The Corner

Re: Unreason Enthroned

Derb: I’m not looking to prolong or protract a fight on this, and I know you have serious chops on this subject as I’ve seen you in action, but your reply to my demurral is unpersuasive.  Why the worry about unreason in the sciences?  Is not the problem of unreason in the social sciences and the humanities much much worse?  And what, exactly, is the best course for combating feminist theorists (to pick out just one tendentious example) in the intellectual world?  Hardly a purge or a blacklist, but rather the painstaking work of refutation (bless you, Christina Sommers), scorn, and, above all, benign neglect, as I can perceive that few real students, not otherwise predisposed, are persuaded by the variety of postmodern nonsense the radicals pass out in the classroom.  

Your comment that “Most working scientists see themselves as clearing a small patch of light in a great glowering dark forest of unreason” seems oddly out of line with public esteem for science and scientists.  The scientific community takes it slings and arrows, but hardly seems as beleaguered as, say, religious people.  It is precisely the occasional air of scientists as some kind of semi-official clerisy, which I think your post unwittingly bolsters, actually gives rise to some of the public backlash against science that occurs from time to time.  And unlike the social sciences and the humanities, the idea that the ID movement is somehow, someday going to capture a dominant position analogous to the postmodernists/deconstructionists who have wrecked nearly every English department in higher education strikes me as fanciful, if not ludicrous.  It seems to me that having the consensus position persistently challenged, even if by a supposedly fringe ideology, is a healthy thing, just as the ideological challenge of Marxism/Communism compelled America to reacquire and sharpen its own understanding of its founding principles after decades of desuetude and rejection (by liberals).  It seems to me the attitude should be “bring it on,” not “shut it down.”

Steven F. Hayward is a visiting professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a fellow of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. He writes daily at Powerlineblog.com.

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