Saturday, April 16, 2016

Even treating some issues as debatable is considered offensive by some

Here's a report from a cancelled debate from last February sponsored by the Oregon State Socratic Club:

We are sorry to have to inform you that the debate on Thursday, February 25th on the topic "Is Gender a Choice?" has been canceled. Our debaters were informed that some students on campus are offended by the topic of the debate and may plan to protest the event as transphobic, despite the fact that we had both sides fully represented. Because of this one of our speakers did not feel comfortable proceeding with the event. We are disappointed, but understand.
We hope you'll keep up to date with us as we continue onward.

The idea seems to be that the mere presentation of both sides of some issues is considered offensive.

39 comments:

Ilíon said...

Have you not been paying attention?

Victor Reppert said...

I have seen this before. In fact I had a student last semester who objected to a two-sided discussion of same-sex marriage.

Angra Mainyu said...

Victor,

I know that obviousness is in the mind of the judge (since different people have access to different pieces of information), but you're stating the obvious.
You don't need examples from the Oregon State Socratic Club to realize that even treating some issues as debatable is considered offensive by some.
Purely for example, have you tried to even ask about anything gender-related on the internet, without explicitly endorsing a view that is overwhelmingly prevalent in whatever venue you're posting?
If you haven't, I would suggest that you try, and you will be swiftly and strongly condemned, while your words are grossly misrepresented, and further you're attributed many beliefs and intentions you do not have.
Side note: if any of the readers suspects that's a trait displayed by leftists or mainly, I'd suggest going to some venues dominated by other ideologies/religions, and see how some people react to some suggestions of debate, questions, etc. - or just see how dominant religions/ideologies, governments, etc. have historically reacted to criticism.
It seems to be a rather common feature of human group behavior.

Cal Metzger said...

Just to play Devil's advocate here, don't many apologists consider it offensive, for instance, that the topic of whether or not indoctrinating children in a religion could be considered a form of child abuse? Would that be a regular debate apologists would like to see held on campuses?

Debates aren't really deliberative or conduce to careful consideration. They're more like a sports spectacle, with each side showing up to cheer on their group's champion.

The choice to consider a topic as one that should be publicly debated isn't just a matter of saying that the topic should be considered, it's also a way of saying that the kind of emotions and prejudices that support some of our beliefs should be pumped up and given full weight regarding the issue at hand.

And that's why I think staged debates are kind of stupid.

Victor Reppert said...

Introducing the topic of whether indoctrinating children is a form of child abuse is not offensive. It is an absurd assertion that has been refuted over and over by sociological evidence. That assumes that taking a child to church and, say, having them baptized or dedicated is indoctrination, which I maintain it is not.

In our culture, we have a phase of life called adolescence. Kids don't just absorb their parents' beliefs, they naturally challenge them as they grow up, in one way or another.

B. Prokop said...

Unfortunately, Victor, what you report here is no surprise to me. Our youth have lost all interest in Free Speech, and even in Free Thought. And since they were raised by our generation, we have only ourselves to blame.

John Moore said...

Some fair and balanced discussions can't be tolerated, depending on the circumstances, because the very fact of holding the discussion gives too much legitimacy to one side. For example, would you like to have a fair and balanced discussion about whether the Nazi holocaust happened? Would you like to see Buzz Aldrin in a calm, rational debate with somebody who denies we ever went to the moon? See, some debates are well and truly over, and it's not constructive to pretend they aren't. That just gives too much publicity and implied respect to the crazy people out there.

Having said that, I want to make two important points: (1) I don't think the issues surrounding gay rights are in that category (yet) where it's wrong to hold a public discussion about them, and (2) I do think it's always good to consider the facts on both sides of every argument - just not in a public event on-stage with an audience and all. If you want to persuade me that the moon-landings never happened, I'll listen for a while - just not in public in a respectable academic setting or anything like that.

B. Prokop said...

John,

If the price for Free Speech and Free Thought is that some people will defend Holocaust denial and Moon landing conspiracy theories, then I'll gladly hear them out (and then demolish their beliefs in fair and open debate).

"too much publicity and implied respect to the crazy people out there"

And I'll put up with the "crazies" lest I run the risk of having that label attached to my own beliefs. Under Stalin in the Soviet Union, dissenters were labeled "Enemies of the People" and executed. But under Brezhnev, they were merely labeled "crazy" and locked up for psychiatric treatment (a.k.a., "imprisoned").

Declaring any debate to be "well and truly over" gives the state (or at least, society) the power to coerce "correct" thinking. I've read news articles of how people are already being sentenced to mandatory "sensitivity training" in court. That's not just a slippery slope - it's a cliff.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Legion of Logic said...

That's sort of like how apparently a growing number of individuals, the latest being Bill Nye, support throwing "climate deniers" in jail. Even ignoring how atrocious this would be from a constitutional perspective, the damage it would do to science would be massive. Once scientists declare something, the government can toss you in jail for disagreeing? No more studies challenging current scientific thought?

No, there can't ever be subjects that "can't be debated". Political, religious, or scientific.

Ilíon said...

"Declaring any debate to be "well and truly over" gives the state (or at least, society) the power to coerce "correct" thinking."

But, in truth, there are no such entitis as "society" or even "the state/government"; that is, these terms refer to reifications, they refer to fictional persons. Neither "society" nor "the state/government" says or does *anything* without an actual person (or group of persons) deciding-and-decreeing that thus-and-such is what shall be said.

What really happens when someone is able to declare -- and enforce the declaration -- that "any debate to be "well and truly over"" is that a number of actual persons, to wit: those declaring and enforcing the declaration, are seeking to compell others to silence. And, human nature being what it is, they will use murder if that is what it takes to silence dissent ... especially when it is "the state/government" which is "speaking".

Ilíon said...

Do you all recall the freaking-out that most of you did after Sam Harris came out with the statement that some beliefs are so pernicious that merely holding those beliefs is sufficient grounds for putting one to death?

Well, it turns out that some of you agree with that -- for, after all, the "this cannot be debated / you must be silenced" SJW mindset is just the smiley-face version of the above.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "No, there can't ever be subjects that "can't be debated". Political, religious, or scientific."

What is going on this week? Third time we agree? Bizzaro world.

Aron Zavaro said...

While I don't think that mere debate is ever offensive, it can be dangerous. Often times, entertaining debate on clearly incorrect topics can give less informed people the impression that experts are evenly split on the topic and give rise to widespread ignorance. I'm thinking of cases like the media giving so much air time for people to debate whether vaccines cause autism and other conspiracy theories. In these cases it might be better to just ignore them, rather than entertain debate, and let's them wear themselves out. Entertaining the debate would be irresponsible and even dangerous. You might even argue that there is a moral obligation not to introduce the topic up for debate.

Legion of Logic said...

"What is going on this week? Third time we agree? Bizzaro world."

If it happens again, clearly one of our profiles was hijacked.

B. Prokop said...

"clearly incorrect topics"

Who decides what goes in this category?

I actually agree with you about ignoring specific people (and ideas). I do that myself on this website. There are some contributors here to whom I simply don't respond. But suppression? Never.

(That said, Victor "owns" this forum, and if he ever decides to ban somebody or to delete a specific comment, he is totally within his rights - just as a newspaper is not obligated to print every letter it gets. We all have the ability to open up our own online forum if we wish, so no one is being censored.)

planks length said...

Thanks to the bullying tactics of the ABCDEFG (or whatever letters are "in" nowadays) activists, a woman who is uncomfortable because a male is using her restroom is labeled a bigot, whilst a male who is told he must use the men's room says his rights are being violated and his feelings are being hurt!

So whose ideas are "crazy" now?

Jim S. said...

I think Hilary Putnam (RIP) wrote somewhere: It's not obvious what's obvious.

Victor Reppert said...

I still think we have to err on the side of debatability. The idea that certain topics are so "incorrect" that they can't be discussed, or that we shouldn't give certain viewpoints respectability by debating them is too easy of a way for intellectual "establishment" positions to control discussion.

Ilíon said...

"Thanks to the bullying tactics of the ABCDEFG (or whatever letters are "in" nowadays) activists ..."

Call 'em "QWERTY"

Someone who is an "activist" is generally a leftist, and almost always a troublemaker.

Ilíon said...

Yes, there is a vast difference between ignoring viewpoints and suppressing them.

Legion of Logic said...

In the case of gender dysphoria, I think most people can ignore the screaming left and their cries of bigotry. If someone says that Caitlyn Jenner is in fact a man who physically altered himself to resemble a woman because he is suffering from gender dysphoria, and not a woman like my mother is, I'm pretty sure the majority of people would be sympathetic to the first view.

Biggest problem is that the government decided to hop in and just declare, as settled fact backed by legal punitive authority, that Jenner is a woman like my mother, and not a man who physically altered himself to resemble a woman because he is suffering from gender dysphoria. The left in this case is acting like gender dysphoria is a settled subject and that to require one with male plumbing to use a male restroom is somehow the most heinous of beliefs. It's one thing to ignore a viewpoint, as I would on those who say there's no difference between Jenner and my mother. It's another problem entirely when the government declares for one side and then enforces it.

John Moore said...

It's not that certain topics can't be discussed at all, but my point was about how and where topics are discussed. The venue and the trappings.

Some people jumped to the conclusion that refusal to debate in public leads to imprisoning people for holding certain beliefs. There's no logical connection here. Just because I don't invite Ken Ham to lecture at Harvard, that doesn't even suggest I want Ken Ham imprisoned.

Some people jumped to the conclusion that the state must be the one to declare certain debates are over, but where did you get that idea? I think only individual people can decide which topics are settled, and only insofar as they decide not to talk about such things themselves in public.

It's true that science is a community effort, and certain community standards can be oppressive sometimes. On the other hand, anybody who brings up new ideas that haven't been debunked before is welcomed to the discussion. The people who get ignored and have their proposals turned down are mostly those who keep bringing up old ideas. Science makes progress only insofar as it leaves debunked ideas behind and focuses on new ideas.

John Moore said...

It's like different leagues in sports. You wouldn't let third graders play in the NBA, right? And that's not to imply that third graders shouldn't play basketball at all, but it's just a question of where and with whom the third graders should play. In any case, you certainly wouldn't want to punish third graders for playing basketball. That's absurd.

Ken Ham lecturing at Harvard would be like a third grader playing in the NBA.

Both sports and science have clear systems of scoring, clear winners and losers. I don't know about theology, but when it comes to scientific questions, Ken Ham lost the game. It's not a matter of opinion - it's an objective fact.

Legion of Logic said...

I believe you missed the point entirely about the government. It's not that "one leads to the other", it's that there is more harm possible in the "do not debate certain subjects" mentality than there is in the alternative. No stifling of ideas, no risk of legal penalties (imprisonment doesn't happen in the US, yet).

Now obviously, if Ken Ham wanted to hold a debate on campus about evolution, no one is obligated to give him that debate. And that's fine. The problem is when people are so opposed to criticism of an idea that they will move to make sure that criticism can't be heard, as has happened lately with protesters trying to stop certain conservatives from speaking on their campuses. It doesn't have to only be debate formats that get shut down, these people refuse to even let the opposition speak.

B. Prokop said...

Go ahead and call me paranoid if that's what makes you feel good, but I truly fear the eclipse of Free Speech in this country. When people are all too quickly labeled "bigots" and "haters" for beliefs that wouldn't have raised an eyebrow for millennia, then something is definitely out of kilter. For university students to demand "safe zones" where they won't encounter differing opinions, then the very purpose of higher education is lost. When controversial speakers are disinvited because of campus protests, it's time for parents to cut off the tuition support. When speech is compelled (as in forcing bakers to write things on their artwork that they consider objectively evil), then it is only a short step to thought control.

And yes, slippery slopes do exist. Laughing at them does not make them go away.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Ilíon said...

B.Concervatin' is going to turn into a conservative, yet.

Ilíon said...

"Biggest problem is that the government decided to hop in and just declare, as settled fact backed by legal punitive authority ..."

There is no such thing as moral neutrality, because it is impossible for any man to be neutral with respect to morailty -- either a man will try to understand and live by real morality, or he will try to live by a twisted, and ultimately un-liveable, pseudo-morailty.

There is no such thing as a government which is morally neutral, for governments are made of men (for which, see above). So, either a government will seek to support real morality, or it will seek to impose a twisted, and ultimately un-liveable, pseudo-morailty upon the people it rules. Politics and morality are inseparable, for both deal with the same subject matter -- "How then shall we live?"

There is no such thing as a government which is religiously neutral, for there is *always* a "god of the system"; and that god will be either the real God or some idol set up by men. And, if an idol, there is likely a demon behind it.

=======
When the leftists/Progressive conned the American people into accepting the (false) premise that the US Constitution established a secular state (*), that was only the first step in the dance. Their goal was-and-is to replace Christianity with atheism and statism as the cultural basis of the nation -- to set up The State as "god" -- and then to suppress Christianity.

There is *always* a "god of the system".

(*) As I've said before, it does nothing of the sort; it establishes an implicitly Christian non-sectarian state. America itself, and our Constitution, is a truce between the different sects of Christianity.

John Moore said...

Wow, this item just now popped up on Religious News Service: "Debate teams must not be allowed to justify terrorism" by Jeffrey Salkin.

Legion of Logic said...

Again, the problem is that if shouting down distasteful ideas becomes the standard, rather than ignoring or defeating them, then inevitably ideas that are true, ideas that are essential and need to be known, will get shouted down by an ignorant population or authority. The virtue of the free exchange of ideas needs to be upheld, even if it means tolerating nonsense or vileness.

Of course, I suppose what I just said is debatable, isn't it?

planks length said...

They should have held that debate, if only to have the "pro-terrorism" arguments annihilated in in a free exchange of ideas. (Pity the poor souls assigned to argue that side, however. I realize that on debate teams, you don't get to choose which position you must defend.)

B. Prokop said...

"B.Concervatin' is going to turn into a conservative, yet."

Not bloody likely, Ilion. The liberals have indisputably gone off the Deep End into insanity and a penchant for coercion, but the conservatives still hold on grimly to Hell's Own Governing Constitution.

Not much of a choice between them. I'll stick to "middle of the road extremism".

Jezu ufam tobie!

Gyan said...

John Moore is absolutely right that some debates can not be allowed for doing so provides a measure of legitimacy to the offending views.

This has been the great mistake of American religious people--the belief in absolute freedom of people to speak in public forums.

They literally allowed the pro-abortion people to spew their poisonous views in public and thereby conferred moral legitimacy to the pro-abortion party.
Same goes with legitimacy provided to Peter Singer, to pro-mercy killing party, to pro-same sex marriage.

Ilíon said...

That's OK, B.Con', you tell yourelf what you need to tell yourself. I know what "a pox on both their houses" means.

Joe Hinman said...

They literally allowed the pro-abortion people to spew their poisonous views in public and thereby conferred moral legitimacy to the pro-abortion party.
Same goes with legitimacy provided to Peter Singer, to pro-mercy killing party, to pro-same sex marriage.

April 18, 2016 10:07 PM

and next we need to makes trains run on time

Joe Hinman said...

Again, the problem is that if shouting down distasteful ideas becomes the standard, rather than ignoring or defeating them, then inevitably ideas that are true, ideas that are essential and need to be known, will get shouted down by an ignorant population or authority. The virtue of the free exchange of ideas needs to be upheld, even if it means tolerating nonsense or vileness.

Right on!

Joe Hinman said...

There is no such thing as a government which is morally neutral, for governments are made of men (for which, see above). So, either a government will seek to support real morality, or it will seek to impose a twisted, and ultimately un-liveable, pseudo-morailty upon the people it rules. Politics and morality are inseparable, for both deal with the same subject matter -- "How then shall we live?"

the party you support and see as Godly paid mercenaries to cut off little gril's heads in Latin American countries and you rationalize that by saying I'm a liar. is that what you mean by "moral?" Apparently even the moral living guys can't stick to their own morals.

Legion of Logic said...

In all fairness, I don't think anyone who actively advocates for either party really has their hands clean if party advocacy is a moral action. Both parties suck. The only way I can vote is to hold my nose and vote for what I hope will be a net gain for my values in the public square, which his hardly a glowing endorsement.

Joe Hinman said...

St. Augie said it all. City of God is not the city of man, City of man is temporal power it will never be the city of God. wielding temporal power will always tak us through the sewer.

You think the Dems suck? I remember LBJ. Hey hey LBJ how many kids did you kill today. that was my nursery rhyme.

Joe Hinman said...


April 17, 2016 10:31 AM

Blogger Victor Reppert said...
I still think we have to err on the side of debatability. The idea that certain topics are so "incorrect" that they can't be discussed, or that we shouldn't give certain viewpoints respectability by debating them is too easy of a way for intellectual "establishment" positions to control discussion.

I agree about topics. some positions are not worth answering, I used to be super sensitive about defending my actions when I started atheist watch finally got to where I never answered personal attacks (except with insults). No point in it. my answrs were seen as admittions anyway because they didn't care about my motives