Freedom is important. The Revolutionary and Civil Wars were fought over it. The First and Second World Wars were fought to defend it. The United States was founded with the Charters of Freedom, and Freedom of Speech is entrenched in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
So freedom is always a good thing, right?
No. Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom are terms that have been misused and co-opted for the purpose of inflicting unfounded revisionism on an unsuspecting public. Holocaust deniers, for example, have used the banner of freedom of speech to present outright lies as “theory”. If there were no bounds to freedom of speech and academic freedom, there would be little to prevent anti-Semitism from being taught in schools by those with an ideological agenda.
The argument is often made that we should “teach both sides of the issue, and let people decide for themselves”. This seems like a reasonable suggestion. But face it, some people do not have the tools to “decide for themselves” what is historical fact and what is fiction. School children, in particular, soak up facts like sponges, and have a strong tendency to accept what is taught by their teachers as fact, as it carries the weight of authority. In addition, information that is learned is difficult to unlearn, even if it is wrong. It’s human nature, I’m afraid.
Imagine if the following were accepted into the school curriculum:
Claims have been made that the Holocaust did not occur, and it is all a conspiracy. Let’s teach both sides of the issue, and let the students decide.
Many historians believe that Jesus, Moses, and other biblical characters are either completely fictitious, or composites of many individuals. Let’s teach both sides of the issue, and let the students decide.
The Flat Earth Society has presented theories and evidence to prove a flat earth. Let’s teach both sides of the issue, and let the students decide.
Young Earthers claim the Earth is only 6,000 years old, because of the biblical genealogical dating methods of Archbishop Usher in 1654, despite historical records of civilizations older than that, let alone a mass of geological and astronomical data. Let’s teach both sides of the issue, and let the students decide.
Fox aired a special in 2001 claiming the moon landings were a hoax, and that we couldn’t possibly have made the voyage. Let’s teach both sides of the issue, and let the students decide.
A large number of people daily check their horoscopes, because they believe that the position of the planets in the sky at the time of their birth has an impact on their fate that can be used to predict events. Let’s teach both sides of the issue, and let the students decide.
Many people are under the impression that evolution is a whimsical and dangerous notion with no supporting evidence or basis in science. Let’s teach both sides of the issue, and let the students decide.
In fact, for just about anything you can find crackpot ideas that someone has espoused. Which of these do we spend time examining? Do we spend any time examining them at all? How do we know which to believe? The answer, remarkably, is simple. Ask an expert. For information on the Earth, ask a geologist. For information about history, ask a historian. For information about biology, ask a biologist. For information about the universe, ask an astronomer. The validity of ideas presented by these people can be usually ascertained by the number of peer-reviewed articles they have published, and by the number of references their articles receive.
You don’t consult your baker when you slip a disk in your back. You don’t consult your vet when you want to know which wild mushrooms are edible. So why would you trust a spin doctor or religious ideologue to tell you about biological processes or the history of life on this planet? The simple – but unpleasant – answer is that people will tend to listen to other people who share the same beliefs. Existing beliefs are reinforced, and nothing new is learned.
The current push for “Academic Freedom” is a smokescreen. It sounds like a good thing, because freedom is ingrained in our culture as a Good Thing. However, the entire purpose of the recent “Academic Freedom” bills is not to present alternate legitimate ideas, but to inject principles of creationism into the curriculum. Under the guise of “freedom”, misinformation is foist upon unsuspecting students, who then accept this misinformation as fact, because it is presented by an authority figure. This is an extremely dangerous path.
Those who promote this type of “freedom” ask us to think critically. Think on this – evolution is singled out for exposing students to “alternate views”, but the only “alternate views” are unsupported creationist ideas, masquerading as science, put forward by people masquerading as scientists. Using your powers of critical thinking, would you consider this type of “freedom” to be a good thing?