“All knowledge is relational. Things cannot be known objectively; they must be known subjectively.” – Professor Rochelle Gutierrez, University of Illinois
This assertion made by professor Gutierrez largely sums up relativism; the idea that all ideas are of equal value, that all claims of truth are only valid within their contextual framework and that there is no universal truth. The widely acknowledged problem with relativism is that it hangs itself on it’s own gallows. On relativism, we can immediately disregard the views of Gutierrez since her statement that “things cannot be known objectively” cannot be known objectively, therefore we needn’t take it seriously. Statements such as “there is no truth” render themselves untrue by definition of their own terms. If there is no truth, then truth claims about the non-existence of truth are not true.
Despite these fatal flaws, relativism is a popular view within postmodern culture. The Manic Street Preachers’ 1998 album “This is My Truth, Tell Me Yours” articulates well the widely accepted view that one can construct one’s own truths and that one ought to consider other’s views and beliefs as equally true even if they directly contradict their own. The trouble is, not even relativists really believe in relativism, their intuition gets the better of them. Deep down they know that two diametrically opposed beliefs about the nature of reality cannot both be true at the same time. As western culture has experimented with the faulty logic of relativism for the best part of thirty years, we have now arrived at the place where in order to ‘protect’ certain cherished truths we are now censoring truths that deviate from politically correct doctrine.
This is shown clearly in the recent case of Lindsay Shepherd, the teaching assistant at Wilfred Laurier University who was formally disciplined by the faculty for showing her class an excerpt from ‘The Agenda’ in which Professor Jordan Peterson discussed the alarming censorship of views that oppose the politically correct agenda on campuses. Professor Peterson, known for his opposition to the controversial C-16 bill in Canada, which will see people prosecuted if they fail to address trans individuals using their preferred pro-nouns (such as they, them, zie, zhur to name a few). Classic liberal, Peterson points out that this bill inactions ‘compelled speech’, meaning that the individual is no longer free to choose his or her words in this situation and is compelled by law to use prescribed wording that may violate their conscience and freedom to express themselves. Shepherd’s disciplinary panel charged her with causing harm and violence to transgender students for exposing them to Peterson’s views, which they compare to Hitler’s, and with creating a toxic environment on campus. The panel would not be drawn on how many or if any complaints had actually been registered by students. The academy, of all places ought to be where ideas can be tested and evaluated but Shepherd’s case is sadly far from unusual. One of the shibboleths of the politically correct movement is the idea that gender and biological sex are not intrinsically linked and that one can simply choose their gender irrespective of their biological sex. Moreover, that one’s self-conceived gender identity trumps the biological, anatomical and genetic realities of their body. An ever increasing number now access ‘gender reassignment treatment’ to conform their bodies to their self-conceived gender identity, often causing irreparable damage to their otherwise healthy bodies.
In a culture that denies the existence of universal truth and idolises autonomous, personal freedom it becomes extremely difficult to speak out and challenge popular ideologies such as this one, however faulty or even dangerous they might be. Challenges are often viewed as personal attacks, bigoted attempts to curtail the freedoms of others (the unpardonable sin of modern culture). Therefore, these opposing views are often censored, suppressed, called hateful and toxic and their proponents castigated and ridiculed in an attempt to discredit any challenge without ever having to engage it. Whisper it quietly, but not even the world of science is immune from this treatment. Just last year America’s largest LGBT group threatened to penalise Johns Hopkins University unless they distanced themselves from a study by leading researchers at the university which found that there is virtually no scientific evidence that people are born gay or transgender.
Herein lies the problem with relativity, without any objective standard of truth chaos ensues. Relativism is what remains once God has left the building and the only language in a world without absolutes is power. PC advocates have figured this out, when all views are equally valid and there is no absolute truth to make reference to, only power can leverage one particular truth above another. Hence, the ‘culture wars’ we are experiencing on both sides of the Atlantic. It seems like all middle ground has been removed and opinion has been polarised on either side of the political spectrum.
The foundation of western civilisation with it’s great academies, prosperous industries and civil liberties was the Judeo-Christian worldview. A worldview which affirmed the existence of a Supreme Being who is the source of absolute truth, morality and reason and also provided a solid basis for universal human rights in that all are made in His image (Gen 1:27) and therefore have intrinsic value and worth. Instead of asserting that all ideas are equally valid the Judeo-Christian worldview attests that all people are equally valid but all ideas are not. This position provides the perfect basis for a tolerant society, where faulty ideas are held up to scrutiny but the proponents of these views are valued and respected. I long to see true tolerance revived in our society. The kind where two can wholeheartedly disagree on matters of grave importance yet still affirm the other’s value and worth.
The reason western culture is as broken as it is isn’t because of the alt-right, the far left, white supremacists or radical Islam. It isn’t broken because of a lack of tolerance or the misapplication of tolerance. Nor is it broken because of immigration, foreign policy, capitalism or socialism. It is this broken because we have removed the very cornerstone upon which the whole thing stood; God.
by Graham Phillips