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Opening Arguments

That pesky freedom of s

I'm going to stick my fingers in my ears and go na-na-na-na until you're done talking, 'cause I just don't want to hear it. That seems to be the attitude of some at Purdue University about library prof. Bert Chapman's provocative blog post on "the economic arguments against homosexuality."

But as word of the blog spread at Purdue, the campus has seen petitions and protests, with many calling for Chapman (who has tenure) to be fired. His critics say that what he writes is so hateful and inaccurate that it raises questions about his ability to do his job.

What's interesting is that a lot of those calling for his job are students. Usually we hear about academic elites being intolerant of dissent while they're cramming propaganda about tolerance down students' throats. We don't that often hear of students demanding their propaganda with no messy dissent.

Others are defending the professor, though, or at least his right to express distasteful opinions (those that "might not fit within the often narrow range of viewpoints deemed acceptable on many college campuses," as an Indianapolis Star editorial delicately puts it).  One student column in the Exponent accused liberals of refusing to recognize Chapman's right to express himself.

Here's his whole blog post, for those who want to know what all the fuss is about. His arguments are debatable, but that's the whole point of academic freedom, isn't it? My counterargument might be: What does your lifestyle cost society, and do you really care? Then why should I care what somebody else's lifestyle costs society?


Fri, 11/13/2009 - 4:52pm

As a liberal, I'm always embarassed by the failure of leftist students to understand that freedom of speech was created for precisely those views regarded as offensive. Otherwise they'd require no protection.
What this fellow blogs about on his own time obviously has nothing to do with his job.
Hemant Mehta, a high school math teacher and blogger (The Friendly Atheist) has to tolerate constant attempts to get him fired as a teacher because of his liberal blog. Obviously, theology and math are separate subjects.
Some people, on both sides, just don't get it.

Leo Morris
Fri, 11/13/2009 - 5:02pm

Oh, I think both sides get it: I will defend to the death your right to say exactly what I agree with!

Fri, 11/13/2009 - 5:35pm

Yes, that same line occurred to me. I would have used it, but I've seen it attributed to so many different people I'm a bit scared of it. Most often, it is ascribed to Voltaire. But Voltaire, like Mark Twain and Winston Churchill, tends to get credit for virtually every clever remark ever made. Who knows? Oscar Wilde? Yogi Berra? No, Yogi would have fouled it up in some amusing fashion.

Fri, 11/13/2009 - 7:21pm

I think calling his points "debatable" is a bit too polite.

"Borderline insane" would be a more apt description. But that's the beauty of freedom of speech, it makes it easier to know who is this far out there.

Sat, 11/14/2009 - 1:30pm

In a sense, his points really aren't "debatable" (at least in a literal sense of the word), as he has deliberately ruled out logical discourse.
He admits his prejudice against gays is based on the Bible, but apparently that isn't enough for him. He attempts to construct, and even asks readers for help in constructing, purely secular economic arguments against homosexuality. I gather he is not interested in hearing evidence against his position. He has simply abandoned debate entirely.
One would think his religious faith would be strong enough to stand on its own. His thought processes, if they can be called that, are mysterious.

Lewis Allen
Sat, 11/14/2009 - 8:24pm

Michaelk42's point that freedom of speech allows us to see the kooks among us is a good one. Right on, brother.