Current Reading

This blog is primarily for me to blog my responses to books that I'm reading. Sometimes I blog about other stuff too, though.

I'm currently reading Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society by Mario Vargas Llosa.

Word cloud

Word cloud

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

More about controversial speakers

At the moment CSULA is saying that Ben Shapiro can speak at some future event that includes an opposing viewpoint.  This sounds nice and open and pluralistic on the surface.  However, there are two problems.  The first is that it is being applied selectively.  Most speeches are allowed to go forward without a rebuttal.  There's something to be said for the educational value of structuring all formal activities as debates rather than monologues, but if that educational notion is going to be practiced then in order to avoid becoming censorship it has to be practiced consistently, not selectively.  Otherwise, you're saying that certain viewpoints need no rebuttal or moderation, but others are dangerous and need official opposition.

Second, who's to say what constitutes a valid or sufficient degree of opposition?  If a biologist is talking about research that might lead to a vaccine against a particular disease, is it sufficient to bring in another scientist who believes that the evidence more strongly favors targeting a different molecule?  Or do they have to bring in somebody who believes that vaccines cause autism?  Or somebody who believes that the researcher is pursuing a scientifically sound line of inquiry but also believes that vaccines should be a matter of personal choice rather than a public policy mandate?

If somebody wishes to speak in favor of tighter regulation of stock trading, should the opposing speaker be somebody who believes that trading by humans doesn't need further regulation but agrees that electronic high-frequency trading is dangerous?  Somebody who believes that we should have less regulation of trading?  Somebody who believes that the debate over regulation of financial markets distracts from the bigger issue of problems with capitalism itself?  Which of those viewpoints is sufficient rebuttal?

No comments: