Not making a difference since 2006. Blog motto: Always be sincere whether you mean it or not.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

If you love your kids, teach intolerance

New addition to the The Short Dictionary of Politics.

tolerance: Old, permitting free expression of views one does not share. New, suppression of thought, or speech found uncomfortable by favored groups.

I was moved to add the above definition after reading Let’s make 2007 the Year of Real Tolerance by Brendan O'Neill at Spiked Online. The definition says it all and Brendan does as well. Tolerance no longer means giving unpleasant ideas a hearing, but the opposite. As that is so, it is now incumbent for every open minded person to stand up for the free expression of views one does not share, that is, to be intolerant.

In truth, no one really believes in tolerance, just as no one is really pro choice or pro life. To hold any one of the three, you have to hold it through thick and thin. What people say when they are saying any of these things is, "I am tolerant of what it is fashionable to be tolerant about," or I am pro abortion, but I don't really want to discuss it on its own terms," or "I am anti abortion." The last one is even more tricky because so called pro lifers usually do want to discuss abortion, but, unless they are insane, get stuck on the pro life thing when you ask them how pro life they are. Would they refrain from shooting someone about to rape their daughter? My general sympathy is with pro lifers, but I would reload and keep firing in the event. As to pro choice, it would not be difficult to find a union member public school teacher who claims to be pro choice. Ask him/her how they stand on school choice. Doublethink was around long before Orwell.

But enough of that, it is the high virtue of tolerance we are discussing here. I was behind a car once with a bumper sticker that said, "Unitarianism, a religion without a dogma." Unitarianism in Massachusetts has a reputation for being accepting and inclusive. They will accept you no matter what your race or sexual orientation, etc. Of course, one could force the issue and prove they do have a dogma. Say a bunch of skinheads with swastika tattoos went to church one Sunday and introduced themselves by saying, "we believe in God and want to worship him and have never found acceptance at any church. Well, we saw the slogan about no dogma and said this is the place for us. It is wonderful to find a place tolerant of us and our different views on race." The UUs (as they are referred to here) would soon find a dogma even though they might not write it down.

It is hard for anyone to tolerate an idea that says something extremely negative about them. I don't remember whether it was Shockley or Jensen who was speaking when they first came out with their intelligence theories, but the audience of mostly black students kept applauding to drown out the speaker. I certainly understand why they were upset. No one likes to have their intellect slighted. Still, they were in no way tolerant. Along comes the Bell Curve and the applauding continues. The definition of tolerance must change from respecting the honest arguments you disagree with to not rocking the boat for some people.

Now the science of intelligence is something I will never study. I have an interest in reading the popular science press, but science is, to me, a religion into whose inner mysteries I will never be an initiate. This saddens me as I wish I were smart enough to understand. It also causes me not to believe any idea as it might become passe. After all, when I was a baby the advanced theory was that breast feeding was not preferable to the bottle. Now the theory is there are IQ points to be gained by sucking it in naturally. I needed those points.

Still, one can do some observations on one's own that give some convincing evidence. The vast majority of Jews came to this country over the last century in an impoverished condition and lived in slums. Today, a Jewish neighborhood is often a place of opulence. Was this rapid change due to luck or brains? This may not be proof, but it is evidence of intelligence being heritable. Saying it violates a taboo. Applause please.

I do not like the idea of offending people, but I do not believe it is a good thing to stifle discussion. Better to have us screaming at each other than the soft totalitarianism of holding hands as Oprah Nation.

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