Archive: Academic Affairs
Good enough is good enough: on the future of teaching
There is or was in economics a so-called law known as Gresham’s: bad money drives out good. Another law, of broader application, would have it that good enough dominates best.
The web, and indeed Wikipedia—to which I just happily referred—, illustrates this point. Copying is easy, compiling is easy, finding new information is not so easy, even if that means simply reading journal articles and adding a bit to the existing common store. I have Fuch’s dystrophy, a hereditary disease of the cornea. Naturally I’d like to know all I can about it. I search online, diligently, repeatedly. What I find is the same information (some of it perhaps incorrect) repeated over and over again, often verbatim, from Wikipedia to the Mayo Clinic to NIH. As soon as one tries to investigate specific questions, e.g. about the risk of surgery, one discovers that the web has no answers. I would say that it is broad but shallow; yet even that conveys the wrong impression, since the “breadth” consists largely in repetition of a small core of fact and not obviously untrue speculation.
The information one gleans, with grains of salt for more dubious sources, is for many purposes good enough. Were you a journalist or a student needing two sentences on Fuch’s, you’d have them, quickly and without effort. But it is not much better than good enough. I think that that is a general tendency: the apparent wealth of the (publicly accessible) web belies a widespread poverty.
Good enough drives out best—and even better.
Apply this now to university teaching.
[See Update.] I’m not sure why anyone would expect Liberty University (the late Jerry Falwell’s Collegio Romano) to be even-handed in its treatment of Democrats and Republicans. However much the two parties may resemble one another in their allegiance to corporate interests, on certain matters dear to the heart of the fundamentalist Christians who run the University, Democratic positions are anathema and Republican positions are not.
Since late last year, Democrats on campus have had a club. This month the University withdrew its sponsorship, which means that the club gets no money and cannot use the name or logo of Liberty U in its communications.
An email from Liberty’s VP of student affairs, Mark Hine, to the College Democrats announces that the University has just finished a review of its policy on campus organizations. It then cites what seems to be a section of the Honor Code:
No student club or organization shall be approved, recognized or permitted to meet on campus, advertise, distribute or post materials, or use University facilities if the statements, positions, doctrines, policies, constitutions, bylaws, platforms, activities or events of such club or organization, its parent, affiliate, chapter or similarly named group (even if the similarly named group is not the actual parent, affiliate or chapter) are inconsistent or in conflict with the distinctly Christian mission of the University, the Liberty Way, the Honor Code, or the policies and procedures promulgated by the University.
Hine applies the rule to the case at hand. Because the positions of the Democratic party are “inconsistent or in conflict with the distinctly Christian mission of the University” or with the “Liberty Way”,
We are removing the club from the Liberty website and you will need to cease using Liberty University’s name, including any logo, seal or mark of Liberty University. They are not to be used in any of your publications, electronic or internet, including but not limited to, any website, Facebook, Twitter or any other such publication.
It’s worth noting that though the University’s rule effectively calls for a ban on meetings in University facilites, its action consisted only in denying to the club the use of the University’s name and logo. Nevertheless the implication is that the club, since it meets the conditions of the rule, could have been, and indeed should have been, banned altogether. The tone of the letter is that of a cease-and-desist letter, intended to intimidate.
Once the decision became a target of criticism, Jerry Falwell, Jr. issued a response in which, after complaining about media coverage, he denies that the “Democrat club” was banned:
The students who formed the Democrat club last October are good students. They are pro-life and believe in traditional marriage [in fact those positions are written into the club’s constitution]. They can continue to meet on campus. The only thing that has changed came about as part of a university-wide review of all student organizations for official recognition status. Official recognition carries with it the benefit of using the university name and funds. While this group will not be an officially recognized club, it may still meet on campus.
That’s true but a bit disingenuous. The club may meet, perhaps, but only on the sufferance of the administration: they would be tolerated, like prostitutes in a red-light district. At a later meeting with members of the club, the University offered the club the option of regaining recognition by becoming an affiliate of Democrats for Life of America, which opposes abortion; doing so would bring them into compliance with the rule. As of a few days ago, they were still mulling it over.
The College Republicans think that the Democrats’ club (which began shortly before the 2008 election) provides a welcome opportunity for debate.
Meanwhile, on the 26th, University administrators met again with members of the club. They wanted an apology for what they regarded as false claims made by the club’s president, Brian Diaz, and others to the media, mostly concerning Hine’s email.
The club is going to apologize. My sense is that Diaz and the others, who, as far as I can tell, are against abortion and gay marriage, found themselves in an exposed position—Terry McAuliffe and other Democratic leaders in the state had begun to cite the ban—and needed to back down. For its part the University, represented by Hine and Falwell himself, has done its best to persuade them.
And the moral is…
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has written a letter to the IRS urging that Liberty University’s tax-exempt status be reviewed (they’ve done so before). Liberty University has announced plans to file suit against Americans United. On what basis, I’m not sure.
Not much. Commenters have argued that the University has violated principles of free speech and have raised First Amendment issues. But the University has no obligation to respect principles of free speech, and doesn’t claim to. (People tend to invoke notions of the university as a site of free inquiry, but that is at best a recent and somewhat parochial way of conceiving the institution. Liberty University makes no pretense of being that sort of university; like, say, Oxford University until the 1870s, it promotes free inquiry but only within the faith.) Moreover if TaxProf is right, Liberty’s tax-exempt status is not jeopardized by its action.
The one live issue, mentioned by Ed Brayton, is that the University demands for Christian groups elsewhere the recognition it refuses to the Campus Democrats. Liberty University, or rather an outfit called Liberty Counsel that now operates under the aegis of its law school, has argued—and won—a case in which a campus religious group, Gator Christian Life, was denied official recognition on the grounds that it violated a policy against discrimination on the basis of religious preference.
I don’t think Brayton has much of an argument. The parallel would have been this: suppose Lib U had a clause in its rules governing clubs to the effect that clubs could not discriminate on the basis of political affiliation, and proceeded to deny recognition to the Democratic club on the grounds that they did so discriminate. The Democrats could quite reasonably answer that it is in the nature of political clubs to require of their members that they subscribe to the principles of the club, and thus to discriminate between those who do and those who don’t. The issue raised by Liberty Counsel on behalf of Gator Christian Life isn’t one of free speech, it’s that some anti-discrimination principles are incompatible with some sorts of club. Liberty Counsel argued, successfully, that in the case of Gator Christian Life, the University’s blanket principle of non-discrimination must admit an exception.
Now there may be sorts of club whose raison d’être is so at odds with the principles of a university, or with moral principles generally, that any hint of endorsement would involve the university either in glaring inconsistency (e.g. a club whose purpose was to intimidate professors in the classroom) or moral wrong (a whites-only club). Liberty University takes the Democratic club to have been of this sort, insofar as its recognition by the University would be taken to be an endorsement somehow of the principles of the national Democratic party, principles that the University finds grossly at odds with its “Christian mission” (Falwell and co. tend to say that the pro-choice position is not Christian, but that’s descriptively false and normatively tendentious).
There is, nevertheless, an element of arbitrariness in the University’s action. Not because they have treated the Democratic club differently from the Republican club, but because the Democratic club has explicitly included in its constitution the positions that the University regards as required by its Christian mission. To return to Hines’s letter:
Even though this club may not support the more radical planks of the democratic party, the democratic party is still the parent organization of the club on campus. The Democratic Party Platform is contrary to the mission of LU and to Christian doctrine (supports abortion, federal funding of abortion, advocates repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, promotes the “LGBT” agenda, Hate Crimes, which include sexual orientation and gender identity, socialism, etc). The candidates this club supports uphold the Platform and implement it. The candidates supported are directly contrary to the mission of LU. By using LU or Liberty University and Democrat in the name, the two are associated and the goals of both run in opposite directions.
The passage is not entirely coherent, but the gist is clear. The very name “Liberty University College Democrats” forges a link between the University and the Party, a link which is reinforced by the club’s use of the University’s logo, colors, and so forth. The taint of that link is so great that it cannot be mitigated by any disclaimer the College Democrats might offer.
Forget Liberty University and its peculiar mission for a moment. Try to imagine cases where their position would be plausible. No university would want to appear to endorse genocide: a KKK chapter, even if it disavowed the aims of the national organization, could reasonably be denied support because the association of the university with white supremacism is odious enough to overwhelm any mitigation a disavowal could provide.
Liberty University’s view, then, is that association with the national Democratic party, or more precisely with an organization espousing the positions it finds odious, tinctures it with so great a taint that even at second hand no association can be tolerated.
That is the issue. People seem to want a more sensible basis on which to argue. There isn’t one, not here.
Update: The university has agreed to allow the Campus Democrats to be an “unofficial” club. They can use the University’s name and logo, but they must make it clear that they are not endorsed by the University. The College Republicans will be subject to the same condition. See Steve Benen at Washington Monthly, CNN, and
“We decided to go ahead and implement (the policy) as of today,” Falwell said Monday. “The (College) Republicans have been removed from official status and been moved to the new unofficial status that we just created.” […]
“We just decided, with our religious mission, it’s going to be a nightmare to try to figure out which candidates are in-line with our school’s mission and which ones aren’t. And we feel obligated to take the same approach with the Republican club as we do with the Democrat club.”
“We just decided, with our religious mission, it’s going to be a nightmare to try to figure out which candidates are in-line with our school’s mission and which ones aren’t. And we feel obligated to take the same approach with the Republican club as we do with the Democrat club.”
- Liberty University College Democrats, Facebook Page [viewed 29 May].
- Liberty University College Democrats, Home Page, [viewed 29 May].
- Ray Reed, “Kaine calls on LU to reconsider Democratic club ban”, Lynchburg News-Advance, 21 May 2009 (updated 4:15 p.m).
- Kevin Bondelli, “Liberty FAIL: Support the Right of Young Democrats to Exist at Liberty University”, Future Majority, 23 May 2009. [Includes the text of the letter sent by Hines to the College Democrats.]
- Dave Thompson, “Democrat club wary of Falwell offer”, Lynchburg News-Advance, 23 May 2009.
- Andrew Cain, “Liberty decision to pull Democratic club unleashes backlash”, News Virginian (Waynesboro), May 23, 2009.
- Jerry Falwell Jr., “Op/Ed: Media Has Misrepresented Controversy Over Club, Falwell Jr. Says”, Lynchburg News-Advance, 24 May 2009.
- Jerry Falwell, Jr, “Media’s misrepresentation of club controversy”, Liberty Journal, May 24, 2009.
- Darrell Laurant, “Shouldn’t be a mystery why Liberty University nixed club”, Lynchburg News-Advance, 24 May 2009.
- Ray Reed, “Liberty University Democratic club working to regain status”, Lynchburg News-Advance, 26 May 2009.
- Ray Reed, “Group asks IRS to review Liberty University’s tax-exempt status”, Lynchburg News-Advance, 27 May 2009.
- Ray Reed, “Falwell seeks apology from Democrats club”, Lynchburg News-Advance, 27 May 2009.
- Angela Hatcher, “Liberty University expects apology from College Democrats”, Lynchburg News-Advance, May 27, 2009.
- Ray Reed, “Liberty University Democratic club to apologize, try to regain status”, Lynchburg News-Advance, May 27, 2009.
- Lee Sandy, “Liberty’s College Democrats are ‘Up-and-Coming’”, Liberty University Champion, Apr 7, 2009.
- University Advancement staff, “LU officials meet with College Democrats”, Liberty University Journal, May 28, 2009.
- Ron Chusid, “Liberty University Bans Democratic Club”, Liberal Values, 23 May 2009.
- Americans United for Separation of Church and State, “IRS Should Review Liberty University’s Tax-Exempt Status For Partisan Politicking, Says Americans United”, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, 27 May 2009.
- [ ], “Liberty University as Bob Jones University — Can the IRS Strip Tax-Exempt Status for Revoking Recognition of Democratic Club?”, TaxProf Blog, 25 May 2009.
- Barry Lynn [Americans United], “Letter to Lois G. Lerner [Director Exempt Organizations Division, IRS]”, 27 May 2009.
- University Advancement Staff, “Liberty Counsel to file complaint against Americans United for Separation of Church and State”, Liberty University News & Events, 28 May 2009.
- scarce, “Liberty University bans Democrats”, Crooks and liars, 23 May 2009.
- PZ Myers, “‘Liberty’ University really ought to look at the first word in their name”, Pharyngula, 22 May 2009.
- Ed Brayton, “Liberty University: No Democrats Here!”, Dispatches from the culture wars, May 26, 2009.
- Liberty Counsel, “University Reverses Policy and Allows Religious Clubs to Base Decisions on Religion”, Liberty Counsel, 23 Jan 2009.
- [ ], “Liberty Counsel”, Wikipedia, 29 May 2009.
Statistical snake oil, again
Or: where is Darrell Huff when you need him? The Chronicle of Higher Education, drawing on the services of Academic Analytics LLC, presents lists of departments and institutions ranked by “productivity”. Here are the 2007 and 2006 rankings for philosophy:
The measure is based on statistics concerning publications, grants, awards and honors, and so forth. These are normalized and weighted to yield the composite scores you see above. It should be clear that although the scores are significant, the rankings aren’t. They’re too volatile. Only three departments manage to remain in the top ten from 2006 to 2007.
It’s true that in sports the standings from one year to the next can vary just as much. They, however, are based on the unimpeachable won-lost record. A perusal of the puffery for the “Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index™ (FSP Index)” shows that arbitrariness enters into the formulation of the Index not only in the weighting of its various components but also in the methods used to calculate those components. One book is given the weight of five articles, and so on. Institutions can buy the raw data. But I wonder how many administrators, pressed for funds, will do so, and spend more money to have the data analyzed again. Yet that’s what you’d need to do to know how robust a measure the FSP is.
Unfortunately, the numbers will be used to make distinctions they cannot rightly be said to justify. Academic Analytics claims that “more universities than ever are using FSP on their campus”, and I believe them. What I don’t believe is that the FSP is as objective as they claim. Carnegie-Mellon, which ought to know better, highlights its no. 5 ranking in 2007; but a year earlier, as you can see, they weren’t even in the top ten. Michigan State’s index plunged from 2 to below 1.31 in one year. Were they exhausted after their stellar season?
It’s too bad that the Chronicle is lending its prestige to this dubious enterprise. An antidote to the FSP can be found at the International Mathematical Union which has produced a Report () on citation statistics. Here are the conclusions:
- Relying on statistics is not more accurate when the statistics are improperly used. Indeed, statistics can mislead when they are misapplied or misunderstood. Much of modern bibliometrics seems to rely on experience and intuition about the interpretation and validity of citation statistics.
- While numbers appear to be "objective", their objectivity can be illusory. The meaning of a citation can be even more subjective than peer review. Because this subjectivity is less obvious for citations, those who use citation data are less likely to understand their limitations.
- The sole reliance on citation data provides at best an incomplete and often shallow understanding of research—an understanding that is valid only when reinforced by other judgments. Numbers are not inherently superior to sound judgments.
The last item, I think, may be irrelevant to the people who are most likely to be customers of Academic Analytics. I have in mind administrators or the people who hire them, people who think that a university should be run like a business. The point of appealing to the FSP and measures like it is to avoid judgment, substituting for it the authority of numbers.
(For more statistical snake oil, see “How to mislead with statistics”, 7 Dec 2004.)
“A ‘Nixon going to China’ moment”Geomblog, 14 June 2008.
Abraham Mahshie. “Former executive spooks some, but not all, faculty” Columbia Daily Tribune, (21 Dec 2007) p. 1A. Also here ().
The Department of Felines at Female Science Professor’s home institution recently hired a new cat. She describes the process:
We recently interviewed several candidates intensively, following the European model of interviewing all candidates at the same time (very efficient). We were, in theory, open to hiring at any level, and we did interview one very intriguing candidate who would have had to have been hired at a senior level […]
Sad to say (I speak for myself), they did not hire the senior candidate. I must admit that of our two senior cats, one has definitely entered the post-work era of his career. But the other maintains an active program of research.
In the comments FSProf has also posted one of the successful candidate’s Reference Letters. You may find it helpful if you’re trying to place a promising kitten this year. A sample:
Kitten X has not been part of my research group at the shelter, but I have seen him in his cage and I’ve seen him interact with other shelter workers and felines – he is the “go-to” kitty for advice about all things involving kittens.
5000 words on academic freedom
Not mine, but Michael Bérubé’s. An excellent discussion of academic freedom, its purposes, and the current threats to it. See “Academic Freedom”, Michael Bérubé Online 27 Jan 2006. Some of my thoughts on the subject can be found via the Themes and obsessions page.
A day after the APA, here I am reading about other people’s conventions. Specifically, the MLA, a much larger and more notorious convention than the philosophers put on. We’re too few and too staid now that overconsumption of alcohol is on the wane.
Acephalous and What Now? have been reporting their impressions of the annual gathering. Like the Eastern APA, the MLA is mostly about jobs. The halls at both conventions are filled with anxious job-seekers on their way (or not) to the next interview, and weary job-givers who have managed to escape the interview room for an hour or two. But the MLA has three times as many participants and ten times as many sessions.
Added 3 Jan: Antimeta and Obscure and Confused were reporting on the APA. I must say I envy Antimeta for actually being able to go to talks. My days were occupied with interviewing, except on Thursday afternoon when I chaired a very worthwhile session with Karen Detlefsen, Justin Smith, and Saul Fisher. The topic was seventeenth-century biology; attendance was light. We should have called it “Baroque Sex”.
The APA has not, to my knowledge, been in the news since the late 80s, when the Times devoted a few columns to the battle for recognition by continental philosophers. The MLA’s gathering, on the other hand, earns a few items each year. Typically they content themselves with showing how silly academics can be; right-wingers predictably lament the decline of the love of literature and fulminate against sinister conspiracies on behalf of political correctness. Almost no-one who writes on academia, from within or without, gives the reader any sense of teaching as a profession or of the labor and discipline of research. Silliness, assiduous self-promotion, and political rigidities do occur, though I doubt that academics are worse in that respect than the pundits who deride them. But many—I would even venture “most”—academics want to master their discipline, contribute to it, and impart it to their students, unless the institutions they work in, and the ambient culture, succeed in convincing them that the effort isn’t worth the trouble.
John Emerson at Idiocentrism has offered “Nine Theses for the MLA Convention” (see also Slant Truth). Two of them strike me as especially “wise counsel”:
5. Criticism is a worthwhile activity but not really a very important or authoritative one. But among the ways people have of enjoying life, reading literature is one of the finest. It’s good to enjoy life.
6. Because criticism is not important or authoritative, even though it has its value, pluralism is fine. It’s not like medicine, where a non-standard treatment might kill people.
‘Authoritative’, I take it, means “capable of establishing its conclusions by generally accepted methods”; this is suggested by the comparison with medicine. Medicine, though it sometimes offers contradictory or self-interested advice, has produced what are now incontrovertible truths—that scurvy is cured by vitamin C, or that syphilis is the natural consequence of infection by spirochetes. Criticism has no crucial experiments, and cannot avail itself of the demonstrative power of mathematics; and even if the datum, the text, is given alike to all readers, it rarely puts an end to dispute. The current fashion for treating Shakespeare as a secret sympathizer with the Catholic underground could be settled by the documents. An authentic profession of faith, for example, would do so. But insofar as the claim rests only on readings of the plays and poems, it cannot be more than plausible, even if the rhetoric suggests otherwise.
As for importance, again the comparison with medicine shows what the word means here. No one ever died from a bad reading—not as a proximate cause, at least—but plenty of people die from bad diagnoses. As a critic, you won’t be preventing river blindness with your reading of Heart of Darkness, though you might, under the right circumstances, provide some students with the tools and encouragement to abandon stereotypes in thinking about Africa and the West’s relation to it—or in thinking about human capacities for evil.
Literature, and criticism as an aid to understanding literature, are secondary to the arts that address basic needs. The satisfaction of basic needs is, as the phrase implies, a necessary condition for the fulfillment of other intentions. But the finer things in life are not subordinate to the satisfaction of basic needs. On the contrary. We tend to think of the basics as means and of the finer things as ends. Even within the art of nutrition there is a distinction between the mere provision of an adequate diet and the exercise of taste. If you’re starving, you don’t make distinctions. But once there is enough—once the satisfaction of need can be taken for granted—the end becomes not the mere getting of food but the choosing of good food. And once the satisfaction of all basic needs can be taken for granted, then new ends, not immediately related to basic needs, are constructed; these “higher” ends are taken to be what a specifically human existence is for.
From that there arises an ambivalence about the higher ends, the finer pleasures. They aren’t necessary, and until everyone can enjoy them—especially those who now haven’t enough even of what is necessary—their enjoyment, and all the more so criticism and philosophy, which presuppose not only leisure to enjoy but also leisure to reflect, is bound to seem frivolous at times. Moreover human affairs, though we’d like to think they are steered by ideas, depend fundamentally on the resources available to satisfy basic needs; that they are sometimes steered by ideas is possible just because the question of needs has been, for the time being, settled somewhere for a significant number of people.
Literature, criticism, philosophy: luxuries. When more fundamental wants and needs are called into question, as they are now, the business of the APA and the MLA looks like so much fiddling. This even though livelihoods in fact depend on what happens there. It is a curious fact that we sometimes invert the order of needs and wants, and make livelihoods, or even lives, depend on frivolous events. As if we needed to, in order to force nature into the sphere of intention. Those events—sports events, say—are then both frivolous and not: it’s only a game, but if so-and-so doesn’t put the ball through the uprights he’s out of a job, which is not at all frivolous.
I say “fiddling”: should we then stop and do something else? In truth I’m not sure. There may come a time when the choice is obvious.
Argumentum ad baculum
Paul Mirecki, a professor in Religious Studies at Kansas University who had announced a course on Intelligent Design and Creationism—as myth—only to withdraw it after emails “disparaging Catholics and religious conservatives” were revealed, was beaten up by two men, so far unidentified, as he was on his way to breakfast.
In newer translations, apparently, “turn the other cheek” comes out as “whack your opponent”. Religious conservatives, some of them, cry foul when someone calls them lunatics. But when Pat Robertson announces that the citizens of Dover, PA are no longer part of God’s concern, not a peep (or almost: see the notes).
I tend to think of Robertson and his ilk as the revenge of the Old Testament upon the New.
Eric Weislander, “Mirecki treated after roadside beating”, LJWorld.com 6 Dec 2005 (referred to by topicalstorm at Daily Kos); Sophia Maines, “Intelligent design course canceled”, ib. 5 Dec. According to this story, Mirecki’s contributions to a campus listserv on atheism were compiled by John Altevogt, a “conservative columnist and activist in Kansas City”); “Chat with J-W's Sophia Maines and Scott Rothschild” 6News, Lawrence, KS, 30 Nov. The Discovery Institute, a group organized to promote Intelligent Design, has condemned the beating of Mirecki: Robert Crowther, “Violence Is Never The Answer In Intellectual Debate”, Evolution News 6 Dec 2005.
Altevogt, who must have delusions of grandeur, “said he was concerned about the focus of the religious studies department and he wants to see Mirecki and another faculty member moved to another department. He said he also wanted the religious studies department cleaned up and perhaps transferred to a religious organization that can monitor it; the chancellor fired, and the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics student group kicked off campus” (5 Dec). This from someone who deplores the “authoritarianism and unwarranted elitism of evolutionary theory’s proponents” (“The theory of evolution”, Answers in Genesis, a by-the-numbers defense of ID). Not surprisingly, he also believes that Ann Coulter is a “logical, rational and an independent thinker” (Mike Belt, “Ann Coulter causes stir at KU”, LJWorld.com 30 Mar 2005).
On Robertson, see “Robertson warns Pennsylvania voters of God’s wrath”, Reuters/CNN 10 Nov 2005. I should note that the Christian Alliance for Progress vigorously condemned Robertson’s remarks (Father Jake, “Pat Robertson: ‘Dover is damned’”, Community Forum, 15 Nov 2005; on the general issue, see also “Political Warriors or Followers of Jesus?”). A discussion at Christianblogs is worth a look: the true believers tend first to deny that Robertson ever said what he said, and then to attack the person who has reported Robertson’s remarks, and finally to ignore what he said on the grounds that he has done so many good works (but see the “False Teacher Quiz” referred to at the beginning of the discussion).
On the other hand, Rev. Mark H. Creech, at Alan Keyes’s Renew America, defends Robertson: “By their vote at the ballot box, the city made it clear that they didn't want even the slightest hint that God may have created the natural world interjected into the Dover school system's science curriculum. It may shock the sensibilities of some to say that such is a rejection of God, yet it is a form of it” (“In defense of Pat Robertson”, 17 Nov 2005). It’s odd that the rejection of Intelligent Design, which is not supposed to be based on religion, amounts to a rejection of God; you would think that the worst sin of the voters in Dover would be a sin against reason, not against God. But Rev. Creech, “a prolific speaker and writer”, has an answer to that: “What right does Dover have to look to God and yet deny Him by repudiating in an election those that would represent the slightest possibility of an acknowledgment of Him?”
I must admit I’m still puzzled. The tilt of the earth’s axis was once adduced as evidence of design (in William Derham’s Physico-Theology (1712 and many subsequent editions); see the Galileo Project for information on Derham, and Wm. James Varieties of religious experience ii, lect. 20 for a characteristic quotation). Now suppose I thought that there was no credible evidence for the claim that no natural force could have caused the tilt, and on the contrary strong evidence that some natural force did cause it; I therefore decide that the “design theory” of the tilt is not worth teaching, not even as a defeated alternative to the naturalistic theory, and that those who advocate teaching the design theory are in effect advocating that my children’s time be wasted on matters of no account. Is that a rejection of God? Or could it rather be a defense of theism against the ridicule that would be brought upon it by associating it with bad science? That Intelligent Design is bad science is not the issue here; the issue is whether, in rejecting it, on what I consider to be rational grounds, as a serious alternative worth including in a biology curriculum, I would be rejecting God; and surely the answer is No.
As always, Evolutionblog, Pharygula, and The Panda’s Thumb will supply all the reasons a rational person might want for agreeing with the voters of Dover.
Addendum 7 Dec: Thoughts from Kansas has the latest. Altevogt should change his line. The David Horowitz, Anne Coulter and Alan Keyes niches are already occupied.
Open Access: Penn Libraries
“Winning Independence” at the Library of the University of Pennsylvania begins with a succinct summary of the situation now in scholarly publishing. A great deal of consolidation has taken place in the last twenty years. In mathematics, Springer has absorbed Birkhäuser and several other presses that were part of the Kluwer group; other presses, like North Holland, which published many works in logic, have likewise been absorbed (in this case by Elsevier); Cambridge and Oxford are almost the sole venues in Great Britain; and in the US the American Mathematical Society accounts for much of what is published in advanced mathematics. (See Rob Kirby’s home page for more, including a price comparison between journals published by scholarly societies and journals published by commercial publishers.)
One result is that the prices of journals, especially in the sciences, have increased enormously, to the point that academic libraries devote the bulk of their budgets to science journals. This is at the expense not only of the humanities, but of monograph purchases in all disciplines. (At Penn, 70% of the acquisitions budget goes to journals.)
“Winning Independence” includes pages on authors’ rights and copyright policy at Penn (every university should have such a page); a bibliography on the Open Access Movement; and charts and graphs of journals classified by discipline.
See also the SPARC Open Access Newsletter and some of my Livejournal entries:
- “Open access” (on the Public Knowledge Project), 26 Apr 2005
- “Images at the NYPL” (on rights to images and the difficulties now faced by documentary film-makers), 24 Apr 2005
- “IP Gone Wild” (who owns the Bible?), 3 Mar 2005
- “Not better, just bigger” (on the consolidation of the publishing industry in France), 27 Dec 2004
See “C’est pas donné!” at Biblioacid for more. A survey by Allen Press indicates that the U.S. prices of philosophy journals have increased 66% since 1997 (Gene Kean, “18th Annual Study of Journal Prices”, JP 2005, no. 3).
Like a bad penny…
… Mark Bauerlein’s argument keeps showing up in conservative Op-Ed Land. A piece in the New York Times by John Tierney (“Why Righties Can’t Teach”) is the latest re-digestion. Were it a student paper, I’d call it plagiarism. But this is talking-point politics: originality is a definite minus. Tierney lists a number of bad arguments against Bauerlein et al. In his world there aren’t any good arguments.
I’ve discussed Bauerlein’s position elsewhere (see “Conservative is the new black, 3” and its predecessors). In brief: it doesn’t stand up, and behind it is a not-very-well-concealed program of intimidation (vide David Horowitz).
For some discussion, see John Holbo, “Conservatives in Academe, Again”.
Nice little campus ya got there
Newt Gingrich wants a little purging of the universities. Instapundit says: I’d hate to see anything happen to tenure, but the patience of the good and decent people of this country is wearing thin. The Leiter Report has it all.