Valuing intellectual honesty and DEI
Diversity, equity, and inclusion, usually abbreviated as DEI, refers to efforts to promote the fair treatment and full participation of all people, particularly groups who have historically been underrepresented or subject to discrimination on the basis of identity or disability. These three notions (diversity, equity, and inclusion) together represent three closely linked values which organizations seek to institutionalize through DEI frameworks.
This is the right thing to do, especially considering historic inequalities. There are, however, circumstances where it is justified to exclude people or their incessant protests. It is often wise to exclude dishonest and disruptive dissent from deliberations and decisions. It is wise to expect intellectual honesty.
Intellectual honesty is the practice of accurately communicating true beliefs. True beliefs correspond to reality. True beliefs are accurate representations of matters of fact, as best they can be known.
What, if any, obligation do we have to include intellectually dishonest people in our conversations, on our influential platforms, and in our decision-making processes. Let’s consider some examples.
Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, a free and fair election. This is a matter of fact, not a matter of opinion or of controversy. There is overwhelming evidence supporting this factual conclusion. For example, the 2020 presidential election was described by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) as "the most secure in American history," noting "[t]here is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised." Many claims of purported voter fraud were discovered to be false or misleading. Attorneys who brought accusations of voting fraud or irregularities before judges could not produce actual evidence to support the allegations.
After the 2020 United States presidential election, the campaign for incumbent President Donald Trump and others filed and lost 62 lawsuits contesting election processes, vote counting, and the vote certification process in nine states and the District of Columbia. Among the judges who dismissed the lawsuits were some appointed by Trump himself.
The outcome of the 2020 presidential election is a matter of fact, not a matter of opinion or controversy. The dissenters had their days in court, and they lost. It is time to accept the fact the election was free and fair, and Joe Biden won.
People who claim the election was stolen are intellectually dishonest. They are communicating untrue beliefs; they are communicating information that contradicts matters of fact. This may be because they are misinformed, disinformed, charlatans, or bullies. In any case, they are advancing falsehoods and fostering civil unrest. Being wrong does not justify disruptive behavior or violence. Falsehoods have no privileged claim to any particular forum.
People who are being intellectually dishonest deserve our civility but do not merit our acquiescence, capitulation, or acceptance of their falsehoods.
Consider the age of the Earth as another example. The Earth formed, it is here, and it has an age. There is a fact of the matter. The age of Earth is estimated to be 4.54 ± 0.05 billion years. This dating is based on evidence from radiometric age-dating of meteorite material and is consistent with the radiometric ages of the oldest-known terrestrial material and lunar samples.
This estimate of the age of the Earth is a matter of fact, corroborated by substantial reliable evidence collected and carefully examined and evaluated. Various estimates of Earth’s age have been proposed, challenged, and carefully examined by many scientists over many years of study. Our understanding evolves, and the Earth’s age is now known with great confidence.
Despite overwhelming reliable evidence and scientific consensus, young Earth creationism holds as a central tenet that the Earth and its lifeforms were created by supernatural acts of the Abrahamic God between approximately 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. Its primary adherents are Christians and Jews who believe that God created the Earth in six literal days. A 2017 Gallup creationism survey found that 38 percent of adults in the United States held the view that "God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years" when asked for their views on the origin and development of human beings.
While the First Amendment protects the free exercise of religion, we also have a moral obligation to seek true beliefs. Although tolerance is essential in the realm of opinion, it has no place in the realm of fact. Don’t be misled, know how you know so you can choose true beliefs and reject falsehoods.
Intellectual honesty and inclusion are the yin and yang of civil society. Reality is our common ground, and inclusion is our moral imperative. We can value both of these vital concepts simultaneously as we find common ground.