Tag Archives: Argument

Has the university become intolerant and close-minded?

This article by prestigious McGill University ethicist Margaret Somerville is worth reading. (H/T Commenter ECM) She is one of the leading defenders of traditional marriage in Canada. She is a moderate social conservative. Here is a brief summary of her case against same-sex marriage. Her short article in the journal Academic Matters is about the intolerance of the leftist university elites against their opponents.

Here is the abstract:

In this edited excerpt from her Research and Society Lecture to the 2008 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, ethicist Margaret Somerville argues that universities are becoming forums of intolerance. Keeping the university as an intellectually open and respectful place is critical, she says, to finding the “shared ethics” essential to maintaining healthy, pluralistic democracies.

And here is an excerpt in which she discusses the impact of moral relativism on moral disagreements:

That is where political correctness enters the picture. It excludes politically incorrect values from the “all values are equal” stable. The intense moral relativists will tolerate all values except those they deem to be politically incorrect—which just happen to be the ones that conflict with their values.

Political correctness operates by shutting down non-politically correct people’s freedom of speech. Anyone who challenges the politically correct stance is, thereby, automatically labeled as intolerant, a bigot, or hatemonger. The substance of their arguments against a politically correct stance is not addressed; rather people labeled as politically incorrect are, themselves, attacked as being intolerant and hateful simply for making those arguments. This derogatorily -label-the-person-and-dismiss-them-on-the-basis-of-that-label approach is intentionally used as a strategy to suppress strong arguments against any politically correct stance and, also, to avoid dealing with the substance of these arguments.

It is important to understand the strategy employed: speaking against same-sex marriage, for example, is not characterized as speech; rather, it is characterized as a discriminatory act against homosexuals and, therefore, a breach of human rights or even a hate crime. Consequently, it is argued that protections of freedom of speech do not apply.

She illustrates with some examples:

We need to look at what “pure” moral relativism and intense tolerance, as modified by political correctness, mean in practice. So let ‘s look at the suppression of pro-life groups and pro-life speech on Canadian university campuses. Whatever one’s views on abortion, we should all be worried about such developments. Pro-choice students are trying to stop pro-life students from participating in the collective conversation on abortion that should take place. In fact, they don’t want any conversation, alleging that to question whether we should have any law on abortion is, in itself, unacceptable.

In some instances some people are going even further: they want to force physicians to act against their conscience under threat of being in breach of human rights or subject to professional disciplinary procedures for refusing to do so. The Ontario Human Rights Commission recently advised the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to this effect.

Political correctness is being used to try to impose certain views and even actions that breach rights to freedom of conscience; to shut down free speech; and to contravene academic freedom. I do not need to emphasize the dangers of this in universities. The most fundamental precept on which a university is founded is openness to ideas and knowledge from all sources.

She spends the rest of the paper arguing for a system of “shared ethics” that grounds open, respectful debate between disagreeing parties. I hope this catches on before secular-left moves from censorship to outright violence, against those who would dare to disagree with them.

A short bio of Margaret Somerville

Margaret Somerville is Samuel Gale Professor in the Faculty of Law and a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University and is the founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law. In 2004, she received the UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science and in 2006 delivered the prestigious Massey Lectures.

How to engage pro-abortion commenters and win

Neil from 4Simpsons posted a MUST-READ exchange with a pro-abortion commenter here. It’s entertaining and informative. I’ll just paste in a few excerpts below, so you can get the flavor of the exchange.

Here’s an effective exchange: (the challenger is in italics)

Then I suppose you’re equating an aborted fetus with a conscious, adult human? Something doesn’t seem quite right there; unless, you are actually thinking of the adult human beings the unborn will grow into when you say abortion kills the same kind of human beings genocide and the other transgressions do.

What kind of fetus are you speaking of? If it is a human fetus then she is a human being at a particular stage of development deserving of having her life protected. She isn’t an adult, but neither are toddlers. Your rationale could plug in human toddler instead of human fetus and claim that the “toddler will grow into” being an adult, but it would still involve killing an innocent human being.

This is kind of what I was getting at earlier when I mentioned something about equating an unborn human being with one outside the womb. If you’re saying the fertilized egg is a human being are you saying there’s no difference between us and that egg?

Of course there are differences: Size, level of development, environment and dependency. My claim is that none of those differences gives rise to the right to destroy those human beings.

And here are couple more funny parts:

I suppose it depends on how you define “me,” or “I,” or “you.” I’m pretty sure when we say those things, we are talking about the present us. If you really want to get philosophical, the “me” you will respond to after I post this will technically not be the same “me” as the one who wrote this because some time has elapsed and we are all in a constant state of change/growth.

Try committing a crime then sharing that philosophy with the judge. I’ll come visit you when I’m doing prison ministry ;-) .

I’ll spell it out for you: There is a 1:1 correlation between the human fetus and the subsequent human being. If you arm had been ripped off in utero, you’d only have one arm now. That was you in your mother’s womb, not a potential you. It was you at that particular stage of development.

And the last one before you click over to read the whole thing!

Honestly, Neil, I think abortion is a sad state of affairs for any society; that circumstances permit individuals to find themselves in the process of bringing about human life they did not intend to is sad.

That is a bad argument. These people had sex. Pregnancy is a potential outcome of sex. They didn’t wake up one day and realize they’d had an accidental in vitro fertilization or an immaculate conception.

Do you find it sad that actions have consequences? Boo-hoo. But don’t kill an innocent human being over actions you regret.

The pro-life issue is such a fun issue to debate, because it’s like the big-bang, fine-tuning and habitability arguments from the progress of science. The facts are all on our side, the delusions are solely theirs. And the more science progresses, the worse it gets for them. All you need to do is prepare and study like Neil has, and one day you’ll be as effective as he is in this exchange.