X Close

The experts are lying to you Their laundering of the truth is deliberate and tactical

"Sex is a spectrum" (John Moore/Getty Images)

"Sex is a spectrum" (John Moore/Getty Images)


June 22, 2022   4 mins

With most of the world’s information only a click away, one would have assumed that ours would be the most enlightened generation in human history. We may have lost the rote-learning skills and depth of knowledge of our grandparents, but we know where to find the facts and can do so in an instant.

For all that, many of us have developed the habit of reading multiple accounts of any given news item, because so often reports are filtered through an ideological lens. There was, for instance, Omar Jimenez’s coverage of protests in Kenosha for CNN, described as “mostly peaceful” in the chyron running under the report in spite of the clearly visible backdrop of burning cars and buildings. Similarly, the BBC was roundly mocked for its description of “largely peaceful” protests in London, in which 27 police officers were injured.

Instinctively, it feels as though these reporters must be peddling these untruths knowingly, perhaps out of a misguided sense of paternalistic responsibility to prevent further discord. But even more troubling is the possibility that they have bought into their own fictions. If one accepts the postmodernist belief that our experiences are solely constructed through the language with which they are expressed, then to describe an event as “largely peaceful” makes it so.

Such blunders are only the more egregious examples of the kind of white lies and misrepresentations we find on an almost daily basis in the national press. Occasionally there is a backlash, such as when the BBC modified the quotation of a rape victim so that her attacker was not misgendered. But on the whole this routine twisting of the truth goes unnoticed. We have grown accustomed to reporters telling us what to think about a story, rather than simply relaying the key facts and leaving us to judge for ourselves.

Even reputable academic journals are willing to jettison inconvenient truths if they better suit their desired reality. When the New England Journal of Medicine argued that “sex designations on birth certificates offer no clinical utility”, few of us were surprised. The Journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry has even produced new guidelines to “minimise the risk of publishing inappropriate or otherwise offensive content”. If the truth hurts, it ought to be avoided.

When journalists, academics and politicians advance a worldview in direct opposition to observable reality, they risk creating what JĂŒrgen Habermas once described as a “legitimation crisis”, by which trust in figures of authority is irreparably depleted. This seems particularly germane given reports this week that the head of the World Health Organisation privately believes that Covid-19 leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan. It wasn’t that long ago that the scientific consensus dismissed this as little more than a racist conspiracy theory.

Throughout the pandemic we saw experts silenced or marginalised if they offered views that deviated from the accepted narrative. YouTube videos that posited the lab-leak theory were removed. An UnHerd interview featuring Professor Karol Sikora was taken offline after he suggested that the virus was likely to “burn out” and that levels of public immunity had been underestimated. Wasn’t this former advisor to the WHO entitled to an opinion?

Meanwhile, experts who peddle “accepted” narratives remain free to indulge in blatant untruths that we are expected to take on trust. In June 2020, more than 1,200 medical practitioners signed a letter arguing that existing restrictions put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus ought not to apply to Black Lives Matter demonstrations. The epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo wrote: “We should always evaluate the risks and benefits of efforts to control the virus. In this moment the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism greatly exceed the harms of the virus.” Are we to believe that the virus would take some time off so long as the protesters’ cause was just?

That figures of authority are so often caught in lies has brought about an erosion of confidence in our institutions. I barely scraped a GCSE in Biology, but when esteemed scientific journals are publishing authors who maintain that “sex is a spectrum”, it gives the false impression that my understanding of the subject is superior to theirs.  Experts appear to have forgotten that the legitimacy of their claims is grounded in evidence and research, not by waving around a doctoral certificate.

Perhaps this is why we are now so familiar with the spectacle of academics humiliating themselves on social media. As Helen Pluckrose once pointed out to me: “It’s a worry when you can’t tell whether the person yelling at you is a 12-year-old whose parents need to take their Twitter account away, or a Professor of Sociology.” While we may laugh at the truculent behaviour of authority figures degrading themselves — this, after all, is the basis of traditional farce — there is a sinister aspect to all of this. When experts are so patently captured by an ideology, they surrender their capacity to think critically. And that’s not good news for any of us.

In some cases, this deviation from the truth is deliberate and tactical. Consider, for instance, the phenomenon that Peter Boghossian describes as “idea laundering”. The process begins with a moral impulse among certain ideologically driven academics. Journals are founded, papers are published, classes are taught, and before long what was once the vaguest intuition is supported by a body of academic literature. Boghossian offers the example of “Fat Studies”, an area of study which seeks to lend credence to the view that: “the clinical concept of obesity (a medical term) is merely a story we tell ourselves about fat (a descriptive term); it’s not true or false – in this particular case, it’s a story that exists within a social power dynamic that unjustly ascribes authority to medical knowledge.”

What begins as a fanciful theory emerges as “knowledge” through this laundering process.  It explains why a notion as nebulous as “whiteness” is now so widely and uncritically accepted. Ideas that have little basis in reality emerge from universities as de facto truths, and those brave enough to challenge them are quickly and mercilessly subdued. And while most of us are happy to conform for the sake of an easy life, our trust in those institutions supposedly dedicated to the production of knowledge quickly deteriorates.

Scepticism about expertise is important: no human being is infallible or free from bias, however well-qualified. Yet at the same time, we rely on figures in authority with specialist insight for the practical business of living. When journalists begin to conflate truth and fiction, or when academics substitute wishful thinking for empirical knowledge, we are left unmoored from reality. For the sake of our collective sanity, we need to restate the primacy of the truth.


Andrew Doyle is a comedian and creator of the Twitter persona Titania McGrath

andrewdoyle_com

Join the discussion


Rejoignez des lecteurs partageant les mĂȘmes idĂ©es qui soutiennent notre journalisme en devenant abonnĂ©s payants.

Subscribe

To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

124 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jason Highley
Jason Highley
2 years ago

“Journals are funded, papers are published, classes are taught.”
This right here is why I shake my head in disbelief every time my bosses ask why I don’t want to go back into higher education. “It’s for the good of your career!” I don’t even care anymore. If what’s good for my career is pretending that half of that shit even matters in the slightest, or should be elevated with serious disciplines that have direct bearing on the world and our place in it, then I quit. Go ahead and hold me back. Fire me even. It’s better than living a lie.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  Jason Highley

My old Uni recently announced their ‘Pride’ celebrations, which were denounced as ‘hypocritical’ because they had allowed a known ‘transphobe’ onto campus, and there had been doxxings and death threats and all the rest.

Who was this evil person they had allowed? Julie Bindel. I may not agree with JB – I’ve criticised her views here more than once, but I totally agree with her right to free speech, and to address a University group if invited. The Unis have gone completely nuts recently, and I totally understand where you are coming from.

I think a lot of it goes back to the imposition of tuition fees. Students stopped being students and became customers. I ran a Biochemistry tutorial for Chemistry students a few years after this, and after half the students didn’t turn up, I asked one of them why not. I was told ‘I didn’t come here to study Biology’. Now combine that attitude with wokeness, and here we are.

Last edited 2 years ago by Derek Smith
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
2 years ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

That is what separates good vs. evil today. On one side, there are people who disagree with a position but will fight for the right of the person they disagree with. On the other side, there are people who will keep their jackboots on the throats of people they disagree with. If anyone can’t see the difference and cringe, they are evil to the core.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Warren, I want to agree with your “good people vs evil people” theory, but I have Alexander Solzhenitsen in my head “the line between good and evil does not divide man from man, but runs through every human heart.” That from a man who not only looked into but lived within the depth of evil of the 20th century.

I suspect any of us could be deluded enough to attack our friends and neighbors if pushed the right way. If anything, the last 3 years should make it clear that we’re lying to ourselves if we think “it can’t happen here”.

David B
David B
2 years ago

At the risk of making another book recommendation, and one that you must have already read, given your last quote is its verbatim title. The author is Sinclair Lewis, and was written in 1930s America in the light of European developments, but feels as if it has been widely applicable ever since!

john c
john c
1 year ago
Reply to  David B

I second David B’s recommendation: Read Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here. The events in the novel that lead to the USA becoming a harshly authoritarian country seemed to me just so . . . I don’t know, let’s say plausible. (NB: I read it in the early 2000s, long before D. Trump entered electoral politics.) The events seem even more plausible than the events in Phillip Roth’s much more recent novel The Plot Against America, which seems more tied to the 1930s setting than those in Lewis’ novel. I would, however, recommend it to all as well.
At least that’s my opinion, anyways.

Last edited 1 year ago by john c
Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

My father was one of those who would defend the right to disagree as an almost religious duty. Sadly he would not recognise the issues we have to contend with.

Mechan Barclay
Mechan Barclay
2 years ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Wholeheartedly agree.
Original intent of a college(at least here in Canada) is to develop a skill typically career or physically oriented.
A university degree was to develop your critical mental skills. That the answer must be backed up with real data and to ensure that when you wrote an essay or journal, even a first year could follow through, without words that only a select few could understand.
If you can’t develop your critical skills, then what exactly would a university degree be really worth?

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  Jason Highley

When I was a student in the early 2000s, thinking critically, thinking for yourself and challenging what was being said to you by textbooks/professors were highly desirable qualities which university was there to foster. There seems to have been a 180° U-turn somewhere along the line and thinking for yourself/speaking out about even innocuous opinions (like biological sex actually being real) have become almost revolutionary acts.
I’m also put off from pursuing any kind of further academic education and that is the reason. Universities seem increasingly to see their role in corralling their students into thinking X, Y or Z. When really, it should be corralling them into thinking – period.

Last edited 2 years ago by Katharine Eyre
Derek Bryce
Derek Bryce
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Hi. Academic here and, while much of what you and the above posters have to say is fair at an institutional, university level, I’m going to push back a little in terms of individual teaching practise. I don’t recognise the ‘discourage critical thinking’ comment, at least in terms of how I and colleagues whose material I know well, teach. We not only encourage critical thinking and writing, we require it as one of the conditions of receiving excellent marks. It is right there in my university’s marking criteria. Every year I and colleagues moan and gripe about the lack of awareness of the need to or lack of understanding of how to think and write critically among our students, from 1st year undergrads right up to (most worryingly) PhD students. Every year I stress to my students at all levels that there is scope for them to question, push back and disagree with what I have to say so long as they are bringing an informed argument to the table. I have to say, the fruits of this in class and in their work are getting more withered as the years go by. Invitations for student discussion are usually met with the sound of cicadas, lonely prairie winds and tumbleweed rolling across the front of the lecture theatre (zoom teaching has made this even worse). Believe me, it’s pretty dispiriting to have to read exam paper after exam paper, essay after essay which simply parrot lecture materials with next to no evidence of further reading or intellectual curiosity.

Now, this can’t be all the fault of students. We as academics may be assuming students arrive at university with these critical skills at least partially formed and are consequently not fostering them adequately. Then there is the education system that students emerge from which seems to value disposable rote learning and ‘teaching to the test’ over building a scaffold of well rounded knowledge upon which students can build their own independent intellects and worldview as they move beyond secondary school, whether that be to higher education or other destinations. I’m increasingly shocked by students’ lack of even the most basic general knowledge or even interest in the basics of history and geography, for example, which surely provide a framework for understanding the social world. Again, I don’t blame the students entirely. They emerge as young adults from an education system and society which we’ve bequeathed to them.

There’s clearly something broken and I’m not sure how to fix it. I suspect it has something to do with what I’ve outlined above as well as the overemphasis on higher education as the sole route to personal and financial fulfilment (not true) and the cowardice of universities as institutions in the face of students as consumers, with constant ‘support’ systems put in place which, while well meaning, simply disincentivise the development amongst students of the tried, tested and true techniques of showing up to class, taking notes, asking questions and reading.

Last edited 2 years ago by Derek Bryce
Norman Powers
Norman Powers
2 years ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

Having been on the tumbleweed side of things in a STEM subject, I don’t think your assessment is on the ball. This phenomenon is expected, and is the fault of universities and academics, not the high school system.
Firstly and most importantly the financial cost of failing exams has massively increased over time. Modern students cannot under any circumstances fail as otherwise they are lumbered with massive student debts, they burned their parents money, they are seen as social failures etc. “Failing” here of course also includes getting anything worse than a 2.1. Any strategy that reduces the risk of this happening will be pursued relentlessly and this is smart, not stupid.
In the past this was less true. You were spending less money, so you could take more risks. Over time academics have repeatedly demanded more money, and even gone on pseudo-strike (e.g. still doing research but refusing to mark exams) in order to capture the rise in student fees for themselves vs the originally stated aim of growing the teacher base. Thus cost inflation in academia is at least partly the fault of academia.
Why do they stay silent – does this even need to be asked? One of the fastest ways to endanger your grades is to argue with the profs. Sorry, but the idea that professors want to be challenged is for the birds, it’s nonsense. Obviously lots of profs tell themselves that they wish to be challenged by their students. They are wrong. The average prof likes a “challenge” of the form “hello wonderful expert professor sir, I didn’t quite understand why you said X, why isn’t it Y, could you explain again?” and then the student dutifully listens and agrees. They hate challenges of the form, “Um, you said X but that’s not correct and here’s a really solid argument you are wrong”, in which there is nowhere for them to hide. They hate this for the same reason every other human hates such challenges – it makes them look stupid. If the students are better at the subject than the teacher then what is the justification for their social status and position? The idea that profs are somehow immune to this reaction is just another part of academic mythology.
As a teacher maybe you think you don’t encounter such situations often, but rest assured, they happen all the time. Just look at what happens when non-students with nothing to lose challenge academic ideas or prove them wrong with data and facts. It’s what the whole article we’re commenting on is about. The profs don’t say “oh wonderful, an engaged audience that’s challenging my views”. They go on the attack and demand immediate censorship of anyone arguing against them. This holds true across many fields.
So. Your students don’t debate anything with you and reliably give the lowest risk most generic answers possible because they are smart. They know perfectly well the actual value of the knowledge they’re receiving is low, and the value of the credential is high (the latter can be explicitly counted out in pounds!), they know that getting on a profs bad side can cause them to get a bad grade, they know that there is zero recourse or ability to appeal if that does happen, and they know that it could ruin their careers for life if it does.
Academics created this system. Moaning about it won’t help. You want to fix it? Start by aggressively firing academics who say things about their subject that are wrong, regardless of who demonstrates it. Set up an appeals system that allows students to get their work re-graded by non-academics outside of their own institutions, give it teeth. Invite a new “science denier” to give lectures at your university every week and make attendance by students a mandatory part of the course. Then and only then will we believe you when you say you want to be challenged.

Last edited 2 years ago by Norman Powers
Peter O
Peter O
2 years ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

At the uni in South Africa where I teach, one professor set the following exam question: “Explain why black people and white people can never be friends” Not much room for students to argue the opposite here. Interestingly, the same question could have been asked when SA was still an apartheid state. The more things change
.

Last edited 2 years ago by Peter O
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter O

My former flatmate (French, went to one of those elite political schools they have there) once sat an exam where the question was “Etruscans. Discuss”. Now that is probably too much room for discussion. There must be a happy medium in there somewhere!

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

One of my favourite apocryphal stories is of an Oxbridge Philosophy exam.
“Is this a question?”
A student wrote “Is this an answer?” and got a first

jim peden
jim peden
1 year ago

Was his name Boris Johnson?

John Allman
John Allman
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter O

Disagreeing with the question did me proud once in my exam at the end of the OU course Understanding Space and Time. There was a question on the so-called Twin Paradox that included a diagram-cum-graph. But the graph contained an error, perhaps a misprint. A certain line was at the wrong angle. So I prefaced my answer saying that there appeared to be an error in the diagram, and I’d therefore answer the question I assumed the examiner had obviously intended to set, with the correct diagram, rather than the one on the exam paper, with an incorrect diagram.
I forget why our tutor was present, but, after exam, I mentioned this to him, and he was impressed. He said I’d probably get bonus marks for that.
BTW, I am white British, whereas my late second wife was a black South African. We were friends, or we’d not have got married.

John Allman
John Allman
1 year ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

I thought this was one of the best comments on an opinion piece I’d read for a long time, until the final paragraph, which I’ll come to in a moment. Of course, it’s on the page of the opinion piece, and links back to that, but it is primarily a response to Derek Bryce’s comment, which I also thought was good.
I started to disagree with you when I read, “You want to fix it? Start by aggressively firing academics who say things about their subject that are wrong, regardless of who demonstrates it.” I observe that that raises the stakes on the other side of the divide between student and academic teacher. This will only increase the risks to the student of disagreeing with a professor, for not only will the professor’s ego be at stake, so will his or her livelihood.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

I’ve got no real idea what gets taught at secondary schools these days and how, but in the late 90s when I was doing my A-levels, the system was mainly focused on the “curriculum” the exam and grades, although students were encouraged to “read around” the subject…which I guess was a vague stab at telling us to open our minds.
What was wholly absent in the whole of my secondary education was the teaching of things like logic, debating, oral presentation/argument, guidance on how to structure and write an essay properly…the time which could have been used to teach these things was used up by the mandatory (and entirely useless) General Studies. I think school could have prepared me better for university, because I only learned how to think “properly” and be consistently enquiring at the latter – which was too late to really get the full benefit of it during my studies. The skills developed over a longer period in my adult life.
I was terrified of speaking up in lectures & tutorials because I was so unsure – but it wasn’t for lack of encouragement on the part of the teaching staff or that nothing was going on in my head at all…it was because I was a) cripplingly shy, and b) not yet able to think in the structured way necessary to conduct an argument. I really envied the kids who had come from homes where they would have proper intellectual discussions at the dinner table with their parents – their hands used to shoot up in almost every seminar and their answers were forthright and (as far as I could tell) well expressed, while I was sitting there, sweating, thinking “how have they got this all worked out??? Am I stupid???” A secondary education system should not leave the existence of those skills to chance and whether the child comes from a talky, intellectual household or not.
Another thing which might have helped (and which is a huge part of the education system in the German-speaking region where I live now) is more oral tests/presentations during secondary education. My schooling was almost all written, with the only spoken exam comprising a few stammered sentences in broken German for my GSCE/A-level. Making children present an idea or a project and then be asked to answer questions on it/defend it would really be a good addition – if that hasn’t been done already, of course.

Last edited 2 years ago by Katharine Eyre
Gordon Hughes
Gordon Hughes
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

As an intermittent academic with an interest in how students turn out when they go out into “real” jobs, I fully agree with the importance of requiring students to combine written work with oral presentations. The key is practice, since the occasional presentation tends to generate insecurity while doing it every week reduces the perceived risk and unfamiliarity.
But this is an expensive form of teaching and tends to benefit the most capable and fluent students. The classic Oxbridge tutorial was great for the elite and the weaker students tended to drop by the wayside. The point made earlier about the risk aversion of students is important. Many of them will avoid any class if they think they cannot guarantee that they will get a 2.1 / B+ mark.
The thing that students miss is that the degree grade that they earn is of minimal importance once they have been in the labour market for more than 2 years. On the other hand, the skills of presentation and argument learned from the quasi-Socratic method of teaching are invaluable as well as the confidence that is gained by doing it often. That, rather than networking, explains a good part of why Oxbridge graduates tend to dominate our elite. Some of them are genuinely able, but most of them have a level of confidence and verbal skill that dominates their peers who have not been taught in the same way.
In many ways I abhor the weight put on presentational skills, especially relative to technical capability, but in all societies the ability to present and persuade others is an essential skill for anyone who wants to succeed. Tongue-tied nerds simply put themselves at the mercy of others who interpret and claim the credit for their ideas. This may be sad but no-one has found a way around it.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  Gordon Hughes

Gordon, it is a rare thing for me to agree with everything someone says – but here I endorse everything you have written. Teaching these skills to youngsters at school is invaluable, as they will support you in so many things – from having to argue a case in front of court as a QC or negotiating a payrise with your boss as a shelf-stacker at a supermarket – or even getting your husband to pick up his socks! They are not just something for the elite/intellectual/university-bound and will stand you in good stead for life if you have a basic grasp of them.
Also, as you say, even if there is more emphasis on speaking/arguing/rhetoric – this will still favour certain students. I know I am still very much a “written” sort of person (maybe you can tell…?) and hate speaking in public – but it would have helped me no end in life if it had been routine as part of education. I still probably wouldn’t like it but my basic life tool box would have been so much better equipped.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I have been wondering whether to renew my subscription to Unherd because the quality of too many of the articles has deteriorated and become more Guardianlike and the moderation has become more intrusive and narrow minded but in truth it is the conversations in the comments I would miss. I used to look at the Motley Fool everyday not for the articles which were often pedestrian but the comment sections. When they closed these as too expensive to monitor I never looked at the website again.

Jason Highley
Jason Highley
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Ha! Same for me on the MF piece.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
2 years ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

I have spoken to a lot of university faculty who would agree with you. Many students come primed to hear certain things and unwilling to consider views that aren’t “correct”. The others are just looking to get good marks and their certifications in place and don’t want to rock the boat. Neither group is interested in hashing out truth or making arguments.
Having spent quite a lot of time with school children and in schools, I think it’s largely down to the way education is handled at lower levels. But it doesn’t help that there are elements within the university that are all to willing to allow the activist students to set the agenda.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
2 years ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

Very depressing. I took a ‘mature student’ MA then PhD in philosophy about 12 years ago at the university of Reading. All the philosophy staff were very encouraging of critical thinking lying at the heart of the subject and this was further encouraged by a weekly meeting of all MA/PhD students where one student would present a recent piece of their work. Half a dozen readers/professors would then ask critical questions and demand responses. After a year or two of that the outlooks of all attendees noticeably changed. Was this so successful because it was more than a decade ago? Or because the philosophy dept concerned was pretty well opposed to much of the ‘continental’ brand of the subject?
I found the whole experience one of the most formative and inspiring in my intellectual life.
I dont think so called analytic philosophy leaves any space for woke wolliness.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
2 years ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

I was your contemporary at Bristol, and did my PhD on modality. I agree with your concluding sentence, at least in theory. However, this didn’t stopped 600 woke turds, mostly analytical philosophers like Jonathan Ichikawa, Carrie Jenkins, Jason Stanley etc, from concocting a despicable open letter attacking Unherd’s own Kathleen Stock.

Last edited 2 years ago by Richard Craven
John Hicks
John Hicks
2 years ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

Don’t know how to fix it? A “D” used to work.

Derek Bryce
Derek Bryce
2 years ago
Reply to  John Hicks

Indeed it used to but with the passing mark in undergrad courses set at 40; threshold to get into the 4th ‘honours’ year set at 55 in some Scottish universities and students very often able to resit classes or resubmit coursework multiple times until they get the ‘right’ result, the corrective virtue of a bad mark is diminished.
I’m not shy about failing poor work but it creates more work for me with the constant reassessment. I’m willing to do this out of sheer bloody mindedness but I can understand, though not condone, the mentality of “give ‘em a basic pass and get ‘em out of my life” that probably exists among some beaten down staff.

John Hicks
John Hicks
2 years ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

Thanks for sharing these insights from behind the academic veil. Tolerating such destructive pathways to excellence must be quite intolerable, especially when social worker rewards alone need suffice for talented lecturers and staff. Perhaps a Journal set aside for publishing some of this sub-standard re-submitted course work (appropriately referenced) might help? Exposing the clueless “Emperors” early on could salvage the Faculties, and relieve your own anxiety from visiting their somewhat worthless degrees upon the rest of us.

Marcus Charlesworth
Marcus Charlesworth
2 years ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

Glad to see a bit more substance here than just bashing academia.

Last edited 2 years ago by Marcus Charlesworth
Rachel Taylor
Rachel Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

% in higher education? Most people are there to secure a well paid job. Analytical thinking makes this more difficult.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

What no one mentions is that the environment at universities has becomes so toxic that it is damaging to the mental health of anyone who cannot bring themselves to buy in to the bulls**t so rendering the universities unsafe.
As my sons friends say to them (paraphrased) I now what you are telling me is true but I cannot allow myself to think about it because it makes me feel unsafe

John Findlay
John Findlay
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Consider the statistics. By the end of the 1970s, around 14% of 18 year-olds went to university. Nowadays it’s 40% or more. So roughly three times as many now go to university. Is it realistic to assume that somehow now three times as many 18 year-olds are intelligent and knowledgeable enough to be able to benefit from an honours degree education? Of course not, so what’s happened is that the average quality of students has declined due to the wider intake, and that’s what drives shifts in teaching and standards.No-one wants to fail the majority of students. Bad for business, and that’s what universities have become, bums-on-seats businesses. A friend who is a soon-to-retire professor agrees, and tells me that his university has moved from being a teaching and research institution to being a mere money-making enterprise. Another professor friend had the move of his research team from one university to another blocked by the financial demands made by place he wanted to leave in respect of ‘lost rent’ . Universities recovering their original purpose is likely to be very difficult

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago
Reply to  Jason Highley

Why don’t you go back into higher education and question everything they say?

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

If he’s anything like me, it’ll be because he doesn’t feel like spunking 9 grand on woke schidt.

Jason Highley
Jason Highley
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

I can do that from the outside for free. I’m not going to prop up a failing system. If universities had stock offerings, I’d short them to zero with every dime of collateral I had.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
2 years ago
Reply to  Jason Highley

The world needs more people like Jason!

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
2 years ago

“The Journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry has even produced new guidelines to “minimise the risk of publishing inappropriate or otherwise offensive content”.”

Is anyone else struggling with the possibility of how a Chemistry journal is going to publish ‘inappropriate or otherwise offensive content’?

I’m a Scientist, and I’m scratching my head on this one.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Perhaps its not accepting that transuranic elements are uranium. Also, just because your atomic number is less than 92 it’s no reason that you can’t be transuranic, is it?

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
2 years ago

*Guffaws*

John Solomon
John Solomon
2 years ago

“trans uranics are real uranics” perhaps?

Bruce Hill
Bruce Hill
2 years ago

Transuranics may not be used where there is life. Sapphire and Steel have been assigned.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Bruce Hill

Gosh, this takes me back; an underestimated little gem, I think.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
2 years ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Wasn’t there a journal that published an article by a university professor about how diversity hiring policies were affecting science, which it had to repudiate later? I thought it was chemistry but maybe it was physics. Of course that’s not really about chemistry (or physics) but it may be the kind of thing they are talking about.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
2 years ago

Do you remember how the pandemic started with “you shouldn’t wear a mask because it will make you touch your face.” This was a transparently false statement concocted because there weren’t enough masks available and they thought we were too stupid to deal with that. Everything that followed was a pile of lies, half truths, omissions, and gaslighting. My working assumption these days is that the more years of university education you have – the more delusional your worldview is – and the more likely it is you can’t think for yourself. I don’t think the medical elite and media have come to terms with how large a percentage of the population simply doesn’t believe them anymore. Are you all ready for the ‘sixth wave?’ I hear it is going to be a bad one.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Actually no, they were saying that because the evidence based said masks don’t work and they were trying to come up with ad-hoc explanations as to why not. They weren’t trying to stop people grabbing highly effective masks, in the beginning, they were telling the truth.
Later they started lying and saying masks work well, which required them to come up with an explanation for why they’d just inverted their supposedly expert advice. So a few of them like Fauci (not all) settled on this noble lie claim. But it is itself a lie!
You can verify this for yourself very simply. Go to Google Scholar, start searching for mask studies that predate 2020. Or, read stuff written by other people who did this. You’ll find the research amounts to a hill of beans. Not much research and what little is done either shows no effect or is inconclusive.
Now ask what scientific breakthrough occurred that showed all those prior studies were wrong? Where is the paper that suddenly showed masks work great? There isn’t one.
Finally, ask yourself if “we lied for the health workers” makes any sense as a strategy. Virtually all masks are imported from China and elsewhere in Asia. Governments already have all the infrastructure needed to seize shipments and distribute them directly to people using the military, they are experts in this stuff which is why soldiers can have machine guns and you can’t. If you want simply to make sure masks get to the right places, publicly making up clever and scientific sounding lies that you already know you’ll repudiate in just a few weeks is easily the worst possible strategy anyone could ever invent. Even public health bureaucrats aren’t that stupid.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

I’m not sure this is a false statement. I can think of quite a few people I know who habitually readjust their masks, which any nurse working in an environment where masks are really necessary will tell you is a big no no. I think this is why a lot of nurses and doctors were skeptical of public masking right from the get go.
But you are right that the kinds of arguments we heard were often the ones tailored to support some other issue, like not enough masks, and they were often stated with much more confidence than they really warrented.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
2 years ago

“Occasionally there is a backlash, such as when the BBC modified the quotation of a rape victim so that her attacker was not misgendered.”
She didn’t misgender him. The BBC did.

Russell David
Russell David
2 years ago

An amusing one was the CDC saying you should wear a mask to protect yourself from monkeypox – despite it not being a disease spread by breathing. Just exposes their nonsense, and explains why trust in authority has collapsed and will go on collapsing. This is the way a society decays.

Mary Bruels
Mary Bruels
2 years ago
Reply to  Russell David

For that reason alone I no longer pay attention to what the CDC and WHO proclaims. In fact, I’m more apt to believe the opposite.

Lucy Smex
Lucy Smex
2 years ago
Reply to  Russell David

Didn’t the CDC suggest that it might now be airborne, hence the mask recommendation? Not sure any evidence for what they suggested.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 year ago
Reply to  Russell David

Does this beg the question as to what one should wear to avoid monkey pox? Might be interesting


Phil Mac
Phil Mac
1 year ago

Maybe I should invest in a condom manufacturer
.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

“The process begins with a moral impulse among certain ideologically driven academics. Journals are founded, papers are published, classes are taught, and before long what was once the vaguest intuition is supported by a body of academic literature.” 
…and you get climate science

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
2 years ago

Chyron! Knock me down with plumage. So that’s what they are called.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

Haha, yes quite! That is my fact of the day for today! I also took time while reading the article to consider what a lovely name Helen Pluckrose is.

Iain Scott Shore
Iain Scott Shore
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I can only think of one word (slang) which both rhymes with, and has the same number of syllables as, “Pluckrose”. Possibly quite appropriate in this discussion in response to the question posed above of “how did we get to this?”




Diane Tasker
Diane Tasker
2 years ago

Exclamation mark at end would help the unworldly understand perhaps

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

From the name of the company who developed it apparently.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

I had to look it up too.
And then Pluckrose,
as for its etymology-
Nuck foes!

Max Beran
Max Beran
2 years ago

In the areas I know most about – climate and extreme weather events – I am much aware of a positive (i.e. reinforcing) process between experts and the media with which I couple the experts’ organisations own PR corps. A report is released that goes way beyond what the expert said or found in their original research; the originator of the research then finds themselves playing along with that exaggerated version for all the reasons we know about. And this colours their future research which adopts the press version as the baseline to be exaggerated and amplified further. This is particularly evident in the gulf between the doom-laden pronouncements routinely spouted by the press and the BBC about river floods past and anticipated and the neutral or moderate position taken in IPCC reports, but is detectable in other areas too.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
2 years ago
Reply to  Max Beran

Coupled with the feedback loop that if your research paper isn’t sufficiently supportive of the hegemony you won’t get funded to do the next one.

bill hughes
bill hughes
2 years ago
Reply to  Max Beran

Plus intellectual dishonesty – cold spells, when jumped on by sceptics, is merely weather; but the hot weather we have lately had ‘proves’ climate change.

Ian S
Ian S
2 years ago

“…the BBC was roundly mocked for its description of ‘largely peaceful’ protests… in which 27 police officers were injured…”
(Andrew, the following comment is better placed here than where I had earlier posted it, because it directly echoes your own observations). The BBC needs to be called out on every single instance of its Woke-determined misreporting, so that more people become aware of its manipulations. Yesterday in its hit-piece on Elon Musk, the reporter “baselessly” (to use a favourite word of mainstream journalists trying to deflect news that doesn’t fit the Woke narrative) rubbished what he/she called Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The Woke lie is in the made-up title. The ACTUAL bill – House Bill 1557 – the â€œParental Rights in Education” bill – as de Santis has tirelessly pointed out (and humiliated a few Woke journalists in doing so) – states that classroom instruction “on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards”. The reporter perpetuates the narrative lie by offering his/her own interpretation of that bill thus: : “This controversial piece of legislation restricts schools from teaching students about sexual orientation and gender issues”. This is simply not true. Unherd readers need to call out these examples of Wokery gone mad. Another example: the BBC has not yet apologised for its gross misreporting on the proven falsehood of its proclamation about the purported remains of 215 dead babies in Kamloops, where in actual fact NOT ONE body has been found

Aldo Maccione
Aldo Maccione
2 years ago

“The Journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry has even produced new guidelines to “minimise the risk of publishing inappropriate or otherwise offensive content”.”
I wonder what was the event that lead to the need for these new guidelines. A Bunzen burner getting mis-gendered ?

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago
Reply to  Aldo Maccione

Some people are very upset about the lab equipment called ‘nipples’.

Last edited 2 years ago by Laura Creighton
Sue Whorton
Sue Whorton
2 years ago

What about male and female ground glass joints?

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Whorton

Yes and what about all those male and female plugs and sockets we use?

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

I used to work for someone who vehemently objected to my use of this terminology in reports when speaking of connectors and joints. Needless to say, we all found ways to use such terminology all the time and even add to it with other words – “erection” was a regularly used term when speaking of any structure. Childish, I know, but one gets one’s fun where one can.

Iain Scott Shore
Iain Scott Shore
2 years ago

Hear, hear, Linda!!!! Such people generally have a lack of any sense of humour, anyway.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
2 years ago

We used to talk about “lesbian connectors” in one place I worked, they don’t say that any more!

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
2 years ago
Reply to  M. Jamieson

I sometimes leaven my diet of literary fiction with a foray into history. In this connection, a few years ago I read a book about the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy, and distinctly recall mention of a huge erection called Offa’s Lesbian.

Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Hush, don’t be vulgar . They will be coming out with transgender electrical next.

Last edited 1 year ago by Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
Joyce Brette
1 year ago

men, women and all the other variety of genders in between all have nipples. Maybe woke people are nippleless so find the term offensive.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  Aldo Maccione

Maybe they’re concerned that a researcher will point out that a certain cis- compound is more effective than its corresponding trans- compound, and some nutter with a Mickey Mouse degree will complain on Twitter about ‘Systemic Transphobia’ in Science.

Last edited 2 years ago by Derek Smith
Philip Stott
Philip Stott
2 years ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Thank you – stereoisomerism – I’d forgotten all about that, and knew I’d heard cis and trans in a different context!
And to your point; I believe d-amphetamine is more effective than l-amphetamine.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  Philip Stott

Yes! Cis and Trans were ours first!

Richard Barnes
Richard Barnes
2 years ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

I think the Romans might say that they labelled Cis-Alpine and Trans-Alpine Gaul rather earlier.

Last edited 2 years ago by Richard Barnes
Derek Smith
Derek Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Barnes

That makes a lot of sense. There’s quite a few places starting with Trans- . I hadn’t thought of that before, but yes, that does explain where those names come from.

Last edited 2 years ago by Derek Smith
Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

This had been bugging me for ages. I knew I’d heard cis used in another context somewhere: A Level chemistry.

Hang on, aren’t trans-fats bad for you? Is that assigning authority and therefore power to medical knowledge?

Last edited 1 year ago by Alphonse Pfarti
Howard Gleave
Howard Gleave
2 years ago

When journalists begin to conflate truth and fiction, or when academics substitute wishful thinking for empirical knowledge, we are left unmoored from reality. For the sake of our collective sanity, we need to restate the primacy of the truth.”
Very true, but apart from morally courageous thinkers like Douglas Murray, who will lead the charge? The only people in society capable of reinstating, as opposed to restating, the primacy of the truth are politicians, but political leadership nowadays is almost an oxymoron.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Howard Gleave

Douglas Murray is not leading any charge, he is just coke-light

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
2 years ago

That comment represents a falling away from your usual standards

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

But hear me out on this one.
For years Douglas and his ilk have banged on about freedom of speech, respect and the need for dialogue and each time they catch the left in an act of hypocrisy they react as if they have found a silver bullet.
Yet inch by inch our education system, institutions, legal system, press and the Overton window have moved remorselessly leftwards.
The left do not give a t*ss about freedom of speech except when they demand the right to be offensive. Abuse and censorship is their reflex response to any view they do not like.
They have no respect for anyone who is not in lockstep with them and violence, intimidation and cancellation are their go to tools for dealing with opponent.
They have absolutely no interest in dialogue save as a useful distraction or diversion.
They know they are hypocrites. If you catch them out they just smirk at your exasperation and move on content to watch you waste your energy.
All the time Douglas and his mates keep trotting out the same old lines and are no doubt perplexed by the fact that they keep loosing; still there is always next week, next month or next year.
I am afraid Douglas is a useful idiot. By giving the impression that there is some viable opposition to the left he helps any serious consideration of what really needs to be done.

David B
David B
2 years ago
Reply to  Howard Gleave

That, to me, epitomises the problem. That you think our societal structure leaves only those designated as politicians as being able to impose some corrective action is, to my mind, deleterious.
A mixture of an arrogating political class and a pliantly absolving comfortable class means responsibility for such things as truth has somehow become Somebody Else’s Problem. They, over there, they should Do Something.
No. We, over here, only we can do anything. If the phrase “we get the politicians we deserve” has any meaning (which is uncertain), then it all has to begin with us anyway.

Politics is downstream of culture.

bill hughes
bill hughes
2 years ago

Not one journalist, anywhere, asked why all the experts in March 2020 suddenly started using a phrase ‘died with’ in connection with covid. Formerly, people had died of something. Maybe today’s journalists are all too young to remember the Soviet Union.,

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  bill hughes

They were saying “died of/from” at first. It was months later before they favoured the more accurate “died with” and by 2021 it was “died after having tested positive with”. And everyone going into hospital was tested, long before the general public was testing regularly.

bill hughes
bill hughes
2 years ago

Also no journalist observed that the WHO has been gagging for a pandemic all this century, and has been plainly disappointed every time swine flu or bird flu or whatever turned out to be a damp squib. And why did no-one ask how a respiratory disease, akin to flu or pneumonia, puts us ‘all at risk’? The collusion between journalists and experts and governments is a thing to behold.

Antony Hirst
Antony Hirst
2 years ago

This rot has come about because people and institutions have been conned into thinking that academia is science. Academia is a club of people all coalescing around a set of sterile ideas with no willingness to connect their assumptions to reality, but living in the cosy world where ideas are validated nearly by their existence within their club.
Academia can be summed up in the quote by Edward Abbey:
“There is science, logic, reason; there is through verified by experience. And then there is California.”

jim peden
jim peden
1 year ago
Reply to  Antony Hirst

I have come round to something near to your view. You can extend it to all the professional classes whose stock in trade is words – documents, reports, academic papers, parliamentary Bills, … most of which are misguided in some or all respects. Fortunately for us, reality has a habit of making things right.

Swiveleyed Loon
Swiveleyed Loon
1 year ago
Reply to  jim peden

I really do not think we can count on that continuing to be the case.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago

Hasn’t it always been the same? Imagine listening to Galileo and the Catholic Church explaining their views on the solar system. Would anybody have believed Galileo at the time?

Max Beran
Max Beran
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

I think the issue there was not so much the truth or falsity of Galileo’s discoveries but that the powers-that-be didn’t want the idea to become common knowledge and infect and confuse the hoi polloi. Parallels of course exist.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 years ago

One important point.. Media+ reader+ numbers= advertising revenue/profit….

Do they care about “The Truth”?.. No… just more global ” Eyeball”

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago

Facts no longer matter; the ‘message’ is everything.

Anton van der Merwe
Anton van der Merwe
2 years ago

Experts are human beings and just as susceptible to bias as anyone else. The main difference is that they are far better at justifying that bias. The two main threats to the credibility of experts are (1) the reintroduction of post-modernism into academia disguised as social justice and (2) the decline in the political diversity in academia. Post-modernism doubts everything including the notion of objective reality. After dying out it has been applied to social justice after a small tweek. This tweek assumes that people are divided into groups with different degrees of power, with the more powerful group acting to preserve its power. This form of applied post-modernism is extremely attractive as it allows one to assume social injustice and refute any argument or evidence against it by using the skeptical tools of post-modernism. So claims of social injustice (e.g. systemic racism) become irrefutable.

Last edited 2 years ago by Anton van der Merwe
Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago

“Experts appear to have forgotten that the legitimacy of their claims is grounded in evidence and research, not by waving around a doctoral certificate.”

The expert class’s credentials and prognostications are useful only to the degree that they help explain reality. The post-modernist (which the expert class uniformly is, whether they know it or not) responds that reality is socially constructed, so if we say something enough times, it becomes reality. Those of us without letters after our names know better though. We know that saying “I paid the rent” doth not appease the landlord. We know that saying “the sky is green” doesn’t make it so. And we know that 2+2 does not equal 5, regardless of the skin color of the person making the claim.

So what is reality? I would turn to the largely forgotten but quite talented sci-fi writer, Philip K d**k: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, does not go away.” And that is the one salvation of the sane among us, that the postmodernists will eventually deconstruct themselves out of existence and go away.

(BTW: I did not edit the sci-fi author’s name above. Unherd’s comment engine did that for me. Ironic considering the subject matter of this article and comment.)

Last edited 2 years ago by Brian Villanueva
Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago

‘many of us have developed the habit of reading multiple accounts of any given news item”
Not as many as you might think

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
2 years ago

I wonder if most of our problem in the UK arising from the post war Labour Party’s representation of the welfare state of offering protection from cradle to grave.
Of course, it’s right that society protects from destitution and I think healthcare and education being available and accessible to all are benefits. The trouble is, I wonder if we expect to be protected from blows that we should learn to ride and cope with. And, in this, we fall in thrall to experts; people who know better than us.
Forgive me, I haven’t fully formulated this idea.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
2 years ago

The WSJ article on “idea laundering” is very interesting. You can read it here:
https://archive.ph/afAEF
I am less clear what went on in that Chemistry department. What was the image that caused so much upset?

Rhonda Culwell
Rhonda Culwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Thanks for the link. Excellent article!

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
2 years ago

I did not know it was possible for an article to be both old news and covering all current “news”.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago

Do you think the title of this article applies to Climate Change experts?

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago

When experts are so patently captured by an ideology, they surrender their capacity to think critically.
The process begins with a moral impulse among certain ideologically driven academics.
But why does such a surrendering and capturing occur? What happens to make an academic abnegate their commitment to logic and sound argument?

Tim Pot
Tim Pot
1 year ago

The need for a grant?

Vanessa Penny
Vanessa Penny
1 year ago

We’re constantly told to “follow the science”.
The problem is that science follows the money.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago

Your exposure of the power-driven and utilitarian lies of our cultural elites provide a great service to us all, Andrew – be it through the parody of Titania’s virtue-signaling, or your podcasts and writings.

Somehow, feeling gained the upper hand over rigorous factual analysis in academia initially, and then leaked into the institutions which the privileged status of graduates has enabled them to control.

The wielders of this new ideologically driven dictatorship of feelings fight back when challenged – not with counter-argument – but with anger, contempt and punishment.

This is a new battleground, and those still capable of discerning truth must resist, or face cultural collapse.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago

These days one has to read between the lines because the expert is likely to be beating about the bush (if they have a modicum of courage). Sadly they are likely to be devoid of even that in order to protect their standing especially within universities. Remember when universities had free thinking and free speech? It seems such a long time ago now.

Michael James
Michael James
1 year ago

A year ago the Financial Times was dismissing warnings that inflation was coming back in a big way. You’d think by now that the economics profession had reached agreement on the causes of inflation. But even here, groupthink, wishful thinking and self-delusion reign.

James Graham
James Graham
1 year ago

Nice piece of work, Andrew Doyle or should I say Titania but I beg to differ re epidemologist Jennifer Nuzzo. While her language squeeks with the progressive Knows Better B.S., she was actually giving us a little breathing room during a time when we were inside with the windows closed. Her comments could be taken to indicate real scientific hesitancy about confinement mania, and at the very least, the need for cost-benefit analysis. Confinement, schools, masks : what dangerous faux-science much of it was.

Jeff Carr
Jeff Carr
1 year ago

An excellent piece. The expansion of tertiary education has resulted in a decline in the standards of professors, doctors and lecturers. The number of posts to be filled have resulted in increased numbers of the same groupthink. Tertiary education is no longer dominated by debate and discussion, it is doctrinal teaching to compliant minds.

Rachel Taylor
Rachel Taylor
1 year ago

Whoever would have guessed that the medieval quadrivium would be the way to prepare students for higher mental discipline? If you cannot master those, you cannot master anything further except as a trade.

john c
john c
1 year ago

RE: The New England Journal of Medicine, “fat studies,” etc.
As a non-subscriber, I have access to only the first two sentences in the NEJM article. I am not a medical doctor or scholar in the life sciences, but I have had the experience while a graduate student of examining the tables of contents of many issues of that journal. It appears to me that they frequently include provocative articles, or at least ones that are potentially controversial.
They have a section well-designed for that purpose: the article was published in the section “Perspective,” and as such we should read it as an opinion piece. I would bet that birth certificates will continue to designate biological sex of newborns as male or female for many, many years, not only in New England, but also wherever the sun doth shine.
You’re certainly correct, in my opinion, about the creation of new fields of research that seem spurious. You write that “journals are founded, papers are published, classes are taught, and before long what was once the vaguest intuition is supported by a body of academic literature.” But there is one more part of this process, which may motivate some: “Tenure is generate.” If the field is the least bit plausible, professors will gain professional advancement and prestige for their advances. (NB: Tenure is created in the USA; I don’t know if the tenure system exists in UK universities. I’ve never even seen one up close.)
The late 20th century reign of “literary theory,” or later, just “theory,” in literature departments in US universities generated a great deal of tenure and prestige; I witnessed this first-hand as an aspiring lit scholar back at Large Old Famous Northeastern USA University in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s my opinion that many talented young people were discouraged from studying literature in those days while the field took a detour. I wasn’t. I probably should have been.
Maybe I have a grudge against theory, but can Fat Studies hurt anyone, really? Or just waste some money? It will be forgotten, and maybe soon.
As for Dr. Nuzzo and the others who felt that continuing BLM protests was more important than risking the spread of COVID: They do raise an ethical question that could be investigated much further, at least the potential problem of the protesters spreading COViD to bystanders.
How one responds to Dr. Nuzzo and Co.’s statements depends a lot on how bad you feel that police treatment of Black people in the USA actually is. I don’t find their statements preposterous; I find them reasonable. We don’t need to rehearse the recent history of police-Black interactions in the USA to conclude that police treatment of Blacks in the USA can be appalling, yet this mistreatment continues. The killings of unarmed Blacks — including unarmed children — should have stopped years ago. But it hasn’t.

Last edited 1 year ago by john c
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Are you seriously saying that, for example, The Sun’s betting expert was wrong in telling me to ” have my house’ on one of Mullin’s good things at Galway last week, that failed to make the frame, is NOT after all ” An expert”? Surely not?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

My favourite example of quasi Biblical misplaced faith in experts, were the various people, especially the inherited land rich/cash poor, who in the latter decades of the 20th century pledged unlimited liability as a ” sure fire good thing, with the world’s leading experts” via membership of Lloyd’s of London. When the whole Lloyd’s Ponzi ‘ names’ membership unravelled, with stupendous losses not suffered by any other part of the global non-life insurance and reinsurance sector, and these people in many cases lost everything, they found it impossible to admit to themselves that they had been recruited into Lloyds’s, and had their capital put at risk by in most cases otherwise unemployable people, with not a qualification, let alone financial qualification to their name!!!

Andrew Langridge
Andrew Langridge
1 year ago

Worse than experts’ opinions turning out to be false is government officials lying to us. ‘There were no parties Downing Street’ etc. Experts’ claims are generally contested by other experts, and they are not deliberately trying to mislead. The author here is very selective here in who he quotes.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Langridge
Garrett R
Garrett R
2 years ago

Boy, zero mention of the kind of ideology that pushed Q and the Big Lie. You make good points but succumb to the very issue you raise with such a one sided list of transgressions.

harry storm
harry storm
2 years ago
Reply to  Garrett R

Neither have taken over institutions.

Walter Koehler
Walter Koehler
2 years ago

Why do conservatives always talk to you like you’re stupid?

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Koehler

Well, phrasing your point in that way is indeed rather stupid, as the question answers itself.

chris redman
chris redman
2 years ago

“The experts are lying to you”Unlike politicians and advertisers? Unlike Covid deniers and climate change deniers? And Trump voters who who believe the election was stolen? And Boris Johnson promising no border in the Irish Sea and claiming ignorance of the rules about Covid socialising that he announced on TV? Journalists and experts are a better bet than the ramblings of New Right.

Antony Hirst
Antony Hirst
2 years ago
Reply to  chris redman

I don’t know what a climate change denier is. But I have a strong impression that climate change activists have no idea what they are talking about. All they know is to quote studies, graphs and quotes with absolutely no idea how academia works, where that data has come from or any notion of the existence of contradictory data and information.

Tim Pot
Tim Pot
1 year ago
Reply to  Antony Hirst

When the former doyen of the Green Movement, Prof James Lovelock, recanted his ‘Climate Alarmism’ in an interview a reporter asked him, “Why is it that so many Climate Scientists have not come out and supported you?”
He replied (perhaps not word perfect)
“I am an independent scientist, they need grants.”

Swiveleyed Loon
Swiveleyed Loon
1 year ago
Reply to  chris redman

It’s really easy to spot the trolls in an argument like this. They twist language to suit their political agenda. One of their favourite “twists” is the use of the description ‘climate change denier’. They never refer to us as climate change sceptics, or climate change questioners. In the world of the troll you either accept the whole climate change thesis or you are a denier. There is no room for anything in between.
I agree with this article, but when thinking about fighting back I think one of the most important weapons we have is to reclaim our language and do all we can to call out abuse of language when we see it. Calling me a climate change denier is an abuse of language. I’m a sceptic, not a denier. These words mean something.

Last edited 1 year ago by Swiveleyed Loon