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Private Censorship?

While I am an advocate of as open of discussion as possible, I dislike the use of the word “censorship” for the actions of private individuals.

There are many television shows, for example, that I either dislike or even think are simply bad. I not only don’t watch them, but I will also tell others why I think they are inappropriate and suggest they don’t. The key element of this behavior, however, is that it is private and voluntary. Not only are people free to ignore me, they often do.

Today there’s an article on Christianity Today about boycotting Bloggingheads. I saw this incident via the blogs as it happened, but didn’t have time to post. I personally think it’s a bit over the top to get that angry about one interview in which an advocate of intelligent design is not fully challenged. I don’t think much of Michael Behe and his views on intelligent design. I don’t think they belong in a science classroom for the simple reason that they are not mainstream science, and we have enough mainstream stuff to teach.

But in the public square I think the debate is quite appropriate. Scientists are certainly free to stay out of it because they feel it is simply not up to their standards or for whatever reason they prefer. As someone who is not a scientist, but nonetheless encounters this material constantly I am going to study it and publicly discuss it. If I’m going to talk about it I will also encourage people to study what its proponents say for themselves.

But this is my key point. That is my voluntary decision. It is the voluntary decision of the scientists and science writers (such as Carl Zimmer whose science writing is outstanding) whether or not to support Bloggingheads after they present an interview such as the one with Behe. They’re choice not to support that project is not censorship.

It seems to me that many people not only want to have their opinion, but they want someone else to finance the publicity. Today there are many ways to publicize a viewpoint. Incidentally, intelligent design advocates are masters of many of those ways, thus their views get publicized in spite of any unwillingness of various outlets to participate. I would contend that this is precisely as it should be.

On the other hand, censorship by law is another matter. But that is not what is taking place with reference to Bloggingheads. It’s simply private people choosing what they will support and how. And that too is how it should be.

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One Comment

  1. I wholeheartedly agree, actually. I’m sorry that this made it through the editing process without me noticing the incorrect use of the word. I’ve fixed it.
    – Ted Olsen, Managing Editor, News & Online Journalism, Christianity Today

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