Dark Brightness

Bleak Theology: Hopeful Science

Korny Brazen Academic Facists. [quotage]

Further on the example of Sandra Korn: Novaseeker correctly considers that what she is doing is promulgating a new civil religion, where those of Christ are infidels

What is new, however, is the brazenness of it all. That approach and tone comes when people generally feel invulnerable to their critics. The ideological left (which is what the academy is – it isn’t a centrist, pragmatic left, it’s generally an out-there, radical, ideological left) is basically doing a socio-political-cultural celebratory dance. Virtually all of their goals have either been achieved or are well within reach. They know this. Hegemony is theirs – at least for the foreseeable future. So, this gives them the courage simply to state explicitly things that previously everyone familiar with the academy tacitly knew, but didn’t expressly say – it’s the most brazen stage of the entire development by which the academy has become monolithic in outlook while at the same time hugely increasing its influence over the state and the society at large.

Moldbug is not always right about everything, but when he portrays these people as contemporary Brahmins, and paints them as constituting a contemporary “Cathedral”, in function if not in form, he is actually very close to the truth. The ideology of the academy is a religion (a non-theistic one, but a religion nonetheless) and these people are its priests – while the universities are the monasteries. It makes perfect “sense”, seen in this light, for the output of these religious ideology factories to be constrained to the orthodoxy of the Brahmins – this is one of the core functions a priesthood serves in any religious group. This has been the case for some time, sub rosa, but now that there is no longer a need to be sub rosa, it is on the verge of becoming explicit in a brazen and obvious, gloves-off kind of way. Again, this makes sense, given the hegemonic position the new Brahmins currently enjoy.

Take a good long look at this, readers. Because this is what ideological, cultural and political hegemony actually looks like.

Ultimately what is opposed to us is not reason, and Korn’s op-ed, ironically, makes this quite clear. For reason is not afraid of academic freedom, regardless of the results of the inquiry, because it has truth as its highest norm. This is not about reason per se. It is about controlling the use of reason, labeling some inquiries as morally legitimate and others as not — based on a non-theistic religious moral ideology. It’s about applying controls on reason which are based neither on God, nor on reason itself, but on the caricature of reason that is coalesced ideology — something which stands over and against the fundamentally inquisitive spirit of reason. That is what a religion does, and like all religions, it is based on a set of beliefs which are not falsifiable.

Pster Wood has taken the time to write a refutation, which is more charitable that I would be with Ms Korn. For her article (which I cited this morning) lacks basic logic: it failed to even approach what a scholar would call an argument. But, since this is apparently the standard within the debased community of US academics, a guess a refutation would be of some use.

The everything-is-political premise is a kind of conspiracy theory, and it is used by those who want to bring their own politics front and center in the academy to sweep aside the older ideal of disinterested scholarship. ‘Nothing is truly disinterested, so let’s just get on with advocating the things we like.’

This kind of assertion is day-in-day-out self-justification for much of the academic left. If we criticize the history department at Bowdoin College for paying little attention to the American Founding, up pops a Bowdoin history professor to remind us, in effect, that nothing is truly disinterested, and the Bowdoin History Department has bigger race-class-gender-and-environmentalist fish to fry than the tired old American founding. If we criticize the University of Texas at Austin History Department for making 78 percent of its freshman courses race-class-gender themed and neglecting entirely areas such as philosophical and intellectual history, up pops a UT history professor to say, in effect, nothing is truly disinterested…

The nothing-is-truly-disinterested line is not a regret or a worry about how hard it can be to filter out bias. It is a jubilant declaration that we don’t even have to try. We can skip the vegetables of fair-minded inquiry (which is, after all, impossible) and go straight to the delicious dessert of teaching our favorite ideology.

By invoking the nothing-is-truly-disinterested and everything-is-political dogma, Ms. Korn was simply repeating the governing principle of today’s politicized academy. But her next step was audacious and original. Why not simply subordinate academic freedom to the pursuit of academic justice? Given the premise that everything is political, why not? The notion of “academic freedom” is encumbered with the sense that traditionalists, conservatives, and apolitical scholars could claim it too. Allowing “academic freedom” to take up rhetorical space means always having to fight off pesky claims that people like Professor Richard J. Herrnstein and Professor Harvey Mansfield have a right to be heard as well. Let’s skip to the main point. Politics determines who gets to speak, and let’s just say that and be done.

I give Ms. Korn an A for consistency. She has explicitly owned the implications of her premises.

The trouble, of course, is that the premises are profoundly mistaken. If our universities deserve any special status, it is only because they are dedicated to pursuit of truth. Scholarship worthy of the name must engage in a never-ending effort to filter out, counter, and overcome bias. Academic freedom is for keeping scholarship clear of political pressure, not for intensifying that pressure and keeping aggressive opinion-making clear of critical examination.

The irony is that today I was dealing with the admin of getting a paper published. This inluded filling in a form on conflicts of interest (whih annoyed me, as it required that one use Adobe Acrobat and that alone — which is not open source). I had to think of all sources of income and if anyone would benefit or be influenced by this study in any project that I have, or my university has, received any funding for in the lat 36 months. We are careful in our disclosures. We attempt to discern who is biased. We do not just say everything is poltiical, and that therefore things can be censored.

The woman is a twit. But this has again, been said far better by someone else.

The Academy of Dung Beetles’ Award is being rolled rolling towards Sandra Korn, a senior who writes a column for The Harvard Crimson newspaper, and thinks radical leftism is the only permissible political philosophy, free speech should be abolished and professors with opposing views be fired.
“Let’s give up on academic freedom in favor of justice,” states her Feb. 18 column, in which she insists Harvard stop guaranteeing students and professors the right to hold controversial views and conduct research putting liberalism in a negative light.

So what should we do about the Korns of this world? We should mock them: we should challenge them: we should hold them accountable. This is noxious: the very fact that Korn (who is profoundly doctrinaire: her recoent column on teach for America reads as if it was ghostwritten by a member of the teacher’s union) thinks she can brazenly say these things makes her feel that she has won.

She has not. Because Harvard, or the elite institutions, do not have a monopoly on knowledge. They may see themselves as high priests in a secular cult, but so did the Corinthian priestess-prostitutes and the Phoenician child sacrificing priests of Topeth. If the academy becomes hostile to intellectual enquiry the true scholars will vote with their feet. And the USA, which has gloried in the achievements of their scholars, at times with justification and at times falsely (for they have imported many of their stars) will again descend into irrelevance.


Reader BF suggested a link that indicates that the brain drain is already happening.

What does it mean for the United States if we lose some of our scientific talent? The infusion of American ingenuity could be the missing catalyst for a country such as China to leapfrog America in space technology or the development of new weapons. Our own economic success and security depended on foreign talent such as Albert Einstein, Edward Teller (who developed the hydrogen bomb), and Werner von Braun (who led the development of the Saturn V booster rocket that helped the United States win the race to the moon). Would we have been as competitive if they had decided instead to work in Russia or China?

Talented scientists in this country often fall through the cracks because they can’t get funding. Agencies are deluged with applications and often have to reject as many as 90 percent of the proposals they receive. Unfortunately, the situation is likely to deteriorate further as budget cuts limit the resources available for research. So I’ve started encouraging my friends to think more creatively about their careers. Go to China, I tell them. Or Singapore or Brazil or the Middle East. If the United States can’t fund its scientific talent, find a country that will.

4 thoughts on "Korny Brazen Academic Facists. [quotage]"

  • Novaseeker says:

    Thanks for the quotage, Chris.

    This is a menace which is going to be hard to deal with, unfortunately.

    • chrisgale says:

      Think of it as academic evolution in action: the US would be hit by a brain drain if this twit’s policies come into being.

  • Butterfly Flower says:

    I’m sorta hoping Korn’s article is a brilliant satire addressing Elite Academia’s unwillingness to acknowledge the mere existence of Conservative views. Her article brought to light Academia’s real definition of “Free Speech” while simultaneously making said institutions look like ridiculous indoctrination centers (I mean, most Conservatives already knew this. However; the article is being covered in MSM and many people are outraged). America needs more brazen young Conservatives willing to point out when the emperor has no clothes.

    I find, to effectively criticize Liberals (especially the professional academic lot) you have to utilize a certain degree of, well, subterfuge. Pander to their egos as you slowly lead them into discrediting their own arguments. They will always let their hubris get the best of them.

    She has not. Because Harvard, or the elite institutions, do not have a monopoly on knowledge

    Did Harvard ever have a monopoly on knowledge? Its undergrads aren’t the minds that make it famous. Like most Ivy Leagues, Harvard is infamous for poaching world-renowned researchers (and their groundbreaking research) from other universities – often state universities like Boulder or Berkley. The fact that Ivy Leagues devout so much energy to poaching top talent (and rebranding it as its own) is a testament of their failure as institutions.

    Chris, if your research ever took the turn towards innovative and groundbreaking – a Nobel prize winning discovery (uh, no offense to the research you do now) no doubt, an Ivy League would be knocking on your door, attempting to purchase you (and your research). *giggles* I can just picture you shutting the door in their face.

  • Butterfly Flower says:

    Here’s a good article about the drain of Science talent from US Academia: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/go-to-china-young-scientist/2011/05/19/AFCY227G_story.html

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