Time to shake the ivory towers

In his classic work on political liberalism, John Stuart Mill emphasised the overwhelming importance of free expression. In particular, Mill stressed the need for dissenting voices to be heard.

“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race.” It most especially deprived those who disagreed with it. If the dissenting opinion is right, Mill wrote, then the opportunity to exchange truth for error is lost. If it is wrong, then also lost is “the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error”.

Shutting down dissenting opinions is also supremely arrogant: “All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.”

The airing of a broad range of opinions is central to the Enlightenment project, and to academia in particular. When powerful groups control all allowable opinions, knowledge suffers.

The steady advance of stultifying groupthink is killing the modern academy. Quote:

A new study of sociology professors found that only one out of 50 academics in the field self-identifies as conservative.

Even after adding libertarians to the mix, only four percent of the sociologists surveyed reported holding right-of-center political views.

The study, “Sociology’s Sacred Victims and the Politics of Knowledge,” was led by Seton Hall University professors Mark Horowitz and Anthony Haynor, along with University of Central Oklahoma professor Kenneth Kickham.

Similarly, only 13 percent of professors said they were moderate, whereas 83 percent admitted to holding either liberal or radical beliefs. End of quote.

Claims that academia is being stifled by leftism are often met with howls of denial from academics and leftists, but numbers like these are damning. More importantly, though, what does it mean for teaching and research? Quote:

While the lack of conservative professors in academia is well-documented, Horowitz and his team sought to supplement the existing research by additionally assessing how the scholars’ political views might impact the presentation of controversial issues in the classroom.

Researchers also found that a professor’s political allegiance has a direct impact on how they think about sociology controversies, such as whether “STEM political efforts may fail partly due to biology” or if “prenatal hormones play role in occupational choices.”

Other questions asked whether the academics agreed with statements such as “I support Marx’s dictum to change the world,” “advocacy and research should be separate for objectivity” and “more political conservatives would benefit sociology.” End of quote.

Political affiliation of its own need not necessarily be a problem, but when the bias is not only absolutely pervasive but directly impacts teaching and advocacy, then the problem becomes acute. The current fad of idiotic gender ideology, for instance, has become as politically powerful as it is because there was nobody to challenge nonsensical gender ideology in the academy, in the 80s and 90s. Quote:

As the authors note in the abstract of their paper, “the field of sociology has long been subject to critique for alleged ideological bias and left-wing groupthink linked to its social justice mission.”

“When one political grouping predominates any discipline, it runs the risk that certain hypotheses that are politically sensitive to that group will be unduly dismissed, which is precisely what we found in our survey,” Horowitz said. “On every controversy question, the pattern of responses by radicals, liberals, and moderates followed the predicted pattern.”

Horowitz stressed, however, that he does not wish to denounce the lack of conservatives in sociology, explaining that he is more concerned with how professors’ political affiliations may impact what gets taught and researched.

“All of us are biased in one way or another,” Horowitz noted. End of quote.

The problem can indeed cut both ways: feminist critiques of science, for instance, have in the past highlighted genuine problems. In one example, research into female sexual response was based almost entirely on the observations of male subjects. Even more alarmingly, medical developments targeting women were also based on male subjects, who sometimes have entirely different physiological reactions to drugs and dosage.

Climate science is another field where public advocacy is dominated by echo-chambers of tub-thumping activists, who loudly advocate the wholesale dismantling of modern industrial society. This is not just bad science; it’s bad politics, based on lies, distortions and ideological obsessions.

At its worst, academic groupthink is literally deadly. When no-one was allowed to challenge the obvious nonsense of Lysenkoism, tens of millions starved in the Soviet Union and China.

Academic echo-chambers are not merely frustrating to anyone on the outside, but downright dangerous.


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Who is Lushington D. Brady?

Well, a pseudonym. Obviously.

But the name Lushington Dalrymple Brady has been chosen carefully. Not only for the sum of its overall mien of seedy gentility, reminiscent perhaps of a slightly disreputable gentlemen of letters, but also for its parts, each of which borrows from the name of a Vandemonian of more-or-less fame (or notoriety) who represents some admirable quality which will hopefully animate the persona of Lushington D. Brady.

To read my previous articles click on my name in blue.

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