July 24, 2006

Would the university allow a white supremacist or a Holocaust denier to teach?

UW Regent Jeffrey B. Bartell says he'll respond to that question, which he's been hearing a lot lately. Here's how the response goes:
[M]y question in response is how did you learn about these theories?... As abhorrent as these propositions are, how do any of us find out about them and understand their rationale?

Perhaps we read about them in the newspaper or in magazines; perhaps we hear about them in discussions with friends; or perhaps they were part of the curriculum of a class we took at the university. We are told that a small number of academics in this country, and a much larger number of Muslims in other parts of the world, believe that the U.S. government was implicated in the disasters of 9/11.

Why shouldn't students at the University of Wisconsin learn that, with whatever evidentiary bases exist for that assertion, as they also study the conclusions reached by the 9/11 Commission to which most of us subscribe? Why shouldn't Kevin Barrett have to answer his students' questions about how such a horrendous and far-reaching disaster could be orchestrated by our government without even one person "blowing the whistle" and bringing the conspiracy to an end?
Well, he came at that obliquely, but I guess that means he would allow a white supremacist to teach his theory if he'd managed to get himself hired here. But he won't say it head on, and he won't even look straight at the Barrett problem, which is not that the students are learning that many Muslims believe this theory, but that they are learning it from someone who actually believes it's true, which ruins any useful potential for understanding Muslim culture. The interesting issue here is why they believe something so plainly false. How can someone who believes it take students down that path? That issue has some relevance to a course on Muslim culture. The evidence supporting the theory is something that might be profitably examined in an engineering class, using the tools of that discipline. But it's hopelessly off topic in a humanities course.

Bartell does end with this:
Mr. Barrett may not be the person I would hire to teach this course on Islamic culture and religion. But neither would I fire him or prevent him from teaching solely on the basis of his controversial, even bizarre, views. I think Provost Farrell made the right call.
May not be? Controversial, even bizarre? Why pull those punches? Barrett is absolutely not the right person to teach this, and his views are idiotic, even evil.

Tell it straight, and then it will mean something when you back Farrell. I do.

34 comments:

Gerry said...

Bravo!

ben wallace said...

In my opinion Farrell did the right thing by not firing Barrett but made the mistake of assuming the only options available to his office were firing Barrett or giving complete autonomy to the department to police Barrett. I believe Farrell had at least three options: (1) firing Barrett; (2) allowing Barrett to teach subject to conditions; or (3) allowing Barrett to teach subject to no conditions. Option 1 is inappropriate because it would be unclear if Barrett was fired because of what he planned to teach or because of his activities outside the university. Option 2 has some advantages over Option 1. First, it signals that Barrett can teach even if he is radical outsider the university. Barrett should be able to express himself any way he wants outside the classroom provided he is acting within the law. Second, it would create a precedent that the university will monitor departments to ensure course content is reasonably related to the subject of the course. Option 2 does not imply the conspiracy theory cannot be taught or advocated in the classroom, only that the theory must be related to the course. The problem with Option 1 is that the standard in effect gives all control over content to the hiring department. Academic freedom holds that that course content should be determined by the university; this principle does not require that the administration always defer to the department. Farrell was right not to fire Barrett, but he should have used Option 2. This option would have allowed the university administration to determine course content jointly with the department (an action that is consistent with universities, as opposed to politicians, determining course content) while affirming that a conspiracy theory can and should be taught in the university, but that the subject is simply not appropriate for this particular course. Moreover, such a standard would send a message to departments that they need to ensure course content is reasonably related to the topic at hand, while affirming the belief that even advocacy of ideas would be tolerated as long as the previous condition is met.

Richard said...

Just when you think UW can't screw it up any further, they make it worse. Mr. Bartell's response is just so freakish on so many levels that I shudder to imagine what other opinions he holds that help direct poor UW.

Internet Ronin said...

The problem for many institutions is their failure to admit a mistake until it is far too late to matter. Barrett and his class are not going to go gently into that good night as the UW administration hopes. By the end of semester, they will be wishing they had not equivocated about his views now because nothing they say then will help them out of this predicament of their own making.

Henry said...

Apparently UW Regent Jeffrey B. Bartell disagrees with Stanley Fish.

Or not. It's not clear.

Whether or not Fish's argument holds water, it is interesting how carefully Bartell edges around it.

Let me propose a theory, based on no evidence whatsoever. Bartell, and UW Provost Patrick Farrell have been hung out to dry by the UW College of Arts and Letters. The college, or specifically the department should have either removed Barrett from the course, or required him to teach a predefined department curriculum. But the college failed to do this and UW administrators dare not override them. Shades of Larry Summers.

Any takers?

Pogo said...

This just keeps getting uglier. It makes the university seem so impotent, cowed by a part-time teacher who espouses ideas clearly wrong. The defenses become increasingly elaborate and evasive.

Sheesh. I was angry about this for awhile, now I feel sorry for the kids attending the non-science classes, for it seems likely that mediocrity and truthiness are given a wide berth.

downtownlad said...

What's the problem with having a Holocaust denier teach? As I understand it, the Holocaust deniers just don't think that six million Jews died. They think the numbers are lower, 2 million or so.

I'm assuming the six million number is correct, but I don't get offended that some people think otherwise. Hey - if they have evidence - let them present it and then let others refute it. I'm a Jew, but I fail to get worked up about this stuff. Even if the source of the beliefs is anti-semitism, so what? Like we should be shocked that some intellectuals are anti-semetic. Shocker.

But this 9/11 is a conspiracy guy doesn't appear to even be open to debate. I wouldn't want to have ANY professor at my college who is unwilling to have his opinions challenged.

It's better to just stop talking about him. He's a moron, but the publicity is only helping him.

Jason Coleman said...

Well then, could someone please tell me the name of the open and outspoken white supremacist who is teaching at UW? How bout letting me know the name of an open holocaust denier at UW?

Could you also point me to the organization which each of these people founded to prostelitize their white supremacist and denier philosophies?

For the record, the name of Barrett's group is Muslim Jewish Christian Alliance for Truth and you can find their website at mujca.com.

When you find me the professors at UW that reach this level, please let me know. I'd be interested to see how their cases play out in the media and with the administration of UW when such activities became public.

--Jason

Sanjay said...

Well, except my recollection (which may be wrong) is that when you started, even though this was a natural topic people might expect you to blog about and you obviously have strong feelings about it, you sort of wanted to avoid the whole ugly topic? But I'll look and see if my recollection is wrong (hell, feel free to kill this with comment moderation if it is). Not that you've been shy about voicing your opinion since!

jeff_d said...

Calling Bartell's statement oblique is charitable. He isn’t making any real effort to provide a plausible rationale for the hiring decision. He is trying, awkwardly, to draw some of the enemy fire.

If I'm not mistaken, he is suggesting that it would be appropriate to hand a taxpayer-funded position of authority to a white supremacist or Holocaust denier for the purpose of holding such a person up to students' scrutiny. I don't believe such a rationale could possibly have motivated even the misguided decision in the Barrett case. Surely Barrett wasn’t hired just so the students could see how stupid Barrett's theory is.

In some cultures, it is or was apparently a prevalent belief that one could cure HIV by sleeping with a virgin. Would a public health course be enriched if a teaching position was handed to a proponent of this theory?

Slightly less preposterous but stranger in its own way is the notion that the Barrett hiring is a good thing because it will ensure that students are exposed to Barrett's viewpoint along with “the conclusions reached by the 9/11 Commission.” If we are still talking about a course entitled “Introduction to Islam,” this isn’t much of a solution—instead of only wasting class time on the proselytizing of an apologist for genocide, we will also waste class time reading the collected works of the 9/11 Commission!

I don’t think Bartell does anything here to help his University.

gnocchi said...

For me, it's a question of which is worse? A white supremacist or a lawyer who seems incapable of comprehending the first amendment? A holocaust denier or a university professor who can't tell the difference between reasoned argument and ad hominem attack?

In each case, the former is so obviously, laughably, provably wrong that any supposed "damage" they could do is greatly reduced.

The true damage to our society has often come from the seemingly respectable, perhaps even geniunely well-meaning folk who just can't seem to notice that they're tap-dancing around the edge of authoritarianism.

I'm pretty sure one of them even came from Wisconsin.

Simon said...

"For the record, the name of Barrett's group is Muslim Jewish Christian Alliance for Truth and you can find their website at mujca.com."

That website (which, hilariously enough, is absolutely terrible, go figure - is it an unwritten rule that the more outlandish the theory, the worse the site will be designed?) is apparently hosted by Badger Internet (the DNS name www.mujca.com resolves to the IP address 209.83.8.11, the reverse DNS entry for which is www2.badgerinternet.com). If UW has too little shame to do something about Barret, and is too insulated to be amenable to pressure, perhaps Barrett's ISP has more shame (or less insulation). Since it is now readily apparent that UW have made their bed and are determined to lie in it, perhaps other avenues should be explored?

I can readily say that if my company turned out to host a site like that, I would be strongly militating for us to tell them to look elsewhere for service.

amba said...

Barrett + Farrell = Bartell.

(Sorry to have nothing substantive to say about this. The names are making me giddy.)

gnocchi said...

Wow -- I just watched Neil Heinen's interview with Barrett. If anyone is interested, you can get the podcast here.

Watch the interview and then tell me you still think he's "moronic", "insane" or "evil". Even better, try refuting anything he says with actual evidence, as opposed to opinion or attacks.

Eli Blake said...

As a matter of fact (Liberal that I am) I did post last February in support of a Holocaust denier's right to express his views in public. And a university is exactly the kind of place where that sort of thing should be openly discussed-- and openly dismantled. What I wrote in that post was:

You could throw everyone who denied the Holocaust in prison tomorrow, and it would not end Holocaust denial. It would instead only be a victory, not for the old Nazis, but for the new ones who would love to be able to limit what we can read, write and speak about.

Instead, we must make it clear what a poisonous doctine it is. But do it in a free society where we can make it clear that even a poisonous doctrine can be expounded in public, so that we can together publically criticize the ignorance that goes with it.


I stand by that post. Invite the Holocaust denier. Then hold his 'facts' up against the spotlight of truth. Like cockroaches, these types thrive much better when you turn off the lights.

But if we refuse to let someone who is truly odious be heard today, then who will we decide not to allow to be heard tomorrow?

Daryl Herbert said...

You back Farrell...

... and you also back allowing White Supremacists and Holocaust deniers "to teach."

... and by "to teach," you mean "raise the subject and discuss at length in an unrelated class"

Sloanasaurus said...

I have heard that the UW essentially signed a one semester contract with Barrett (before he announced his intention to teach the conspiracy stuff). It would probably be worse for the UW and probably more costly to try and fire him at this point

Instead, the UW should apologize and say it made a mistake but then point to the thousands of other "instructors" it has hired who have not announced they will teach conspiracy theories after signing a contract.

Editor Theorist said...

Ann asks why the 9/11 conspiracy theorists believe something so obviously false.

I think the answer is that they are arguing from different premises. The psychological mechanism of 9/11 denial is the same as for some types of psychotic delusion:

www.hedweb.com/bgcharlton/delusions

The 9/11 denialists premise is that the GW Bush administration really is evil, and really would deliberately and horribly kill any number of US citizens to achieve some kind of tactical political advantage, like bolstering the military.

Obviously, if you believe that the government operates in this way, then this opens up a vast new search space for political theories about how and why things happen.

Believing in the evil intent of the administration, all else follows rationally. In other words, 9/11 denial is mostly a matter of logical argument from false premises.

The trouble is that the premise of the argument involves making inferences about the intentions of other people (ie. the US president and administration).

But we can never know for sure what is in other peoples' minds. This is why conspiracy theorists are so hard to argue away from their beliefs.

Therefore, allowing KB to teach 9/11 denial in undergraduate lectures is not simply about exposing students to an alternative interpretation of neutral facts - it is about convincing people of the utterly evil motivations of the US government.

Cedarford said...

The Holocaust is still a difficult academic subject because of the high feelings still present, the factors of money and politics still arising from it, and the presence of many agendas - including clearly the ones that seek to exaggerate the horrors unduely and those that similarly seek to minimize them, from often virulent anti-semitic beliefs.

The difficulty for scholars of an honest mien is made even harder by laws demanded and given to Holocaust survivors by various countries that no writings or publications that tended to diminish "magnitude" of the Holocaust would be legal to express. So, honest scholars who look and point out errors or false atrocity stories or find that Soviet archives have documents showing the Russians actually killed 100s of thousands of Polish Jews and larger numbers of Polish Catholics, or that a typhus epidemic from 1943-45 killed over 11 million Europeans including significant numbers of POWs and Jews - have run into legal trouble in some countries even with the documents or proof of falsehood as "Holocaust deniers".

It would be nice to just accept what people WANT to believe as fact, but falsifying or glossing over the real history or sociological data is sometimes done to advantage parties, deserving or not as they may be - at the expense of the truth.

I don't know if it is 6 million or 3.5 million as the Revisionists claim - certainly it is a lot - but getting the real events is important for real analysis - no matter what the feelings of the stakeholders. The "six million number" was arrived at without data analysis, or a formal survey of before and after Jewish populations by census within Europe, research into the displaced persons, migration to other countries during and before the War. 6 million appears based on the guesstimates of two minor Nazis on trial and spread globally by the media as "truth" during the Nuremberg trials. Then codified as incontrovertable "fact".

The claims of staunch anti-communist Chinese that Mao and his cadres killed 80 million and starved another 35 million were repeated breathlessly in the 60s - but looking at the archives and census data and interviews lowered those claims substantially. Some anti-communists were outraged, considered their cause lessened - but without reasonable assurance of valid numbers...no real scholarship like the Black Book of Communism could be written and deliver an impartial and objective measure of the Communist Democide.

Similarly, more inquiry is showing that many feminist rape statistics have been concocted or were based just on the "feelings" and stories heard about the prevalence of things like (1)rape on campus - one of every 4 co-eds is raped!!; (2) Only 2-3% at most of rape accusations are false. [Serious study has shown both of the feminist claims to be wildly off]

We can be sure that "9/11 denial" or numbers of the Rwandan and Cambodia genocides will not be seriously questioned because impartial scholars documenting it under human rights law did meticulous analysis. Many of the more lurid Nazi atrocity stories like human soap factories and lampshades of human skin were found to be false. Others, like Baba Yar, contests of lining up Russian POWs to see how many could be killed by a single rifle bullet passing through them - were proven true atrocities.

If the actual number is 3.5 or is truly 6 million - it is still monstrous. The point is that after 60 years it is important for the world to have an accurate, serious scholastically grounded picture of the true devastation of WWII that Europeans, Jews, Russians, affected Asian populations can have high confidence in - and end the 60-year long BS of malignant "Holocaust Deniers", reparations lawyers, communists deflecting their own slaughterous deed's blame onto others

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gerry said...

Mary is *still* trying to be an ass?

Good to see her succeeding in something so important to her.

RogerA said...

I think DTL has it: Ignore Mr. Barrett. Mr. Barrett is going to make a mint of money as a crackpot, has become the poster child for academic freedom, and is doing major damage to a great educational institution all at the same time. This guy should be teaching a course in marketing.

Mike said...

editor theorist said: "Therefore, allowing KB to teach 9/11 denial in undergraduate lectures is not simply about exposing students to an alternative interpretation of neutral facts - it is about convincing people of the utterly evil motivations of the US government."

Yes. Watch the interview with Barrett that gnocchi links to in his 12:16 am post. The need to convince people of the evil nature of the U.S. government is exactly Barrett's motivation. He says so.

gnocchi: I watched the interview Sunday morning and I think it clearly demonstrates Barrett as delusional. I shy away from the evil label. With respect to your challenge, Barrett presented no evidence in the interview to refute. He has an core believe that all governments are evil (he says so explicitly in the interview). He starts from this premise. He doesn't start with evidence. This guy is not a critical thinker, which is one reason it's so dismaying that he's teaching here.

JohnK said...

What a CYA joke. It is funny to watch this guy dance around what everyone knows to be the truth. While Bartell may consider this guy's views bizarre or controversial, the fact is that the teacher in this case is a fellow traveller of the left and thus entitled to respectful treatment no matter how much his views may offend people not on the left. Christian supremacists or white supremeacists or ordinary Republicans are not entitled to such defference. Thus, had Kevin Barrett been one of these he would have never been hired and if he was would have been sumarily fired if he had created any controversy. Anyone who denies such is either lying or living in denial.

gnocchi said...

editor theorist said...

Ann asks why the 9/11 conspiracy theorists believe something so obviously false.

I think the answer is that they are arguing from different premises. The psychological mechanism of 9/11 denial is the same as for some types of psychotic delusion:

www.hedweb.com/bgcharlton/delusions


Or...perhaps it's because we have different definitions of "obvious" and "false".

Mine go something like this:

obvious: Clearly and easily provable.
false: Not true.

While yours (and Ann's) seem to be:

obvious: Because I say so.
false: See obvious.

Seriously, if Barrett's views are obviously false, you should have no problem posting (or linking to) actual scientific and/or historical evidence that completely destroys his arguments After all, this is pretty easy to do for white supremacists, holocaust deniers and creationists.


The 9/11 denialists premise is that the GW Bush administration really is evil, and really would deliberately and horribly kill any number of US citizens to achieve some kind of tactical political advantage, like bolstering the military.

Sadly, the evidence (yes, evidence) is against you on this one. It's very difficult to argue that the Iraq war is anything but BushCo ordering the deaths of thousands of US citizens (and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians) in order to achieve a political goal. You also have the spectacle of Katrina, where Bush may not have ordered the death of US citizens, but he certainly didn't seem to care that much when it happened.

Again, I'd welcome any opposing evidence you have that Bush & Co are actually not evil and have the best interests of the American people at heart (and not just the rich, white, Republican ones).

Frank Borger said...

Barrett, (with his late discovery of religion,) reminds me much of the son of a co-worker some years ago.

The co-worker was a devout agnostic, and raised his son without any religous education whatever, (for or against.) In his mid-20's the son "got religion" big time. His father remarked on how he couldn't believe the stuff his son was spouting.

When I worked in medical research, I heard many people say you had to keep your emotions away from your work. If your work became a Crusade against disease X, and you lost your objectivity, you would fervently support any treatment, drug, etc despite all scientific evidence that it didn't work. I've met folks like that.

In education, you also can't teach well if you loose your objectivity and go on a Crusade, especially if it's the subject you're teaching. That's why Barrett is a very poor choice to teach that class.

brylin said...

When considering Bartell's position I think it is helpful to know from whence he came.

According to this, Bartell was appointed in as a UW regent in 2006 by Democrat Governor Doyle.

ed said...

Hmmm.

Frankly I was going to write something about 5 paragraphs long and very humorous and witty.

But how can you parody something that is it's own parody? It's almost Zen how utterly ridiculous this nonsense is.

BTW anybody catch Barrett on O'Reilly? He wasn't on, but his letter to FoxNews was read out loud by O'Reilly. Amazingly enough Barrett ended up sounding like an even bigger idiot.

Editor Theorist said...

I said: The 9/11 denialists premise is that the GW Bush administration really is evil, and really would deliberately and horribly kill any number of US citizens to achieve some kind of tactical political advantage, like bolstering the military.

Gnocci replied: Sadly, the evidence (yes, evidence) is against you on this one. It's very difficult to argue that the Iraq war is anything but BushCo ordering the deaths of thousands of US citizens (and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians) in order to achieve a political goal. You also have the spectacle of Katrina, where Bush may not have ordered the death of US citizens, but he certainly didn't seem to care that much when it happened.

Again, I'd welcome any opposing evidence you have that Bush & Co are actually not evil and have the best interests of the American people at heart (and not just the rich, white, Republican ones).

My response: Gnocci illustrates my point very clearly. Gnocchi apparently believes that there is an exact moral equivalence between a government going to war (a war in which they expect some thousands of their citizens to be killed), and a government deliberately arranging to crush and incinerate some thousands of their citizens in an explosion.

But this presumed moral equivalence between war and mass murder is - to put it mildly - not universally subscribed-to.

Only those who see war and mass murder as precisely equivalent would regard all governments which would go to war as evil.

The majority of people see war and mass murder as different, and would not regard the current US administration as evil in the way that mass murdering governments (Hitler, Stalin etc) are evil.

The 9/11 denial theory therefore only has plausibility to people who believe - as a premise to further argument - that the US government is morally indistinguishable from National Socialism or Stalinism.

gnocchi said...

Mike said...

I watched the interview Sunday morning and I think it clearly demonstrates Barrett as delusional.


Really? The video clearly demonstrates that Barrett is delusional (i.e. strongly holding a false belief in spite of invalidating evidence)?

If you make the charge, you need to present at least some evidence that invalidates his position. It's not enough that he holds a view that you don't like.

Barrett presented no evidence in the interview to refute

Now we actually get to something that's "obviously false". Even though Heinen says he doesn't want to have a debate on the merits of Barrett's arguments, Kevin does manage to sneak in a few statements that are clearly falsifiable (i.e., possible to disprove given appropriate counter-evidence).

Here they are with the timestamps:

4:38: Barrett states that the steel from the trade towers was shipped off to China and melted down before anyone could test it. Is this true or false?

4:47: He states that Stephen Jones has found traces of thermate on the steel samples he's tested. Has Jones found such traces or hasn't he?

5:56: Government has numerous videos of the Pentagon crash which it will not release, including videos seized from a nearby gas station and hotel. True or false?

6:38: Barrett states that the public has never been shown video evidence of a plane hitting the pentagon. True or false?

7:43: Barrett states that scientific experiments have been done showing that cell phone calls were not possible from Flight 93. Did those experiments occur or didn't they?

7:56: He states that there was no sign of a plane at the supposed flight 93 crash site and that the wreckage was strewn over miles. Can you show where this is untrue?


This is the reason I'm so annoyed with the discussion on this blog. If you're advocating in favor of removing someone from their job (or, as Ann suggests, preventing him from ever being hired in the first place), you need to show some justification for your position. Ad hominem attacks and/or straight-up misrepresentations of fact are simply not sufficient.

gnocchi said...

Editor Theorist said...

I said: The 9/11 denialists premise is that the GW Bush administration really is evil, and really would deliberately and horribly kill any number of US citizens to achieve some kind of tactical political advantage, like bolstering the military.

Gnocci
[sic] replied: Sadly, the evidence (yes, evidence) is against you on this one. It's very difficult to argue that the Iraq war is anything but BushCo ordering the deaths of thousands of US citizens (and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians) in order to achieve a political goal. You also have the spectacle of Katrina, where Bush may not have ordered the death of US citizens, but he certainly didn't seem to care that much when it happened.

Again, I'd welcome any opposing evidence you have that Bush & Co are actually not evil and have the best interests of the American people at heart (and not just the rich, white, Republican ones).

My response: Gnocci illustrates my point very clearly. Gnocchi apparently believes that there is an exact moral equivalence between a government going to war (a war in which they expect some thousands of their citizens to be killed), and a government deliberately arranging to crush and incinerate some thousands of their citizens in an explosion.

...[snip]...

The 9/11 denial theory therefore only has plausibility to people who believe - as a premise to further argument - that the US government is morally indistinguishable from National Socialism or Stalinism.


Wow, I guess we can leave subtlety in the dust for this discussion.

E.T., can you really not see the difference between a war fought for self defense (say, WWII) and a war fought for political or monetary gain, with premises based on cherry-picked if not wholly fabricated information? Or do you just want to stick your fingers in your ears and hum the Star-Spangled banner until the nasty man stops talking?

My beliefs are based on evidence, not some irrational hatred of government. Your theory -- let's call it the 9/11 Gullibility and Submission to Authority Theory -- seems to be based on the premise that anything the government says should be taken at face value. Any skepticism directed at their self-serving statements is "nuts" or "moronic" or "evil".

The simple fact is that no matter what nefarious motives you ascribe to me or Mr Barrett (see Ad hominem), you continue to refuse to engage with our argument -- which I'll call the 9/11 Patriotic Skepticism Theory -- using any logical or fact-based methods. It's almost as if you have no empirical evidence to support your position.

Editor Theorist said...

Gnocchi said: The simple fact is that no matter what nefarious motives you ascribe to me or Mr Barrett (see Ad hominem), you continue to refuse to engage with our argument -- which I'll call the 9/11 Patriotic Skepticism Theory -- using any logical or fact-based methods. It's almost as if you have no empirical evidence to support your position.

My reply: I don't have anything to say about motives. But the widespread refusal to engage in debate about the specifics of 9/11 denial theories is - I suggest - due to the fact that the denialsts are arguing from a premise which a majority of the population refuse to accept and regard as false.

In other words, most people will not discuss the specific aspects that the 9/11 denialists want to discuss because they do not accept the foundational basis of their case.

The majority clearly do not believe that the US administration would deliberately mass murder its citizens, the 9/11 denialists thinks that they would (and that the majority are naive).

I suggest that the perceived moral nature of the US administration is the basis of disagreement. If the 9/11 denialists want to convince the majority of their views they would first need to demonstrate that the US government is capable of planned mass murder for political ends.

The worry about teaching is that the process by which someone might set-about trying to convince an audience that their government was capable of deliberate strategic mass murder of its own citizens is inappropriate for an introductory undergraduate course in religious studies.

gnocchi said...

editor theorist said...

...the widespread refusal to engage in debate about the specifics of 9/11 denial
[sic] theories is - I suggest - due to the fact that the denialsts[sic] are arguing from a premise which a majority of the population refuse to accept and regard as false.

Now here we agree. Just like creationists, 9/11 Acceptalists simply refuse to believe evidence presented to them.

Now I know how annoying it is to be compared to creationists (believe me), but in this case the parallels are hard to ignore. Someone produces evidence that collides unpleasantly with your world view, and instead of examining that evidence honestly (since that might lead to more world-view uncomfortableness), you simply ignore the evidence and either attack the presenter or respond with other logical fallacies. (e.g., "The 9/11 evidence cannot be true because the Bush administration would never do such a thing" vs. "The fossil record cannot be true because God would never create something that would go extinct.")

The only problem is, don't we usually use the term "denialist" to apply to the folks ignoring the evidence? Just asking...

gnocchi said...

If the 9/11 denialists want to convince the majority of their views they would first need to demonstrate that the US government is capable of planned mass murder for political ends.

I was going to leave this one alone, but I can't resist commenting on the absolute ironclad impossibility of this requirement.

How would I "demonstrate that the US government is capable of planned mass murder for political ends"? Well, by showing that the US government actually did engage in planned mass murder for political ends. Seriously, what other argument would you accept?

Of course, before I can present evidence of the crime, I have to show that the government is capable of committing the crime, which requires me to show that the government actually committed the crime...and the tail-chasing commences.

Again, parallels to Evolution Denialism are unavoidable. ("you can't present fossil evidence until you can show that God would allow species to die out", etc, etc, etc...)