Diversity of Thought on Campus

Don’t you think that we’d all be better off if history departments hired some proponents of Fomenko’s New Chronology, Astrophysicists assigned Worlds in Collision, geology professors lectured on Koreshanity, while
half of new biology postdocs practice Lysenkoism. Oops, that last one actually actually happens now and then.

I sure don’t.

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83 Responses to Diversity of Thought on Campus

  1. Frau Katze says:

    These are kooky without any “diversity” benefit.

    • gcochran9 says:

      The point is, they’re false. The problem with some output of the social sciences is that they’re false. If they were intolerant and correct, I could put up with them a lot better than the current intolerant-and-always wrong schtick.

      • Frau Katze says:

        One thing is certain: nothing will be permitted if it threatens the wrong kind of diversity (aka mass immigration). It must help save money for businesses plus permit no obstacle to “multiculturalism.”

        Those two things ensure that both left- and right-leaning parties are completely on board. As we’ve all noticed, it’s extremely hard to stop this combination of the pols.

      • biz says:

        What we need, and what Haidt and others mean by diversity of thought, is more diversity within the generally recognized standard American or British left-right political spectrum, rather than so much of the faculty piling up at one end of said spectrum.

        While there might not necessarily be easy to define hard boundaries here, it is clear that, for example, Biology departments shouldn’t have any creationists, but should have some people who believe in lower marginal tax rates. However nowadays most Biology departments probably have zero of either. Having zero of the former is proper, but having zero of the latter is bad from both a free speech and free society standpoint, and also from the standpoint of the field continuing to receive the good graces of the general American public, including NIH and NSF funding.

    • dude says:

      Do you think if their was more “diversity of thought” among social science departments. There might be a long term trend toward truth? I don’t particularly since I I’m not sure their is any kind of funding mechanism that rewards finding out things that are true and interesting or important. Perhaps it could at least undermine our social betters citing social science findings as authoritative.

  2. tictak says:

    I think the idea is diversity of biases instead of diversity of doctrines. Since we have pervasive priors about how the world should be that screw with finding out how the world is, having a diversity in those priors can help restrain the motivated reasoning. Maybe.

  3. dlr says:

    Should be Koreshanity, not Korshanity, I think. Good write up here : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koreshanity

    The sun and the moon and the stars are actually reflections off of an invisible electromagnetic battery revolving in the universe’s center on a 24-year cycle.

  4. j says:

    I for one would like to attend a lecture by a proponent of the Exorphin Hypothesis. You know, an Evolutionary Genetics theory about a humble grass in the Middle East that domesticated humans and now occupies extensive areas all over the world. Like the fungus that tricked the ants to cultivate and protect it.

  5. Nomen Est Omen says:

    Lysenkoism might be an improvement in some subjects:

    First modern Britons had ‘dark to black’ skin, Cheddar Man DNA analysis reveals

    […] Tom Booth, an archaeologist at the Natural History Museum who worked on the project, said: “It really shows up that these imaginary racial categories that we have are really very modern constructions, or very recent constructions, that really are not applicable to the past at all.”


    • MawBTS says:

      Cheddar Man sounds like a superhero you’d call only when all the other ones are busy.

    • syonredux says:

      ” racial categories that we have are really very modern constructions, or very recent constructions, that really are not applicable to the past at all.””

      And here I thought that evolution didn’t apply to humans and all of the modern races were present 10,000 years ago! Thanks for clearing that one up, Doc!

  6. MawBTS says:

    Fomenko’s New Chronology

    You reminded me of something.

    In 1752, England switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. This was problematic: after 1700 years the Julian had drifted 11 days apart. The Crown couldn’t think of a way to smooth the transition, so they didn’t even try. British citizens went to bed on Wednesday the 2nd of September…and woke up on Thursday the 14th.

    According to legend, there were riots and panics: workers demanded back-pay for the missing 11 days, superstitious folk thought that Papists had stolen days from their lives, and so forth. Benjamin Franklin wrote about how well rested he felt after his 11 day sleep.

    I like the idea that we could alter time in such a fashion. The date is a reference, the orbit of the planet around the sun is the referent – but what if the arrow pointed the other way? What if the movement of the planet was in fact chained to the number on the calendar? It’s a postmodern idea: all cameras are unclean and truth isn’t real. So why not have fun with it?

    Let’s adopt a calendar system that obliterates 300 years of slavery: then there would be no need for reparations. Or one that erases colonialism, the days before suffrage, or anything else we want.

    Maybe we should just start over at the year AD 1. The last two thousand years were OK but could have been better, so let’s take a mulligan and really try to do it right this time.

  7. dearieme says:

    “obliterates 300 years of slavery”: what about the previous millennia of slavery?

  8. dearieme says:

    I volunteer to be Regius Professor of Phlogiston.

    • Jim says:

      I would distinguish between nonsense and false scientific theories. Newtonian mechanics is a false scientific theory but it is not nonsense.

      • gcochran9 says:

        Newtonian mechanics is a good approximation. For all we know, general relativity is too – but it’s a better approximation.

      • Ursiform says:

        Newtonian Physics is the asymptotic limit of General Relativity as velocity and acceleration/gravity go to zero.

      • Frau Katze says:

        Equations for motion reduce to Newton’s equations for things bigger than, say, a few atoms, and not moving anywhere close to the speed of light.

        That’s not classified as “false.”

        It’s really quite elegant.

        • Jim says:

          It’s highly elegant but that’s not the same as being true.

          • Ursiform says:

            In the appropriate limit the Newtonian answer is indistinguishable from the Relativistic answer. Given that most complex systems have to be solved using at least mathematical approximations, and often physical approximations, you are insisting on an impractical meaning for “true”. You want to limit the word to a handful of basic theories that generally can’t be solved to give an exact result for real world conditions.

            If a theory gives an answer that is true to within measurement error it is “true” in a practical sense.

          • Frau Katze says:

            Calculations for things like ballistics use Newton’s equations. If they’re giving the right answer that’s all that matters.

            The equation have term in them : “ 1 – ( v squared / c squared)” where

            v is the speed of the object (bullet, for example) where
            c is the speed of light and that is 186,282 miles per second. That is incredibly fast.

            I suggest that as an exercise you look up the speed of a bullet fired from a high power gun. Then calculate that term.

  9. Ziel says:

    I was reading up on Gary Kasparov the other day. Apparently his only endearing trait is that he’s a devotee of the New Chronolgy.

  10. jb says:

    Ah yes, Velikovsky. We read his book in a freshman seminar when I was in college in the 70s and picked it apart. Brings back memories!

    • Only cranks like Albert Einstein respected Velikovsky.

      • gcochran9 says:

        I think they knew each other, but I doubt if Einstein respected Velikovsky’s incredibly stupid ideas. I mean, I used to take this chick out dancing who was sure that Venus was the Mother Ship.

        • Yes, scientific accuracy is unnecessary for some societal roles.

        • Jim says:

          I read a critique of Velikovsky by a specialist in Assyrian which suggested that Velikovsky’s understanding of ancient Near East languages was not that great either. Egyptian hieroglyphics do not record the vowel sounds of a word. For convenience the vowels are filled in when transcribing them to a modern language say English but that is done purely by convention. The vowels shown in these transcriptions may be completely different from the actual vowels. Velikovsky seemed unaware of this and made comparisons between words from Ancient Egyptian and other ancient languages taking into account the vowels in transcriptions from Ancient Egypt not seeming to be aware that this is meaningless.

          So Velikovsky should not be relied upon for his interpretations of ancient texts anymore than for his knowledge of celestial mechanics.

  11. Gord Marsden says:

    Read the worlds in collision when I was about 16, a gift from someone who believed it. The idea that planets popped out of orbit and run about like billiard balls in full view of humans invaded my sensibilities even then.

  12. JayMan says:

    Seriously. This is exactly what I think when I hear calls for more ideological diversity in academia.

  13. Yes and no. You yourself made a post how long medicine had negative net benefit.
    btw, just some 40 years ago, when Alvarez team discovered K-T impact, there were many paleontologists ridiculing it with comparison to Colliding Worlds.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Paleontologists are dumb.

      • NotAPostMortemLizardSurgeon says:

        Well, I know 2-3 that are not (one of them actually has posted a comment here, AFAIR).
        There are how many?
        Well, it seems that dinosaurs are cool and they aren´t nearly as insane as Anthropologists.
        I would guess that there are way worse ways to spend funds.

  14. Leonard says:

    You’re missing a verb before “Lysenkoism”. “Believe in” I guess?

  15. AndrewS says:

    The middle two proposals, yes. The first and last, no.

    Colleges should be teaching students to think, and part of a good education in thinking is looking at wrong ideas and figuring out why they’re wrong. The first time around, the scientific establishment just laughed at Velikovsky, which did nothing to discourage science-minded amateurs from thinking that he might be correct. I would hope that an astrophysics major would spend at least one day of his four years looking at bunk and tested on his ability to disprove it.

    As for hiring kooks or teaching nonsense: no.

    • Jim says:

      Harold Shapley organized a scientific boycott of MacMillan when he heard about their intended publication of Velikovsky’s book resulting in them selling the rights to Doubleday. This was a mistake on Shapley’s part as it actually gave the work more credibility with the general public. However it is astonishing and more than a little scary how many people took the book seriously.

  16. dave chamberlin says:

    One would think these crackpots would have small audiences but all you have to do is go on Youtube and realize the reverse is true. John Hawks will have a great Youtube lecture up on recent human evolution and it will have 1000 views. Some looney can be drunk,stoned, psychotic, and have his hair shooting straight out away from his head 6 inches and talk authoritatively about random nonsense, say bigfoot/alien half breeds and have millions of views.

    Ain’t nuttin’ we can do about it. Check out this graph in an interesting Atlantic article. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/10/have-presidential-speeches-gotten-less-sophisticated-over-time/381410/. If we vote for a president because he speaks at a fourth grade level, a man of the people, then science is going to get dumbed down as well. That doesn’t mean we have to like the ever encroaching stupidity around pure science, but the world is what it is.

  17. Smithie says:

    Thomas Sowell used to champion the idea that intellectuals know a lot about their narrow fields of study, but not a lot about how the outside world works, and that is why they have so many crazy ideas. Maybe, it’s true up to a point, but it still doesn’t explain guys like Lewontin.

  18. j says:

    Universities should hire and tolerate eccentrics. Victorian universities were full of them. Terry Pratchett’s Unseen University was swarming with them. I have a college who follows a Russian theory that headaches are caused by static electricity and he has attached ground connection to his shoes.

  19. Mike Byrne says:

    Velikovsky was great fun to read. I read all his stuff when I was young. I think it expanded my mind. While he may have correctly predicted the existence of the Van Allen Radiation Belt, and may have got the temperature of Venus right, his ideas were obviously wrong-headed. But reading about astounding astrophysical events synchronized with biblical stories was grand fun.

  20. dux.ie says:

    Are there any quantitative signs that campus unrests have affected universiiy performances because of the drop in morale? Though the links cannot be conclusively established, the campus unrests might be the causes if there were no other significant causes. One of the data that are readily available across campuses are the research performance WFC the weighted fractional count of reputable journal papers from http://www.NatureIndex.com, an off-shoot of Nature Journal.

    Science publications might take one year to go through the referee system and the work done might be another year before that. So we are checking if there are significant changes (volatility) in WFC since 2015. One of the often mention campus unrests in in 2015 was that from Yale University. About two years ago, http://time.com/4106265/yale-students-protest/ The performance of Yale was pretty steady in the past few years but it suffered a drastic drop in 2017 (-1.33 SD). It should be noted that because of the very small sample size the normal statistical inferences might not apply.


    Another noted event in 2015 was the unrest in the University of Texas system about the ability to carry conceal weapons on campus, resulting in some academic staff leaving the university, e.g.


    The performance of UTAustin was on an upward trend in 2013 and 2014, it suffered a steep descline (-0.53 SD) in 2015, recovered slightly (+0.46 SD) in 2016 to edged over the performance of UCLA but suffered a bigger decline (-0.67 SD) than that for UCLA in 2017 to score below that for UCLA. The performance of UCLA is on a steady decline without much volitility.

    Interestingly UT-Austin is projected to overtake Caltech and Yale Uni in the near future.

    EventYr Defender Challenger
    2017.90 Caltech, UT-Austin
    2022.28 Yale Uni, UT-Austin

    So was the shock of the Halloween costume affairs and diversity at Yale bigger than that of conceal weapons on UT-Austin campus? The least square error linear projection of the performance of UT-Austin was supposed to overtake that for UCLA but the estimated WFC was below that. The steady declines for UCLA and Caltech could be from other unmentionable causes.

    • Frau Katze says:

      That graph you made looks rather disturbing.

      But I went to university in the Vietnam war era. The newly opened Simon Fraser University (opened 1965) became a hotbed of political craziness. (Canada wasn’t in Vietnam, but SFU hired a lot of Americans.)

      Yet there was no indication of turmoil in the science and math area. Nobody even discussed the war.

  21. Of interest about heritability in general. The study starts right off the bat noting that “…”the correspondence between lay judgements of heritabilities and published estimates is high (r = .77)” That is, your mom is better at this than your average professor in the social sciences. Educated mothers who have raised multiple children are apparently pretty darn good at it. I’m shocked.

  22. Michael J says:

    Bear in mind that many great ideas were initially considered ridiculous. Stomach ulcers caused by bacteria? Don’t be silly. Next you’ll be saying that cervical cancer is linked to a virus.

    Imagine Einstein explaining early versions of relativity to his colleagues. They’d have laughed at him.

    Students need to understand the difference between mainstream science and fringe theories, but they should be exposed to a bit of fringe. Most of the fringe stuff is nonsense, but now and then we find a bit of gold.

    I don’t have the skills to validate Dr Lewontin’s work but if you guys are sure it is garbage then it probably is. But remember that some learned people, such as Dr Gould, hold it in high esteem.

  23. Scott says:

    The more correct each field is, the worse diversity of thought is, since it just means introducing pseudoscience into otherwise pristine research.

    The more wrong fields are likely to be, the better diversity of thought is, since it means each field will have at least a few correct people, and they can pursue useful research on their own. Fields probably scale in such a way that 100% chance of having 10 good scientists is better than 50% chance of having 50, and 50% chance of having 0.

    So the more wrong you expect fields to be, the more you should support diversity of thought. I’m in favor, myself.

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