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Suppression of academic dissent

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Suppression of academic dissent, including discrimination against dissenters, occurs in a number of areas, is contrary to academic freedom and open scientific inquiry, and includes vilification, firings, denial of qualifications, refusal of tenure, and censoring of information.

Suppression and discrimination has occurred against those who dissent with the mainstream global warming views, the Big Bang hypothesis, and especially against those who dissent against evolution.

Contents

Suppression of dissenters

Suppresssors frequently deny that suppression exists in their field. Yet it would be surprising if it did not exist, given that suppression is well documented in several fields and that suppressors generally consider alternative views to be pseudoscience or without evidence. This is especially the case with evolution, where opposing views are widely dismissed as religious or unfalsifiable because they include a supernatural element.

Robert Shiller was an economist who foresaw the Global Financial Crisis which commenced in 2007. However, he felt reluctant to speak out too strongly.

Deviating too far from consensus leaves one feeling potentially ostracized from the group, with the risk that one may be terminated.[1]

Even when he did speak out, he faced the opposition he expected. Trying to figure why people are reluctant to admit that their ideas may be wrong, he noted that economists

pride themselves on being rational. The notion that people are making huge errors in judgment is not appealing.[1]

Thomas Bouchard, a psychologist who studied twins raised apart, wrote of the pressure to conform. Journalist Nicholas Wade, writing about Bouchard's comments, said that

What’s wrong with consensuses is not the establishment of a majority view, which is necessary and legitimate, but the silencing of skeptics.[2]

Brian Martin, a physicist and mathematician who has "studied the politics, sociology and other aspects of science"[3] and documented many cases of discrimination against dissent[4] wrote:

Throughout history, dissidents have often come under attack. They have encountered censorship, harassment, slander, dismissal, banishment, even prison, torture and execution. In liberal democracies today, intellectual freedom is celebrated. Yet it remains dangerous to disagree with conventional wisdom. Inside corporations and government departments, most employees know it is not wise to criticise official policies or the boss - at least not openly. Those who speak out are often victimised. Suppression of dissent is commonplace. Yet this suppression receives little attention.[5]

Martin proposes a number of tactics for dissidents who have been discriminated against to gain redress. One of his main proposals is publicity, particularly in the mass media. He says that "The stories journalists write normally will cover views on 'both sides' of the issue."[6] In one case he wrote to both scientific journals and newspapers about a case, and found that "Newspapers were much more likely to publish our submissions than scientific journals."[6] However, in some cases the mass media is itself a prime offender, and the only recourse may be to take the message directly to the public via the Internet or other means which bypass unsympathetic establishments.

Dissent against global warming

In one survey 95% of the most highly specialized climate scientists said "human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures".[7] In another, 99% of respondents were to some extent convinced "that most of recent or near future climate change is, or will be, a result of anthropogenic causes".[8] Polls of other groups of climate scientists show a less dramatic, but still strong consensus. For example, in the first study cited above, of the full sample of Earth scientists, 82% agreed with AGW. In a survey of the American Meteorological Society, 62% of the respondents thought "that the global warming that has occurred over the past 150 years has been caused ... Mostly by human activity [or] More—or—less equally by human activity and natural events", but only 9% thought either that global warming was not happening or that it had mostly natural causes.[9] The problem of the climate science community, therefore, is to take the strong consensus into account while leaving appropriate space for expression and discussion of alternate viewpoints.

Hal Lewis resigned from the American Physical Society in protest of what he saw as the suppression of views contrary to the reigning global warming paradigm. In his resignation letter,[10] he described global warming as a "scam" and "pseudoscientific fraud", complained that dissenting views were being suppressed, and gave three examples from his own experience. First, when he and a few others e-mailed fellow members of the APS on the subject, the Society responded with "a hostile investigation of where [they] got the e-mail addresses". Lewis called this act "hostile" and saw it as an attempt to "[dis]courage discussion" and "silence debate". The second example revolved around the formal statement of the Society on climate change.[11]. He and some other members petitioned the Society to reconsider this statement in advance of the normal review after 5 years.

A review, which was carried out and published with the original statement as "Climate Change Commentary", endorsed the original statement without revision, although the committee did intimate that in the statement, "The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring.", "compelling" might have been a better choice than "incontrovertible". According to Lewis, the review was carried out by "a secret committee that never met, never troubled to speak to any skeptics". The third example involved the formation of a "Topical Group" on the topic within the APS. The constitution of the APS provides that "If at least two hundred members wish to advance and diffuse the knowledge of a specific subject or subfield of physics, they may petition the Council to establish a Topical Group." Lewis collected the required 200 signatures and requested the formation of a "Topical Group on Climate Science". He says the Society "refused to accept the petition", although shortly thereafter it polled the membership on the issue and ultimately created the "Topical Group on the Physics of Climate".[12] The public response of the APS to the accusations of Lewis[13][14] did not address the investigation of source of the email addresses or the review procedure for the APS Statement on Climate Change, but it did point out that a new topical group had been formed. The response also specifically rejected Lewis' conjecture that they were being influenced by money.

Lewis referred to the "ClimateGate" scandal, describing it as "a fraud on a scale I have never seen, and I lack the words to describe its enormity". This scandal included efforts to control the peer-review process, to deny dissenters a voice. Leaked e-mails reveal efforts to keep dissent out of the influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, and out of the peer-review literature:

I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is ![15]

This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the "peer-reviewed literature". Obviously, they found a solution to that--take over a journal! So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering "Climate Research" as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board...[16]

Dr. Gavriel Avital was the chief scientist for the Israeli education ministry, but was dismissed in October 2010 because of his views questioning evolution and global warming, which were not in line with the popular thinking.[17][18]

Eric Steig and others published a paper supportive of global warming in Antarctica. Ray O'Donnell and others submitted a paper critical of Steig's paper. The journal's editor sent O'Donnell's paper to Steig (among others) for peer review. While Steig was obviously extremely knowledgeable on the subject of his own paper, and the editor was aware of the conflict of interest and could take that into account,[Fact?] the decision violated the spirit of the journal's policy that the review process should avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, [19]

Dissent against the Big Bang

Critics of biblical creation often claim that there is no bias in science, and the reason creationists don't get a better hearing is due to their own inadequate arguments. However, it is clear that in practice science is not so impartial. When 30 scientists wanted to publish a joint letter critical of the Big Bang, the only way that they could do so was as a paid advertisement.[20]

Their complaint of discrimination could equally well apply to creationists:

Supporters of the big bang theory may retort that these [alternative] theories do not explain every cosmological observation. But that is scarcely surprising, as their development has been severely hampered by a complete lack of funding. Indeed, such questions and alternatives cannot even now be freely discussed and examined. An open exchange of ideas is lacking in most mainstream conferences. Whereas Richard Feynman could say that "science is the culture of doubt", in cosmology today doubt and dissent are not tolerated, and young scientists learn to remain silent if they have something negative to say about the standard big bang model. Those who doubt the big bang fear that saying so will cost them their funding.

Even observations are now interpreted through this biased filter, judged right or wrong depending on whether or not they support the big bang. So discordant data on red shifts, lithium and helium abundances, and galaxy distribution, among other topics, are ignored or ridiculed. This reflects a growing dogmatic mindset that is alien to the spirit of free scientific inquiry.

Today, virtually all financial and experimental resources in cosmology are devoted to big bang studies. Funding comes from only a few sources, and all the peer-review committees that control them are dominated by supporters of the big bang. As a result, the dominance of the big bang within the field has become self-sustaining, irrespective of the scientific validity of the theory.

Giving support only to projects within the big bang framework undermines a fundamental element of the scientific method -- the constant testing of theory against observation. Such a restriction makes unbiased discussion and research impossible. To redress this, we urge those agencies that fund work in cosmology to set aside a significant fraction of their funding for investigations into alternative theories and observational contradictions of the big bang. To avoid bias, the peer review committee that allocates such funds could be composed of astronomers and physicists from outside the field of cosmology.

Allocating funding to investigations into the big bang's validity, and its alternatives, would allow the scientific process to determine our most accurate model of the history of the universe.

Dissent against evolution

For more information, see Suppression of dissent against evolution.

Although dissent against non-mainstream views is or was suppressed in some areas such as global warming and the Big Bang, nobody would openly admit that dissent against those views was not allowed. This is not the case, however, with evolution, where the opposition is blatant.

John Lennox observed:

The sheer vehemence of the protest fascinates me. Why is it so strong? Furthermore, why is it only in connection with this area of intellectual endeavour that I have ever heard an eminent scientist (with a Nobel Prize to his name, no less) say in a public lecture in Oxford: 'You must not question evolution'? After all, scientists have dared to question even Newton and Einstein. Indeed, most of us were (rightly -- dare I say?) brought up to believe that questioning standard wisdom was one of the most important ways in which science grows. All science, however well established, benefits from being periodically questioned. So why is there such a taboo on questioning evolution? Why is this, and only this, particular area of science a no-go area, fenced off from being questioned?[21]

Rodney Stark, a sociologist who has not written on the creation/evolution debate, lamented:

My reluctance to pursue these matters is based on my experience that nothing causes greater panic among many of my colleagues than any criticism of evolution. They seem to fear that someone might mistake them for Creationists if they even remain in the same room while such talk is going on.[22]

Exposure of dissent against evolution

Numerous cases of suppression have been documented in various print and Internet articles, but suppression has also been exposed in two significant publications. Dr. Jerry Bergman, himself a victim of discrimination, has researched many cases and has written numerous articles and two books on the topic. His second book is the 450-page Slaughter of the Dissidents, vol. 1, published in 2008. A further four volumes are planned, with volume 4 including Bergman's own case. The problem was also highlighted by the popular documentary film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, with Ben Stein, which was released in 2008, featuring the cases of Richard Sternberg, Guillermo Gonzalez, Caroline Crocker, and others.

Vilification

Rather than engage solely in scientific or logical debate with creationists and Intelligent Design proponents, many critics of these positions resort to ridicule and vilification.

Naturalism is today propagated dogmatically. The alternative idea that God has created the universe is excluded by ridicule, which is hardly scientific.Finnish philosopher Tapio Puolimatka[23]

Such vilification is a deliberate tactic by at least some people, because, they admit, they have been unable to convince their audience with evidence and reason.

When I use the word "IDiot" I fully intend to bash the IDiots for their stupid ideas. … The idea is to plant in the public's mind the notion that these creationists are crazies and kooks, not respectable scientists with a different, but scientifically valid, opinion. We tried treating them politely for several decades and what did it get us? It got us leaders and politicians in many countries who think it's perfectly respectable to believe that evolution is false.— Professor Larry Moran, Department of Biochemistry, University of Toronto.[24]

Examples of vilification and name-calling include the following:

  • A frequent tactic is to use "scare quotes" to subtly question legitimacy, as as on the British Centre for Science Education web-site, where its article about Creation Ministries International uses such "scare quotes" around the words "scientist" when referring to CMI's staff scientists[25] despite those staff members being qualified scientists.[26]
  • Tom Mason (Director of the Armagh planetarium) associates the creationary view with Islamic fundamentalism, the Inquisition, and Jihad, and refers to creationism as "ignorance", "irrationality", and "narrow-minded".[27]
  • Donald Prothero and Carl Dennis Buell favourably quote Michael Shermer likening creationists to holocaust deniers.[28]
  • Richard Dawkins said that "It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that).".[29][note 1] He has also referred to Intelligent Design proponents as "creationist wingnuts" and "IDiots" [31]
  • Isaac Asimov said that all "creationists are stupid, lying people who are not to be trusted in any way." and that all of their "points are equally stupid, except where the creationists are outrightly lying."[32]
  • Widely-read blogger P. Z. Myers refers to creationists with names such as "bottom-feeders", "hucksters", "kooks", "loons", and "delusional lackwit[s]".[33]

Extent of suppression

Although in the United States much of the controversey has been over teaching creation or Intelligent Design in schools, suppression and discrimination are not confined to those circumstances. It affects those who simply question evolution, appear to question evolution, hold beliefs other than evolution, support those who question evolution, and even those who simply pass on the message.

Critics often claim that if creationism and/or intelligent design had any scientific legitimacy, they would be published in the peer-reviewed science journals. However, the journals themselves refuse to publish such submissions. For example, the Journal of the Biological Society of Washington issued a statement declaring that they would not publish any Intelligent Design papers, citing the American Association for the Advancement of Science position on Intelligent Design.

Even papers published in these mainstream journals are considered unacceptable if they can be used to put evolution in a bad light. Teacher Roger DeHart was stopped from using articles in leading science journals because they showed evolutionary text books to be wrong.

Discrimination is often directed against a person's beliefs, not the quality of their argument. Frank Manheim was a student who wrote a term paper challenging evolution, which earned him a D minus. When his lecturer learned that Manheim actually supported evolution, and had only written the paper from a debater's position, the lecturer changed the mark on the spot to an A.

An example from the other side is Forrest Mims, a science writer and creationist. Due to his belief in creationism, Scientific American refused to hire him, even though his work would not touch on creation or evolution, and he promised to stay clear of the topic.

Discrimination is not confined to those directly challenging evolution. Caroline Crocker was a teacher who was blacklisted and therefore found it difficult to find further employment, because she presented some Intelligent Design information in her classes. However, not only was Crocker blacklisted, but also the lawyer who defended her found himself blacklisted.

Dissent against Darwinism

The suppression of dissent against evolution (above) has extended even to suppression of dissent against Darwinian evolution and it's variations, such as neo-Darwinian evolution.

Journalist Suzan Mazir recounts asking NCSE executive director Eugenie Scott about "self organisation", a recent proposed evolutionary mechanism:

When I introduced myself to Eugenie Scott, who was unfamiliar with my stories on evolution, I asked her what she thought about self-organization and why self-organization was not represented in the books NCSE was promoting?

She responded that people confuse self-organization with Intelligent Design and that is why NCSE has not been supportive.[34]

She also highlights that the media and science blogs are complicit.

The commercial media is both ignorant of and blocks coverage of stories about non-centrality of the gene because its science advertising dollars come from the gene-centered Darwin industry. With declining ad revenue already widespread, and employee layoffs and contract buyouts in the editorial departments of news organizations like Newsweek, Time, the Washington Post as well as the New York Times - reporting on an evolution paradigm shift could mean the loss of even more advertising and/or yet another editor's job.

But neither will most science blogs report that there's a paradigm shift afoot because they share the same ideology as the corporate media. At the same time, the Darwin industry is also in bed with government, even as political leaders remain clueless about evolution.[35]

See also

Notes

  1. Dawkins later argued that the statement was "moderate, almost self-evidently true",[30] and partially repeated it by claiming that most creationists were probably just ignorant, and that is "no crime".

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Shiller, Robert J., Challenging the Crowd in Whispers, Not Shouts, 1 November 2008.
  2. Wade, Nicholas, Researcher Condemns Conformity Among His Peers, 23 July 2009
  3. Martin, Brian, Brian Martin: overview of research
  4. Martin, Brian, Suppression Stories,Fund for Intellectual Dissent, 1997.
  5. Martin, 1997, p.1-2 (Introduction)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Martin, Brian, Advice for dissident scholars
  7. P. T. Doran & M. K. Zimmerman, "Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change," Eos Transactions American Geophysical Union Vol. 90 Issue 3 (2009), 22; DOI: 10.1029/2009EO030002, summarizing the original research published as Kendall Zimmerman, M. (2008), The consensus on the consensus: An opinion survey of Earth scientists on global climate change, 250 pp., Univ. of Ill. at Chicago.
  8. D. Bray and H. von Storch, A Survey of Climate Scientists Concerning Climate Science and Climate Change
  9. American Meteorological Society Member Survey on Global Warming: Preliminary Findings, February 12th, 2012.
  10. Lewis, Hal, My Resignation From The American Physical Society, 6 October 2010 (Link dead, but page available here one the WayBack Machine).
  11. American Physical Society, National Policy: 07.1 CLIMATE CHANGE
  12. Topical Group on the Physics of Climate
  13. Aps Comments On Harold Lewis’ Resignation of His Society Membership, American Physical Society, Tue. 12th October, 2010Tue. October 12th, 2010.
  14. APS Responds to Member’s Resignation over Climate Change]
  15. Jones, Phil, E-mail to Michael E. Mann 8 July 2004
  16. Mann, Michael E., E-mail to Phil Jones and others, 11 March 2003.
  17. Kashti, O., Sa'ar dismisses chief scientist for questioning evolution, Haaretz.com, 5 October 2010
  18. Velmer, T., Chief scientist who questioned evolution theory fired], Ynetnews, 4 October 2010.
  19. Willis Eschenbach, Peer Review, Pal Review, and Broccoli, Watts Up With That?, 17 February 2011.
  20. Hartnett, John, Cosmology in crisis—a conference report, Journal of Creation 20(1), 2006. The letter, reproduced here, was published in New Scientist 182(2448):20, 2004.
  21. Lennox, John, God's Undertaker, 2007, p.93, quoted on bevets.com
  22. Stark, Rodney, For The Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts and the End of Slavery, p.176, quoted by Alex Williams, The biblical origins of science, Journal of Creation 18(2):49–52, August 2004.
  23. Puolimatka, Tapio, in The Voyage that Shook the World.
  24. Laurence A. Moran, Ophelia, Daniel, I Respectfully Disagree, Sandwalk: Strolling with a skeptical biochemist (blog), Sun. 29th July, 2012Sun. July 29th, 2012. (Content warning: This link contains offensive language.)
  25. Creation Ministries International on the BSCE web-site.
  26. Who we are on the CMI website.
  27. Mason, Tom, "Science and Fundamentalism", Earth Science Ireland, issue 3, spring 2008, p.21 (available online at [1], then click on "Magazine" link).
  28. Prothero, Donald R., Evolution: what the fossils say and why it matters, p.44, Columbia University, 2007, ISBN 978-0231139625.
  29. Dawkins, Richard, Review of "Blueprints: Solving the Mystery of Evolution", New York Times, 9 April 1989
  30. Dawkins, Richard, Ignorance is No Crime 2001.
  31. Dawkins, Richard, Lying for Jesus, 23 March 2008
  32. Asimov, L., Is Big Brother watching? The Humanist 44(4):6–10, 1984, quoted by Bergman, Jerry, Contemporary suppression of the theistic worldview, Journal of Creation 9(2):267–275, August 1995.
  33. Myers, P. Z., A reply to Carl Wieland, Pharyngula, 1 December 2009. (Content warning: This link has a blasphemous picture)
  34. Suzan Mazur, The Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry, North Atlantic Books, 2010, p.101, ISBN 9781556439247.
  35. Suzan Maur, 2010, p.ix.
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