Most everyone has heard of a Catch-22: a problem for which the solution is prevented by the circumstances that created it.
But not everyone knows of a Catch-23 which, according to urbandictionary.com, is a solution that’s worse than the problem it solves.
With respect, I suggest that Heterodox Academy risks becoming a Catch-23. Here’s the welcome statement from their web site:
We are a politically diverse group of social scientists, natural scientists, humanists, and other scholars who want to improve our academic disciplines and universities.
We share a concern about a growing problem: the loss or lack of “viewpoint diversity.” When nearly everyone in a field shares the same political orientation, certain ideas become orthodoxy, dissent is discouraged, and errors can go unchallenged.
To reverse this process, we have come together to advocate for a more intellectually diverse and heterodox academy.
Hear me out. For the sake of argument do as Heterodox Academy founder Jonathan Haidt suggested in his TED Talk: If only for a moment, let go of “for and against,” and follow along.
I understand that the best, and possibly only, way to uncover truth is through an unlimited marketplace of ideas. In other words, viewpoint diversity is the path to the Telos of Truth. The founders of Heterodox Academy have only the best of intentions.
But viewpoint diversity alone, without a deeper examination of the viewpoints themselves and the assumptions upon which they rest, is not enough.
If you read things like The Righteous Mind, Stories About Capitalism, A Conflict of Visions, The Cave and the Light, etc., with an eye toward identifying the thinking, values, and outlooks that are the defining traits of the viewpoints of left and right; and if you then compare them with actual human history and actual human nature, a bright, shining, AHA! epiphany emerges like Sirius in the night sky.
The Grand Narrative of the right, a subset of which is Haidt’s Story Two about capitalism, is a mostly accurate (but not without flaws) summary of human history and nature. But the leftist counterparts of each (e.g., the Grand Narrative of the left, and Haid’s Story One) are mostly tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theories of cherry picked facts woven into a dark, dystopian, fiction.
Viewpoint diversity alone normalizes – makes alike – these unlike things (as does, by the way, the notion that left and right complement each other like Yin and Yang). Its implied message is that the cognitively distorted emotional reasoning of the unconstrained vision of the Coddled American Mind is the logical and empirical equal of the more reality-based, better at critical thinking, constrained vision it opposes.
Viewpoint diversity is affirmative action for the Telos of Social Justice in its battle to defeat the Telos of Truth. It masks the asymmetry of the veracity of the assumptions upon which the viewpoints rest.
In this way it risks creating a larger problem than the one it attempts to solve.
Would that Heterodox Academy had instead been Veritas Academy; dedicated to busting the myths of the entrenched yet questionable orthodoxies that result from ideological hegemony in academia, media, and entertainment, and which are at the true heart of partisan divisiveness and rancor.