Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Should we trust professors? – the return of ad hominem evaluations

It seems likely that nowadays it is almost impossible to be both honest and also a professor – whether in science or in any other branch of academia.

And the dishonesty required is pretty much all-pervading. 


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In general terms, a professor must subscribe to the incoherent, vicious nonsense of political correctness - or at the very least tacitly abet it at an institutional level.

Dishonesty is mandatory in education. For example, a professor is expected to collude in implementing racial, sexual and religious preferences at the cost of academic and educational goals; to make-easier and then ignore academic cheating (from school children, students and faculty); and to collude in the inflation of educational qualifications at every level.

And of course in the practice of ‘research’ dishonesty is necessary – root and branch. The professor must pretend to be seeking the truth when actually doing whatever is necessary to get grant funding. He must be merciless toward the errors of the junior researcher and the non-PC researcher – while apologizing for and fawning over the dominant researchers – the peer review cartel whose opinions determine appointments, promotions, grants, publications and prizes.

His academic standards therefore vary between happy acceptance of unsubstantiated opinion – when it comes from the peer cartel; and adopting a virtually Descartian, Humean or Nietzchian radical ultra-scepticism with anything asserted outwith this domain.

He must follow fashion in his research, wherever this may lead – otherwise he will be perceived as not merely marginal, but actively selfish – selfish in wasting his time and resources on pointless activity and thereby damaging his colleagues’ interests and endangering the viability of his department or unit.  

He must selectively publish only that which is acceptable to the peer review cartel and also to the pervasive leftist norm – and must bias interpretation of data to be acceptable to this ethos (this can involve explicit delay or suppression of results until a suitably PC spin can be found). 


In sum, a professor cannot be honest – honesty is forbidden, and sanctions against transgression are imposed most rigorously at the most elite institutions.

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Of course no system is perfect, and sometimes an honest person does happen to slip through the net and become a professor. But this is so rare that it can be overlooked as a statistical outlier – and anyway these exceptions are mostly old or marginal. 

So, in reading the academic literature, the rule of ignoring everything expounded by a professor or associated with prestigious institutions is a necessary basic heuristic. 

Non-professors may lack knowledge and experience, but at least some of them are trying to be honest.

But if you are not even trying to be honest, then you will only be true by accident and unpredictably – like the stopped clock that just happens to show the right time twice a day.

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More precisely, in dealing with modern academics we need to drop any pretence at avoiding ad hominem arguments – and we need (explicitly and fully) to take account of the honesty of the person making a statement. 

The academic convention used to be that we should always try to ignore the person and focus on their arguments and evidence. But in a world of endemic professorial dishonesty the avoidance of ad hominem evaluations will simply concede the argument to the successfully dishonest. 

Impartiality is an impossibility, and when it is not even being attempted the only answer is to be openly partial and simply ignore every statement made by people whom you judge to be dishonest – and, in dealing with modern academia, you will need to assume that everybody is dishonest unless or until proven otherwise. 


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Declaration of interest: I am a professor; therefore this whole article is self-refuting and an exemplification of the ‘Cretan liar paradox’. The solution to the paradox is that metaphysics is itself, ultimately, a matter of trust. Trust comes first.