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Note: a more thorough review of Esolen’s book is coming very soon.
Thanks to Ben Franklin, it has always been possible to home-school yourself to a college education. Libraries let you walk right in, take any book (or nearly so) off the shelf, and read it. And you can do this over and over. What an astonishing privilege! And they don’t charge for it!
Alas, the weakness in this system is all too apparent. Rather, there are two weaknesses. One, reading is increasingly passé; or, rather, reading is returning to its more historic status of being an unusual activity. Two, and more important, it’s hard to discover what to read.
Imagine walking into a well appointed university library and pulling down a journal, any journal. Daniel Lattier reminds us you might be horrified to find yourself reading “Brides and Blemishes: Queering Women’s Disability in Rabbinic Marriage Law” or “Misfit Messengers: Indigenous Religious Traditions and Climate Change”. Not only would you not learn anything, you’d come away damaged.
Or, worse, you discover a textbook, a book written—nay: designed—with the purpose of teaching students (see the late Kenneth Minogue’s The Concept of a University for a cutting critique of textbooks). Books with lots of colors, cartoons, bullet points, and words drained of all beauty aimed at the lower range of intellectual abilities. As if this “dumbing down” is helpful. Incidentally, if this principle were applied to art, it would be the same as if we showed students who couldn’t paint only hand-drawn cartoons instead of showing them the Mona Lisa on the theory that since these unable students can’t produce such works, and can’t understand the whole of them, they wouldn’t understand a part of them.
Now it used to be that “the basics” were known by, if not most, then by a fair number. One knew who to query. “What books should I read in history?” asked of the, say, bank manager or even middle school teacher would brings answers like, “You can’t go far wrong starting with Thucydides” or “A boy your age would love Plutarch’s Lives.” Try it now and you’ll hear, “Why don’t you Google it” or you’ll be recommended a list where the demographic characteristics of the authors has the utmost political correctness, a list chosen by some obscure national committee, itself demographically balanced and ideologically correct, and containing works nobody reads, or should.
The meager point made here (to be expanded greatly in time), to amplify the much greater point made by Fr Schall in the video above, is that, except in rare instances, we can no longer count on colleges and universities to guide students toward the Truth. Esolen: “Whorehouses and mental wards would be much cheaper. They might well be healthier, too.”
“The great books contradict each other,” says Schall. Which is why mere reading of the Great Books is not enough. A philosophical grounding is a necessity. That grounding requires a guide, an authority, and that authority must rely on Truth. Reading on one’s own without direction might work, but it won’t be easy. Which is, of course, why colleges were created, to provide the guides and the direction required. But what do we do when colleges have given up Truth?
This has ties to the matters roiling the Church, incidentally. For years, sinners like myself relied on our on consciences to decide how to act. But since everything, at least is the moment, seems like a good, nothing ever seems wrong. You therefore can’t let people decide for themselves what is right, because you’re apt to arrive at as many definitions of “right” as there are people. Which is why it is so strange that many Church leaders are refusing their duty to uphold Truth.
Schall says that his title, How to Get an Education Even While in College, “implies that hundreds of thousands of highly degreed people are nonetheless mostly uneducated in the highest things even if they are degreed from the best and most expensive institutes of higher learning. It is quite possible to attend, what I call, the resumé university or the highest tuition college, to acquire there a straight-A GPA on all of the 128 credits that guarantee a student a liberal education; and yet, most still come away with an empty soul; to become what CS Lewis called them, ‘Men Without Chests.'”
The partial solution to this is to follow men like Schall, at universities that still house them, or elsewhere if not.
I’m interrupting the regularly scheduled post—I had hoped to squeeze in some reality this week and give us something to be cheerful about—to bring you another segment of Bill Nye perving Science. You heard me: perving.
Look, it matters not one whit, nor one bit of whit, that Nye’s idea of science is as corrupt and fallen as Harvard’s conception of truth. Proving his science wrong is as easy as winning a self-esteem trophy for attending the Berkeley Antifa Paraolympics.
What matters is that a large and growing segment of the population, credentialed far beyond their ability to think or reason, but believing themselves wise, think the rot Nye is pushing is science. Science to these realityophobes is just another battlefield in the culture wars. Whether the science is right or wrong is immaterial. What matters is only whether Science is said to be on the side of anti-reality.
One thing glaringly wrong I will mention, if only because our side is too quick to use the language of our enemies. There is no such thing as “conversion therapy”, but only because there are no such things as homosexuals. There are no such things as heterosexuals, either.
If we are defined by our sexual desires, which is to say, if our essence is that which we lust after, then there are (as pointed out last week) such creatures as necrophiliacs, woofies, refrigerator lovers, masturbators, blondies (those who desire only blondes), and on and on and on. If you say not, if you say “gays” are in some way different, the burden is on you to say how.
You will not meet this burden, because desire for any but the opposite sex is an absence of the proper essence of a man or woman. It is not the presence of some thing, like a strand of DNA (which we know anyway is false), but the lack of something that should be there.
Since there are no “gays”, then a “gay” cannot “convert” into a “straight”. (This is cheering: consider that some cultures want to and do kill gays, but if there aren’t any, there isn’t anybody to kill.) A man’s desires may change, and often do. The late Joseph Nicolosi knew this (more or less). He called for “reparative therapy”, which is orders of magnitude a better name than “conversion therapy.”
Well, you can dismiss these observations if you like, because they are death to the corrupt theory that Nye holds. Dismissing observations isn’t scientific, though; but it does make for good politics.
Anyway, back to Nye. Let your kids watch that science video, would you? It’s aimed at kids. A Vanilla cone learns to widen his sexual desires and embrace orgies? Just like you hope your child will do someday?
The democratization of any field of human knowledge is a bad thing; thus, the democratization of science is not something to celebrate but to mourn.
By democratization I mean two conjoined things: ever-increasing participation and diffused scope. There is a not-so-gentle insistence that a greater proportion of humanity participate in science, which after a point necessarily weakens the material produced. And in order to wedge more people into scientific fields, what counts as science broadens, which also weakens the quality of work.
Imagine next week it is mandated that all Americans must become research physicists. Perhaps this duty is discovered by the Supreme Court, a body which decides what the law means absolutely and beyond which there is no appeal. What would happen to physics as a field?
It would be destroyed.
Firstly, the publishing requirements would be an undue burden on infants: though they be experts on projectile pooping, they are terrible writers.
What’s that you say? No infants as physicists?
If we interpret the Court’s dictum that all means all, which we must, then infants must become physicists. Any other interpretation would be discriminatory—a philosophical truism. All as in all is true democratization.
The only possible reason to exclude infants would be because there is a discriminatory suspicion that this class of people are unable to perform as physicists. Not only that, but there would be the discriminatory belief that this class of individuals could not be trained to do physics, no matter what resources were thrown at the problem. Excluding infants is therefore undemocratic and discriminatory.
This is a proof, not an opinion.
Once the suspicions that some are unable and unteachable are allowed a foothold, it begins to be applied in practice, which destroys true democracy. Further, the suspicion is against the theory of Equality, which insists that all—we’re using this word in our now accepted sense—are equal in potential, and lack only the proper resources to be equal in fact. It is the theory of Equality from which the desire of democratization comes.
Physics, like music, does not necessarily require an education. Prodigies exist. And if and since they exist, it could only be, says Equality, because the resources present for these individuals were sufficient to produce them. If these same resources were given to others (in their nascent states), new prodigies would be created.
All right. Enough fooling around. Everybody knows infants cannot be physicists: everybody is happy discriminating against infants and against those who manifest no abilities to do physics. Everybody also knows, therefore, that Equality is false; though the powerful desire that it be true leads people to believe Equality to be true when they know it is false. That disordered state of mind is what causes the call for democratization, creates a horror at the thought of discrimination, while still believing quality can be maintained.
Two centuries ago, physics was done only by a handful of men, when it wasn’t so much a profession as an avocation. Only men of the highest intelligence, talent, and interest participated. Progress was slow because of the low numbers of working physicists, but also because physics did not then have a firm base upon which to build. Beginnings are the hardest.
It was realized that if there was to be sufficient progress, more people would have to be brought in. Recruits were sought, but the winnowing process was brutal. Physics was still an exclusive club, one with onerous membership requirements. Great strides were made. The quantum revolution began.
Things continued in this vein, with only a gradual democratization caused by the idea that a greater proportion of people should go to college. More colleges required more credentialed professors. Credentials also began its own democratization at this point.
And then, one quiet day, came a flood of money from our beneficent Uncle. Nay, a tsunami, an inexorable swelling of funds which none could hold back and which swept all before it. Inside physics, groups and factions formed which clamored after this largess. Politics started consuming more time of the working physicist. The money caused the number of physicists to swell.
Many wonderful things were discovered. But with these good things came the inevitable: the increase of the useless, trivial, and even false. Physicists must publish, both to secure a career and as a requisite for the government moola. Journals, which had been few in number and which contained worthy material read by all, began having progeny to accommodate the increased number of papers. The inbreeding led to inevitable mutations. Nobody “read everything” anymore, nor could.
Some called this trend “specialization”. Sometimes this was necessary, because certain narrow problems had to be solved before work could be carried forward. But it became more and more common that specialization was caused by people needing something to do. The money had to be spent.
The scent of green attracted not only physicists, but also the politically minded. In the spirit of democratization, who was doing the physics became as important as what physics was being done. Headcounts were made, and, oh my!, look at all those white men!
The pressure for democratization increased when “disparities” were noticed, a circular argument. The political forces told the money men in Washington that they were being watched. The groups and factions of physicists asking for this money knew what o’clock it was, and so committees to “address the problem” were formed. Segregation began when members from “under-represented” groups peeled off on their own at major physics meetings. Lamentations over the “disparities” in top journals appeared. Sober heads nodded. There was even tsk-tsk-ing in the rank and file.
It was recognized that in order to boost numbers to meet the unofficial-official quotas, what counted as good physics had to be broadened. There was an easing up in the requirements. Soon, talking about physics counted as doing physics. Then talking about talking about physics counted, which is to say, talking about feelings about talking about physics counted. Tiny tweaks at the edges of old and tired subjects were proffered at greater rates.
And then came Bill Nye. Watching that democratized Science video above, a user on Twitter wrote, “I wrote my suicide note when I watched this.” Get used to it.
So here we are. There are other forces at work beside democratization, of course. The need to publish causes physicists to spread their work as thin as a lone pat of butter over a loaf of bread. The need to slog through the resultant wealth of material and need to gain money slows progress. Physics is bumping up against metaphysics in places, which is causing confusion because of the lack of knowledge of the latter. Careerism and the hint of fame leads to more frequent cheating.
The situation is far from lost. There are still robust islands of elitism; and islands they have to be, else the democratization hordes would soon invade and impose quotas. Two problems. One, the attempted quantification of the elitism, an impossible thing to quantify, is used in place of actual elitism to make decisions. This relieves leaders of their duties of making decisions. “Impact factors”, anyone? (A particularly bad joke in physics, where impact used to have a physical meaning.)
Two, peer review. Yes, peer review stops rotten papers from appearing in this journal—but not that one, where the “peers” are not as discriminating. But mostly peer review guarantees conformity and mediocrity. Further, every elite physicist knows this. It is all they can do to stop themselves from bursting out in laughter when they hear a civilian offer a touching and teary eyed paean to peer review. Marginal and poor physicists rely on peer review to ensure existence of publishing cliques.
Still, there are islands of elitism. The newer a field is, the more likely we are to find these islands. Novelty distracts attention. Of course, everything said about physics applies with equal or greater force to every other scientific field. Some disciplines, as all know, have become so corrupt by the poison of democratization, they are no longer sciences, but mere branches of politics. Anthropology, for instance, with sociology coming in a tight second. (Not coincidentally, the closer the field is to the study of human behavior, the quicker it will become democratized.)
So much for the diagnosis. What about the treatment?
There is none. Well, prayer is a decent inoculation for those who will have it. Isolation from the contagion is medically sound. But, as time passes, the places where the mountains are high and the emperor far away disappear. Those “fighting for” democratization are puritans to an extreme degree; they continuously seek out heresy; they are full of terrible energy.
Prognosis? Except for odd archipelago and a few rare and robust individuals, death, ultimately. Democratization is a great leveler. Areas which are of service to the politics of the moment will be allowed a form of elitism, but it will be kept as hidden as possible.
Since the outcome cannot be avoided, some fun can be had in forecasting time of death. Physics will hold out longer than biology, which itself will last longer than medicine. The harder the area, the more elite it is, the longer it will last. Death has arrived when, pace Anthropology, a majority of practitioners in the field avow a goal of social justice (or the like).
Linearity is a dangerous thing. It may look, if you squint, that democratization has been (within a field) linear. Don’t squint. When the end nears, non-linearity strikes; acceleration kicks in. This makes it harder to prognosticate. But who said things should be easy?
What are your timelines?
If you put anything more than a century for any field, or are feeling too sanguine, here is the complete video from the new Bill Nye Science show. “That’s exactly the right message, Rachel.” Oh, it is, it is.
Organizers lit the fuse of what they thought was going to be an enormous stick of dynamite. Wait until you hear the boom, honey! But what they got was tiny pop from a damp ladyfinger.
Pop. No exclamation mark.
The Independent quoted some guy called Peter Lipke, who said, “I’m a science professor.” This prepped the reader, signalling some solid science was on its way. Lipke continued, “The current administration has shown complete disregard for facts and the truth.”
In the same Vox picture, a plain-looking woman is holding the sign, “Your global warming can’t melt this Snowflake.”
She’s right, you know. Given global-warming-of-doom has failed to materialize as predicted (over and over and over again), very few snowflakes are being melted.
Vox never disappoints. They checked the “fatuous” box by quoting a sociologist who “studies protest movements”, and she said—are you ready for more science?—“Protest is also an opportunity to create what we call ‘collective identity.'”
Who knew? I mean, who knew scientists were so smart?
Time magazine kindly supplied a video of high-pitched, ear-grating woo-wooing protesters (I still say the DOD was wrong to reject my proposal to weaponize the female protester voice). One guy held the sign, “Climate change cannot be undone by tweeting.” But it can be by holding up an idiotic sign?
More than one person had a sign or that read “Science is not a liberal conspiracy.” Yeah? What would make people think it was? Maybe all those liberal political signs? Like the one with a picture of Hillary which read, “She probably would have blinded me with Science.” No, that would have been the bursts of EM from the atomic bombs.
Science does not yet have an explanation why this lady has so many teeth.
Tweet: “That millions feel they must march to show solidarity with the truth, reason and evidence is not particularly reassuring.” No, it isn’t. How could these marchers have been so easily fooled?
An ugly woman with, “My science prevents STDs when grabbing p***y”. Chastity does even better.