“We must make sure we don’t give platforms to those who are lying to our faces.”—Brian Stelter, former CNN host.
This is a shocking but all-too-common sentiment in our day.
This idea is the essence of “cancel culture” and all forms of intellectual suppression: If we believe someone is lying—or profoundly mistaken—we should silence him. Fire him from his job, de-platform him on social media, defame him, utterly ignore his arguments, and make him live in fear that the “woke” mob descends on him. But do not let him be heard.
Al Gore is a perfect example of this attitude. He categorically refuses to debate the climate change issue with expert opponents like Alex Epstein. Why? He does not want them heard.
What is the honest approach to deep disagreement? We discuss, we dispute, we debate. Each side provides evidence and logical reasoning based on the evidence –and in principle and in the long run, the argument with the most compelling evidence wins. We fight dishonesty not with suppression but with honesty; we fight falsehood with truth; we fight irrationality with rationality; we fight error with accuracy; we fight dogma with factual evidence and logical reasoning; we fight “disinformation” with information. In a free society and on a free market of ideas, the truth will win out.
Why is this of life-and-death importance? Ayn Rand established in Atlas Shrugged, among other vital points, that 1. Promotion of human life is the good and 2. That the mind is the fundamental means by which we accomplish this noble goal. Rational thinking is the means by which we identify truth, refute error, and create the material/intellectual values on which our lives depend.
Rational debate is one means by which we identify truth and refute error.
Al Gore, for example, says there is no time to debate; the climate “crisis” is so severe that there is time only to act. Among his other errors, this claim is egregiously false. In truth, the more dangerous a situation, the more urgent it is to arrive at the correct conclusion; for millions of human lives may depend on it. The voice of Alex Epstein and other experts who reject the AGW hypothesis must be heard just as vociferously as those of Gore and IPCC scientists. If we de-platform or suppress the leading thinkers on one side of an important issue, how do we know their evidence? We won’t. We’ll know only one side of the issue. How then do we make an informed decision? We can’t.
Freedom of speech, of intellectual expression, is necessary to arrive at the truth.
Because identifying truth and refuting falsehood is vital to human well-being, freedom of speech is a sacred moral principle and must be upheld to the death.
Who opposes freedom of intellectual expression? History provides a clue. The Dark Age Church, Protestant fanatics like John Calvin, the Puritans, the Communists, the National Socialists (Nazis), the jihadists—all of these are examples. Why do they suppress dissent? Because they cling to beliefs they hold fervently on emotional, not evidential grounds; and they know that on a free market of ideas, rational thinkers will eviscerate their irrational beliefs.
Returning to our own day, do I believe that Gore and environmentalists/leftists are lying about global warming? I do. But that is not my argument; for this would bring me into the arena of their motives, psychology, and character. All of that is irrelevant. Whether someone is honestly or dishonestly mistaken, all that is necessary is to demonstrate their errors.
So let us debate, provide evidence, and arrive at the truth. Here is an open challenge to American leftists:
- Debate me on the climate change issue. I will provide a boatload of hard data from climate science, geology, and astrophysics, and valid reasoning grounded in that data showing that modern warming is natural, not man-made; and beneficial, not pernicious to life on earth.
- Debate me on the capitalism-socialism issue. I will provide a plethora of factual evidence backed by rigorous reasoning demonstrating that laissez-faire capitalism is morally superior to any form of socialism, and consequently, practically superior.
- Debate me on the race issue. I will provide a wealth of evidence and withering logic showing that leftists, not conservatives are the bitterest enemies of black Americans; that leftist, not conservative policies are responsible for the murder of thousands of black Americans annually; and that for fifty years, leftists have been unwilling to question, much less alter these destructive policies.
- Debate me on the education issue. I will show incontrovertibly that the government school system is a cognitive cesspool, that it is irredeemable, and that the future of US education—if there is to be one—lies in privatization, homeschooling, and micro-schools (small, private community schools).
- Debate me on the gun rights issue. I will show conclusively that it is the moral right of honest persons to own guns; that guns in the hands of honest, trained persons save innocent lives; and that gun control, to the extent that guns are legally banned, always and necessarily lead to rising homicide rates and of violent crime more broadly.
Free and open debate is one indispensable method to arrive at controversial truths. Those who reject it in favor of suppressing opponents do so not because they fear the opponents lie to people’s faces but because they know that they do.