Saturday, April 23, 2005

Academia

For the record let me first state that I am not now nor have I ever been Catholic.

The reason I felt I had to state that is that I've been doing a little online reading about Galileo recently (I have no idea why but that's just the beauty of the internet) and found myself just astounded at the number of sites that talk about his troubles with the Catholic Church of the time as a simple battle of Good (Academia) vs Evil (The Church).

Even online encyclopedias retell the story in the same manner leaving out the 'minor' fact that his troubles did not start with the Church of the time, which in general accepted Galileo's works without problems, but rather with fellow 'educated' persons at the Universities. In fact it got so bad that he had to leave his work within the education system to find independent employment that allowed him the freedom to study as he wished. It was these academics that in fact first called him a heretic and essentially demanded the church take actions against him. Their reason? He was disproving all the theories that they had based their lives upon and had been teaching for so long. Of course the version taught in schools and most repeated online is that the church in a fit of rage demanded he stop and when he would not, sent him before the Inquisition and sentenced him to house arrest for the remainder of his life.

While the Inquisition part is true, even at that time many in the church did not see his actions as all that opposed to religious teachings. It was the power of the rabble rousers from the Universities that essentially forced the churches hand and made them take action.

Now what does this have to do with anything today? Well first off, I was just a little ticked off seeing only the PC "religion is evil" version being printed up everywhere. Secondly, I felt it's about time for people to "wake the hell up!" to what many of the so called institutions of learning are really all about.

Until schools are taught by self programmed computers, human bias will inevitably sneak into the education system. Good universities will admit this up front and be open about it. Sure my university profs had a certain way of looking at things but I find it difficult to think of one who let that influence their teaching or marking style to any degree that made me feel uncomfortable if I disagreed with them. Of course I was mostly in business or computer courses so there was a lot less 'touchy feely' teaching going on. On the other hand, I had a high school English teacher who was so openly bias that a friend and I played connect four for an entire term and somehow managed to get the exact same mark as every other test we had. Essentially if you were in the drama club you got an 85+, but otherwise it was 75-. We were already at the 75 mark so we figured why bother.

The problem is academia as a hole (not a typo) refuses to admit that a lot of what is taught is just a certain professors opinion as to how something does or should work. These so called bastions of free thinking are often the best example of the exact opposite. Little worlds where politically correct thought is more important than critical thinking.

Take for example the recent decision by the AUT (a British Union for people involved in Higher Education) to boycott Israeli universities until they admit their government is wrong in it's actions towards the Palestinians. Link here.

Or academia's hero worship of people like Ward Churchill for 'sticking it to the man' or in the more modern parlance 'speaking truth to power' (Don't bother to look at the fact that he is a know plagiarizer and essentially got his job due to his highly suspect claim of native American status) while demonizing Harvard President Larry Summers for simply raising the question as to why there a fewer women in scientific fields. A legitimate question that any intelligent person involved in those fields should be asking themselves but instead, because it was taken as an attack on academia's 'sacred cow' of equality for all, was seen as an affront to humanity and even led to his own professors holding a no confidence vote against him (although an empty exercise with little or no actual affect; another of academics favorite activities).

You know, I'll say it right here, right now; MEN AND WOMEN ARE DIFFERENT!
Does that mean women are bad at science and men are bad at the more liberal arts? No. It means there are differences in both biology and development between men and women and we should try to determine what, if any, affect they have on a persons future abilities.

This is what an unbiased scientific approach is meant to be used for.

If you want to see the academic bias in full effect just try talking about the Theory of Evolution in an online forum. Almost without fail, the proponents of evolution will begin attacking any of the alternatives put forward with a strength that can only be compared to religious zealotry. I'm not saying Evolution is not possible or even probable, just that to any true scientist, you must leave room for alternative explanations. A theory is a theory because it cannot be proven to a 100% certainty and you must always leave space for something that may come along later that better fits the facts. When an academic allows theory to become fact in their minds, then in my opinion they have lost all claims to be educators.

Time to go back to watching some "Top Gear" episodes where the experts are a bit more honest in presenting their opinions as opinions instead of facts.

For more on the academic background of the Galileo conflict you can look at Jonah Goldberg's article here or this write up by Dr. Kirsten Birkett.

2 Comments:

Blogger Tom said...

Read Frank Smith's "Insult to Our Intelligence"

Bureaucratic regulation of schools and the replacement of actual academic subjects with computer programs such as the "R-bbit" produces a system that is not only flawed, but inherently unable to be corrected.

April 28, 2005 3:13 AM  
Blogger Bic said...

Thanks for the tip.

May 02, 2005 1:46 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Who Links Here