iSoul In the beginning is reality

Academic conformity

It seems that when science in the 19th century separated from philosophy and joined the university curriculum on its own that science came to be subject to the same pressures that other academic subjects deal with.  That includes the pressure to conform.  Why conformity?  If you’re a knowledge institution, there are two things you don’t want to say to your students: (1) we don’t know or (2) we can’t agree with each other.  If either of these are true, the academic institution will lose credibility.  (You also can’t write a dissertation that concludes we don’t know.)

So every academic institution says “we know” and (to a great extent) “we agree with each other” and presents a united front to the students and public.  Of course academics have their squabbles but they mostly concern who gets credit and arcane matters that no one else cares about.

Can this lead to a stultification of knowledge?  Yes, and there is precedent for that — Scholasticism.  The Scholastics became dogmatic Aristotelians (Aristotle would not have approved).  They did some wonderful things especially in logic (specialists are still trying to figure out their fine distinctions).  But they became dogmatic and wouldn’t allow different approaches so much that the early modern scientists rebelled and became rabid anti-Scholastics (they over-reacted in my opinion).

The same thing is happening today.  It may also be related to political correctness in general but the pressure to conform is strong in all academic subjects, including the sciences.  Hence Darwin doubters, global warming doubters, etc. are unwelcome in academia.

Outside the academy there is still freedom of thought.  For now.

July 2014

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