Why Are Young American Scientists Too Afraid to Appear in This Video?

Watch this–shot this morning–and tell me if you think this situation is healthy. 

People who want to explore these ideas are as afraid of reprisal as anyone I’ve ever met in Turkey. (Excessively so, I’d say: It’s not as if anyone is going to lock them up. But obviously, something is keeping them from speaking freely. And that cannot be good for any of us.) 

  1. Aodhan

    Obviously, not healthy. But it is familiar.

    My area of expertise is social and personality psychology. A major subfield in this area is the study of prejudice. Most researchers in the area are politically left-wing.

    The result–which has only become fully apparent to me since I went over to the “dark side” politically–is that there is extensive documentation and exploration of right-wing biases, but almost none of left-wing biases.

    For example, there is plenty of research empirically exploring prejudice against Blacks, or resistance to green initiatives. However, there is little if any exploring prejudice against the rich, or resistance to free enterprise.

    Indeed, reading papers like this–by former postgraduate colleagues of mine–you would get the impression that only right-wing people are prejudiced.

    http://faculty.virginia.edu/haidtlab/jost.glaser.political-conservatism-as-motivated-social-cog.pdf

    (Note how the Frankfurt school–recently mauled by Andrew Breitbart–are cited as intellectual antecedents.)

    I was thinking of starting a countertrend. I wonder what the implications will be. I imagine funding might be hard to come by.

  2. Judith Levy, Ed.
    C

    Claire, this is all so elliptical that it lost me. I gather that there is a similar intellectual tyranny in science circles as there is in the humanities and social sciences. But what kinds of ideas, exactly, are these guys afraid to be associated with?

  3. Claire Berlinski
    C

    I’m listening to a lecture right now by a very well-known mathematician and logician on the mathematics of metabiology. Most of the people who left this morning were young biologists and computer scientists who are afraid of being known for hanging around people who question some aspect of neo-Darwinism–or for questioning it themselves–but that’s not the sole theme of the conference. (For example, Melanie Philips is sitting to my left–she’s not afraid to be identified by name.) 

  4. Nick Stuart

    Judith, you missed in the beginning the quick mention of Darwinian orthodoxy. You might want to watch the movie Expelled, in which Claire’s father David Berlinski featured prominently.

    Dissenting from established orthodoxy on anthropogenic [edited from anthropomorphic, oops] climate change is another career-killer. How often do we hear that the “scientific consensus” is that unless we act now on global warming sea level will rise 25 feet by 2020 and all the major coastal cities will be underwater sorts of things?

    I participate in Ricochet under a nom de cyber because I don’t want my real name showing up in web searches connected with conservative postings. I have another 15 years or so to go in the commercial marketplace and I can’t afford to have HR types (most of whom are leftist), and employers (many of whom in my line of work are leftist) recoil at the thought of hiring a conservative.

    Maybe Claire can help us out with a list of topics some time in the not too distant future, not necessarily topics discussed at the current conclave, just topics.

  5. Nick Stuart

    When we hear “scientific consensus” we should remember that the scientific consensus at one time was that fire is the release of phlogiston (debunked by Lavoisier and others), that life could generate spontaneously (debunked by Pasteur and others), and that Ignatz Semmelweis was tricked into, and killed in, a lunatic asylum for insisting (counter to scientific consensus) that his medical residents wash their hands and change their clothes between dissecting corpses and delivering babies.

  6. Paul A. Rahe
    C

    Were I a young historian ambitious to make a splash in the academy and land a post at a major research university or a prestigious East Coast liberal arts college like Williams or Amherst, it would be suicide to write as I do on Ricochet. In practice, academic departments operate on the basis of the democratic veto. One vehement opponent, and you will not be appointed — and the leftists are vehement (especially, the feminists) and will not tolerate the appointment of a dissenter. That has been true for thirty years. One reason Hillsdale has as good a faculty as it has is that it is an oasis in this academic desert.

  7. Pseudodionysius

    You’ve reminded me I need to buy a copy of the late David Stove’s Darwinian Fairytales

  8. Basil Fawlty

    You may have discovered a sort of “tenure detector.”  Take out a camera at a conference such as this and anyone left in frame when you turn it on has it.  I have to wonder whether many participants had their attendance funded by their universities.  If so, the funding proposals must have been wonders of creative writing.

  9. Jerry Carroll

    Just another reminder that we’ve become a nation of cowards, each generation more brainwashed than the one before. Now the left is entering the final stage of its work on  the military. If I live long enough, I expect to see ours to have unions like the Dutch army. That one is useless as a military force but meets every criterion of political correctness you can name. Cowardice and moral relativism spread outward like a red tide from the media, the academy and the popular culture and envelope all. Cowards get screwed in the end. We’ll find out.

  10. Capt. Aubrey

    I wonder how much is outright prejudice and how much is the academic version of monoploy whereby the self-interest of the tenured is better served by not having their intellectual antagonists gain power.

  11. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Basil Fawlty: You may have discovered a sort of “tenure detector.”  Take out a camera at a conference such as this and anyone left in frame when you turn it on has is.  I have to wonder whether many participants had their attendance funded by their universities.  If so, the funding proposals must have been wonders of creative writing. · Jun 14 at 5:29am

    100 percent correct, Basil. Everyone who scurried out of the frame, I think, was untenured. 

  12. David Williamson

    It also took me a while to figure out what the supposed heresy was – I was thinking it must be a climate change conference, or something. The fact that Melanie Phillips was there, as well as Claire, makes it sound like an interesting conference.

    But, yes, I think US scientists are now trained, Gore-like, to believe that science is all about consensus, when of course it is the exact opposite – I think it was Einstein who pointed out that it only takes one scientist to be right, when all the others can agree to be wrong (or something like that).

    Funnily enough, Rush was going on about this yesterday, at great length – he had a number of scientists call in or e-mail to disagree, so even his listeners have been brainwashed by the US education system, it seems.

    I am glad I was trained in the UK – I’m like the guy in the video, old enough to not care any more, and accepted as an eccentric old, um, scientist. In fact I am supposed to mentor a bunch of young people with PhD’s – we carefully avoid all talk of politics, religion and climate change (but I repeat myself).

    I work in Industry, btw, where there is no tenure.

  13. Stephen Dawson

    Hmmm. Dr Nelson is, on the one hand, an advocate of intelligent design, and on the other a Young Earth Creationist (ie. the Earth was created about 6,000 years ago). Nothing wrong with the latter in itself, but it is not a scientific position at all; it is a faith position.

    ID theory is largely based on the concept of irreducible complexity. If Darwinian evolution proceeds in small steps and, <em>as required by that theory</em>, no step can be a retrograde one with respect to fitness in the then current environment, there are certain biological developments which are held to be impossible to have developed naturally.

    Therefore, ID says, those developments must have been put in place by some intelligent designer.

    There are two problems with this. First, if the premises are accepted, then there may be answers other than an intelligent designer. Just because that’s the only answer ID supporters have thought of doesn’t remove the need for positive evidence.

    Second, the premises of ID have been comprehensively dealt with. Each example — eg. bacterial flagella –&nbsp;put up has been knocked down with a plausible developmental path.

  14. Brian Watt
    Nick Stuart: Judith, you missed in the beginning the quick mention of Darwinian orthodoxy. You might want to watch the movie Expelled, in which Claire’s father David Berlinski featured prominently.

    Edited on Jun 14 at 02:25 am

    Gee, not to be a contrarian here, but the so-called documentary Expelled plays fast and loose with the truth even at one point painting Darwin as a proponent of eugenics by selectively editing his text from The Descent of Man. You can find the rebuttal to that smear here. Not terribly honest filmmaking.

    I have no problem at all with honest debates in science or any other field…provided they’re actually honest.

  15. Stephen Dawson

    Having said all that, I find myself uncomfortable with being somewhat allied on this subject with the likes of Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Meyers. I find the latter a pretty mean-spirited individual on the basis of the information available to me (his Blog, primarily). I love reading Dawkins on science and evolution, for his fine prose almost as much as the content. But he seems to have a pathological anti-religion hang-up which distressingly takes him away from his real contributions.

    But I should also note that some on the ID and creationist side do rather provoke hostile reaction in two ways. One is in failing to understand the science against which they are arguing. The other is in seeking to introduce creationism, or some variant thereof, into the public school science curriculum. It does not belong there because it is not science.

    That’s not to say that these ideas aren’t necessarily worth teaching. But as I understand it, there is little opportunity in the US public school system to teach religion formally, due to some unfortunate Supreme Court rulings on the First Amendment.

  16. Brian Watt
    Pseudodionysius: You’ve reminded me I need to buy a copy of the late David Stove’s Darwinian Fairytales · Jun 14 at 5:06am

    To supplement your reading you may also want to pick up a copy of Darwinism and Its Discontents by Michael Ruse…if you want a fair and balanced look at the subject. Just saying.

  17. ctruppi
    Capt. Aubrey: I wonder how much is outright prejudice and how much is the academic version of monoploy whereby the self-interest of the tenured is better served by not having their intellectual antagonists gain power. · Jun 14 at 5:35am

    I think that both of these converge and get blurred.&nbsp; I also&nbsp;think that those in these circles actually don’t believe that they are doing anything wrong.&nbsp; They are so poisoned by their rightousness that excluding those who think differently becomes almost a moral imperative – ie, what&nbsp;they stand for is so pure and true that they have a duty to not pollute the waters with these wrong-headed ideas.&nbsp;

    You see it with folks on the left regarding media bias, where most of them will readily admit bias from NPR, NYT, etc in a fatter-of-fact fashion.&nbsp; Yet, these same folks scream all day about the bias of Fox news.&nbsp; It’s not bias in and of itself they are against – it’s conservative bias that is evil.&nbsp; Left bias is permissable because it is noble and must be broadcast to the world.

  18. Brian Watt
    Stephen Dawson: Hmmm. Dr Nelson is, on the one hand, an advocate of intelligent design, and on the other a Young Earth Creationist (ie. the Earth was created about 6,000 years ago). Nothing wrong with the latter in itself, but it is not a scientific position at all; it is a faith position.&nbsp;· Jun 14 at 6:29am

    Well, people can choose to believe what they want to believe but positing the notion that the earth is only 6,000 years old from a man who professes to be a rationalist and a scientist and by holding what appears to be this faith-based position is also dismissing entire bodies of research and findings over the last few centuries in physics, geology, anthropology, palentology, etc. is quite troubling indeed. What would be more troubling is if Nelson begins to concoct that there is somehow scientific evidence for the Earth being only 6,000 years old. Maybe he already has.

    I can certainly understand why the younger “scientists” (if indeed they are) chose not to be seen with him. I would recommend that they actually distance themselves further.&nbsp;

  19. Valiuth

    Yes, the level of insecurity among certain academics is quite childish. What people in the non-academic world/ non-science&nbsp;research&nbsp;world should understand is that the research world is not very big, and very much like highschool, with&nbsp;cliques of popular/acclaimed scientists and then every one else, this more or less creates the kind of atmosphear that we see witnessed here. I should say though that the cliqueishness though does not mean these top scientists do a poor job or practice bad science, but they create a poor environment for the exploration of unpopular ideas.&nbsp;&nbsp;

  20. Capt. Aubrey

    Stephen Dawson, I too enjoy Dawkin’s prose and find his dogmatic atheism off putting in the extreme. A few years ago he and Daniel Dennet both wrote books about atheism and if you really want to read beautiful prose, Michael Novak reviewed them in National Review with a fine combination of contempt and pity. The debate of what to teach in K-12 schools is a different one. I don’t understand why Darwin cannot be used in a positive way to explain why a theory is a theory, the problems of falsifiability etc. and I also don’t understand why religion cannot be taught in a secular way but nothing gets them to circle the wagons and start shooting as fast as all that. Great argument for private education.