Worrying that the theory of evolution can can undermine the idea of human equality, Rod Dreher wonders if we’d be better off not knowing some things:
Admittedly, this puts me in a tight spot. Am I saying that we should ignore reality?…Also, I wrote a while back about the importance of maintaining the concept of forbidden knowledge, that is, things that can be known but should not be known because of what we are likely to do with that knowledge.
Without delving into what TOE means for equality (not really my beat), I sympathize with Rod’s general goals. I think it would be great if society adopted a more critical view of science. The typical ‘more is better ‘ triumphalism is one reason why–to pick just one example–simplistic analyses of the science and engineering job market perpetuate.
Unfortunately, Rod’s strategy will never work. You’re never going to get traction by suggesting reality should be ignored. It’s a losing battle. From what little I’ve read about persuasion, you don’t win converts by attacking their basic world view. You should instead appeal to it. This approach won’t guarantee victory (whatever that means), but at the very least you won’t encounter up-front resistance. It’s the same mistake Ross Douthat committed with respect to fairness.
I’ve purposefully avoided saying science is not the best way to discover truth or that we should ignore facts. Rather, I’ve argued that there are many equally true facts to consider. These datasets are both relevant to how we think about TOE: 1) TOE is the scientific consensus; or 2) Rejecting TOE does not necessarily prevent someone from succeeding in science, engineering, or life. I’ve also argued that individuals who reject evolution deserve respect and tolerance, what I believe are widely shared values. For me at least, it’s not about denying reality or ignoring science. It’s about incorporating them within a moral framework, something we already do for topics like gender and science ability or race and crime.
Now of course I could be totally wrong. I surely have not fostered any meaningful change or (based on my blog commenters!) convinced many people I have a point about anything. Dreher and Douthat are much more successful writers than I can ever dream of becoming. But I wonder if they would be more effective embracing rather than attacking the zeitgeist on these issues.