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(This was a response to a conservative poster on a Denver Post comment board, who contended that I seem to think I know some “universal truth” that lesser mortals don’t get, in reference to my strong statement of a moral and intellectual position on Colorado ASSET, which would allow undocumented Colorado teens who had graduated from a Colorado high school after at least three years in attendance to pay an unsubsidized in-state tuition rate to attend Colorado universities.) 

We all take stands and adhere to ideologies that somehow blend bits of “absolutism” with bits of relativism; the challenge is to do so consciously and in a disciplined way, such that we create the most useful frameworks through which to understand a complex and subtle reality.

Those who simply follow blind passions instead tend to get it wrong both ways. You are relativistic about reason and knowledge, arguing as if any assertion of facts or attempt at reasoned argumentation is equal to any other, regardless of the accuracy of the facts or soundness of the reasoning. But knowledge and skill do matter (going to the trouble of acquiring reliably derived information, of getting training in analytical skills, and utilizing them in an attempt to best understand complex social issues is more useful than not doing so).

In matters of public policy, you belong to an ideology which takes offense at such assertions, though you take no such offense at the similar assertion that, for instance, a trained surgeon (or lawyer, or carpenter, or accountant…) is more competent to perform surgery (or practice law, carpentry, or accounting…) than a lay person. This is because your ideology depends on doing the opposite of what your screen name claims you do: it is based on a dogged lack of thought, and it falls apart under careful scrutiny.

On the other hand, you are moral absolutists about those beliefs that are most hostile to the rights and welfare of others. Your ideological camp (i don’t know your position personally) opposed civil unions, for instance, arguing incredbily bigoted nonsense about why discriminating against human beings who want to marry partners of the same sex cannot be afforded the same rights as those who want to marry partners of the opposite sex, even though the only issue involved is an extension of our concept of equality under the law to something we now understand is just a natural area of human variation (sexual orientation).

But, then again, you are moral relativists when it comes to the bedrock morality of caring about other human beings, about striving to be as reasonable and humane a society as we can be, not just acting with universal goodwill in our hearts, but also doing so with as much attention to our social systemic realities as possible, so that we do so wisely and effectively.

In other words, you’ve cobbled together an ideology that gets the “relativism” and “absolutism” blend diametrically wrong on every single dimension, thus fighting to produce an ever dumber and crueler society, rather than an ever wiser and kinder one.

The only “universal truth” I claim to know, that you are missing, is that we must first start with the knowledge that we don’t know, and, on that basis, dilligently build the best understandings we are capable of, in service to the most humane and effective public policies we are capable of implementing, forever evolving in a positive direction as a result. As a general rule, I stick to letting my arguments speak for themselves on these message boards, and don’t cite my “credentials,” but if you go to my autobiographical page on Colorado Confluence, you’ll see that I’ve very much lived according to that “universal truth” I just cited. And I encourage everyone to strive to do so to as great an extent as possible.

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