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The Crap We Believe Because A Lot Of Idiots Believe It
Ridiculous ideas, not based on any form of proof, simply the fact that they are widely held, are gaining ground in the latest push against enlightenment thinking, writes sociology prof Vladimir Shlapentokh in the IHT. The mob is rising up against reason under the slogan of "diversity," among other things:

Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University, casually noted that it is possible that the difference in the proportion of men and women among the faculty in the natural sciences at the country's leading universities could be partially ascribed to some genetic factors. He proposed further study into this issue.

After these statements, a witch hunt started in the liberal community. Lacking the courage of Giordano Bruno, the 16th century Italian philospher who was ready to be burned at the stake, the poor president of one of the greatest universities in the world retreated from his remarks almost immediately.

However, his apology and clarification did not stop his persecutors. Summers has been attacked by the presidents of three major universities. Objectively, the goal of this campaign, as any other of this sort, is to destroy any reflection or scientific inquiry that could cast doubt on one of the most simplistic dogmas of political correctness, which suggests that men and women are genetically the same in all possible ways.

I remember vividly the ideological onslaught on genetics in the Soviet Union in 1948 under the direct guidance of Stalin. He used Trofim Lysenko, a scientific adventurist, to proclaim genetics as a false, bourgeois science. The scholarly community was ordered to stop thinking in terms of genetics and in general not to deviate from the dominant ideology.

Almost simultaneously we have seen another attack against the spirit of the Enlightenment, but this time by conservatives: The defenders of Intelligent Design - an evident variation of Creationism - published an opinion article in The New York Times, the symbol of intellectualism in the United States, as if this idea were equal in legitimacy to the biological mainstream. Of course, the newspaper could not stop this trend. Creationism is a fast-spreading epidemic here in this country. Teachers of natural science are made to be afraid of teaching evolution. To legitimize an antiscientific trend by writing under the guise of diversity is a terrible sin against the concept of progress.

Both victories - on the left and the right - mean only one thing: growing self-censorship in academia. There is an increasing number of taboo subjects in classes. More and more, students are being schooled in intellectual hypocrisy and conformism.

Posted by aalkon at February 27, 2005 8:48 AM

Comments

> More and more, students are being schooled in
> intellectual hypocrisy and conformism.

Is there any kind of hypocrisy that isn't intellectual?

The sky is always falling. Let's not panic, OK? The academic diversity crowd is dealing with a hoisty-petardy kinda thing in Colorado this week. These witless people will often collapse under their own weight. I wish the taxpayers were a little more thoughtful and arrogant about how their money gets spent, but whatever.

The great atrocity of western academe is that tenure is the bedrock financial mechanism. This may not be the end of the world in practical terms: its gaurantees may prove hollow when the shit hits the fan. The worst part is that the mindset this nourishes in the minds of the players.

Posted by: Cridland at February 27, 2005 11:41 AM

Hi -



>> Is there any kind of hypocrisy that isn't intellectual?



Sure – religion, for starters. Matters intellectual are based on reason, whereas issues religious are based on faith. Faith can hardly be deemed "intellectual". (Note: over the centuries, the concepts "God", "belief", "faith", and "religion" have become inextricably mixed, not to say expurgated and deformed; our relatively meager and necessarily truncated efforts here won't change that, alas.)



>>The academic diversity crowd is dealing with a hoisty-petardy

>>kinda thing in Colorado this week.



It's about a rapidly-disappearing concept called "Free Speech". Although his choice of words might be deemed sadly inappropriate, the man simply used hyperbole to illustrate a point. How is that different from, say, Jay Leno, David Letterman, or Conan O'Brian ? Ah, because he's financed by "taxpayers" ? More appositely, then, since senators, representatives, governors, and mayors dine and prosper thanks to taxpayers, how is his statement different from the outright lies and repeated misstatements made by them ? In the sanction only ?



>>I wish the taxpayers were a little more thoughtful and arrogant

>>about how their money gets spent, but whatever.



Fully agree with you there. More money spent on health care for the people in the richest country in the would certainly be nice, for example. There are undoubtedly other areas where taxpayers should look on what their money is being … unduly lavished.



>>The great atrocity of western academe is that tenure
>>is the bedrock financial mechanism.



"Tenure" is simply "job security". Why is job security necessarily bad for academia when it is good for blue-collar and white-collar workers in a plethora of other fields ?





L'Amerloque

Posted by: L'Amerloque at February 28, 2005 12:16 AM

> Matters intellectual are based on reason...

That's what it says in the brochure, but it rarely seems to work in practice.

> ...how is his statement different from the
> outright lie...

Whatever you mean by 'sanction', politicians are compelled to ask for votes and other approval from their employers. It would be fun if Mr. Chuchill were polled. So to speak.

> "Tenure" is simply "job security".

E Volokh: "Tenure is an extra protection beyond that given by the First Amendment: It's a contractual (or perhaps a statutory) guarantee that professors can't be fired without good cause, which is interpreted quite narrowly."

Again, the worst part is that tenure nourishes the most commie and infantile superstitions about how an ecomomy can be made to work. A Ward Churchill doesn't just stumble into such a position, he claws his way in tooth and nail, and the mantra is "I'm dead weight, but they can't fire me." When your immortal soul is constructed around such a scheme, you'll assume that it's the way it should be, and that the rest of the world can or should be the same way.

Reynolds said earlier this week: "They've mostly chosen to let academic administrators, and faculties, run universities without a lot of outside interference. But there's no guarantee that this state of affairs will persist if those outsiders conclude that universities are being run badly."

Why do you have so many


spaces in your text?

Posted by: Cridland at February 28, 2005 12:51 AM

Tenure is marriage for the workplace.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 28, 2005 12:53 AM

Hi –



> > Matters intellectual are based on reason...

>>>That's what it says in the brochure, but

>>>it rarely seems to work in practice.



(smile) So efforts should probably be made in the direction of "practice".



>> ...how is his statement different from the

>> outright lie...

>>>Whatever you mean by 'sanction', politicians are

>>>compelled to ask for votes and other approval

>>>from their employers.



Sure, the vote by taxpayers is the sanction. Then we are forced to ask: are the politicians sanctioned for a) words (declarations, promises), b) actions (voting record, fulfilment of promises) or c) both a) and b) ?



>>>It would be fun if Mr. Chuchill were polled. So to speak.



Well, why not ? A poll among Colorado taxpayers, with secret ballot, asking "Do you agree with what Ward Churchill said ?" might be quite revealing … not to say surprising.



It should be remembered that Ward Curchill is being pilloried for a portion of a) above ("declarations") and certainly not the other portion ("promises"), and still less for the entirety of b) above ("voting record" and "fulfilment of promises"). He simply gave an opinion, he promised nothing, he delivered no flawed actions and he hardly has legislative or executive powers.



> "Tenure" is simply "job security".


>>Again, the worst part is that tenure nourishes the most commie

>>and infantile superstitions about how an ecomomy can be made

>>to work.



Jeez, I thought I was dated, sometimes … but "commie" in the year 2005 ? (smile) What you term "commie" are simply the interpretations and implementations by fallible men and women of a given set of ideas, an economic dogma if you will, laid down by Marx and Engels. These differing interpretations and implementations gave rise to various regimes throughout the world, almost all of them failures in their relevant and diverse iterations. However, the fact the regimes failed doesn't necessarily prove that the dogma itself is in error. The fault can (should ? must ?) be ascribed to the interpretations and implementations. The given set of ideas stands on its own. Among this given set of ideas, generally termed "Marxist" (or "commie"), can be found, for example (my comments in parentheses):



Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly. (Hi there, Alan Greenspan, interest rates and the money supply !)

Equal obligation of all to work (Could this be the "working poor" ? No more commie welfare, hey !)

Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country. (agribusiness; population and business shifts since 1965; hi there, interstate highway network !)

Free education for all children in public schools. (No comment required here)

Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. (Except for immigrant labor ? Offshore it !)

Combination of education with industrial production. (university/business cooperation; Silicon Valley)



Gosh, could the USA have, perhaps, made use of some "commie" tenets ? Could interpretation, emphasis and implementation have differed from those of "commie" regimes ? (smile)



>>A Ward Churchill doesn't just stumble into such a position,

>>he claws his way in tooth and nail,



It has been my experience that this is the case for 99% of people, in whatever job.



>>and the mantra is "I'm dead weight, but they can't fire me."



Forgetting for a moment that WC's mantra might not be what you assert … a thinker who teaches and publishes at taxpayer expense is "dead weight" ? Or only if what the thinker says disturbs, irritates, or flies in the face of "taxpayer" opinion ?



Qui custodiet ipsos custodes?



L'Amerloque

Posted by: L'Amerloque at February 28, 2005 2:43 AM

Dear L'Amer,
If you don't mind, would you make an effort to include the Latin translations for the underschooled? Sadly, my public school in Michigan hadn't even heard of Latin.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 28, 2005 6:44 AM

Hi Amy -



>>would you make an effort to include

>>the Latin translations for the

>>underschooled? Sadly, my public

>>school in Michigan hadn't even

>>heard of Latin.



Sorry. It's from Juvenal's sixth satire.

This is generally rendered as "Who's watching the watchers ?" Others have ventured forth with "Who is watching the watchmen ?" (smile)




L'Amerloque

Posted by: L'Amerloque at February 28, 2005 7:36 AM

Ooh, I love that.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 28, 2005 8:20 AM

> (smile) So efforts should probably be
> made in the direction of "practice".

Clarity is quicker: If someone's hypocritical, it's enough to say so. We don't need to invent further distinctions, it's ALL intellectual.

> Then we are forced to ask: are...

Clarity clarity clarity. You seem upset that politicians are dishonest. But the multiple choice we face with elected officials is whether we want to vote for this one or that one. And we take the whole test even when re-electing, just to be sure. It would be ducky if we could do that with academics, especially as education money grows dearer.

> A poll among Colorado taxpayers...
> might be quite revealing…

I'm ready. I got taxpaying friends back there to talk to about this, many in the booklearnin' business. First Tuesday in May good for everybody?

> ...he promised nothing, he delivered
> no flawed actions and he hardly has
> legislative or executive powers.

Any defence of a public servant which begins "he promised nothing" is going to be fun to read.

Professor Lithograph is a particularly pathetic, if not dangerous, example of intellectual fashion. In a speech long ago, Paglia talked about the deconstructionist heyday and the slapback that followed: "It's sort of like a period where people were told, because they had no taste of their own, that they should furnish their house in zebra Naugahyde furniture. So they went heavily into this, okay, their whole house is furnished in it. Then suddenly, twenty years down the road...." Ward Churchill's aviator glasses are actually in their fourth decade of service now, but you see the point.

> but "commie" in the year
> 2005 ? (smile)

Communism having delivered wretchedness everywhere it's been practiced, enthusiasm persists only where economic reality has been held at bay. I would describe this controversy as a mop-up operation. It's fun to watch because the outcome is not in doubt, and because the stakes are so low. Meanwhile, if you want to convey a smile, perhaps you could write something to deliver one. This is not a sitcom treatment, you are not Jen Anniston.

> ...this is the case for 99% of
> people, in whatever job.

Where the corrections of the market can be flexed, hard work is the point. But academics aren't working towards reward, they're working towards a place where merit has no meaning.

> "Who's watching the watchers ?"

Taxpayers, and thanks for asking. Postwar America has invested uncounted billions (trillions?) buffing the elbow patches of dim, technocratic professors in hopes of nourishing daring intellect and innovation through tenure. The fundamental principle holds: If the investing customers have been given their money's worth, you got nothing to worry about.

Headlines from the heartland say you do.

Posted by: Cridland at February 28, 2005 10:08 AM

Hi -



>>Clarity clarity clarity. You seem upset that

>>politicians are dishonest.



Now, now, don't change the subject. (smile) The subject was freedom of speech and to what extent "taxpayers" have a say in "taxpayer-financed" academic speech.



>>But the multiple choice we face with elected officials

>>is whether we want to vote for this one or that one.



That's part of the problem. There should be more than two running. (smile)



>> It would be ducky if we could do that with academics,

>>especially as education money grows dearer.



To what purpose ? That's what baffles me in your discourse. A tenured academic says something you disagree with and, because you are a "taxpayer", you think he should be fired ? Why have an educational system at all, then ? What is the point of education, if not to instill and hone critical thinking ? To create robotniki ?



>>Professor Lithograph is a particularly pathetic,

>>if not dangerous, example of intellectual fashion.

>>In a speech long ago, Paglia talked about the

>>deconstructionist heyday and the slapback that

>>followed: "It's sort of like a period where people

>>were told, because they had no taste of their own,

>>that they should furnish their house in zebra

>>Naugahyde furniture. So they went heavily into

>>this, okay, their whole house is furnished in it.

>>Then suddenly, twenty years down the road...."

>>Ward Churchill's aviator glasses are actually

>>in their fourth decade of service now, but you
>>see the point.



Sure, just as the "conservatism" (or, more appropriately, the "neo-conservatism") of today is becoming rapidly akin to the "fascism" of the 1930s. (smile)



> but "commie" in the year

> 2005 ? (smile)


>>Meanwhile, if you want to convey a smile,

>>perhaps you could write something to deliver one.

>>This is not a sitcom treatment,

>>you are not Jen Anniston.



The fact that an interlocuter can, in 2005 when some of the historic dust has settled, say "commie and infantile" in the same breath without acknowledging the oxymoron makes me laugh out loud. I conveyed this with a (smile).



> ...this is the case for 99% of

> people, in whatever job.

>>Where the corrections of the market can be flexed,

>>hard work is the point. But academics aren't working

>>towards reward, they're working towards a place

>>where merit has no meaning.



Their merit apparently doesn't lie within your frame of reference. Fine. It does within others'. Reward is not necessarily monetary. What's the problem with that ?



> "Who's watching the watchers ?"


>>Taxpayers, and thanks for asking.



Well, no, that's not quite what I was driving at. (smile) "Who's watching the 'taxpayers' ?" is what I meant. (gales of laughter, here) Those usually invoking the "taxpayers" are self-anointed guardians / watchers / custodians, ever ready to act as big business' pitbull, to the detriment of the commonweal and the individual.


The whole alleged "Taxpayer Revolution", initiated by Governor Dimwit Reagan, led to a tremendous drop in the quality of life in California, where I grew up in the 1950s and 60s. The quality of life now is laughable, compared to France and Western Europe (note that we are not millionaires). However, if the California taxpayers think they've received their money's worth, what can I say ? You pay diddly, you get diddly, after all. They have only themselves to blame for the crises in education, healthcare, environment, and whatever else is ailing their state. Someday the vaunted "taxpayer" will realize his/her name is being, er, taken in vain. Until then …



>>Postwar America has invested uncounted billions (trillions?)

>>buffing the elbow patches of dim, technocratic professors

>>in hopes of nourishing daring intellect and innovation

>> through tenure.



"Tenure" is but one part of the educational equation – and, in my view, a minor one at that.




L'Amerloque

Posted by: L'Amerloque at February 28, 2005 12:23 PM

> Reward is not necessarily monetary.
> What's the problem with that ?

For something not monetary, it costs too much.

> "conservatism" (or, more appropriately, the
> "neo- conservatism") of today is becoming
> rapidly akin to the "fascism" of the 1930s.
> (smile)

Check your meds, (Sybil,) then look at a news headline. As you polished and typed your pretense of psychosis, the Syrians were being chased out of Lebanon. The neocon hardon for democracy just keeps on going and going.

> "Who's watching the 'taxpayers' ?" is
> what I meant.

You coulda said so. You are right to be concerned about vulgar masses: They may want their money back.

> A tenured academic says something you
> disagree with and, because you are a
> "taxpayer", you think he should be fired?

I think tenure and the presumptions which gird it are bogus.

> ...hone critical thinking ?

It was the Foxy Schoolmarm of Northern Calfornia, Joanne Jacobs, who broke the spell of 'critical thinking.'

- http://www.joannejacobs.com/mtarchives/013285.html

This, and Hitchens and Orwell, taught me to look out for variants like "intellectual hypocrisy."

> "Tenure" is but one part of the educational
> equation – and, in my view, a minor one at
> that.

Maybe you won't miss it.

Posted by: Cridland at February 28, 2005 1:01 PM

Listen, enough with the politics. Can't we talk about THIS person now?

http://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images?p=princess+madeleine+of+sweden

Until yesteday I didn't know she was alive. Earth: What a planet!

Posted by: Cridland at February 28, 2005 2:09 PM

Hi -



> > Reward is not necessarily monetary.

>> What's the problem with that ?

>>>For something not monetary, it costs too much.



Ah, the penchant to confound the concept of "cost" with the concept of "money". (sigh)



> "conservatism" (or, more appropriately, the

> "neo- conservatism") of today is becoming

> rapidly akin to the "fascism" of the 1930s.

> (smile)

>>Check your meds, (Sybil,) then look at a news headline.

>>As you polished and typed your pretense of psychosis,

>>the Syrians were being chased out of Lebanon. The neocon

>> hardon for democracy just keeps on going and going.



(smile) Equating (the people demonstrating in the street, I suppose) "Syrians being chased out of Lebanon" with "democracy" is like equating"neoconservativism" with "freedom". On the surface, on a good day, it might even appear tenable – not to say downright attractive - but when one looks below appearances … one sees that thanks to the neo-cons, the liberties of all Americans are being curtailed. If I adopt the simili-BigBrotherSpeak used by the neocons, I'd have to say "… every citizen in the Homeland …". Hey - that last phrase sounds exactly like what I used to hear in occupied Eastern Europe and in the USSR during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Exactly, too, what can be found in the fascist manifestos of the 1920s and 1930s. Poor ol' Hannah Arendt must be spinning in her grave.



> "Who's watching the 'taxpayers' ?" is

> what I meant.

>>You coulda said so.



I _did_ say so.



>>You are right to be concerned about vulgar masses:

>>They may want their money back.



With respect, are you able to write a sentence or a comment without a derogatory adjective or phrase ? Please ? Pretty please ?
Now, just why are the masses "vulgar" (we'll take a pass on the redundancy) (smile)



> A tenured academic says something you

> disagree with and, because you are a

> "taxpayer", you think he should be fired?

>>I think tenure and the presumptions which gird it are bogus.



Fine. We disagree on that. Some people feel that "Western (sic) democracy" and "the presumptions which gird it" are quite bogus; others feel the same about "not paying taxes". Takes a lot of different viewpoints to make a workd. (smile)



> ...hone critical thinking ?

>>It was the Foxy Schoolmarm of Northern Calfornia,

>>Joanne Jacobs, who broke the spell of 'critical thinking.'

>>http://www.joannejacobs.com/mtarchives/013285.html



Ah :! (smile) For quite a while now, the site you refer to has been the one of the more assertive proofs – at least in my eyes - that not everyone can benefit from education and that not everyone should be a (gasp !) teacher. I've often thought that this site was an elaborate put-on designed by a post-doctoral grad student looking to prove a point about people participating in Internet discussions. (smile) The said student might even be creating multiple identities and posting messages to sucker internauts into debating. (On the other hand, it could also be closely connected to the Shakespeare / monkey problem – remember that ? "If you had an infinite number of monkeys sitting at an infinite number of typewriters for an infinite number of years typing at random then it it could be accepted as a probability that one would eventually type the entire works of Shakespeare.")




L'Amerloque

Posted by: L'Amerloque at March 1, 2005 5:28 AM

Hi –


>>Listen, enough with the politics.

>>Can't we talk about THIS person now?

>>http://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images?p=princess+madeleine+of+sweden

>>Until yesteday I didn't know she was alive.
>>Earth: What a planet !


As an American ("life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness") resident in France ("liberté, égalité, fraternité"), I hardly see why I should be interested in minor European royalty in this day and age. (smile)




L'Amerloque

Posted by: L'Amerloque at March 1, 2005 5:34 AM

> ...not everyone can benefit from education...

We can tell.

> I hardly see why I should be interested in
> minor European royalty in this day and age.

Sex.

Posted by: Cridland at March 1, 2005 1:06 PM

Hi -


>> ...not everyone can benefit from education...

>>We can tell.



Ah, the ad hominem in you. (smile)



>> I hardly see why I should be interested in

>> minor European royalty in this day and age.

>>>Sex.



Wouldn't have thought it, myself. Was looking for something a bit more intellectual, shall we say. European royalty is a bit shortchanged in that department. (smile)



L'Amerloque


Posted by: L'Amerloque at March 2, 2005 2:10 AM

>> Sex.

> Wouldn't have thought it, myself.

Again, we know.

> ...resident in France...

It's certain that the ambiance in Vichy warms your spirit just as the waters soothe your psoriasis. Best wishes over there.

Posted by: Cridland at March 2, 2005 4:49 AM

Hi -



>>It's certain that the ambiance in Vichy ...



Poor fella. Falling back on knocking the French in that typical Pavlovian manner. It's as though a French person were trying to insult you by making a reference to Wounded Knee, say, or My Lai or Hiroshima. (sigh)



As my screenname indicates, I'm American, however. What possible connection could I have with Vichy ? (smile) I don't even work in the hotel or communications industry. (Vichy was chosen as the French capital in 1940 because, being an international upmaket "spa" town, it had enough hotel rooms with telephones to house the numerous factotums required to govern.) Today the town does have quite a nice racetrack, and there are quite a few excellent restaurants.




L'Amerloque

Posted by: L'Amerloque at March 2, 2005 6:24 AM

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