Scientists are supposed to follow the evidence. But what happens when they prefer established dogma? Let me tell you about a fascinating article in National Geographic.
Imagine one of the world’s most dramatic landscapes—sixteen thousand square miles of canyons, channels, waterfalls (one of them ten times the size of Niagara)—now all completely dry. What you’re imagining is the Channeled Scablands of eastern Washington State, a breathtaking memorial to one of the largest floods in Earth’s history.
— Washington Channeled Scablands (Wikimedia Commons Image)
But writing in National Geographic, Michael Hodges recounts how, when a high school teacher came to that obvious conclusion in 1909, he was laughed out of the room by the scientific community.
Looking across the aptly-named Scablands today, it’s easy to see why 27-year-old Harley Bretz, who had no formal training in geology at the time, saw the work of a flood. But a century ago, earth science was locked in the dogma of Charles Lyell’s 1830 text, “Principles of Geology.” Lyell taught that changes in the Earth’s rocks and soil are the product of “processes now in operation,” steadily eating at the landscape over millions of years. This theory was a crucial underpinning to Charles Darwin’s work, published just a few years later.
Lyell’s uniformitarian ideas had gained such acceptance that when Bretz presented his findings about the great flood of Washington State to geologists in the nation’s capital, he received the closest thing they could give to a flogging.
These scientists, none of whom had ever visited the Scablands, called Bretz’s hypothesis “wholly inadequate,” “preposterous,” and “incompetent.” Despite taking the time to earn his Ph.D. before publishing his theory, this high-school teacher-turned-rock-hound became a laughing stock among his peers for propounding what amounted to “geological heresy.”
“It didn’t matter how meticulous Bretz’s research was, or how sound his reasoning might be,” Hodges explains. “He seemed to be advocating a return to geology’s dark ages” when benighted buffoons explained landscapes like the Scablands as the result of the biblical Flood.
Of course, scientists now agree that Bretz was right. During peak glaciation, a wall of ice thousands of feet high dammed up the Clark Fork River, creating Glacial Lake Missoula, a body of water twice the size of Rhode Island. When the glacier retreated and the dam broke, it unleashed one of the biggest torrents in history—a flood raging across the Columbia Plateau to the Pacific Ocean, carrying more water than all of the world’s rivers combined. This flood or series of floods carved the now-dry canyons, cliffs, and waterfalls that awed Bretz and puzzled his sadly misinformed critics.
“With the flood story in mind, it all seems so obvious,” writes Hodges. “It’s almost impossible to see the terrain and not see the floodwaters that shaped it. Why, then, were the experts in Bretz’s day so blind…?”
Well because, as National Geographic concludes without a hint of irony, “scientists are first and foremost human beings [who’re] loathe to change their theories or their minds because of mere data.” In fact, many critics of the great Washington flood carried their doubts to their graves, and it took decades for this plain fact to gain widespread acceptance in the scientific community.
Now why does this sound so familiar? Is there perhaps another theory that comes to mind which modern scientists are unwilling to question—a theory whose most lucid critics are laughed out of the room and called names?
There is. It’s called Darwinism. And scientists who dare to question it point to astonishing evidence from biology, astronomy, and geology that suggests an intelligence behind life in all of its complexity. But like Bretz, they’re usually dismissed. And because scientists are human, first and foremost, heretics who question Darwin, like those who questioned Lyell, may have to await vindication by future generations. Ironically, evidence—even a deluge of it—can take a long time to erode dogma.
John Stonestreet is President of The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview andco-host of the daily radio commentary, BreakPoint.
CLICK HERE to see the article from National Geographic Magazine
College Campus Disgrace
"Americans should not allow what is going on at college campuses to continue."
While college administrators and professors accept disgraceful behavior, we as taxpayers, donors and parents should not foot the bill. Let's look at some of that behavior.
A University of Washington Tacoma Writing Center press release told students that expecting Americans to use proper grammar perpetuates racism. The University of Nebraska Omaha will host a workshop for "anti-racist allies" to develop "action plans" that confront America's "foundation of systemic oppression" in the context of "the current political climate." The workshop was inspired by professor Tammie Kennedy's recent book, titled "Rhetorics of Whiteness." She will lead a discussion on "taking action against white supremacy."
Black students at the University of Michigan demand campus officials provide them with "a permanent designated space on central campus for Black students and students of color to organize and do social justice work."
Bob Lange is an associate professor emeritus of physics and an adjunct associate professor at Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy and Management. He says, "It is not terrorism to kill representatives of a government that you are opposed to." His remarks were reported by Canary Mission, a group of students who document people and groups who are promoting hatred of the USA, Israel and the Jewish people, particularly on American college campuses. It reports that Lange maintained that the 2012 terrorist attacks on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya — which killed four people and injured 10 others — were "not terrorism."
Orange Coast College suspended Caleb O'Neil for violating an obscure school policy against recording classroom lectures. It's what he recorded that was disturbing to the college administration. He recorded a human sexuality professor, Olga Perez Stable Cox, spending class time telling her students that Donald Trump's election was an "act of terrorism" because he is a "white supremacist" and Vice President Mike Pence "is one of the most anti-gay humans in this country." Additionally, the professor asked all of the Trump supporters in the classroom to stand up and be accounted for. In a relatively rare incidence of the education establishment's doing the right thing, the Coast Community College District's board of trustees overrode the college president and rescinded O'Neil's suspension and other sanctions. What the board did not do was to sanction Cox for being a thug and bullying her students.
Commentator Dennis Prager recently wrote a column titled "Why Professors Object to Being Recorded." Prager says: "Our colleges and universities (and an increasing number of high schools and elementary schools) have been transformed from educational institutions into indoctrination institutions. With the left-wing takeover of universities, their primary aim has become graduating as many leftists as possible." He adds: "Most professors objecting to being recorded know on some level that they are persuasive only when their audience is composed largely of very young people just out of high school. They know that if their ideas are exposed to adults, they may be revealed as intellectual lightweights." These professors know that they are persuasive only when their audience is composed of very young people with minds full of mush. If their ideas are exposed to more mature adults, they will be seen as quacks, hustlers and charlatans.
By the way, I've taught graduate and undergraduate economic theory for 36 years at George Mason University. At the beginning of each semester, I invite students to record my lectures. I have no idea who has listened to the lectures or where the recordings wind up. But I challenge anyone to find a lecture in which I proselytized students to my political or personal values. While professorial proselytization is accepted at most universities, I believe that to use one's classroom to push one's personal beliefs, particularly on immature students, is both immoral and academic dishonesty.
What's going on at the nation's colleges represents a threat to both liberty and academic excellence. It is a gross dereliction of duty for legislators, donors and decent Americans to allow it to continue.
Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University
We progressives believe in diversity, and we want women, blacks,
Latinos, gays and Muslims at the table — er, so long as they aren’t
conservatives. Universities are the bedrock of progressive values, but the one
kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological and religious.
We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.
O.K., that’s a little harsh. But
consider George Yancey, a sociologist who is black and evangelical. “Outside of
academia I faced more problems as a black,” he told me. “But inside academia I
face more problems as a Christian, and it is not even close.”
The stakes involve not just
fairness to conservatives or evangelical Christians, not just whether progressives
will be true to their own values, not just the benefits that come from
diversity (and diversity of thought is arguably among the most important
kinds), but also the quality of education itself. When perspectives are
unrepresented in discussions, when some kinds of thinkers aren’t at the table,
classrooms become echo chambers rather than sounding boards — and we all lose.
Four studies found that the
proportion of professors in the humanities who are Republicans ranges between 6
and 11 percent, and in the social sciences between 7 and 9 percent.
Conservatives can be spotted in the sciences and in economics, but they are
virtually an endangered species in fields like anthropology, sociology, history
and literature. One study found that only 2 percent of English professors are
Republicans (although a large share are independents).
In contrast, some 18 percent of
social scientists say they are Marxist. So it’s easier to find a Marxist in
some disciplines than a Republican. George Yancey, a sociology professor, says
he has faced many problems in life because he is black, “but inside academia I
face more problems as a Christian, and it is not even close.”
This bias on campuses creates
liberal privilege. A friend is studying for the Law School Admission Test, and
the test preparation company she is using offers test-takers a tip: Reading
comprehension questions will typically have a liberal slant and a liberal
Some liberals think that
right-wingers self-select away from academic paths in part because they are
money-grubbers who prefer more lucrative professions. But that doesn’t explain
why there are conservative math professors but not many right-wing anthropologists.
It’s also liberal poppycock that
there aren’t smart conservatives or evangelicals. Richard Posner is a
more-or-less conservative who is the most cited legal scholar of all time. With
her experience and intellect, Condoleezza Rice would enhance any political science
department. Francis Collins is an evangelical Christian and famed geneticist
who has led the Human Genome Project and the National Institutes of Health. And
if you’re saying that conservatives may be tolerable, but evangelical
Christians aren’t — well, are you really saying you would have discriminated
against the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.?
Should universities offer
affirmative action for conservatives and evangelicals? I don’t think so, partly
because surveys find that conservative scholars themselves oppose the idea. But
it’s important to have a frank discussion on campuses about ideological diversity.
To me, this seems a liberal blind spot.
Universities should be a hubbub of the full range of
political perspectives from A to Z, not just from V to Z. So maybe we
progressives could take a brief break from attacking the other side and more
broadly incorporate values that we supposedly cherish — like diversity — in our
This is an excerpt. Click Here to see the full column as it appeared in The New York Times.
Darwinian Evolutionary Theory Is Under Siege, Intelligent Design Notwithstanding
By David Klinghoffer
let anyone tell you the evolutionary paradigm isn’t in serious turmoil.
Just in time for DNA Day ... Science
Magazine announced (April 25, 2016) an $8.7 million project by the
Templeton Foundation seeking an “evolution rethink.” I’m trying to think of the
last time I heard Science reporting on support for a “gravity rethink,” or a “heliocentrism
rethink.” The gist of it:
“For many evolutionary biologists, nothing gets their dander
up faster than proposing that evolution is anything other than the process of
natural selection, acting on random mutations. Suggestions that something is
missing from that picture — for example, that evolution is somehow directed or
that genetic changes can’t fully explain it — play into the hands of
creationists, who leap on them as evidence against evolution itself.”
Oh, those dreaded “creationists” and evolution deniers.
“No wonder some evolutionary biologists are uneasy with an
$8.7 million grant to U.K., Swedish, and U.S. researchers for experimental and
theoretical work intended to put a revisionist view of evolution, the so-called
extended evolutionary synthesis, on a sounder footing. Using a variety of
plants, animals, and microbes, the researchers will study the possibility that
organisms can influence their own evolution and that inheritance can take place
through routes other than the genetic material.”
Whatever the outcome, the news has yanked Jerry Coyne’s
chain. He complains in the article:
“Evolutionary biologists shouldn’t accept its money, says
Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago in
Illinois, who has been a persistent critic of the foundation for linking science
and religion. ‘It really slants the way science is done,’ he told Science.”
“Some prominent evolutionary biologists have pushed back
against this seeming rebellion. ‘It’s a mixture of old ideas that aren’t novel
and reasonable ideas that haven’t been shown to be of any importance,’ Coyne
says. He and others insist that evolutionary biology has already incorporated
some of these ideas or is in the process of doing so — meaning no ‘extension’
The scope is impressive — “49 researchers from different
fields and ... 22 interconnected projects across eight institutions.” Coyne’s
dyspeptic reaction gives you an idea of what a huge deal this is.
Oh, so you want to dismiss Templeton because its perspective
isn’t rigidly materialist enough? They aren’t the only ones “rethinking”
Neo-Darwinism. This coming November, the Royal Society plans a conference on “New
trends in evolutionary biology: biological, philosophical and social science
perspectives.” Despite the subdued title — reflecting British understatement,
perhaps — this is more big news, a gathering of major mainstream voices from
the world of biology and other fields to hash out the merits of the call for a
Third Way for evolution — not classic Darwinism, not intelligent design, but
something ... else:
“Scientific discussion meeting organised in
partnership with the British Academy by Professor Denis Noble CBE FMedSci FRS,
Professor Nancy Cartwright, Sir Patrick Bateson FRS, Professor John Dupré and
Professor Kevin Laland.
“Developments in evolutionary biology and adjacent fields have produced
calls for revision of the standard theory of evolution, although the issues
involved remain hotly contested. This meeting will present these developments
and arguments in a form that will encourage cross-disciplinary discussion and,
in particular, involve the humanities and social sciences in order to provide
further analytical perspectives and explore the social and philosophical
When it comes to “hotly contesting” the “standard theory of
evolution,” the timing couldn’t be better. Today we are celebrating two
significant anniversaries — that of the description of the structure of the DNA
molecule by Watson and Crick (DNA Day 2016) (they published on April 25, 1953),
and the fiftieth anniversary of the Wistar Institute conference on “Mathematical
Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution.”
Note the conference’s title. It wasn’t about “rejecting” or “denying”
evolution but searching for a justified interpretation of the agreed scientific
evidence. The Philadelphia meeting, spurred on by MIT’s Murray Eden and
planting a seed for what would become the modern ID movement, which offers its
own positive interpretation, convened on April 25-26, 1966.
If you’ll forgive a morbid metaphor, Wistar was like the
ominous spot first seen on the X-ray of a vital organ — the beginning of the
end for unguided Darwinian processes as the sole, satisfactory explanation of
how complex biological features evolve.
Intelligent design, obviously, is one source of the
current challenge to Darwinism, but it’s only one source. You could erase ID
advocates entirely from the battle map, and Darwinian theory would still be
under siege. Evolution’s smug cultists are in denial about that, but it’s true.
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute
in Seattle and Editor of Evolution News
Click here to see the article as it originally appeared at CNS News.
Wise Words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with
no morals. … We must remember that intelligence is not enough.
Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education. The
complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy
objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will,
therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the
race but also the accumulated experience of social living. If we are not
careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded,
unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be
careful, 'brethren!' Be careful, teachers!"
Major Universities Don't Teach: They Indoctrinate
By Dennis Prager
Two weeks ago, the Columbia University newspaper, the Spectator, published an article titled "Students, faculty address institutionalized racism at University Life event." As described in the article, one example of the institutionalized racism that black Columbia students must endure is the university's Core Curriculum.
In the words of one of the panelists, fifth-year undergraduate student Nissy Aya, a young black woman, "It's traumatizing to sit in Core classes. We are looking at history through the lens of these powerful, white men. I have no power or agency as a black woman, so where do I fit in?"
Her words are worthy of analysis and response. First, they provide a fine example of how successfully universities have indoctrinated students with leftist ideas and rhetoric. For example, who, outside of academia, ever uses the word "agency" as she did? Did you ever say to anyone that you have or don't have "agency?"
This is not trivial. When people use words or terms that are used in only one setting, it means that that setting has profoundly influenced them and that the setting is a closed intellectual universe.
Her use of the word "traumatizing" is also a product of indoctrination. Columbia taught this young woman to be traumatized by its own Core Curriculum. Some things — war, torture and the murder of a loved one, for example — are objectively traumatizing. No one is taught to be traumatized by such things.
But a university curriculum that attempts to convey the finest ideas and art developed in Western culture, and often in the entire world, and which has been taught to tens of thousands of students of all backgrounds for nine decades — that should not constitute a trauma.
The notion that she is "looking at history through the lens of these powerful, white men" means that race trumps profundity, wisdom, beauty and excellence.
Thus, Shakespeare is not the greatest playwright we know of, he is just a white European (and male, to boot). Likewise Beethoven, Bach and other Western composers did not compose what is arguably the greatest music ever composed; they, too, were first and foremost white.
Whereas the Columbia Core Curriculum originally set out to teach the history of the West and the best art and literature that has been produced, the left has succeeded in teaching that no art is better than any other.
It has done so by substituting race, gender and class for wisdom, beauty and profundity, and through its doctrine of multiculturalism, which asserts that all cultures are equal.
And how did Columbia respond to Aya?
Roosevelt Montas, director of the Center for the Core Curriculum, said: "You cannot grow up in a society without assimilating racist views. Part of what is exciting about this conversation is that it's issuing accountability for us to look within ourselves and try to understand the way that racism shapes how we see the world and our institutions."
And, according to the Spectator, Suzanne Goldberg, executive vice president for University Life, "added that in addition to meeting with students, the Office of University Life is convening a task force of students, administrators and faculty to further explore issues of diversity on campus."
In other words, instead of defending the pursuit of wisdom and human greatness, Columbia sided with Aya and all the other students lamenting the "institutionalized racism" and resultant traumas endured by non-white students at the university.
At an actual learning institution, rather than at the left-wing seminary Columbia and nearly all other American universities have become, administrators would have told Aya that if she has really been traumatized by the Columbia Core Curriculum, she stands little chance of navigating any of the inevitable vicissitudes of real life because she has opted to remain a child, and therefore woefully unprepared for adulthood.
At a real university, administrators would have also told her and all the other "traumatized" students of all colors and backgrounds, that by using the word "traumatized" they have trivialized the suffering of all those individuals the world over who really have been traumatized.
But of course any administrator who said something so honest would be labeled racist by faculty and students at that university, the New York Times, Hillary Clinton, MSNBC and the rest of the American left.
After all, in their view, if you think students should concentrate on studying Bach, Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci, you are depriving black students of their agency. Is that not clear?
CLICK HERE to see the article as it originally appeared, 12/1/15, at Investor's Business Daily.
By Jarrett Stepman
It seems communism is back in vogue at the New York Times. A sad but common issue in the modern West is that progressives have created a fanciful and distorted picture of socialism to make it seem like an intriguing alternative to American-style capitalism. Ikea socialism—with Sweden as the model—is an utterly distorted, but at least understandable, example for leftists to trot out as a demonstration of success. And it’s even a bit amusing how they try to dance around the fact that Venezuela—which is utterly collapsing and egregiously abusing human rights—is a socialist country they praised just 10 years ago. But the New York Times now has actually found a way to create fanciful notions of Soviet-style authoritarianism—and whimsical tales of its influence in America—in a new section dedicated to the “Red Century,” which explores “the history and legacy of communism, 100 years after the Russian Revolution.”
While some of the pieces explore the horrors and failures of communist rule, others delve into topics that would seem funny if the subject matter weren’t so horrifying. For instance, the Times ran what can aptly be described as a “puff piece” on Vladimir Lenin, the man who led the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and is linked to the death and murder of millions of people. The article, titled “Lenin’s Eco-Warriors,” paints the man as some kind of Siberian John Muir, and incredibly concludes that leaving “landscapes on this planet where humans do not tread” was the Soviet dictator’s “legacy.” As absurd as that piece was, the Times managed to outdo itself with another article on, no joke, “Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism.” This piece is an idealized account of how life under an absolutist government could be liberating and possibly a better model for the feminist movement. The author wrote: “Those comrades’ insistence on government intervention may seem heavy-handed to our postmodern sensibilities, but sometimes necessary social change—which soon comes to be seen as the natural order of things—needs an emancipation proclamation from above.” The absurdly romanticized account of life under tyrannical government explains little of the hopelessness of a system where an individual has no hope and no future. These examples certainly weren’t the first, or the worst, instances of the Times engaging in communist revisionism. One of the most egregious examples of “fake news” in the mid-20th century was conducted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Walter Duranty in the 1930s.
Duranty, who was the Times’ Moscow bureau chief, wrote a series of glowing pieces about the USSR’s policies under General Secretary Josef Stalin in 1931. While millions of people were starving in Ukraine, Duranty reported back that things were going swimmingly under the communist regime despite a few bumps in the road. “Enemies and foreign critics can say what they please,” Duranty wrote. “Weaklings and despondents at home may groan under the burden, but the youth and strength of the Russian people is essentially at one with the Kremlin’s program, believes it worthwhile and supports it, however hard be the sledding.” He attacked reports that portrayed the Soviet policies in a negative light as “malignant propaganda.” Though the total number of deaths due to forced starvation in the Holodomor is unknown, estimates are generally at least 3 million from 1932 to 1933. Despite his blatant misreporting, Duranty was never stripped of his Pulitzer and has still been listed on the Times’ honor roll. It would be good on the New York Times if it ran a piece about Duranty’s egregious reporting and disinformation campaign that gave Americans a distorted picture of communist reality, but, alas, that hasn’t happened amid the various fables about socialist “successes.” It may seem easy to dismiss the New York Times accounts as eyerolling fantasies of the left trying to defend a broken ideology, but the danger of this historical revisionism is real.
Dangerous Historical Fantasy
A worrying study sponsored by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that millennials are generally clueless about communism. “Just 37 percent of millennials had a ‘very unfavorable’ view of communism, compared to 57 percent of Americans overall,” according to a Daily Signal report. Perhaps even worse, a full third of millennials say they think that more people were killed under former President George W. Bush than under Stalin. Historical ignorance of communism’s crimes is real, and ultimately dangerous. As the New York Times joins with others to peddle a warped image of what communism is really about, generations that have never witnessed its horror may be lulled into buying the clichéd line that “real communism has never been tried.” As historian Sean McMeekin wrote in his book “The Russian Revolution,” after communism’s “century of well-catalogued disasters … no one should have the excuse of ignorance.” Communist revival is growing in Western countries even as it is nearly extinct in the countries it was tried. This is folly fueled by historical blindness.“Today’s Western socialists, dreaming of a world where private property and inequality are outlawed, where rational economic development is planned by far-seeing intellectuals, should be careful what they wish for,” McMeekin wrote. “They may just get it.”
CLICK HERE to see the article as it appeared at CNS News (Aug. 22, 2017)
Dressed Up as Global Warming
By Walter Williams
“But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact,” said President Barack Obama in his 2014 State of the Union address. Saying the debate is settled is nonsense, but the president is right about climate change. GlobalChange.gov gives the definition of climate change: “Changes in average weather conditions that persist over multiple decades or longer. Climate change encompasses both increases and decreases in temperature, as well as shifts in precipitation, changing risk of certain types of severe weather events, and changes to other features of the climate system.” That definition covers all weather phenomena throughout all 4.54 billion years of Earth’s existence. You say, “Williams, that’s not what the warmers are talking about. It’s the high CO2 levels caused by mankind’s industrial activities that are causing the climate change!” There’s a problem with that reasoning. Today CO2 concentrations worldwide average about 380 parts per million. This level of CO2 concentration is trivial compared with the concentrations during earlier geologic periods. For example, 460 million years ago, during the Ordovician Period, CO2 concentrations were 4,400 ppm, and temperatures then were about the same as they are today. With such high levels of CO2, at least according to the warmers, the Earth should have been boiling. Then there are warmer predictions. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, warmers, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, made all manner of doomsday predictions about global warming and the increased frequency of hurricanes. According to the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, “no Category 3-5 hurricane has struck the United States for a record nine years, and Earth’s temperature has not budged for 18 years.” Climate change predictions have been wrong for decades. Let’s look at some. At the first Earth Day celebration, in 1969, environmentalist Nigel Calder waned, “The threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind.” C.C. Wallen of the World Meteorological Organization said, “The cooling since 1940 has been large enough and consistent enough that it will not soon be reversed.” In 1968, Professor Paul Ehrlich predicted that there would be a major food shortage in the U.S. and that “in the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people (would) starve to death.” Ehrlich forecasted that 65 million Americans would die of starvation between 1980 and 1989 and that by 1999, the U.S. population would have declined to 22.6 million. Ehrlich’s predictions about England were gloomier. He said, “If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.” In 1970, Harvard University biologist George Wald predicted, “Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.” Sen. Gaylord Nelson, in Look magazine in April 1970, said that by 1995, “somewhere between 75 and 85 percent of all the species of living animals (would) be extinct.” Climate change propaganda is simply a ruse for a socialist agenda. Consider the statements of some environmentalist leaders. Christiana Figueres, the U.N.’s chief climate change official, said that her unelected bureaucrats are undertaking “probably the most difficult task” they have ever given themselves, “which is to intentionally transform the (global) economic development model.” In 2010, German economist and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change official Ottmar Edenhofer said, “One must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy.” The article in which that interview appeared summarized Edenhofer’s views this way: “Climate policy has almost nothing to do anymore with environmental protection. … The next world climate summit in Cancun is actually an economy summit during which the distribution of the world’s resources will be negotiated.” The most disgusting aspect of the climate change debate is the statements by many that it’s settled science. There is nothing more anti-scientific than the idea that any science is settled. Very often we find that the half-life of many scientific ideas is about 50 years. For academics to not criticize their colleagues and politicians for suggesting that scientific ideas are not subject to challenge is the height of academic dishonesty.
Dr. Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.
Imagine that you have a product whose price tag for decades rises faster than inflation. But people keep buying it because they’re told that it will make them wealthier in the long run. Then, suddenly, they find it doesn’t. Prices fall sharply, bankruptcies ensue, great institutions disappear. Sound like the housing market? Yes, but it also sounds like what Glenn Reynolds, creator of instapundit.com, writing in The Washington Examiner, has called “the higher education bubble.”
Government-subsidized loans have injected money into higher education, as they did into housing, causing prices to balloon. But at some point people figure out they’re not getting their money’s worth, and the bubble bursts. Some think this would be a good thing. My American Enterprise Institute colleague Charles Murray has called for the abolition of college for almost all students. Save it for genuine scholars, he says, and let others qualify for jobs by standardized national tests, as accountants already do.
“Is our students learning?” George W. Bush once asked, and the evidence for colleges points to no. The National Center for Education Statistics found that most college graduates are below proficiency in verbal and quantitative literacy. University of California scholars Philip Babcock and Mindy Marks report that students these days study an average of 14 hours a week, down from 24 hours in 1961.
The American Council of Alumni and Trustees (ACTA) concluded, after a survey of 714 colleges and universities, “by and large, higher education has abandoned a coherent content-rich general education curriculum.” They aren’t taught the basics of literature, history, or science. ACTA reports that most schools don’t require any foreign language, hardly any require economics, American history and government “are badly neglected,” and schools “have much to do” on math and science.
ACTA’s Website provides the grisly details for each school, together with the amount of tuition. Students and parents can see if they will get their money’s worth. That’s also a goal of Strive for College, which encourages young people of minority backgrounds to go to college. Its Website lets students look up the percentage of similarly situated applicants admitted to each college — and, perhaps more important, the percentage who graduate. Transparency could also undermine the numerous dropout factories, public and private, described and listed by the liberal Washington Monthly. More than 90 percent of students there never graduate, but most end up with student loan debt.
Increasing transparency is hitting higher education at the same time it is getting squeezed financially. Universities have seen their endowments plunge as the stock market fell and they got stuck with illiquid investments. State governments have raised tuition at public schools, but budgets have declined. Competition from for-profit universities, with curricula oriented to job opportunities, has been increasing. ....
As often happens, success leads to excess. America leads the world in higher education, yet there is much in our colleges and universities that is amiss and, more to the point, suddenly not sustainable. The people running America’s colleges and universities have long thought they were exempt from the laws of supply and demand and unaffected by the business cycle. Turns out that’s wrong.
The American education system focuses more on politically correct crusades than intellectually correct arguments. A woman with a petition went among the crowds attending a state fair, asking people to sign her petition demanding the banning of dihydroxymonoxide. She said it was in our lakes and streams, and now it was in our sweat and urine and tears.
She collected hundreds of signatures to ban dihydroxymonoxide — a fancy chemical name for water. A couple of comedians were behind this ploy. But there is nothing funny about its implications. It is one of the grim and dangerous signs of our times.
This little episode revealed how conditioned we have become, responding like Pavlov’s dog when we hear a certain sound — in this case, the sound of some politically correct crusade.
People are all born ignorant but they are not born stupid. Much of the stupidity we see today is induced by our educational system, from the elementary schools to the universities. In a high-tech age that has seen the creation of artificial intelligence by computers, we are also seeing the creation of artificial stupidity by people who call themselves educators.
Educational institutions created to pass on to the next generation the knowledge, experience, and culture of the generations that went before them have instead been turned into indoctrination centers to promote whatever notions, fashions, or ideologies happen to be in vogue among today’s intelligentsia.
Many conservatives have protested against the specific things with which students are being indoctrinated. But that is not where the most lasting harm is done. Many, if not most, of the leading conservatives of our times were on the left in their youth. These have included Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, and the whole neoconservative movement.
The experiences of life can help people outgrow whatever they were indoctrinated with. What may persist, however, is the lazy habit of hearing one side of an issue and being galvanized into action without hearing the other side — and, more fundamentally, not having developed any mental skills that would enable you to systematically test one set of beliefs against another.
It was once the proud declaration of many educators that “We are here to teach you how to think, not what to think.” But far too many of our teachers and professors today are teaching their students what to think — about everything from global warming to the new trinity of “race, class, and gender.”
Even if all the conclusions with which they indoctrinate their students were 100 percent correct, that would still not be equipping students with the mental skills to weigh opposing views for themselves, in order to be prepared for new and unforeseeable issues that will arise over their lifetimes, after they leave the schools and colleges.
Many of today’s “educators” not only supply students with conclusions, but promote the idea that students should spring into action because of these prepackaged conclusions — in other words, vent their feelings and go galloping off on crusades, with neither a knowledge of what is said by those on the other side nor the intellectual discipline to know how to analyze opposing arguments....
Will Rogers once said that it was not ignorance that was so bad but “all the things we know that ain’t so.” But our classroom indoctrinators are getting students to think that they know after hearing only one side of an issue. It is artificial stupidity.
Dr. Thomas Sowell is a syndicated columnist and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. This column was originally published at National Review Online on March 10, 2010.
The myth of the academic meritocracy powerfully affects students from families that believe in education, that may or may not have attained a few undergraduate degrees, but do not have a lot of experience with how access to the professions is controlled. Their daughter goes to graduate school, earns a doctorate in comparative literature from an Ivy League university, everyone is proud of her, and then they are shocked when she struggles for years to earn more than the minimum wage. (Meanwhile, her brother—who was never very good at school—makes a decent living fixing HVAC systems with a six-month certificate from a for-profit school near the Interstate.)
Unable even to consider that something might be wrong with higher education, mom and dad begin to think there is something wrong with their daughter, and she begins to internalize that feeling.
Everyone has told her that "there are always places for good people in academe." She begins to obsess about the possibility of some kind of fatal personal shortcoming. She goes through multiple mock interviews, and takes business classes, learning to present herself for nonacademic positions. But again and again, she is passed over in favor of undergraduates who are no different from people she has taught for years. Maybe, she wonders, there's something about me that makes me unfit for any kind of job.
This goes on for years: sleepless nights, anxiety, escalating and increasingly paralyzing self-doubt, and a host of stress-induced ailments. She has even removed the Ph.D. from her résumé, with some pain, but she lives in dread that interviewers will ask what she has been doing for the last 12 years. (All her old friends are well established by now, some with families, some with what seem to be high-powered careers. She lives in a tiny apartment and struggles to pay off her student loans.) What's left now but entry-level clerical work with her immediate supervisor just three years out of high school?
She was the best student her adviser had ever seen (or so he said); it seemed like a dream when she was admitted to a distinguished doctoral program; she worked so hard for so long; she won almost every prize; she published several essays; she became fully identified with the academic life; even distancing herself from her less educated family. For all of those reasons, she continues as an adjunct who qualifies for food stamps, increasingly isolating herself to avoid feelings of being judged. Her students have no idea that she is a prisoner of the graduate-school poverty trap. The consolations of teaching are fewer than she ever imagined.
Such people sometimes write to me about their thoughts of suicide, and I think nothing separates me from them but luck.
Scenarios like that are what irritate me about professors who still bleat on about "the life of mind." They absolve themselves of responsibility for what happens to graduate students by saying, distantly, "there are no guarantees." But that phrase suggests there's only a chance you won't get a tenure-track job, not an overwhelming improbability that you will.
Some professors tell students to go to graduate school "only if you can't imagine doing anything else." But they usually are saying that to students who have been inside an educational institution for their entire lives. They simply do not know what else is out there.
A college diploma is supposed to be the ticket to the good life. Colleges and politicians tell students, “Your life will be much better if you go to college. On average during your lifetime you will earn a million dollars more if you get a bachelor’s degree.” Barack Obama, stumping on the campaign trail, said, “We expect all our children not only to graduate high school, but to graduate college.”
Rachele Percel heard the promises. She borrowed big to pay about $24,000 a year to attend Rivier College in New Hampshire. She got a degree in human development. “I was told just to take out the loans and get the degree because when you graduate you’re going to be able to get that good job and pay them off no problem,” she told me for last week’s “20/20.”
But for three years she failed to find a decent job. Now she holds a low-level desk job doing work she says she could have done straight out of high school. And she’s still $85,000 in debt. This month she had to move out of her apartment because she couldn’t pay the rent.
The promise about college? “I definitely feel like it was a scam,” says Rachele. Her college wrote us that that many of its graduates have launched successful careers. But Rachele’s problem isn’t uncommon. A recent survey asked thousands of students: Would you go to your college again? About 40 percent said no.
“The bachelor’s degree? It’s America’s most overrated product,” says education consultant and career counselor Dr. Marty Nemko.
Nemko is one of many who are critical of that often-cited million-dollar bonus. “There could be no more misleading statistic,” he says. It includes billionaire super-earners who skew the average. More importantly, the statistic misleads because many successful college kids would have been successful whether they went to college or not.
“You could take the pool of college-bound students and lock them in a closet for four years — and they’re going to earn more money,” Nemko says. Those are the kids who already tend to be more intelligent, harder-working and more persistent. But universities still throw around that million-dollar number. Arizona State recently used it to justify a tuition hike.
Charles Murray’s recent book, Real Education, argues that many students just aren’t able to handle college work. Graduation statistics seem to bear him out. “If you’re in the bottom 40 percent of your high school class,” Nemko says, “you have a very small chance of graduating, even if you are given eight and a half years.”
Colleges still actively recruit those kids, and eight years later, many of those students find themselves with no degree and lots of debt. They think of themselves as failures. “And the immoral thing about it is that the colleges do not disclose that!”
For many kids, career counselors told us, it’s often smarter to acquire specific marketable skills at a community college or technical school, or to work as an apprentice for some business. That makes you more employable. Vocational education pays off for many. Electricians today make on average $48,000 a year. Plumbers make $47,000. That’s more than the average American earns. But some people look down on vocational school. A degree from a four-year college is considered first class. A vocational-school degree is not.
“More people need to realize that you don’t have to get a four-year degree to be successful,” says Steven Eilers, who went through an automotive program and then continued his education by getting a paying job as an apprentice in a car-repair center. He’s making good money, and he has zero student-loan debt.
Eilers' story is no fluke. In the past year, while hundreds of thousands of white-collar jobs vanished, the auto-repair industry added jobs. Self-serving college presidents and politicians should drop the scam. Higher enrollments and government loan programs may be good for them, but they are making lots of our kids miserable and poor. For many, the good life can be lived without college.
Once confined to dorm-room gossip sessions, salacious details about the hook-up culture on today's college campuses have become fodder for serious sociological analysis.
No fewer than four books on the topic have been published this year alone. Among them are sociologist Kathleen Bogle's unflinching investigation of campus sexual norms in Hooking Up: Sex, Dating and Relationships on Campus and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Laura Sessions Stepp's alarming analysis of promiscuity's emotional costs in Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both.
In another -- Sex and the Soul -- Boston University religion professor Donna Freitas probes the disturbing disconnect between students' religious convictions and sexual choices. And in Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children, obstetrician/gynecologists Joe McIlhaney and Freda McKissic Bush survey the scientific evidence for psychological scars linked to supposedly strings-free sex.
These authors often differ in their analyses of the hook-up culture's root causes and costs. Yet the proliferation of similar studies in recent years suggests an emerging consensus among experts that today's anything-goes campus sexual mores carry lasting consequences we only have begun to understand. And those consequences extend well beyond unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
While campus safe-sex advocates carefully instruct college students in the art of applying condoms and quizzing prospective partners about their sexual histories, most avoid grappling with the emotional, spiritual and moral consequences of casual sex. University-sponsored "Sex Week" festivities -- a new staple on many campuses that typically blends provocative lectures from pornographers and "sexperts" with condom giveaways -- rarely feature discussions of how hooking up in college may hinder the search for lasting love after graduation.
The transitory, transactional and often anonymous sexual encounters that have replaced dating on most campuses give young adults the illusion of intimacy without the hassle of relationships. But those flings may exact a high toll when today's swinging singles try to become tomorrow's committed spouses.
A new study suggests that the hook-up generation already is showing signs of marital strain. David Atkins, a research associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington, recently analyzed 15 years of data from the General Social Survey and found a rise in reported infidelity among young couples. In 1991, about 15 percent of men and 12 percent of women younger than 35 said they had been unfaithful in their marriages. In 2006, 20 percent of men and 15 percent of women said they had.
There are many possible explanations for that shift, but the habits of heart cultivated by today's hook-up culture qualify as a leading culprit. It's hard to imagine better preparation for adultery than years of emotionally detached, random sexual couplings. And the "marriage-lite" solution embraced by growing numbers of cohabiting young couples -- many of whom are refugees from the hook-up culture and too skittish for marriage -- may exacerbate the problem, as the temporary mindset they learn in their live-in romances transfers to their marriages.
Such long-term consequences rarely occur to a college student fixated on final exams and Friday night plans. But some students are making the connection between sexual behavior now and prospects for a successful marriage later.
On such campuses as Princeton and Harvard, students are rebelling against the culture of promiscuity by launching social clubs that promote chastity and sexual self-restraint as the keys to finding faithful, lifelong love. Cassandra DeBenedetto, a founder of Princeton's pro-chastity Anscombe Society, recently launched the Love and Fidelity Network to help students at other universities foment their own grassroots rebellions.
Theirs is a decidedly countercultural movement. It also is urgently needed, not only for the physical health of students today but for the health of their marriages and families decades down the road.