Wednesday, June 20, 2018 |
Column: Headquarters —
Topic: Education —
Three Things Only a PhD Can Believe
by Louis Markos
It is often believed that people who have PhDs are possessed of higher self-esteem and greater independent thought than the average population. As a PhD myself, I fully understand why people believe this. The rigorous studying, testing, and writing required to receive a doctorate should free the PhD's mind from the idols of the marketplace and teach him that great truth that Socrates discovered: the more we learn, the more we realize what we do not know.
That's what should happen. What I have more often found (in myself, as well as in others) is that the knowledge acquired puffs up the mind of the PhD, making him feel wiser and more in touch with the truth of things than his less educated fellow mortals. And yet—and here is the ironic part—at the same time the PhD gains a sense of his own superiority, his intellectual, emotional, and psychological need to fit in with his academic colleagues is multiplied tenfold.
At times, this academic groupthink leads PhDs to defend issues that are indefensible and to give their allegiance to causes that are immoral or unethical. At other times, it leads them to believe things that are simply and demonstrably false—things that violate objective observation, common sense, and the collective experience of mankind. Indeed, colleges and universities across Europe and America brazenly teach their students three things that are so patently absurd that only a PhD could believe them.
ABSURDITY #1 There Are No Universal Standards
In his apologetics classic, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis grounds his argument for the existence of God in a simple observation: when two people disagree about something, they argue about it rather than fight. Lewis's observation may seem, at first, to have nothing to do with the existence of God, until we ask ourselves why it is that we are able to argue about anything. We can only argue about something if we take for granted a common standard that is binding on both of us. And if that standard exists and is universal, then it must have a super-natural source that transcends differences in time and culture.
We would not have our court system if we did not all take for granted that things like murder, adultery, theft, and lying are wrong (as opposed to right) and that people who commit one or more of these wrong things know they are wrong and yet do them anyway. The Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals could not have been conducted if universal moral and ethical principles did not exist and hold binding power upon all people. Even an atheistic judge would not have let one of Hitler's henchmen off if the henchman had claimed that his actions were carried out in accordance with his own personal moral code and that Nazi ethics were just as legitimate as democratic ethics.
Now, the judge might have argued that the henchman was insane and should be put in an asylum rather than a prison cell, but even in doing that, he would not be arguing that the henchman was "innocent" because universal moral standards didn't exist, but because the accused had an impairment to his brain that made it impossible for him to understand and apply those standards. To proclaim a man innocent by reason of insanity is to say that when he committed his crime, he was not a responsible moral agent. It is also to say that the rest of us are!
Arguments and examples like this could be multiplied, but the fact is that we all know that universal moral standards exist and are binding. How do we know it? We know it because even when we are able to convince ourselves that we can break one or more of those standards in order to achieve our desired ends, we nevertheless expect other people to treat us in accordance with those standards! We know it as well because most of the academics who advocate moral relativism fight for causes (usually liberal ones) that can only be justified by the existence of universal standards of right and wrong.
And yet, in the face of this self-evident truth—that objective moral standards exist—universities continue to teach that morality (especially sexual morality) is man-made and varies wildly from culture to culture. The sophists of ancient Greece taught this as well, and they were just as wrong as their academic heirs today. In the fifth and fourth centuries before Christ, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle rose up to dash the sophists' ethical house of cards, but over the last two centuries, relativism has returned with a vengeance. True, there have been many brave souls in academia (C. S. Lewis was one of them) who have spoken out against this resurgent relativism, but the majority chooses to remain silent or even to propagate the lie that morality is a human invention.
ABSURDITY #2 There Are No Essential Differences Between Men & Women
At least those who preach moral and ethical relativism from their ivy-covered, tenure-padded offices can claim the sophists as their predecessors. The second absurdity that only a PhD can believe is one that would have been considered ludicrous—if not downright unthinkable—by nearly every human being who lived before the nineteenth century.
Though most Americans fancy that feminism only means "equal pay for equal work," the feminism I have witnessed being taught in our modern universities has little to do with the rules of fair play in the workplace. Students who enroll in a psychology or sociology class today, even if that class is taught in a Christian college, are indoctrinated to believe that there are no essential differences between the sexes. More than that, they are taught that there is no such thing as masculinity and femininity, that the differences we see between boys and girls are merely a product of long-standing customs of socialization, such as giving boys trucks to play with and girls dolls to play with.
Indeed, in discussing the sexes, modern feminists won't even use the word "sexes." For them, "sex" is a bad word, for it connotes an essential link between body and soul. The preferred word today is "gender," a word taken from linguistics but used to mean something that is not inherent in our makeup but constructed by external forces. Masculinity and femininity, that is to say, do not delineate God-created (or even nature-created) natures that we are born with; they are only man-made social constructs.
According to Karl Marx, not only our political, religious, and aesthetic beliefs, but even our very consciousness is a product of our socio-economic milieu. For the feminist, gender, too, is a product of social and economic forces over which we have no control. And yet, as any parent who has raised a boy and a girl can attest, the essential differences between the sexes manifest themselves almost from birth and appear regardless of socialization. For the truth of the matter is that not only our bodies but also our souls are masculine or feminine. God made us male and female (Genesis 1:27), and that maleness or femaleness is hard-wired into our physical, emotional, and spiritual nature.
Unfortunately, anti-essentialist feminism carries with it a terrible irony. Although feminism purports to raise the value and status of women, it actually deconstructs femininity, treating it as an illusion or even an aberration. The male chauvinist of the past identified women as unique and different, but then treated femininity as a lesser thing than masculinity. The feminist of today, rather than celebrating femininity as a thing of equal worth, dismisses it as a bourgeois construction.
Far from championing femininity as a beautiful, God-created gift, the feminist absorbs femininity into a hyper-masculine world of competition, struggle, and ideology. As G. K. Chesterton noted a full century ago (in What's Wrong with the World), the proper definition of a feminist is someone "who dislikes the chief feminine characteristics."
ABSURDITY #3 There Is No Clear Dividing Line Between Humans & Animals
But even the absurdity of anti-essentialist feminism pales in comparison to an even greater absurdity that would have been rejected as unabashed nonsense just twenty years ago. Though I am embarrassed even to think it (much less write it down), a large and growing number of PhDs seriously believe—and teach their students to believe—that the gap between man and animal is merely one of greater or lesser complexity.
If a student were to confront such a professor with the self-evident truth that the difference between man and monkey is qualitative rather than quantitative, he would be dismissed as a naïve creationist. And yet the fact remains that no creature in the animal kingdom has anything even approximating a human soul.
Animals lack both conscience and consciousness, and all the attempts on the part of scientists to "prove" otherwise have resulted in no proof at all. Monkeys can no more be immoral than giraffes can experience guilt and shame. And although wolves move in packs, they are in no way political animals. When a pit bull mauls a child, we do not put the pit bull on trial, for it is not a moral agent.
In The Everlasting Man, Chesterton argues that even in the area of the arts, the difference between man and animal is one of kind rather than degree. Birds build nests that look pretty to us, but the bird is no artist. No animal, he writes, begins to create art; no animal even begins to begin to create art. Art is a wholly human enterprise. The so-called caveman who painted gazelles and horses on the cave walls in Lascaux, France, was neither a half-man nor a half-ape. He was fully human, and the paintings he produced are part of a wholly unique human enterprise. The aesthetic sense, Chesterton reminds us, does not mark an evolution, but a revolution. There is a leap between the bird's nest and the human painting that takes place outside of time. And yet, in the face of all the evidence, the PhD convinces first himself and then his students of something that no sane person should be able to accept.
PhDs are often accused by the less educated of lacking common sense. Though those who level the charge are often motivated by envy, and the charge itself is generally unfair, when it comes to the three absurdities listed above, I'm afraid that the charge is sadly justified. •
Further reading: Highly Creative: Three More Things Only a PhD Can Believe
Louis Markos is (www.Loumarkos.com) is Professor in English and Scholar in Residence at Houston Baptist University; he holds the Robert H. Ray Chair in Humanities. His books include From Achilles to Christ, Apologetics for the 21st Century, and Literature: A Student's Guide.
More on Education from the Salvo online archives.
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