Things are changing.
Just recently, Richard Dawkins conceded that a serious case can be made for a deistic God. (= A God Who Used To Be There)
Plus, Tom Wolfe has distanced himself from “Sorry, but your soul just died.” Apparently, it didn’t die, despite everything you did to kill it.
Now, Harvard cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker – well known for a materialist view of the mind – defends freedom of expression in Canada.
All I can say is, well, of all people!
I find his hard core materialism juvenile – after all these years he still doesn’t know that his show left town a while back, as Thomas Wolfe has noted.
All that said, P. M. Jaworski notes at The Shotgun Blog (of the Western Standard) that Pinker recently said something in defense of intellectual freedom in Canada that makes a lot of sense to me:
I was aware of the Steyn/Maclean’s case.
It’s truly shocking that a supposedly democratic government has arrogated to itself the power to censor speech because some judge or bureaucrat thinks it may “expose a person to contempt.” This could outlaw any criticism of a practice that is statistically more common in some groups than others, such as slavery, polygamy, child abuse, ritual torture, gay-bashing, and so on.
It allows haters to decide who gets to say what — all they have to do is say, “So-and-so’s essay made me show contempt,” and So-and-so gets fined or jailed. And it opens the door to the government banning speech that upsets anyone, anywhere — as all-important speech is bound to do.
This is an atrocity against the ideal of free speech, and will make Canada a laughing stock among lovers of democracy and enlightenment. (October 24, 2008)
But Pinker is, alas, mistaken on two points:
1. The criticized practice does not need to be statistically common. Prosecution of the critic requires only that the “human rights” commissioner believes that the critic may “expose a person to contempt.” Statistically uncommon practices are more likely to do so.
2. Second, given that many countries have – or are contemplating – similar laws, we are kidding ourselves if we think that Canada – or American university campuses – are making themselves “a laughing stock” by enforcing censorship of opinion.
Many earnest, humourless people who know that they are “victims” or that they represent “victims” will only rest easy when they have permanently shut down all thought that gives them anxiety. As they are not likely to be free of anxiety any time soon, dislodging them will hardly be easy.
Also just up at The Mindful Hack (O’Leary’s blog on neuroscience and spirituality):
MercatorNet: Political science – The messy room (junk science tries to explain why you vote the way you do)
Adopting a dog can be as good for your health as pills? (Pfizer apparently thinks so. Welcome to non-mechanistic medicine.)