Academic freedom and scholarship: perspective from Canada

by Pamela Lindsay

Mentorships by professors of students are among the vital functions of a university. Here I expose the vulnerable underbelly of mentorship and one possible threat to academic freedom and scholarship.

A tiny percentage of students will go on to an academic career. These are the keeners, and they often develop significant bonds with one or more of their supervisors. At their best, these relationships model the collegiality conducive to a fertile scholarly community. At their worst, they undermine scholarship.

I confine my examples to philosophy, but I suspect they generalize to the broader academic community. Like sports teams, academic disciplines have their stars, those who have not only made important contributions to their disciplines but have also become icons for non-intellectual aspects of their characters.

Wittgenstein is known as much for claiming he had solved all of philosophy’s problems in the Tractatus than for the Tractatusitself. And I suspect far more have heard of the former than have read the latter. David Lewis was so excruciatingly shy that one could walk twenty paces before he’d return a hello. Saul Kripke’s mother travelled with him to conferences so she could cook him Kosher meals. Hannah Arendt had an affair with Martin Heidegger. And so on.

A group of philosophy majors, otherwise known as Phil-nerds, are as liable to share trivia about philosophers over coffee and smokes [sic] than they are to talk philosophy. One discussion with my Phil-nerd cohort was about what ought to be the collective noun for Phil-nerds e.g., a disputation. In true philosophical fashion, we never reached an agreement.

Some professors might blush at the notion that their foibles are also a common subject of Phil-nerd klatches. Dr. P messes his hair like his idol, Einstein. Dr. B never says hello or makes eye contact when he walks into the classroom. Both turn even the most unrelated topic into a rant about global warming deniers. Dr. A walks like a vampire. Dr. R lets a little spittle fly when he talks about religion.

By and large, these observations betoken endearment, and are often coupled with intellectual admiration. Accordingly, many students will want to mimic a mentor. A student colleague of mine who explicitly sought to emulate one Dr. B referred to himself as Mini-B.

As the proverb goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And most often, imitation of this kind is harmless. But there’s an autonomous worry, a worry about how this eagerness to please plays out in an academic environment, and about what is being imitated. Some students emulate not only their mentors’ disciplinary interests but also their ideas and attitudes. More particularly their advocacy commitments. And they do so all-too uncritically.

As Daniel Kahneman notes, “For some of our most important beliefs we have no evidence at all, except that people we love and trust hold these beliefs” (Thinking, Fast and Slow, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011, p. 209). David Hume also describes this phenomenon in a Treatise on Human Nature:

“From these dispositions in philosophers and their disciples arises that mutual complaisance betwixt them; while the former furnish such plenty of strange and unaccountable opinions, and the latter so readily believe them” (London: Penguin Books, 1963, p.75).

Beliefs acquired in this manner are very hard to self-scrutinize because no one wants to appear to be believing something just because someone she admires does, especially in philosophy. But, as Hume notes:

“These sentiments [founded in … the human mind], are not to be controlled or altered by any philosophical theory or speculation whatever…. Nature will always maintain her rights, and prevail in the end over any abstract reasoning whatsoever” (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, ed. Eric Steinberg, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1977, p. 68).

There are reasons we reason in groups, but members of these groups have to be allowed to serve as correctives to one another. An impossible task when group-think demands orthodoxy.

Through all of my undergrad and grad years, I had the good fortune of being a member of a gifted cohort. My colleagues are talented, intelligent, and high-achievers. Most are carrying on toward doctorates in philosophy. Yet from this same cohort I heard the following:

“I want to do my masters on Dr. S’s research for his sake. It’s my gift to him, he deserves to have his work carried on.” And, “Dr. B is so smart, he just opens his mouth and everything that comes out is just wow. I have no idea what he’s saying, but he’s so smart. I could listen to him all day.”

Both raise red flags. A perfectly laudable intellectual crush has morphed into uncritical devotion. In the first case, the student possibly stymies her own philosophical development for the sake of some imagined debt. In the second, she does so by not asking Dr. B to make his sentences intelligible. I grant that no matter her reasons for pursuing Dr. S’s research, she might learn a ton. And Dr. B might just be as brilliant as the phonemes emanating from his mouth would seem. I’m not troubled by these examples. I’m more concerned with what the professor might bring to these interactions, namely obtuseness and advocacy.

Obtuseness. Many professors get buried under their workload and complain to their students about it. Especially to students they have taken under their wings as thesis supervisors. Professors are willing but seldom compensated for taking on these extra duties. And supervising students who are high maintenance, ungrateful, or even abusive discourages this willingness. But the diligent student who feels the professor is making sacrifices for her might develop a disproportionate sense of debt. A professor can easily miss this development because he or she has a biddable student, a big relief for a busy person.

Remember that my worry is about the uncritically devoted student coupled with a professor’s obtuseness. Nothing here implies that either professor or student is disingenuous or compromising academic integrity. But now let’s add my second cautionary note.

Advocacy. Just as the busy professor complains about workload, the same professor, devoted to a cause, is unlikely to keep it under wraps. Hence students know the beliefs and causes their professors feel most strongly about. Global warming, a political affiliation, capitalism, feminism, and so on. If this be doubted, just read some random evaluations on Rate My Professors.com.

The worry here is that the professor’s beliefs and attitudes imitated by an admiring student are not well-evaluated by the professor herself. This is because one’s advocacy commitments more often than not fall outside one’s domain of expertise. So, if the student is biddable and the professor obtuse, academic integrity is compromised. Ideas are not pushed gently; they are not pushed at all.

It is a feature of the human brain that we are less likely to scrutinize beliefs we already hold, and more likely to scrutinize those we disagree with, particularly if we find those beliefs morally reprehensible. So here arise two further worries.

The dissenting student who writes a paper criticizing any of her professor’s advocacy beliefs is more likely to be penalized than her biddable peers. What’s more, a once biddable student who suddenly dissents is liable to, in Kant’s words, wake [her professor] out of [his] dogmatic slumber. And unlike correcting a spelling error or the solution to a logic problem that’s niggled him for years, he will not say thank you. As in my experience, the student might get yelled at.

I had a supervisor rabidly committed to anthropogenic global warming (AGW). I am interested in belief-acquisition. The intersection of these two projects might indicate trouble ahead. I simply wanted to complete my Masters. Thinking I was safe, I asked this professor to supervise an independent study on epistemic authority. He agreed, and then proceeded to pen in the words “and denialism”. “A special interest of mine,” he told me.

Here’s an abridged version. I noticed my professor used a very narrow definition of denialism and applied it to all kinds of cases where it did not fit. My first move was to write as if I did not notice. I should mention that I am married to an academic who held my feet to the fire. Do your ontology, he said. When I told him my fears, he was angry. Just do your job. And he scolded me for thinking his colleague would be anything but professional. I usually love to crow I was right and you were wrong, but not in this case.

I concluded that the word “denialism” was a rhetorical flourish often deployed as an ad hominem. And I warned that its use in the already vitriolic AGW debate was liable to further erode the trust that underpins the cooperation required for our epistemic practices. Deployed over time in an already polarized environment, it might even contribute to the undermining of social flourishing. I hope you notice the word might because he did not; he read will cause.

Note as well that I neither asserted nor denied any of the propositions on which the AGW consensus rests. That was not my project. But by not ratifying any of these assertions he assumed I was on the other side of his commitments, and therefore morally reprehensible.

Among my supervisor’s comments, “No one is in a position to tell those involved in this (AGW) dispute to settle down and play nice.” I thought, you put me in this position when you added the words “and denialism”.

This brings me to my other worry, arising from another position I found myself in. That of my relationship with my student colleagues and their respective relationships with my supervisor. One or two were also under his supervision. It is remarkable that when I told my colleagues about my conceptual analysis of the term “denialism,” one piped up that he would never challenge my supervisor on denialism. I was not concocting my worries, we all knew. Anyone who walked by his bulletin board knew.

But. My colleagues admire my supervisor, and rightly so. They have enjoyed good working relationships, even friendship. While I could have pressed a grievance, doing so might have damaged both my relationship with my peers and their respective relationships with my supervisor. If I were to fail, I wanted them to succeed. And since they are significantly younger than I am, I wanted them to have the best experience possible. But to be perfectly honest, I am not that altruistic. I feared for me.

My situation went from bad to worse, and I chose to walk away. I still grieve my loss, and even still the wound is tender. I feel it every time I celebrate my friends’ achievements.

Worse, I always struggle with whether by walking away I preserved my moral and intellectual integrity, or whether I damaged that integrity by walking away.

I leave these worries with you.

But I also leave you with a little advice. If you are a professor, there is no fault in having advocacy commitments. But if you are evaluating a student’s work on whether she upholds these commitments rather than on academic criteria, be explicit. A student should always know which hat you are wearing.

You should also be cognizant that if a paper challenges your Precious, you are very likely no longer qualified to adjudicate it. That’s just what it is to have a Precious! There is no shame in asking for an independent marker. In fact, this is a hallmark of your academic integrity.

If you’re a student planning an academic career, reread my article. Your professors are your future peers, and you, too, will one day supervise students.

Pamela Lindsay (contactpam@pam-mentations.com) writes philosophy and social and political commentary, accompanied by cartoons, at pam-mentations.

68 responses to “Academic freedom and scholarship: perspective from Canada

  1. Most interesting – thank you. I had a very different experience back in the 1980’s as a masters candidate in environmental science. Professor John McLaughlin headed the department. John was absolutely brilliant and resolutely resisted even discussing his opinions in lecture halls or seminars. Like yours – my cohort was great fun. 😊

    I will have a ponder.

  2. This is the Me Too moment in Academia?
    My Tutor said “uncanny, eerie, I don’t know” and then another would speak for years, but I remember nothing that they have spoken.
    Characters in Dark Rooms, Shadows of films of their favourite cinema. Breaktimes and art galleries…

  3. “If you are a professor, there is no fault in having advocacy commitments. ”

    OK, but these advocacy commitments should play no part in thesis supervision. Your thesis should be YOUR thesis and no one else’s.

    • Professors should keep they advocacy private and not bring it into the course, lecture, nor seminar. Education should concern itself with creating independent thinkers.

  4. Pingback: Academic freedom and scholarship: perspective from Canada

  5. What is a “keener?”

    • Butt-kisser

      Thank you for the wonderful insight Pamela. It brought a whole raft of imagery back from my undergraduate days with a story very similar to your own.

      It’s all just so true, it’s uncanny.

  6. In my limited experience (Economics at Cambridge in the early 70s) Academics can be distinctly tribal: Keynes was God and Friedman was Lucifer. Later on I was blessed by having a mentor, Chris Argyris (Interpersonal Problem Solving), who actually welcomed dissent and criticism, but you had better have your arguments in order and understand the weaknesses of your position.

    • One of the issues that Chris worked on was how to “advocate” and genuinely “inquire” at the same time. For me, this is at the heart of some of the worst interactions I have seen on sites like Real Climate especially the nasty attacks on Roger Pielke, Sr and our host Judy Curry.

    • Friedman was on record — right in the middle of the oil shocks of the 1970s — as saying that government spending was the only cause of inflation. (even lucifer wouldn’t make a dumb claim like that)

      • Looking back on it, the level of vitriol thrown from all sides was disheartening – assuming the goal was to understand how the economy worked and how to make it work better.

      • The devil can quote scripture but you misquote Friedman. He said that only government can cause inflation but his emphasis was not on spending but government expansion of the money supply. When government increases the money supply faster than the supply of goods and services, each dollar on average purchases less, and the general price of goods and services increases. That is inflation. Governments often expand the money supply to pay for government spending, but to Friedman monetary policy was the chief culprit. OPEC’s supply cuts drove up the price of oil, which of course had ripple effects throughout the economy. As I seem to recall, Friedman argued that if governments did not expand the money supply, OPEC-induced price increases in some sectors would be offset by price declines in others. I am not convinced because it is hard to think of any significant sector that does not use energy. Be that as it may, Friedman’s deliberately contrarian statement (“only governments cause inflation”) could still be correct. OPEC is composed of government-owned enterprises. People often say the U.S. does not have an energy policy. In fact, we do: private property rights in subsurface minerals. If there’s oil or gas under you land, it’s yours to develop and profit from. In nearly all other countries, including especially OPEC countries, only governments are allowed to own subsurface minerals. If those countries had the U.S. private property rights system, a cartel like OPEC could not exist.

      • > If those countries had the U.S. private property rights system, a cartel like OPEC could not exist.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bread_price-fixing_in_Canada

      • afonzarelli

        The devil can quote scripture but you misquote Friedman

        That’s what i heard on (mark) levin. april 1978. i was surprised by it, too. Even if you are correct, friedman is still wrong. Any number of things can cause inflation. And, it’s absurd to suggest that oil shocks cause deflation. In a growing economy consumers can (and will) foot the bill. Inflation hovered near 10% throughout the late 70s (until the iranian revolution) while real wages grew. Even after the revolution, economic activity remained stable — indicating a willingness to pay — whilst real wages fell…

      • afonzarelli

        As a context, levin was worried about all the spending after covid last spring in a segment with art laffer, so he played the clip with friedman who said “government spending”. (laffer wasn’t worried about inflation) He did not say an increase in money supply — low interest rates — which would have failed to bolster levin’s point.

      • afonzarelli

        (amazing, the arrogance of one marlo lewis definitively stating that i misquote Friedman without even knowing where i got my quote from. jus’ amazing)…

  7. “If the head of the organization is second-rate, he will see to it that his immediate staff are all third-rate; and they will, in turn, see to it that their subordinates are fourth-rate.”
    C.N.Parkinson, Injelititis or Palsied Paralysis

    • Good find. This explains the mediocre state of our public and, now, private education systems. The fish rots from the head.

  8. College students always go along with the political flow of the times. Then they grow up. The flower-power generation was the one that voted for Reagan and ran the corporations during the decades of greed in the ’80s and ’90s. And, you notice, they left any of the bills for their keynesian whims for the next generations to pay. Thanks.

    What’s most striking to me in this essay is the phrase “morally reprehensible.” I’m not sure when or why academics and activists decided to declare any and all disagreements to be evidence that individuals as well as their ideas are “morally reprehensible” but is a real phenomenon and does real damage. In climate, you’re considered by some to be a morally reprehensible person if your estimate of ECS is within the IPCC range, but different than the one the activists need. You’re morally reprehensible if you question the wisdom of attempting to heat Boston at night in the winter with solar panels.
    The phrase is a successful attempt to shut down discussion, and an unsuccessful attempt at forcing an issue. Nobody lets the nuts lead.

    • “College students always go along with the political flow of the times. Then they grow up.”
      Somehow, students are considered employers and the faculty their employees. Students don’t have enough money even to take care of themselves.

    • joe - the non climate scientist

      Jeff- comment – “You’re morally reprehensible if you question the wisdom of attempting to heat Boston at night in the winter with solar panels”

      I received similar condemnation as a denialist over at Skeptical science. SK heavily promotes 100% electric generation from renewables along with conversion of home heating to electric and transportation to electric. Texas lost 35-40% of electric generation from natural gas for approx 40-45 hours in Feb 2021. Yet the entire north American continent lost 70+% of electric generation from Wind and solar for a 9 day period in February. SK was proud that electric generation exceeded expectations during that 9 day period because wind was expected to lose 80%, but only lost 70% during that 9 day period.

    • “College students always go along with the political flow of the times.”

      Unfortunately for many decades this has meant intractable collectivist idealism in higher education, and now even lower education.

      Those with individualistic belief systems generally have a more open mind; which doesn’t mean they’re correct in their beliefs, but they stand out like nails as individuals. Modern education discourages individualism. Collectivists on the other hand represent a type of societal veneer that presents itself as a consistent texture from any angle, an equal presentation of conformity. Those intellectually inbred by collectivist ideals become the societal bedrock for socialistic dogma. Pamela Lindsay here describes the genesis for collectivist ideals and how they manifest beyond higher education. Progressivism is regressive to the individual, and to freedom, liberty, and to invention representing the life-force within the human spirit. Collectivism is where the human soul learns how to die quietly amongst equals.

  9. A song to accompany the theme of your essay Pamela:

  10. Philosopher and writer talks about how science has become corrupted:

    • Very good video.

    • More on Matthew:

      In September 2001, Crawford accepted a position as executive director of the George C. Marshall Institute, but left the institute after five months, saying that “the trappings of scholarship were used to put a scientific cover on positions arrived at otherwise. These positions served various interests, ideological or material. For example, part of my job consisted of making arguments about global warming that just happened to coincide with the positions taken by the oil companies that funded the think tank.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Crawford

    • ‘Remember, then, that scientific thought is the guide to action; that the truth at which it arrives is not that which we can ideally contemplate without error, but that which we can act upon without fear; and you cannot fail to see that scientific thought is not an accompaniment or condition of human progress, but human progress itself.’ William Kingdon Clifford, The Common Sense of the Exact Sciences (1885)

      Damned lies and statisticians, lawyers and scientifically illiterate talking heads. Human emitted greenhouse gases bias a chaotic system to a warmer state. The much should be accepted as truth in line with Newton’s 4th rule of natural philosophy. There are of course those who don’t. And if you think contrarians aren’t arseholes about it I guess it is all rainbows, Leonard Cohen and unicorns for you. The best one can expect is to be told that ‘believing’ in general relativity is a religious cult.

      The other side is equally obtuse. The range of models is shown in blue and yellow. Above and below the mean of means. Some models are run in centres with large computing facilities. Models can be run many times with slightly different initial conditions and wildly divergent solution trajectories. Some have more modest origins.

      Each of these models in the CMIP 6 opportunistic ensemble have an ‘irreducible imprecision’ or ‘evolving uncertainty’ – however one wants to put it. The rest is a work in progress. Yet they somehow continue to insist on the verisimilitude of models.

      Climate models have done one great thing – they introduced the world in the 1960’s to the third great idea of twentieth century physics – an idea that may still bring balance to the force.

      ‘If one seeks long-lasting impact, the best line of approach may not be head on. “Lose the object and draw nigh obliquely” is a dictum attributed to the famous eighteenth century English landscape gardener Lancelot “Capability” Brown.12 Brown’s designs framed the stately home at the entrance, but only briefly. After allowing the visitor a glimpse of his destination, the driveway would veer away to pass circuitously and delightfully through woodland vistas, through broad meadows with carefully staged aperçus of waterfalls and temples, across imposing bridges spanning dammed streams and lakes, before delivering the visitor in a relaxed and amused frame of mind, unexpectedly, right in front of the house. That displays a subtle skill which has manifest political value: the capacity to deliver an ambitious objective harmoniously. “Capability” Brown might be a useful tutor for designers of climate policies.13’ 2010 His advice would be to approach the object of emissions reduction via other goals, riding with other constituencies and gathering other benefits.

      ‘The Paper therefore proposes that the organising principle of our effort should be the raising up of human dignity via three overarching objectives: ensuring energy access for all; ensuring that we develop in a manner that does not undermine the essential functioning of the Earth system; ensuring that our societies are adequately equipped to withstand the risks and dangers that come from all the vagaries of climate, whatever
      their cause may be.’ Harwell Paper, 2010

    • UK-Weather Lass

      UnHerd have produced some excellent material among more run of the mill stuff and continue to be a good resource. I found this video to be interesting and involving and the humorous secret handshake discussion at the end made me laugh and may perhaps prove somewhat prescient.

    • I’ll have a look. I’d already seen the Wikipedia excerpt Willard shared below. 2001 is twenty-years ago, so I am curious to see what Crawford has to say today.

      I’ve just skimmed the script accompanying the video: https://unherd.com/2021/05/how-science-has-been-corrupted/

  11. Climate science has been assigned a central role in a culture war that has been going on for a very long time between those who want a social and economic reset and those who instinctively resist change. Both sides feel empowered to tell themselves and others tales superficially in the dispassionate idiom of science. Both sides marshalling arguments that support the cause – certain of their moral and intellectual superiority and in arrogance, ignorance and conceit condemning the enemy in bitter animosity. It is socially corrosive and perhaps more worryingly undermines foundations of the scientific enlightenment.

    I’m sure it will pass. Infrastructure security is best left to technically conservative engineers. I saw a snippet of video yesterday that showed a prospective urban development disappearing under water with sea rise of 1.8m – used as justification for the great reset. It is simply not true. Infrastructure is designed for extreme conditions in which sea level rise is included. There are some things that can’t be guarded against – sea level rise isn’t one of those. One cannot protect everything – for those events there are escape routes and protection of critical emergency services planned for. Technical innovation is the great strength of the technological monkey. It is puzzling that some seek to curtail technology at the level of the steam engine.

    My cultural bias is freely admitted. The rule of law (property rights, government integrity, judicial effectiveness), government size (government spending, tax burden, fiscal health), regulatory efficiency (business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom), open markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). The rights bestowed on humanity by God. In concert they provide guidelines for human progress.

    I have great hopes for the 21st century. What is central to renewal is an affirmation of the age old knowledge from the dawn of humanity. The collective, the tribe, the clan, the farmers cooperative is where the power for global ecological renewal is found. It is the space between governments and markets where landscapes flourish or decline. It is a profound reality that balancing the human ecology on a global scale can only be realised by working together on the ground we walk on. It succeeds with prosperous and resilient communities in vibrant landscapes. Technology we are good at – it needs only our passion for the great task of building the shining city in an Earthly garden.

    The blue, green, red and orange of the solar city signposts endless new possibilities for the human ecology. Great and shining cities rising in a song of renewal. A great, global spanning civilisation forged this century and nested in a profusion of nature. Populations replanting and replenishing in a triumph of human ecology in the Earthly garden – a sound foundation for our next steps to the stars. Great art and great music flourishing – song and poetry inspiring and amusing. Technologies proliferate and will be directed to the tasks of bringing our lives into balance with the world. The great task of renewing our world and empowering its peoples will bring a resolution that releases immense energies. What seem like dire and insoluble problems of the moment will fade like midnight forebodings in the morning light. Take heart and celebrate the advent of the shining city with laughter, songs and dance.

  12. What strikes me about the students referenced in this essay, as well as those I knew in my doctoral program (social science), is their inability to see the difference between intellectual ability and wisdom. Most professors are intellectually able. However, one must pick and choose carefully to find those who are wise. I fired my dissertation committee chair and survived. Just took a little smart politicking.

  13. Perhaps one should look at academia from a wider perspective. A caveat and a piece of advice from the academic world:
    1. ‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach others’.
    2. ‘Its not what grade you get, it what you do with it that ultimately matters’.

    To link: Philosophy: the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence,– (google), and science. It is wise to remember the wooden plough, the maker of civilisations. It was invented over 6000 years ago and was still in use unchanged in the last century. It disappeared in a single generation. Its not coming back. The old may remember, the young just don’t know.

  14. The coverup of the statistical manipulation by Michael Mann and fellow sychophants in the scientific fiasco of the ‘hockey stick’ fraud has been likened to the university’s official coverup of the Coach Sandusky child sex scandal.

  15. Thanks, Pamela! The most entertaining and perceptive piece I have read for a long time! It all comes down to the old contest of fides versus ratio – the student’s reason versus his faith in his guru. The student will never become a true thinker if he lets the fides override the ratio…

    • There is often some tension between collegiality and our epistemic (knowledge-seeking) practices. I suppose one question is whether it is sometimes okay to sacrifice some truths for the sake of collegiality, maybe if doing so allows you to get at other truths? On my reckoning, true collegiality requires that we do not sacrifice our epistemic practices.

  16. Interesting essay! I read it like a narrow-minded, petulant and bully of a Prof that was way out of his lane…and was determined you conformed – sad though…

    Send him this brief summary – rooted in…..reality (I hope he doesn’t have a stroke though)
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/04/25/wheres-the-emergency/

    • You will find similar attitudes outside of ‘academia’ where ‘gurus’ are concerned.

      My experience of ‘gurus’ is that in the main they are very driven, deeply insecure individuals who perceive independent mindedness as a threat to be swatted.

      When it comes down to it, it is all about them, never about the subject being advanced.

      The test is a potential mentee coming up with insights they had not already had.

      The normal response is to misappropriate them, belittle any arena they are not currently up to speed on, and then gradually, over time, reintroduce the mentee’s original thoughts as their own.

      I’ve seen it happen three times outside of academia over timescales of 5-7 years, so it is a feature, not an aberration.

      People need to never forget that becoming a Professor is more usually about knowing how to climb the greasy political pole and only secondly about the research. Of course, there is a minimum cut-off for the research, but beyond that, it is not the academic research that is important, it is the political shenanigans.

      • UK-Weather Lass

        It happens in the workplace too. Unless your boss is a good one then their insecurity makes you a constant threat to them and the situation becomes totally unmanageable unless one of you either leaves or lives a lie. Regrettably I believe there are far too many people willing to live a lie these days, but I don’t know why we have lost so many individuals to this disease.

  17. Remember Jacob Bronowski
    “It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.”

  18. Pamela

    Thanks for your well crafted essay. It’s an uncommon talent.

  19. A metastasizing Leftist bureaucracy’s fear of the productive, capitalism and individual liberty infects the political/education complex with a sort of self-reinforcing stupidity, duplicity and deceit that undermines science. Fear of global warming is a manifestation of that disease.

    https://evilincandescentbulb.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/global-warming-the-sum-of-all-weather-and-pie-making/

    • David Appell

      Fear of global warming is a manifestation of that disease.

      The luxury of a selfish, developed world, why-should-I-care attitude.

      • No one is hurt more by the Left’s global warming alarmist, Hot World Syndrome, than the energy deprived in the third world.

  20. Patrick Upton

    When I was an undergraduate in Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester in the UK many years ago I specialised in Soil Mechanics and reported directly to our Professor who, not surprisingly, had various views and theories on the topic. I am not sure I ever really understand the esoterica of the subject particularly well but one thing I did understand was to ensure the answers in his exam papers agreed with his views and theories.

    • Sadly, an oft told tale. And it happens in all professions. In exams one is judged by the ‘law’ of the time. A heretic answer and you’re done for. Mercifully one didn’t get fried tied to a stake.

  21. What is needed to prevail – at least in one time and place – in the 1000 year culture war is a manifesto of human progress that has a core of both economics and science.

    ‘We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. What we lack is a liberal Utopia, a programme which seems neither a mere defence of things as they are nor a diluted kind of socialism, but a truly liberal radicalism which does spare the susceptibilities of the mighty (including the trade unions), which is not too severely practical and which does not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible…Those who have concerned themselves exclusively with what seemed practicable in the existing state of opinion have constantly found that even this has rapidly become politically impossible as the result of changes in a public opinion which they have done nothing to guide. Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our livliest minds, the prospects of freedom are indeed dark. But if we can regain that belief in power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost.’

    —Friedrich August von Hayek, Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (1967)

    Capability Brown’s oblique approach to climate policy

  22. David Lewis was so excruciatingly shy that one could walk twenty paces before he’d return a hello.

    So was Henry Cavendish. Both probably high functioning autists.

    • “The apparatus was originally invented by the Rev. John Michell in 1795 to measure the density of the Earth, and was modified by Henry Cavendish in 1798..”

      There was a huge logical assumption that known matter existed throughout the entire Earth, including it’s core. An alternative solution of an exotic compact core emitting gravitons which interact weakly with known matter but strongly with other exotic compact cores is available.

      • David Appell

        Alan Lowey has absolutely no evidence of an “exotic compact core emitting gravitons which interact weakly with known matter but strongly with other exotic compact cores is available.”

        This is scientific gobbleygook. All matter emits gravitons. All matter interacts with gravitons. “Strongly?” Undefined unscientific nonsense.

      • “Evidence” is the wrong word. It’s logically possible which in combination with the fact the physics has been in a crisis for over 40 years with no end is sight, gives the hypothesis high credibility.

        You’re obviously not knowledgeable in this area of science with 85% of everything being unknown.

        An apple falls because it is attracted to Earth’s core, *not* to the known matter inbetween.

      • David – it’s different to what you have been taught which is why you find it so distressing.

      • David Appell

        An apple falls because it is attracted to Earth’s core, *not* to the known matter inbetween.

        Ridiculous. Absurd. Wrong.

        Where did you learn physics?

  23. Another reason why science is shot through with faulty and wrong research. Even I was shocked by this.

    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/05/does-ocean-acidification-alter-fish-behavior-fraud-allegations-create-sea-doubt

    It calls into question the whole modern science project and the climate alarm industry.

    • David Appell

      It calls into question the whole modern science project and the climate alarm industry.

      Bullsh!t, Learn to read, learn to think.

    • It’s another huge scandal involving bad science that supports climate alarm. Peter Ridd’s disciplining is almost as bad.

      I’m a scientist and know how this works. Modern science is to a large extent about selling yourself and your work. The tendency to cross the line is built into the system.

      • David Appell

        It’s simply science in action — claims, and counterclaims. That’s exactly how science works.

  24. I would like to share some interesting numbers about education in Canada: “Adult literacy rate in Canada is 99%. Government expenditure on education is 4.9% of GDP. The education index of Canada is 0.85 – formal education levels are high, secondary education is a standard for most of the population; higher education is highly available and widespread due to the fact that graduates are economically demanded, and in many such countries having a higher education is also becoming a default option. People in Canada speak the English, and French languages.”

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