Category Archives: Academics


I wonder what our readers think of this from today’s New York Times:

>KINGSTON, R.I. — There is nothing much unusual about the 197-page dissertation Marcus R. Ross submitted in December to complete his doctoral degree in geosciences here at the University of Rhode Island.

>His subject was the abundance and spread of mosasaurs, marine reptiles that, as he wrote, vanished at the end of the Cretaceous era about 65 million years ago. The work is “impeccable,” said David E. Fastovsky, a paleontologist and professor of geosciences at the university who was Dr. Ross’s dissertation adviser. “He was working within a strictly scientific framework, a conventional scientific framework.”

>But Dr. Ross is hardly a conventional paleontologist. He is a “young earth creationist” — he believes that the Bible is a literally true account of the creation of the universe, and that the earth is at most 10,000 years old.

>For him, Dr. Ross said, the methods and theories of paleontology are one “paradigm” for studying the past, and Scripture is another. In the paleontological paradigm, he said, the dates in his dissertation are entirely appropriate. The fact that as a young earth creationist he has a different view just means, he said, “that I am separating the different paradigms.”

>He likened his situation to that of a socialist studying economics in a department with a supply-side bent. “People hold all sorts of opinions different from the department in which they graduate,” he said. “What’s that to anybody else?”

Intellectual liberals

We’ll give Dinesh D’Souza a break today–and maybe tomorrow as well. But don’t worry, we’ll come back for him (in the meantime, he seems to be having trouble remembering his book’s thesis).

A colleague of mine sent me an article from the Chronicle Review where Russell Jacoby reviews some recent works by conservative writers and calls them “facile.” That’s not a difficult charge to substantiate in that he includes P.J.O’Rourke among conservative intellectuals (Note to conservatives–we think you can do better than Bill Kristol, the Kagans, George Will, David Brooks, Dinesh D’Souza and V.D. Hanson). If anyone knows of conservatives of intellectual heft please notify professor Jacoby.

We’d like to point out the spectacularly dumb version of the “liberal intellectual” he contrasts with the conservative one. While the conservative eschews the confines of academia for the think-tank, the liberal wraps himself in an impenetrable haze of verbosity. He writes:

>Several answers suggest themselves. Leftists largely inhabit the academy, and the professoriate does not prize elegant writing. On the contrary, it distrusts clear prose as superficial. Oddly, English and literature professors led the way. A trip to Paris, a bottle of wine, a Foucaultian appetizer, and a Derridaian main dish, and they became convinced that incomprehensibility equals profundity.

>Over the years the menu has changed, but the damage has been done. Leftist scholars continue to believe that clotted language confirms insight; to write well receives little regard. Consider the ringing conclusion of a recent manifesto of the radical intelligentsia, Eric Lott’s The Disappearing Liberal Intellectual: “If patriotism itself is rethought as ‘plural, serial, contextual and mobile,’ in Apparduari’s words, then postnationalist collectives of labor and desire might earn the devotion they deserve.” Lott — yes, an English professor — crafted that sentence.

This is what someone (I don’t remember who) called nut-picking. It’s the practice of trolling through the comments on a (usually liberal) blog in order to find someone who says something crazy that confirms the idea that all of the people on that blog are crazy. So Jacoby picks a sentence out of the context of an academic discussion for the same purposes. Someone out to remind him that audience matters. Second, since Jacoby seems to believe that academia is clotted with liberals, perhaps he could find one or two who write clearly, forcefully and intelligibly on matters of public concern:

>Remember that key fact Al Gore mentions in An Inconvenient Truth, that a statistically insignificant number of peer-reviewed scientific journals questioned the reality of global warming and the role of human activity in causing it, but over fifty percent of journalistic articles did? Well, that’s the kind of intellectual irresponsibility that actually endangers lives by passing along misinformation that is created by people with an obvious material interest in keeping our defenses down. It hides under the guise of “objectivity,” but that’s nonsense. Are there two sides to the debate over whether gravity exists as well?

That was impenetrable. Especially the part about gravity.