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A Refutation of Intolerance

I have opined before in the pages of The Dartmouth, the daily student newspaper, about far-left elitists masquerading as intellectuals. In a column entitled Elitism, Not Intellectualism, I attempted to identify the primary targets of this elitism, namely America, the American people, and religion.

The last of these targets was the misguided mark of a column in today’s D, See You in Hell. In this column Ms. Stonehill excoriates a student who, in response to an assignment to read and analyze the biblical account of creation in Genesis, supported his analysis with biblical context (gasp!). Indeed the author, in a confusing attempt at an ad hominem attack, writes that this student was a “self-professed priest-in-training,” as if this reveals some fatal character flaw.

To be clear, this was not a Biology class in which the theory of evolution was denied based on scripture. This was an assignment about creation in Genesis, in which a student considered the book by expanding the range of intra-textual analysis, looking at other parts of the Bible and perhaps the text as a whole.

The column goes on to opine that “religious zeal is antithetical to academic learning.” Familiarity with the history of science and philosophy would tend towards disagreement. From Kepler to Descartes and Mendel to Newton, religion has been a primary motivator of academic thought. Throughout history it has been intolerance, not attention to the word of G-d, that has stifled academic thought.

Certainly Ms. Stonehill should be afforded the opportunity to opine, though unfortunately she does not wish to extend this same tolerance to others. For it is precisely the diversity of ideas that allows all of us to find, in J.S. Mill’s language, a more complete truth, higher truth, or even simply new purchase on ideas we already hold to be right. Rather than denouncing religion, or indeed any other perspective, we should denounce instead the brand of intolerance that attempts to silence or denigrate others by castigating them as inferior. This is profoundly elitist and not at all intellectual.


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