January 1, 2018: Why America’s anti-science movement is a moral matter: Part II, The Left

This time we look at the assault on science from America’s political Left, concluding with consideration of equivalence between Left and Right in this crusade.

Back in March with Part I of this post we looked at several aspects of America’s assault on science from our political Right. We saw the self-contradiction of denying scientific facts while dependent on them in our daily lives. Even broadcasting denials of science over radio built by it. We looked at the coupling between science and morality through their shared requirement for reason, linking these factors with democratic government. When science is rejected, reason goes with it. Without reason, morality is crippled and capacity for self-governance dependent on moral justice cannot last—the moral matter. “Scientific values of reason,” writes Michael Shermer, “are not the products of liberal democracy, but the producers of it.” [1] Science denial is not merely about defiance of the other Party, or lying in order to regain a sense of control over experts labeled as elites. The American Right does now what Islam did in the 11th century when they found rational thought a threat to the Koran. [2] That anti-rational movement won, and Islam lost their place as cultural light of the world for the last 700 years. Sometimes, social movements, no matter how apparently inane, destroy whole civilizations.

But America’s anti-science struggle didn’t start with the Right. It began with 1950s / 60s French academics on the Left who decided after two world wars that reason was to blame, and to be abandoned. With human senses near bottom in the animal world, how and by what means could the very tool that enabled our survival possibly be jettisoned? The answer came in their creation of postmodernism and the relativism it was based on. Michel Foucault argued that rationality was a coercive regime of oppression. Jacques Derrida sought a non-philosophical philosophy. And Jacques Lacan seized a bit of scientific cachet while debasing it with his declaration of equivalence between “the erectile organ and the square root of negative one.” [3]

Hmm.

But nonsensical ideas require protection. So like any fragile belief, quasi-supernatural powers had to be established to build a space free from rational challenge. As Ferry and Renaut write in their French Philosophy of the Sixties, this was done by “accustoming readers and listeners to the belief that incomprehensibility is a sign of greatness,…that the thinker’s silence before incongruous demands for meaning was not proof of weakness but indication of endurance in the presence of the Unsayable.” [4] Humans were to be freed “from any dependence on the concept of objective truth.” [5]

Once done, as David Stone’s critique is titled, Anything Goes. [6] And it did. Foucault claimed: 1) “There are no facts, only interpretations,” 2) what matters most is not what is said or written, but what is not, and who says it, and 3) with the help of Heidegger, the idea that any truth, “is at the same time and in itself a concealment.” [7] Recalling the argument of the cube which hides three sides no matter from where it’s viewed. Analogous to the violation of physical laws and common sense in the question, “If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound?” With previous examination, we needn’t simultaneously see the cube’s other sides to know what’s there.

Of course there’s an element of truth in all three of Foucault’s attempts to relativize reason, but in the hands of absolutism, “the democratic project,” writes Ferry and Renaut, is reframed as “ideology…or metaphysical illusion.” [8] Eventually, not only were postmodernists to expunge rational thought, logic, and science, but all Western “bigotries,” including Western traditions, philosophy, religion, and history. Particular hostility was harbored for the majority, as we recall the US Constitution strives to tame its potential ills, but seen by postmodernists as an innate evil. Instead, they favored a “tyranny of the minority,” victims of a majority, real or imagined.

While this movement colonized American universities in the 60s, it seems to have become significant or dominant in sectors of the humanities by the early ‘90s when Marxism’s flaws finally doomed it as a useful ideology against the West. By 1996 Lawrence Levine could brag that Berkeley reversed white student populations from 68% in 1974 to 37% by 1994, while 75% of America was white at that time. [9] Racism as racism’s cure. As Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. elaborates in his Disuniting of America this new mindset lauds a redefinition of multiculturalism with its preservation of ethnic identity, hostile to the old idea of a melting pot. [10] Where dignity becomes a posture of opposition and self-segregation. From the beachhead of our universities these ideas spread to achieve what in part the Klan failed at after a century of intimidation. Since all movements are counter-movements we shouldn’t be surprised to find a majority of US conservatives now view college education as a national threat. [11]

To show how much venom the Left has for science and scientists, consider the award winning UCLA feminist theorist, Sandra Harding. In her popular university Women’s Studies text she writes, “The best scientific activity and thinking about science are modeled on men’s most misogynistic relations to women—rape, torture, [and] choosing mistresses.” [12] For Harding the equations of Newton and Einstein—F=ma, E=mc_squared—are gender-laden sexism. [13] Echoing Right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh’s “wizards of smart,” Harding dismisses “practices of science [as]…sacred commandments.” [14] But if this were so, those cell phones, TVs, ships, satellites, and vaccines wouldn’t work as science predicts they will. One wonders if Harding has access to the fruits of science in her daily drive, work, and healthcare. Like Creationists to Harding’s right, she wants a science indifferent to the way nature really is, exchanged for a creed to make her feel better. And for Harding’s support? “Mainstream thinkers,” she writes, like “Derrida, Foucault, Lacan...” [15] In the end, Harding demands science conform to political, social, and gender-based passions (forget realities of nature) to forge a masculine-free “feminist science,” through what she calls “a painful world-shattering confrontation.” [16] It has a familiar ring.

Like Nazi Science made free of Jews. [17] Stalin’s Proletariat Science that led to Mao’s Great Leap Forward, starving 30-40 million people. And Islamic Science, where Pervez Hoodbhoy reports, papers are “accepted for the Scientific Miracles Conference…of the International Islamic University at Islamabad for their theological correctness.” [18] We won’t build working devices with that, or solve global warming, or combat next year’s flu strain, any more than we would with Harding’s feminist science. There is but one science, revealed in the book of nature. And just as we see on the Right, when science is ditched, reason and morality dependent on it, go down with it.

Christina Hoff Sommers documents one thread of this in The War Against Boys. [19] Sommers showed how irrational dogmas become government policies wrecking human lives when she investigated the Women’s Education Equity Act (WEEA) Publishing Center. With $70 million in tax payer funds, this almost 20 yearlong effort pushed postmodernist policy to education departments across the country. [20] Its critical need was enunciated by then director Katherine Hanson when she claimed that in the US alone: Every year nearly four million women are beaten to death; violence is the leading cause of death among women; the leading perpetrators are men at home. [21] Such were the numbers used to prod policy makers to take action against the dangerous nature of boys in school.

But instead of pathologizing boys, a bit of the scientific method and simple math could have avoided a lot of wasted money and terrorized children. Divide 4 million by 365 days in a year and that’s almost 11,000 murders per day in just one country. Based on Hanson’s claim, as of 2014 with 125.9 million women in the US, almost none of them would exist. And as reality would have it, in the year she divined these numbers, heart disease was the leading cause of female death (370,000), followed by cancer (250,000). According to the FBI, the number of female victims of homicide that year was 3,631. [22] Without question a tragic number, but short of 4 million by a multiplicative factor of over 1000.

Such anti-rationalist, anti-science doctrines in their varied forms are taught as Cultural Studies, Women’s Studies, branches of literary criticism, sociology, and revisionist history in university humanities departments across this country. Their credibility garnered from campus proximity to science and engineering where they actually test claims against reality, unprotected by pseudo-religious rules of political correctness. For postmodernist liberals, application of critical reason to their self-contradictions is defended against through accusations of insensitivity. Harding explicitly makes this point, as do campus speech-code-supporting students unprepared for exposure to adult life. Thus creating another victim with, as Bertrand Russell noted, “superior virtue of the oppressed.” One dare not challenge that, like they dare not challenge “the Lord thy God.” [23]

Hence the French root of postmodernism, and its upkeep in America as politically correct McCarthyism. This movement is largely why less than half of the American electorate voted for a well-known thief, draft-dodger, and want-to-be despot for 2016 president—as a counter-movement. They hated the Left more than they feared betrayal of their Savior's teachings. And doing so has revealed the Right’s embrace of Foucault’s ideas that helped build our modern Left. Administration advisor Kellyanne Conway’s now infamous remark that lies are “alternative facts” is a restatement of Foucault’s first point. Foucault’s second, with truth-as-concealment, feeds the Right-wing’s conspiracy fetish and propaganda machine. While both sides dismiss the other thanks to Foucault’s prioritization of who makes any truth claim.

Little did our modern Right realize how liberal (and 11th century Islamic) they are. And despite their acceptance of manmade global warming as a scientific fact, little did the Left realize how hostile they are to science, and how similar they are to the Right.

So, who’s more radically anti-science, anti-reason, and thus morally compromised, the Right, or the Left’s intellectually sounding assault on the West? It’s a close contest. Considering the current status of our Culture Wars, I wonder if the Left can see the cost of their assault on science and reason now?

Until next time. The first Monday in March, the 5th, 2018.


[1] Michael Shermer, The Moral Arc: How Science Alex Humanity to Truth Justice and Freedom, Henry Holt and Co, 2015, pg. 135
[2] Pervez Hoodbhoy, Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle For Rationality, Zed, 1991
[3] Sokal & Bricmont, Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectual’s Abuse of Science,, Picador, 1998, pg. 27, the quote shown is a truncated summary
[4] Ferry & Renaut, French Philosophy of the Sixties: An Essay on Antihumanism, University of Massachusetts Press, 1990, pg. 14
[5] Sokal & Bricmont, pg. 234
[6] David Stone, Anything Goes, Origins of the Cult of Scientific Irrationalism, Macleay Press, 1998
[7] Madsen & Madsen, 1990, Science & Culture, 56, pg. 471-472, appearing in Sokal & Bricmont, pg. 234. From the Sokal’s hoax itself, making his successful attempt to be published in one of the premier sociological journals by imitating their gibberish.
[8] Ferry & Renaut, pg. xvi
[9] Lawrence Levine, Opening of the American Mind: Canons, Culture, and History, Beacon, 1996, pg. xviii
[10] Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society, Norton, 1992, pg. 16, 43, 80, 92, 116, 118.
[11] Chris Riotta, Majority of Republicans Say Colleges Are Bad For America (Yes, Really), Newsweek, 7/10/2017
[12] Sandra Harding, The Science Question in Feminism, Cornell University Press, 1986, pg. 112
[13] ibid pg. 42,
[14] ibid pg. 39. And as this weren’t bad enough, “Those wedded to empiricism,” claims Harding, “will be loath to commit…that the social identity of the observer [makes a difference] in research results.” Pg. 26 Imagine observers making different numeric measurements based on their social identity.
[15] ibid pg. 27
[16] ibid pg. 39
[17] Wikipedia, Deutsche Physik
[18] Pervez Hoodbhoy, Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle For Rationality, Zed, 1991, pg. 180. Italics added.
[19] Christina Hoff Sommers, The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men, Touchstone Simon & Shuster, 2000
[20] WEEA funding: http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/Biennial/125....
[21] Sommers pg. 48
[22] ibid pg. 49
[23] Exodus 20:2
Tweaked 2/17/19. Clarified identity between Left & Right in their crusade against science with separate paragraph.
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Published on January 01, 2018 10:07
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