Greenberg: Reject intellectual dishonesty

From: John Greenberg/The Bear Bookshop
Sent: Sunday, April 07, 2013 9:35 PM
To: bmartin@amherst.edu
Subject: Hadley Arkes

Dear President Martin:

As a participant in the Class of 1970 listserv, I’ve read with interest your letter about Professor Hadley Arkes and the response of my classmates Tito Craige and Warren Mersereau.

First, I agree with my classmates that academic freedom extends only as far as a given academic institution wants it to, and that in any case, academic freedom is entirely distinct from the right of free speech which all Americans, obviously including Mr. Arkes, share. But even were Amherst to decide that principles of academic freedom SHOULD be extended to cover Mr. Arkes’ abhorrent views – a decision with which my choice of adjective should make it transparently clear I strongly disagree – there is another question that cannot be dismissed so easily.

I refer to the basic principles that your letter characterized as “the values of openness, advocacy, and honest debate,” and I agree with you that any institution purporting to represent the best intellectual traditions MUST begin from these core principles.

Unfortunately, it takes little more than a cursory reading of Mr. Arkes’ diatribes to recognize that he does not share these values; indeed, he goes out of his way to subvert them. I will exemplify this by analyzing just two of his articles which have been the subject of debate on our listserv.

The first was written several years ago: “The Judges Do Iowa,” The Catholic Thing, Tuesday, 14 April 2009) (http://www.thecatholicthing.org/2009/04/14/the-judges-do-iowa/)

Here are his first two sentences: “Why should it have been a surprise? It was well understood, even before November, that the election of Barak Obama would be taken as the green light for judges throughout the country to plunge ahead to install same-sex marriage.”

When this article was written, President Obama did not support same-sex marriage. But that’s not the only error here. Indeed, it’s the least of them. It would be more accurate to substitute “Bush” (GW) for “Obama” in Arkes’ sentence, because all of the courts of ALL of the other states that ruled against restricting gay marriage did so during the BUSH administration. (e.g., MA = 2003; NJ = 2006; NH = 2007; CA = 2008, CT = 2008) or BEFORE it (VT = 1999). And it is worth noting that the Iowa case, DECIDED after Obama was president, was actually ARGUED during the Bush administration as well. (The district court decision was 2007).

My point is simple. Arkes’s statement is totally and glibly at variance with ALL of the facts of the matter. It is wrong not on one count, but on every count. It is, in short, intellectually indefensible.

But the real problem lies not in these factual incidentals, but in the conclusion to which these small fibs are meant to lead readers. Presidents of the United States have little to do with the federal Supreme Court (once they appoint the judges), and nothing whatsoever to do with State Supreme Courts. The notion therefore that the election of ANY president has ANYTHING to do with a state supreme court is a scurrilous allegation, impugning the motives and judgment of those who serve on those courts.

Mr. Arkes knows this; he’s a political scientist. He also has reason to suspect that his readers may not; he chose to make this allegation in a religious magazine, rather than a political science journal. Additionally, he knows that the judges will not — probably cannot — respond to his allegation without seriously undermining their position as judges or violating their canons of ethics.

In sum, he has chosen to mislead his readers, using a serious of small misstatements to make a larger, totally indefensible point, in a context in which he can hope to escape the notice of knowledgeable readers, and without fear of response from those whose integrity he has impugned.

If Arkes were a junior high student, one might simply note all this, and perhaps charitably suggest that the errors were caused by ignorance. But Arkes is not a junior high school student. He’s a professor of political science (that is, he’s a scholar writing in his own field) at an institution which takes great pride in its prestige. Moreover, the sentences I’ve just quoted are not an isolated example, even in this single article. The article is replete with falsehoods, half-truths, misleading statements, logical fallacies, etc. It exudes a contempt for the values for which, Amherst says it stands: namely, respect for facts, for sound logic, for scientific research, rather than reliance on or appeal to prejudice, rhetoric, sophistry, and the like. It is important to underscore that all I have said concerns only intellectual methods and honesty; it is completely independent of the loathsome content of his basic message.

The second example concerns Professor Arkes’ recent contribution concerning the oral arguments in the Proposition 8 case: “Marriage in the Court” by Hadley Arkes (http://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos/344001/marriage-court-hadley-arkes) Again, let’s examine 2 sentences: “The main point of concern for traditional-marriage advocates was Kennedy’s musing about 37,000 children living in households headed by gay or lesbian couples: Were their parents to be denied the standing of marriage, and they in turn branded as offspring of some sub-legal ménage? But of course the question is no different here from the plight of children in polygamous unions.”

Here, Mr. Arkes, a tenured professor of political science equates polygamy, which is illegal, to marriage, which isn’t, without mentioning the difference, in the context of the 37,000 children about whom Justice Kennedy expressed concern. These are the children who HAVE been adopted — perfectly legally under CA law — by gay parents in civil unions, whose fate WILL be affected by the Court’s decision, however narrowly tailored. Arkes dismissive phrase: “But of course the question is no different here from the plight of children in polygamous unions” not only conflates all these things and is completely false from a legal standpoint, but totally ignores the gaping differences between the legal issues of same sex vs. polygamous marriage. The give-away here is that slipped-in little phrase: “of course.”

Note too that the REASON Justice Kennedy raised the issue is that it was prominently discussed in the lower court, where, after listening to voluminous testimony, Judge Walker concluded: “70. The sexual orientation of an individual does not determine whether that individual can be a good parent. Children raised by gay or lesbian parents are as likely as children raised by heterosexual parents to be healthy, successful and well-adjusted. The research supporting this conclusion is accepted beyond serious debate in the field of developmental psychology. (emphasis added)” … b. PX2565 American Psychological Association, Answers to Your Questions: For a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality at 5 (2008): “[S]ocial science has shown that the concerns often raised about children of lesbian and gay parents —— concerns that are generally grounded in prejudice against and stereotypes about gay people —— are unfounded.”” (p. 95)

Using these points as a basis, Judge Walker found: “56. The children of same-sex couples benefit when their parents can marry.

a. Tr 1332:19-1337:25 (Badgett: Same-sex couples and their children are denied all of the economic benefits of marriage that are available to married couples.);

b. PX0787 Position Statement, American Psychiatric Association, Support of Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Civil Marriage at 1 (July 2005): “The children of unmarried gay and lesbian parents do not have the same protection that civil marriage affords the children of heterosexual couples.”;

c. Tr 1964:17-1965:2 (Tam: It is important to children of same-sex couples that their parents be able to marry.);

d. Tr 599:12-19 (Peplau: A survey of same-sex couples who married in Massachusetts shows that 95 percent of same-sex couples raising children reported that their children had benefitted from the fact that their parents were able to marry.).” (Page 84)

In an article as short as his, I would not expect Mr. Arkes to marshall all of the available evidence, but brevity is no excuse for IGNORING it all either, nor for considering it “regrettable and surprising as to how much weight seemed to be placed on the findings of social science.” Regrettable and surprising to whom? And why?

Honest intellectual discussion acknowledges ALL of the facts and then attempts to construct the best argument. Mr. Arkes is almost always at pains to HIDE basic information from (or worse, simply lie to) the reader. He then mounts his arguments on the basis of the resulting obfuscation.

In sum, I recognize that questions of academic freedom can be difficult to parse, because institutions naturally want to avoid stifling legitimate debate. Indeed, such discussion is one of the core values of any academic institution. Still, like Messrs. Craige and Mersereau, I do not find that particularly difficult in this case.

But be that as it may, lying, misrepresentation, and obfuscation – in a word core intellectual dishonesty – should surely have no more safe harbor in ANY institution which wants to consider itself a place of learning than plagiarism and other forms of cheating. I would think that any institution concerned about its reputation would therefore have no difficulty whatever in drawing a clear line which says that intellectual dishonesty can have no home here.

John Greenberg

From: battocchi@comcast.net
To: “Biddy Martin”
Sent: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 10:35:53 PM
Subject: John Greenberg’s Letter

Dear President Martin, the more than 50 individuals listed below endorse and join the letter John Greenberg submitted to you on April 7 (copy attached with typos corrected). All are members of the class of 1970 unless otherwise noted. Thank you.

Respectfully,

Ron Battocchi

Bud Alpert

Ron Battocchi

Bob Bernstein

Bill Carter

David Cichon

Doug Clark

Tito Craige

Barry DeLapp

Ron Dewdney

Rob Duboff

Jon Einhorn

Tom Gillis

Joseph Gordon

Marvin Gross

Mark Harris

Bill Hayes

Miles Herkenham

C. David Hunt

Richard Kellogg

Steve Kent

Doug Lane

Ron Marinucci ’71

P. Scott McGee

Tom McKitterick

Richard Meeker

Warren Mersereau

Paul Mintzer

Robert Nathan

Mike Naughton

Jim Parakilas

Eric Patterson

Daniel Quinn

Tom Reicher

Bob Reichert

Whit Rutter

Steve Seward

David Silverman

Wylie Smith

Jeff Southworth

Bob Spielman

Colin Stewart

Doug Swift

George Triano

Tom Viall

David Wase

Eric Weber

Russell Wise

Ron Wold

Burt Woolf

Robert J. Yamins ’72

George Zoulalian

Lanny M. Zuckerman

From: “Biddy Martin”
To: battocchi@comcast.net
Cc: “Melanie Sage”
Sent: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 8:45:23 PM
Subject: your letter

Dear Mr. Battochhi,

Thank you for forwarding John Greenberg’s April 7 letter and the list of signatories. Today I received a set of messages, forwarded by Dvaid Hunt, making it clear that no one (i.e., you, Mr. Greenberg or the signers of the letter) has received a response. I would appreciate it if you would forward this note to Mr. Greenberg or post it to the listserv.

As I think you know, I sent two messages earlier this Spring that were posted to the listserv. I thought the second one was posted after I received the letter from Mr. Greenberg. If I am wrong, I apologize for the oversight.

I appreciate the passion and persistence with which so many of you are fighting homophobic views and the damage they do. As I said in earlier messages, we do not intend to do more in response to Professor Arkes’ articles than affirm and continue acting on our commitments to a diverse and inclusive community, one that supports the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender students, staff, faculty, alumni and friends everywhere.

Biddy Martin

From: John Greenberg/The Bear Bookshop

Sent: Thursday, June 06, 2013 3:38 PM

To: bmartin@amherst.edu

Cc: AMHERST-AMHERST-1970@CHAT.AMHERST.EDU

Subject: Your letter to Ron Battocchi

Dear Biddy Martin:

I am frankly astonished that two months after I wrote you a letter raising substantive issues that go to the core of Amherst’s mission, you cannot be bothered even to offer me the courtesy of a direct acknowledgement, let alone a reply. Given that more than 40 other alumni (in plain English, potential donors) co-signed my letter and re-sent it, however, I am left almost speechless. But words must be found.

As you note in your email to Ron Battocchi, you have indeed responded to the letters from my friends Tito Craige and Warren Mersereau (unconvincingly, in my estimation), and in some cases, these replies were written after you received my letter. But as far as I can see, you have yet to acknowledge even receipt of my letter, let alone respond to ANY of its content.

When I wrote you back in April, I was at some pains to distinguish my message from that of Warren and Tito. While they focused on the CONTENT of Mr. Arkes’s message – which you characterize in your letter to Ron as “homophobic views and the damage they do,” I pointed to an entirely different issue: namely, his intellectual dishonesty.

Put bluntly, your decision to respond to Tito and Warren’s concerns about Arkes’s articles with vapid generalities (“affirm and continue acting on our commitments to a diverse and inclusive community”) is wholly inadequate, but I’m confident that others, including but not limited to Warren and Tito, will respond fully and amply to that, so for now at least, I’ll leave that chore to them. Suffice it for me to say here that it’s hard to fathom what kind of affirmation or commitment allows hate speech to pass in silence, especially when, as here, that silence speaks volumes.

But nothing you’ve said in your note to Mr. Battocchi even begins to address the issue I raised. Respect for human rights does nothing to counter intellectual deception. Tolerance of diversity is not an answer to humbug and flimflammery.

Amherst purports to be among this nation’s premier institutions of learning. Accordingly, it simply cannot responsibly fail to address a member of its faculty who time and again produces articles which fail to respect the core rules of intellectual discourse, which you yourself enumerated in a previous letter as “the values of openness, advocacy, and honest debate.” This is even more the case when, as here, he does so while repeatedly identifying himself with the College with painstaking specificity: “Hadley Arkes is the Ney Professor of American Institutions at Amherst College.”

Failure to call out mendacity and manipulation is consent to the use of those tactics, and Amherst College cannot expect anyone to find its commitment to learning credible if it fails to respect even minimum standards of intellectual discourse. Without these standards, it is impossible for learning of any kind to flourish, let alone, aspire to excellence.

I understand that this issue I’m putting before you is one you’d prefer not to address. You’ve made that more than plain. But address it you must, or relinquish any claim to be president of a college of high intellectual values.

John Greenberg

From: Biddy Martin
Sent: Thursday, June 06, 2013 4:10 PM
To: John Greenberg/The Bear Bookshop
Subject: Re: Your letter to Ron Battocchi

Dear Mr. Greenberg,

I am sorry you are offended. I chose to send an email to one of your classmates whose email address was available to me at home, rather than waiting until today to ask my staff about your letter and email address.

I understand that you made a different argument than Warren and Tito (and others) made. Your approach involves making attributions of motive. I do not wish to engage at that level. I am genuinely sorry to disappoint you, but it is evident that we disagree about the best way to proceed.

I wish you well.

Biddy Martin

From: “John Greenberg/The Bear Bookshop”
To: AMHERST-AMHERST-1970@CHAT.AMHERST.EDU
Sent: Friday, June 7, 2013 5:59:37 PM
Subject: Re: [AMHERST-AMHERST-1970] Your letter to Ron Battocchi

Dear Biddy Martin:

Thank you for your quick reply to my letter, and for recognizing that I “made a different argument than Warren and Tito (and others) made.” Unfortunately, your email goes on to suggest that my “approach involves making attributions of motive,” and your use of that phrase tells me that we still are not communicating clearly.

In my original letter to you, I tried to direct your attention to a sentence in which everything Mr. Arkes wrote “is totally and glibly at variance with ALL of the facts of the matter.” No attribution of motive of any kind is necessary to support my statement: the dates of the court cases I enumerated are all a matter of public record.

Next, I pointed to the inference Mr. Arkes intends his readers to draw. Again, motive plays no role. Mr. Arkes DOES imply that the Iowa court’s decision was somehow influenced by Obama’s election, and that assertion would, if correct, suggest a violation of both law and ethics of scandal-making proportions (for both parties).

Similar reasoning applies to my claim that “The article is replete with falsehoods, half-truths, misleading statements, logical fallacies, etc.” Motive is irrelevant to any of these arguments.

Now it is true that the explanation I offer – that Mr. Arkes is an intelligent fellow who knows what he doing and therefore does so consciously – DOES attribute motive to him. Accordingly, you can, as you put it, opt not “to engage at that level.”

But let’s be clear on two points. The decision to put my explanation to the side does not make the phenomena I described go away. The facts are still wrong; the logic is still misleading; the half-truths remain. Additionally, I would suggest that rejecting my explanation leaves only one other one that I can see: namely, that Mr. Arkes is ignorant, incapable of doing simple factual research, incompetent, or some combination of the above.

This is not the place to defend more precisely these or other claims made in my letter, or to offer further examples of similar failings throughout Mr. Arkes’s work, though they are available in ample supply.

With or without more examples, we come inevitably and directly back to the point you appear so determined to sidestep. Intellectual discourse cannot flourish in the presence of uncorrected falsehoods, half-truths, misleading statements, or logical fallacies. All of these are incompatible with “the values of openness, advocacy, and honest debate.”

Similarly, whether conscious intent to deceive or incompetence is responsible for these failings, neither explanation is supportive of high standards of learning or discourse and neither reflects well on the institution with which Mr. Arkes chooses to associate himself.

Please understand that I am as determined that you at least register and acknowledge the points I am making about Mr. Arkes’s discourse as you appear to be to evade and ignore them. Your 2 month silence, your first reply which speaks to entirely different points and now your dismissive summary of my “approach” all make it clear to me that you are not inclined to act in this matter. I find that disappointing. Still, it’s important to me (at least) that we both understand and acknowledge exactly what is at stake.

John Greenberg

From: “Biddy Martin”
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 12:50 PM
To: “John Greenberg/The Bear Bookshop”
Subject: Your analysis

> Dear John,
>
> I do not reject your analysis. I appreciate and share your anger. I have
> simply not believed it is in the best interests of the College at this
> moment for me publicly to censure Professor Arkes. I am thinking of
> opportunities for making the College’s values and expectations clear to a
> larger audience. I hope at some point we will have an opportunity to meet
> and talk.
>
> Biddy

From: “John Greenberg/The Bear Bookshop”
To: AMHERST-AMHERST-1970@CHAT.AMHERST.EDU
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2013 6:54:56 PM
Subject: Re: [AMHERST-AMHERST-1970] Your analysis

Dear Biddy,

Thank you for your prompt reply. We disagree fundamentally, but at least now we do so explicitly and clearly.

Thank you for the cordiality of your closing thought.

Best,

John Greenberg

About Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart, a 40-year journalism veteran, is publisher and an editor of the "Erasing 76 Crimes" and "76 Crimes en français" blogs. More profile information on Google+. Colin Stewart, un vétéran du journalisme de 40 ans, est éditeur et rédacteur en chef des blogs "Erasing 76 Crimes" et "76Crimes en français." Plus d'informations de profil sur Google+.
This entry was posted in Petition to trustees. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Greenberg: Reject intellectual dishonesty

  1. Pingback: Irony: College says its silence defends free speech | Amherst Against Homophobia

  2. Pingback: How Amherst College blocks dissenters | Amherst Against Homophobia

  3. Pingback: Protest: Martin misstates alumni request, blocks access | Amherst Against Homophobia

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