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Why Not Ward Cleaver?

My colleague Jonathan Zasloff (Reality-Based Community) points to this slip by David Brooks in the New York Times:

All the habits of verbal thuggery that have long been used against critics of affirmative action, like Ward Churchill and Thomas Sowell, and critics of the radical feminism, like Christina Hoff Summers, are now being turned inward by the Democratic front-runners.

Uh, that would be critic of affirmative action Ward Connerly, not disgraced professor Ward Churchill.

UPDATE: Also, isn't it Christina Hoff Sommers?

FURTHER UPDATE: "Churchill" corrected online, "Summers" not.

Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Ward Churchill is a criticism of affirmative action.
1.15.2008 11:00am
Richard A. (mail):
So much for the notorious New York Times copy desk, despised by many a writer for insistence on an artificial and stilted style. These guys are so busy putting honorifics in front of names that they don't check whether the actual names are correct.
1.15.2008 11:43am
Eli Rabett (www):
Works for me.
1.15.2008 11:51am
Mr. Liberal:
All Wards are the same.
1.15.2008 11:53am
Paul Allen:
So what does "verbal thuggery" mean to you?
1.15.2008 12:00pm
Anderson (mail):
Good evidence that the NYT's op-ed columnists do not in fact have editors -- they e-mail it in, and it goes in the paper. No one could have read "like Ward Churchill and Thomas Sowell" without going "huh?"
1.15.2008 12:13pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
like Ward Churchill and Thomas Sowell

That would make for an interesting pairing at a dinner party though. Provided, of course, the meal was served with plastic utensils and on paper plates.
1.15.2008 12:16pm
some sense:
I'm still worried about the Beaver.
1.15.2008 12:28pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I should mention that while there are plenty of respectable academic critics of feminism who know what they are talking about, Christina Hoff Summers isn't one of them. She's a movement conservative whose assigned "beat" is to drum up opposition to feminism. There's a big difference.
1.15.2008 12:35pm
Houston Lawyer:
The article is otherwise fun. What could be more fun than watching representatives of two "oppressed" groups try to out victim each other? Too bad Edwards isn't gay or we could have a trifecta.
1.15.2008 12:49pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Dilan: Might you point me to specific serious errors that Christina Hoff Sommers has made? There may well be some -- I just thought it would be helpful to have the allegations be more concrete.
1.15.2008 12:50pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
'Close enough for government purposes' has now morphed into 'closed enough for the media'. Caveat Emptor.
1.15.2008 12:55pm
CheckEnclosed (mail):
Houston Lawyer: That explains why Ann Coulter tried to imply that Edwards was gay -- she wants the trifecta.
Pretty far ahead of the curve, huh?
1.15.2008 12:56pm
JosephSlater (mail):
What about faithful ward Dick Grayson?
1.15.2008 12:57pm
rarango (mail):
She's a movement conservative whose assigned "beat"

Hmmmm. As a card carrying member of the VRWC I apparently missed the last meeting when these assignments were made. Of course, I keep missing the patriarchy meetings too. Who, pray tell, Mr. Esper,+ made this assignment?
1.15.2008 12:59pm
rarango (mail):
A real hack Dr. Sommers is: Sommers earned her B.A. at New York University where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1971. She received her Ph.D. in philosophy at Brandeis University in 1979.
1.15.2008 1:02pm
Eddie Haskell:

Too bad Edwards isn't gay or we could have a trifecta.


He's a flaming metrosexual . Is that close enough?
1.15.2008 1:04pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dilan: Might you point me to specific serious errors that Christina Hoff Sommers has made? There may well be some -- I just thought it would be helpful to have the allegations be more concrete.

It's not so much that there are specific errors as it is what she is. She made her big splash with "Who Stole Feminism?", which was a polemic against feminism, and has followed up with several other books that have simply argued movement conservativism's party line that feminism is bad in various ways. She gets her funding from a movement conservative think tank.

Professor Volokh:

As far as I know, she has not published ANY scholarship in an academic journal since "Who Stole Feminism?" came out. It's all articles in the popular press as well as right wing publications.

In other words, she's a movement conservative. That's fine. But Brooks is placing her in the same category as Thomas Sowell, who, while also a conservative, IS a serious scholar.

The reason I pick on this is because one of the things about the conservative movement that gnaws at me is a sort of casual anti-intellectualism where people who write mass market books are equated with serious scholars. Someone like Bill Bennett is held up by the movement as a serious thinker who challenges the ideas of the "liberals and leftists who control the ivory tower".

In fact, there are plenty of conservatives who do serious scholarship, including serious critiques of feminism. Hoff Sommers is simply not one of them. She's just one of many people who have mastered the art of telling conservatives what they want to hear. She hasn't produced anything 1/100th as serious and carefully researched as many of the "radical feminists" that Brooks is bashing on.
1.15.2008 1:07pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Hmmmm. As a card carrying member of the VRWC I apparently missed the last meeting when these assignments were made. Of course, I keep missing the patriarchy meetings too. Who, pray tell, Mr. Esper,+ made this assignment?

rarango:

There is serious grant and book advance money to be made in producing ideas that conservatives want to hear. That isn't to say that some of what is produced isn't decent; but if you believe such "assignments" don't exist in the conservative movement, you need to look more closely at places like AEI and Heritage, and what gets funded and what doesn't. Or check out the work of exiles like David Brock and Bruce Bartlett, who talk about how it works.

Really, to use an example that was extensively criticized on this blog, it wasn't an accident that after 9/11, a popular conservative writer of Asian descent (Michelle Malkin) wrote a book defending Japanese Internment. That book, and countless others, got produced in part because it served the interest of the movement to produce it and thus the advance was sizeable.
1.15.2008 1:13pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Paranoia and snobbery are things that gnaw on me.
1.15.2008 1:18pm
emsl (mail):
Just a note that the online column has been corrected.
1.15.2008 1:19pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Dilan Esper: I'm afraid I misunderstood you. You said, "I should mention that while there are plenty of respectable academic critics of feminism who know what they are talking about, Christina Hoff Summers isn't one of them. She's a movement conservative whose assigned 'beat' is to drum up opposition to feminism. There's a big difference."

I had thought you meant that Sommers isn't "respectable"; now I realize that your claim is simply that she's no longer an academic (in the sense of someone producing "scholarship in an academic journal"). But Brooks of course wasn't intending just to list academics -- I take it he meant to say Ward Connerly, who to my knowledge has never aspired to a scholarly career.

I don't think there's anything unrespectable about choosing to speak to the public directly, or even doing so solely to popularize existing knowledge and arguments (if that is indeed what Sommers has been doing), instead of developing new scholarly ideas. (If she was making seriously inaccurate claims in the course of doing that, that would indeed be not respectable, but I now realize you weren't accusing her of that.) But if your point is simply that she's no longer an academic, a claim that neither Brooks nor I was making, then you might well be correct.
1.15.2008 1:23pm
ronnie dobbs (mail):

There is are serious grant, career advancement opportunities and book advance money to be made in producing ideas that conservatives left wingers want to hear. That isn't to say that some of what is produced isn't decent; but if you believe such "assignments" don't exist in the conservative movement academy, you need to look more closely at places like AEI Harvard and Heritage Berkeley, and what gets funded who gets tenure and what who doesn't.


...with just a few changes, your allegation is made equally valid vis a vis left wingers and the academy. And by "equally valid" I mean "not very," unless you think that one's political viewpoint (or the viewpoint of one's funding sources and/or bosses) should be determinative of one's "seriousness" as a scholar or commentator.
1.15.2008 1:28pm
rarango (mail):
Mr. Esper: and that system does not operate with Brookings, the Urban League and other liberal or progressive sites? Or progressive funded "studies" the appear magically before elections? Or liberal or progressive organizations simply publish their material to enlighten un beknighted masses. Come on, Mr. Esper--
1.15.2008 1:30pm
Crust (mail):
Seems to be a trend. The other day Kristol launched his tenure on the Times Op-Ed page with a column that confused Michael Medved and Michelle Malkin.
1.15.2008 1:34pm
Tom952 (mail):
3 Stars for Houston.
1.15.2008 1:44pm
Crust (mail):
rarango:
and that system does not operate with Brookings...?

Of course it does. Brookings assigned O'Hanlon to promote the Iraq War and then later the surge. (Tongue at least half in cheek.)
1.15.2008 1:48pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
...with just a few changes, your allegation is made equally valid vis a vis left wingers and the academy. And by "equally valid" I mean "not very," unless you think that one's political viewpoint (or the viewpoint of one's funding sources and/or bosses) should be determinative of one's "seriousness" as a scholar or commentator

Ronnie, thank you for inadvertently making my point. This is exactly why I pointed out that Hoff Sommers wasn't a serious scholar.

You see, your viewpoint is common among conservatives; that there is no difference between scholars and commentators, and that the academy is filled with a bunch of liberals who are polemicists just like Hoff Sommers (or even Ann Coulter) is.

In fact, that is wrong. You cannot in general advance your career in academia simply by being liberal or by writing things that the people who are paying you would like to see disseminated. Rather, you have to publish, and to publish, your articles are subject to peer review and have to contain seriously-researched scholarship. There is simply no comparison between writing "Who Stole Feminism" and publishing in a scholarly journal.

Professor Volokh may believe that I am making a mountain out of a molehill, but it is the prevalence of views like that of Ronnie that compelled me to piont this out.
1.15.2008 1:48pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Mr. Esper: and that system does not operate with Brookings, the Urban League and other liberal or progressive sites? Or progressive funded "studies" the appear magically before elections? Or liberal or progressive organizations simply publish their material to enlighten un beknighted masses. Come on, Mr. Esper--

A few points:

1. There isn't nearly as much money funding liberal think tanks as conservative ones.

2. The liberal think tanks that do exist are more heterodox and don't tend to sever their relationships with scholars for being insufficiently liberal.

3. Brookings is far more likely to publish a study even if it comes to uncomfortable conclusions. When's the last time Heritage published work that didn't come out the way Heritage's funders would have liked it to?

4. Most importantly, liberals recognize the difference between something like the Center for American Progress and a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. Many conservatives, in contrast, believe as Ronnie expressed above that university scholarship and movement conservative idea dissemination are intellectual equivalents.
1.15.2008 1:54pm
rarango (mail):
Mr. E: re your paragraph 4: is that ALL liberals know the difference between advocacy essays and peer reviewed literature and "many" consservatives don't? Of course, I did paraphrase that a bit. That is an absolutely breathtaking assertion indeed. (As an aside, I think you put far too much confidence in the process of peer review--the proliferation of academic journals--esp on line journals--has seriously affected the ability of publishers to find appropriately qualified reviewers.)
1.15.2008 2:08pm
Smokey:
...(Michelle Malkin) wrote a book defending Japanese Internment. That book, and countless others, got produced in part because it served the interest of the movement to produce it and thus the advance was sizeable.
That one's so low, slow and inside that others have beat me to the punch [2 metaphores for the price of one!]

The implication [for Malkin mind-readers in the audience] is that Malkin accepted money for writing a book that she doesn't really believe in. Well, I for one am shocked that such a thing could be postulated on a lawyers' blog. Shocked! In fact, I once watched a real lawyer, Perry Mason, take a case on principle for a $1 retainer. But Malkin - and the entire VRWC [Mr Esper's "movement," heh] - is, as usual, held to a much higher standard.
1.15.2008 2:26pm
Richard A. (mail):
The Times has corrected the online version.
I'm no fan of Brooks but anyone can make this type of mistake. Once you type in the wrong name, you have a tendency not to look at it again. That's why God made editors.
1.15.2008 2:33pm
PersonFromPorlock:
J. F. Thomas:

That would make for an interesting pairing at a dinner party though. Provided, of course, the meal was served with plastic utensils and on paper plates.

I believe that Dr. Sowell could be trusted with a real place setting. Mr. Churchill, in contrast, might profit from a diaper as well as a napkin.
1.15.2008 2:46pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
The implication [for Malkin mind-readers in the audience] is that Malkin accepted money for writing a book that she doesn't really believe in.

The comparison you are drawing is false, and in any event misses the point.

It is false because everyone knows that a lawyer's job is to advocate the interests of his or her clients, and that includes sometimes putting forth arguments that the lawyer does not find persuasive (although there are limits to this).

In contrast, most people presume that nonfiction book authors are putting out ideas that they believe to be truthful.

But you miss the point because it really doesn't matter whether Ms. Malkin thinks Japanese internment was a good idea or not. That book served a purpose; the conservative movement was trying to advance the idea of ethnic profiling directed at Muslims as something that liberals would recoil at, allowing the conservatives to then decry liberals in their repeated talking points as soft on terrorism.

The reason that book got written, and paid for, is because it needed to get written, from the conservative point of view. And what I am saying is that conservatives often falsely equate THAT sort of work with actual peer reviewed scholarship. And that's exactly why someone like Christina Hoff Sommers is important-- she is a popular author and conservative talking head, but many conservatives pretend she is a scholar whose work has refuted the claims of academic feminists.
1.15.2008 2:47pm
CJColucci:
Maybe it should be Mel Brooks. No, wait, Mel is intentionally funny.
1.15.2008 3:05pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

peer reviewed scholarship


We are talking about "academic feminists", right? So, why should we take the fact that something is "peer reviewed" seriously. The "peers" hold the same views so they cannot point out errors in any meaningful way. This is not math or physics where political views do not matter.

And is there any proof whatsoever for these charges:


That book served a purpose; the conservative movement was trying to advance the idea of ethnic profiling directed at Muslims as something that liberals would recoil at, allowing the conservatives to then decry liberals in their repeated talking points as soft on terrorism.

The reason that book got written, and paid for, is because it needed to get written, from the conservative point of view.


I submit it is a left wing fanatsy of what conservatives think.
1.15.2008 3:15pm
Laura S.:

In fact, that is wrong. You cannot in general advance your career in academia simply by being liberal or by writing things that the people who are paying you would like to see disseminated. Rather, you have to publish, and to publish, your articles are subject to peer review and have to contain seriously-researched scholarship.


Wow. Are you that clueless? What you say is true for some disciplines. I think there are plenty of examples of academic fields where there are many publications but little rigor.

There is a reason why people in the basic sciences tend to sneer about so called 'humanities research': it's perceived as having a propensity toward flawed methodology and preposterous analysis.

- a PhD Candidate in Applied Physics.
1.15.2008 3:19pm
Anderson (mail):
The liberal think tanks that do exist are more heterodox and don't tend to sever their relationships with scholars for being insufficiently liberal.

-- See, e.g., Bruce Bartlett.
1.15.2008 3:35pm
jim47:

iberals recognize the difference between something like the Center for American Progress and a peer-reviewed scholarly journal.


That's partially the design of CAP. On the conservative side, Cato and Heritage really do try to foster scholarly debate about issues important to the conservative movement. I have publications by both institutes on my bookshelf that list among their contributors and editorial board members several of the profs at this site.
1.15.2008 3:41pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Ronnie, thank you for inadvertently making my point. This is exactly why I pointed out that Hoff Sommers wasn't a serious scholar."

So what? There's a reason serious scholars aren't runnng anything other than faculty meetings.
1.15.2008 3:56pm
Crust (mail):
Wow. From Anderson's link re (conservative pundit Bruce) Bartlett:
[Bartlett] also provided a copy of an e-mail message that he said was sent to him in August 2004 by Jeanette Goodman, the vice president of the [National Center for Policy Analysis]. "100K is off the table if you do another 'dump Cheney' column and 65K donor is having a rebuttal done, in a national magazine, to your attack on the fair tax people so that 65K may be gone also," Ms. Goodman wrote about one of Mr. Bartlett's columns about the vice president. "Do you have any ideas on where I could raise that amount quickly?"
1.15.2008 3:58pm
Mark Field (mail):
Without getting into the specific personalities, I'd just like to point out that "verbal thuggery" has long been used in American politics. "Long" as in "from day 1". I'm sure it makes David Brooks happy to cite examples of liberals (allegedly) using it, but it's a weak and stupid claim.
1.15.2008 4:38pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
If Dilan has read "Who Stole Feminism?" at all, it was a long time ago.
Sommers does not bash feminism. She bashes the "gender feminists" (her term)who promote anti-male policies, support reverse discrimination, and have altogether too much power on campus as well as in other places.
She bashes a number of lies such activists use to support their work (Superbowl and domestic violence, for example) while supporting "equity feminists" who support equal opportunity.

This, for many feminists and for Dilan is the equivalent of bashing feminism.

It is interesting to hear the more radical feminists read their sisters such as Sommers and Paglia out of the movement with casual disdain, dishonest characterizations of their work and name-calling. Hew to the party line of they'll be sending you sunlight by FedEx.
1.15.2008 4:38pm
Eli Rabett (www):
The thing about Malkin that everyone passes by is that by birth she is a Filipina, and if anyone got beat up worse by the Japanese in WWII than the Chinese, it was the Filipinos. I can easily believe she has a huge hate on.

As to AEI, well they got rid of John Lott, who by the way is now housed in the Computer Science Department at UMd???
1.15.2008 5:09pm
William Newman (mail):
"Most importantly, liberals recognize the difference between something like the Center for American Progress and a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. Many conservatives, in contrast, believe as Ronnie expressed above that university scholarship and movement conservative idea dissemination are intellectual equivalents."

Liberals recognize the difference as conservatives do not? I think the situation is more parallel than you acknowledge. Among literate folk with either agenda, most will on a good day remember the difference between institutions which paint their politics on the sign out front (Heritage, Center for American Progress) and organizations which credibly aspire to ideological neutrality. But they're not all literate. And even on that good day, a noticeable fraction prefer no standard to ideological palatability. And on some bad days that fraction becomes large. And, I'm sorry, large not only on the right. You might not hang with many people who are sometimes more impressed by Morgan Spurlock or Michael Moore or Eric Alterman or Naomi Klein than by some peer-reviewed university researcher who might be a corporate-funded stooge. If so, take the proportion of convinced UFO and astrology believers of your acquaintance, scale that proportion up for the general population... Or think what proportion of leftists give much weight to free trade policies as recognizably mainstream as those of Brookings, and what proportion feed closer to the bottom on that (well-studied, high profile, important) issue.

Leftists also seem to be less than scathing about leftist researchers whose funding requires being intensely aware of which side their bread is buttered on: like the one-armed economist Truman wished for, the Joyce Foundation seems to me to be a one-armed banker as much as anything comparable on the right. (Institute for Creation Research isn't all that comparable: they probably idly fantasize about being solemnly cited as authorities in legal judgments, but they don't make it an effective priority.) Smart rightists often have the good grace to cringe and say something snide or scathing about something as silly as the supply-side-it-harder stuff like "[all!] tax cuts pay for themselves." Smart leftists, in my experience, less often have the good grace to do likewise about the sillier anti-gun stuff like "a gun in the home is N times more likely..." or for that matter the sillier anti-supply-side stuff like dogmatically ignoring deadweight loss.

"You cannot in general advance your career in academia simply by being liberal or by writing things that the people who are paying you would like to see disseminated."

Yes, probably not in general, but sometimes you can. Sometimes spectacularly. And I think this sin really is strongly clustered on the left (unsurprisingly, given the demographics of academia). Remember Sokal's "Transgressing the Boundaries"? Remember Bellesiles' _Arming America_? What's the last time that academics were burned by a hoax calculated to appeal to rightists?

Furthermore, I think the non-left (sometimes the right, but I'm particularly thinking of libertarian Daniel Klein) has amassed impressive suggestive evidence that simply being non-left is a significant obstacle to advancing in an academic career. (The evidence tends to lead to a complicated argument, but it's an argument which can be simply forfeited: looking at sociology numbers and opining "there doesn't seem to be a problem there," rather like Eric Alterman forfeiting the complicated media bias argument by opining on Rathergate. I've never seen an arguer on either side prove a simple decisive general conclusion, but I've sure seen arguers forfeit.)
1.15.2008 5:58pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
We are talking about "academic feminists", right? So, why should we take the fact that something is "peer reviewed" seriously.

Bob from Ohio, why don't you submit a paper to a feminist journal or submit it for presentation at a feminist conference and then share us your expertise on this matter.

I submit it is a left wing fanatsy of what conservatives think.

The comment on the Malkin book was not about "what conservatives think". It is about what the conservative MOVEMENT does. I haven't said a word about whether I think the author of "In Defense of Internment" believes what she wrote. The point is, what gets written and what doesn't get written by members of the conservative movement is very much a top-down process, the opposite of the bottom-up process of academia where scholars come up with research ideas, do the research, and then seek publication. And that means that we shouldn't confuse one with the other or assume that because there are a lot of liberals and leftists in academia, that it is as uncommitted to truth and committed to ideology as some conservative popular author is.

Wow. Are you that clueless? What you say is true for some disciplines. I think there are plenty of examples of academic fields where there are many publications but little rigor.

That complaint is certainly made, but that's NOTHING like the top-down funding model of books that come out of the conservative movement. I am not saying that every academic publication is perfect; there is certainly a lot of inaccuracy and a lot of fill. What I am saying is that the academic process IS designed to search for some sort of truth, whereas that isn't what conservative movement book publishing is about at all.

On the conservative side, Cato and Heritage really do try to foster scholarly debate about issues important to the conservative movement.

CATO can be quite good, but remember, they are libertarian, not movement conservative. Heritage may put out something decent and scholarly when the research confirms their preordained conclusion, but Heritage won't publish anything that militates against any of the central goals of militant conservativism.

If Dilan has read "Who Stole Feminism?" at all, it was a long time ago. Sommers does not bash feminism. She bashes the "gender feminists" (her term)who promote anti-male policies, support reverse discrimination, and have altogether too much power on campus as well as in other places. She bashes a number of lies such activists use to support their work (Superbowl and domestic violence, for example) while supporting "equity feminists" who support equal opportunity.

I didn't hate "Who Stole Feminism". Sommers generalized too much, and some of her criticisms were without merit, but the truth is, there were some strains of feminism that deserved criticism as being too committed to gender essentialism, and Sommers made that point. I might add that feminist authors like Susan Faludi and Nadine Strossen actually made the point better.

But "Who Stole Feminism" was the start of Sommers career as a talking head of the right, and she has since taken a more openly anti-feminist position. For instance, she now advocates that many gender stereotypes are rooted in truth. Whatever one thinks of that contention, that isn't the argument that would be made by an equality feminist. Indeed, in "Who Stole Feminism", she criticizes feminists who assert biological differences as a means of moving us to a more "woman-centric" world. Yet she now gives lectures in which she asserts that biological differences are significant and justify certain forms of discrimination against women.

The point is, Hoff Sommers is a very useful person for movement conservativism to have around. She pays lip service to the feminism of the past and condemns present day feminism. Can you see how this could be useful for a conservative party with somewhat retrograde positions on sex and gender issues in appealing to middle class working women?

And I ask. Where are the publications? There are many journals that will publish intelligent and well researched criticisms of feminism. We haven't seen any publications from Hoff Sommers for the same reason that Discovery Institute doesn't publish articles about intelligent design in biology journals. That really isn't the point.

And that's why people like this shouldn't be held up as the equal of academics who do actual scholarship.

ONE LAST THING: to William Newman: Nice, well-thought out post. You raise valid points. But I don't think ANY liberal holds out Michael Moore as, say, the equivalent of Richard Posner. Yes, lots of people believe Michael Moore without necessary scrutinizing the evidence for his claims, but I think we still understand the difference between him and an academic.

Many conservatives, in contrast, are constantly arguing-- and ARE ENCOURAGED BY THE LEADERS OF THEIR MOVEMENT TO ASSUME-- that academics are no different than ideologues. It's different.

And I would never claim that nobody in academia ever got ahead because of their politics. But you still have to publish, and there is peer review, and plenty of bad stuff DOES get bounced or improved, Sokal notwithstanding. And no academic journal pays for studies to reach a particular result. That practice is anathema to academia and plays a large part of why the quality output of many popular conservative "thinkers" is so low.
1.15.2008 6:49pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dilan. I'd like to see some of Sommers' biologically-based recommendations for "discrimination". If it's anything like what we went over in the issue of women in combat, it would make perfect sense.
If it's a matter of no women presidents because of PMS, that would be a different matter.
From what I've read of Sommers since her book, I really, really don't think it's the latter.
And as I recall, some of the folks arguing for women in combat seemed to think issues like strength were a cover for discrimination.
So, all things considered, and given what I've heard from you, here and in other threads, my guess would be Sommers' ideas are far more likely to be in the vein of women in combat.
IOW, perfectly sensible.
1.15.2008 8:40pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

Bob from Ohio, why don't you submit a paper to a feminist journal or submit it for presentation at a feminist conference and then share us your expertise on this matter.


Why don't you share your list of publications with us? You hold yourself out as the arbiter of what is scholarship and what is not, so you must be a well published guy.

Then, we can read your peer reviewed articles for ourselves. If non-scholars like us can hope to understand your deep thoughts, that is.
1.15.2008 8:41pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Dear Bob,

Google scholar is your friend.
1.15.2008 9:20pm
William Newman (mail):
I think "why don't you submit a paper to a feminist journal" is a very weak comeback. Exclusivity is not synonymous with high standards --- and some of our readers may even have studied enough feminism that the technical concept of "old boy's network" will occur to them in this context.:-)

Uncontrollable snottiness aside, it's a difficult problem, and one that's currently on my mind anyway. I was just reading Scott Aaronson quoting Donald Knuth, no dummy, on Knuth's long frustration with bewildering bafflegab about quantum mechanics, told in retrospect after he found a nice shortcut-if-you're-Knuth through:
Several years ago, I chanced to open Paul Dirac's famous book on the subject and I was surprised to find out that Dirac was not only an extremely good writer but also that his book was not totally impossible to understand. The biggest surprise, however --- actually a shock --- was to learn that the things he talks about in that book were completely different from anything I had ever read in Scientific American or in any other popular account of the subject. Apparently when physicists talk to physicists, they talk about linear transformations of generalized Hilbert spaces over the complex numbers; observable quantities are eigenvalues and eigenfunctions of Hermitian linear operators. But when physicists talk to the general public they don't dare mention such esoteric things, so they speak instead about particles and spins and such, which are much less than half the story. No wonder I could never really understand the popular articles. (p. 181)

It's a nice reminder that just because someone scarily bright keeps peeking in on the field curiously over the years and sees nothing that makes sense isn't necessarily compelling evidence that it doesn't make sense. On the other hand, you only need the merest bit of history of science and technology to know that QM has enjoyed ridiculous amounts of predictive and precise descriptive success: spectral lines, antimatter, transistors, lasers/masers... So Knuth probably never had to wonder whether QM was simply nonsense on stilts, Lysenkoism or cold fusion writ large. But how should we best avoid wondering for those unlucky fields which can't conveniently reel off some unfakeable technical triumphs?

Or just can't reel them off *yet*... How do you distinguish, e.g., on one hand Mendel pursuing excellence at warp speed as he puttered around in the monastery garden, and on the other hand the nonexcellence of publication in the very well connected and funded Journal B of the Lysenko Institute of Stalingrad? I am quite certain that "why don't you see how challenging it is to get them to accept your input" is not the test I am looking for.

"I don't have a solution, but I certainly admire the problem."
1.15.2008 9:57pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
My friend seems to show one law review article, not a series of papers on feminism.
1.15.2008 9:58pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dilan. I'd like to see some of Sommers' biologically-based recommendations for "discrimination".

By way of example only, she gave talks opposing the UN Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, in part, because language condemning sex stereotyping should not be in there because many sex stereotypes in fact were perfectly consistent with biological sex differences.

Why don't you share your list of publications with us? You hold yourself out as the arbiter of what is scholarship and what is not, so you must be a well published guy.

Bob, I have actually published 2 papers and will publish a third soon. But that's not really the point. You are being very dishonest here. I was an editor of a feminist law journal in law school (SCRLAWS). I do know something about the process by which articles are selected for publication, edited, and published. I have also attended academic conferences where publications on feminist theory were presented and questioned.

I was making the point that you were going off half-cocked, piously opining about how feminist journals choose articles based on ideology, having NO IDEA WHATSOEVER what you were talking about. It happens I do know something about these things; certainly more than you do. And one thing that ticks me off is conservatives who don't know THE FIRST THING about the academic publication process going off as if all scholarship is nothing more than ideological axe grinding. People should learn something about things before criticizing them, and the average conservative has no interest in actually learning about how the scholarship process works and the checks that are installed. They just want to pop off about liberals in the academy.

William Newman:

The comment about publishing was not directed at you. You obviously know something about the subject. Bob from Ohio was just popping off.

That said, I wouldn't analogize to Lysenko if I were you. It is conservative think tanks, not academia, that produce the modern day Lysenkoism. (See, for instance, efforts to prove that cuts in American level tax rates actually pay for themselves.)
1.16.2008 1:31am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Dilan, what makes you think you have any idea about "movement conservatism"? The fact that you read a New York Times story about Bruce Bartlett does not mean you have deep insight into the VRWC.

In fact, that is wrong. You cannot in general advance your career in academia simply by being liberal or by writing things that the people who are paying you would like to see disseminated. Rather, you have to publish, and to publish, your articles are subject to peer review and have to contain seriously-researched scholarship. There is simply no comparison between writing "Who Stole Feminism" and publishing in a scholarly journal.
Yes, clearly you can't Ward Churchill advance your career in academia Ward Churchill simply by being Indian, or claiming to be Indian Ward Churchill. And obviously there's peer Michael Bellisiles review in academia and serious Michael Bellisiles scholarship.

And of course by that I don't mean that most people in academia, or most academic works, are actually frauds. Obviously they aren't. But peer review outside the hard sciences just doesn't mean what you think it means.
1.16.2008 1:59am
David M. Nieporent (www):
And one thing that ticks me off is liberals who don't know THE FIRST THING about the publication process going off as if all conservative scholarship is nothing more than ideological axe grinding. People should learn something about things before criticizing them, and the average liberal has no interest in actually learning about how the scholarship process works and the checks that are installed. They just want to pop off about conservatives in the movement.
Fixed it for you, Dilan.
1.16.2008 2:01am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dilan.
When does a stereotype become useful in predicting at least something about some of the members of a group? What percentage occurrence?
What, exactly, stereotypes is Sommers thinking are supported by biology?

One of the things that makes me suspicious about the lib view of Sommers is the remark on a fem board some time back that she says rape is okay. Disagree in one thing...become a misogynist hater and traitor in all things.

You may be right. But that's not the way to bet.
1.16.2008 6:26am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dilan.
You screwed up. You apparently didn't think that anybody who heard you on Sommers would actually read what she said.
Your credibility is in the shop. They won't work on it until they get the entire fee up front.
1.16.2008 9:22am
Orson Buggeigh:
Mr. Esper, Others have noted that peer review is not perfect. But it is generally recognized to require actual experts in the field, with academic qualifications evaluating a manuscript prior to publication. Ward Churchill's vast list of publications are, for the most part, from little fringe publishers who are not related either academic publishing or the trade press. Only one work even came from a recognized trade publisher,Routledge. The rest were various anarchist and fringe groups, whose concept of peer review is probably like Mr.Churchill's - get my friends and people who agree with me to read the manuscript. I suspect this is a serious problem with much of what passes for scholarship in ethnic and gender studies. It won't stand someone like a Christina Hoff Sommers or a John LaVelle checking the sources. For a piece of peer review scholarship debunking a lot of feminist scholarship in the sciences, see Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt, _Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and its Quarrels With Science._ Published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. See Chapter Five especially.

It helps to have actual qualified reviewers. But that does not mean they will always be as careful as they should be.
Michael Bellesiles wrote an advocacy tract based on mis-construed information and suppositions not backed by empirical data. The Journal of American History's peer review process failed, probably because many of the reviewers agreed with his thesis. One is still promoting the ideas in the work, though he is carefully not citing it in the historians brief examined earlier here on the VC. Bellesile, on the advice of people who liked the JOH article, expanded it as _Arming America_. And again, when competent readers checked the footnotes, they found problems. With repeated misuse of data, and manufactured manufactured data. when this became widely publicized, the book was discredited, and Bellesile quite before Emory fired him.

Ward Churchill was hired with NO qualifications for a post on the faculty of a research university. Why? Because he claimed to be an Indian, and he was a politically militant person of the Left seems to be a reasonable conclusion. Churchill has an MA in graphic arts from a third or fourth tier community college,but was hired and tenured in short order by a research university. Churchill's so called scholarship is easily discredited, and it was published by non-academic presses. While his flamboyant speech got him attention, and his supporters try to claim that is why he was fired, it is worth noting that LaVelle had detailed the problems with Churchill's work nearly five years *before* the 2001 attack on the WTC. LaVelle, BTW, published his work criticizing Churchill in an academic journal,and the partisans in ethnic studies ignored it. Churchill was found guilty of academic misconduct including plagiarism by an academic personnel process, and was justly fired for his misdeeds.

And then there is the whole Duke scandal. Faculty and administrators who all seem to be from the left side of the political spectrum leading the charge to railroad three white,straight male athletes to prison to help support their political cause. A genuine liberal academic (an Obama supporter no less) was one of the few to really examine the frame, and call widespread public attention to it. No thanks to the New York Times and most of the media - they liked the frame, because it fit the race / class / gender approach to reporting common in many mainstream newsrooms. So when KC Johnson was proven correct, do you suppose the progressive faculty showered thanks and praise on his work clearing the three lacrosse players? No, of course not. Academics like Claire Potter,the self-proclaimed radical tried to tear him down for hurting their brave new world.

Mr. Esper, there is a great amount of evidence of left of center scholarly failures which seem to be motivated to support ideology,but very little evidence of anything like the volume of similar bad work on the Right. I do not find your arguments either convincing or credible. They strike me like Potter's, or the Duke faculty who believe that the facts don't matter as long as the work supports the cause. The Left,not the Right, has a long history of this. It is the same kind of rubbish scholarship Comrade Lysenko wrote for Comrade Stalin. Churchill, and many so-called scholars in the world of gender and ethnic studies have been given a pass not for their scholarship, but for their propaganda in support of the cause. THAT is the real scandal here.
1.16.2008 9:39am
William Newman (mail):
(Dilan Esper: I didn't think your try-to-publish suggestion was directed at me. And I noticed your kind words which *were* directed at me, and I appreciate them. But whoever one may be addressing, I think try-to-publish is just sadly insufficient as a diagnostic test. Not only in left-right polarized fields, either: see string theory and cosmology, below.)

"It is conservative think tanks, not academia, that produce the modern day Lysenkoism."

I'm not gonna defend conservative think tanks from that charge, of course. And I wouldn't defend the universe of "libertarian think tanks" from this charge either.

I might optimistically try to defend a bit of high ground: "is the output of Cato more comparable to Lysenko than to the bottom 33rd percentile of organizational theory journals in the local university library?" But I gather we might broadly agree on that.

Meanwhile, are you really optimistic about defending your "not academia?" Again, even in some unpolarized fields like cosmology and software development methodologies, it can be quite tricky. Have you ever seen what happens when people seriously try?

In ideologically polarized fields, I think _Social Text_, for the period beginning when Sokal picked it as a good target and ending when it published his hoax, stands credibly accused of something comparable to Lysenkoism. And I don't *know*, but I'd guess, that in that period a large number of prominent people pointedly refused to acknowledge the situation. (As the moral of the story goes, "Don't be such an unwashed denialist, child, the existence of the Imperial Fig Leaf is verified by the Imperial Electron Microscopers.") And somebody, probably not AEI, put quite a lot of funding into Duke...

In less-polarized fields, serious people have been motivated to question the quality of peer-reviewed disciplines in various ways that can't be explained by left-right vendetta. E.g., people sometimes raise the question of nonsense on stilts for hard-to-test physics (today often string theory or cosmology), or software development methodologies. If today "peer review" has been determined to prove "game over man, game over", a lot of smart thoughtful people haven't gotten the memo.

And note that dark suspicions about worshipping sacred cows don't need to mean that a field is entirely nonsense. E.g., the field of public health is certainly not entirely nonsense. But that doesn't mean that its peer review system of funding and publication accommodates excellent relevant ox-goring analysis. Even if you're not a libertarian anti-licensing fanatic like me, the shortage of US doctors is desperate enough that nonoptimal desperate countermeasures might well improve the situation. Just loudly and persistent wailing about the logjam of slow expansion of certified medical education would be an easy way to help avoid disproving the appearance of credibility. And then how about some creative policy wonkery, like a cost-benefit estimate for a decree converting half of the country's graduate departments of chemical engineering into shake-and-bake med schools? Recruit some 35-hour-a-week French doctors to moonlight as tele-instructors, et voila!

The question of who should be allowed to diagnose and prescribe is pretty important. If people in the field aren't loudly worrying about it in some credibly clear-eyed pragmatic way, it seems suspiciously strange. I don't think "peer review" answers the question of whether published academics are credibly clear-eyed in how they address it (and in how they choose not to address it). I am, in fact, left to conclude that if you want to rise in the public health field, you should know better than to dive into that vital underexplored field, and instead just tacitly accept that doctors need je ne sais qua which is somehow a consequence of the current selection process.

I have seldom glimpsed the headwaters of peer reviewed academic gender analysis, so I maybe in the following I'm just overreacting to what comes out of my browser when I turn on the tap. But I wonder about the vigor and rigor of the theoretical debate in well-funded feminism-related journals on how we decide who should get child custody. Might it resemble the analysis of the historically privileged role of doctor? (Recent political coalitional maneuvering suggests, though, that it's not at least it's not a vague je ne sais qua: it is precisely the need for greater than or equal to two X chromosomes! It is rigorously sound public policy to assign disputed custody to mothers for the good of the child, but opposition to custody by couples of gay men is a brand of bigotry...)

I don't think "modern-day Lysenkoism" has a precise consensus definition. But even Ayn Rand might grant that in Journal B it might be possible to publish some actual research. And essentially any non-Objectivist would grant it (immediately; possibly with a phrase that involves "well, duh"). And even a hostile satire of Ayn Rand could not deny that Journal B might require very high competitive standards for cant, or the satire would lose its sting. So I think we must look for a definition not involving lack of competitive standards. (If you build the funding, the competition will come.:-)

Instead, how about corrupt competitive standards? Might we call it "modern Lysenkoism" when taking the wrong position on key politically-charged topics in a field is career poison? (Though alas, even if that definition is exactly correct in principle, it can be slippery in practice. Humans are so imperfect that you need some slop, recognizing that even very productive relatively healthy fields often still contain things like personal feuds.)
1.16.2008 10:54am
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Dilan: Give me a break. Are you seriously saying "academic feminists" are not in lock step with each other? That political views play no role whatsoever in who gets published and what the articles say? That women's studies are not completely dominated by left wingers?

You can say that but don't expect anyone to take you seriously. NO MATTTER HOW many words you put in CAPS.

You posted a lot of words here but they come down to the same thing:

Liberals rule, Conservatives drool.
1.16.2008 11:16am
Rod (mail):
As a "movement conservative" I actually agree for the most part with Dilan's assertion that conservatives pay more to present their views in the public forum.

However, I believe he misses a more fundamental point. If academic research provides support to any left-wing shibboleth, it then gets re-broadcast to the public by the NY Times, Oprah, Newsweek, and a myriad of more local sources.

If academic research provides support for any right-wing shibboleth, there is a fair chance anyone not reading the actual journal will only hear the chirping of crickets.
1.16.2008 1:27pm
William Newman (mail):
Bob from Ohio: If you're not just a troll, then please take a deep breath or three, then try to read Dilan more carefully. In particular, compare:

Dilan: I would never claim that nobody in academia ever got ahead because of their politics.

Bob: [Are you seriously saying] That political views play no role whatsoever in who gets published and what the articles say?

So no, that sure doesn't seem to be what he's saying. If after a more careful reading you think that something else Dilan wrote elsewhere in the argument contradicts his disclaimer, quote the two passages side by side and beat him up for the contradiction, fine, I'm cool with that. But please don't indignantly hit him hard with a rhetorical question when he took care to presupply a soft answer.

(Why am I actively writing this? I'm certainly not trying to passively approve of all other arguments by letting them by. But I'm someone who has been pushed into a habit of sometimes anticipating near-straw-man extensions of my arguments and disclaiming those extensions in advance. Thus, I can be particularly irritated by people who blow past disclaimers and extend arguments anyway.)
1.16.2008 1:59pm
Smokey:
The general public misunderstands "peer review" because the term is generally misused. Peer review does not prove anything. It only provides a method to disprove [falsify] a hypothesis.

Because the basic purpose of peer review is falsification, strict peer review does not apply to any hypothesis which can not be falsified.

Outside of the hard sciences, claims of peer review often seem to be simply peer-reinforcement of sometimes utter baloney [e.g., Ward Churchill]. Note that when James Watson [who first modeled DNA] recently suggested that there could be differences in intelligence among racial groups, he was never refuted through peer review. Instead, he was promptly hounded into retirement for stating the result of certain scientific research.

Note also the Larry Summers lynching. He was figuratively burned at the stake for expressing a *very* mild opinion which, if it had been uttered by a "feminist," would have been uncontroversial, if not applauded. What good is peer review, if it must conform to a politically correct agenda? Used in that way, "peer review" becomes 100% propaganda.

Keep in mind that the sole purpose of peer review is to falsify a hypothesis. If a hypothesis can withstand peer review, it is then on its way to becoming an accepted theory. However, peer review is no guarantee that an incorrect hypothesis will be falsified. It only provides a public forum in which there is an opportunity for peers to falsify a published hypothesis.

Albert Einstein’s revolutionary 1905 manuscript Annus Mirabilis was not peer reviewed. Neither was Watson and Crick’s paper on DNA structure. Conversely, the recent work of Jan Hendrik Schön was peer reviewed - and it was only later found to be a monumental fraud.

Schön, a former Bell Labs scientist, had authored [or co-authored] one research paper every 8 days in 2001 alone. An astonishing 15 of Schön’s papers were accepted for publication by Nature and Science - two of the most influential journals in the scientific community. But after unrefuted questioning [i.e., falsification] by other physicists, Schön was proved to have fabricated his results.

Geneticist Hwang Woo-suk was also peer reviewed by the editors of the the AAAS journal Science when he submitted a paper claiming to have derived lines of stem cells from cloned human embryos. [Hwang also had 25 co-authors!]. After review, Science accepted Hwang's paper, and published it. Later, it was pointed out that Hwang had used a photograph that was the property of another scientist, and his hypothesis began to unravel [eventually Hwang resigned after admitting to fraud].

Moral: Be highly skeptical. For example, the UN's IPCC presents as a fact that carbon dioxide causes the "greenhouse effect." That hypothesis has been peer reviewed and subsequently falsified. But current media bias requires that such a politically incorrect peer reviewed result must not be published [or if published, that it must be buried on page E-37, once, in a 2-inch column, in the lower left corner].

Summary: "peer review" has one central purpose - to falsify a stated hypothesis. Remember that, and the agenda of those chanting "peer reviewed!" will become apparent.


/ rant
1.16.2008 2:00pm
William Newman (mail):
afterthought: "That political views play *no* *role* *whatsoever* in who gets published and what the articles say?" [emphasis mine]

Or, as the case may be, pure strawman distortions...

(Looking back on it, it occurs to me that I could be read as coyly doing the "our freedom fighter" thing by explicitly referring to a general pattern of near-straw-men without this explicit acknowledgement that this specific case was above and beyond that.)
1.16.2008 2:08pm
lonetown (mail):
This is why the NYT should never hire conservatives, they're just plain stupid.

Why how could anyone confuse Ward Connerly and Ward Churchill?

Ones an Indian for god's sake!
1.16.2008 2:30pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dilan, what makes you think you have any idea about "movement conservatism"? The fact that you read a New York Times story about Bruce Bartlett does not mean you have deep insight into the VRWC.

David, it isn't as though the tactics of movement conservativism are a secret. The dissemination of talking points, the funding of think tanks and books, the enforcement of a sort of party line are all done relatively openly and we have plenty of information about them.

And of course by that I don't mean that most people in academia, or most academic works, are actually frauds. Obviously they aren't. But peer review outside the hard sciences just doesn't mean what you think it means.

I didn't say peer review means you never get bad scholarship. I said the conservative narrative that academics are a bunch of lefties who suppress conservative ideas and routinely put out ideologically driven material in the same fashon that conservative think-tanks and talking heads do is completely wrong.

There is plenty of bad scholarship; nonetheless, the academic system has mechanisms in place that ensures at least SOME of it doesn't get published, whereas in movement conservativism, there really IS an ideological litmus test and people are rewarded when their research comes to the conclusion that the funders and financiers wanted.

When does a stereotype become useful in predicting at least something about some of the members of a group? What percentage occurrence?
What, exactly, stereotypes is Sommers thinking are supported by biology?


I don't remember all the specifics. But one version of the talk is accessable on her AEI site, so you can check it out.

The point is, this is a VERY different position than she implied she supported in "Who Stole Feminism".

One of the things that makes me suspicious about the lib view of Sommers is the remark on a fem board some time back that she says rape is okay

I have never seen her say any such thing, and as far as I know, anyone who says that about her is defaming her character.

You screwed up. You apparently didn't think that anybody who heard you on Sommers would actually read what she said.

Richard, she sought to weaken the protections of a UN convention against sex discrimination because she thinks sex stereotypes have a biological basis. How can one possibly reconcile that with ANY form of feminism?

And then there is the whole Duke scandal. Faculty and administrators who all seem to be from the left side of the political spectrum leading the charge to railroad three white,straight male athletes to prison to help support their political cause.

Orson, I will give you Churchill and Belleseilles. But:

1. Conservatives are using Churchill and Belleseilles to imugn the credibility of ALL academia. No dice. Peer review doesn't catch everything. But the conservatives who are saying this have no idea all the times that scholarship IS rejected because of methodological questions. Meanwhile, there are many examples of movement conservatives who don't give a hoot about methodological issues as long as the preordained conclusion is reached.

2. The Duke scandal is different. Many academics say idiotic things to the media. But those statements aren't peer reviewed. Again, my problem isn't criticizing those statements-- which deserve to be criticized-- but impugning the value of SCHOLARSHIP and claiming that academia itself is nothing but a left-wing enterprise, when in fact scholarship has standards of truth and peer review that the work of movement conservativism often would not be able to survive.

Dilan: Give me a break. Are you seriously saying "academic feminists" are not in lock step with each other?

Bob, you really need to learn about stuff before you criticize it. Yes, I would say that someone like Carol Tavris and someone like Catherine MacKinnon, both academic feminists, are not only not in lock step with each other, but are diametrically opposed on many important issues.

That women's studies are not completely dominated by left wingers?

What do you mean by "dominated"? If you mean that the people who tend to want to work or study in the women's studies field are generally liberal or left-wing, sure. But that doesn't mean that conservatives can't publish in the field, as long as they do serious scholarship.

If academic research provides support for any right-wing shibboleth, there is a fair chance anyone not reading the actual journal will only hear the chirping of crickets.

Rod, this may have been somewhat true in the past-- although I don't think it is actually true on sex and gender issues, where Susan Faludi's "Backlash" documented how the media just eats up anti-feminist narratives from academic studies-- but it is probably less true now, because lots of conservative outlets exist to pick up on studies that support conservative positions. For instance, the recent breakthroughs in the use of non-embryonic stem cells were trumpeted by conservative media outlets.

Note also the Larry Summers lynching. He was figuratively burned at the stake for expressing a *very* mild opinion which, if it had been uttered by a "feminist," would have been uncontroversial, if not applauded. What good is peer review, if it must conform to a politically correct agenda? Used in that way, "peer review" becomes 100% propaganda.

Smokey, that was a SPEECH. By someone whose specialty was economics, not gender studies or biology or any other field touching on the biological basis of gender differences. You can't compare the reaction to a SPEECH with what happens when papers are published or taken to conferences.

Summary: "peer review" has one central purpose - to falsify a stated hypothesis. Remember that, and the agenda of those chanting "peer reviewed!" will become apparent.

Smokey, I don't disagree that this is the purpose of peer review. But this is an important part of the search for truth, even if it isn't foolproof as you point out. Movement conservatives whom are put up as the counterpoint to academics don't submit their work to any similar process. (There are other salient differences as well; except in cases of certain specific forms of grants, academic research tends to start with a researcher attempting to test a hypothesis, whereas movement conservativism is much more of a top down approach; also, academic freedom protects dissenting academics, whereas the conservative movement acts to punish or expel dissenters.)

William Newman: (1) thanks for the defense; and (2) many of the problems you identify are quite real. If the conservative critique of academia were expressed in the way you express your critique, I actually wouldn't be so bothered by it. But where you and I differ is that I have seen the standards and processes work, often. I have seen papers get shot down in conferences (including by points made by conservatives). I have seen articles get rejected for publication. Bad stuff gets published, but the system also works a lot better than a lot of people assume. And one certainly can publish controversial, "politically incorrect" articles that take a conservative perspective. Happens all the time.
1.16.2008 2:57pm
Orson Buggeigh:
Smokey: good over view of peer review for laymen.

Lonetown writes: "This is why the NYT should never hire conservatives, they're just plain stupid.

Why how could anyone confuse Ward Connerly and Ward Churchill?

Ones an Indian for god's sake!"

Interesting defense of the NYT and liberalism, lonetown. Because Churchill is not an enrolled member of any federally recognized tribe in the US. He has an honorary membership from a tribe which handed them out to politicians and the like. So which federally recognized tribe is Connerly an enrolled member of? I'm awaiting your answer. My guess is that neither of them is an Indian, in the sense of being an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe.

Mr. Esper. I don't find your defense of the academy, or your condemnation of movement conservatives at all convincing. Especially unconvincing is your defense of the Duke case, which was particularly egregious.

I agree that there are some conservatives who ignore truth, and put ideology ahead of accuracy. But you probably won't find too many of them getting respectful hearings on university campuses or in the media. And, it should be pointed out that conservative academics supported the Duke law professor who almost lost his deanship over politics. This is completely the opposite of left of center faculty who stonewalled for the Duke frame. In case you haven't spent time there, spend sometime at the Durham in Wonderland site by KC Johnson, and read the book he and Taylor authored, _Until Proven Innocent_. The bottom line is that the administration and faculty of Duke University systematically trampled the constitutional rights of the students. Clair Potter and her friends who continue to give the sort of apology you made, that this was speech in an open forum supporting defensible progressive goals miss the fundimental point. Constitutional rights apply to all. The university has an obligation to protect the rights of all its students. The administration and 88 faculty did precisely the opposite. Duke settled with the three wrongly indicted men after the state AG pronounced the innocent of all wrong doing. Not merely 'not guilty,' but innocent. Duke settled out of court, but three others are suing. Do you really mean with a straight face that the Duke 88 did nothing wrong except make a few ill chosen remarks, as President Broadhead said in his utterly Nixonian pseudo apology?

Mr. Esper, if the academy wants to stop the movement conservatives from having ammunition to use against them, it needs to be honest about playing by the same set of rules for all. That includes being like the honorable liberals who HAVE told their colleagues the truth. That Belleseiles lied and fabricated data. That Churchill falsified and fabricated material and engaged in plagiarism, and that he had no legitimate qualifications to be on the faculty of a research university. That Duke's faculty leaders and administration failed to protect the rights of the students at their university when they were accused of a heinous crime. That a lot of what passes for scholarship in identity based fields of study, such as race and gender studies, and sociology, is not work that would hold up to the peer review process as so nicely described by Smokey above. There are scholars, politically liberal scholars who are doing this. I mentioned Robert "KC" Johnson above, and I previously mentioned Norman Levitt and Paul Gross. There are others. but they are ignored or belittled as sell outs to the conservatives by too many ideologues in the academy. Check out Clair Potter, and several others attacking KC Johnson. They do not show where his scholarship fails, they attack him because they believe his work is helpful to conservatives. Insofar as that is what you are doing in your response above, I think it fails. Yes, some conservative writers are factually challenged, or they did a poor job and their work shows it. But so far,that is not what you have proven,just that they are causing problems for the Left. Well, if the left can't show where the conservatives were wrong by empirical data, perhaps they should ask the question: "Are we wrong about this?" That is the essence of true scholarship - being open to new information. That is precisely what is missing form much of what passes for scholarship in the academy outside the hard sciences.

One last point. Your defense of Duke's faculty engaging in speech outside the classroom not being subject to peer review misses the point: Faculty should not work to deprive students of their rights, and they should know that public utterances become public. So foolish utterances might best be quickly apologized for and withdrawn - but that is not what happened. The mis-comments of Duke's faculty elite were accurately reported and shown by Johnson and others to be foolish or malicious, and certainly harmful to the rights of the students accused. None of these people has shown where Dr. Johnson was wrong, but they object to being shown to be bigots. Too bad. They laboriously and painstakingly manufactured this petard, and are now hoist upon it. Playing with fire around explosives is generally recognized to be a bad habit. As I said, faculty are discovering that the tuition paying public is not going to let them cover up the bad actors in their midst much longer. Writing the people who disagree with you off by delegitimizing them is poor scholarship, and it is not really effective politics in the age of the internet. Ask Mr.Churchill or Mr.Bellesiles.

Thanks for reading.
1.16.2008 3:44pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Mr. Esper. I don't find your defense of the academy, or your condemnation of movement conservatives at all convincing. Especially unconvincing is your defense of the Duke case, which was particularly egregious.

Where was the defense? I simply said that the idiotic statements to the media by academics regarding that case weren't really the subject of this discussion, and you can't use them to impugn peer reviewed academic scholarship.

I agree that there are some conservatives who ignore truth, and put ideology ahead of accuracy. But you probably won't find too many of them getting respectful hearings on university campuses or in the media.

That's not true at all. Countless times, a TV or radio show will achieve "balance" by having two guests, an expert academic and a movement conservative.

The bottom line is that the administration and faculty of Duke University systematically trampled the constitutional rights of the students.

This is way off topic, but you do realize Duke is a private school and the students therefore don't have constitutional rights against it, don't you?
1.16.2008 5:16pm
William Newman (mail):
Orson Buggeigh: You, I'm basically impressed with. Smokey's review, I suggest you be wary of. It's not consistently incoherent, but to pick on one thing, "annus mirabilis" means something like wonderful year. Newton and Einstein both got one (or really Newton got 1.5 or so:-). For Einstein the year is famous for several extraordinarily important papers --- not only special relativity but several besides. It's hard to make much gramatical sense of "Albert Einstein's revolutionary 1905 manuscript Annus Mirabilis was not peer reviewed." And I don't know how to check, but I will be surprised if it turns out that Annalen der Physik truly was not peer-reviewed.

(What is it all the names like Dillon and Buggy and so forth turning up in a thread devoted to getting people's name wrong? Thank Godd for cut and paste when I remember.)
1.16.2008 5:44pm
William Newman (mail):
Dilan, it seems like you're sometimes shifting your ground without acknowledging it.

You want to argue against "Movement conservatives whom are put up as the counterpoint to academics." OK, that's no straw man, it's a coherent criticism of Volokh's original comparison. But first, it's not something that people on the thread seem to be defending very much. How many people have actually claimed they are strongly comparable in the sense you seem to be criticizing? E.g., you used it in reaction to "the agenda of those chanting 'peer reviewed!' will become apparent." I think it would have been helpful if you had either explicitly strongly challenged that point (like "peer reviewed academics *are* highly reliable, harping on complete anomalies like Churchill is a distraction") or explicitly conceded that point while backing off to what you're willing to defend (e.g., "look, all I'm trying to say is that peer reviewed research is more honest than popular books, such a low bar that you'd need a thousand little Churchills to begin refuting it"). And...

Second, if the pure intellectual dishonesty of such a comparison is what's bothering you, it would've raised the tone of the argument considerably if you had started of with something like "Giving the advocacy writing of academics any sort of comparable weight to peer-reviewed work is unreasonable whether it's the right doing it with Sommers, or it's the left doing it with Rachel Carson, John Kenneth Galbraith, Carl Sagan, or Stephen Jay Gould." Even if you had followed up with "and while it annoys me from both sides, I'm particularly annoyed with the right just because they do it so much more often than the left," I think it could've been a cleaner discussion.

As a similar charge you chose to make against the right only, "one of the things about the conservative movement that gnaws at me is a sort of casual anti-intellectualism where people who write mass market books are equated with serious scholars. Someone like Bill Bennett is held up by the movement as a serious thinker who challenges the ideas of the 'liberals and leftists who control the ivory tower'." Darned rightists and their nasty superficial Bill Bennett! Not like our nice deep Paul Ehrlich and Ralph Nader?

Ralph Nader and Bill Bennett seem like a decent straight-across comparison: e.g., they both accumulated enough political oomph to be be plausible spoiler presidential candidates, I think. And Paul Ehrlich was influential and respected among environmentalist sorts, and he wrote a book proving and using a bogus politically-charged thesis by misstating the second law of thermodynamics. I don't know what's the right movement comparable in power to the environmentalists, but the power of the environmentalists is significant. As to anti-intellectualism, on the right in my experience you need to plumb hard-core young-earth creationism to find the people who stubbornly misrepresent the second law of thermodynamics.

Enough of that, until and unless you make it clearer whether you're really standing by your apparent claim that these are right-wing problems or instead that was just a casual rhetorical barb.

And then there's academia. Ah, academia. I'll probably write about that in another post. But meanwhile...

"claiming that academia itself is *nothing* *but* a left-wing enterprise" [comphasis mine]

My browser's search function doesn't find "nothing but" earlier in the thread.
1.16.2008 5:51pm
Lonetown (mail):
Orson, re: "one of them is an Indian, I was trying to be ironic and humorous since one of them is also (can I say) black.
1.16.2008 6:54pm
Smokey:
One thing I'll say for you, Dilan, is that you won't quit when you're behind:
...the conservative narrative that academics are a bunch of lefties who suppress conservative ideas and routinely put out ideologically driven material in the same fashon that conservative think-tanks and talking heads do is completely wrong.
Wasn't the big word of 2007 'conflate'? How far afield do you need to go here? The discussion is generally about what goes on in our liberal-dominated colleges, not what some un-named 'talking heads' are saying.

Here, I'll help:
...the conservative narrative that academics are a bunch of lefties who suppress conservative ideas and routinely put out ideologically driven material in the same fashon that conservative think-tanks and talking heads do is completely wrong.
That, I could reasonably debate. 'Think tanks' and 'talking heads' are one thing; lefties in academia are another. But nice try, Mr Esper [or is it Ms Esper? A Mr Esper - editor of a feminist publication - would tell us a lot].

Anyway, as usual these thread-endings devolve into nitpicking of selected statements, and although I've done it too, I'll end my participation here with one last comment: Rather than giving examples of peer review fiascoes [as I recalled them, anyway], I probably should have just made my main point: "peer review" has one central purpose - to falsify, if possible, a stated hypothesis. If that registers, I'm satisfied.
1.16.2008 7:22pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dilan. CEDAW is sold as opposing sex discrimination. But, like the genocide treaty, it imposes not the obligation to avoid discrimination (genocide), but a responsibility for certain results. Discrimination is a thing. Lack of discrimination is to remove the thing, leaving...no discrimination. That is not sufficient for the UN's work. The genocide treaty would, for example, call assimilation of the last few members of some obscure Native American tribe "genocide". The Eastern Pequots, all five of them, were rescued from genocide by the intervention of a sharp lawyer with a good knowledge of Indian gaming law and now are one of Connecticut's largest sources of tax revenue.
Women and men differ biologically. Offering equal opportunity is an admirable thing. To be responsible to such leading practitioners of women's rights and human rights as China or Syria for some as-yet unsolved problem with that glass ceiling is a different thing altogether.
Some years back, the EEOC forced Sears to spend $10 million proving that, despite Sears' best efforts, they could not get a proportional proportion of women to work in large appliance and lawn-tractor-snow-blower departments where the big money was.
That's the kind of thing the UN wants of us.
As you know and hope the rest of us don't.
Yes, I read her stuff on the UN treaty.
1.16.2008 9:24pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"The Duke scandal is different. Many academics say idiotic things to the media. But those statements aren't peer reviewed."

Sounded a lot like all the peers were chanting in unison. The mighty peers assembled, gave their verdict, and now resent being called fools.
1.16.2008 10:38pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
William:

Paul Ehrlich was 30 years ago. And Gould, Sagan, and Galbraith were all accomplished scholars. (Carson was a former political appointee in the Roosevelt Administration, so I will give you her.)

And the difference between left and right is precisely that we know that Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, and many on the right assume that your average academic scholarship is no less ideological than Bill Bennett. That's my point. And if you go back and read this thread, plenty of people said it right here.

A Mr Esper - editor of a feminist publication - would tell us a lot

It tells us a lot about you Smokey that you seem to think there is something wrong with that. It tells us both that you think that there is something wrong with males supporting feminism (there isn't) and you don't know anything about the feminist movement (there have been plenty of men involved since the start).

That's the kind of thing the UN wants of us. As you know and hope the rest of us don't. Yes, I read her stuff on the UN treaty.

Richard, I am not saying that everything in the convention against all forms of discrimination against women is necessarily perfect. But opposing condemnations of STEREOTYPING is not consistent with the "equality feminist" pose that Hoff Sommers took in her book-- one of the central tenets of such a feminism is that gender essentialism is wrong, and she claimed as much when she was posing as a feminist disenchanted with the direction of modern feminism. Now, she's flip-flopped on a pretty basic tenet of equality feminism, which to me suggests she never was one in the first place. "Who Stole Feminism" was definitely promoted through the usual right wing channels and was quite useful for the conservative movement, which seeks to discredit all feminism as radical because it stands in the way of longstanding conservative goals.

You should, however, stop making these ad hominem comments. I have backed up everything I said on this thread. Many of my critics have just made wild assertions about the feminist movement and academia without knowing a thing about what they are talking about.
1.17.2008 1:00am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dilan. Is there a difference between stereotypes and actual types? Are stereotypes entirely and completely false?
Are biological differences responsible for differences in ability to accomplish various tasks--maybe we should review your posts on women in combat--and, thus, the attractiveness of those tasks?
If so, then why should the US allow itself to be responsible for RESULTS, rather than freedom to pursue one's goals? Are biological characteristics irrelevant to an individual's goals? If not, whose business is it telling the individual what he or she should be doing? Will the US be required to find and promote enough individuals to do whatever CEDAW's enforcers think is a good idea this month?
Is CEDAW going to impose something like Title IX?

One reason to be concerned about an individual--not a man, but an individual--involved in feminist publications is that makes him/her an activist.
And one should never take an activist's word for anything.

The conservative movement "seeks to discredit all feminism"....
You're running out of feet to shoot yourself in. But you probably don't see a thing wrong with that line. Not a thing.
1.17.2008 7:08am
William Newman (mail):
"Paul Ehrlich was 30 years ago."

And, yikes, but he wasn't Jeremy Rifkin. I was hallucinating, sorry. I am distinctly unimpressed by Ehrlich. But I do not uncontrollably bounce off the walls freaking out about Ehrlich misstating the second law of thermodynamics.

As I get older perhaps I should resume buying books for my memorably awful book collection, or at least remember to Google more, instead of just overtaxing my dying brain.

"And Gould, Sagan, and Galbraith were all accomplished scholars."

Sommers was at least a professor before she descended to AEI. Is your point is that she was a mere scholar while they're distinguished scholars?

The right doesn't much respect Krugman. Many on the left do, perhaps because he's an accomplished scholar.

The left doesn't seem to much respect Robert Conquest or Julian Simon. But at least they do seem to respect Judith Rich Harris. In some inconceivable alternate universe (perhaps involving a time machine dialed a few years back) where the selection processes of psychology departments were as heavily skewed male as various departments today are currently skewed Democratic, how much attention could one pay to Harris' un-peer-reviewed books without being revealed as anti-intellectual?
1.17.2008 8:52am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dilan. Is there a difference between stereotypes and actual types? Are stereotypes entirely and completely false?

Richard, a stereotype is an UNWARRANTED generalization based on alleged group differences. So actual sex differences are not stereotypes. So, yes, even an equality feminist who recognized some room for gender differences would not oppose language condemning sex stereotyping. And, of course, an equality feminist would maintain a healthy skepticism about claims of group differences; again, this was something that Hoff Sommers claimed to do when she was criticizing the gender essentialism of radical feminists, but has now dropped to argue the more conventional anti-feminist position.

One reason to be concerned about an individual--not a man, but an individual--involved in feminist publications is that makes him/her an activist. And one should never take an activist's word for anything.

Actually, that's the point. To many on the right-- and for very cynical reasons-- there is no difference between scholarship and activism. Well, there is.

Sommers was at least a professor before she descended to AEI. Is your point is that she was a mere scholar while they're distinguished scholars?

Since becoming a movement conservative, Sommers hasn't published ANYTHING in a peer reviewed journal that I am aware of. She is not a scholar. That's the entire point; the right wing holds her up as a counterpart to feminists in academia who ARE scholars.

I didn't mean anything sinister by the term "accomplished"-- I just thought that you were making a category error with people like Gould, Galbraith, and Sagan, all of whom were prolific scholars.

The right doesn't much respect Krugman. Many on the left do, perhaps because he's an accomplished scholar.

Krugman actually gets at one of the subtleties in this discussion which is elided when conservatives rail against "left wing" academia. Krugman is both a scholar and a talking head (the usual term for this is "public intellectual"). I have a lot of respect for Krugman; nonetheless, he does make errors in his NY Times columns; the right wing is perfectly within its rights to jump on him for them. What I HAVEN'T seen, however, is any evidence that Krugman has gotten his SCHOLARSHIP wrong. And I would indicate that one reason for this is that there are much greater controls on scholarship than on a New York Times column, which is exactly the distinction many conservatives want to elide and is the reason we are having this discussion.

The left doesn't seem to much respect Robert Conquest or Julian Simon.

Well, but Julian Simon held a pretty prestigious tenured professorship at Maryland, didn't he? He got his stuff published, didn't he?

I can name all sorts of conservative academics whom the left may not "respect" but who nonetheless have tenure, publish their papers, and participate in the debate. Why? Because academia is different from the Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute. That's the whole point of the discussion. Being "disrespected" by the left in academia but still publishing your papers and holding prestigious positions is not the same thing as getting kicked out of the Heritage Foundation or not having your work published because it doesn't agree with the party line of movement conservativism.
1.17.2008 12:41pm
Smokey:
Ooh. I touched a nerve when I commented:

A Mr Esper - editor of a feminist publication - would tell us a lot.

Dilan:
"It tells us a lot about you Smokey that you seem to think there is something wrong with that."
Don't twist your panties in a knot. You incorrectly assume that I think there is something wrong with that? Nah. That's simply projection on your part. I only threw it out there, and you bit.

Actually, I was pointing out the hypocrisy of a feminist man standing firmly on the glass ceiling, pretending that there are no women of equal or greater ability to edit a feminist publication. They need a big, strong man like you to save them, right? Because they're so helpless and all. I suppose you also believe that there are no African-Americans who equal or exceed your ability to edit EBONY, either, or run BET. Such is the case with many liberals.

I'm sure the women working under you never mentioned [within earshot of you, anyway] the feminist mantra that "a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." Because, you know, they would love to break through that glass ceiling you're standing on. They wanted that job just as much as you did. But even in a feminist publication, the liberal man gets the job. [cue: Oh, but nobody else wanted the job. Really!]

So much for setting a good feminist example, huh?
1.17.2008 2:57pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I don't know if the right has challenged Krugman's scholarship, although some of them think he didn't exactly earn his pay as an Enron adviser.
Nobody seems to be paying much attention to his scholarship taken narrowly, so there's not much reason for conservatives to look at it.
His column is bad enough to keep conservatives interested.
1.17.2008 3:53pm
William Newman (mail):
"Well, but Julian Simon held a pretty prestigious tenured professorship at Maryland, didn't he? He got his stuff published, didn't he?"

OK. I don't how prestigious, but I can believe it. I hadn't even realized Simon was a business professor, I had been under the impression that he was primarily an author (of business-related things). I don't know the first thing about whether he submitted or published articles in peer-reviewed journals. I know his work only by skimming some chapters of one of his books, and by running across various second-hand references to it.

Note that I don't think that some critics get stuff published is sufficient evidence that a field isn't skewedly clueless. E.g., one of the reasons it's so hard to convince me that peer review naturally overcomes ideological groupthink and cynical backscratching is the history of economics 1955-1985. Critics would later win Nobel prizes for the work they published running up to 1970, but the mainstream of the profession remained arrogantly wrong from perhaps 1960 until well into the 1970s. In the 1970s, there was a difficult-to-ignore upsurge in confirmed predictions, and the situation changed. But the situation before is difficult to justify. A lot of my training is in chemistry and physics, so to me it runs bone-deep that to be incorrectly certain that an effect exists in some useful magnitude range (e.g., long-run Philips curve, or cold fusion, or whatever) is an extremely serious error in principle: if we're not deadly serious about that we end up with nonsense like doctors bleeding people. And in any field, when an error looks politically convenient for the perpetrators (long-run Philips curve, or claims of Saddam Hussein's nukes) tempers can fray and credibility can shatter.

Meanwhile, Galbraith is remembered for "The modern conservative is engaged in one of mankind's oldest pursuits --- finding a moral justification for greed." To me, that has long seemed tellingly Coulter-esque (both telling about Galbraith, and telling about the intellectual community Galbraith correctly judged would lap it up). If a community of international relations specialists honored a guy who said "the modern noninterventionist is engaged in one of mankind's oldest pursuits --- finding a moral justification for cowardice," and the same community also bellowed for a decade that Saddam Hussein demonstratably had nuclear weapons, their credibility would suffer badly, not only because of cynical posturing by their opponents on left, but because it's a screwup sufficient to damage their credibility among thinking people everywhere.

On the other end of the conventional-credentials scale, though, I did already know a bit about Conquest's background. For anyone with any tolerance for the principle of dismissing work because of corrupting funding, Conquest's funding history is a political ammo dump big enough to launch Operation Barbarossa. "Conquest's time with the IRD has sparked some controversy, becoming a favorite topic of many critics (particularly on the political left) who claim that his later historical work was intentional anti-communist propaganda." Etc. "In 1981, Conquest moved to California to take up a post at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, a traditional home of anti-Communist scholarship on Russia, and has lived there ever since." At that point maybe the darkest of the allegations died down, but Hoover is not immune to dark allegations, just less vulnerable than IRD. And Conquest seems to have done a lot of his controversial work, and faced much a lot of the controversy, well before arriving at Hoover.
1.17.2008 5:44pm
William Newman (mail):
"Because academia is different from the Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute. That's the whole point of the discussion."

On the "is different" claim, I guess people haven't agreed with you forcefully enough yet. So: Yes! They are different! Don't hold your breath waiting for Heritage Foundation or the AEI to give their top annual award to a politically-charged book of which turns out to thoroughly false. The right in general is not above garbage like stubbornly insinuating that Saddam Hussein blew up the World Trade Center, and I can't confidently guarantee AEI or Heritage specifically won't yield to temptation to do something stunningly dishonest tomorrow. But I am quite confident that they will not do self-destructive as that: grubbing for contributions and votes may be degrading, but it also creates some pressure to keep a wary eye on reality. From Bellesiles and from some poking around of my own in the headwaters (of history of science), I judge that peer reviewed competition creates little such pressure.

on "whole point of the discussion" claim: For a number of reasons, that claim is getting old. Among those reasons is the way that you have gratuitously thrown in various accusations specifically against the right. By now, people could legitimately expect you to justify or retract quite a number of slurs.

"To many on the right-- and for very cynical reasons-- there is no difference between scholarship and activism."

That's not a straw man, it's simply ridiculous.

I think I can guess what you actually mean: something like "the right is guilty of cynically obscuring the difference between scholarship and activism." But why should it be our job to make that guess? How hard would it be for you to say something like that in the first place? Much easier, I wager, than finding even one conservative who can grammatically form the sentence "there is no difference between scholarship and activism," who can spell the words, and who would affirm it in isolation.

Second, by now I think it'd be fair if someone started consistently hammering you on gratuitously slamming only the right on common political failings like this. On this slam, it occurs to me that the environmentalist movement seems to protect vast unspoiled herds of people who cynically obscure the difference between scholarship and activism. Today pre-Internet analogies involving logs and kettles and gnats are relevant but inadequate, we need new terminology like "flame" and "troll" too.

"Women make a lot of mistakes" is technically true. After all, it is all too true that "people make a lot of mistakes." (If you believe you know how to disprove me, don't waste your time here, vast wealth awaits you in the software industry.) But after a while, a conversational style full of drive-by technically-true statements like "women make a lot of mistakes" gets old.
1.17.2008 5:49pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Actually, I was pointing out the hypocrisy of a feminist man standing firmly on the glass ceiling, pretending that there are no women of equal or greater ability to edit a feminist publication. They need a big, strong man like you to save them, right? Because they're so helpless and all. I suppose you also believe that there are no African-Americans who equal or exceed your ability to edit EBONY, either, or run BET. Such is the case with many liberals.

I'm sure the women working under you never mentioned [within earshot of you, anyway] the feminist mantra that "a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."

Smokey, do you know the slightest thing about feminism (other than Gloria Steinem's 35 year old bicycle quote)? Because you are wrong on all sorts of levels.

Again, people who don't know anything about feminism shouldn't assume that it is a movement full of gynocentrists and gender essentialists. It isn't.

Nobody seems to be paying much attention to his scholarship taken narrowly, so there's not much reason for conservatives to look at it.

He's actually fairly influential. You are correct that his scholarship isn't as controversial as his writings in the popular press, but that sort of makes my point in a way too, doesn't it? Paul Krugman has to take a different tone when he is publishing in academic journals, because of the controls I have mentioned.

E.g., one of the reasons it's so hard to convince me that peer review naturally overcomes ideological groupthink and cynical backscratching is the history of economics 1955-1985. Critics would later win Nobel prizes for the work they published running up to 1970, but the mainstream of the profession remained arrogantly wrong from perhaps 1960 until well into the 1970s. In the 1970s, there was a difficult-to-ignore upsurge in confirmed predictions, and the situation changed. But the situation before is difficult to justify.

That ignores, though, that the University of Chicago was and is a part of academia, and that plenty of people, from Milton Friedman to Richard Posner to Richard Epstein, published and prospered there.

You are right that sometimes the mainstream in academia is wrong. But you are incorrect to imply that academia drives out the dissenters.

Don't hold your breath waiting for Heritage Foundation or the AEI to give their top annual award to a politically-charged book of which turns out to thoroughly false. The right in general is not above garbage like stubbornly insinuating that Saddam Hussein blew up the World Trade Center, and I can't confidently guarantee AEI or Heritage specifically won't yield to temptation to do something stunningly dishonest tomorrow.

Why don't you take a look at the stuff that the right wing think tanks put out on taxation and supply side economics. "Stunningly dishonest" is the right word for it.

And again, just because some academic somewhere won an award that he or she shouldn't have won doesn't indict the enterprise of academia. The controls are there, and academic freedom does exist, and movement conservativism doesn't hold itself to the standards of searching for the truth that guide academia, and instead holds itself to different standards.

Second, by now I think it'd be fair if someone started consistently hammering you on gratuitously slamming only the right on common political failings like this. On this slam, it occurs to me that the environmentalist movement seems to protect vast unspoiled herds of people who cynically obscure the difference between scholarship and activism.

I totally reject this. Everyone on the left knows the difference between Greenpeace and the scholars who developed the science behind climate change predictions. Indeed, this is an example of the right wing in action-- they want desparately to define the scientists, who went where the data took them, as nothing more than arms of the environmental movement. It is a cynical effort to discredit what appears-- even to many of the more honest folks on the right-- to be perfectly sound science.
1.18.2008 12:04pm
Smokey:
Dilan Esper:
Smokey, do you know the slightest thing about feminism (other than Gloria Steinem's 35 year old bicycle quote)?
I will grant you that I know little about the ins and outs of what's called "feminism." But I do know that the bicycle quote isn't Steinem's, despite what a putative expert on feminism claims above.

What really concerns me is the unquestioning acceptance of a scientifically disproven [i.e., falsified through peer review] hypothesis: that CO2 causes a runaway "greenhouse effect." The Left is desperately trying to spin the facts to their advantage because, as H.L. Mencken noted almost a century ago: "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." And: "The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false face for the urge to rule it." Bingo! Those are extremely strong motivations, and they explain why the Left is demanding control over the atmosphere. The money involved is enormous.

Yesterday's 2:00 pm rant [way upthread] provided a peer reviewed link proving that CO2 can not cause the "greenhouse effect," because to do so would directly violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It's heavy slogging, but if you can read through it, and then provide proof [or even strong evidence] that those scientists are in error, you will be a hero to every goron and U.N. kleptocrat on the planet.

The fact that the CO2/AGW/global warming conjecture has been scientifically disproven by reputable, published climate scientists and physicists seems not to dissuade you from your belief system. Your mind is made up, despite the evidence to the contrary [and I can provide much more evidence falsifying the global warming hypothesis, if you're interested].

As I've stated many times before both here and elsewhere, the difference between true believers/alarmists and most engineers is that engineers will change their mind on the matter if given verifiable proof. I want to know the truth of the matter. As of now, I think that mankind may be affecting the climate to a very tiny fraction of a degree. But not very much; the 6+/- GT [gigatons] of CO2 humans put into the air is extremely small in comparison with the Earth's hundreds of GT emitted annually - and naturally. The Earth's emission of CO2 varies from year to year by much more than the total amount humans emit - so it is impossible to subtract the amount attributable to human activity from the Earth's natural "noise." We are not doing anything that remotely competes with the Earth's routine emergence from the last Ice Age cycle - when Chicago was under a mile of ice, the sea level was literally hundreds of feet lower than it is today - and SUV's were 11,000 years in the future.
1.18.2008 8:08pm