A noisy movement advocating viewpoint diversity has arisen in the United States. Groups like the Heterodox Academy espouse a position that diminishing viewpoint diversity is a problem, even while setting limits on the bounds of the viewpoint diversity they are willing to countenance:
Many of us have written about a particular problem: the loss or lack of “viewpoint diversity.” It’s what happens when the great majority of people in a field think the same way on important issues that are not really settled matters of fact. We don’t want viewpoint diversity on whether the Earth is round versus flat. But do we want everyone to share the same presuppositions when it comes to the study of race, class, gender, inequality, evolution, or history?
This, of course, raises a few questions. First, do flat Earth theorists really consider the curvature of the Earth a closed matter? Seeing as how the answer is that they obviously do not, who, then, is the arbiter of what constitutes a settled matter of fact? Is it the 97% of climate scientists who acknowledge global warming, or is it the 3% who deny it?
Since evolution was specifically listed by the Heterodox Academy as an unsettled matter, let’s start there.
Case Study: Biology Class
The prevailing viewpoint about evolution is that it proceeds according to natural selection. That is to say, it is not guided, and not evidentiarily attributable to some deity. Famously, a great many theists the world around disagree with this assessment of evolution. Some reject it entirely. Others propose a divine origin for evolution, and others submit that it is guided by a divine intelligence. Some insist that evolution means that humans must have descended from chimpanzees and is thus rendered null and void by the continued presence of chimpanzees. Others, still, are certain we were placed on earth by aliens.
This is a lot of ground to cover in a biology class. In fact, there are approximately 4,200 religions in the world, with some 4,200 creation myths. Some are quite similar to one another, but, in the interest of viewpoint diversity, if we are to consider one, then it seems like they all need to be considered.
In fact, this is mandated by law in the United States, as it falls under the purview of the Establishment Clause. If a public school in the United States omits discussion of one religion’s viewpoint but includes discussion of another religion’s viewpoint, it is violating the law. If it exclusively teaches Christian creationism as fact, it is in violation of the law.
So, educators are left with three choices. They may either violate the law and teach arbitrarily as they see fit, they may teach all 4,200 creation myths, or they may omit all creation myths and stick to teaching biology in biology class. The first option has invariably and inevitably led to a court case with teachers of creationism losing in each case, and is largely seen as a no-go by anyone not wishing to lose a lawsuit and be out of a job.
The second option is the most heterodoxical option, because it allows in all the viewpoints. By choosing option two, we maximize viewpoint diversity. To those who insist that viewpoint diversity is a good thing, this is certain to be an appealing choice. Unfortunately, there is one little problem. A school year in America is generally 180 days. If biology class is one hour a day for one year in high school, we’re looking at 180 hours to cover 4,200 creation myths and, time permitting, the subject of biology. That gives us about four minutes for each creation myth and four minutes for biology.
The third option, devoting 180 hours to biology and zero hours to creation myths seems like the best move. But, seeing as how evolution is right there on Heterodox Academy’s list of things that are not settled matters, I guess we’re going to have to budget our time accordingly and pray that whatever question shows up about Amenominakanushi on the AP exam is an easy one.
Heterodoxy is Untenable and Arbitrary
The above thought experiment reveals the flaccidity of heterodoxy as a central tenet to any rational ethos. We simply do not have time to consider every viewpoint, and retrograde viewpoints serve only the interests of a select few who benefit from their inclusion, while simply wasting everyone else’s time. In fact, much as we learn from evolution, progress is an exercise in culling. To quote the 20th century philosopher Lee Jun-Fan:
Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.
This is the true spirit of diversity and heterodoxy, not forced inclusion of nonsense disguised as “unsettled matters.” Diversity of traditions, origin, and experience lead to diversity of knowledge. What you learned from your experiences growing up is surely different from what I learned from my own. From a diverse pool, we can find and use more things that work and build a robust framework for assessing and understanding reality. The search for truth is not about constructing and welcoming in as many bogus viewpoints as there are charlatans and political agendas in the world; a viewpoint is not fair, balanced, or even remotely legitimate just because the person espousing it insists that it is.
The logical conclusion to this is that heterodoxy and viewpoint diversity are not, in and of themselves, grounds for inclusion. If the entire argument for inclusion of your ideas is heterodoxy, then there is a good chance your ideas are terrible and unworthy of inclusion in serious discussions. If your ideas can be shown to advance a discussion or provide real value to human endeavors — especially to those humans whose space you wish to share in the discussion of said ideas — that is meritorious, and you should be able to share them. If not, come up with some better ideas before you cry about exclusion.