Tuesday, February 20, 2007

False Equivalency At The New York Times

The lead article in this week's NYT Magazine is a sterling example of the emerging narrative for the 2008 Presidential race. You see, there's all these "fundamentalists" on both sides of the divide, left and right, who run around spewing their bile and preventing reasonable people from having reasonable discussions about what policies are reasonable. Therefore its a good thing that the front-running Democrats are touting their religious credentials while the favored Republicans aren't playing them up, as this will smooth things out and make them run reasonably.

First, this is a ludicrous hypothesis. The burning issues which the NYT cites (abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research) are still going to be burning issues; just because the Democratic candidates have chosen to dress themselves in the mantle of religion doesn't mean they're necessarily going to give up on progressive causes. Similarly, just because John McCain is downplaying the whole religion thing doesn't mean he's going to all of a sudden become pro-choice.

But wait, it gets better. So who are these crazy fundamentalists? Well, on the right we've got the usual suspects: Dobson, Fallwell, Robertson... no big surprises there. But then who, pray tell, are the "dogmatists of the secular left"?

Richard Rorty.

Yes, that's right, Richard Rorty.

Uh-huh... a man with less exposure than Ward Churchill, whom most of the public have probably never even heard of, is the NYT's leading example. Why did they single him out?

Looking to fend off Bible-toting conservatives, the philosopher Richard Rorty argued more than a decade ago that in a modern democracy, faith should be a strictly private matter and has no place in public discussion. Traditional religion, he wrote, is a “conversation stopper,” a source of values before which nonbelievers can be only mum. The same rigid divide informs a recent manifesto “in defense of science and secularism” signed by such academic luminaries as Daniel C. Dennett, Steven Pinker, Peter Singer and Edward O. Wilson. They urge the country’s political leaders “not to permit legislation or executive action to be influenced by religious beliefs.”
Yes, anyone who has the temerity to point out that you can't argue with religious justifications for behavior is a wild-eyed, ranting lunatic who can't be trusted. The same goes for anyone else who wants government to govern with reference to tangible reality.

I'd rant more, but I have a plane to catch.

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