Thursday, February 09, 2006

No debate. No question.

A bit late with this one. I haven't been keeping up with Dorothy King. My loss.

She writes about places where you can only think one way; you can only say certain things; your support and opposition must be entirely predictable. Do not question. Our universities.

A documentary by Evan Maloney, Brainwashing 101, has demonstrated how unwelcome anyone with non-leftwing views is made to feel in US universities these days - one professor was told she would not have been hired had they known she was a Republican. Leftwing anthropologists outnumber rightwing ones 30-to-one in US universities; with politics professors the ratio is almost seven to one. We are rapidly moving towards the one-party campus, and universities where you can only belong to the left are as dangerous as those where you could only belong to the Nazi party.

Ecology is a prime example of a field in which extremism rules. Anyone who questions the doomsday scenarios is labelled ignorant. Bjorn Lomborg, a leftwing Danish professor, set his students a project - to check the facts of a writer who had argued against the likelihood of ecological apocalypse. Mr Lomborg was shocked to discover that many ecological theories were based on estimates rather than statistics, and went on to write his book The Sceptical Environmentalist. Still an environmentalist by any assessment, he is now reviled for having pointed out that the Earth is not about to self-destruct next week. Worse, he gathered a group (including three Nobel laureates) to form the Copenhagen Consensus, which argues that fighting disease is more important than implementing the Kyoto protocol. When his research and statistics stood up to every onslaught, he became the subject of personal attacks.
She also speaks about the DDT ban, the promotion of generic drugs in the Third World, and the link between cancer and the pill. On the last.
I mentioned the theory of a possible link between hormones, oral contraception and cervical cancer at the dinner and was screamed at by an American academic: apparently I risked setting back women's rights 100 years. Her idea of debate was to throw bread in my direction and to refuse to listen to contrary arguments. An ardent feminist, she thought she could help women with cervical cancer by yelling.

The people present that evening were all very intelligent, but they questioned surprisingly little. Just expressing the "right" opinions gave them a sense of moral superiority. If such people are shaping our future, we're in trouble. If we stifle debate - from the left or the right - we are no better than totalitarian regimes such as the Nazis.
Does this remind you of another topic in the smoke-filled air at the moment to do with Danes and cartoons, though the representatives of Right Thinking in this case are not throwing bread?

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