We recently did a podcast asking the question if there is a neutral and, if so, where it can be found. I wanted to come back to it briefly to expound on a few points made in the podcast for the written audience. This article will ask the question “What is Neutral?” and attempt to explain why no one is neutral.
In order to answer the question, we need to understand what we mean by “neutral”. According to the dictionary, neutral has multiple definitions but the one that applies here is “an impartial or unbiased country or person.” The key word is impartial. This is how most people view neutrality. So when we discuss neutrality, this is what we are talking about.
Are there then things that are impartial? Certainly, there are some things that would be considered neutral. An apple, for example, is neutral. Why? Because the apple makes no attempt to influence anyone’s behavior or thought process. The apple simply is. It exists for a purpose certainly but none of the numerous purposes it serves, from providing a container for seeds, to providing food for animals and man, attempt to influence man’s thoughts or actions. This then would be considered neutral. Things like an apple that make no attempt to influence humanity could be considered truly neutral.
Not all things are neutral in this way, however. Consider the words which you are reading off this page. Are these words neutral? Obviously not, given I am attempting to convince you that there are things that are not neutral. These words you are reading are attempting to persuade you to change your thought process or strengthen your agreement with my thought process. This is not an impartial article in any sense because words themselves are not impartial.
You might argue it is possible to write words in a way in which they are neutral. However, I would argue this is not possible. Consider the below text from the Wikipedia article on Calvinism. (Note, we are not endorsing or condemning Calvinism, it simply is an easy topic to point out biased wording)
Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice set down by John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians.
Calvinists broke from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. Calvinists differ from Lutherans on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, theories of worship, and the use of God’s law for believers, among other things. The term Calvinism can be misleading, because the religious tradition which it denotes has always been diverse, with a wide range of influences rather than a single founder. In the context of the Reformation, Huldrych Zwingli began the Reformed tradition in 1519 in the city of Zürich. His followers were instantly labeled Zwinglians, consistent with the Catholic practice of naming heresy after its founder. Very soon, Zwingli was joined by Martin Bucer, Wolfgang Capito, William Farel, Johannes Oecolampadius and other early Reformed thinkers.
Where is the bias here? Many people who follow reformed doctrines would argue that Calvin and the other reformers had nothing to do with their doctrines. They would say they found those doctrines in Scripture itself, not the writings of the Reformers. See how the desired information is being conveyed though through the Wikipedia article? People who align more on the Armenian side of the theological debate would argue that the word “Calvinism” is not an inaccurate word because it describes the overarching beliefs of those who are reformed. Again, the desired information is being presented.
What else is not impartial? What about forms of art like music or paintings, or cinema? Think about it. Music always stirs up some kind of feeling in the listener, regardless of the lyrics or even in the absence of them. Is music neutral then? Absolutely not. It is designed to convey a message, just like the words I have typed. Every song reflects the desire of the composer to convey a message of some form or another. Every painting is also meant to convey something, be it beauty, emotion, or the likeness of a person. Every film has a message. It’s often not openly stated but it always there, often in throwaway lines or hinted at obliquely but it’s there.
Why is it that words, music, art forms, and so on are not neutral while things like apples, furniture and so on are not? The answer is the origin of the words and other forms of communication. They all come from a mind. They all are intended to convey information. Anything that proceeds from the mind of man is always intended to influence those who receive it.
This explains why evolutionists are not neutral when they come to the discussion. The moment they open their mouths to speak, they begin conveying information and that is never neutral. They have a worldview that they will convey while speaking and are thus not neutral. Nor are creationists. Each has their own set of views that they are attempting to convey. In no case is anyone ever neutral.