Last week, there were two nasty incidents where academic freedom got trampled by our bohemian-barbarian elites.
First up is Niall Ferguson, the distinguished Harvard historian who had remarked at an investor conference that the patron saint of stimulus, John Maynard Keynes, didn’t care about the future when he said “that in the long run we are all dead”, because he was a homosexual. This, of course, brought howls of outrage (such as this hysterical piece) from the usual suspects. As Jonah Goldberg points out, Ferguson’s argument was perfectly acceptable not that long ago. For instance, the great economist Joseph Schumpeter said, on Keynes death, “he was childless and his philosophy of life was essentially a short-run philosophy.” The fact is, it is a matter of record that Keynes’ philosophy is short run, as the balance sheets of governments who have adopted his proscriptions can attest to. If this is the case – and it is, is it not legitimate to inquire into the personal motivations that led him to hold such destructive goals?
Particularly when the Queer Studies departments of universities promote things like: “’Queer Gardens,’ which ‘examines the work of gay and lesbian gardeners and traces how marginal identities find expression in specific garden spaces.’” The difference, of course is that Queer Studies crowd only study the positive influence. Ferguson mentioned, in passing, a negative aspect of homosexuality. Say, if one can only debate one side of an issue, doesn’t the debate then become bogus? Shush your mouth.
Do I agree with Ferguson’s assessment of the role homosexuality played in Keynes’ intellectual life? Actually I don’t. It seems to me that Keynes, like many English gentlemen of the era, went from a homosexual youth to a heterosexual adulthood. Another example is Evelyn Waugh, the author of Brideshead Revisited, who transitioned from a young homosexual aesthete into a happily married, devoutly Catholic conservative (he hated Vatican II) who produced four daughters and three sons. But changing from homosexual to heterosexual is another one of those taboo topics polite people are not supposed to talk about.
Predictably, Ferguson issued a grovelling apology for what he said. Of course, I, nor anybody else, I suppose, believes the sincerity of that statement. It positively reeks of fear. But that’s the point. He - a world renowned historian - has to be punished to encourage the others.
The case of Jason Richwine is even worse. In case you missed the brouhaha, Richwine was one of the co-authors on a Heritage Foundation study, which argued that the cost of the illegal amnesty, currently going through Congress, would be $6.3 trillion. Since facts like this could derail the current effort to import more Democratic voters, something had to be done, especially since they weren’t able to effectively challenge the study’s actual facts and logic. The Obama black-ops people hit pay dirt when they uncovered Richwine’s Harvard PhD thesis, which argued that Latinos have lower IQ’s than non-Latino Americans. Now, not only do the skirt-clutching PC crowd want to revoke his degree, but they want tenure revoked for the academic-all-star committee members who signed off on it, including the distinguished left-of-center sociologist Christopher Jencks.
My God. If these goons get away with that, then there really will be no more freedom to debate issues in American academia any more. As Charles Murray puts it:
“In resigning, Dr. Richwine joins distinguished company. The most famous biologist in the world, James D. Watson, was forced to retire from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 2007 because of a factually accurate remark to a British journalist about low IQ scores among African blacks. In 2006, Larry Summers, president of Harvard, had to resign after a series of attacks that began with his empirically well-informed remarks about gender differences. These are just the most visible examples of a corruption that has spread throughout American intellectual discourse: If you take certain positions, you will be cast into outer darkness. Whether your statements are empirically accurate is irrelevant.
In academia, only the tenured can safely write on these topics. Assistant professors know that their chances of getting tenure will be close to zero if they publish politically incorrect findings on climate change, homosexuality, race differences, gender differences, or renewable energy. Their chances will not be much higher if they have published anything with a distinctly conservative perspective of any sort. To borrow George Orwell’s word, they will have proved themselves to be guilty of crimethink.”
Read the whole thing. BTW, the James D Watson referenced by Murray is the Watson who co-discovered DNA, the single most important biological discovery in the 20th century. And they forced him out over a comment? Fie!
What about the issue itself? Andrew Sullivan, the erratic blogger (who went from War on Terror cheerleader to Sarah Palin’s gynecologist), has presented the issue eloquently (when he is on, he is on):
“But the idea that natural selection and environmental adaptation stopped among human beings the minute we emerged in the planet 200,000 years ago – and that there are no genetic markers for geographical origin or destination – is bizarre. It would be deeply strange if Homo sapiens were the only species on earth that did not adapt to different climates, diseases, landscapes, and experiences over hundreds of millennia. We see such adaptation happening very quickly in the animal kingdom. Our skin color alone – clearly a genetic adaptation to climate – is, well, right in front of one’s nose.
But what the Harvard students are saying is worse than creating a straw man. They are saying that even if it is true that there are resilient differences in IQ in broad racial groupings, such things should not be studied at Harvard because their ‘end result can only be furthering discrimination.’ You can’t have a more explicit attack on intellectual freedom than that. They even seem to want the PhD to be withdrawn.”
Again, read the whole thing. Hat tip Steve Sailer for both comments.
As I have said before, this hostility to honest debate is a relatively new thing in our society. It did not exist in the 1970’s, when people were fond of saying things like, “it’s a free country”. (When was the last time you heard that in casual conversation?) The intolerance of non-PC diversity is repellant and it is incompatible with a free society. We need to fight this intellectual and political pox with all our might.