Thursday, March 17, 2011

How Political Correctness Makes Us Dumb

That's the name of my latest essay on The Catholic Thing. Here's how it begins:
The other day I was lecturing in my critical thinking class on the difference between arguments and explanations.  An explanation is an account ofsomething whose truth is not in dispute. So, for example, if you ask me why the Packers won the Super Bowl, I can give you several different answers. But the simplest one is this: they scored more points than the Steelers. We do not disagree as to whether the Packers were victorious. I am not trying to prove that. All I am doing is giving you a simple explanation as to why the Packers won. On the other hand, if you asked me why I think belief in God is rational because you doubt God’s existence and may want to believe, I can give you several reasons. If did that, I would be offering you an argument (or a set of arguments) for the veracity of a belief that is in dispute between us.

In class, I took an example from the textbook (Peter Kreeft’s Socratic Logic, 3.1e) and asked my students whether the following is an argument or an explanation: “Men pitch baseballs faster than women because they have more upper body muscle strength.” The right answer is that it is an explanation, because a reason is offered—“men have more upper body muscle strength”—in order to explain a fact that is not in dispute, “men pitch baseballs faster than women.” Or so I thought.

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