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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tom Wolfe on the casuistry, laziness, and childishness of political correctness - plus local talent!

This seems like a good time to quote Tom Wolfe again, this time against barking mad pc rubbish invading scholarly disciplines:
People in academia should start insisting on objective scholarship, insisting on it, relentlessly, driving the point home, ramming it down the gullets of the politically correct, making noise! naming names! citing egregious examples! showing contempt to the brink of brutality! The idea that a discipline should be devoted to “social justice” is ludicrous. The fashionable deconstructionist doctrine that there is no such thing as truth, only the self-serving manipulation of language, is worse than ludicrous. It is casuistry, laziness, and childishness in equal parts. Sociology in this country didn’t start with Max Weber. It started with an act of pious charity on the part of Protestants concerned about life in the slums. Today the discipline, if it can still be called that, has returned to sheer sentiment. Only this time the pious are from the puritanical order of political correctness, preying with the rhetoric of Rococo Marxism, which means steering clear of the by-now totally discredited “vulgar Marxism,” all that tired old business of the proletariat, the peasants, the capitalists, the bourgeois elements, the infantile leftists, since all they really care about is preserving Marxism’s greatest joy: the Manichaeistic take on life. Everything is light or darkness! Black or white! No irksome middle grounds or shades of grey! How much simpler the taxing stone-hard task of analysis becomes! He good! He bad! That’s the right idea!
More intellectual freedom news:

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Brian Lilley reports that the Moon report on the Canada "human rights" commission will be released Monday.

He is more hopeful than the freespeechers who are bracing themselves for the usual whitewash, but he does say:
For what it's worth, I think professor Moon's research into the topic should have ended with a reading of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically section 2b.

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

a) freedom of conscience and religion;

b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

d) freedom of association.
[The critical question is, does that MEAN anything? Like, does "including freedom of the press and other media of communication" mean that my duty is to my readers and not to government minders and the endlessly offended? It better mean that. It did once, and it will again. ]

Also, this just in!: Free Speech cardholder wins Governor General's award for poetry. May we assume that Madam Governor General's appointees have noted the well-deserved meltdown at the Canadian "human rights" Commission" - and this is their response ... ?

Also, in the Calgary Herald today, Rob Breakenridge urges the Conservatives to get beyond their mere convention rah rah for free speech in Winnipeg - and do something!

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- Jay Currie suggests that the Canadian "human rights" Commission is circling the wagons and getting its few friends inside because a major Fire. Them. All. report is expected soon ... .

- Kathy "Five Feet of Fury" Shaidle (the voice of common sense, unforgettably phrased) reminds us:
"Words can hurt/are powerful" is a favourite anti-free speech argument. And yeah, I guess if you're a wimp, words can hurt. So man up. ...

More importantly: if words were truly powerful, we wouldn't be having this fight over the HRCs and Section 13.1 in the first place.

Because millions of Canadians read 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 in high school -- including, I'd wager a thousand dollars -- every single employee, past and current, of the Canadian Human Rights Commissions ... And those words weren't powerful enough to get a single, solitary one of those people to go, "Hey, this weird stuff I'm doing all seems kinda... familiar... maybe I should, like, quit my job..."
Kathy is right. Words are never powerful in themselves. Think of all the doctors warning their patients that if they don't quit drinking or using, they'll die ... and the patients believe the doctors, but don't quit. And they die ...

Words must fall on willing ears to have any effect at all. That's part of the reason why the "human rights" commission racket is so despicable. It encourages people to focus on negative stuff they may hear about themselves and not about how to frame and achieve their own best goals, and flip the bird to people who don't like that.

Look, I'm not much, but if I had heeded negative comments, I would never have written a single sentence for publication, let alone award-winning books and magazine articles, or doing radio and TV. (Actually, in a few minutes, I will be taping another radio show on The Spiritual Brain.)

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Intelligent design and popular culture: Three vids for your coffee break

Over at Uncommon Descent, we've spiffed up quite a bit and the new Web guy is going to be adding rotating vids.

Here are three he noticed and liked, for your entertainment:

1. An affable Mike Behe, author of the controversial Edge of Evolution, explains the machinery inside our cells (molecular machines) in a low-threat way:

2. Five minutes of Unlocking the Mystery of Life, possibly the first video on intelligent design that had production values. (A prof mumbling into his lecture notes in an empty, echoing classroom is mega-not production values!)

3. Steve Meyer of the evil Discovery Institute explains intelligent design to Ben Wattenberg and how it differs from creationism:

Toward the end, Meyer gets into his plan to take over the world, starting with the recent Beyond the Mind-Body Problem symposium at the UN (September 11, 2008) - as revealed in the pages of New Scientist. I understand that a major pop science publication will soon be publishing an expose of Meyer's links to Satan as well.

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Voices for intellectual freedom: A tale of two meetings on religious tolerance ....

In Worldwide Hate Speech Laws? Muslims and Christians together, (11/24/2008, Volume 014, Issue 10), Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, contrasts two meetings on the subject:
Two international meetings to promote interfaith harmony were held in the last two weeks, one in New York and one in Rome. The former, called by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia under the auspices of the United Nations, drew some 20 heads of state to discuss a "Culture of Peace." The latter brought together Muslim and Catholic scholars at the Vatican in the latest session of the dialogue called A Common Word. Both gatherings underscored the gulf between us. At both, all parties spoke for peace and tolerance, but they often meant different things.

As President Bush made clear in his remarks at the U.N. meeting, tolerance is understood in the West as respect for religious freedom. For the Muslim leaders in New York, tolerance means respect for religion itself, particularly Islam. As the astute Turkish political observer Ziya Meral pointed out, if Muslim leaders really wanted tolerance for different religious viewpoints, they would be holding similar discussions within their own societies. But no such discussions are going on.

Especially since 9/11, Islam has been publicly scrutinized, criticized, and sometimes ridiculed in the West to an extent never seen (or permitted) in Muslim lands. Many Muslims feel deeply offended by this, as well as troubled by the violent responses the criticism has sometimes drawn from Muslims--riots, death threats, even murders. Their leaders' solution is to try to halt the cycle by demanding an end to criticism of Islam, even in private speech.
The trouble is, when government interferes with religion, even for the good of religion, the result is bad for religion. Governments that are in the business of protecting a religion from ridicule will not hesitate to interfere with matters of faith and morals that are not their business. Thus the main reason that most Christians in the West value separation of church and state is to protect the church, not the state.

Not surprisingly then, the main outcome of the recent Canadian Islamic Congress-backed complaints to the human rights commissions against the popular Mark Steyn and historic Maclean's Magazine has been this: Many people who do not know much about Islam now see it in a much more unflattering light.

Suppose, by contrast, the Congress had responded to Steyn's article simply by publishing a book ("Voices of Islam in Canada"?) and then hitting the talk shows. People might have begun to think that the Congress had a point, that perhaps Steyn had overtopped himself ...

As it is, the Congress demonstrated precisely what Steyn had been trying to say, that freedoms we take for granted here would not accommodate easily to their value system. Nice one.

Shea's Hudson Institute, by the way, downgraded Canada recently from a 1 to a 2 in religion freedom.

Also, speaking of Saudi Arabia, check out Shea's 2008 Update: Saudi Arabia's Curriculum of Intolerance.

Here's the meeting I'd rather get invited to, as Shea describes it:
A Common Word is a more nuanced, sophisticated effort and holds greater promise of leading to peaceful coexistence, if only in the very long run. It too was initiated by Muslim leaders stirred by perceived criticisms of Islam, specifically Pope Benedict's 2006 Regensburg speech.

At last week's session, each side was represented by 29 religious leaders and scholars. The Vatican's team included converts from Islam and bishops from Muslim states where Christians are persecuted. One participant told me, after hearing "horrible stories of suffering and abuse," that he was convinced "the Vatican won't sell out the Catholic minorities for public expediency."

The final document produced by the Rome gathering contains 15 principles, including respect for individual choice in matters of conscience and religion and "the right of individuals and communities to practice their religion in private and in public."

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