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Today, work went a little late, and I’m frazzled.

So, instead of doing a regular blog post, I give you thing:


A link to an article on credentialism from the left instead of the right-ish for once.

I’ll admit its conclusion is rather disappointing.  Complicated and sclerotic credentialism systems have risen and fallen several times in history, in different times and places, but never by the kind of action the author here suggests.

His ideas are part and parcel of the thing that drives me crazy about movements like Occupy–quixotic, symbolic, and based on nothing like reality.

But I do think our own complicated and sclerotic credentialism system will crash and burn, and possibly sooner rather than later–because it’s so expensive it cannot sustain itself, because the underlying racism and classism built into it cannot be ignored forever, because it is in fact connected to no reality of skills acquired or needed by anybody.

But I also think it’s going to crash and burn because of things like–

Well, the first is an article by Chris Mooney in the May-June issue of Skeptical Inquirer.  I’d post a link, but it’s not up yet.  It will probably be up by next month.

It is, you know, one of those things.  There are a lot of them–anybody who is not a progressive is authoritarian, uncomfortable with change and ambiguity, and blah and blah and blah.

Mostly, I wouldn’t even mention it.  We’ve all seen “progressives” and “liberals” shoot themselves in the foot in that particular way literally dozens of times.

This article, though, is absolutely remarkable as a tsunami of sheer smug complacency and self regard, to the point where I began to wonder if Mooney and all the editors who okayed this might be on some kind of psychotropic drug.

In terms of wrongheaded stupidity, however, it pales in comparison to a letter writted to the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s publication Freethought Today a couple of months ago.

FT puts only selected articles from its issue up online, and none of those articles included the mail. 

Which is unfortunate, because this thing was an incredible performance. 

First, the writer said, nobody should be allowed to pronounce on scientific questions except those people who belong to the scientific societies (like the American Academy of Sciences).  Then, nobody should be allowed to belong to the scientific societies except those people who accept the scientific consensus on evolution and climate change.

Take a look at it.

Science as religious dogma. 

And I’ll absolutely guarantee that this guy had no idea what he’d done.

But, of course, according to Mooney, this is one of those people who–being politically progressive and atheist to boot–is comfortable with change and ambiguity and rejects authoritarianism.

A system that produces these two things is not engaged in education in any sense of the word I understand.  It’s not even engaged in indoctrination.

Its sole purpose seems to be to insulate its members from any possibility that the might get onto themselves.

I’m reading, at the moment, the first volume of Perry Miller’s famous The New England Mind.

At the moment, the Puritans are looking more flexible, open-minded and comfortable with complexity and ambiguity than any of this nonsense.

I have to go back to scanning things and sending them out.

Written by janeh

June 22nd, 2012 at 9:56 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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  1. Just a thought about scientific consensus. Back when I was in graduate school studying Physics, we were told “Half the things we’re teaching you will turn out to be wrong in 10 years.”

    I’m going to list some of the major changes in Physics since 1950.

    Conservation of Parity disproved (it was supposed to be a self evident fundamental law of nature)

    The quark theory introduced. It changed a large number of elementary particles to compound particles and abandoned the “law” that electric charge was always an integer multiple of the electron charge.

    The idea of one neutrino with 0 mass has been replaced by three neutrinos all of which have mass.

    Dark matter and dark energy have been discovered. It is now considered that the stars and dust we can see account for only 4% of the energy in the universe.

    in 1950, it was known that the universe is expanding and it was believed that the expansion was slowing. It is now believed that the expansion is getting faster.

    I do not favor the idea that membership in an academy should be restricted to people who accept a particular consensus!


    22 Jun 12 at 7:45 pm

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