THIES: Keep the debate alive

Speakers should be welcomed to Grounds even though not everyone may agree with their opinions

I am writing this article in response to an op-ed that appeared in this publication yesterday which brings into question the legitimacy of entertaining certain persons here at the University. To preface, a conservative organization at Grounds invited radio talk show host and producer of the film “An Inconsistent Truth,” Phil Valentine, to speak at a recent event. The film projects a view contrary to that of “global warming,” and calls into question the validity of such scientific data. For those of you who have seen it, you probably have an opinion one way or the other.

That is not what this piece is about. The visit drew harsh criticism from some on Grounds who claim that the issue of global warming is an issue no longer up for debate, in any capacity, and that such discussion should not be permitted here on Grounds. I write this piece simply to argue for the protection of such speech, be it popular or not, and to directly combat the assertion that persons with certain, possibly unpopular viewpoints, should be barred from such discourse at the University.

First, we must distinguish the terms climate change and global warming. The word “climate” is defined as: “a region with particular weather patterns or conditions; or the usual weather conditions in a particular place or region.” Climate change, for the purposes of political debate should only be relevant in that it shows empirical data based on the study of what amounts to an incredibly minute window of time on our Earth. A term much more prudent to my purpose here is “global warming,” which is defined as a theory, which simply means it is a plausible explanation for evidence collected over time. The theory of global warming refers to the gradual increase in Earth’s atmospheric temperature, which is attributed to the “greenhouse effect.” As it relates to the subject of the article to which I write this response, Mr. Valentine was disputing the theory of global warming.

While certain persons may agree with what they believe to be “the proven answer… protected by scientific fact,” others hold the viewpoint that due to our almost imperceptible existence vis-à-vis the tremendous age of our Earth, certain conclusions cannot yet be drawn. Forty years ago, one may have said something similar: how dare anyone dispute the seemingly insurmountable evidence of impending global cooling. But we are at a very different place now. As students of this institution “based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind,” and our purpose as such, “to [not be afraid to] follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it,” it is the duty of the members of our community to respect the purpose of this institution and be gracious toward our guests.

We must welcome opposing viewpoints, no matter how controversial, so long as hate is not espoused and the topic proves prudent to a point of discussion. We should be thankful that we as students are able to welcome distinguished guests to Grounds, and must be conscious of the fact
that we are an institution open to discourse, free of secular condescension, and wholly dedicated
to the purpose of advancing thoughtful discourse. To bar speech under the guise of some potential communal harm will only serve to harm the community itself.

Greg Thies is a second-year student in the College.

Published February 18, 2014 in Opinion

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