Friday Roundup

  • This is probably a good thing…because what it means is probably this
  • The understatement of the year: “For all their eloquence, their arguments are often banal.”
  • Religion is always present; it just re-appears in different forms…
  • As many come to understand this, we can only hope there will continue to be a great migration out of Christian fundamentalism…
  • Dogma can be found anywhere and where it is least expected is where it’s the most powerful and hidden…

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13 Responses to Friday Roundup

  1. Hi Darrell

    The article on dogma is interesting. I'm not sure the value of entertaining opposing views is always as simple as the author supposes. There is certainly a strong history of smart and well funded groups opposing the spread of well established theories on the grounds that we have an obligation to hear both sides. The tobacco lobby were particularly good at this in stalling for decades a widespread acceptance of the smoking/cancer link. The fossil fuel industry, sometimes with the very same experts called upon as witnesses, are adept at the same trick.

    The difficulty, then, is sorting the dogmatic from the well established. Although the writer acknowledges the importance of this distinction, there are items on his list which make me doubt his integrity, climate change being the most obvious.

    The rape case, particular with regards to witness credibility, is at the very least open to empirical methods. We have accumulated, over the years, a great deal of data regarding the relative incidence of false claims versus false defences. Ought not this data speak to credibility in the first instance, in which case there is an awful danger in identifying the belief as dogmatic. It is already tremendously difficult getting victims to come forward, after all, and we do have an obligation to make this process much easier.

    Interested in your thoughts on this.



  2. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    Well I think he makes clear that he might agree with some of the items on the list and not others. But, no specific issue, whether rape or climate change is his point, right?

    What would you say is the main idea he is trying to get across–and do you agree?


  3. Darrell says:

    Also, I didn't read or “hear” him to be saying any of this was “simple” to do.


  4. Darrell says:


    “…there are items on his list which make me doubt his integrity…”

    I would also just add that by doubting his integrity you may be doing the very thing he is trying to point out that is ultimately destructive to dialogue. Instead of respectful disagreement and having an issue with his argument or specific examples, you are making it personal and speaking to his very integrity.

    Does this possibly unmask some dogmatism on your own part?


  5. Hi Darrell

    Yes, he states he agrees with some of the items on the list, but thinks all should be open to public debate.

    The difficulty is that in some cases (smoking cancer list, anthropogenic climate change, rape claims) apparent open mindedness can in fact be a smokescreen to hide some fairly brutal agendas. Calling any of these cases dogmatic plays nicely into the hands of those powers that would put their own interests ahead of the community.

    So, if his major point is that we should beware of dogmatic adherence to contested beliefs, I would agree entirely. His list, however, shows a lack of discernment when it comes to making the very distinction he highlights early in his piece, that between the reasonably and dogmatically held view.

    I've not followed up on the link to the speaker the students objected to, but given the politics of rape, and the great problem we have helping young woman find the bravery to come forward in these cases, it may well be I would have been on the students' side on this one. Concern for the impact the open expression of a view may have is not of itself a sign of dogmatism.

    I work pretty hard to help cleanse homophobic language and expression from our school community, for example. This is less about dogmatism than it is about concern for the suffering. The students the writer criticises may well be motivated by a similar impulse.



  6. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    Well I’m happy you basically agree with the writer’s main point. I am concerned you would think shouting down someone you disagreed with as acceptable, but I will leave that to you to ponder. In my mind, the more we allow those with questionable views, even horrible views, to speak and be seen, the more they damage their own agendas and become their own grave-diggers so to speak. Further, we need to be cautious. One day your (or mine) views may be considered out-of-bounds and if we want freedom for ourselves to speak, we maybe “ought to” advocate it for those we disagree with too. Freedom has to work both ways. You seem to be close to saying some speech shouldn't be allowed. Who gets to decide that?

    “The difficulty is that in some cases (smoking cancer list, anthropogenic climate change, rape claims) apparent open mindedness can in fact be a smokescreen to hide some fairly brutal agendas. Calling any of these cases dogmatic plays nicely into the hands of those powers that would put their own interests ahead of the community.”

    The greatest deterrent to those trying to put a positive spin on any of the issues you mention may be to let them speak and make their case openly. Sometimes you just need to let people speak and give them enough rope. Evidence and the light of day, open debate, are what turned the tide against, for instance, the tobacco industry.

    Again, to question his integrity is to make the very mistake we are both agreeing shouldn't be made. We need to respectfully dialogue and have conversations with people, not demonize or use ad hominem. True?


  7. Hi Darrell

    Sometimes, I think shouting down a speaker is the best course of action. Consider the racist, whipping his crowd into a fervour of hatred. maybe it would be best to deny them the right to spread their poison. If a society commits to a particular ideal (racial equality, protection from sexual violence) then vigorously opposing those who would use dishonest arguments to promote their cause strikes me as a necessary commitment.

    Yes, we got to the truth about tobacco eventually, but our commitment to allowing all to express their opinions (and spread their lies) meant it took far too long, and a great many died painfully and needlessly as a result. I struggle to see how that's the desirable outcome.



  8. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “…Consider the racist…” “…protection from sexual violence”…

    You give examples that don’t even go to the type of speech or disagreement the writer was addressing. You are making a point he wasn't arguing—even suggesting.

    However, here is something that is relevant to his argument: by questioning his integrity rather than his argument you prove his very point.

    As to the general direction of your comments, we simply disagree. I think freedom of speech, especially for the unpopular, is the greater value, the higher principle. If you and I were king for a day, clearly we would have different visions for what people could say publicly.

    I will leave it to each to ponder which society they would rather inhabit.


  9. Darrell says:

    Also Bernard,

    I know you are not suggesting as positive (a good) or condoning what happened here:

    But unfortunately, the mind-set, the sensibility suggested in your remarks regarding silencing those whose views we consider extreme can often lead to what we see happening in the noted link.

    Another reason, I think, we should ere on the side of openness and freedom of speech-for all, not just those who agree with us.


  10. Darrell

    This is perhaps the problem with adhering too tightly to a given principle (say freedom of speech). Clearly free speech it is a value to be pursued with vigilance and vigour, but if we become dogmatic in our approach to it, we the let through the damaging examples as well.

    Rape is a strong example here. There will always be a group who are well served by promoting stories of false complaints, or women in some sense inviting the crime by the risks they take. This narrative, when made public, appears to have the effect of making victims even less likely to come forward (and this is already a massively unreported crime).

    A principle (freedom of speech) thus becomes a vehicle for oppression, if we are not prepared to be judicious in our application of that principle. The powerful are left to promote their agenda, while the powerless are left to suffer. Because access to the vehicles of speech (media) is not evenly available, silencing can at times be a means of achieving the sought after freedom.



  11. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    No one, including the writer, was advocating a complete and radical form of free speech, where anything goes, so we've gone far afield of his point. Getting back to his point, that dogma can be found anywhere and those caught up in it can hardly see it, I still feel is an extremely valid and important point. His further point was that where there is reasonable disagreement, we should hear all voices, even the weak and unpopular voices.

    “…Because access to the vehicles of speech (media) is not evenly available, silencing can at times be a means of achieving the sought after freedom…

    That may be one of the most Orwellian (and confusing) statements I have ever read. Frightening really.

    Imagine advocating “silencing” for those one disagrees with? We have certainly learned quite a bit here Bernard regarding your sentiments in this area. Wow.

    Again, I will leave it up to each as to what type society they would rather inhabit.


  12. Hi Darrell

    Are there honestly no situations in which case you might not want to silence a speaker? How about a schoolyard bully spreading homophobic slurs? How about a speaker at a school, telling an impressionable audience that girls who claim to have been raped are often attempting to hide their promiscuity? How about a hate filled racist inciting a crowd to violence?

    I'm not sure my position is quite as radical as you imagine. On matters as delicate as sexual abuse, where victims are terrified of coming forward, we should tread much more carefully than is perhaps being implied in this article, and err on the side of protecting the victims and making them feel safe and supported. Nothing Orwellian about that.



  13. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    Again, you’ve gone far afield of anything the writer or I was speaking to. Also, anyone can read what you wrote. That statement was about as Orwellian as they come. Silence equals freedom? Really? I think you made your point.

    I would rather live in an open society where we ere on the side of hearing, even those we disagree with. Instead of ‘silencing’ or shouting people down, I prefer open debate and dialogue. But that’s just me.


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