The fact that so many successful politicians are such shameless liars is not only a reflection on them, it is also a reflection on us. When the people want the impossible, only liars can satisfy them, and only in the short run.— Thomas Sowell Quotes (@ThomasSowell) November 3, 2023
As you might have noticed, people in other fields are starting to emulate those politicians. With predictable impact on their credibility. J.D. Tuccille provides one example: ‘The Science’ Suffers from Self-Inflicted Political Wounds.
Once upon a time, science evoked enthusiasm. Yes, cinematic mad scientists went overboard with body parts and lightning, but real-life researchers brought us innovations, insights, and improved standards of living. But, like many institutions, science got political and cult-y. Thin-skinned narcissists with government jobs hijacked the systematic pursuit of knowledge and rebranded it as an unassailable body of Truth with a capital T. They cast out as heretics well-informed critics who interpreted evidence differently. In the process, they lost the trust of a public which saw insights replaced by bossy ideologues.
"A new Pew Research Center survey finds the share of Americans who say science has had a mostly positive effect on society has fallen and there's been a continued decline in public trust in scientists," the organization reported last week. "Overall, 57% of Americans say science has had a mostly positive effect on society. This share is down 8 percentage points since November 2021 and down 16 points since before the start of the coronavirus outbreak."
A full third of Americans say science is a wash, equally positive and negative. Eight percent say it's mostly negative. The plunge in support since the appearance of COVID-19 is no coincidence; that's when some scientists, especially those in official positions, began wielding "science" as a shield against debate and a tool for control.
Reader, can you guess whose picture is used to illustrate Tuccille's article, and is Tuccille's prime example?
Clue: he is quoted as saying (in response to critics): “It’s easy to criticize, but they’re really criticizing science because I represent science."
Oh, heck, you've guessed correctly. Too easy.
Fun additional link, from the Washington Examiner: Fauci is singing a different song on vaccine mandates. And that song is "Can I Change My Mind", originally by Tyrone Davis.
Also of note:
But it's not just Tony Fauci. Lawrence Krauss avoids 60's R&B, instead telling the story with a Star Wars headline: The Empire Strikes Back.
For a while there, it looked as if reason and professionalism had returned to the American astronomical societies and journals. But that didn’t last long.
This past boreal summer of 2023, there was a significant outcry in response to the removal of astronomer Geoff Marcy’s name from a scientific publication to which he made significant contributions, which was accompanied by efforts to punish and ostracize his collaborators. (I wrote about this for Quillette here.) Marcy is a distinguished scientist who played a major role in the discovery of exoplanets, and appeared to be a natural candidate for the Nobel Prize in Physics that was awarded to his competitors, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz in 2019. (Didier and Queloz were awarded a joint 50% share in the prize, alongside James Peebles, who was honored for his work on “theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology.”)
In 2015, Marcy was investigated by his then-employer, the University of California, for incidents of sexual harassment that allegedly took place on or before 2010. Following the investigation, UC Berkeley recommended Marcy continue in his role as a full professor, given that there had been no further complaints against him over the period 2010–15. Nevertheless, Marcy chose to resign from his position in response to a torrent of online pressure.
A full eight years after his resignation, in 2023, the editors of Science magazine and the leadership of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) began to consider whether Marcy’s name should be removed from the paper he co-authored—an action that would essentially deny him public credit for his work, something that, in science, is considered a form of plagiarism. Science published an article blindly accepting the claim that leaving Marcy’s name on the paper would “produce potential psychological harm.” In that article, it was reported that AAS President Kelsey Johnson was considering whether accusations of harassment would be sufficient grounds for removing the names of the authors concerned from AAS journals.
With remarkable restraint, Krauss doesn't mention Orwell's Memory Hole.
As an extra bonus, can you guess who's being referred to here?
In response, one astrophysicist—a of the founder [sic] of “Particles for Justice” and a leader of an ill-conceived effort to remove James Webb’s name from the James Webb Space Telescope (see my podcast with Hakeem Oluseyi)—wrote:
This man wants me to care that people were giving a hard time to a woman who collaborated with a man who physically assaulted my friends. Because she’s a woman. I’m supposed to care. Even though her politics are absolute fucking trash.
If you've been reading the blog for even just the past few days, you'll find this pretty easy too.
Shut up, they explained. John Sexton's Hot Air article is headlined: Two Professors Argue Democracy is Ill-Served by Free Speech on Campus. Surely, he must be joking?
Nope. Here's the article he references in the respectable Chronicle of Higher Education: Dear Administrators: Enough With the Free-Speech Rhetoric! It's by Richard Amesbury ("professor of religious studies and philosophy at Arizona State University") and Catherine O'Donnell ("professor of history at Arizona State University"). Their subhed identifies The Problem: "It concedes too much to right-wing agendas."
And it complicates the indoctrination of left-wing agendas. Apparently Rich and Cathy have little faith that their arguments can't propagate properly in an open free-speech arena.
Academics are losing the support of the public. We read it in newspapers, we see it in surveys, we feel it in our bones. There are many dimensions to this problem. One is the claim that colleges restrict speech and lack intellectual diversity. Earlier this fall, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression ranked colleges in terms of their commitment to free speech, praising a few but concluding that “the free-speech climate at even these campuses has room to improve.” The American Bar Association is considering a proposal that would require law schools to adopt written free-speech policies that “protect the rights of faculty, students, and staff to communicate ideas that may be controversial or unpopular.”
These concerns have attracted the attention of lawmakers here and abroad. The United Kingdom has just created a director for freedom of speech and academic freedom position under the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act 2023. The newly appointed “free-speech tsar,” Arif Ahmed, a professor of philosophy at the University of Cambridge, has promised to defend free speech “for all views and approaches — postcolonial theory as much as gender-critical feminism.” And recently, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce released a report on “Freedom of Speech and Its Protection on College Campuses.” Citing the philosopher John Stuart Mill, the report begins with the claim that “a ‘marketplace of ideas’ is necessary to seek truth effectively” and concludes that “the First Amendment is under threat on college campuses across the nation, and the federal government must step in and provide protection for students and faculty.” Perhaps sensing a cultural opening, Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions has released the “Princeton Principles for a Campus Culture of Free Inquiry,” which alleges that “many of our nation’s colleges and universities are failing to maintain cultures of free and vigorous inquiry,” and calls on administrators to “allocate resources to promote intellectual diversity.”
The authors fail to deal seriously with the root cause of all those trends to which they refer: ideological monoculture. (They mention this term, only to pooh-pooh it.) They fall back on cheap reliable strawmen: "Few would expect a biology department to hire a creationist or a geography department to host a flat-earther."
Fun fact: this article from the National Association of Scholars looks at "The Political Affiliations of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty" Overall, in Cathy's field (history) Democrat/Republican ratio is 17.4 to 1. In Rich's field (religion), the ratio is (whoa) 70 to 1.
Guys: I don't think you have to worry about flat-earthers or creationists. Would it kill you to hire a few Republicans?
Wishing a problem away. David Harsanyi claims Jonathan Chait Whitewashes Left-Wing Antisemitism To Protect Democrats. Taking particular aim at one slogan that some locals have used or tried to defend:
“‘From the river to the sea,’” explains Chait, who hears white supremacist dog whistles in his sleep, “is an inflammatory and irresponsible slogan that implicitly creates solidarity with terrorism precisely because it is ambiguous and open to multiple definitions, but it is not per se antisemitic.”
“From the river to the sea” is the least ambiguous phrase imaginable. It quite literally and geographically lays out the genocidal aims of its chanters — from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, including all of the Jewish state, not just “occupied” territory. Using Chait’s partisan-addled logic, one could argue that white supremacists who chant, “You Will Not Replace Us” might not be talking about racial domination — you know, not per se — but merely about coexistence. Who’s to know, right?
Is it too much to ask that people confront the real problem? Israelis live every day as targets of barbarians who want to kill them. What do you expect them to do about that?
Addendum to "My AI Wants to Kill Your Mama" Last month I used that as a title of a fisking/response to a silly Facebook post by author Joyce Maynard. It was a takeoff on an old Frank Zappa song; I speculated that it could be possible soon for AI to generate music in the style of long-dead musicians. Like Zappa.
I should have said: it's already possible.
In fact, as Andrew Zucker points out:
<voice imitation="that_little_girl_from_Poltergeist">It's here.
</voice>: Dead Ringers.
There’s a goosebump-inducing thrill in hearing a new Beatles song in 2023, as long as you don’t think too hard about the fact that half the band is dead.
The song, “Now and Then”—which debuted earlier this month at No. 7 on the Billboard 100—is a miracle of modern AI technology, extracting Lennon’s original 1970s demo from previously unusable recordings. Lennon’s voice sounds crisp and current, like he just recorded it yesterday.
But of course he didn’t. He’s been dead since 1980. And even if he weren’t, it’s debatable if the song would’ve sounded anything like the new release. Two of his pre-chorus bridges were cut by Paul McCartney, who had final say because, as previously noted, Lennon is dead.
George Harrison, who’s also dead—he passed away in 2001 from cancer—likely wouldn’t have been all too pleased either. He abandoned the band’s first attempts to record it in the ’90s, telling McCartney that the song was “fuckin’ rubbish.”
As Richard Feynman used to say (and may say again): "Interesting!"