(January 3, 2004) Linguistics in the US is now controlled by a single satrap and his school — Noam Chomsky at MIT. No one placed him in a position of power; and no one — not me, for sure — questions his brilliance or the remarkable nature of his work; nonetheless, Chomsky and his students and associates have placed a literal strangle-hold on linguistic research in the US, amassing for themselves all of the available prestige. When on very rare occasions, the satrap proposes to question doctrines held further up the Mandarin ladder, he is promptly rebuked. The process is interesting to observe; it is, in fact, fascinating. I happen to know that Chomsky has long been a skeptic about Darwin’s theory of evolution. I have heard the skepticism from close friends; it has never been a secret. Nonetheless, there was Chomsky in a recent issue of Science, affirming vigorously his commitment to natural selection and speculating that perhaps only one genetic accident was needed to introduce human beings to the benefits of recursion. I was astonished to read this, and using my own faithful moles, quickly confirmed what I had in any case suspected: Chomsky wrote the wretched thing to get the pests off his back. The pests in question: Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins. The point in question: not even a satrap as powerful as Chomsky is quite capable of holding his own against the immense force of ideological orthodoxy. None of this is conscious; and no threat beyond ridicule is at work. Much the same thing happened to Irving Segal, a very great MIT mathematician, and a powerful critic of Big Bang cosmology. Segal was a tough and powerful figure at MIT, largely indifferent to ridicule and supremely confident of his own abilities. When he could not be brought down by ridicule, he was brought down instead by peer review, his access to the PNAS denied. I’ve seen the confidential peer reviews. On the one hand, they are just as one would expect: devoid of arguments; and on the other, they are profoundly sad.