Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Defending Reason

An interesting thing happened this past week. After writing a short piece (Who are the Real Elitists?), in which I make the case that it is the Southern Republicans who practice electoral elitism, I have been labeled an elitist myself by multiple sources. I stand accused of “being just like them” and being “insensitive” to the views of those who disagree with me. Since Voices of Reason is dedicated to reason and open debate, not wanton opinion, I think it is crucial that I clarify my positions and clear up this confusion.

To begin, reason demands persuasive arguments. For example, saying that something is true because the Bible (or Koran, or Baghavad Gita, etc.) says it is so is not sufficient to make an argument. On the topic of gay marriage most of the opposition cites select passages of the Bible that states gays are sinners. The Bible also says polygamy is ok and selling your female children into slavery is as well. Reasonable and rational people have an obligation to oppose such arguments. Opponents of gay marriage also make vague pronouncements about the “sanctity” of marriage, despite the fact that marriage for most of its history has been little more than a way to swap women for property without their consent. If people don’t like gays or allow their prejudices to determine their judgments that is their business, but it is mine as a commentator to call it what it is. Until someone makes a coherent, logical, consistent, and well-reasoned argument against gay marriage, as well as civil unions, and can show demonstrably why they harm society I will continue to speak reason to ignorance; that is the job I have assigned myself, and I will carry out this self-appointment to my grave. For the record, I have searched wide and far for such an argument and have not found one.

I’ve also mentioned the issue of evolution in passing since there is a growing movement to take this out of science curricula or at least to minimize its importance. This is insanity, period. Evolution is a “theory” to the extent that nothing is ever 100% provable, but the consensus is so overwhelming that it is true that there is no room for reasonable dissent. Again, people are free to take the Bible literally but they are not free to impose this myopia on the rest of society. We have too many battles to wage and if we’re going to get sidetracked on basics like this where does it end? Do we start debating whether the Earth is really flat?

Ever since the Democratic drubbing in the election two weeks ago it seems as if many liberals have lost their bearings in their desperation to figure out how to communicate with the “values” voters in “red” America. While I agree that the Democrats need to do this (and VOR will take up this theme shortly) it’s ridiculous to throw the baby out with the bath water. There’s no need to make room for literal interpretations of the Bible or forfeit basic principles in the process. Readers of this site know that I (who has now been bizarrely labeled a liberal extremist) make arguments for free trade, school vouchers, market-based environmental solutions, personal responsibility, strong foreign policy, and even smaller government. I supported Kerry for president but I’d be happy to vote for a Republican if he or she actually adhered to true conservative principles, which I greatly respect and largely share. As to moral values, they are a centerpiece of my life, and I will stand head to head with any church-going Republican in the Deep South just as I will take on a liberal secularist who thinks they have a monopoly on morality. I have had extended and profound conversations with anti-abortionists in which we have found common ground.

I must admit that it both disturbs and puzzles me that I find myself in the awkward position of having to defend myself against charges of being an extremist. If speaking reason to ignorance earns me this distinction then so be it, I will relish the role, while at the same wonder how as a society we have strayed so far that this is what’s come down to. I ask readers to continue their vigorous criticism but base it on the arguments and be careful not to throw labels around so casually. I promise to do the same.

J.S.

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