“Criminalizing Political Differences”
Yesterday I noted that those on the so-called "religious left" are now attempting to treat skepticism over "man-made global warming" as a sin, ranking the issue of climate change with other "non-negotiable" matters of faith and morals as abortion and euthanasia.
The same phenomenon is occurring with respect to the secular left. At the First Things blog, On the Square, Fr. Neuhaus reflects on the stifling of rational discourse when such things as speaking out against the "conventional wisdom" on global warming (and other matters) are treated as almost criminal offenses:
... Of course, political opponents will frequently use any stick in order to beat up on the other side. That is as true of the left as of the right, although it does seem to be more true of the left these days. In any event, the criminalizing of political differences gravely exacerbates the difficulty of maintaining anything like a semblance of rational discourse and honest debate. I am not entirely averse to robust combat in the battle of ideas, but everybody engaged has an obligation to see that the ideas involved do not get lost in the heat of conflict.
Here is a related reflection that appears in “The Public Square” of the forthcoming April issue of First Things:“The argument is over,” announced former vice president Al Gore. The subject was global warming. The television interviewer then asked, “You mean there is no argument about global warming?” Gore solemnly nodded and said again, very much like a judge pronouncing the final verdict, “The argument is over.” When and where, one might well ask, did the argument take place? Who was invited to take part in the argument? There are many very reputable scientists expressing skepticism or disbelief with respect to global warming. Never mind, they’re too late; the argument is over. As the presumed moderator of public discourse, Mr. Gore declares that the argument is over and his side won.[More]
Writing in the Boston Globe, Ellen Goodman goes further, comparing global warming skeptics with Holocaust deniers. They are not only ignorant, they are culpably ignorant. In fact, they are evil. One detects a growing pattern of refusing to engage in argument by declaring that the argument is over. It is not only global warming. Raise a question about the adequacy of Darwinian theory, whether scientifically or philosophically, and be prepared to be informed that the argument is over. Offer the evidence that many who once coped with same-sex desires have turned out, not without difficulty, to be happily married to persons of the opposite sex and you will be told politely–or, more likely, impolitely–that the argument is over.
It does seem that there is a new spirit of anti-intellectualism abroad. Public discourse is increasingly aimed not at exploring the truth of a matter but at terminating the discussion. Conversation is displaced by propaganda. Self-appointed thought police patrol the conceptual borders against ideas and facts they find inconvenient.
To be sure, this is hardly new, but the border patrol seems to be increasingly aggressive these days. Some arguments are rightly declared to be over. For instance, the argument for the legal segregation of the races. For instance, the argument that real communism hasn’t been tried yet. For instance, the argument that people should divorce for the sake of the children. And there are others that sensible people deem unworthy of debate.
But there are subjects–for example, whether we are facing catastrophic climate change caused by human behavior, whether reason and spirit emerge from mindless matter, whether sexual desire is identity and destiny–that are eminently deserving of intelligent discussion...
Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Is Global Warming Skepticism a Mortal Sin?
Cardinal Pell on Global Warming Alarmists: "Scaremongers" and "Zealots"
Forecast: More "Global Warming" Today for the Midwest and Northeast
Rich Leonardi on "Acting With Urgency"