Yes, Denver Post’s most insane and inane columnist, John Andrews, published a column today advising that we need to defeat Harvard Law graduate, former Supreme Court clerk, and current CU Law professor Melissa Hart for CU regent, because we have to protect the university from professors (http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_16401229). And he doesn’t just mean protect governance of the university from any representation of faculty at all (there are currently none on the Board of Regents), but actually protecting the academy itself from its traditional definition as the home of academic discipline. Instead, Andrews assures us, the people want it to be more representative of popular opinion, and so we should impose a rule that the university affirmatively hire professors more representative of popular opinion.
Here’s what Andrew’s doesn’t get: Scholarship is a discipline, a methodology through which to distill observation and interpretation in ways far more useful for understanding systemic, causal relationships than any previous approach. Imposing on it some a priori requirement to represent a certain spectrum of lay beliefs is completely antithetical to its purpose, and what has set western science apart as a robust system of thought.
And it is precisely the kind of Medieval approach to knowledge that science and scholarship have whittled away at, this imposition of arbitrary cultural beliefs rather than subjecting them to the lathe of systematic scrutiny. One would have hoped that the battle over whether arbitrary opinion or systematic thought subjected to scientific methodology is superior in accuracy would have been settled by now, since we have about 400 years of experience pretty decisively settling it. But, alas, it is not to be so. Andrews quotes that any handful of random people know more than a cross-section of experts on the subject of their expertise, parroting a popular but absurd ideological conviction.
Andrews’ examples all prove his error: The stimulus package did avert an economic disaster, and was cost-effective, in light of the non-partisan CBO’s conclusion that it created between 1.3 million and 3.4 million jobs (do the math). Roosevelt’s New Deal spending, despite the information-deprived ideology to the contrary, resulted in about five years of phenomenal economic growth during the Great Depression, until FDR, seduced by this success, tried to implement budget-balancing measures.
Arbitrary opinion “benefits” from neither being tested, nor allowing itself to be tested, so that it can always declare itself correct despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And Andrews wants to “storm the gates” (in the words of his preferred candidate for regent) of the last refuge of systematic academic thought in America, and reduce it to just another ideological echo-chamber, under the delusion that he and his fellow Inquisitors are doing just the opposite.
Like his predecessors over the centuries, those products of scientific methodology that are inconvenient to his ideology are heresies, and the fact that the academy systematically dispells the absurdities that his camp clings to (evolution is a myth, etc.) means that it must be a left-wing ideological echo-chamber. Because in Andrews’ Bizarro world, all belief is arbitrary, but his arbitrary beliefs are absolute truths.
The Inquisition is returning in full force, folks. John the Inquisitor has long been writing such drivel, and the Denver Post has long been irresponsible enough to privilege it with column space (along with others, like Vince Carroll, who contribute to the vacuuming of intelligence from the minds of his loyal readers). “Political Fundamentalism” is a force to be reckoned with. And we had better reckon with it, very, very assertively.