A Further Perspective

Political Correctness: The Antithesis of Science

PC attacks its opponents; it doesn't debate them.

By 3.20.14

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Despite attempts to cloak itself in science, political correctness is the very opposite. The political correctness movement’s real emphasis is on politics, not correctness. Its goal is to have prevailing thought determined by a political dynamic.

As repeatedly witnessed, political correctness is about installing its subjective version of truth in the court of public opinion, not in distilling objective truth. Its end is to implant a certain idea, belief, or behavior as the only acceptable course of action or thought — to the exclusion of any other. 

Usually, this puts political correctness in opposition to prevailing norms. Not holding a majority outright, political correctness takes a political approach toward installing itself. It is organized; it is coordinated; it marshals stock answers — all, to advance itself. 

Political correctness attacks its opponents — it does not debate them. It is always on the offensive. It seeks to demonize its opponents and make them explain their opinion, because it knows in today’s soundbite world, explaining means losing in public discourse. 

Political correctness first aims at the media. In effect, it advertises to advance its argument. It seeks to manipulate public opinion, not inform it. And as with any advertising, it seeks to make its position seem more accepted than it really is. 

Soon after debate has begun, political correctness prematurely seeks to end it. It says implicitly, if not explicitly, that the argument is now over and it has won. 

Political correctness has discovered the essential truth of politics. An overall majority is unnecessary to victory. What is needed is simply a majority of those participating in the contest. 

The distinction between an overall and a participatory majority is crucial. It is rare when more than a bare majority of eligible voters participate in an election. Like most political systems, ours is ruled by the self-selection of participation.

Political correctness seeks to re-create this political dynamic in determining prevailing thought. It seeks to maximize the appearance of its position and minimize — and in many cases, ostracize — the position of its opponents. 

To conceal its political nature, political correctness relies on “correctness” to conceal it. To do this, it always postures that its methods and conclusions were scientific, not political. 

The ultimate problem for political correctness is that science and the scientific process is the very opposite of its approach. 

True science is about constantly offering and testing new hypotheses, not inflicting one. Its goal is never to attempt to end debate. 

True science is a never-ending debate. Hypotheses are never more than that: theories based on the best facts at hand. All explanations are never more than hypotheses — even when one is dominant. Scientists are always seeking to tighten, improve, or replace them with something better. A theory is never the end of a debate, just the beginning of the next one. 

There is a humility to real science, where the greatest awareness is how little is known. In contrast, there is a hubris to political correctness, where the greatest desire is to enforce acceptance that there is no more to be known and no more to be discussed. For science, the debate is never over. For political correctness, the debate is always over. 

However, their most important difference lies in how debates’ outcomes are determined. For political correctness, it is to be majority rule. For science, it is the very reverse. Science is perpetual innovation, and innovation is premised on the assumption that not only is the majority wrong, but that almost everyone will eventually be proved to be so.

Every innovation is a change to what had prevailed and what everyone had accepted as the best. All had been unable to think of a better way…until someone did. Then the new way swept the landscape clear, creating a new norm and a new opportunity for further improvement. 

Of course, attempts at innovation can be wrong and most often are. The process does not guarantee success, it simply encourages attempts — something from which we all benefit, though very few actually participated in these attempts. 

The ethos of science, in which political correctness continually tries to give the impression it is cloaked, is the denial of majority rule. It is the realm of the innovator, the ultimate individual. The ethos of political correctness is that of implied majority rule.

With its means and goal the opposite of science’s, it is worth considering whether political correctness’s return to society is also the opposite of science’s — of the risk to the individual in particular, and to innovation in general.

Political correctness’ goal is power. Its means is politics. And objective correctness has nothing to do with either. The time has come to quit allowing it to hide behind its pretense of being backed by more than a concerted effort to accomplish its ends by whatever means possible.

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About the Author

J.T. Young served in the Department of Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004 and as a Congressional staff member from 1987 to 2000.