The liberty to present and defend different viewpoints is essential to progress in civilized societies. Many ideas that once seemed unthinkable are now considered fact. For centuries, the earth was thought to be flat, and the center of the universe. Astronomers who believed otherwise were persecuted, only to be later proved right. How much progress has been impeded by oppressive societies silencing people with unorthodox theories that were later proved correct?
Our government no longer punishes those with variant beliefs unless adherents break the law in exercising the beliefs. But have we really advanced that much in tolerance?
It is amazing to see how frequently mobs of Americans try to silence those with different views. It even happens on college campuses, where divergent ideas should be most welcome! Bigots don’t try to silence others with opposing views with the aide of government authority very often. That repression would be too obvious for everyone to see.
Instead, intolerant people attempt to silence others with variant beliefs in the following common ways:
1. Calling the idea “racist.” No matter how ridiculous, the easiest and most pervasive way to silence opponents is calling their ideas “racist.” From border protection to standardized testing, whatever the subject, unorthodox ideas can be branded as “racist” to remove them from the realm of public discussion. Fortunately, people are wising up to this ploy, and the charge is often being answered by ridicule.
2. Calling the idea “offensive.” I wrote at length about this technique previously- “YOU OFFEND ME!” THE MODERN METHOD OF CENSORSHIP. The idea is to silence opposing viewpoints by claiming people are “offended” by the sheer mention of variant ideas. The insinuation is that anyone espousing differing opinions, and daring to verbalize them, are rude and should be shunned.
3. Claiming the mantle of “Science.” The latest ploy to silence unorthodox or unpopular views is to claim to have the exclusive authority of “science.” Comically, most often it is people who do not have science backgrounds who utilize this technique – particularly arts and humanities academics!
Most real scientists are eager to hear varying opinions, as it gives them a chance to present evidence for their own beliefs. The majority of my professors had two doctorates in the sciences, and they disagreed frequently about many things! Nothing was off the table for discussion with them.
When one uses the Science mantra, one infers that others with differing views are adherents to superstition, pseudoscience, alchemy, or even witchcraft. It is a technique of putting someone else down intellectually, without being overt about it!
Alas, how hard it is for many humans to be open-minded! Being able to listen to other people with ideas different from one’s own is the hallmark of intellectual maturity! How tragic it is that throughout the history of mankind, the ideal of intellectual tolerance has been so difficult to achieve.
Dr. Kim Henry
April 22, 2020