Saturday, April 8, 2006

Denying the Existence of Truth

David Yeagley at FrontPage sums up a recent debate between former Marxist radical turned conservative David Horowitz and the notorious University of Colorado professor, Ward Churchill. The debate was on the role of the instructor in the university classroom, and this passage in the summary caught our eye:

Horowitz believes that a professor should teach subjects in which he has been trained, and in which he has expertise. A professor should teach the truth, and teach "about" the subject, objectively, rather than advocate personal opinions or conclusions. The classroom is not a place for the professor's political advocacy or recruitment of followers. The classroom is not for indoctrination, nor for the preaching of ideological prejudice.

Ward Churchill believes it is impossible for the professor not to advocate his own opinions. Unavoidably, he must "profess." Moreover, Churchill denounces the idea that there is such a thing as truth, about any subject. Truth is merely the opinion of those in power, and such opinion has never been kept out of the classrooms of America. The classroom is a place of advocacy.

If Churchill really believes that there is no truth about any subject, what does he think is the point of advocacy? In the absence of truth, advocacy of one's political opinions is like advocacy of one's preferences in ice cream. According to his own assumptions nothing Churchill says is really true, so all he's doing with his advocacy is telling his students something about his own mental states. Why does he think that anyone should care about that? Indeed, if there is no truth about anything then Churchill's claim that there is no truth is self-refuting.

And this is the quality of thinking that the taxpayers of Colorado pay the guy $100,000 a year to dispense to their sons and daughters.

The Krauthammer/Viewpoint Solution

Charles Krauthammer has evidently been reading Viewpoint. Okay, maybe not, but his solution to the illegal alien problem sounds pretty much like what we advocate, for instance, here.

Forget employer sanctions. Build a barrier. It is simply ridiculous to say it cannot be done. If one fence won't do it, then build a second 100 yards behind it. And then build a road for patrols in between. Put cameras. Put sensors. Put out lots of patrols.

Can't be done? Israel's border fence has been extraordinarily successful in keeping out potential infiltrators who are far more determined than mere immigrants. Nor have very many North Koreans crossed into South Korea in the last 50 years.

Of course it will be ugly. So are the concrete barriers to keep truck bombs from driving into the White House. But sometimes necessity trumps aesthetics. And don't tell me that this is our Berlin Wall. When you build a wall to keep people in, that's a prison. When you build a wall to keep people out, that's an expression of sovereignty. The fence around your house is a perfectly legitimate expression of your desire to control who comes into your house to eat, sleep and use the facilities. It imprisons no one.

Of course, no barrier will be foolproof. But it doesn't have to be. It simply has to reduce the river of illegals to a manageable trickle. Once we can do that, everything becomes possible -- most especially, humanizing the situation of our 11 million existing illegals.

If the government can demonstrate that it can control future immigration, there will be infinitely less resistance to dealing generously with the residual population of past immigration. And, as Mickey Kaus and others have suggested, that may require that the two provisions be sequenced. First, radical border control by physical means. Then shortly thereafter, radical legalization of those already here. To achieve national consensus on legalization, we will need a short lag time between the two provisions, perhaps a year or two, to demonstrate to the skeptics that the current wave of illegals is indeed the last.

This is no time for mushy compromise. A solution requires two acts of national will: the ugly act of putting up a fence and the supremely generous act of absorbing as ultimately full citizens those who broke our laws to come to America.

It boggles the mind that the senate attempt to craft a compromise bill on how to handle illegals leaves completely untouched the problem of stopping the influx in the first place. When people are pouring into your house uninvited the first step in dealing with them is to lock the door so that the ones which are already in can be limited to a more manageable number and the ones still outside remain outside. The august senators in their infinite wisdom think the best way to stem the flow of hungry visitors into our home is to throw open the refrigerator door and stand out of the way.

Absolutes For Me But Not For Thee

Andrew Sullivan opposes fundamentalisms of all kinds, including Christian fundamentalism, presumably because fundamentalists tend to be absolutists. This is a mindset Andrew finds repugnant:

There is an absolutist, fundamentalist, authoritarian tendency in all monotheisms. Right now, that tendency is ascendant in all the major faiths - but it has become particularly dangerous in Islam. The problem is not religion as such, or faith as such. The problem is fundamentalism, and its certitude. There is another kind of religious faith - more rooted in doubt, more subject to humility in front of the ineffability of an ultimately unknowable God, less abstract, more sacramental. That kind of religion, which sees the different faith of others as an invitation rather than a threat, is compatible with liberal democracy. And it's that faith we have to recover and reinvigorate if we are to combat the excesses of both Islamic and Christian fundamentalists, and their political ambitions.

Very well, certitude is bad, humility is good. No one should ever believe that they are right absolutely and that anything or anyone is always wrong absolutely. But then how's this for absolutism?

In this inevitably emotional debate, perhaps the greatest failing of those of us who have been arguing against all torture and "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment" of detainees is that we have assumed the reasons why torture is always a moral evil, rather than explicating them. But, when you fully ponder them, I think it becomes clearer why ... torture, in any form and under any circumstances, is both antithetical to the most basic principles for which the United States stands and a profound impediment to winning a wider war that we cannot afford to lose.

A little side trip to the link reveals that these words were written by ... Andrew Sullivan. Torture is absolutely wrong, Andrew avers. Evidently, whether absolutism is an evil depends upon whose absolutes are under scrutiny. Absolutism is bad when it's a phenomenon displayed by Christian conservatives, but it's entirely appropriate, and indeed morally exalted, when the absolutes are such as sophisticates like Andrew embrace.