By Richard Vedder
The hallmark of the modern age is the replacement of rational inquiry and the freedom of expression for dogmatism and oppression of unpopular ideas. The Age of Enlightenment was both a cause and consequence of the Industrial Revolution, early globalization, the Renaissance, and the Protestant Reformation. Modern universities took on their present form as a consequence of the Enlightenment, the appeal to knowledge, and the appreciation of intellectual dialogue and diversity. The modern research university built on the German model would have never occurred without the revolution in ideas and scientific inquiry that accompanied the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment.
Today, I am seeing increasing signs of the end of the Enlightenment, of a reversion to an earlier, dogmatic and autocratic approach, as symbolized in the Spanish Inquisition, which was responsible for killing many Jews and Protestants who deviated from the orthodox Catholic faith in Spain in the late 15th through 18th centuries.
This all came back to mind when I read this morning's INSIDE HIGHER ED. A little item observed that a student's complaint had led Houghton Mifflin to censor a textbook written by two very distinguished scholars, James Q. Wilson and John Dilulio. Their American National Government is a major textbook. In it, they apparently deviate from the orthodox view that global warming unquestionably exists, is the result of human action, and poses serious dangers to our planet. Mifflin apparently has now censored the book. The College Board, run by a former liberal politician, is thinking of removing it from the recommended textbooks for the AP exam. Just as Ferdinand and Isabella demanded orthodoxy and created the Inquisition, so Al Gore and his friends in the Higher Education Establishment demand orthodoxy and are using the College Board as their instrument to enforce it.
This is an absolute outrage. Take Jim Wilson. He has written at least 16 books, was a senior professor at Harvard (then UCLA and Pepperdine), and is Chairman of the Council of Academic Advisors at a think tank with which I am associated, the American Enterprise Institute. He is a giant name amongst scholars of American government. John Dululio has a similar sterling reputation. Many other sterling scientists and other scholars have raised serious doubts about the orthodox views relating to global warming --including professors at first-rate American universities (the University of Virginia comes immediately to mind). I have read serious books on the subject that have me convinced that the global warming hysteria is just that --hysteria. Global warming exists, probably, but the reasons for it and consequences of it are likely (and certainly possibly) far different than Al Gore would have you believe. But this is beside the point. The College Board should not be enforcing a particular political ideology.
I have not read the Wilson and Diluilio text. If I were writing about the topic to an audience of students, I would mention both the orthodox and dissenting views on the subject. I bet you that they did. But in any case, this attempt to censor and strike down ideas with which one disagrees is very reminiscent of the bad old days of the Spanish Inquisition, a period when the average life expectancy was around 30 and life was short, ugly and brute.