Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Using Tolerance as a Weapon
from the mind of  Zeke_Wilkins.

I had an interesting exchange with one of my coworkers today which illustrates how we in the conservative community can use the rhetoric of progressives against them.

During my office hour today, a colleague caught me planning out a response to an article I had read in the student newspaper of the community college I teach at. The author was using the straw-man technique of misrepresenting the position of his opposition (in this case, those who oppose some aspects of stem cell research) and then dismantling the misrepresented arguments. I decided to work on a reasoned response to show that there was an intellectual voice of opposition, when my coworker walked in. Here is a paraphrase of the conversation that took place:

Coworker (CW): You've actually found something worth reading in the student newspaper?

Me (ZW): Actually, worth responding to.

CW: [reading the article's title] "Stem Cell Research a Modern Holocaust?" Oh, boy.

ZW: Yes. While I think that calling stem cell research a Holocaust does nothing productive, I do think this article could have been better written. The author basically believes that there is no reasoned argument to oppose some aspects of the research and calls any attempt to do so "garbage".

CW: [stunned look]

ZW: I think it is important to be intellectually honest and confront the best arguments of the opposition, rather than attempting to brush them off as not worth mentioning. It's not very open-minded or tolerant. It'll be interesting to see if they print my response.

CW: I'm sure they will.

Now, it was a rather brief exchange, but I was able to use three things that progressives pride themselves on (intellectual honesty, open-mindedness, and tolerance) to ellicit an agreement from a progressive coworker that there is a possibility of logical arguments against some forms of stem cell research: a position that moments earlier my coworker would have probably denied.

It is important to realize that I wasn't just saying the above for the sake of mental gymnastics: it really is intolerant, dishonest and close-minded to ignore the arguments of your opposition. Sometimes we as conservatives are handed perfect opportunities to call the bluff of progressives and make them "walk the talk" of open-mindedness. My coworker left my office with two things: an interest in what my response would say, and the uncomfortable feeling that she had just committed herself to a position that she had wanted to avoid. For the time being, that is all we can hope for.