The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Brazen Word

I was taught in high school English courses that characters are defined by their actions alone. “Actions speak louder than words” I’ve been told throughout my young life. If that is the case, and I’m doubting it is, the discrepancy between personal biography and philosophy is simple: those that act outside of their ideals are hypocrites.

Perhaps a more authentic characterization of a person is best understood through language, not action.

The best known contemporary example of this discrepancy was articulated by likely 2008 presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. “I hate it,” he said of abortion in a recent interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News. “I think abortion is something that, as a personal matter, I would advise somebody against. However, I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I think you have to ultimately not put a woman in jail for that.”
A safe, classic cop out on a controversial issue.

A lesser known instance was detailed on Feb. 12 by the New York Times. Marcus R. Ross, a professor at Liberty College, the conservative Christian institution founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, was chastised for being a scientist with a religious bent. Ross, a “young earth creationist,” believes in the Biblical account of the creation of the universe, a stance discredited by contemporary scientists as simply unscientific.

The science professor reduces the respective paleontological and creationist “paradigms” as methods for studying the past: separate but equal, one might say. That he maintains the autonomy of the dates in his doctoral dissertation (which make references to events 65 millions years old) and the idea that the earth has existed for no more than 10,000 years, seems, to most, very problematic.

But Ross shrugs the contradiction aside: “I am separating the different paradigms,” he said.

His critics are outraged over the fact that Ross, a graduate of the University of Rhode Island, was able to earn his doctorate despite his personal beliefs.

“Scientists do not base their acceptance or rejection of theories on religion, and someone who does should not be able to become a scientist,” said Michael L. Dini, a professor of biology education at Texas Tech University.

These instances raise a question concerning the aforementioned discrepancy: can these “paradigms” be separated? And if so, does one necessarily dominate over another?
For those interested in precedence, numerous public figures have maintained a gap between their “actions and words.”

German philosopher Martin Heidegger was an active Nazi, holding membership card number 312589. Numerous studies of one of the world’s most influential modern philosophers have struggled to make sense of Heidegger’s politics in the shadow of his philosophy on humanism. An odd and difficult contradiction.
Thomas Jefferson, an American hero that preached against miscegenation (interracial sexual relations), fathered six mulatto children with his long-time slave, Sally Hemings. A study of America’s first ideological dictator reveals that the rules idealized by Jefferson have no bearing on the man himself.

Embedded in human nature (or for you anti-humanists, human behavior) is an intrinsic discrepancy between what one believes and what one acts on. The articulation of ideas is the result of a deliberate thought process; actions alone are often reactionary, instinctual, sentimental.

So when Giuliani talks about abortion, I get the sense he has little understanding of the issue. If he “hates” the idea of abortion, which seems to connote his belief that the act is equivalent to murder, than how can he promote the choice of death? How can one believe that murder, an offense violating one’s right to life, is a viable option? This articulated cop out demonstrates his misunderstanding of a very divisive issue.

It was Heidegger that referred to language as the “house of Being.” So says a Nazi who, by the way, never spoke publicly of his politics.

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