How many intellectuals and media conveyers will defend free speech and the importance of an unfettered debate of ideas? Fewer and fewer. We are witnessing in America a kind of academic French Revolution, where leading opinion is fratricidal, enraged, fanatical — and then overthrown to make room for a newer fanaticism.
People are not getting their heads chopped off physically, of course, but careers are being sliced off and reputations ruined. Fear is in the air.
There are manifold efforts to chase down, stigmatize and eradicate intellectual dissent, almost all of them in universities and media outlets. There is no recourse for the honest scholar or commentator except to stand up to the bullies, pay the price and then live in peace with his conscience, whatever his resulting — usually diminished — station might be.
But I am most familiar, of course, with the tawdry campaign of Darwinists to misrepresent and punish those scientists and science writers who dissent from Darwinism, or merely are known to associate with dissenters. Think I am exaggerating? Forget the film Expelled and what it revealed. Forget that the man in the film who simply defended the rights of dissenters, Ben Stein, himself has been punished. Just look at what the Darwinists are doing to one another when someone dares to talk to dissenters. The recent Evolution News articles about the fuss at Bloggingheads has a number of excellent pieces on this affair. David Klinghoffer in his article employs the apt metaphor of “ritual contamination.”
I use the French Revolution metaphor above. But one also might mention McCarthyism — not the reality alone, but also the hysteria around it. A Christian, citing Dante, among others, could mention human nature and the temptation to pride and its brothers, envy and spite.
But let us also invoke the metaphor of evolution. Would the Darwinists like to explain how natural selection works to cause otherwise mature people in universities and media to ostracize — excommunicate — colleagues who dare to dissent from someone’s concept of orthodoxy? Is there a gene for persecution that causes them to hector not merely dissenters but those who are guilty merely of taking the views of dissenters seriously?
Or maybe we should just invoke a television metaphor about childishness: “I have my fingers in my ears! La, la, la, la! I can’t HEAR you!”