Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Several readers have now sent links to this story about a Singapore professor who will be teaching human rights law at NYU this fall, who is captured on video arguing at length against the decriminilization of homosexuality (the links to the video can be found in the story linked above). The most striking thing about the video is its embarrassingly low intellectual level--she mostly just regurgitates Lord Devlin's side of the Hart/Devlin debate, which Hart won, both intellectually and as a matter of English law. There isn't even the pretense of a response to the obvious Hartian and Millian objections to her Devlinesque position. Now perhaps Professor Thio isn't as dumb as this performance suggests, and perhaps she has done good work in other areas--there are plenty of anti-gay bigots in the academy who have done important scholarly work (John Finnis is an outstanding example). Still, this is all a bit embarrassing for NYU. One imagines she will not receive a warm welcome in Greenwich Village this fall.
UPDATE: A colleague elsewhere writes:
In addition to your observations about the purely analytical deficiencies of Professor Thio's performance before Parliament, I think that this video helps to point out the deficiencies in the human spirit that she brings to the debate. The qualities of compassion, enlightenment, and living within the truth (to borrow Vaclav Havel's phrase) that a person exhibits in making an argument about human behavior -- or, conversely, the qualities of condemnation, bitter small-mindedness and unconcern for the humanity of others -- are sometimes as important as the purely analytical forces that one can marshall. This particular debate, which depends so much upon the basic, threshold question of recognizing the humanity of another, is one of those instances.
This is well-said, though I suppose we must concede that elite law schools have never been able to pretend that they weigh empathy or human decency as important factors in hiring decisions, but they do at least pretend to care about analytical smarts.