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Academics as conformists?: No, they just want to be non-conformists, like everybody else


Or so Nicholas Wade tells us is the view of Thomas Bouchard, the Minnesota psychologist who studied twins raised apart (“Researcher Condemns Conformity Among His Peers,” New York Times, July 25, 2009). Now retiring, in an interview with Constance Holden, Bouchard assails his colleagues (paywall). Wade writes,

Journalists, of course, are conformists too. So are most other professions. There’s a powerful human urge to belong inside the group, to think like the majority, to lick the boss’s shoes, and to win the group’s approval by trashing dissenters.

The strength of this urge to conform can silence even those who have good reason to think the majority is wrong. You’re an expert because all your peers recognize you as such. But if you start to get too far out of line with what your peers believe, they will look at you askance and start to withdraw the informal title of “expert” they have implicitly bestowed on you. Then you’ll bear the less comfortable label of “maverick,” which is only a few stops short of “scapegoat” or “pariah.”

Whether you are right or wrong on the facts makes no difference because facts are what the academic monoculture chooses to recognize as such.

David Tyler notes here:

A bit of history of science will help here. Why is it that science did not flower after the young plant started so well among the ancient Greeks? Why did Islamic science falter in the Middle Ages? Why did Chinese science not get beyond some promising technological innovations? The answer is that in each case, the thinking of the scholars was dominated by a consensus ideology. Instead of testing ideas by reference to the natural world, they showed their allegiance was to Aristotelian philosophy (or to the equivalent in the cases of the Arab and Chinese cultures). Why did science develop in 17th Century Europe? It is because the scientists were consciously throwing off Aristotelianism and resolving to test their theories of the natural world by reference to observations of nature. The experimental method was the hallmark of their enquiries.

Wouldn’t it be cheaper just to develop avatars of academics that would lecture students on TV screens? They’d all pretty much say the same thing, just like before, right. We could change the graphics now and then.

Also just up at the Post-Darwinist:

Top Ten mysteries in science 2007 (Golden oldie!)

Human evolution: We know little, and with good reason

David Tyler: Used to be horse feathers, but now it’s dinosaur feathers?

David Tyler: Tetrapod family tree looks like a bush

GilDogen @1, I agree with you on all four points. I may be wrong about the undertone of your message but I sense a feeling of disenchantment in your prose, a suspicion that you and others are looking for someone in authority to complain to on the unfairness of it all. My perspective is that nobody gave us (IDers) any type of guarantee that this battle would be fair. The enemy can and will use any and all weapons at their disposal. That may seem like a bad thing but consider that this is a two-edged sword and the pendulum of superiority on the battlefield can swing both ways. In my opinion, the enemy has proven that they are tough, they believe they can win the fight they can go the distance. I think we should stop complaining that life is unfair. I think it's a sign of weakness. Rather, we should be designing (I love this word) a powerful new weapon, one that will shift the balance of power decisively in our favor. We need a knockout left hook from nowhere. So far, they've been able to withstand almost anything we could throw at them. So obviously our current arsenal and bag of tricks are inadequate. But we should not lose heart. We may not have the upper hand but we're still standing. My suggestion is that the ID community would do well to concentrate on finding the silver bullet that will slay the beast once and for all. I believe it is out there and we can find it. Mapou
I get a kick out of academic intellectuals. They preach, as the highest values: 1) Nonconformity. But if you don't conform to the dictates of the nonconformists in academia, you'll be labeled a conformist. Only those who conform to the currently popular, acceptable definition of nonconformity are real nonconformists. 2) Tolerance, but tolerate no dissent from their ideas or worldview. Those who disagree are routinely vilified and ostracized. Tolerance is not being nice to people who agree with you, and exhibiting intolerance to those who don't. 3)Diversity, but no diversity of thought. Diversity based on race, gender, and religion is fine (except for white male Christians, who are mostly responsible for all the bad stuff, as are conservative blacks and women). 4) The free exchange of ideas and evidence -- unless these ideas and evidence challenge materialistic assumptions and politically-correct philosophies about the nature of life, the universe, and the human condition -- in which case these ideas must be suppressed and censored. GilDodgen

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