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“Critical/Cynical Theories” (Book Review)

By Lee Duigon
November 02, 2020

Critical/Cynical Theories by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay

(Pitchstone Publishing, Durham, North Carolina: 2020)

This book was written by two self-described liberals who fear that the excesses and the sheer irrationality of the Far Left will destroy its practitioners; but before that happens, the Far Left will drive millions of exasperated normal people into the arms of the Far Right, whoever that may be. And the great liberal experiment that began some 300 years ago with The Englightenment will be over. Destroyed.

In their spare time, the authors keep looking under the bed for those looming “theocracies” they’ve heard so much about, and greatly fear.

Because of the inanity of its subject matter, this is a very difficult book to read. It’s not the authors’ fault. In addition to the intrinsic repulsiveness of “critical theory,” it has been purposely constructed to be obscure and even unintelligible. That does have a way of happening when you reject language as a means of communication and insist that there is no objective truth, and no such thing as a fact.

Welcome to postmodernism.

Giving Birth to a Monster

Whether you can actually finish reading this book will depend on your tolerance for wicked, godless babble. I also found hard to bear the authors’ fervent support of the very same liberal projects—like “gay rights,” “transgender rights,” and “abortion rights”—which, birthed by liberals, in turn gave birth to the assorted Far Left extremisms which those authors find so acutely threatening. But they think you can have one without the other.

Why should classical liberalism have given birth to monsters?

Most obviously—to us, if not the authors—it’s because secular humanists like these have severed their connections to God and to God’s Word, His laws, and His sovereignty. They don’t explicitly state their disbelief in God, but they do a pretty good job of ignoring Him. Except when venting their fear of a theocracy, they hardly mention “religion” at all—unless you count some of the Left’s wider fantasies as a kind of substitute religion.

Man as the measure of all things simply doesn’t measure up. And trying to understand man’s thoughts and actions without reference to original sin, Jesus Christ, salvation, or God’s sovereign authority over human history—how is this anything but vanity?

It comes down to presuppositions. As Christians we presuppose the existence of God, our creation by Him, His thorough goodness and righteousness, and the immutable truth of His Word. God exists, and He is a God of truth; therefore truth exists, and we can know it.

Humanists, rejecting God, must find another source of truth. Some presuppose the truth of Science, as least when it suits their agenda. Or we can rely on Reason to lead us infallibly to none but the best of all possible worlds. And there are always those who believe in the innate goodness of man, in defiance of both historical and personal experience.

But the critical theory crowd has cut itself off from those feeble sources, too. That’s what makes them incoherent.

Secular liberals have lived for centuries on the moral capital accumulated by Judeo-Christian civilization. “Christendom” was the Western world that they inherited—or we might say took over—from Christians. As for their contention that the world has gotten better and better under their liberal tutelage—did they sleep through the 20th century? Two world wars, tens of millions of people done to death by mostly communist dictatorships, the rise of Islamic terrorism—those things didn’t happen because people were devoted to God’s laws.

So of course the rejection of God gave birth to monsters. Because that’s what we are, without Him.

Far Left Crazy is only secular humanism taken to the nth degree.

A Staggering Vista of Waste

My wife and my editor both wondered how I could review a book that so largely consists of mere ravings by loopy academics. Again, it’s not the authors’ fault: they are quoting fools. But they quote them far more extensively than flesh and blood can bear; and they are surely right in their prediction that sooner or later so much unhinged incoherent blather must devour itself.

If nothing else, the content of this book presents a truly staggering vista of almost indescribable waste—sheer waste—of time, money, and effort bubbling out of our colleges and universities, all of it in the guise of “education.” No one is the better for this, and our country least of all. We are paying extravagant taxes and tuition fees to have our young people “taught” a lot of wicked foolishness—“white privilege” and “systemic racism,” “other ways of knowing” (when Science doesn’t give you what you want, simply declaring your position will suffice), Queer Theory, “intersectional feminism”—can anyone in his right mind expect students to grow “smarter” under this parody of education? Our major universities have budgets totaling billions of dollars a year—and this is what we get for it? We must have a screw loose somewhere.

Well, this is what you get when you buy into the crackpot notion that everyone must go to college. You don’t get a nation of scholars. You just get watered-down colleges “teaching” nasty nonsense.

As hard as it is to believe the Americans honestly don’t know what they’re getting for the money they spend, and the debts they incur, for college, Cynical Theories may be the kind of harsh medicine we need to jolt us out of our stupor.

Believe this, America—our colleges and universities are doing us no good and very much harm.


Topics: Culture , Economics, Education, Humanism, Media / Arts, Socialism, Statism

Lee Duigon

Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.

Lee has his own blog at www.leeduigon.com.

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