I admit to being a hopelessly disorganized individual, and working in a cluttered corner “office” in my home. The “logical (to me) chaos” of my workspace right now says something meaningful about the state of academic rigor today, thanks to a couple of completely coincidental items. On my desk there is a pile of paper that represents the first 50 or so pages of a nearly 500-page manuscript, and an iPad with a somewhat related book in my Kindle queue waiting for me to complete.
The book is The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters, by Tom Nichols, and the manuscript is on a theory of “political Darwinism.” They are definitely polar opposites on just about any scale one would like to use to compare them, which makes them remarkably similar. Nichols is pointing out how society — particularly America — has shifted to a point where all experts are considered untrustworthy. The author of the manuscript is showing how the shifting trends in politics are actually following a fairly logical evolutionary process that needs a severe interruption if we prize freedom at all. The similarity between them lies in both their serious tones of warning against the track our society is following now, and their extreme attention to detail in an academic sense. The other item of note about them is that the book is authored by someone who is generally conservative, and the manuscript’s author is essentially a libertarian.More