Month: June 2014


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I was rereading the George Will article that says sexual assault victims have achieved “coveted status that confers benefits” article because it came up in conversation.  Then I read several commentaries on the article because it’s two in the morning and I can’t sleep.  And I think I’ve decided to become offended with the word “controversial”.

There are things in life that are controversial.  Obamacare was controversial.  The Tax code is controversial.  Education reform is controversial.  These are subjects where many different opinions that can be formulated, discussed, rehashed, verified, validated, rejected, renewed, and discussed again with some degree of legitimacy.  But I tire of the “controversy” surrounding things that are not controversial.  Vaccines, for example, are not controversial.  There is no legitimate middle ground between antivaccination advocates and the scientific community.  No amount of passion and rhetoric will make the deluded and misguided anti-vaccination arguments hold the slightest amount of truth or value.  The same is true of anthropogenic climate change.  This is not controversial.  How we might respond to climate change, protect the environment, make investments in science and technology, and prevent pollution without harming vital industry IS controversial.  There are any number of avenues of thought and action we can take, and we should way them all carefully.  Science education is controversial, evolution is not.  There is no “teaching the controversy”.  You can be passionate and wrong.  This by itself is not meritorious, it’s vapid and useless.

The George Will article isn’t controversial.  It’s offensive.  It trivializes assault and blames and stereotypes the victims.  In his perverse attempt at criticising what he feels is the overly liberal nature of liberal arts colleges and universities he’s some how come down on the side of rape.  If nothing else he’s in good company.  There have been any number of similar commentators, politicians, and more, not to mention your average joe.  Because there are many of them, does not bring legitimacy to their arguments.

We like to have two sides to a debate.  Whether that’s something innate or something we’ve been taught, it seems to be the prefered method of dialogue.  But there aren’t always two sides.  It’s time to move beyond the petty binary of discussion.  It’s time to abandon controversy.  There are not pro-vaccine individuals and anti-vaccine individuals.  There are doctors, and there are pro-baby-killing-disease advocates.  I know.  It sounds like an ad hominem attack.  And it would be if there were two sides to this issue.  There are not.  There are scientists and peddlers of ignorance.  There are environmentalists and planet hating ideologues.  There are feminists trying to bring a measure of safety to young women, and there are people like George Will.