Monday, May 9, 2016

A Confession of Liberal Intolerance

Nicholas Kristof wrote an thoughtful article titled "A Confession of Liberal Intolerance" that has been making the rounds. You can see it in the NY Times here.

I think he was responding to the Wall St. Journal, which has recently published several pieces along these lines, including "Campus Unicorns" which I discussed in a previous post.

Kristof's point is that universities believe in all kinds of diversity except intellectual. They discriminate against conservatives. He writes, "We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us."
Graphic from the NYTimes, showing the rarity of a
conservative on campus (red). At BYU/CES,
you won't find even a single advocate for a
Book of Mormon geography other than Mesoamerica.

The comparison between campus liberals and Mesoamerican proponents at BYU/CES is nearly perfect--except there are more conservatives on major university campuses than there are non-Mesoamerican proponents at BYU/CES.
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A good case in point is what Kristof wrote about his Facebook comment:

"I’ve been thinking about this because on Facebook recently I wondered aloud whether universities stigmatize conservatives and undermine intellectual diversity. The scornful reaction from my fellow liberals proved the point.

“Much of the ‘conservative’ worldview consists of ideas that are known empirically to be false,” said Carmi.

“The truth has a liberal slant,” wrote Michelle.

“Why stop there?” asked Steven. “How about we make faculties more diverse by hiring idiots?”

"To me, the conversation illuminated primarily liberal arrogancethe implication that conservatives don’t have anything significant to add to the discussion."
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This is exactly the attitude of the citation cartel toward those who believe in the North American setting for the Book of Mormon. Just read the articles on BMAF, FARMS, FAIRMORMON, THE INTERPRETER, etc., most of which are available now on BOMC. For even more fun, read the comments.

What makes this all the more inexcusable is that the Church has an official policy of neutrality on this issue--a policy expressly disavowed by the citation cartel, who not only advocate a Mesoamerican setting, but refuse to publish any alternative viewpoints (let alone anything critical of their biases).

As Kristof writes, "When perspectives are unrepresented in discussions, when some kinds of thinkers aren’t at the table, classrooms become echo chambers rather than sounding boards — and we all lose."

The indoctrination into Mesoamerican ideology is inevitable--and pervasive. Kristof recognizes how similar bias has infiltrated the testing process: "This bias on campuses creates liberal privilege. A friend is studying for the Law School Admission Test, and the test preparation company she is using offers test-takers a tip: Reading comprehension questions will typically have a liberal slant and a liberal answer."

We have professors at BYU who still promote the Mesoamerican theory as if it's the only way to interpret and understand the text. We have scholars at the Maxwell Institute who insist on the same exclusive viewpoint. We have decades of Church manuals and media that are heavily influenced by the Mesoamerican ideology to the exclusion of alternatives. We have dozens of books and articles by LDS scholars that take the Mesoamerican setting for granted. All of these ignore or denigrate what Oliver Cowdery said about Cumorah and what Joseph Smith said on the topic.

Kristof quotes Jonathan Haidt, who is promoting ideological diversity on campuses. “Universities are unlike other institutions in that they absolutely require that people challenge each other so that the truth can emerge from limited, biased, flawed individuals,” he says. “If they lose intellectual diversity, or if they develop norms of ‘safety’ that trump challenge, they die. And this is what has been happening since the 1990s.”

It's been happening in the Church since the 1980s.

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Book of Mormon Central still has the potential to recognize actual neutrality on the geography/historicity question, but so far that potential lies dormant. Instead, they have merged with BMAF, an avowedly pro-Mesoamerian group who is anti-anything that is not Mesoamerica. There is not a single non-Mesoamerican link on BOMC's web page.

It's fascinating that Nick Kristof at the NYTimes is more open-minded than BYU/CES and even BOMC.



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