Update: Rod Dreher provides more evidence of the vile hatred directed toward Swinburne here.
In case you haven’t already heard, the philosophy gossip blogs are buzzing about the controversy that ensued when an orthodox Christian philosopher defended orthodox Christian ethics at a Society of Christian Philosophers (SCP) meeting. To be more specific: at the latest Midwest meeting of the SCP, Richard Swinburne presented a paper in which he argued for the view that homosexual acts are immoral and that homosexuality is a disability that should be cured. The response from some quarters was predictably hysterical and unremarkable. What is remarkable is that the President of the SCP, Michael Rea, shamefully acquiesced to the leftist hysteria by issuing an ingratiating public apology, accusing Swinburne of causing pain and undermining the SCP’s mission of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion:’
Rea’s statement is problematic for many reasons, not the least of which is that it seems to endorses a view of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ that does precisely the opposite: exclude people with orthodox and traditional Christian views. Given the tremendous moral freight that terms like ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ now carry, implying that someone failed to uphold those values can—not uncharitably—be read as calling the person a bigot and, in this context, a homophobe. This is, in fact, how some took it:
This will serve as a warning to any Christian who might otherwise wish to argue publicly for politically incorrect Christian moral views. The SCP is now a safe space only for BuzzFeed Christians, viz. those who’ve apparently received a new revelation from God abrogating the teachings of the Bible and the Church.
Another problem with Rea’s note is that it seems to have been prompted by selective outrage. It isn’t proper for the president of a professional society, much less a philosophical society, to publicly disavow one of its members merely because his keynote caused offense, or even emotional pain. Peter Singer, for example, has incredibly controversial moral views about abortion, infanticide, and the mentally retarded. These views do cause offense and pain. For example, the assertion that early fetuses are morally equivalent to ‘clumps of cells’ can cause extreme mental harm to women who’ve suffered from miscarriages and, as a result, PTSD. But, to our knowledge, no president of any respectable philosophical society has felt compelled to (a) publicly admonish Singer for his views, (b) cite the unremarkable fact that Singer’s views do not represent the views of the society, and (c) point out that his views cause pain and undermine the society’s goals of inclusion and diversity. In fact, some philosophical organizations have gone out of their way to defend hosting speakers with controversial views in the face of much more significant public outrage and criticism. Maybe Rea is nicer than all of these other people. Or maybe, just maybe, this is another instance of selective outrage against people with conservative views.
Not surprisingly, many commented on Rea’s post expressing their puzzlement at the apology. You can read the post, and the full comment thread, here. But here are some representative samples:
The social media reaction against those puzzled by the public apology has been interesting. First, there are the defenses of the apology. The main defense seems to be that Swinburne’s comments were damaging, harmful, cruel, and hurtful. Witness:
That Swinburne’s comments were damaging, harmful, cruel, and hurtful is absurd. This has been a favored tactic of the left for some time. Because they know causing bodily damage, hurt, and harm justifies the use of force in response, if they can convince people in power that certain words and views cause mental damage, hurt, and harm, use of force in censoring it is also justified. So the notion that it isn’t free speech at issue is just as absurd. Some leftists are honest enough to admit that:
Let’s think about Moser’s post for a minute. Notice how Moser, like all other touchy-feely leftists, produces no argument against the contention that same-sex attraction is disordered or that it is a disability in some relevant sense. Instead all that is offered are claims that this contention is offensive, coupled with some nauseating pearl clutching. Would people like Moser be inclined to say that being born, say, deaf or blind are disabilities? Unless they want to bite the bullet and say that there are no such things as disabilities, presumably so. And would they think that pointing out that blindness and deafness are disabilities as a matter of fact is cause for taking offense? Presumably not. So why say something like that when it comes to non-normative and disordered conditions vis-à-vis sex? Once again we see the leftists’ impulse to cordon off all things sexual from rational investigation. How this is any different from what secularists of old accused the ecclesial authorities of doing—cordoning off theology as an area that could not be critiqued lest one desire to keep his job at his university—is unclear. It is clear, rather, that leftism has all the hallmarks of being a modern sex cult.
But because unwelcome questions and counterarguments to liberal silliness are like garlic to a vampire, the second dominant reaction to the puzzlement at the apology has been, predictably, scorn and accusations of hatefulness. Witness:
We may have missed it, but none of the comments expressing puzzlement at Rea’s apology seemed hateful or narrow-minded. These, on the other hand:
Not to be outdone by his liberal peers (paragons of the virtues of tolerance, diversity, and inclusiveness as they are), University of Nebraska graduate Clayton Littlejohnson (aka “Littlejohn” for short) posted a piece on his blog titled “A Response to Dick Swinburne.” Apparently, anyone who has conservative moral views, including the vast majority of Muslims (we won’t hold our breaths waiting for him to insult them directly), is a dick, according to Littlejohnson. It’s clear from these examples and many, many more that many philosophers loathe their conservative colleagues merely because they are conservatives.
The prefabricated outrage over Swinburne’s views raises some questions of a more speculative nature. Specifically, was this a set-up? After all, Swinburne’s view that homosexuality is a disorder that should be prevented and cured where possible is well known, having been published over a decade ago in his book Revelation (OUP, 2nd ed. 2007). His view has been criticized in the scholarly literature. For example, in language eerily similar but equally nonsensical as Hackett’s hack job, McLean writes, “Swinburne’s ‘revelation’ (as a discursive practice) participates in non-discursive apparatuses of power and domination over women and LGBTQ communities. Thus, in the end, this neo-conservative philosophical discourse on ‘revelation’ employs the illusion of truth to extend itself as power over those who have been customarily marginalized by traditional forms of Christianity.” Similar reviews could be multiplied with ease.
Now, given the fact that Swinburne’s view is well-known, and given the fact that leftist philosophers have already published virtue-signaling reviews of Swinburne’s book for close to a decade, why did the SCP invite him to give a talk on the topic if they thought his comments could be damaging, harmful, cruel, hurtful, or hateful to members of the LGBTQRSTUVWXYZ community? One could understand them doing so if they had given a ‘trigger warning’ before hand. But they didn’t. On the contrary, they let him come and present his well-known views that have already been the subject of dozens of responses—responses that surely Christiana van Dyke, the Executive Director of the SCP, was familiar with, given that the reviews of Swinburne involve van Dyke’s bailiwick. Then, after the conference, Rea and van Dyke, seemingly like wide-eyed innocent children caught completely off-guard, issued ‘apologies’ for what transpired, sparking uproar on the various philosophy gossip blogs and garnering the SCP elites a huge spotlight.
This is like inviting William Lane Craig to give a talk on arguments for God’s existence, then, after he gives a talk on the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the organizers feign outrage and pretend to be surprised by the content of his talk. They then issue an apology to Muslims who were offended at Craig’s cultural appropriation. One does not need a tinfoil hat to suspect a set-up. If there’s a better way to obtain a huge audience in front of which to virtue-signal, one would be hard-pressed to find it. So, was Swinburne the unwitting dupe of a leftist conspiracy to shame an elderly, white, male conservative Christian philosopher? That these questions can’t be easily brushed to the side is itself an indictment of academia’s leftist hegemony.
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- Jason Stanley’s Response to Rightly Considered - October 6, 2016
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- The Pedagogy Paradox for Conservative Professors - December 6, 2016
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