Enforcement of an orthodoxy engulfed by challenges, from what we know.
Former National Center for Science Education activist Nick Matzke has just published an utterly inane article in Science about academic freedom bills. In the article, he constructs a “phylogenetic tree” to show that various academic freedom bills are related to one another.
If the intention was to show that Discovery Institute has supported academic freedom legislation in various states, or that many of those bills have similar language, Matzke didn’t need to construct a phylogenetic tree. He simply could have followed the reporting here at Evolution News. If I were a Darwinist, I would be more careful: Publishing something like this might lead people to think that phylogenetics is only good for producing trivialities.
Yes, but when an orthodoxy is challenged by evidence, one way to display its power is to force trivialities on the public and demand that they be considered science.
That’s the point.
Forcing the “aren’t I good?” girls (male and female) to believe, propagate, and even admire nonsense is a visible demonstration of power.
Fortunately, such persons are generally easy to persuade. They have no information the world needs to hear, only positions they aspire to. They need to know who to be for or against for that purpose, and how to turn on a dime.
A more serious issue is whether Matzke misappropriated taxpayer funds in order to write his article. Matzke discloses in the article’s acknowledgements that his research was funded by two National Science Foundation grants. But if you look up those grants, they appear to have nothing to do with the article he published.
It won’t make any difference if that is true. Another way of displaying social power is to heedlessly waste money in a large, unaccountable (preferably tax-funded) bureaucracy, pursuing aims irrelevant to the stated purposes for the funds. It is a form of conspicuous consumption, but with clout.
If Matzke used taxpayer funds intended to underwrite serious scientific research to produce this silly piece about the politics of the evolution debate, then the National Science Foundation should consider asking for some of its grant money back. More.
But wouldn’t that just provide an opportunity for an endless parade of otherwise obscure mediocrities seeking a mike into which they can grandstand about “science” and “threats to science”?
Today, academic freedom is a threat to science principally because so much of what is called “science” is founded on stuff we have every reason to doubt. But it is protected by doctrines about what kind of evidence may be counted, what questions may be raised, and by whom.
Entire disciplines are struggling for credibility, yet the only response is closing ranks, astroturf, pious but empty promises of reform, and displays of irresponsible power.
If Australians want a bigger piece of that action, they bought one.
And, let’s face it, in an increasingly bureaucratic world, shutting up people with troubling evidence can seem like an obvious solution. Such societies are much less invested in the advancement of knowledge than some think. More on that later.
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