The Growing Tide of Anti-Intellectualism

There is an undeniable, politically-supported growth of denial — and even hatred — of learning, facts, and the educated. Greed (and, most likely, fear of minorities) feeds demagoguery. Demagoguery can lead to harmful policies and thereafter to mob actions.

I’ve written on this topic here before. I also have cited an excellent essay from Scientific American about how the rising tide of anti-intellectualism threatens our democracy and future (you should read it).

What prompts this post is a recent article about a thinly-veiled political probe of the National Science Foundation, combined with the pending national election in the US. (Some of these issues apply elsewhere in the world, but this is a US-centric post.)

This view is also reinforced by my current experience — I am on a combined speaking tour and family vacation in Poland. I recently visited a memorial to the Katyn massacre, remembering when Soviet NKVD killed 22,000 captured Poles, many of whom were included because they were educated “intelligentsia.” Later today, I am visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau, where intellectuals were taken as well as Jews, Romani, the handicapped, and other undesirables, over a million of whom were subsequently executed. The Cambodian killing fields were filled with the bodies of educators, scientists, and doctors — even simply people who wore glasses — and their families, because they were viewed as enemies of the ruling belief system who could point out inconvenient facts and fallacies in the pronouncements of the leaders. History is filled with examples of shuttering of universities, burning of books, banning of lectures, and mass executions of the educated. The death sentence on Socrates is a canonical example of the problem.

I will admit to my own partisan (in the US) leaning here — which is steadily increasing as I observe prior cutbacks to NASA, NSF and basic science (e.g., here), claiming made-up medical evidence to attack women’s health choice issues (e.g., this and this), denial of climate change (e.g., here), denial of evolution, attacks against the EPA in favor of big-money polluters, promoting incorrect history books in for secondary school education, rhetoric about shutting down the Department of Education, perpetuating predatory student loan rates and other examples.

There is a clear and growing bias against education and even basic facts, primarily promoted by the GOP. Worse, they are finding widespread social support for these biases. Hiding behind claims of saving taxpayer money (so it can be spent on the military) and promoting religious freedoms (but in practice, only a select set of religions) has become their standard practice; those involved who don’t promote it either tolerate it or attempt to justify it. by picking a few counter-examples or cases of ignorance by other political entities.

For instance, if you read the above examples and were mentally making a list of “That citation is biased” or “All politicians are equally bad” or “But what about when that Democrat said….” then you are almost certainly part of the problem — denying the bigger picture by cherry-picking counterexamples. I won’t debate individual items, because that is to ignore the very clear overall pattern.

Socially, we are seeing the impact — for example, the popularity of Fox “News” stories that continue to present false information, candidates who are lying publicly despite being called out on it because the electorate doesn’t respond (Colbert’s “Truthiness” was a brilliant way of labeling this), the rise of one-issue deniers….

The recent scare-mongering and reactions to the spread of Ebola shows a combination ignorance of science, a political motivation (the GOP claims to want an “Ebola Czar” to make it look like they are doing something, but has been blocking the appointment of a Surgeon General and cutting funds to NIH for years), and even a racial component (1 death and 2 infections in the US is a crisis; thousands dying every week in West Africa merits not a mention).

Another case of malleable facts for political ends? Arguments for voter ID laws are specious and even evil (a veteran GOP US judge called it), but are being justified by made up facts so as to help keep voters disenfranchised who might threaten GOP candidates. (Look at the history of such laws — they are always proposed and passed in GOP-led state legislatures).

I don’t mean to condemn everyone who leans towards the Republicans, nor am I absolving any Democrats of their many peccadillos and faults. Politics tends to breed a certain level of corruption, and people with nuanced views are often unelectable.

However, I am deeply concerned with the direction in which we are headed, spearheaded by one political party, where dumb is considered “statesmanlike,” facts are inconvenient, religious mythology trumps science, and any observation of this is treated as if all views are equally valid. As Neil DeGrasse Tyson is alleged to have responded when creationists demanded equal time to present their view after the airing of Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey on TV: “You don’t talk about the spherical Earth with NASA, and then say let’s give equal time to the flat Earthers. Science is not there for you to cherry pick.”

Beliefs may be equal, but science and history are not “beliefs.” You can choose your beliefs, but you cannot choose facts.

If you have read this far, you are likely educated and capable of thought. You should be concerned about the trends, too. Don’t buy in to “All political parties are the same” because some research into this issue will reveal they are not, at least on this topic. Don’t excuse anti-intellectualism as simply “ conflict of competing belief systems.” Understand it for what is is. Speak out about it. If you are a fan of the GOP’s views on smaller government, immigration, or defense — fine, speak out in GOP forums on issues of science and truth, and make those a priority in your decision-making.

Perhaps more importantly, vote. Urge others to vote. Support candidates of any party who do not deny science, do not belittle education, do not make up their own version of the facts. Get others to vote, and educate them about the candidates. We want the smartest, best-educated people leading the world — not the dumbest, most biased, and most dishonest. Don’t vote solely by political party, although I encourage you to think about the above pattern if you don’t have any other information at hand.

Pastor Martin Niemoller is credited with the famous saying “First they came for the Sociaists, and I did not speak out….Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.” Let us not be the ones left, for whom there is no one left to speak. Let us seek to ensure that our descendants live in a world where knowledge is valued, truth — even difficult truth — is sought, and idiots are not given public acclaim.

And don’t forget to vote!

(Update: a few hours after I originally posted this, Borowitz came up with an appropriate news parody article in the New Yorker.)

Paranoia or Pattern Recognition?

Last year, I wrote this post about the increasing danger posed by fundamentalism in the U.S.A. — not Islamic fundamentalism, but so-called Christian fundamentalism, and its threat to science. (And here are some supporting thoughts published via Scientific American and the UK Guardian.)

This morning, as I finished my second gallon of coffee :-), this post set me off: Blind, severely disabled boy forced to take standardized test. That was on top of the news from yesterday that Senator Coburn had finally succeeded in getting one of his attacks against NSF included in a funding bill.

I can’t help but wonder if these kinds of things aren’t continuing salvos in a deeper agenda — one that not all of itds supporters may have even thought about. Then again, maybe I’m feeling especially paranoid and caffinated today, but….

First, think about the ideological attacks on public school teachers as moochers and incompetent (think: Wisconsin as a glaring example, and here’s a good explanation of the phenomenon). The thrust of these efforts is to drive their pay and benefits so low that the profession is completely unattractive to anyone with competence (let alone, excellence). Coupled with this are passage of laws that threaten their pensions and prevent them from using unions to resist.

More or less concurrently, the laws have been set up to penalize schools based on testing — forcing every student to take tests that they are set up to fail, thus depressing the scores to provide “proof” that public schools are “failing.” (As an aside, if only we had similar evaluation of the legislators passing these laws based on scores rather than financed, partisan elections…..)

Another step is to open up voucher programs and make them easy to get for parents who want to opt out of public schools. This further erodes the resources for public schooling. It also boosts the attendance at schools that teach crap creationist “science” and revisionist history (think: the fairy tales that Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin spout). The adults educated as children in these schools will almost certainly tend to vote for the know-nothings who are engineering the destruction of real education, and will want their own children to attend these New World madrassas rather than be exposed to reality.

So goes the spiral as secular, scientific, reason-based education circles the drain.

Couple this with the mantra of “must eliminate the debt and big government” that are used as excuses to cut research (Senator Coburn’s vendetta against NSF is one example, and shuttering NASA programs another), cut early education and child support, continually reduce higher education support and scholarships, and block appointment of any Federal judges many of whom show evidence of understanding separation of church and state,… hmmm, what else? Concentrate the wealth and thus much of the political power in the hands of an elite that are largely separated from average people. Mix in the advocacy of increased military spending. Paint Islam and China as looming threats. Extrapolate from those data points, and many more you can add in.

Let’s see. Cut away at good secular education, deny advanced education for any but the dogmatic, undercut chances at economic freedom, the privileged are “more equal than others because they work harder,” promote an agenda of extreme ideals, and beat the drum for “vigilance” against heretical foes. What comes to mind? Orwell’s 1984, Nazi Germany, the early Soviet Union, North Korea… and the USA of 25-35 years from now? Foster ignorance, economic stagnation, and rabid ideology, and it is simple to move to totalitarian control.

All this is coming from one end of the US political spectrum, and one political party. Is it surprising to anyone if they might have delusions of the US as a sectarian military power dominating the world with their ideals? If not, ask yourself — what threatens that vision? What is “under attack” according to their rhetoric? How could they change the U.S. to be more suitable to their view of domination? And is that inconsistent with what has been happening?

Am I getting all that from 1 report of insane rules overapplied to a child in Florida? Nope. But I’ve seen so much of this in the last few years, and especially this week (the Coburn move against NSF being the most irritating) that, coupled with too much coffee, here’s my rant.

I can guess at some of the people who will read this far and who will denigrate everything about it. Sadly, those people are almost certainly aligned with the ones helping perpetrate the decline, perhaps even without thinking about where it all might lead. The most dogmatic are the ones who are most easily misled and who most quickly rise to their defense.

If we care, we need to push back. Push back against Senator Coburn, and Governor Scott Walker, and Reps. Paul Ryan and Michele Bachmann, and all the other demagogues who would happily push us into the world of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Even if I’m not paranoid it doesn’t mean that the know-nothings aren’t out to destroy all teaching of science and history they don’t like (which the rest of us can call “reality” for short). It doesn’t mean they won’t try to push their religious views on us. And it doesn’t mean they won’t seek to hobble — economically and politically — everyone who doesn’t agree with them.

All it takes for those ideals to win out is for the rest of us to allow those demagogues to keep getting elected and spouting their nonsense on radio and TV without correction (e.g., that “reality” stuff). Does it matter to you, or are @lolcats, “The Batchelor” and “Jersey Shore” all you really care about? Based on response from three different classes this week, less than 10% of even the best educated are bothering to keep up with the news — they didn’t know about the cyberattacks in South Korea, that the President was in Israel, that China had elected a new premier, the financial crisis in Cyprus…. but wow, several of them certainly knew about who was on “Dancing with the Stars” and which teams were in the NCAA basketball tournament. I’m beginning to wonder if the forces of ignorance have not already won. 😦

The Road to a New Dark Age in the US

This rant was triggered by a news article. I posted a link to it in my Twitter feed. I received several fatuous, smug responses. The combination prompted me to write what follows. We’ll get to the article eventually.

Consider that the US led the world in science and technology for decades. We created atomic power, put humans on the moon and in the deepest ocean trenches, we discovered the most fundamental subatomic particles, and have imaged the most distant galaxies. We have constructed immense skyscrapers, we communicate with light, and we can predict (usually) the weather. We can put almost the entire sum of recorded human knowledge on charged bits of silicon, and calculate with numbers larger than the number of atoms in the universe. We can take apart cells and put them together again to form new ones, and we have extended our average lifespan by decades through improved medicine. Working with others around the world, we have eradicated terrible scourges (smallpox) and nearly eliminated others (polio, the Guinea Worm). We have done amazing things, and there is more yet to be done than we have barely imagined.

We have accomplished all this through engineering, technology and especially science: the process of forming hypotheses, conducting experiments to verify or refute them, and then refining those same hypotheses. All of science is theoretical, in the sense that all theories are open to refinement when we obtain new data. Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation was simply a theory with lots of confirmation of the usual case, which was refined when Einstein came along. The atomic model of matter is a theory, and it is refined and retested with each new means to break apart atoms to find constituent parts. The “Luminiferous Aether” was a theory for light propagation until Michelson and Morley’s experiment showed it to be false. The “four humors” was a theory of medicine before we began to understand biology.

Science is based on theories. Theories with massive bodies of repeated experiment and confirmation are often labeled “laws” but are still theories. The Law of Gravity is actually a theory. So is the Theory of Evolution. Both have undergone repeated trials by independent experiment, with the results very critically analyzed by others. Those theories have been confirmed again and again by the vast majority of trained observers. That is how science advances. We construct experiments to test our theories, and each successful experiment confirms its associated theory a little more, while each unsuccessful experiment drives us to ask “why?” and seek further refinement. If there is something that cannot be tested by experiment, then it is not something that can be known to science — it is not a verifiable fact, and can only be supported by belief.

Human advancement stumbles when ideology trumps knowledge. We refer to a period in the past in Europe as “the Dark Ages” as a time when inquiry was constrained by religious dogma; it is no accident that what followed was called the Enlightenment, a word we also use for gaining knowledge. During those dark ages, learning was treated with suspicion, and those who accomplished what the common person did not understand were sometimes killed as witches or tortured by religious authorities, seeking to make them “repent.” Lysenkoism in the Soviet Union crippled agricultural development and biological research for decades, as well as resulted in the death of many leading scientists in prisons, and their work destroyed. Whether it was the destruction of the House of Wisdom by the Mongols, the Nazis burning books that did not support their ideology, the Catholic Church’s censoring knowledge with the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, or any of hundreds of other major acts of suppression of knowledge — including extremes such as the mass genocide of the educated in Cambodia’s killing fields by the Khmer Rouge — darkness is brought about by those who would suppress knowledge, education, and inquiry.

It is no surprise that many of our nation’s leaders are focusing on increasing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) research and education, both to keep our economy competitive, but as a matter of national security. The US has been losing ground in these fields, as has been pointed out time and again in major studies (two of which are the Rising Above the Gathering Storm report, and its successor). Our ability to compete as a nation, to meet future economic challenges, to improve our health care, and to maintain our national defense all depend on our ability to innovate, and that requires education and scientific advances based on inquiry unfettered by superstition and myth.

So, given the proven history of scientific advancement (and the grim negative examples), and the obvious needs for foundational aspects of that advancement in education and infrastructure, it should be clear that it should be a national priority, right?

Well, no. We have seen a rising political movement over the last few decades, and it is destructive, yet not often mentioned by those in positions of leadership. After all, angering religious fanatics who are sure they have the blessings of heaven and who are unswayed by logic or reason is not without its vexations. Yet, to be silent is to let the darkness increase.

What darkness?

The darkness of ignorance and the unbending dogma of those who are united in their belief: science is wrong, facts are not to be believed, religion is the overriding (or only) truth. This is a growing problem that we have seen get worse over the last few decades. It has been obviously manifest in the last few national elections, and only becomes more pressing.

We have increasing numbers of the population denying evolution, refusing to acknowledge climate change, avoiding immunizations (and thereby endangering the rest of the population as the “herd immunity” is lost), and similar while being openly contemptuous of scholarship and scholars. Denial of foundational science in biology, physics, and geology is frequently made. And it has probably had a side-effect on our public, a significant fraction of whom don’t know (for example) that New Mexico is part of the US, cannot name a single Supreme Court justice, don’t know the difference between Iran and Iraq (and don’t even begin to ask about Sunni vs. Shia), have no idea how to figure a 17% tip, and many of whom think the Sun orbits the Earth! After all, when some facts are hotly denied, why bother learning any? (Although, to be fair, this great public ignorance may well be the cause of an increasingly dogmatic population, and not the effect.) It will cripple future generations if they are prevented from learning things known to be true, especially in the sciences. That was Bill Nye’s message, too, that has caused some controversy by those who fail — or refuse — to understand it.

From a public policy perspective, this trend is leading to (directly and indirectly) cutting funds for research, cutting funding for public universities, cutting back on student aid, vilifying teachers, and even threatening Big Bird (PBS). The adherents clamor for vouchers and home schooling so they can perpetuate their ignorance and superstition. (To be fair, some vouchers and home schooling is intended to provide a quality alternative to underfunded public schools; this is a feedback loop.) It is an anti-intellectual movement that has been encouraged by some demagogues, primarily in one political party, because they have sought to use the votes for influence, but it has further emboldened the fringe elements. Heck, even an official with the campaign staff for their candidate for President said that facts don’t matter, and one state’s party convention adopted a position against critical thinking! This all evidences actual contempt for knowledge. (There are many more examples, including many with our 43rd President, but this post is already too long.)

Want more evidence? Take a look at this news article. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Yes, this is the one that started me off on this. 🙂

This guy is running for reelection, unopposed in a district that includes a major university — the University of Georgia (as a Georgia Tech alumnus, I will forego some obvious comments), so this is even more disheartening.

Note especially that Rep Broun is on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. So is Todd Akin, the fellow in Missouri who made the incredibly inane comments about women not getting pregnant from “legitimate rape.” These are only two of many such people that our fellow citizens somehow think are qualified to represent them, but are overtly nescient. They are among the leadership and oversight, making decisions on our national programs of science and technology. Is it any wonder that, the rest of the world is gaining on us as a nation? There are many more like these folks running for office in national, state and local races, too.

Of course, this phenomenon is not limited to the U.S., nor to only one religion, nor only at this time. We have seen instances of the Taliban destroying buildings, burning schools and books, and killing others who do not share their beliefs. We see news of Ultra Orthodox Jews in Israel pushing restrictions on those who do not share their beliefs. We see stories of clashes with some militant Hindu nationalists. All of the holy wars and crusades, the Inquisition, and the destruction of many civilizations because the populations were “heathen” are indicia of the tradition of suppression of any knowledge but their own. Despite this history, there are almost no places in the world where so many people actively seek to degrade and deny science and science education as in the U.S. now; in many places, such as China, Korea and Russia, they are doing everything they can to promote education, and it shows in their growing capabilities.

Actually, the parallels are really quite obvious if you look for them. We have many religions where fundamentalist adherents believe their holy writ is direct from above, their particular religion is the only “correct” one, their holy book and leaders are infallible and unquestionable, they send their children to religious schools to ensure they are brainwashed educated without exposure to open inquiry and secular thought — or perhaps to be schooled only in their religious texts — and they believe there is no question that the government’s laws should support their point of view — after all, theirs are the views of heaven! Our U.S. fundamentalists are ideologic twins of those in the Muslim world who want to roll their countries back to the 13th century caliphate, with the major difference being that those in the US are not believers in Islam. Yet, make these comparisons and you will get strong pushback (from both sides)– after all, the adherents of that other religion (whatever it is) are damned for believing the wrong thing; only we are the enlightened ones…exactly like every other religion, past, present, and future. No irony there.

Does all that mean that faith and science cannot coexist? Not at all! There is a clear distinction between the two, but not an opposition. Science is based on the body of theories that can be proved or disproved by anyone repeating a defined experimental procedure. They are subject to repeated and new experiments, and theories may be replaced. Faith is the remainder of belief: it is those things that can never be proved or disproved, but are merely believed (or not) by each person. Many, many, many people are able to abide their faith yet be open to the processes of doubt, inquiry and learning. They understand that anything of this world is precisely that — of this world — and divinity is to be experienced through one’s acts, not the pages of a book or through the self-serving pronouncements of a hierophant. They reject dogma and think for themselves. Those people view the process of inquiry as expanding their knowledge of the world in which they function and believe — rather than as a challenge to their beliefs. After all, no religion has a deity so weak and questionable that true faith can be shaken by honest questions and discoveries in the world of that deity’s making, does it?

The 14th Dalai Lama put it very nicely for Buddhism; it can (and should) be applied in other religions:

If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview.

There are many axes along which one may organize one’s life. Encouraging ignorance, stifling open inquiry, crippling dreams, hindering education, embracing dogma, and advocating against science are the traits of darkness, even if committed with selfless intent. We condemn those acts when we see them practiced in other countries and other times. We need to condemn them when we see them here and now. And we need to stop electing people who are agents of neo-Lysenkoism before they steer us all into a new Dark Age.

U.S. elections are November 6th. Be an agent of enlightenment when you vote. (And if you need some guidance, there’s my previous blog post.)

Change is Not Always Good in Higher Ed

Update: As of this morning, Mitch Daniels has been appointed as the 12th president of Purdue University. (Press release here.)

Not too long ago, the University of Florida was in the news over budget-driven plans to cut CS. That plan was partially beaten back, but animosity lingers, and many faculty have their C.V.s in circulation, looking for more stable positions.

The University of California system has had an on-going budget crunch that is making many people unhappy.

Students in Quebec have had long-running demonstrations (the government labels them as riots) to protest tuition hikes. (That is not to imply that Quebec is a U.S. state, but to show the problems aren’t limited to the U.S.)

Other states also report woes with budgets being slashed for years (often decades), while the same legislatures trimming the budgets prohibited tuition raises that fully covered the difference. This almost always resulted in salary freezes and failure to fund long-term renovation and growth. That is how a powerful institution begins to decay.

In the last few days we have seen growing uproar over the ouster of the University of Virginia’s president, allegedly because she was unwilling to consider taking the University private and was not simpatico with the business moguls on the board. One of the most prominent CS faculty members and scientists in the nation, Bill Wulf, has resigned his post at UVa in disgust and protest over this.

What are common as threads in these incidents (and more) are that public universities are stressed by reductions in state budgets, and that many decision-makers believe those with great financial success in business are somehow imbued with expertise to be applied — nay, admired — in other venues. (It isn’t only academia; think Herman Cain and Mitt Romney as examples. Their success in business has somehow suggested to many they have acumen appropriate for national, political office.) Cutting benefit costs, hostile takeovers, leveraged buy-outs, and the like don’t fit well in academia (or government). This is a great essay in Slate about this theme that is well worth reading.

Next up may well be some dissent at Purdue University about its next president. It hasn’t been formally announced yet, but all the various news outlets portray it as a done deal that Mitch Daniels will be the next President of Purdue University.

We tend to be a little more restrained in this part of the country, so the protests and uproar cited above are unlikely. But the choice of Mr. Daniels (and I emphasize Mr. as his highest degree is a J.D., roughly equivalent to an MS degree) is far from a “dream come true” for all the faculty and students. His career in business and government has been characterized by cost-cutting and privatization moves that are not suited for an institution of higher education. He has not shown particular understanding or accommodation for the value of academia beyond what it can do to pump up the state economy during his term as governor, either. His strong partisan political ties also can have a negative impact on the university, as he has been more associated with those who wish to force their superstitions and biases on others rather than be open to choice and reason.

Mr. Daniels would be a puzzling choice. No experience working in academia. No advanced degree. No history of great vision on education or advanced research. He’s 63, and Purdue regulations require administrators to step down in the year they turn 65, so it would be a limited term unless the Trustees make a special exception 2 years from now. And he’s still the sitting governor, so he’d have to either step down or delay his taking the position for several months.

It also raises some significant conflict of interest issues that should be extremely troubling — Mr. Daniels has appointed 7 of the current 10 trustees, and reappointed three others to their current positions. Thus, all of those trustees owe their current positions to Mr. Daniels’ actions. Considering that over the last few years the Purdue faculty have gotten increasing hassle and red tape about our consulting and professional service outside the university, the Board of Trustees are certainly not setting a good example if they do this.

Note that I am not in any way suggesting that Mr. Daniels has exerted undue influence or is incompetent. He has served well in many business and elected roles, and been reasonably successful. He has seemed to be very honest and forthright. He has also seemed open to bucking political pressure from even his own party. In general, he also seems like a reasonably nice guy. My point is that these qualities are not sufficient to make one qualified for the role of president at a Tier I research university.

Many of us have been following the search for a new president, although it has all been done in secret. Rumor has it that there were at least two highly qualified candidates, but the Board was unwilling to pay the expenses to hire them and close out their current obligations. Without the specifics that is difficult to confirm, but also troubling to consider. Universities always seem to have money to buy out coaches’ salaries or erect new buildings named after alumni, but not to hire a highly qualified president? Clearly, if true, there is a problem of priorities present.

There is an underlying, common theme nationally to all of this — the population, influenced by vast lobbying wealth from monied interests, has shifted to admire those who manage money from those who make discoveries and educate the public. Service, except in the name of $$, is no longer held in esteem. Doubt it? Consider all the people and rhetoric naming public school teachers and fire fighters as “thugs and leeches” because they seek pay raises to match inflation, and to keep their pensions. Consider the disparity of massive bailouts to huge investment banks driven into near ruin by greed, while families of deployed military personnel many times have to resort to food stamps. Consider the salaries and adulation heaped on sports figures and pop culture icons; news outlets will publish opinions of these “stars” on world affairs and scientific issues such as climate change, which they treat equal to (or give greater weight to) than those of scholars who have spent decades studying the issues. It is little wonder that politicians are passing laws banning use of the term “climate change” because it is not “business friendly,” and the average U.S. citizen believes the world was created by some mystical being rather than well-documented scientific processes. If Fox News started airing segments about the “Theory” of Gravity, those same people would develop a fear of spontaneously floating off into space! It sometimes appears we are entering a new dark age where reason is trumped by the self-interests of the robber barons and hierophants.

The changes in Higher Education outlined above do not do anything to help stem the rising tide of ignorance, nor do they help put the U.S. on track to reinvigorate our economy with scientific advancement and an educated workforce. They are uninformed, tactical responses to more fundamental problems, and exacerbate those same problems. We need more education, and more respect for fact, with less pursuit of goals driven by religious superstition and greed. (Interestingly, the dominant religions involved, which many of the players profess to hold dear, preach about helping the poor, treating others as equal, living peacefully, and eschewing great wealth. Apparently, these people are immune to irony.)

The appointment of Mr. Daniels as President of Purdue is not official until tomorrow, and the Board of Trustees may surprise everyone by voting to appoint someone else. However, no matter what happens at Purdue, including if Mr. Daniels turns out to be a passable president, the fact that this is even being talked about as possible, coupled with the news from Florida and Virginia, should really cause people to be more generally concerned about what is happening to higher education in the U.S. These are not moves that strengthen higher education or the basic research enterprise in the long term. Other countries elect scientists and engineers to run their countries, while we continue to marginalize ours. The longer-term consequences cannot be to our liking.

(Speaking for myself, only, of course.)

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