Dembski, whose upcoming book is Being as Communion, has enjoyed a very politically incorrect career. He recently wrote an article providing thoughts and resources for getting involved with politically correct or incorrect careers.
Timely. In the last few months, we learned of two Nobelists who could never have done their key work in today’s science establishment and two other Nobelists who have no use for the peer-reviewed journals (one of whom, Schekman, was developing an alternative, last we heard). The current system is no good for them, but it does producing a vast flock of “aren’t I good?” girls (male and female), quick to cluck disapproval at anything incorrect.
That sort of thing used to be called a “finishing school” and has always been considered quite separate from “education.” Some declines are hard to hide.
But one must live, and today one must choose a side. As Dembski writes,
If you want a career based on a cultural conflict, the safer course is to align yourself with the politically correct side. Usually that’s where you’ll find a larger community of support as well as more money (and thus more jobs) to engage in the cultural conflict. But it’s also where people have more to lose if the conflict turns against them.
Fighting on the politically incorrect side, however, has its advantages. In that case, you’re the underdog and it’s often easier to galvanize grassroots support.
Yes indeed and that is precisely what happened to Canadian commentator Mark Steyn a few years ago, when the forces of politically correct criminal justice charged him with offending (easily offended) Islamists. As he tells it,
… I wasn’t terribly interested in Canadian “human rights” law or Section 13, until it made the mistake of picking a fight with me. And now Section 13 doesn’t exist any more. Funny that.
As Canadians discovered how happy many bureaucrats would be to turn their country into Big Brother’s “near-utopia” through intensive, life-wrecking policing, they sent those individuals back to tasks to which they are better suited, like sending memos about too many memos and operating the revolving door.
Dembski is realistic about how political conflicts often play out. There are few academic careers on the politically incorrect side today. That is to be expected, of course, at finishing schools. Outside them, groups on either side of an issue tend to be co-dependent on each others’ existence:
As noted earlier, many cultural conflicts are essentially run through special-interest non-profit organizations. Organizations dedicated to opposite sides of a cultural conflict thus square off against each other. This can lead to an arms race in which one organization denounces the other, emphasizing the bad things it is doing, and then appeals to its constituency for support in opposing the other organization.
As the one organization grows stronger because of increased support for opposing the other organization, the other organization can now appeal to its constituency for more support so that it can stand up to the first organization. Round and round it goes, with increasing support for both sides. Hence the arms race.
In these situations, a worthy adversary helps to advance one’s cause and career. Again, cynical as this may sound, it is a reality. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. Politically correct careers depend on politically incorrect careers, and vice versa. For a cultural conflict to be worth our attention, the parties to it need to be heavily armed and mean to do each other harm. Fortunately for politically (in)correct careers, America has more than enough of these conflicts to go around.
About the intelligent design controversy (no. 9 of the 12 he examines), he notes that there are actually five positions, of which the one Americans are forced to fund through their taxes, neo-Darwinism, is only one. Here’s another:
2) Self-organizational theory: Advocates of this position accept (a), but reject (b). That is, they accept that evolution has occurred, but maintain that the theory of natural selection is inadequate to explain this fact. They also usually reject (c) and (d), maintaining that living systems are not really analogous to machines, and that new adaptive forms do not arise in a wholly random manner. Rather, living systems are conceived of by them as constituting a separate “living state of matter,” with its own sui generis dynamical laws, which permit evolution to occur in a quasi-intelligent, non-random manner.
He provides links to a variety of organizations that represent each of the positions.
Some say that the future of ID is in education, that is, in helping people learn how to think and how to learn. The question some of us wonder about, of course, is whether university is even the right place for that any more. Time will tell.
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