Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Do universities still need intellectual freedom? Why?


ID folk, Michael Egnor says, know how to survive Cancel Culture while doing meaningful work. Now the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis has intensified everything for everyone else. Can we help them understand?:

Perhaps the most terrifying characteristic of this collapse is the precipitous loss of ordinary civility and ordinary conventions of interpersonal conduct. Diversity of opinion is not tolerated, and dissenters from the mob are routinely hounded out of their jobs. Groupthink is mandatory in many sectors of our society, particularly (ironically) in academia. Simply to speak up to question orthodoxy is to invite professional and even personal ruin. It is undeniable that there is a totalitarian flavor to this forced orthodoxy.

For those of us in the intelligent design movement, this is not new. This emerging Orwellian society is just a grand version of the Orwellian science we ID folks have been dealing with for the past couple of decades. In science, and especially in evolutionary biology, there has been a progressive loss of ordinary civility and ordinary conventions of scientific conduct. Challenging Darwinian groupthink in the biology community — merely asking questions about the adequacy of Darwinian theory to explain all of life — is professional suicide. Diversity of scientific opinion is not tolerated, and dissenters from the Darwinian mob have been hounded out of their jobs. Simply to speak up to question Darwinian orthodoxy is to invite professional and personal ruin — subjecting Darwinian orthodoxy to an objective discussion of the evidence is unthinkable in most public schools — and scientists — professional colleagues who should be devoted to academic freedom and open discussion — will testify that you should be silenced by legal force.

Michael Egnor, “A Note from the Canaries” at Evolution News and Science Today

Of course Darwinians want legal force! At this point, their diktats have little relevance to nature.

Tenured Darwinian mediocrities now flourish best when doubt is forbidden and punished. Intellectual freedom is to them what bleach is to microbes. Can’t have too little of it.

Egnor goes on to stress the importance of recommitment to intellectual freedom and he is right.

But there is another dimension that we may not have examined and I (O’Leary for News) would welcome a discussion of it:

At one time, a university education was a prized opportunity to be part of an intellectual elite. Academic freedom was a club rule because it served well in the days when Einstein and Bohr, to name just two, provided us with a much better understanding of physics by overturning all that we thought we knew in certain areas. One could multiply examples.

To end various types of discrimination, we decided to make university education available to a much larger group of people. Overall, the results have been good. Surely no one would want to go back.

But a difficulty has arisen: Once university education becomes a simple requirement to hold down a job somewhere, intellectual freedom wanes as an important commitment.

For example, the dull, union-protected science teacher just wants to bark Darwin in peace. He is glad for a court judgement that creates a legal obligation to bark at his class in peace. Intellectual challenges have always frightened him and he has now acquired a right not to be challenged. Count on it, he’ll be out on the barricades to protect that right.

And he honestly believes he is advancing science…

Sure, it works for him. But for the history of ideas, not so much. Protecting intellectual freedom is protecting our future as a civilization based on ideas. One must choose.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Hypocrisy alert!!!! bornagain77
Universities undoubtedly should be bastions of intellectual freedom and suppressing rather than confronting views which may be found offensive is an indefensible form of intolerance. As J S Mill wrote in On Liberty
..the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth produced by its collision with error.
Egnor, on the other hand, in spite of his perfunctory defense of intellectual freedom clearly does not believe it should be extended to the theory of evolution. He implies that its status in academia is only sustained by a conspiracy to suppress dissenting views. In other words, he is content to libel the majority of professional biologists as liars and frauds and does not regard himself as bound by the Ninth Commandment. Seversky
Universities have always been petty tyrannies. The idea that they offer intellectual freedom is a strange myth. I don't know why it keeps circulating. Anyone who has ever worked in academia, from 1020 AD to 2020 AD, knows it's a myth. polistra
"And he honestly believes he is advancing science… " News, I believe this to be true in a lot cases. The person is ignorant. But I'm also sure that people are aware they are conforming to culture, and that science is not advancing. But these are men without chests, and they will go to their graves unable to make an independent stand on something. Andrew asauber

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