Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lies, Lies, and Damned Lies

By Richard Vedder

I have read two books recently that suggest that the academy's "research" is increasingly an ideological driven agenda that has nothing to do with truth and discovery and more about trying to make the world conform to a twisted and distorted zeitgeist far out of line with the instincts of the vast majority of Americans. It is a return, albeit in a different form, to a pre-Enlightment sort of intellectual totalitarism that is the antithesis of modernity and progress.

First, I commend to readers Chris Horner's fine book Power Grab. Chris argues, convincingly in my judgment, that much of the environmental/global warming cries in recent years has actually little to do with environmental concerns and all to do with an attempt to destroy the modern capitalistic order that has increased the quantity and quality of our lives so dramatically. The environment is merely the vehicle used to push an agenda. I am biased --Chris is a former student --but I think there is no finer writer and thinker on environmental issues than Chris. This book joins many earlier exposes on the lies, the distortions of evidence, etc., of many who are trying to drive dissent away in the discussion of global warming. So-called scientists are behaving in the most un-scientific way, and many of them are associated with our universities. Will they be punished for their academic malpractice, for their violation of professional responsibilities? No, of course not. And that is much of what is wrong with higher education today. People can lie and act irresponsibly with impunity. They can stifle intellectual expression or distort it and laugh all the way to the bank. Run, do not walk, to buy Chris's book (or click to get it from an on-line bookseller).

Second, my collleague Lowell Gallaway gave me a book to read that is several years old by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, In Denial. The authors show how a large number of historians of prominence continue to deny what has become irrefutably obvious --that American Communists spied against the U.S. in the 1930 to 1955 period. They refuse to accept the evidence from the Venoma intercepts or the vast evidence from newly opened Russian archives. It becomes obvious that their real agenda is not truth but pushing an erroneous view of the world, a poisionous far left ideology. The shameful thing is the Historical Establishment has gone along with this and shut out solid fact-based scholarship, with none of the more anti-communist revelations being accepted for publication in the top ranked Journal of American History or the American Historical Review.

Again, the consequences are zero. Some of these individuals continue to hold prestigious chairs, teach little, and pontificate at public expense leftish fantasies that have nothing to do with truth and discovery--and smear and try to suppress those who have different views. No one is detenured for academic dishonesty --au contraire, those who take opposite views are shut out of the journals, meaning that ideology, not fact, is driving the scholarly consensus in an important subset of the history profession. There is a smear on honest historians, one of whom, my friend Lon Hamby, had the last traditional article as of 2003 (the time this book was written) in the early 1970's in the American Historical Review suggesting that the American Communists were engaged in espionage.

This is yet another reason why the "research" enterprise of universities needs to be reassessed. It is costly, detracts in some cases from the instructional mission, and appears to often corrupt the very values on which universities were founded and on which modern progress depends.

1 comment:

Steve said...

I think its fair to say that a lot of historians and others in humanities departments (and sociologists) do ideological "research." Their research is about as objective as a think tank's, maybe worse.

But most economists are not doing ideological research. There is some ideology (including at CCAP), but people like Paul Krugman and Yoram Bauman are not trying to "destroy capitalism" when they warn about climate change.

Maybe what I'm trying to say is that, for instance, there is a reason the fresh-water school and salt-water schools in economist exist, and that they both had predictable responses to the stimulus package. But that isn't proof that one side is doing misleading or unscientific research for a political agenda. I think the Real Business Cycle people really believe in what most of us in Cambridge consider total crap. And I know a lot of people in Chicago feel the same way about Keynsian models.