June 7, 2008
The War on Common Sense
Watching young people compile and try to display knowledge in a college classroom is similar to watching an epistemological famine. I can say this as an adjunct professor in college and university systems since 2002.
Their lack of knowledge is not a reflection on any one college or university but on the overall political and intellectual climate of late 20th and early 21st centuries. My students, and with few exceptions the students of my colleagues, are the fruits of a garden planted with the intention of producing only identical fruit. As a guarantee to that end, the plants in this garden have been pruned of their trust in innate knowledge, i.e., common sense.
Since common sense was not something the 20th century Left could easily regulate or control in academia, they took the path their ideological heroes had always taken when they came upon a nonconforming person or idea: they sought to eliminate it altogether. This effort, the war on common sense has tempted people of all ages and from all walks of life to question the validity of conscience and the greatness of this nation.
A Darwinian worldview now dominates the classroom. When was the last time the word "teleology" was used in a university classroom in a non-pejorative sense? Teleology, the study of the evidence of order or design in nature, was once a staple in classic Western education. Perhaps it is still used in philosophy when studying the thought of Thomas Aquinas or by the rare but much needed conservative professor, but usually the word is not employed unless it is being used to mock the ignorance of someone who claims to see design (and by extension the evidence of a Designer) in nature.
While much of the precise scientific work that goes into teleological writing and evaluation is beyond those of us who lack a mind gifted for such thought, the basics of teleology are ingrained in each and every man and are present through common sense. The Apostle Paul said as much with these words: "For what can be known about God is plain to [men], because God has shown it to them." (Romans 1:19, ESV) Paul was simply re-stating a truth that others before him had set forth at various times and in various ways: namely, that the natural world points beyond itself to a first cause, or Designer, and that this witness "in the things that have been made" is so evident that the man who rejects it is "without excuse." (Romans 1:20, ESV)
In approximately 1000 B.C., Israel's King David wrote, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge." (Psalm 19:1-2, ESV) This knowledge, identified by Paul and King David among others, appeals to the consciences of men through the faculty of common sense: it is not esoteric but plain to all, even to those who suppress it. (Romans 1:18, ESV) One of the chief reasons why the Left wars against common sense is because they wish to extinguish our innate ability to intellectually comprehend the fact that nature is pointing beyond itself to a Designer. And this is because the existence of a Designer is an anathema to ideological vehicles like communism, socialism, and humanism and Darwinism.
Sadly, however, college students are not the only persons whom the Left is affecting with its war on common sense. Our society as a whole seems to have accepted the mental framework which holds as a maxim the idea that we are not allowed to know what we know; rather, we are only allowed to know what we are told. As a result of this, although common, decent, everyday people see their beloved culture eroding and intuitively sense that something is not right, they dare not declare that this downward cultural slide is wrong. Instead, they just keep their mouths shut, without realizing they are keeping their minds shut as well. In the end, others speak for us, and this explains everything from our over-reliance on the judicial system to our dependence upon experts for many everyday decisions.
With Darwin as king of the classroom and conscience but a mute passerby, the Left hurls endless invectives at the United States, denouncing both its greatness and that of its Founders, and almost nobody says a word. Some want to say something but they are too embarrassed, while others do not even know they are allowed to speak.
O, how far we have fallen. It was only a couple of centuries ago, a relatively short time in the history of the world, that Thomas Jefferson promoted a teleological worldview and acknowledged the witness of nature and the voice of conscience through the Declaration of Independence. In the second sentence of the Declaration, Jefferson appealed to common sense and the light of nature with these words, "We hold these truths to be self-evident." This one statement by Jefferson, who was a not a Christian but a deist, echoed both Paul and King David's claim that truth exists objectively, outside of us, and that its existence is evident. Moreover, Jefferson's very next phrase in the sentence acknowledged "that all men were created equal." We are so accustomed to the emphasis on equality in these words that we may overlook the first point, which is the only point that makes equality of men possible, and that is "that all men were created."(italics mine)
As the war on common sense rages, Jefferson's words remind us that truth exists, that it is evident, and that we are not the product of chance but part of a Creator's handiwork. If we want to withstand the Left's assaults and thereby remain exceptional, we cannot allow ourselves to feel shame for knowing what is knowable.