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Sather-Tower-UC-Berkeley-by-brostad-on-flickrI’ve joked on Twitter that one aim of conservatives should be to defund disciplines whose avowed goals are to espouse a particular ideological viewpoint. Of course “scholars” in those disciplines might dispute the characterization of their chosen fields in such a manner, but the reality is that that’s how they roll. Conservative or moderate viewpoints are considered illegitimate and not worthy of consideration in many of these departments and disciplines. The political spectrum goes from mainstream liberals on the Right to Marxists on the Left. There is no reason that the the “master” should be paying for someone to burn down his house.

Of course these viewpoints are concentrated in the “studies,” which is ironic as many of the scholars in this field don’t study much, as opposed to being activists and ideologues espousing their views at length. Traditional humanities and philosophy are relatively sane compared to Women’s or Ethnic Studies, but I see where Rod Dreher’s reader, a professor in STEM, is coming from when he suggests that “Why Not Close Humanities Departments?”

I was thinking of this when reading this in Nature, Gene variants linked to success at school prove divisive:

The findings have proved divisive. Some researchers hope that the work will aid studies of biology, medicine and social policy, but others say that the emphasis on genetics obscures factors that have a much larger impact on individual attainment, such as health, parenting and quality of schooling.

“Policymakers and funders should pull the plug on this sort of work,” said anthropologist Anne Buchanan and genetic anthropologist Kenneth Weiss at Pennsylvania State University in University Park in a statement to Nature. “We gain little that is useful in our understanding of this sort of trait by a massively large genetic approach in normal individuals.”

Buchanan and Weiss are smart. Money is what fuels research, and without that oxygen further studies may not be possible. At least in the short term. Whole genome sequencing will become ubiquitous soon, so understanding these patterns is going to be a matter of joining a few tables somewhere. Imagine a future where Facebook has your genome as part of your profile; they could glean a lot about human behavior genomics simply by combining genetic states with online browsing and engagement patterns.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Science 
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  1. SFG says:

    They might actually make it illegal to do that sort of freelance research (or at least to post about it). Europe already outlaws ‘hate speech’, and given surveys among the young saying this is OK, America might be next in 20 years.

    Read More
    • Replies: @bossel

    Europe already outlaws ‘hate speech’
     
    Europe is not one country & there are a lot of different policies regarding "hate speech". More importantly, in most European countries there is also something called freedom of research, similar to press freedom or freedom of speech.
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  2. I don’t think the right wing would like the effects if the left-wing bastions in academia were defunded one bit.

    Look at the social function of the academy for the left. Historically, before tenure began getting ripped apart, you could basically land in a privileged job where never had to worry about getting fired, could take years off at a time, and often didn’t have to work particularly hard once you established yourself. But your left-wing politics were shunted into your field, so increasingly you saw your “activism” as writing papers that no one read. Or maybe you still did engage in activism to a limited extent, but it revolved around campus issues which really didn’t threaten the wider socio-economic system in any real way.

    By taking over large segments of the social sciences and humanities, the left was effectively “tamed” in the U.S. They became part of the establishment through being allowed a little safe space away from capitalism. Without this escape valve, they may have been trade unionist leaders like their forebears, or more may have been members of socialist parties which actually sought to directly challenge the capitalist system.

    I suppose we will see soon enough what the results are of its destruction though. While the ideological lock isn’t really changing, the rise of adjunct faculty has completely destroyed the idea of being college instructor as a secure middle-class lifestyle, with the ranks of tenured professors now heavily over-represented by those near retirement, whose positions are not filled at least half the time. I’m guessing it is true that a fair number of today’s would-be academics will sell out eventually, but if even a portion do not, it may spell trouble for the ruling classes.

    Read More
    • Agree: Stephen R. Diamond
    • Replies: @omarali50
    Your argument rests on the assumption that college humanities departments have no real-world consequences at all, so it is safe to put leftists there and let them spout endless reams of pure bullshit..... But while they may not have immediate consequences, they may still have longer term consequences, no?... after all, they do set the intellectual agenda to some extent. ..it may be enough to matter. (This is my favorite theory for why a smart person like Edward Said spewed so much nonsense; he knew it was nonsense, but he was fighting a war and all is fair in love and war. He was doing nothing less than bringing down Western civilization, opera and all. Samson option)

    On the other hand, there is always the possibility that social change happens a few years (at least) ahead of any effort to conceptualize or understand it. So if we are doomed, we are doomed. ..in this theory, it may still be possible for scattered individuals to grasp what is going on in some limited area and take advantage of foreknowledge, but even they only know a few things, not the overall picture.
    It is what it is, nobody is in control and nobody can consciously alter the big picture... Fate rules everyone.
    It is a cheery thought somehow :)
  3. spandrell says: • Website

    Japan has a rightist government, which is defunding humanities departments, and even considering passing a law to forbid political activism by university professors!

    But activist academics are in it for the power and money. If they can’t write bullshit about stereotype threat, they’ll write bullshit about Feminist Glaciers. So expect feminist programming, feminist genetics, and Lewontin coming back from the grave to explain how variation within genders means men or women don’t really exist.

    Read More
  4. endrebak says:

    If they really believed that there were no awkward differences between ethnicities and classes in their genetic potential for intelligence, they would welcome such research, since it has the potential to show that there are none (not likely, but still).

    Read More
  5. bossel says:
    @SFG
    They might actually make it illegal to do that sort of freelance research (or at least to post about it). Europe already outlaws 'hate speech', and given surveys among the young saying this is OK, America might be next in 20 years.

    Europe already outlaws ‘hate speech’

    Europe is not one country & there are a lot of different policies regarding “hate speech”. More importantly, in most European countries there is also something called freedom of research, similar to press freedom or freedom of speech.

    Read More
  6. AG says:

    (Somehow AG name post going away without a trace. new name created for consistency).

    Historically, great science breakthrough was always from private effort like Newton, Darwin, or Einstein. Private funding and private research organization are the only imperfect solution for such situation.

    Research grant committee is a political organization in its nature due to its public money. When politics involved, the outcome is always in question. Voting is politics. Committee is about voting. Thus any thing involving voting committee is political process at end.

    This is very reason why standard tests (SAT, GRE, or IQ tests) have better predictive value than human interview for future career success.

    My future goal is to set up a process with computer algorithms (artificial intelligence) to determine research funding or scientific awards with little human politics or bias.

    Read More
  7. omarali50 says:
    @Karl Zimmerman
    I don't think the right wing would like the effects if the left-wing bastions in academia were defunded one bit.

    Look at the social function of the academy for the left. Historically, before tenure began getting ripped apart, you could basically land in a privileged job where never had to worry about getting fired, could take years off at a time, and often didn't have to work particularly hard once you established yourself. But your left-wing politics were shunted into your field, so increasingly you saw your "activism" as writing papers that no one read. Or maybe you still did engage in activism to a limited extent, but it revolved around campus issues which really didn't threaten the wider socio-economic system in any real way.

    By taking over large segments of the social sciences and humanities, the left was effectively "tamed" in the U.S. They became part of the establishment through being allowed a little safe space away from capitalism. Without this escape valve, they may have been trade unionist leaders like their forebears, or more may have been members of socialist parties which actually sought to directly challenge the capitalist system.

    I suppose we will see soon enough what the results are of its destruction though. While the ideological lock isn't really changing, the rise of adjunct faculty has completely destroyed the idea of being college instructor as a secure middle-class lifestyle, with the ranks of tenured professors now heavily over-represented by those near retirement, whose positions are not filled at least half the time. I'm guessing it is true that a fair number of today's would-be academics will sell out eventually, but if even a portion do not, it may spell trouble for the ruling classes.

    Your argument rests on the assumption that college humanities departments have no real-world consequences at all, so it is safe to put leftists there and let them spout endless reams of pure bullshit….. But while they may not have immediate consequences, they may still have longer term consequences, no?… after all, they do set the intellectual agenda to some extent. ..it may be enough to matter. (This is my favorite theory for why a smart person like Edward Said spewed so much nonsense; he knew it was nonsense, but he was fighting a war and all is fair in love and war. He was doing nothing less than bringing down Western civilization, opera and all. Samson option)

    On the other hand, there is always the possibility that social change happens a few years (at least) ahead of any effort to conceptualize or understand it. So if we are doomed, we are doomed. ..in this theory, it may still be possible for scattered individuals to grasp what is going on in some limited area and take advantage of foreknowledge, but even they only know a few things, not the overall picture.
    It is what it is, nobody is in control and nobody can consciously alter the big picture… Fate rules everyone.
    It is a cheery thought somehow :)

    Read More
  8. Jacobite says: • Website

    Since you picked on Cal, the philosophy department is not too shabby. The various anthropologies, Art, English, and a lot of the humanities need to be purged. As it is practiced, macroeconomics in any of its forms is no more scientific than the practice of Voodoo. There is definitely room for reform there.

    Read More

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