Recently, there’s been a lot of furor over the NPR criticism of the Declaration of Independence as “a document with flaws and deeply ingrained hypocrisies.” This popular opinion is repeated as if these “flaws” and “hypocrisies,” if they indeed exist, somehow invalidate or give the lie to the argument itself.
But I challenge anyone at NPR, or anyone in academia or politics, to point out any inconsistency or flaw in its argument. There is no flaw in this document when we see it for what it is: a DECLARATION of a “new truth” constructed according to the principles of scientific reasoning. Its purpose is not to change society immediately but to create the conditions of change by asserting a “more true” description of the Natural World, and this knowledge, like all scientific knowledge, is what will change the world as human beings enact that truth across the spectrum of society. The Modern World has been created, and liberty and human rights have been furthered, as other social systems competed with the “new truth” of equality declared here, and progress and change have been steadily enacted across the human landscape since that time. Arguing that the Declaration is false because the people who wrote it, or the society that created it, are hypocrites is like asserting that because some doctors are incompetent or greedy means that medical science is a fraud. Let’s discern the difference between truth, and the ability of human beings to live up to the truth.
The Declaration is what’s called a deductive argument, and most people think its purpose is limited to rationalizing the separation of the colonies from England. But this is not the only purpose; that separation is merely a logical outcome of the deductive argument, and the deductive part is only the visible half of the equation. The Declaration is a complete scientific argument, in the Kuhnian sense, and begins in the Inductive mode. It induces the new truths from Intuition, from what we all know is true within us: Equality is “self-evident” to all human beings. From these self-evident truths, the Declaration deduces the right of the colonies to separate, but it is only their right to do so because of the existence of the new truth of equality.
See in deduction, if X is true, then Y is also true; like, if it is true that all humans are equal, then it is true we all have the same rights. But this reasoning only works with integrity insofar as the founding premise is true, and the founding premise is true only insofar as it accurately reflects observable nature. (It is at this point that CRT breaks down as a reasoned argument.)
The real work of the Declaration is not to create an equal society, but to establish the new premise upon which to build that better society: It “declares” a new relationship to exist among human beings, and humans deduce a better society from that new relationship. It is this premise, the novel claim that all human beings are equal, that overturns the unequal relationships of the Old World where people serve governments and kings, and creates the Modern World where governments serve the people and kings have been declared. Further, as a scientific argument, it ties this “new society” to nature itself and thereby asserts that equality is the natural condition of the human being, and because it comes from within, from the “Creator,” it cannot be taken away by any external force. It thereby liberates individual human beings from subservience to other human beings and returns them to a more natural world by re-attaching human activity to self-interest. Thus any society built upon the premise of equality must reflect nature directly and must be “more true”; and, any society built upon inequality, simply cannot be “true.”
Thus, the argument itself is an example of a perfectly constructed scientific claim. And it should come as no surprise that is so built, for not only was Jefferson himself a natural philosopher, but of course, Franklin was the foremost scientific mind of the colonies, and himself published one of the most important scientific papers of the century. He was a skilled editor and publisher and adept at arranging a scientific claim with integrity (something that no proponent of critical race theory can demonstrate because CRT is simply not a scientific claim, but a Toulminian one, and therefore unpersuasive as a rational construction of consensual truth: It lacks “integrity” and is therefore invalid as a scientific argument).
Finally, like all scientific claims, the Declaration does not “create” knowledge out of nothing; that is, it does not bring into being that which has never existed before but rather reveals to human thinking that which has always existed, but we have as yet been ignorant of. The Declaration gives concrete language to the Natural Law of Equality, like Newton describing gravity, revealing it to human understanding so that it may inform the actions and structures of human beings. Further, as a scientific claim, it is therefore universal and applies to all human beings equally throughout time, and it exists outside of the temporary conditions of race, culture, heritage, and language which so many people today believe lend permanency to their own versions of the truth, but are in fact completely beside the point rationally. It does not matter the color or race or religion of the person who perceives a “truth for the first time.” If it is true, it is true for all people because we are equal; but if it is not true for all people, it cannot be true. That’s why we have so few REAL truths like equality, and why it’s important that we keep the ones we have that actually work.
Those who criticize the Declaration because it does not create equality, or alter society, or make any real concrete change, or is flawed or hypocritical are fallen under the sway of one or more of the many fallacies that clog the thinking of so many today, including those who claim to think scientifically, and sadly it seems the majority of teachers in America as well. But the fact is, those who wish to alter America must first destroy the truth of equality as declared in our founding document because our entire society is deduced from that premise. CRT is intended to disrupt the formation of this premise in succeeding generations of American youth and to re-establish the inequalities of the Old World that our society sought to banish from the human experience. By altering the premise of our society, proponents of CRT hope to control the conclusions of those deductive processes.
Critical race theory, and its pedagogical expression known as DEI, fundamentally un-equalizes the relationships existing between citizens in our nation; it reinstates inequalities among us all that can only end in conflict and mutual destruction. In the classroom, which is a public forum protected by constitutional law, it creates inequality between the students themselves, deliberately silencing free speech, and corrupts the teacher into a demagogue of correct thinking, creating not a teacher but a priest. DEI requires some students to be punished for the actions of people long since dead while excusing its own adherents from the acts of evil they perform in the present.
I know CRT, as a scientific equation, is not true because its predictions of creating a better society, and a better human being, clearly don’t materialize. In science, that’s called “falsification.”
Dr. Arthur Schuhart
Professor of English at NVCC-Annandale