Does the academic left use rational arguments or intimidation in debates?

Muddling Towards Maturity has found yet another interesting post for us. This post is by David French, who writes at the National Review.

The full post:

Late yesterday afternoon, I happened to catch a short-but-insightful lecture by one of my favorite Christian apologists, Ravi Zacharias. In the midst of an interesting discussion about the allure of Eastern mysticism in Western culture, he made a fascinating statement (I’m paraphrasing): In the battle of ideas, stigma always beats dogma. In other words, through stigmatization, one can defeat a set of ideas or principles without ever “winning” an argument on the merits.

I was instantly reminded of not just my own experiences in secular higher education, but also the experiences I see and hear every day while defending the rights of students and professors. Why convince when you can browbeat? Why dialogue when you can read entire philosophies out of polite society? That’s not to say there aren’t intense debates on matters of public policy, but all too often we see social conservatism not so much engaged as assaulted.

I fear that we like to comfort ourselves by saying something like, “kids see through this heavy-handed nonsense.” This is simply wishful thinking. Most people don’t like to be labeled as “bigots,” and they often assume that such overwhelming ideological consensus is the product of considered thought. If “everyone” seems to believe something (especially when “everyone” includes all of your professors and other academic authorities), then mustn’t it be true?

Here’s a question for conservative parents and teachers: Are we really equipping young people to face the challenges of college if we teach them arguments? Or should we instead be primarily preparing them to face scorn and hate with inner toughness and good cheer? After all, when a professor calls you a “fascist bastard” for defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, what is he doing if not trying to defeat dogma with stigma?

Below, I’ll give my thoughts on this.

My thoughts on the academic left

First of all, from a practical point of view, never take anything except math, engineering or computer science at the university, unless you are really passionate about some other field. Everything else is so politicized that you may be forced to assent to things you do not believe in order to pass. There is not a shred of open-mindedness or tolerance for other viewpoints in today’s leftist campuses. It’s just fascism all the way.

Secondly, young conservatives and Christians need to get used to staying calm while ideas that they don’t agree with are shouted in their faced in the typical vulgar, abusive manner that secular leftists seem to find so fetching these days. The best way to do that is to watch as many debates as possible in advance and get used to sitting still and disagreeing while someone else explains their point of view.

Thirdly, other points of view are only annoying if you have lousy reasons for your own point of view. If you put the time in learning your arguments and evidence, and the best that could be argued against you from the other side, then there should be no problem. Just repeat what Jay Richards said after his debate with atheistic journalist Christopher Hitchens: “a sneer is not an argument, an insult is not evidence”. Richards has a Ph.D from Princeton University… Hitchens does not.

Fourthly, we need to start making it common knowledge that atheism does not ground morality and that is a worldview that is responsible for at least a hundred million deaths in the last 100 years alone. That point must be made over and over – when someone claims to be an atheist it should be immediately put to them that meaningful morality is not rationally grounded by their worldview. Don’t let them make any moral judgments without challenging them on the foundations of morality.

Example of what students can expect from left-wing fascists on campus

Don Feder has a list of campus violence incidents against conservative speakers in a OneNewsNow article.

Here are a couple of the incidents in his list:

When she attempted to speak at Penn State in 1999, black conservative Star Parker was forced from the stage. Parker described the experience as “very frightening” and said she “feared for my life.” Parker’s hatefulness was her contention that single mothers are better off with jobs than on welfare, based on her own experience.

At Emory University in 2006, David Horowitz gave a lecture as part of Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. To show their outrage at the comparison of radical Islam to fascism, protestors behaved like fascists. A mob of over 300, from groups like Amnesty International, Veterans for Peace, and Students for Justice in Palestine, waved signs and shouted, “Does George Bush respect anybody’s rights?” and “Why don’t you talk about fascism in America?” mixed with chants of “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, David Horowitz go away!” (They can’t reason. But they sure can rhyme.) “Are we going to talk about who killed JFK?” one protestor demanded. (The Zionist-CIA-Karl Rove-AIG Executives cabal?). Horowitz (who had to be escorted off stage) observed, “This is exactly what the fascists did in Germany in the 1930s.” True, but at least they weren’t hypocrites claiming they were motivated by concern for minority rights.

This is the tolerant, open-minded left. The same tolerant left that brought secular-socialist mass-murdering regimes into power in Russia, Italy and Germany. And they kill millions in many ways. You will never find right-wing advocates of free market capitalism and human rights treating their opponents like this. We don’t take positions based solely on emotions, so there is no need for us to use violence to win an argument.

4 thoughts on “Does the academic left use rational arguments or intimidation in debates?”

  1. If no one believes you, just watch the campus tour I’ll be on in the fall.

    Campuses liberals ban pro-life clubs for hosting professional debates, shout us down when we speak and if and when they ask questions, they do so by using ad-hominems (“You’re a man!” “You are intolerant!” “You are ignorant!”) while not engaging our arguments.

    The average Christian would learn a lot about where our culture is if they could sit through it – and then realize they shouldn’t be looking down at Christian apologists of all kinds.

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  2. “atheism does not ground morality and that is a worldview that is responsible for at least a hundred million deaths in the last 100 years alone.”

    Yes, and theists destroyed the World Trade Center on 9/11!

    In all seriousness. to say that “atheists” or “theists” did anything is far too broad a brush. These are broad categories, and I don’t think Ayn Rand should be held responsible for the crimes of Communism any more than you are responsible for what jihadists do.

    In theory, theism could provide a ground for morality, yet theists of different sects disagree on what is moral, so there is no practical advantage over atheism here.

    The valid point you make is that atheists who say religion is the root of all evil can be rebutted by the example of Communism. Saying one is an atheist just identifies what you don’t believe. There is also a need for a positive statement of what you do hold to be true.

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    1. No the problem is the grounding problem. The ontological foundations of morality.

      Muslims pass the ontological test, but they fail the epistemological test – they have ontological grounds for morality but they perceive the values and duties of that objective morality imperfectly. They have the resources to ground objective morality in their theistic worldview, but the content of the morality they know (epistemology) is wrong.

      Atheists fail to have ontological foundations for morality, period. They fail the first test. All atheist moralities must necessarily be relative. Atheism must necessarily fail to furnish objective foundations for moral values, moral duties, free will, moral accountability and moral significance. Therefore morality is irrational on atheism.

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