Wednesday, March 25, 2009


John Derbyshire asks a very pertinent question, "Will Obama Kill Science?" Political Correctness has always been rather insane, but now it has a license to kill so to speak in the postmodern rhetoric of the Obama Administration and the PC excesses of its minions--who cannot wait to subjugate the rest of us to their way of 'thinking' about things:
The U.S. is “frenzied” by “belligerent nationalism”? Perhaps Geoffrey Miller should chat with some young Chinese males. And while it’s nice to see Satoshi Kanazawa say things that a non-Asian would be horse-whipped on the steps of his club for saying, someone should explain to him that not all fundamentalist Christians in the U.S.A. are pumping gas or serving Big Macs. Also, his take on the public presentation of evolutionary psychology — basically, just keep the rubes in the dark — is a tad too much de haut en bas even for this elitist.

The less the civilians know, the better. Once again, science is not democracy; we cannot enlighten everybody. Science is an inherently elitist enterprise.

Possibly so: But it is also an enterprise that is constantly demanding public funds — funds, that is, torn from the rubes’ pockets by force of law, as taxation. However, Kanazawa redeems himself to some degree at the end of his piece:

On September 11, 2001, our Muslim enemies made one crucial mistake; the chose the wrong symbolic target in New York. What makes America great is not the Twin Towers; if it were, then Malaysia, with its magnificent Petronas Towers, will be the greatest nation on earth. No, what makes America great is the Statue of Liberty. The Twin Towers, evolutionary psychology, and everything else in America are mere consequences of the Statue of Liberty and what she stands for.

I’ll drink to that — and what odd sentiments to find in a science journal (though to be sure, one of the less rigorous ones). I think Kanazawa is also correct to say that:

If anything can interfere with the future of evolutionary psychology in the United States and Europe, it is the cultural insanity of political correctness. That is the true enemy that we must fight.

Which is what I was saying back in October. Our “science-friendly” president (discreetly) and his supporters (much more loudly) are crowing over the lifting of restrictions on federal funding for embryo-destructive stem-cell research. Such a splendid victory over those reactionary troglodyte fundamentalists!

Right. Wait till science comes crashing up against political correctness, as it will at some point in coming years — probably under an Obama administration. Let’s see how much they love science then.

Read the entire article for the full context.

I have discussed this issue before, but it is worth repeating especially now since it appears to be impossible for leftists to appreciate the distinction between limiting Federal funding of science and the outright banning or prohibition of scientific inquiry.

Postmodernism and the politically correct dogma that flow from it focus on the prohibition of "unacceptable" thoughts and ideas which effectively shuts down scientific inquiry.

Additionally, postmodernism subscribes to the notion that the human mind is incapable of knowing the real world because there is no world out there that exists separately from our senses. In other words, everything that exists is all in our heads.

And, furthermore, what's in your head is no better than what's in my head.

When you think about it, that's a rather an amazing assertion, particularly since it is inherently contradictory. Those who fervently believe this are Cretans--or rather, they suffer from a variation of the famous Cretan Paradox. "What is in your head is no better than what is in my head" is a statement of absolutes which presupposes that the "my head" person is correct --i.e., what's in his head about this issue is the absolute truth--that what he "thinks" is no better or worse than what you think.

But, what if what's in your head tells you differently--i.e., what if you think you think better than him? Personally, I get a bad headache just thinking about the mental contortions necessary to formulate this theory in the first place.

In fact, almost all applications of postmodern philosophy --from art criticism to politics; and psychology from philosophy and rhetoric to science--result in a pervasive blurring and distortion of reality, rather than in its understanding.

The assertion that I hear repeatedly in the academic setting is that science is "under attack" from the religious right. Yet what I actually observe time and again is that it is the secular left that is intent on suppressing ideas and research that aren't ideologically pure.

I witnessed this same phenomenon in the Soviet Union, during my visits there while doing research at NASA. The secular Soviets continually ridiculed religion, yet in their own scientific writings, the first couple of paragraphs were given to praising and humoring the secular god of Communism.

"GLORY TO SOVIET SCIENCE" huge banners would proclaim, on the outside of Soviet research institutions. And "WORKERS OF THE USSR APPLAUD THE ADVANCES OF SOVIET SCIENCE." Woe be it to any scientist that was interested in testing an hypothesis that might in any way reflect badly on "official" state-sponsored communist ideology (a perfect example is the Lysenko theories in biology which held glorious Soviet biology back for decades).

One thing you can say about the religious right is that their desire to teach "intelligent design" (a theory I do not think has sufficient evidence to be included in children's science textbooks) basically represents a rather desperate desire to have their religious views respected in a system that has deliberately and with malice aforethought been excluding them for years. even as other "religions" views are substituted. As examples, consider that even the word "Christmas" is prohibited in schools these days for fear of offending some sensitive leftist's feelings; but these same leftists are eager to make sure kids learn all about Islam (we don't want them to become Islamophobic, do we?), or that the religion of the left-- multiculturalism-- is integrated into the curriculum without so much as a by-your-leave.

We are also subjected to grown women (or should I say "indoctrinated feminists"?) who presume to call themselves "scientists" swooning when a University President suggests the possibility that factors other than sexism--i.e., biological considerations-- might be at work in explaining disparities between women and men in academia. That University president was forced out of his position for daring to have such ideas and expressing them in a spirit of open-mindedness. It was considered sexist to even suggest such an idea.
I guess some ideas are just far too threatening to be freely discussed and debated and must be suppressed at all costs.

So, which of the above two scenarios has had the most chilling effect on free speech in this country? The debate about intelligent design? Or the lack of one about the biological differences between males and females? I submit that the latter, which had serious repercussions on that particular University President and effectively warned anyone who might want to explore theories other than sexism that they would be appropriately persecuted.

Meanwhile, even the advocates of the whole intelligent design theory or creationism are not advocating (that I am aware) that Darwinian evolution theory be struck from the curriculum and not be allowed in public discourse or debate. All they ask is that their ideas be included in the debate. (If I am incorrect on this and you have evidence that they are trying to exclude Darwin, please let me know in the comments).

This brings up an important point about "crackpot ideas" in general. On their own (i.e., without the State or a Religion literally forcing them into people's minds and enshrining them as scientific dogma) crackpot ideas do not hurt science.

In fact, a few of them even eventually turn out to have some merit when pursued. And a few that were considered "crackpot" in their day ( like the earth not being the center of the solar system, for example) have turned out to stand the test of time and reality.

What hurts science is when only certain ideas are allowed; or when there is a band of elites who determine what is "crackpot" and what isn't. And, when thinking about or exploring certain ideas are considered not "politically correct."

I happen to think that intelligent design is a "crackpot idea" for various reasons, but I don't see the harm of pursuing it to its scientific conclusion. Let anyone who wants to, come up with a way of testing it or studying it. Have institutes that support research on it. If there is any merit in the theory, it will come out. After all, there are some pretty bizarre theories out there in astrophysics that don't have much evidence and have not discovered adequate ways to be tested--but I really hate that anyone's ideas to be banned from discussion and refutation.

Even in the Soviet Union, if Lysenko's theories had not been enshrined by the Communist State, then science could have moved on--as it tends to do--and taken the interesting parts of Lysenko's thoughts and either disproved or amended them. In other words, Lysenko's ideas were not a threat to science until they became recognized by the politburo as being the one and only "politically correct" answer to all biological questions.

In the religious right's case, we have a group who has some ideas and who wants to be heard (so what if I think they verge on the "crackpot" side of things--I am not omnipotent. Something valuable might come out of research and study in this area) .

In the secular left's case, we have a group that is intent on silencing all opposing viewpoints. They believe implicitly that they are omnipotent and know which ideas are worthwhile and which ones are not. The current discussion of Man-made Global Warming is a case in point. Those who say the discussion is closed; that the science cannot be questioned and that those who dare to suggest there are still open issues should be jailed , fail to understand on the most fundamental level how science works.

The politicization of science is what really threatens science. Making "global warming" the absolute dogma of political policy is just as dangerous to free scientific inquiry--if not more so--than merely objecting because of one's religious beliefs to a specific technical procedure used in science.

Just as Lysenkoism was made official state-sponsored biology by the communists, who saw in it a chance to use science to force people to accept their ideology, today's leftists desire their popular scientific theories to be declared Official State Dogma. Once that goal is accomplished, then they do not ever again have to refute or deal with any pesky ideas or theories that are not compatible with their ideological agenda.

Now, ask yourself, which postition presents the real threat to free scientific inquiry?

Political opportunists will always try to appropriate science to advance their ideological agendas; but, believe it or not, as long as ideas are able to be freely expressed and investigated, real science will always be able to move beyond the political and filter the bad hypotheses from the good--with or without the opportunists' assistance; and, amazingly, even without government support or sanction.

Thus, Derbyshire's concerns that Obama and his leftist base are the real threats to free scientific inquiry has a lot of merit. Expect to see political correctness--and scientific insanity-- accelerate under this thoroughly postmodern Presidency.

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