The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


A long time ago—long before universities became cesspools of extreme left thinking that elevated political correctness to levels that can only be described as insane—I left a paying job and went to graduate school to get an advanced degree. I worked hard for that degree, took difficult tests in which quantitative answers were required (little if any subjectivity involved), did research that didn't rely on opinion, but on cold hard facts. I tried to break new ground in the real world. My PhD dissertation looked at the use of artificial intelligence techniques (then a infant technology) for improving manufacturing methods (back when the USA had substantial manufacturing infrastructure). My research work was reviewed by six senior faculty, vetted for originality and verified for validity, all before it could be published, and I had to defend it in front of the entire engineering faculty.  Only then, was my degree granted.

Things are rather different today. Margaret Wente tells us how:
Hey, you! You, with the Starbucks pumpkin-spiced latte in your hand. That ridiculous concoction – with its fluffiness, lack of substance, and triviality – is the ultimate expression of white privilege. So shame on you.

I learned about the true meaning of the pumpkin-spiced latte in a scholarly paper, called The Perilous Whiteness of Pumpkins. It was peer-reviewed and published in a genuine academic journal. Lisa Jordan Powell, its lead author, is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia. “Starbucks PSLs are products of coffee shop culture, with its gendered and racial codes,” it warns. They make up just one part of the “pumpkin entertainment complex, whose multiple manifestations continue the entanglements of pumpkins, social capital, race, and place.”

Ms. Powell (who did not respond to an offer to comment on her paper) is merely one of countless academics toiling in the fertile field of race and gender studies. I don’t mean to pick on her in particular. Like everybody else, she must publish or perish. They churn out this stuff like Halloween candy. We pay for it.

Vast tracts of the social sciences have gone insane. If you doubt it, I urge you to check out New Real Peer Review, a Twitter feed whose purpose is to expose the absurdity of what passes for scholarly research. It’s run by a small team of anonymous academics who fear their careers will suffer if people know who they are. They have no shortage of material. Their greatest hit to date is a piece claiming that glaciology – the study of glaciers – is misogynist, and that we need to “feminize” it. (Some people thought that paper was a hoax, but sadly it was not.)
Wente goes on the describe a variety of research papers that at first glance are so ridiculous you have to believe they are satire. They are not. Peer-reviewed papers* that claim ski slopes are "sexist;" pilates "embodies attitudes of white supremacy," and wait for it .... "the study of glaciers – is misogynist, and that we need to “feminize” it." You can't make this stuff up!

One might argue that all of this "academic" garbage is harmless. One hard-left researcher or professor writing nonsense that is applauded by other hard-left researchers and faculty. But there is harm in it. Wente explains why:
It’s no surprise that race and gender studies, along with the other social sciences, are a vast monoculture of left-wing thought. They are relentlessly determined to deny the most basic facts about biology, human nature, sex differences and the sizable influence of genetics in our lives. In their world, even the most basic differences between the sexes are socially constructed. Some scholars even argue that sex segregation in sports is a bad idea. It’s a given that gender (as opposed to sex) is entirely constructed – which means, among other things, that our stubborn persistence in identifying pregnant people as “women,” or people with testicles as “men,” is deeply misinformed.

How does this stuff get published? Because critical thinking has gone out the door. The standard methods of research and inquiry do not apply. In fact, they are widely thought to be sexist and racist, because they’re rooted in white male ways of thinking. Science that built on the foundations of masculine rationality and abstract logic can’t possibly reflect the experience of women and minorities. Therefore, feelings, anecdotes and “lived experience” vastly outweigh what used to be known as “objective truth.”

Why am I so irate about this? One reason is that such work is a discredit to genuine academics and the pursuit of knowledge. Another is that race, gender and oppression studies have metastasized far beyond their little enclaves and spread to many other disciplines, including much of the humanities and parts of the sciences. Some universities have launched feminist biology programs because regular biology is too sexist. No one seems to mind that kids are squandering their time and our resources (to say nothing of their parents’ resources) on rubbish. I believe the damage to the public image of our universities is not inconsiderable – something their administrations might want to ponder in these straitened times.
In our post-modern world, critical thinking has indeed "gone out the door." Then again, there's no need for critical thinking in many university curricula in the social sciences, because ideology based on fantasy thinking prevails. That's how peer reviews allow intellectual garbage to be published, degrees to be granted, and students to gain an education that is virtually useless.

*  For those who may not be familiar with this term, a peer reviewed paper is examined by anywhere from 2 to 6 experts in the topic area. According to Wikipedia, a peer review "constitutes a form of self-regulation by qualified members of a profession within the relevant field. Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards of quality, improve performance, and provide credibility."