Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Academic Policing Act

The conservatives are at it again. Since science and reason don't support their political positions, conservatives are strongly anti-intellectual. God forbid the average American should learn the facts!

Today, they propose variants of a bill that I like to call the Academic Policing Act. They call it an "academic bill of rights," but, in standard Orwellian fashion, they really mean the reverse. The bill would limit the freedom of college professors to speak their minds, and creates new quota/affirmative action programs for right-wing ideologues who want to teach at university.

In Ohio, the state legislature is considering such a bill. The Ohio proposal would prohibit public and private college professors from presenting opinions as fact, and prohibit professors from introducing "controversial material unrelated to the course."

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Larry Mumper, questioned why lawmakers should approve funding for universities with "professors who would send some students out in the world to vote against the very public policy that their parents have elected us for." [emphasis added]

Hmmm. Let me see. Who will decide for students what constitutes controversial material, what facts are just opinions, and what subject matter should be regarded as relevant? Could it be... the same people who think Jesus was a philosopher?*

Not only is this this bill an attempt to politicize higher education, it is also hypocritical. Conservatives rail against government intervention in the lives of citizens, and whine at the slightest government regulation of business. Indeed, traditional conservatives would argue that if a business behaves in a manner in which you don't approve, go to the competition or start your own business. The Academic Policing Act shows that these neo-con hypocrites are all too happy to regulate when it helps them hold on to political power.

I suggest, in true conservative spirit, that Ohio right-wingers (and nutters like David Horowitz) start their own universities. Such universities will teach (with a straight face, presumably) alternative viewpoints, e.g., that the Earth is flat, that God made girls from sugar and spice, and that the true symbol of morality is the dollar sign. The parents who send their sons and daughters to such institutions had better hire their kids when they graduate because no one else will.

*Dear President Bush, I know it's hard work, but crack a book, Dude. Start with the New Testament, if you like, and see why literally none of your policies is consistent with the spirit of that book. Then, try to understand why Jesus was not a philosopher. Thank you. Signed, Your Punching Bag, Doctor Logic.


Nevin ":-)" said...

I find all the religion bashing arguments to be rather weak.

Do you suspect the work of scientists if they believe in G-d? Why or why not?

Was the "cold fusion" debacle due to being blinded by religion, or were the more usual suspects (greed, fame, etc.) at work here?

Doctor Logic said...

What religion bashing arguments? I don't think that there are any reasonable religious positions under attack here. I do revel in my critique of those who are negligent, thoughtless and manipulative in their pursuit and exploitation of faith. When Bush says his favorite philosopher is Jesus Christ, he's not making a cogent philosophical observation (nor a true one). He's trying to manipulate religious voters.

I rate the quality of a scientific endeavor on the merits and insightfulness of the research product. However, any scientific paper that relies on the supernatural for either its motivation or conclusions is either suspect or preposterous, respectively.

The work of the typical scientist does not even rely on a deep understanding of the scientific logic. If one is a researcher of, say, condensed matter physics, one's faith or lack thereof is unlikely to have any impact whatsoever on one's work. One can easily be part of the process, part of the scientific community without conflict of interest.

I don't care if a person believes in Bigfoot* and the Loch Ness monster; as long as that person performs his or her professional duties with integrity, it's okay by me. By this criteria, I find it difficult to think of any major vocation that should be off-limits to a person of faith. That said, business and religious ventures posing as science or as some other legitimate social enterprise should be exposed for the frauds they are.

To my knowledge, the Cold Fusion debacle had nothing to do with religion. There are multiple causes of bad science. There will be individuals and small groups who make mistakes or who try to cheat. The Cold Fusion case shows that the scientific process works. Pons and Fleischman, and their research, have been discredited.

Recent efforts to put creationism in public schools and put business representatives on government advisory committees is an organized attempt by religionists and business interests to subvert science in general. The scientific community may be self-correcting, but if we don't defend our enlightenment values, anti-intellectual conservatives will either destroy science or ensure that science serves only their interests.

*My wife insists I give Bigfoot the respect he deserves. I have, therefore, capitalized his name.

Peg said...

State "intervened" education has been implemented since the FDR era and has wormed its way every since! This is not new news that such policies should infiltrate into the college level since it too has been "branded" and infiltrated in the early 60's.

What should be taught? Should opinion be taught as fact...but fact is fact and opinion is opinion.

The government intervention in schools needs to abruptly put to a halt, but the problem is you go to a "state funded" college you have allowed the STATE to mandate the curriculum! Amazingly the catch twenty-two philosophy rides high...You are the taxpayer of the state mandated school and yet you as the taxpayer have to succumb to what the state mandates...Irony of all ironys!
Change the tax system, change the school...
But the opinion as fact and fact as opinion thing has me a little baffled!