You Tell ’Em, Duke Porn Star

Like everyone else with a lick of moral sense, I was shamed and saddened by the news out of Duke University last February that a freshman student was paying her tuition bills by doing porn. Belle Knox, as she called herself in print, felt no shame when she was publicly exposed by a male classmate, who recognized her while—you guessed it—watching porn. (He wasn’t ashamed either.) Doing porn, Knox told the Duke student newspaper, is “liberating. It’s probably the most empowered I have ever felt.”

The expected moral outrage never developed. If sermons were preached against the degradation of pornography, they did not penetrate the church walls; if a scarlet letter appeared in the night sky, no one reported it. Instead, Knox very quickly became a victim. The sin against her? An outrage called “slut-shaming.” Facebook postings and Twitter messages ridiculed her; girls on campus glared at her, boys yelled, “You’re the porn star!” “There were stares and whispers in the dining hall,” Knox complained to the Huffington Post. “After I was outed, every single day waking up was like a nightmare.”

Defenders leaped to her side. “This country is in a trillion dollar student loan debt,” the website College Candy reasoned, “Duke is $60,000 a year, so if someone has to make a few porno movies to get a good education, who is anyone to judge?”

We must be non-judgmental toward one another, because moral judgment is so yesterday. “To suggest—as many Duke students have on various message boards—that [Knox] is somehow deserving of harassment or abuse because she works in adult films sets us back about five decades, if not five centuries,” a libertarian blogger explained.

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Let’s Hear It for the Dull Habit

“Good Letters” is pleased today to welcome D.G. Myers as a regular contributor.

In early April the MIT physicist and novelist Alan Lightman pitched his tent between an atheism that speaks in science’s name and a scientifically informed faith in God. Reviewing Amir D. Aczel’s new book Why Science Does Not Disprove God for the Washington Post, Lightman distanced himself from the “religious fervor” of New Atheists like Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, and Sam Harris—he agreed they are “staining the scientific enterprise” by exchanging the scientific method for “backbiting and invective”—but he also rejected efforts like Aczel’s to make overmuch of science’s failure to disprove the existence of God:

The reason that science cannot disprove the existence of God, in my opinion, is that God, as understood by all human religions, exists outside time and space…. The most persuasive evidence of God, according to the great philosopher and psychologist William James in his landmark book The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), is not physical or objective or provable. It is the highly personal transcendent experience.

This badly misreads James, but in triumphantly producing transcendence as a trump card against atheism (God cannot be reduced to human definition because by definition He transcends human definition), Lightman impoverishes the meaning of religion as badly as any atheist. He reduces it to brawling over the existence of God.

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