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Intellectual chastity

January 9, 2015

Last November Rod Dreher described his revulsion about a New York magazine article on bestiality. I have the germ of an idea that I’d like to develop in a response. But to be honest, I’ll probably never get to it. So here’s the basic gist: Creationism is to political liberals what promiscuity / homosexuality / bestiality are to social conservatives. Both groups advance a similar apocalyptic argument–America will be destroyed if [homosexuality/creationism] becomes normalized!–that lack evidence. And both groups are ultimately making a moral and aesthetic argument about chastity. The chastity just takes a different form. Conservatives value sexual chastity based on the Bible whereas liberals value intellectual chastity based on science. Intellectual purity substitutes for sexual purity.

And in both cases there are analogous blind spots and biases. When devout Christians harp about sexual chastity they (tend to) focus on women. Similarly, when liberal intellectuals harp about irrational, anti-science beliefs, they (almost always) focus on conservatives.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Rubble permalink
    January 9, 2015 7:10 am

    Creationist activists seek to implement their vision through school board curriculum mandates and legislation for such mandates. Also note that there’s anecdotal evidence of rural community pressure to avoid teaching evolutionary theory in the public schools. Liberal anti-science efforts, such as the anti-vaxxers who are typically liberal, do not include such tactics.

    • January 16, 2015 5:15 pm

      Great point. There are key differences here.

  2. Victor permalink
    January 9, 2015 8:52 am

    Interesting. I wouldn’t equate chastity to purity. You can be chaste inside of a marriage and not be pure. You can be chaste outside of a marriage and not be pure.

    Also I haven’t read Dreher’s revulsion to bestiality but I would say revulsion at some act is not enough to equate it to the creationist-scientist dynamic. I would say you need more than the revulsion at the act. And perhaps Dreher’s says that. I haven’t read it.

    I don’t know if my experience is outside of the trend or norm, but sexual chastity was something we focused on as men as well, growing up.

  3. Tim permalink
    January 13, 2015 12:27 pm

    I like your analogy. Victor and Rubble have both pointed out spots where the analogy breaks down (is the focus on anti-science conservatives vs liberals as arbitrary as the social conservative focus on female sexual chasity? Is the trend among social conservatives indeed that stark?) But I think there are areas where the analogy holds up: particularly in the tone of the warnings each group issues about the dire outcomes that are sure to ensue and the subtext of the ick factor (aesthetics, as you say). You’ve critiqued the tone before though, without reference to this kind of analogy. Would the analogy aid in understanding if you teased it out more fully. I’m not sure.

    • January 16, 2015 5:14 pm

      Thanks for the helpful comment. I think you’ve asked the key question: “Would the analogy aid in understanding?” I’m not sure either. And I have gotten in trouble with these analogies before. Will have to ruminate on it some more.

  4. January 15, 2015 2:16 pm

    Liberals, even liberal intellectuals, don’t care nearly as much about creationism as conservatives do about homosexuality, let alone sexual morals more generally. Sexuality is the defining issue for social conservatives.
    Also, kind of weird to lead with homosexuality, where conservatives tend to focus on men, and then finish by saying they focus on women. I get what you’re saying though — the focus is on gay men and straight women, for some reason.

    Finally, bestiality?! That’s not really a live political issue, and most liberals feel revulsion towards it as well. Maybe social conservatives:bestiality :: liberal intellectuals:geocentrism or something, rather than creationism.

    • January 16, 2015 5:12 pm

      Thanks for the comment. I like it. I agree bestiality is not a live political issue. I was just using it as a starting point because that’s what Dreher’s article referenced.

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