By Dave Andrusko
I had a conversation last week with one of the smartest people I know. Without getting into the substance of what we kicked around, let me just say that I was astounded by some his conclusions. It was like 1+1= a minus 3. I was, in a word, dumbfounded.
Our two ships passing in the night discussion immediately reminded me of a late friend of mine who not only taught me a lot about how to think but was also one of the kindest men I’ve ever know. His particular blind spot was Noam Chomsky.
As insightful and knowledgeable as my friend was (he intimidated me with his brilliance, although that was never his intent), the fact that Chomsky was a pioneer in a host of fields, most especially linguistics, did not mean Chomsky’s expertise was universal. In a word, Chomsky (like all of us) could make jaw-droppingly stupid remarks when he ventured outside his (admittedly numerous) areas of competence.
I’m sure there have been similar observations since what Chomsky said a while back when speaking at a reception where he received University College Dublin’s highest award—the Ulysses Medal—but today let’s stay with that one.
So what exactly did he say? As the story unfolded (as reported in the Irish Times), Chomsky began with the usual pro-abortion bromide: protective laws are “attacks on women’s rights.” Well, okay, one man’s opinion. But Chomsky was just warming up.
He said there had been improvements in women’s rights, “Although they are nowhere near where they ought to be and it’s going to be a long struggle.” And then
“There is a strong debate at the moment with regards to a woman’s right to control an organ of her own body – namely the foetus. …Pretty soon you can imagine legislation prohibiting the washing of hands because thousands of cells are flaked off that could be turned into a stem cell and you can grow a foetus– so you’re killing a person. It’s attacks on women’s rights.”
Maybe it was a long evening and he was tired. Maybe, in a flourish of free (and I do mean free) association, he reasoned (so to speak) that it’s women’s rights=right to her own body=everything in her body is hers=ergo she can designate what is in her body in any language she chooses.
Or maybe it was just a stupid comment.
What about the washing hands gibberish? Just as a baby is not an “organ,” a skin cell is a skin cell, not an embryo, and not a “potential” embryo.
How can smart people be so dumb?