Stupid (or, perhaps, thought-provoking) question of the day

“Scholars” and students at Sapienza University of Rome have so vociferously objected to the Pope speaking there because they disagree with the fact that, 20 years ago, he gave a speech that seemed to support the medieval Church’s silencing of Galileo that the Pope has felt compelled to cancel. The WSJ has the matter just right:

The censoring scholars apparently failed to appreciate the irony that, in preventing the pope from speaking, they were doing to him what the Church once did to Galileo, stifling free speech and intellectual inquiry.

In other words, as do the WSJ editors, I think the University’s conduct is antithetical to free speech and an embarrassment to any institution of learning.

Having said that, I also thought it was appalling that Columbia invited Ahmadinejad to speak there. One could argue that my position in that regard is no better than the behavior on display at Sapienza, as it tries to shut down the Pope. “Let the man speak” should apply to one, as well as the other, right?

But I do think that there is a difference between someone who lacks temporal power and who is speaking about the world of ideas — and who is being pilloried for acts his institution took hundreds of years ago — and someone who heads a government that advocates genocide, the torture and murder of gays and nonconforming women, and the complete stifling of any free speech (and the use of torture and murder to achieve those ends). In other words, I think that Ahmadinejad, by doing what he does, especially stifling all dissent and demanding genocide, has forfeited his right to use America’s speech institutions as a forum to explain, lie about, white wash or do anything else to advance his ideas, atittudes, positions or conduct.

What do you all think? Why are we justified in castigating one situation in which speech is being denied, yet demanding the denial of speech in a different situation?

UPDATE:  Thanks to all who noted that the University didn’t cancel the Pope; he canceled the appearance himself after a threatened boycott.   That error is typical for what happens when I try to blog in the minutes before going to the bus stop to meet the kids.  My apologies and, as you’ve seen, I’ve corrected the post.


13 Responses

  1. The only folks who can’t follow the impeccable logic involved in making this distinction are those who have been inundated in the “we must NEVER discriminate” mush that is government schooling and leftist hectoring.

    When I was growing up, being called a “discriminating person” was a compliment. Anyone unable to tell the difference between barring the Pope for the 400-year old actions of the church he represents and barring the current head of a murderous regime would have been laughed to scorn.

    We still do that, of course, but our numbers aren’t as large as they used to be. Homeschooling forever, baby!!

  2. Hello Bookworm,

    It sounds to me like Sapienza University didn’t want the Pope to speak because they don’t agree with Catholicism. Of the scholars, this is more of the same. So-called “scholars” and “intellectuals” have been demanding that Christianity accept a collective guilt for all the horrors of the past.

    This seems like just another spasm of it. Interesting how atheist intellectuals never acknowledge the horrors of atheism upon the world, like… um… communism and the World Wars to name a couple. Where are their apologies for that?

  3. This is really just a good left vs. bad right controversy. Benedict has long been seen a reactionary in Europe. Many lefties in Germany were upset that he became pope. I think this is more like a temper tantrum than a discussion about Galileo..

  4. Columbia need never have invited Ahmdinnerplate. But they did. And once he accepted they were honor-bound to let him speak. Loathsome as he is. (Whoever decided he was worthy of being invited should have been fired for sheer stupidity.)

    Sapienza has decided that the Pope is not worthy of their fine Leftist Institution. That’s their right, I think, though it shows an odd fear of opposing opinion from the Left. But to trumpet it publicly is simply crass, childish, and unbecoming a University. Or it woul have been 80 years ago. Nowadays, it seems normal.

  5. The article clearly stated that the Pope decided he wasn’t going to give the speech. The university did not prevent him, they had invited him.

    Now as to the students and faculty who planned to disrupt the speech; they are a horse of another color.

  6. As Allen says, Sapienza, as an intitution, didn’t bar the Pope from speaking; they had invited him. A group of thuggish students and faculty members had threatened to disrupt him.

    The statement “it was evil of Columbia to invite Ahmadinejad” and the statement “it was evil of the thugs at Sapienza to threaten disruption of the Pope’s speech” are not at all contradictory. Making an administrative decision to not invite a particular speaker is not the same as making an individual or mob decision to prevent a speaker from being heard.

  7. I’m wildly in favor of free speech and I would NEVER consider it appropriate to shut down an Achmadinejad speech. I detest thoughtcrimes and hate crime legislation. And what the Church did to stifle scientific inquiry during the Dark Ages was shameful.

    I think the correct way to oppose those you disagree with is to withdraw support from them. Having invited Achmanejihad (my choice for how to say his name), Columbia U was free to allow him to speak. But I detest the man, and I withdraw all support I might ever give that university, now and forever, or at least until they change their policies.

    In a civilized society, you pay a price for your actions. I’d like to see Columbia U pay a price. But shutting down free speech is not a civilized tactic of opposition. Loss of funding, a decline in enrollment, being the subject of an economic boycott and of peaceful protests, being the target of our own free-expression speeches, a widespread loss of respect… these I think are civilized ways for Columbia U to experience our opposition.

  8. Perhaps neither thought provoking or stupid since most peoples decisions are based in the emotive of their unconscious. People or instittutions eliminate free speech because they are afraid of the power of words and ideas that are anathema to the ones they espouse. Machii vale . . . er mac burg . . big mac . . you know what I’m trying to say Macavalelion . . Machavellian . . yeah thats it I think. No I’m going with Machivellian . . final answer . . no lifeline thank-you. Machivellian is why they do it. Power ,survival and control is why they do it (oh surprise), Politics 101 for Dummies .Of course people make poor choices ,all part of being free. Hopefully mature adults can learn from their mistakes? Doubt it especialy when they are on a mission !

  9. If you think you know what happened between the Church and Galileo, you probably need to read Wade Rowland’s book — Galileo’s Mistake:

    It’s written in somewhat the style of the book that got Galileo into such trouble – Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (available here:
    for less than $10.00), in that it’s a story told mainly through the conversations and interactions of three people. It’s truly fascinating reading.

    Not a perfect book, although I think a fair amount of the criticism in Amazon’s reviews stem more from a basic disagreement with Rowland’s thesis than from truly serious faults in his book. Given the data available at the time, Galileo SERIOUSLY over-committed to Copernicanism. The definitive observations weren’t available for almost 100 years after Galileo was dead. In his day, Ptolemy’s system was actually better at predicting planetary positions.

    And Galileo himself did NOT follow the data wherever it led. The most successful scheme at prediction was neither Ptolemy nor Copernicus, but Kepler. But Galileo refused to accept Kepler’s elliptical orbits, preferring the “perfect circles” that Copernicus taught, despite the resulting need for keeping some of the Ptolemaic epicycles that so bedeviled the astronomy of that time.

    Galileo was a great man in many ways, and a great scientist…..a pioneer in the Western scientific tradition. But, he was a human being, with all the pluses and minuses that that entails. He was also a faithful son of the church until the day he died, and NOT the icon for the scientistic world view that he’s painted up as, these days.

  10. What do you all think? Why are we justified in castigating one situation in which speech is being denied, yet demanding the denial of speech in a different situation?

    Because I don’t have plans to have the Pope killed, while I would like to see Amanie dead.

    You always treat your enemies differently than your non-enemies.

  11. Interesting, Y, because that means you’re saying (and you are probably right) that to the students and faculty in Italy, the Pope is the enemy, and to the administration at Columbia, Ahmadinejad is the ally.

  12. Earl is not the only one that would state such claims about Galileo. Eric Flint, and thus I, also support the contention that Galileo is really not who most people think he was. Nor can what happened to him be termed “persecution” by the Inquisition.

    Many scientists there were also closely tied with the Church. It was never a us vs them thing we see here in America.

  13. Interesting, Y, because that means you’re saying (and you are probably right) that to the students and faculty in Italy, the Pope is the enemy, and to the administration at Columbia, Ahmadinejad is the ally.

    Or we can use the excuse of fake liberals when they protest American actions but not Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Their excuse is that it does more good to protest your local government cause it is here, rather than foreign governments where it will not do any good.

    So even without the veneer of the enemy/ally analysis model, the universities obviously know that such things work on the Christian Pope and not on Amanie.

    Which kind of puts paid to their so called ideological crusade for humanity’s greater good. They are just political opportunists in the end. They go to whomever butters their bread.

    The second argument is that such fake liberals at university aren’t supporting Iran and Amanie, that they are just protesting where they will do the most good. They actually believe this, which is why they are useful idiots. If it helps tools to believe that they exist because of a choice the tool made, instead of the user and maker of such tools, then that’s no skin off the user’s nose.

    Amanie doesn’t care what justification or rationalization universities use to not protest and get in his way. He just wants them to do what he prefers them to do, which is to attack his enemies. And that is what they do.

    Does this mean the Pope is the university’s enemy and Amanie their ally? Only if you are operating at the Master intelligence level of human social dynamics, instead of just the normal intelligence that most people with degrees have. Amanie has a higher level of intelligence than any professor. A professor has intelligence to manipulate dogs and animals and data sets to derive information and uses from them. A professor is the user of the dog, so to speak. While Amanie is the user of the professor. A different level of intelligence, you might say. The intelligence to control and figure out humans.

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