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The Decline of the Humanities and What To Do About It

It is edifying to note that recent data published by the National Association of Scholars shows Democrats outnumber Republicans at elite liberal arts universities in the United States by a ratio of 43:1 within Sociology. So intellectual homogeneity is clearly a major issue in the United States, and it is also safe to infer that similar left/right voting patterns are present in the Humanities departments at Australia’s top universities—though data has traditionally been hard to collect. Some academics choose to play down the significance of this, pointing to correlative data regarding education levels and interests, the thought being that this is somehow a suitable excuse for an atrophied attention to foundational subject matter.

Georg Simmel (1858-1918)

These problems run deep in the field of sociology. Assessing the genesis of these problems requires a broad historical background understanding, because sociology stands at the nexus of the social sciences and the humanities. The earliest sociologists were usually classed as philosophers. This was because they were theorists interested in drawing out generalisations about the human condition, with a practical/analytical bent—see for instance Simmel’s Philosophy of Money or On Individuality and Social Forms. Among their ranks is Auguste Comte who is widely regarded as its primary progenitor. His concept of sociologie was defined broadly by his work The Course in Positive Philosophy. For Comte’s theory of social evolution, the search for truth progressed in three stages.

First, a theological stage, which was underpinned by the belief in God or gods, blindly believing the creeds of their ancestors. Emphasis added as this will become relevant later. Second, there is the metaphysical stage which was defined for Comte by the French Revolution and the erection of conceptually monolithic principles such as universal human rights. Third, where Comte argues for what this author will term a Hegelian synthesis, is the scientific or ‘positivity’ stage where thought becomes industrialised, i.e it becomes an intellectual stance that emphasises observation and classification of data and facts. Uniformities in social phenomena can thus be observed and dissected.

What results from Comte’s positivism is both a bottom-up and top-down movement of principles which can be applied to nearly every facet of life as outlined below:

In Comte’s words, this ‘social physics’ is malleable to almost any field of inquiry and this adaptability has coincided with sociology becoming a cornerstone of humanities/social sciences curricula. As a result, many sociologists in the academy would likely view their project as the ‘king-subject’ in some sense.

But rather than being a ‘king-subject’ sociology has veered towards being an intellectual pauper. This is because its evolution from a humanities-style discipline under Comte and Simmel, through to a social sciences-style discipline under Weber and Durkheim, was ultimately subverted by a range of academics from the 1950s onwards. Weber and Durkheim were instrumental in bringing empiricism to the sociological practice. As Steven Lukes writes:

Durkheim’s project in particular drew on the idea that:

‘‘’Social facts’ should be regarded by the sociologist as realities; that is, as having characteristics independent of his conceptual apparatus, which can only be ascertained through empirical investigation (as opposed to a priori reasoning or intuition ) and, in particular, through ‘external’ observation by means of indicators (such as legal codes, statistics, etc.), and as existing independently of individuals’ wills.’’

This view culminated in the empiricization of sociology based on foundational theory from Comte, Weber, and even, yes even, Marx.

Academics of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, however, began to turn away from empiricism and return to theory once more. Writers such as Goffman and Mead pushed the idea of symbolic interactionism which is purported to be a “frame of reference to better understand how individuals interact with one another to create symbolic worlds, and in return, how these worlds shapes individual behaviors.”

In reality sociology became a vehicle for postmodern and poststructuralist theory with the study of power at its core. This preoccupation with power, through thinkers like Foucault and Baudrillard, is a long way from the sociology that Durkheim and Comte envisioned.

Georg Simmel (a founder of modern sociology) would be rolling in his grave. A quick study of the Sociology major in the 2018 University of Melbourne and Monash University handbooks reveals a number of flaws in their curricula that are unfortunately endemic in many humanities and social science majors at elite Western institutions. Sociology looms as an intriguing test case because its scope involves both the humanities and social sciences.

These flaws are various, but it is worthwhile to explicitly name the three of greatest import.

  1. Subjects that are foundational in nature (of which there is one) such as Modernity: Foundations of Sociology (SOTH20002) and based on classical theory, are offered in the penultimate or final year as an elective—depending on whether you pursue an Honours level degree.
  2. Contemporary issues are pushed to the fore, for example CRIM10001: From Graffiti to Terrorism and ATS1365: Introduction to Sociology which in particular invites students to study, “class, gender, age, culture, religion, and other structural factors play in shaping the lives of everyday people in society.” With a strong emphasis on identity politics as the course progresses, little emphasis is placed on the core values that have defined Western civilisation.
  3. Breadth subjects—or, more rightly, what should be breadth subjects—frequently do not meaningfully contribute to a deep grasp of a particular field and actually inhibit proficiency in your chosen field. See the interplay between Gender Studies and Sociology majors in both the University of Melbourne and Monash University. Multi-discipline styled majors actually detract from being an expert in Sociology.
  4. As an aside, for an in depth look at how History is taught in Australia, the data is available here.

A disclaimer: these flaws are not meant to impugn the passion with which Arts are taught at Melbourne University or target any particular faculty member. Rather, the point is to draw out systemic issues in tertiary education in Australia, in particular within the humanities and social sciences.

But crucially, the aforementioned flaws in the Sociology curricula at the University of Melbourne and Monash University reveal that the sociological project has complacently strayed from its original intent, and in many ways returned to its theological stage, under the guise of a supposed affinity for positivism. In essence, its project is now sacred. Applying this conceptualization of sociology in his new book The Sacred Project of Sociology, Christian Smith writes that:

American sociology as a collective enterprise is at heart committed to the visionary project of realizing the emancipation, equality, and moral affirmation of all human beings as autonomous self-directing, individual agents (who should be) out to live their lives as they personally so desire, by constructing their own favoured identities, entering and exiting relationships as they choose, and equally enjoying the gratification of experiential, material, and bodily pleasures.

On first reading this perhaps sounds like a noble goal. However, it is no such thing. Sociology was designed as the social science grounded in a philosophical approach which is in turn applied to social phenomena. Definitely not an emancipatory endeavour in moral affirmation.

Through Christian Smith’s meta-investigation of the ‘sociology of sociology,’ the troubling dynamics of the modern sociology academy are revealed. He continues:

To the more traditional liberal commitments to freedom and equality, sociology’s sacred project also adds the centrality of moral affirmation . . . It is not enough simply to set people free from oppression and to treat them as equals. Everyone deserves to be morally affirmed by everyone else.

But not everyone is deserving of moral affirmation. Academics that are not committed to diversity of intellectual inquiry or sound methodology are one group, to be sure, that does not deserve moral affirmation.

The publication of various statistically oriented studies in sociology provide valuable insight and follow an empirical process. But, even still, academics in sociology are also increasingly susceptible to the confirmation bias taking place within the sociological academy.

Recent instances of rogue ideas that run counter to the ‘emancipatory’ regime, such as a study by Dr. Linda Waite, that highlighted the longitudinal benefits of marriage for both partners, are quickly ousted from the American Sociological Association’s (ASA) confines. Her tenure as an officer of the ASA was ended over her tendency to express controversial views such as, “Marriage may provide individuals with a sense of meaning in their lives … and a sense of obligation to others, inhibiting risky behaviors and encouraging healthy ones.” In 2012, Dr. Mark Regnerus was excoriated for suggesting that an intact biological family unit correlated well with positive outcomes for young adults. Given that a federal judge weighed in on his research with much opprobrium, the now typical chilling effect on research has ensued. This defect flows from the academy, but has additional roots elsewhere in the education industry.

Looking at the humanities/social sciences academy through the lens of industrialized education, the problems run to the core of the current educational environment. Chiefly, this is manifested in a complacency on the behalf of administrators, who are far removed from the subject matter and are over-reliant on metrics. These metrics take the form of student satisfaction surveys, attendance of tutorials, and demand for enrolment in certain subjects. Difficult courses with challenging subject matter are generally avoided by students and thus discouraged by administrators and even hiring processes.

Sympathy must be extended to fastidious academics that must navigate the bloated bureaucratic apparatus which provides the ideal petri dish in which the mould of academic decay can flourish. Perversely, the most recent financial statements of the University of Melbourne University reveal that there is a near 1:1 ratio of administrators to actual working academics.

Nonetheless, modern academics are themselves chasing numbers. Enrollment in their courses secures their continued employment, eventually leading to desired research grants that build the ‘esteem’ of the institution. With a mandate to please rather than challenge and educate, the new generation of academics often pushes further ahead into scholarship that is trendy and hollow. This desperation is only amplified by the slow abolition of tenure in Australia over the past three decades. Thus, anaemic humanities and social science curricula proliferate.

In his review of Christian Smith’s book in First Things, Richard Spady shares an example of how this works:

In my experience, when a weak paper with the right message is presented in a faculty of graduate seminar, the attitude is this: This paper has its heart in the right place, and we know [my emphasis] its conclusion is true, so it’ll be OK after a little work on the methodology.

This is a patently backwards process that threatens the very nature of academic inquiry. Academics should be getting the methodology right from the start, basing it in foundational theory and then making conclusions. When the conclusion is a foregone, you in essence have a theological approach to your work. Faith in ideology first, reason second. Although it may sound like hyperbole, we have now truly moved into a new Dark Age of sociology, where texts with the right message trump free inquiry. Administrators are the icing on the cake for this academic confectionary, encouraging any paper that will draw citations to be published, while major journals facilitate the quest for funding.

The symbiosis/parasitism evident in this relationship is its own self-fulfilling prophecy. If you always try to appeal to the lowest common denominators in your course offerings, you will wind up with lowest common denominator graduates. Graduates that are unprepared for the world beyond the classroom and disillusioned with a society that has yet to catch up with a coddled worldview.

Understanding the problems within humanities curricula in Australia is the first step to solving this growing problem. Solutions are various, but perhaps the best answer comes from the centre-Left academic Jonathan Haidt. He proposes what this author sees as a market-based solution to academic decay in the social sciences and humanities. Just like any business has a mission statement, so do universities.

Haidt’s proposal is that, in the social sciences and humanities, schools should be explicit in their pedagogy: either they are for a search for moral affirmation (read: social justice) OR they are committed to diversity of intellectual enquiry, empiricism, the search for truth and objectivity. By making this distinction explicit, universities eliminate a large portion of the endemic problems that have arisen over the past few decades in the social sciences and humanities.

This market-based solution would be a seismic shift in how the social sciences and humanities are taught and even promoted by administrators. No longer would academics be forced to self-censor in departments that don’t value academic inquiry; they could choose the institutions that suit their objectives. Students (and perhaps more importantly their parents) could choose where to spend their money, with a better idea of what they are actually getting for it.

 

Lachlann Tierney is a former researcher at the Institute of Public Affairs and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Ethically Aligned Design (EAD) working group examining ethical issues surrounding the implementation of artificial intelligence and automation. 

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77 Comments

  1. araxant says

    Great article, Iv’e been wondering is there an Index of universities and colleges based on SJW type behavior from students and academy? If not I think we definitely need one as it will allow parents and normal students to avoid those places or at least not be surprised when they get there.

    • MCA says

      Just go with anything with “Institute of Technology” in the name, or a greater than 1:1 ratio of STEM majors to all others.

      • @MCA

        Without due diligence on the part of the market even these institutions will be infected. The latest push in the social justice sciences is to argue that numbers are racist, invented by the white patriarchy to oppress people. What is going to happen to “Institutes of Technology” once they cave in to these doctrines that impugn fundamental mathematical axioms as sources of oppression?

        This is why I believe the only thing that can keep this cancer from spreading are market forces. Parents, please STOP sending your kids to institutions that so much as pay lip service to the rot that is social justice. If the tide can’t be stemmed we can look forward to a world populated with Sarah Jeongs.

        • MCA says

          @AA – yeah, not going to happen. This whole problem stems from the lack of intellectual rigor inherent in the humanities and their non-empirical ways. Any of that nonsense will be stopped hard by “Ok, build me a jet engine without using numbers.”

          • TarsTarkas says

            And their answer to you will be, ‘build it for me, you bigot!’

          • Daniel says

            @MCA, never use logic or common sense to shrug off the idiocies the radical Left will sink to.

        • Howard W. says

          AA- I completely agree. On the bright side, there is a growing movement of schools that exclusively teach marketable skills. After all, getting a great “liberal arts education” is an obsolete notion, the only reason anyone goes on to college today is to make more money. For this, traditional higher ed is a product on the same level as the Soviet auto, the Volga, ridiculously overpriced and a piece of junk:-)
          The coding boot camp is a model for the future – fairly priced and you learn marketable schools. Over the last nearly six years my company has developed a digital platform that will showcase these alternative schools alongside traditional schools. But because we are value based and traditional schools rarely can compete on value, the results will be fascinating. We will launch at the end of this month.
          Let the market decide which are the best schools. I believe already, less and less cool-aide is being sold to students and their parents.

  2. Mark says

    Good article. I enjoyed reading how history is taught in Australia.

    I can only offer anecdotal evidence of this being true.

    I’ve met a number of women here in Melbourne (whilst dating) who have attended universities in Melbourne. Most of these women have offered me — without me asking, because I never bring up anything to do with politics whilst dating — a postmodernist view of history/gender/race, viewed naturally through the prism of power.

    Compare that to working class women (who have never been to university, are much better to date) who tell me something along the lines of, “I hate all that women/gender/race rubbish”.

    • Mark says

      Bro I’m so sorry that the educated women are no longer complicit in their own dehumanisation. That must really suck for you.

      I too enjoy adding my own anecdotal evidence to pieces based on anecdote. It makes my opinions evidence-based…oh wait, no it doesn’t.

      • “Bro I’m so sorry that the educated women are no longer complicit in their own dehumanisation.”

        Holy histrionics Batman!

      • Benjamin says

        Mark,

        Please explain how the social norms that ensue from a postmodernist outlook (e.g. slut walks) are manifestations of women being ‘no longer complicit in their own dehumanization’.

        If educated women are indeed no longer complicit in their own dehumanization, why do their subjective assessments of well-being indicate that women’s happiness is declining both in general and relative to men?

  3. Jason P. says

    I never took a Sociology course. Only heard of the postmodernists by listening to various people connected to academia. (I majored in Engineering. History and Poly Sci were the closest I got to Humanities.)

    The thing that rang out as telling:
    “In my experience, when a weak paper with the right message is presented in a faculty of graduate seminar, the attitude is this: This paper has its heart in the right place, and we know [my emphasis] its conclusion is true, so it’ll be OK after a little work on the methodology.

    This is a patently backwards process that threatens the very nature of academic inquiry. Academics should be getting the methodology right from the start, basing it in foundational theory and then making conclusions. When the conclusion is a foregone, you in essence have a theological approach to your work. ”

    Imagine doing this with any hard science? You build a bridge because it gets people from A to B for commerce and travel quicker than a current ferry (built with engineering also). But, you haphazardly forget a few equations, make idealized assumptions, skimp on safety factor, do not test the new design out at a smaller to scale factor, or don’t account for new materials/support mechanisms, etc. What happens?

    Bridge fails – and people die, likely. Lawsuits. Disgrace and guilt. To name some real outcomes.

    Now, in Sociology papers: “it’s just a research paper, or this is about making up for the wrongs of the past, you don’t get Power in society because you’re…” arguments are swell, until…

    You get such a Sociologist working in government or politics trying to make large-scale policies that affect millions. Changing or advocating laws, making up larger agencies, managing budgets (or mismanaging them), and picking and deciding upon their ‘flawed’ training of “the right message,” irrespective of the outcomes.

    How many such Sociologists later become lawyers (out of lack of jobs for them out of 4-year colleges)? How many lawyers become politicians (like A.O. Cortes)?

    The market system solution isn’t going to work out, as such left drift is now entering: Engineering.
    https://www.campusreform.org/?ID=10257 – Engineering Education at Purdue
    https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/queer-engineering-purdue-social-justice-warriors/

    Donna Riley isn’t the only one out there infusing such Sociology/Gender Studies into Engineering.

    Here’s hoping the few that are tied to methodology and truth – REBUILD the educational systems around the world with BEST MATERIALS.

    • TarsTarkas says

      Some good examples: Great Leap Forward (45 million dead, a wrecked economy). Cultural Revolution (3 million dead, tens of millions left uneducated due to the closing of schools throughout China); Lysenkoism (the elimination of all genetic studies in the Soviet Union along with the liquidation of most of the researchers). These are just the few I can think of just off the top of my head. At least New Math and other educational flights of fancy in the US haven’t been as destructive, although the infusion of Critical Theory into our schools (thanks, INS, for allowing Marcuse et al to come here) has had a drastic effect on the quality of the curriculum.

    • This is the piece de resistance of the thread: an analysis of a conclusion reached on the basis of 3rd party anecdotal information. An anecdotal account of anecdotes.

      Postmodernism has nothing on you folks over here at “My 7-year-old does better. com”.

      Long may engineers and accountants demand art that can build a jet engine!

  4. Charlie says

    A scholar knows Latin and Greek. Return to the time when universities were centres of academic excellence and fluency in Latin was required before entry combined with good knowledge of Greek. In the 19th century many of the great statesmen had degrees in Classics and Mathematics( Gladstone and Peel). Many dons would have degrees in classic and maths and spoken 3-4 European languages. Most social sciences show poor statistical evidence because those involved lack mathematics. Insist the same statistical proofs as in medical papers.

    Shakesepare left school at 17 or 18 years of age and J S Mill never attended university. The decline in rigour of education up to the age of 18 years of age means that much university education in the humanities is no more rigorous than that received by those 16- 18 years of age attending top schools pre WW2.

    If someone wishes to criticise western patriarchy let them do so from having read Greek and insist the paper is written in Latin. Newton, a farmer’s son wrote his Principia in Latin.

    The reason why post modernist turned away from facts was because the facts of France were to painful to bear. An rigid aristocratic regime leads to revolution and the murder of 300,000. Napoleon rises to power and 100, 000s of French are killed and he is defeated in 1815. Defeated by Prussia in 1870 and the Paris Commune. WW1 and the devastation of Verdun in which 400,000 French are killed and the spirit of France is broken. Near civil war between Catholic Conservatives and Atheist in Marxists in the 1930s leads to capitulation to Germany and extensive collaboration within France and the creation of Vichy. The hanging on to empire leads to defeat at Bien Phu and the violence of Algeria. 1956 and 1968 shows the violence of the USSR. The publication of the Gulag Archipelago, the mass slaughter under Mao and in Cambodia shows communism/Marxism leads to mass slaughter. As most the French intelligentsia are Marxist, results of the last 250 years means they them in run away from reality and creating the fantasy world of Post Modernism. Pascal Bruckner’s Tear’s of the White Man , written in 1982 shows the travels of the Marxist intelligentsia into the fantasy world of Third Worldism.

    J R Tolkien created a fantasy to entertain his children based upon his knowledge of Norse, Celtic and English sagas. Tolkien showed more scholarship in writing his fantasy novels than post modern scholars of today.

    Greek Linear A , the oldest European language has not been translated so let the humanities academics do something useful and decipher it.

    • Jason P. says

      Excellent comment. The summary of French debacles, deflections and delusions suffices as a road map of what not to do in how to run a country; or more telling, subbing in a poor facsimile of reasoning for classics.

      Love how you dovetailed in the Tolkien. Good fiction often relies on presenting good facts (or borrowing) and handling them in a new fantastic way.

      • TarsTarkas says

        Unlike the American Revolutionary figures (the majority of which were seasoned politicians and entrepreneurs), most of the French philosophes who were the intellectual movers behind the French Revolution had little practical experience in running a government or a business. Rousseau was a prime example. So naturally they made a hash of things which required a military strongman (Napoleon) to put back in order. And naturally they and their intellectual successors refuse to believe that their theories were wrong, they just needed a little tweaking and the right people to implement them and most importantly, the right kind of populace to accept and support their rule. And the beat goes on . .

    • bwayjunction says

      I suspect that when ‘Greek’ Linear A is deciphered it will prove to be of Semitic origins.

  5. MCA says

    I find it ironic that the author lauds sociological statistics and mourns the dismissal of Regnerus. My first encounter with what passes for stats in sociology was one of Regnerus’s papers, which was a complete statistical catastrophe. Literally DOZENS of t-tests (has he never heard of an ANOVA?!) with zero effort to control for multiple comparisons. It would be embarrassing for someone who’d had Stats 101, much less a faculty member. I’ve peeked into the sociological stats literature occasionally since, and everything I’ve seen was similarly statistically naive at best.

    Honestly, if you want a good insight into human society, skip sociology and go straight to primatology. >90% of human social behavior is just an elaboration of basic primate behaviors and patterns.

    • This is true for medicine as well, it’s not the paragon of statistical analysis the article makes it out to be, especially regarding pharmacology.

      What I do not get in general, why are social sciences and humanities clumped together? Humanities never used statistical methodology beyond stylistic/philological analysis of texts, while any type of exegesis or hermeneutics must go beyond that 100%. Whenever humanities claimed to be using empirical or statistics-based methodology ONLY, they were maybe useful, but dry and withered, and read XZ years after, sometimes truly comical.

      Employing post-modernist “methodology” and what could be called meta-principles to social sciences is the problem of social sciences only. Humanities will deal with it (with time), as they always have when relativism and subjectivity took over it. This is not the first time it happened.

    • cacambo says

      “Honestly, if you want a good insight into human society, skip sociology and go straight to primatology. >90% of human social behavior is just an elaboration of basic primate behaviors and patterns.”

      I recommend Kevin Laland’s Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony for a convincing refutation of this premise.

      • MCA says

        Cacambo, the idea that culture evolves and interacts with biological evolution does not refute the powerful influence of our primate ancestry, but rather that ancestry provides the starting point and constrains subsequent evolution.

        Your statement is like claiming that the univerality of aerodynamics means that there is no influence of ancestry on the evolution of the 4 flying lineages (pterosaurs, birds, bats, and insects). Just as the lack of lungs constrains insect flight evolution, so too does our primate ancestry constrain our cultural evolution.

        • cacambo says

          No one is arguing that our primate ancestry does not constrain our cultural evolution. The question is how narrow these constraints are–i.e. how elaborate are the “elaboration[s]” of basic primate behaviors.

          • Cerastes says

            cacambo – Honestly, the elaborations don’t produce anything that isn’t immediately recognizably primate-based.

            Part of the problem is that too few people have understanding and experience of the *true* breadth of animal behavior, both within and beyond primates (and mammals). While they’re no rodents, primates are a respectably diverse group of mammals, with a similarly diverse array of social systems and behavior (ranging from near-solitary to huge troops), and these differences are often in response to the same factors which influence human society (food availability, nomadic vs tied to a home territory, kinship structures, etc.) resulting in a lot of overlap. Conversely, fairly smart animals outside of mammalia can give a perspective of just how truly different and even “alien” an intelligence can be – the same taxon which uses tools, has coordinated group hunting techniques, and has rich vocal communication also displays no social bonding at all, no parental care beyond a few months, and frequent cannibalism.

            Hearing about how “diverse” human behaviors are when you have a broad experience base in behavior across all animals is like listening to people marvel about how many colors there are between aquamarine & cyan while having no idea about the existence of red, green, yellow, etc.

  6. Mila s says

    The modern GOP is a deeply pathological organisation characterised by anti intellectualism, anti scientism and conspiratorial thinking, therfore its hardly a surprise that the vast majority working in higher education would not identify themselves as republican. The lack republicans in academia is no more evidence for the absence of ‘diversity of thinking’ than a lack of wahhabists or scientologists is.

    • @Mila s

      Your argument here is typical of the kind of ignorant and unsubstantiated claims you will find lauded in the halls of ‘culture studies’ departments all over the western world.

      You make several claims in your statement that can in fact be tested empirically. If you had actually done some research before spouting off ideologically motivated dribble, you would have found there is no evidence which suggests higher levels of anti-intellectualism among Republicans. In fact, quite the opposite: Republicans are on average more educated than Dems.

      Putting empirical evidence aside, you have proceeded in a typical imprecise fashion by accusing a large and diverse group of people of having an attribute that you have not yet clearly defined. What does it mean to be ‘anti-intellectual.’ I’ll bet a million dollars your definition of this term is anyone who disagrees with your political world view.

      It is fitting that you should provide an argument lacking in academic rigor and concern for truth this author rightly points out is missing in humanities today. Thank you for proving the authors point!

      • Mazzakim says

        “In fact, quite the opposite: Republicans are on average more educated than Dems.” @AA You know, you really should cite a source when you make a claim. Generally how this is supposed to work. Perhaps you will tell me to Google it myself, but that won’t give me any insight into what you are specifically using to make your claim.

      • MCA says

        @AA, both sides have people who believe stupid things, but the modern US GOP has overtly made science denial a key part of elections and even a party plank. Consider that in EVERY presidential election of the past 12 years (or more), most of the GOP contenders have either denied or dodged questions about evolution, and every election cycle is permeated by overt creationists running for lower offices, always as GOP. And there’s no way to argue this one – you accept the reality of biological evolution, or you are either stupid or ignorant (either willfully or not). There are no other options.

        Ditto for global warming. The GOP has made denial of established science a party platform. Don’t agree with me on this? Unless you have a PhD in climatology, your opinion is worthless (hence why I defer to them). The mere idea that some yokel can meaningfully disagree with a climate scientist is laughable in and of itself.

        Sure, there are crackpots on the left, but they aren as numerous, as stupid, or as tightly in control of the party as with the GOP.

        • Jason P. says

          1) I am middle of the road. More conservative and believe in evolution as we’ve seen great changes in people’s height, basic IQ, longevity in just the last 100 years. Sports – show the evolution of speed, power, abilities routinely. So, is the evolving human – I don’t believe its a set process; rather, it is dynamically changed by environment, food, human ingenuity, and a host of other factors.

          2)So, global warming or climate change. You deferred quickly on such science, “Unless you have a PhD in climatology, your opinion is worthless (hence why I defer to them)”

          It’s established that average temps are rising in various locations, extremes are happening (6-sigma control chart), BUT, how much recorded and verified records do we have for climate tracking? About 150 years worth of consistent data. And various measurements we have through trees, rock formations, oceans, that are generalized (for the time frame we measure).
          We have Ages where ice and snow were prevalent, and Ages where rapid heat happened. Greenhouse gases are impacting O2 levels, and oceans, but could we not lessen those factors through technology? Maybe – so I’ll error with you.

          3) So, now, to abortion. When does LIFE begin? At fertilization or conception.
          https://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/life-issues/when-human-life-begins
          https://www.princeton.edu/~prolife/articles/embryoquotes2.html

          There are PHD authorities, including the AMA, that clearly indicate when life begins.

          AND – you defer to authority, RIGHT?

          Such as this quote: ““Every human embryologist, worldwide, states that the life of the new individual human being begins at fertilization (conception).”

          But Democrats (since you referenced the GOP) argue that abortion is not murder. They consistently platform on the extinguishing life early in pregnancy. “My body, my choice” has given license to 45 million abortions since Roe. For 2 decades the ratio of abortion to birth was around 300 to 1000 births, or 1 in 4 fertilizations were aborted.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_statistics_in_the_United_States

          Reasons from a study in 1998 (so outdated), showed this as women’s reasons:

          Primary reason for choosing an abortion
          25.9% Want to postpone childbearing.
          21.3% Cannot afford a baby
          14.1% Has relationship problem or partner does not want pregnancy
          12.2% Too young; parent(s) or other(s) object to pregnancy
          10.8% Having a child will disrupt education or employment
          7.9% Want no (more) children
          3.3% Risk to fetal health
          2.8% Risk to maternal health
          2.1% Other

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_the_United_States#cite_note-88

          A simple solution: don’t have sex out of wedlock.

          Women, not men, use sex to secure a mate or his resources- Briffault’s law. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/machiavellians-gulling-the-rubes/201610/briffaults-law-women-rule

          But, women will just report it as a rape to get the deed done. (And I would be hard-pressed to NOT allow that. But, if I did, hypothetically, women would make ALL pregnancies, unwanted, into sexual assault. Lying is not gendered. Both do it.)

          The point: do you support abortion? If so, you are denying biological terming that life begins at conception, and we KNOW killing humans is a criminal act. But, meanwhile, you will gladly demonize Climate Change Deniers for their beliefs, despite the indirect effects – and contribution BY ALL PEOPLE ON EARTH. So, how do we convict ALL of them? Hmmm….

          Why do Democrats/Liberals do this? Easier to project your flaws on others, than it is to look at one’s demonstrated support of a sin AND legalized crime of abortion. Women are highly likely to be left leaning Democrats…feminists tend to camp here too. Hmmm.

          Oh, plus it’s likely we killed off a genius (in those aborted) that could have cured a disease, or created 100,000 jobs, just saying by statistics, there may have been a HIGH IQ or highly motivated soul there in that 45 million.

          Democrats deny science too. Conveniently for political purposes to keep a right that should be. Less than 10% of the reported reasons were tied to risks to health…. Less than 20% if you count age as a factor.

          • Another one says

            So ¿every time a natural abortion happens an involuntary homicide is being commited?

            The standard for abortion could be higher so there is more accountability. I believe we need some highly objetivable standards such as problems linked to health (Id count some syndromes that are not extrictly a health risk such as Down and others but this is arguedable) or verified cases of rape, but that wouldnt be based on the moralisation of scientific criteria.

            This if we are talking about state funded abortions.

          • Sydney says

            Hahahahaha! ANOTHER Quillette boy-reader theorizing and pronouncing on abortion! Joke’s on me. I come onto Quillette thinking I might see something interesting and adult (odds are 50-50, Quillette’s very uneven). I find a nice topic and before I know it (I swear this is the fourth time, and I’m only an occasional reader) some boy has hijacked it into a Philosophy of Abortion 101 straw-man study discussion in the comments. Hahaha!

            Where to begin? This isn’t your body, your issue, your discussion, or your theoretical plaything. Women have always had ‘abortions’ – more correctly, pregnancy termination – they’re having them, and they’ll always have them. Always and everywhere. They’re having them now. More women in your life have had them, are having them, or will have them, than you’ll ever know. They’re an essential part of what is a very complex and messy reproductive life of a woman that spans up to 50 years of her life. I’ve had decades of complex periods, abortions, miscarriages, full-term pregnancies, labours, births, post-births, breastfeeding, child rearing… Boys, you’re out of your depth. Please stay in the shallow end.

            Thank God for the ‘abortion pill’! Yay, BigPharma! So that women in regressive Western nations can still end their pregnancies in private without a gaggle of pimply-faced boys and idiot men making stern pronouncements and theorizing about things they know nothing about. Argh! The MOST advanced nations have taken this issue out of the political sphere and tucked it away into the clinic or hospital, where it belongs as a simple, safe, effective, half-hour procedure that’s less dangerous than a root canal. The LEAST-developed Western nations are still hammering away at it, still trying to find a way to still keep women’s bodies community property, or the property of the state. And the rest of the world (…), well, forget it. Women die trying to end pregnancies, or are forced to have babies they never wanted and nobody does. Happy, boy-commenters?

            Whether it’s undergrad philosophy chitchat, or high-minded loudmouthing like Ben Shapiro (I like him a lot on some issues, but he’s entirely, 100% wrong on ‘abortion’), boys need to fire some neurons on this subject before they start tip-tapping the keyboard on it. As for women who are ‘against abortion’, they don’t need to have them! Simple. (I tell my sons: Don’t have sex with a girl until you know where she stands on ‘abortion’.)

            Jeez, and I was only here for a piece on the state of the Humanities (a lost cause until the old herds of tenured, SJW profs die off).

          • Sydney says

            Whoops, my comment was in response to Jason P.

          • Jason P. says

            No @Sydney.
            The argument was how the left(DEM) versus right (GOP) doesn’t use science to support certain positions. Rather, they, the pols, ignore or pander or position to get votes or give free stuff (healthcare, tax breaks, et al) to their LCD. Giving people rights and free always trumps responsibility or sacrifice. Prosperity creates complacency. It gives vice a breeding ground.

            Left, for instance, uses an pro-abortion argument that ignores the very notion of fertilization being the start of life. State-funded abortion is wrong and immoral; Even though I will concede that no woman should be a victim of sexual assault AND raise that offspring.

            If women are having all these abortions, according to you:

            “Women have always had ‘abortions’ – more correctly, pregnancy termination – they’re having them, and they’ll always have them. Always and everywhere. They’re having them now. More women in your life have had them, are having them, or will have them, than you’ll ever know.”

            That’s not the issue. You choose to do that (via the techniques women may find available – enhanced by people with agendas, like big pharma and their ilk) – but asking the State (funded by taxes) to support it, and legally sanction it, well that’s a different animal and discussion.

            The point was: life begins according to medical science at fertilization. So if you are happy – by your snark – to terminate, that’s on you and the women that do so.

            I’ve never impregnated a woman – or made any such attempts, and I’m 45. Morally, I followed that rule, as I stated above:

            “A simple solution: don’t have sex out of wedlock.”

            But we don’t follow common and moral sense anymore. What are values if we can throw them away…just because of enticement and lust.

            Yet, for everyone that sees sex as no big deal, they’ll be the first to condemn someone’s greediness for possessions or money. Or their addictions or vices elsewhere… Projection is a great tool in the hands of the victim or baiter.

            Maybe, the Bible had a few points or lessons to take head of about human nature. Not all, BTW – because 500+ Old testament ‘commandments’ seems a bit impossible.

            —–
            Now to my snark:

            Your quote, “I tell my sons: Don’t have sex with a girl until you know where she stands on ‘abortion.”

            Well, they should be at least engaged to “do it.” But marriage is a sham anyways, right? Why wait?

            But why pay for cow when the milk is free? Females often devalue themselves, and then, complain when males treat you as property. Women can play the victim or oppressed party whenever it suits them, and gets them the most pity or attention. They’ll holler for a white knight savior or a government action to get them relieve for a situation they put themselves into – they have agency, only until the nearest man has the tools to fix it. (Money, policy, free, rights)

            Accountability and responsibility, I’ve seen few women (only a handful – my mom for example) that took on that full mantle and handled it despite what it entails. They too made errors and knew it, and learned from it – but they didn’t get the internet and REINVENT the narrative of the Western World.

            Women don’t have golden vaginas that give you carte blanche to make up the rules as you see fit. But you do – Briffault’s law. Men can keep on pandering to you, like children, until the USA goes broke. Then, you’ll still blame men for the problems – because that’s what women do. If the heat gets too hot, you whine about the outcomes, or sarcastically respond to anyone that tells you ANYTHING you don’t want to hear.

            At least 1 in 4 women alive have had abortions counted in those statistics above. You’d have to get the demographics, account for % of females alive that could have given birth out of all women, account for death of % of women since 1972 that had abortions, etc. Not going to do that work for you.

            Keep on aborting! That’s your right – and your burden too.

          • Cerastes says

            Jason P –

            1) While most people on both sides support evolution, the GOP is the home base for creationists, with every creationist trying to inject it into schools being GOP and with full-throated acceptance of evolution being political suicide in the primaries due to the relatively prevalence of creationists. Also, ironically, in “simpler” sports such as 100m dash etc., humans seem to have largely plateaued, with various record-breaking feats simply representing pulling from larger and large sample sizes. The trend is actually mirrored in horse racing and greyhound racing. In all of these cases, we’re at a “local optimum”, a peak of performance where you can’t change anything without getting worse so you can’t reach the other, higher peak because that would incur going “downhill”.

            2) I find the most powerful way to think of most things is *mechanism*. The concept of evolution was around long before Darwin; a prominent thinker in the field was Erasmus Darwin, his grandfather. Charles Darwin’s discovery was the *mechanism*. Once we understand the mechanism, we’re no longer blindly groping through data, but have ways to understand it, predict it, test it, and even manipulate it.

            It’s the same with global warming. We’ve known that the CO2 molecule, for fundamental physics reasons, absorbs IR radiation and both converts it into molecular motion (heat) and re-emits it in a random direction. Consequently, when you shine a light on an object in a container of CO2 gas, the object will heat up, but the IR radiation it emits (which should cool it slightly if totally lost) hits the CO2, warming the CO2 and causing some fraction of the IR to be reflected back to the object, re-warming it. We also know humans have been adding CO2 to the atmosphere, quite simply because we’ve spent 2+ centuries literally digging piles of carbon out of the ground and setting fire to them.

            This means we have a powerful, physically-grounded, mechanistic reason to expect temperatures to rise, before we even look at the data. And the father of physical chemistry, Svante Arrhenius, who discovered this property of CO2, figured this out and published on it in 1896, long before global warming even began happening. Most crucially, this means that the burden of proof lies not with those claiming warming, but those claiming to the contrary, because they must invent some convoluted explanation for why the predictions of basic physical chemistry and thermodynamics aren’t being met.

            3) This is actually a non-sequitur and outside the realm of science. “Life” and “person” are not the same – look at any literally brain-dead person to see why. Simply possessing a metabolism does not grant someone personhood. Hell, labs all over the country have jars full of metabolically active, genetically unique humans cells which are little more an barely-differentiated piles of liver, heart, pancreas, etc. tissue. If genetic uniqueness and metabolism make something a “person”, a tumor is a person too. Clearly something more is necessary, and that is where it leaves science and reaches philosophy, ethics, and religion. We can say “yes it has a metabolism” or “yes it has genes that are different from X”, but those are necessary but not sufficient for personhood.

          • Jason P. says

            Cerastes
            2) Where is your data? You make the fine argument about mechanism, but you, nor any scientist has a verified world model that is so predictive AND also explained it simply.
            The merit of the argument might become more enticing if you could simplify it; or sell it better. Just saying – many other geniuses have. I am assuming you are in that elite category.

            Problem Definition

            Since this has been called both Global Warming and Climate Change, tell me the precise difference between those ideas? Climatic Change is likely more accurate – but you’re the thermodynamic expert on the world.

            Enlighten others to the what happens over oceans, rivers, mountains, valleys, deserts, cities, farms, and all other manner of outcroppings. Where will people be hurt the most – is it generalized or specific? Will humans adapt or just die? Or move?

            SINCE YOU are making the claim of some sort of calamity due to “digging” and “burning.” Therefore, the onus is on YOU to support that claim. You’re basic thermo lesson and history walk isn’t doing it. NEED MORE DATA.

            It is not on me (or those you call “deniers”) to refute it – whatever it is.

            Theory and Model Confirmation
            —-
            Provide your evidence. Citations, graphs, models, charts, data…. and the contrasting impact in prior eras, accounting for “human activity” and other salient variables. Show me your homework…

            Prescriptive Solution to a World Crisis
            —-
            Then after you proven this (a worldwide event with ~8+ billion people and billions of other organisms that influence ecosystems), then generate the prescriptive solution that you can get all nations to duly follow in light of your theory being accepted in a general form.

            Tell us the exact steps and general data outcomes to be seen from you prescriptive ideas. And determine the economic, social, and political impacts that will arise…($$$$).

            “The next evolution is prescriptive solutions, which go beyond describing or predicting behaviors. Prescriptive solutions can synthesize big data, analytics, business rules and strategies into an environment that provides businesses with an optimized workflow of suggested options to reach a final decision.”

            How are you intended to stop this calamity of human activity?

            Behavior Modification
            —-
            In America, we have grown substantially obese in just the past 35 years since the CDC began reporting on this. Internationally, other modernized countries have had similar impacts, less so, timed differently, based on infiltration of certain ideas and businesses.

            I am paralleling this because:

            Changing this human behavior, transportation, fueling, heating cheaply, running machines, etc. are economically linked to wealth and profit and ease of use, and so, this is no easy feat. Moreover, the bad actors will not feel it is relevant to their lives and sabotages their businesses.

            And the offspring? Well, they worry about today, if they worry at all about it.

            Which World Organization will handle and coordinate and verify and punish the nations that don’t follow you prescriptive solution(s)? What nations will gladly submit? Which ones won’t and will sabotage the rest of your climate models results? And can we survive in light of that?

            Many people can critique and label problems – if they can truly define them well – but, it is more challenging to get at a solution.

            But yeah, you’re right.

        • Katherine says

          Sydney, abortion is a very big issue, relating not only to the bodies of women but to human value and the origin of the individual person. I think it is a big enough issue that men should not be mocked for their beliefs, simply because they happen not to possess a female reproductive system. Women do not all think alike, do they?

  7. Mila s says

    Certainly not, but the article begins by citing the lack of republicans in the Liberal arts universities as evidence of ‘intellectual homogeneity’.

  8. Stuart Chambers says

    From my experience as a sociology professor, weak papers receive weak marks, especially if they poorly written, Since 95% of the student body consists of undergraduates, the focus in the first two years is just getting them to write well. There is no pressure to pass poorly written papers or essays that have no coherent thoughts. I would say that students, after a four-year undergraduate degree, come out as better critical thinkers and better writers, not brainwashed ideologues unprepared for the working world. Professors do not, from my knowledge, place ideology above reasoning when examining a student’s work.

    • Charlie says

      Is that not a comment on schools and our education system. Shakespeare , Dickens, Austen, Brontes, GK Eliot, Kipling, Orwell and Churchill had leant to write well by the age of 18 years of age.

      Most degrees used to be three years. The Cambridge Maths degree and the law degrees lasted three only Greats lasted four years.

      Many great leaders were critical thinkers without going to university. Dowding created fighter command and integration of radar into the World’s first early warning system.It was said of Dowding that he was the only person who could have lost the War in an afternoon.

      Many employers have become disillusioned with the critical thinking, maths and writing skills of many graduates.

      Western society has gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high schools to remedial English.

      • Stuart Chambers says

        Locke, Mill, Hobbes, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Rorty, Vattimo et. are still taught, and many great minds have been added. As for critical thinking skills, you would be surprised how many so-called great leaders, when pressed, were not great critical thinkers (although great orators). We just assume they were because they wrote eloquently or spoke well. But they often would not challenge their own preconceived notions. What did Churchill think of the Muslim world? Not much. He could have used a refresher course on the essence of cosmopolitanism.

        • Susan says

          Yeah, I doubt anyone has ever accused Churchill of being a proponent of cosmopolitanism. Which philosophers, politicians, writers (including the ones on your list) thought well of the Koran and would now pass the left’s purity test on Islam? Should students now disregard Voltaire, Jung, deTocqueville because of their harsh assessments of Islam? Maybe if they would have just read the Koran in Arabic their objections would vanish

          • Stuart Chambers says

            Students should not disregard any of them, but in a multicultural society (and a world that grows more cosmopolitan), we can certainly expand upon them. You should read Bryan W. Van Norden’s book Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto. We have just as much to learn from Chinese and Arabic scholars as we do from Mill or Hobbes.

        • Charlie says

          By 1900, the Muslim World had gone to sleep. In about 1750, the Moghuls asked the East India Company to collect taxes in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

          Prior to the Muslim Conquest of which starts in about 700AD but becomes extensive from 1000 AD, India had thriving Hindu and Buddhist universities. The Arabs adopted their numerals and trigonometry from India. The sacking of universities such as Nalanda in about 1200 AD meant by 1500 AD Hindu and Buddhist scholarship had been wiped out in N India. K S Lal, the Indian historian puts the death toll at about 80 million between 1000 and 1500 AD.

          The sacking of Baghdad in about 1258 AD meant that by 1400 AD the doors of ijtihad and any intellectual curiosity was stopped. The Turkish rule of the Arabs certainly stopped intellectual curiosity.

          The Ottomans banned printing for 200 years. When the telescope was invented in 1609 AD, the Pope sent one to the Turks, Mughals and Chinese but they did little with it due to lack of intellectual curiosity. By 1667, Newton had worked out the Laws of Gravity.

          If one looks at the Muslim World, once one has removed Greek, Persian and Hindu sources there is little which is original. Ibn Khaldun of Tunisia 1332-1406 in his Prolegomena
          ” Mark how all of the countries conquered and dominated by the Arabs have had their civilisation ruined, their population dispersed, and even the soil itself transformed. Thus Yemen in ruins, Iraq flourishing under the Persians now devastated . North Africa and the Maghrib had flourishing civilisations.

          Churchill appears less critical of the Arabs/Islam than I Khaldun, their greatest historian.

          What is cosmopolitanism?

          • Susan says

            Cosmopolitanism–Think globalism, cultural relevancy.

          • Stuart Chambers says

            As I said above, you may want to read the following on cosmopolitanism since much of your history lesson is infused with an anti-Muslim bias. I enjoyed Bryan W. Van Norden’s book Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto. We have just as much to learn from Chinese and Arabic scholars as we do from Mill or Hobbes. Also, try these: Nussbaum, Martha C. “Introduction: Cosmopolitan Emotions?” and “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism.” In For Love of Country? Boston: Beacon Press, 2002, ix-xiv, 2-17. Also see: Appiah, Kwame Anthony. Cosmopolitanism. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006.

  9. Charlie says

    Mila s . The days when Liberal opinion included great intellects such as Locke, JS Mill, Gladstone, B Russell , K Popper are gone. F Bacon onwards believed that progress comes about through empirical evidence. The modern humanities academic has returned universities to the Middle Ages, where argument is based upon faith . Modern humanities departments lack intellectual rigour.

    • Stuart Chambers says

      Charlie, I do not understand where you get this “faith” argument, but I can assure you that standards are not created on a whim. An essay is either technically and structurally sound, or it is not. A student either proves a thesis, or s/he does not. An essay still demands evidence or sound philosophico-ethical reasoning. Professors do not accept random thoughts on a given topic.

      • Charlie says

        How many undergraduates in the humanities can disagree with the academics political views and obtain top marks? In engineering, physics, chemistry, cell biology and maths there can be no political influence. How many people could sit courses say in women’s studies and say the subject is a waste of money and time?

        Listening to people who have humanities degree who have no knowledge of classics ,The Bible , history pre 1500 and large areas of English literature, has led me to question standards. When someone can read English at university with knowing Latin , French and Anglos Saxon I question the standards. You talk about philosophy but unless one can read Greek, Latin , French and German how can one study the sources. University is meant to be for academic excellence, not for patching up on poor high school education.

        Up to the mid 1960s, anyone attending a decent university to read History would have to know French and Latin in order to translate from original sources.

        it used to said a scholar and gentleman knew Latin and Greek. A gentleman only had to know Latin.

        • Stuart Chambers says

          Wisdom comes from many sources. Basically, what you are saying is that if someone does not know Latin or Greek, they cannot think critically? If I want to understand how perfectionism impacted the same-sex marriage debate in Canada or how perfectionism shaped the death and dying case of Terri Schiavo, why do I need to know Latin? If I want to study anti-Muslim biases in Canadian media, will I be better off knowing Greek? Are researchers who provide data for the Pew Research Center fluent in either Latin or Greek? Just think about it.

  10. Martti O. Suomivuori says

    I had this strange experience a couple of weeks ago while trying to read a book on anthropology.
    Trying to struggle on and getting exhausted, I said to myself: “This is theology!”
    -which it clearly was, you had the right theories and the right answers and if your data did not match it, it did not get published.

    Do we need sociology, anthropology or philosophy?

    I think we do. The problem is that the academics are unable to create anything of quality as the brainiacs go to economics, law, medicine and engineering while the rest go where they get admitted.

    I did not make this up, I read it from Daniel Dennett who actually had a teaching job at the time of his writing.

  11. I didn’t find the article useful, mainly because it neither states nor provides support for a key assumption, that something should be done about sociology’s decline. Why? Maybe it’s a field like homeopathy; it’s declining because it has been tried and found wanting. Maybe we have collectively judged that our resources are better spent elsewhere.

    • Stuart Chambers says

      Ken, you could be right, but it is not a subject about “faith.”

  12. If you’re going to college looking for moral affirmation, shouldn’t you be in a divinity school?

  13. Hannah Lee says

    20 years in higher education (kind of CA Community College)- the least intellectually rigorous, the least intellectually INTERESTING, have been Sociology Professors (no women’s studies or ethnic studies at the k19-20 level YET)

    people I went to high school, and remember as interesting spent 6 years to study Sociology? What a waste might as well have gotten a degree in basket weaving.

    my college has been taken over by SJWs of the ethnic Mexican kind- even though the source of most oppression of native peoples was by Mexican colonialist (Missions forced converions and enslavement). so we got rid of Football for Soccer (black students for hispanic) etc

  14. Federation University, or F.U. Australia says

    You can add another to the list of universities in Melbourne that have been infested by this stupidity. Federation University just changed its Bachelor of Arts structure, and has simply excised Philosophy from the curriculum. It’s gone now. What lies in it’s place is “People, Power, and Knowledge”, which is code for social justice. Before, you had the freedom to choose all your subjects and construct a major and minor. Now, half of the subjects are core subjects, and you’ll never guess what they include. Here’s a sample;

    Introduction to First Nations Perspectives
    Critical First Nations Perspectives
    Globalisation and Critical Intercultural Literacies
    Faking it? Truth in Contemporary Society

    If you’d like to take an elective, you can choose from;

    The West and the Rest
    Societies: Structure, Power and Privilege
    Examining Race and Ethnicity
    Sociology of Genders, Sexes and Sexualities

    You get the picture. All of this stuff is new, and has replaced genuine academic pursuits like Logic and Reasoning, which used to be a core requirement. The truly staggering part of all this? The restructure was done under the guise of providing practical outcomes for graduates – in other words, to make them work ready. What a joke. I’m just lucky that I’m already part way through my degree, so I don’t have to take any of these bullshit classes. I do feel sorry for any new students though. They have no idea what they’re in for.

  15. Charlie says

    Cultural relevancy is a meaningless term. When the basis of a liberal education was classics and maths people had the skills to learn other languages. Egyptian Hieroglyphics were translated because scholars had knowledge of Greek ( Rosetta Stone). Fluency in Greek meant scholars were able to translate Sanskrit and develop an understanding of the relationship of Indo – Aryan Languages. What has happened is the develop of Brown Communism or Third Worldism as demonstrated by P Bruckner in his ” Tears of the White Man “. Consequently we hate western civilisation and venerate the Third World

    The Greeks developed their alphabet from the Phoenicians and we still use maths and political ideas from the Greeks. We do not undertake child sacrifice as performed by the Phoenicians ( Sins of Moloch ). Human sacrifice was a major part of Meso American Civilisations until 1492 AD but I hardly think it is relevant today. Yes study these civilisations if only to appreciate how savage they were.

    Evolution saves that which is useful which largely means enabling an organism to increase its responsiveness to changes. Yes, study other civilisations, in part to become aware of why they collapse ( Ibn Khaldun, A Toynbee and C Northcote Parkinson ). It would appear that collapse is caused by over taxation and increase in numbers and power of bureaucracy leading to decline in vitality and curiosity of people – Rome post 300 AD, Moghul post 1650 AD and Chinese post 1500 AD.

    Humanities aim should be to determine what makes us human.

  16. Mark says

    What is going on Quillette? About a year ago you started publishing vain pieces on the lived experience of PC culture. Now you’re hosting IPA commentaries grounded in anecdote and the comments section is just a bunch of right-wing (not-of-centre) whining. This is a far cry from the early days when your pieces were basically accessible meta-analyses of controversial psych research and the comments section was as good as you would find on any academic site.

    Get your standards back. You’ve got more submissions – publish fewer of them.

  17. Charlie says

    Stuart Chambers.

    Professors do not, from my knowledge, place ideology above reasoning when examining a student’s work.

    As I said above, you may want to read the following on cosmopolitanism since much of your history lesson is infused with an anti-Muslim bias

    An essay is either technically and structurally sound, or it is not

    Quoting from Ibn Khaldun, who is considered the creator of modern history( and perhaps Sociology ) is not anti Muslim bias as he is an Arab Muslim.

    The description of Muslim atrocities in India is given by the Muslim historian Firishta [full name Muhammad Qasim Hindu Shah, born in 1560 and died in 1620], the author of the Tarikh-i Firishta and the Gulshan-i Ibrahim. The Indian Historian K S Lal pus the number of deaths of Hindus between 1000 and 1500AD at 80 million.

    The closing the doors of ijtihad comes from Ibn Taymiyyah who wrote against man made laws. Taymiyyah was influenced by the Mongol invasions which the late 13th century was undertaken by warriors who were nominally Muslim. What one sees that in Europe monks such as Roger Bacon are opening minds and separating Faith and Reason, theologians such as Taymiyyah was closing them: hence no technical development by them post 1300 AD.

    Cosmopolitanism can become anti Western diatribe unless one considers how peoples interact with each other not just the West. In Africa there is the Hutu/Tutsi , Zulu/Xhosa, Nbele/Shona interactions which pre date any Western presence.

    You need to consider how Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs perceive the history of India with regard to the Muslim conquest. The history of persecution of the Sikhs and Hindus by Muslims was the reason why they fled to India after partition.

    • Stuart Chambers says

      You just proved my point. You make not one mention of how Muslims perceive Christian atrocities, not one mention of European colonization in India or Africa, and not one mention of American atrocities in Vietnam or Iraq. All I hear is the myth of Arab exceptionalism (i.e., Arabs are exceptions to progress and democracy). Anti-cosmopolitanism can also become a crutch for those who think of the West as ultimately superior. You need to consider how the Middle East, Africa and India perceive Western colonization. A good book to read is by Doug Saunders: “The Myth of the Muslim Tide.” .

  18. Charlie says

    Stuart Chambers. I was talking about Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs. The Middle East was Christian, Jewish and Parsee until the Arabic invasion. If you want to understand further about the Muslim Invasion ask the Copts and you can talk to the Bulgarians about the massacres by the Turks in the late 19th century. If you want to talk about the Crusades, there was no problem until the Seljuk Turks stopped pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The far bigger impact on the Muslim World was the Mongol invasions- hence the works of Ibn Taymiyyah. Have you considered the impact of Genghis Khan and the Mongols: whole cities were put to the slaughter and some never recovered. As Ibn Taymiyyah opposes man made rules and Sharia does not provide equality before the Law there are fundamental aspects of Islamic Jurisprudence which is at odds with democracy.

    The Arabs undertook no technical development after about 1300 AD and under the rule of the Ottoman Turks progress stopped. Have you considered the Ottoman rule in Arab countries and in Europe such as the massacre of middle class Bulgarians in the late 19th century and the Armenians in WW1? The Ottoman Turks did not allow printing until about 1700 AD. What you are ignoring is why the Arab, Turkish, Mughal and Chinese civilisations stopped technical progress by about 1400 AD whereas in the West it took off after this date. How long the West’s present technical superiority will last is unknown. Toynbee said civilisations fail because commit suicide, Ibn Khaldun said they lost vitality and C Northcote Parkinson because of over taxation and too much bureaucracy. Perhaps we need to close down all the humanities departments and spend the money on technical innovation.

    Why did millions of Indians volunteer to serve in the Army and in particular in WW1 and WW2 winning countless medals for bravery, including the VC and Indian Order of Merit. By 1947 Indians such as Ayub Khan were brigadiers in the army.The ICS tie was worn long after independence. In 2003 , the bicentenary of Skinners Horse was celebrated in Delhi.

    People do not fight with such courage that they are awarded the VC or Indian Order of Merit if they hate their rulers. Why did so few Indians captured by the Germans or Japanese not change side but remained loyal to The Empire?

    Britain is only responsible for her actions, not France’s in Algeria and Vietnam or Italy in Libya. In WW2, Libyans fought with the British. Large numbers of West Africans( served in Chindit Units) fought in Burma and East Africans/Somalians fought with the British against the Italians. Why did they volunteer and fight so heroically in atrocious conditions?

    What do you mean by cosmopolitanism, is it just Bruckner’s “Third Worldism “? To group all western countries together is absurd; you need to state which country and which action you criticise. Also you need to assess how other countries react with each other and treat people within their borders and how it compares with western countries. When the Baath party overthrew the King of Iraq the atrocities against the royalists were horrendous. Hussein hardly treated the Kurds and Shia with kindness. S Hussein’s start of the Iraq Iran War led to a far greater loss of life than anything caused by western governments. The savagery in the Algeria Civil war of the 1990s was as bad if not worse than the War of Independence.

  19. Stuart Chambers says

    I am not grouping all Western nations together. But just admit that their acts of colonization exist and did enormous damage, just as other nations have done so. How about the US in Vietnam, in Iraq (an illegal war that killed hundreds of thousands), or overthrowing a democratically elected leader in Chile and replacing him with a dictator, who then killed and tortured thousands? How does the US promote democracy while overthowing a democracy? It comes down more to their interests than their so-called principles. In Iraq, the Bush regime is responsible for not just who they killed but for what they should have foreseen (minimal consequentialism doctrine),and those are large numbers (half a million by some estimates). Is Saddam half as evil as Cheney? It’s not the right question. Both are war criminals who deserved the same fate, but one gets to go fishing instead. We know that no country is without a history of sins. But you tend to downplay Western nations and discuss the atrocities of others. I mean cosmopolitanism in the way that Nussbaum uses it in her book (“citizen of the cosmos”). Too many Western leaders have an obvious anti-Islamic/anti-Muslim bias (i.e. Harper, Trump), and they think it does not affect their decisions or worldview. If you fail to discuss, first and foremost, the history of your nation’s own reckless acts of violence and anti-cosmopolitan ideologies, the discussion can never be honest.

    • Daniel says

      Stuart Chambers, rather than criticise one country’s “colonial” record, try looking at the colonized country’s history. This avoids the problem of treating the issue from a Eurocentric (or Western, to include the US) POV.
      India, for example, is much, much more than a smoking pile of rubble left by the British. A list of the problems with British colonial rule may be factually correct, but it cannot possibly describe India adequately. To focus on colonialism, and the evils therein, is to be reductionistic.

      Reductionism is happening over at MSNBC, BBC, and Fox News. I, for one, visit Quillette to learn complexities.

  20. Peter says

    “Stuart Chambers: If you fail to discuss, first and foremost, the history of your nation’s own reckless acts of violence and anti-cosmopolitan ideologies, the discussion can never be honest.”

    This seems to me a religious/cultish statement. You claim that self-flagellation is a prerequisite. (As if there were not decades of self-criticsm in the West. How many more centuries of self-flagellation are required and why only in the West? Or maybe academics ran out of ideas and are recycling old ones?) And anti-cosmopolitanism is a mortal sin. As if tourists were not desperately seeking places which do not look all the same. Do you preach cosmopolitanism for the Amazonian tribes as well?

    Sorry, but to me you seem to have an anti-Western and pro-Muslim bias. All you want to preach is how Muslims perceive Christianity, the rest does not seem to interest you. I will share a fact. A survey of Muslim religious teachers in Austrian public schools recently found that about 20 percent of them believe that Islam and democracy are not compatible.

    BTW: The Iranian Communists helped Khomeini overthrow the Shah. They probably calculated that their fanatical and highly disciplined organization and their “superior” ideology would prevail in the rubble. They were wrong. Their Islamic allies had a well-organized clerical network, were even more fanatical and turned savagely on them. Many Communists ended on the gallows.

    I am ashamed to admit that I first liked the idea of the US going to war and overthrowing the cruel Saddam Hussein. That changed after I read the interview (before the war) with colonel Hackworth, who rightly predicted that the US would get stuck in a swamp. The US is paying a high price for the disastrous war that also fueled the jihadist movement.

    IMHO the “progressive” academics often, in essence, repeat and amplify parts of the jihadist propaganda.

    • Stuart Chambers says

      You should have also been ashamed that the war was concocted by neoconservative ideologues, that it was a fabrication, illegal and a war crime. We should all be ashamed that the perpetrators go golfing and fishing every week while hundreds of thousands of people lie in graves. In a perfect world, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush would be with Hussein, but the powerful decide the rules. By the way, I preach cosmopolitanism as a worldly concept (no favourites).

  21. Alex P. says

    I don’t think there’s much to do. The Humanities and other disciplines like Sociology or Anthropology are damaged beyond rebirth. We don’t have professors or academics, but a bunch of elitits ideologues preaching their authoritarian worldview. It’s social engineering to say the least. Everything covered by “critical thinking”, “critical skills”, “critical theory” which are fancy expressions for: leftist ideology, pure and simple. After all, I have never seen all those great “critical skills” and “critical thinking” used to criticize Left’s sacred cows. It’s easy when one lives in rich and democratic First World countries which haven’t experienced the horrors of true dictatorships (either left or right, they are all the same) to complain about everything (or almost everything, because there are always the sacred cows). Because “critical thinking” is only this: complaints from spoiled rich First World people. A guy has to fight for his right to use his name in his car (GRABHER) and some gender studies “specialist” writes an essay full of nonsensical “critical thinking”. A socialist regime kill hundreds of people and starts an humanitarian crisis (Venezuela) and the “critical thinkers” are all in silence. “Look! Let’s help those refugees on the other side of the Atlantic ocean”. “And those in Latin America, fleeing from Venezuela to Brazil?”. *Silence*. A piece of advice: when you see someone from the humanities or a sociologist or something similar talking about anything, don’t bother listen or reading. It’s pure ideology.

  22. Charlie says

    Stuart Chambers . Let us talk about colonisation. How about Aryan invasion of India 1500 BC. There is still a linguistic divided between Aryan and Dravidian Languages( Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Tulu) . If you are so concerned about colonisation by 750 AD , the Arab Muslim Empire Stretched from Sindh ( India ) to Spain or Ottoman Empire which oppressed the Arabs. There has been no greater coloniser than Genghis Khan, whose invasions may have led to the slaughter of 40 million followed by Timur the Lame who may have killed only 17 million. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Timur. Timur sacked Delhi because of the excessive leniency towards the Hindus!

    When considering India you ignore Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh viewpoints. The Muslim historian Firishta [Muhammad Qasim Hindu Shah, 1560 -1620], the author of the Tarikh-i Firishta and the Gulshan-i Ibrahim wrote about the slaughter of Hindus – how is this anti Muslim? According to you quoting from a Muslim writer is anti Muslim.

    Unless one speaks the language and has a thorough knowledge of the country, cosmopolitanism can lead to ignoring differences which can produce conflicts and mass murder.

    Iraq has always been violent. When the Baath overthrew the King there thugs walking around with necklaces comprising the intestines of princes. There has been Sunni/Shia conflict since the time of Hussein and more recently since 1979 and coming to power of Khomeini. S Hussein started wars with Iran and Kuwait.

    Post S Hussein it was mass murder not just between Sunni and Shias but within groups. In 2003 the Shia Sayyid Abdul Majid Al Khoei was hacked to death probably on the orders of Muqtada Al Sadr. Far more Arabs were killed by Arabs by far than by Americans. Where the Americans were wrong was not to realise that removal of S Hussein would lead to mass murder between various groups. What Hussein, Assad and Gaddafi achieved was to prevent mass slaughter between various groups be they religious, racial, linguistic, tribal and their removal would release a pandora’s box of pent up murderous hatreds fuelled by Wahabi/Shia Iran/Saudi conflicts. Where the Americans are wrong is to believe one can import western democracy to a country divided by hundreds of years of violence based upon tribe, language and religion. In Sri Lanka the Sinhalese /Tamil conflict is hundreds of years old.

    The reality is that we know less about how other people feel and think today than pre WW2. For example a member of the Indian Civil Service had to speak 4 Indian Languages, lived in the country for decades. Burton could speak at least 12 Indian languages and could pass himself off as an Indian. Many people were born and brought up overseas. Officers such as Lt Colonel H Dickson as a baby was breast fed by a beduin woman which made him a member of the tribe and therefore gained an insight into Arab life which no other westerner could achieve. Burton, Doughty, Palgrave, Lawrence, Bell, Stark, Thessiger and Dickson spoke the languages fluently and understood how people thought and felt. Lawrence was venerated by the Arabs.

    Citizen of the Cosmos is an absurd comment. Are you saying you are a citizen of another planet? You talk about cosmopolitanism but
    do not consider knowing Greek and Latin are important. Without these languages you cannot learn about the roots of western culture and it’s connection other Indo-Aryan languages such as Sanskrit. Robert Graves whose knowledge of Greek and Latin has enabled him to trace poetic myths date back to the Late Minoan (mid Bronze Age) and even Old Stone Age. Surely understanding ancient myths is part of the humanities?

    The humanities have declined when Professors of Humanities are ignorant of the roots of our culture. Literae humaniores means more human literature. In the 19 century many dons had degrees in classics and mathematics plus spoke 3- 4 European languages. Consequently they had knowledge of the society of Rome and Greece plus mathematics Those who were ordained probably read Hebrew as well. Today, how many academics in the Humanities have this level of scholarship?

    • Stuart Chambers says

      And you finally admit it: “Where the Americans were wrong was not to realise that removal of S Hussein would lead to mass murder between various groups.” I like the kind phrasing you use to describe mass murder and war crimes: “went wrong.” Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush and the rest of that neocon cabal concocted an illegal wat that killed half a million people or more. And for that action, they need to go to prison; yesterday would be preferable. The fact that Genghis Khan killed more people is irrelevant. I do not need to know Sanskrit, Latin or Greek to understand the actions of mass murderers, bigots or liars. They are the same in all cultures and all languages. If you think that “citizen of the cosmos” is a silly term, then you have not read Nussbaum, who is one of the most important philosophers and liberal thinkers of our time. She’s in just about every university syllabus in North America, but you knew that, right? Try these:

      1. Nussbaum, Martha C. “Introduction: Cosmopolitan Emotions?” and “Patriotism and
      Cosmopolitanism.” In For Love of Country? Boston: Beacon Press, 2002, ix-xiv, 2-17.

      2. Appiah, Kwame Anthony. “The Counter Cosmopolitans.” In Cosmopolitanism. New
      York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006, 137-153.

  23. Robert says

    I hated this article, the most soulless intellectual history I’ve ever read. Comtean positivism is a vision of the negation of human freedom. Your desire for “objectivity” negates what you might call our objective or given ontological condition: that of an emotional human subject, limited in perspective, burdened with memory, and subject to passions, pain and death. This is the material of any human society, but you want to write it out of sociology. All positivists aspire to the condition of numbers.

    It’s BS blaming Irving Goffman for the decline of sociology. He was a fascinating scholar and doesn’t deserve this kind of facile contempt. As if the symbolic sphere of representations and the social performance of roles were so much silly nonsense, invented by people bad at math in order to screw everything up! Ha! (This at a time when the “society of the spectacle” has reached its low apotheosis in Trump… What critic with any insight would deny the power of the symbolic sphere st this time?)

    I don’t understand the connections between taking symbolic meaning seriously and your canned Petersonian gloss about power, postmodernism and post-structuralism. Nor how these intellectual trends that you don’t understand are responsible for the loss of rigor in the undergraduate sociology curriculum. If you haven’t noticed, that loss is a general trend, so blaming Irving Goffman (and, implicitly, Nietzsche, the philosopher of the Will to Power and ironically the philosopher Jordan Peterson cites most often) is quixotic in the extreme. More likely causes: the rise of technologies of distraction, the worsening economics of higher education, and the leveling pressures of democracy (rigor being elitist by definition). Don’t sociologists believe in the social nature of causes, or are they all closet idealists like you?

    • Daniel says

      Robert, speaking of soulless… Can you please be less dull? At least the article was interesting.

  24. X. Citoyen says

    Haidt’s solution is bound to fail because it ignores how the university got this way in the first place. Outside studies departments, no faculty member’s job description includes political activism. Nor was anyone supposed to be hiring only politically like-minded people. Yet they went and did both in institutions already committed to truth. So how will hanging a sign on the door saying “We’re (once again) committed to truth” change anything?

  25. Daniel says

    A much, much better fix than Haidt’s: make students pay the full cost of tuition. No subsidies, no loans. Universities can educate for so much less it’s not even funny. Imagine how many admins would be canned. Imagine how utterly decimated gender studies departments would be as students have to pony up $40-60k a year. No debt, no burden on the treasury.
    Or alternatively, allow unis to lend money, but let students declare bankruptcy upon graduating. Grads with marketable knowledge and skills would be the only ones paying off loans. The ones with the useless degrees wouldn’t, and the universities would gut those departments. Win-win!

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