According to George MacDonald, the two pillars of ‘political correctness’ are willful ignorance and a steadfast refusal to face the truth. Interestingly, those who are politically correct often denounce those who are ‘politically incorrect’ as being ignorant and unwilling to face the truth. The problem with feeling a need to either follow or fight any norm is that it places a damaging emphasis on arriving at a certain conclusion. It places the cart before the horse and contravenes the scientific method. Ignorance, or the failure to inform oneself of relevant evidence, will often lead to incorrect assertions of fact or truth. Whether these conclusions are correct or not has no bearing on whether it is politically correct – political correctness is an independent variable. What does matter is whether the desire to reach a certain conclusion affects the evidence analyzed and the conclusions drawn. Thus, end-driven analysis has the potential to subvert truth, placing it at the epitome of ignorance. This ignorance can befall those bearing both monikers.
Of course, none of us can ever assess all the data or know all the evidence. Confucius says: “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” Even for the most accomplished scientists assessing the most nuanced hypothesis, an over-readiness to derive conclusions of fact from evidence which is merely suggestive will leave them susceptible to error. For most of us, our vulnerability to deception is greater: we are forced to place a large degree of reliance on the opinions of others. This doesn’t mean that we ought to be precluded from stating opinions. What it does suggest is that it is inappropriate to describe the ‘political’ opinion of another as ignorant when this attack is directed at the conclusion they’ve reached and not on the manner in which they reached it.
Take, for example, Barrack Obama’s address to the convoking class at Notre Dame which drew so much media attention:
“Is it possible for us to join hands in common effort? As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?
Understand — I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. No matter how much we may want to fudge it — indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory — the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.”
To a large extent Obama is correct – the two sides of the abortion debate are irreconcilable. “Aborting a child is always wrong” and “aborting a child is always right” are mutually exclusive stances. Vigorous debate where each camp makes its case on abortion is exactly what western society needs. This debate needs to occur with passion and respect. What we do not need is for those involved to remain firm in their convictions. We need a conviction to discover truth and fact, regardless of whether that points to the conclusion that the person involved in the dialectic originally desired. If we merely remain committed to our convictions, society will never overcome either the division present or the ignorance.
Let us pray that the United States and Canada will witness true debate on abortion and that God will open the hearts of our nations to the truth.
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