these issues. On one blog, a woman wrote a message in the comments section concerning those who oppose organ transplantation: “How can anyone oppose organ transplantation? How can anyone be filled with so much hate?”

The woman’s reaction not only demonstrates a total lack of basic critical thinking skills, it also illustrates what happens when people follow the 1960s mantra, “The political is the personal.” Instead of arguing against her opponents, this woman accused them of being “haters.” That tactic is way too often used in debates over moral issues to avoid the difficult task of argumentation. Argumentation requires thinking, and thinking is hard work. It is easier to set one’s brain aside and appeal to emotion–saying that someone who disagrees with one’s own position is “full of hate” is an appeal to emotion and an abusive ad hominem fallacy.

Such individuals do not listen to claims by their opponents that their position is not a personal matter or that it was arrived at through reason. Debates from abortion to the moral acceptability of homosexual activity have been poisoned by the misuse of the word “hate.” But the supporters of abortion and of homosexuality (and other causes as well) who call their opponents haters are not interested in rational argument–they are interested in power. And if they take away any social capital from their opponents, they gain power at the expense of their opponents. Thus, an academic who opposes abortion, premarital sex, or homosexual practice will be labeled a hater, accused of holding “unacceptable positions,” and terminated, as happened with a professor in the University of Illinois system who presented in class a natural law argument against the morality of homosexual practice. He was later rehired after protests, but it shows the extent to which professors and college and university administrators have abandoned reason in favor of emotional screeds.

Anyone with a minimum of critical thinking skills realizes that just because someone disagrees with another person’s moral actions, this does not imply any hatred. I disagree with people who engage in premarital sex, but if I hated them I would have virtually no friends. I disagree sharply with abortion, but I do not hate women who have abortions. I feel anger toward doctors and nurses who participate in abortions but do not hate them. As for homosexuality, I disagree with people practicing it, but it no more implies that I hate them than my disagreement with premarital sex implies that I hate those who engage in that practice. Of course my opponents know this–they are not interested in honest debate. They are interested in silencing their opponents. The radical left has done well in accusing those who disagree with its agenda of reworking society in its image of being “haters” or “full of hate.” In that way, the radical left puts their opponents on the defensive and eventually silences them, by force (threatening their careers, for example) if they deem it necessary. This is dirty pool, and it is dishonest. When radical leftists accuse their opponents of hating, these radical leftists are liars–and most of them likely realize they are lying.

There are leftists, a few, who will present rational arguments for their positions and who will not stoop to the gutter tactics of hate accusations. I would hope that these honest leftists would encourage other leftists to take the high road in their arguments. And to the extent that conservatives attempt to emulate unfair tactics of the left, they should also be called to task, first of all by other conservatives. I fear that if public discourse does not get out of the gutter, then the culture war will be moving in a disturbing direction that society as a whole will end up regretting.