Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Brian Leiter disagrees with Frank Beckwith--and himself

Brian Leiter is a University of Chicago philosopher and one of the frantic voices warning of the Evil Creationist Plot to Take Over America. He has recently taken Christian philosopher Francis Beckwith to task for being a "notorious and sleazy shill for 'Intelligent Design' creationism." Now of course it would be notoriously sleazy to accuse someone of believing something they don't actually believe.

Wouldn't it?

Since his religious conversion to Catholicism (and philosophical conversion to Thomism), Beckwith has renounced his belief in Intelligent Design. Apparently Leiter sees nothing amiss in charging someone who is intellectually honest enough to publicly announce his change of mind on a very controversial issue with misrepresention and lying in the very process of engaging in these things himself.

It doesn't involve a terribly complex intellectual procedure to distinguish between someone's past beliefs and what they believe now, particularly for a University of Chicago philosopher. Yet Leiter seems to be having some trouble managing it.

But this is just garden variety hypocrisy, and Leiter is no garden variety hypocrite.

Leiter's most recent screed comes after Beckwith criticized one of the more recent attempts to politicize the academy by forcing ideological uniformity on colleges and universities in the name of "Diversity." This time, Leiter and other members of the Tolerance Police have targeted religious colleges and universities who have the nerve to employ policies that allow them to hire people who, like, agree with them. In any other world than the ideologically uniform and politically charged one Leiter inhabits, people who talk till they are blue in the face about Diversity would be expected to actually practice it, an activity that would involve tolerating the existence of institutions that take a different view on issues like human sexuality than your own.

It would be an interesting philosophical exercise--perhaps one Leiter could pursue after a hard day on Uniformity Patrol--to try to intellectually justify the position that the belief in Diversity somehow obligates you to try and stamp out the opinions of those with whom you disagree.
War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength

...and Diversity is Uniformity
To Leiter, like so many thinkers on the left, ideological political considerations take precedence over everything else--professional decorum included. Leiter's posts on Beckwith don't even attempt to meet Beckwith's remarks with any kind of academic detachment. Honest disagreement with his political ideology is, by definition, impossible. Those who take any another view than the Approved one are simply evil.

This is a common characteristic of essentially religious beliefs, which is what the Diversity Crusade has become. In this movement, there is simply no sense in even considering your opponent's position. It is simply heresy.

It's a strange thing to see a guy who gives the creationists down the road for essentially the same kind of approach to scientific issues engaging in it himself. But I guess I'm appealing to intellectual consistency here, a characteristic that these days is apparently too much to ask of an otherwise reputable philosopher.

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