Shaking up the Universities

This is interesting. I don’t have all that much contact with education anymore, other than college sports on TV occasionally. But I read a lot, and a lot of the nonsense on the internet comes out of various colleges. There is a backlash starting, just ask Mizzou or Evergreen, even Oberlin is starting to feel it. I don’t think that Harvard’s stupidity with its endowment is part of the backlash, but it sounds like that investment officer may well be a product of the left wing academy.

In any case, this is from Steven Hayward of PowerLine who is trapped at Berkeley.

I’ve been predicting, […] that universities would soon begin to divide into two entities—the STEM fields and related practical subjects (i.e., business and economics), and the social sciences and humanities, which would start to shrivel under the weight of the degradations the left has inflicted over the last 40 years. The number of students majoring in the humanities has declined by two-thirds since around 1980.

Here’s part of what I said at Arizona State:

I think we’re already seeing the beginnings of a de facto divorce of universities, in which the STEM fields and other “practical” disciplines essentially split off from the humanities and social sciences, not to mention the more politicized departments.

At this rate eventually many of our leading research universities will bifurcate into marginal fever swamps of radicalism whose majors will be unfit for employment at Starbucks, and a larger campus dedicated to science and technology education.

I added, incidentally, the interesting fact that a new trend is starting to occur in economics. Not only is the discipline subdividing itself into “general economics” and an even more math-centric “quantitative econometrics,” but several economics departments are formally reclassifying themselves as STEM departments for a variety of reasons, but among them surely has to be wishing to disassociate themselves further from other social sciences.

Well, now we have some concrete evidence of this crackup starting to happen. The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point campus announced last week that it intends to cut 13 majors from the humanities and social sciences. Inside Higher Ed reports:

Programs pegged for closure are American studies, art (excluding graphic design), English (excluding English for teacher certification), French, geography, geoscience, German, history (excluding social science for teacher certification), music literature, philosophy, political science, sociology and Spanish.

The even better news is that some tenured professors are going to be laid off. Naturally, the faculty are not happy. Who’s next?

More at the link, of course.

That is on the whole good news, I think. You all know that I have a firm belief that the humanities provide the solid foundation for a well-rounded man or woman. But they are no longer, in many cases, teaching the humanities, they are indoctrinating left-wing ideas in the kids.

But departments that think Howard Zinn writes history, or that one can teach English without Shakespeare, have no salvage value. They are totally useless. Time to send them to the landfill, and find something of value to replace them.

This may be the only way to fix it, knock it all down, salvage what little might be usable and start over, and pay attention this time.

This is going to take some time, so one is advised to buy futures in popcorn. Gonna be a lot of leftist shrieking. It’ll sound better than most of what passes for music these days, at least.


Secularism and Religion

Many here are aware that the basis of western civilization is in our Judeo-Christian heritage. Often we merely assert this, since we have known it all our lives, but it can be examined fruitfully.

I admire Melanie Phillips greatly because not only is she a very good writer and speaker, she is fully capable of thinking through things. And she does so here. Yes, this is a long read, but I think you’ll find it valuable to read the whole thing.

It has become the orthodoxy in the West that freedom, human rights and reason all derive from secularism and that the greatest threat to all these good things is religion.

I want to suggest that the opposite is true. In the service of this orthodoxy, the West is undermining and destroying the very values which it holds most dear as the defining characteristics of a civilised society.

In truth, in the United States, we don’t hear it explicitly very often, but in Britain, it is quite common in my experience. Not to mention very strident, not only from the secularists, but from Randians, and other assorted libertine groups.

Some of this hostility is being driven by the perceived threat from Islamic terrorism and the Islamisation of Western culture. However, this animus against religion has far deeper roots and can be traced back to what is considered the birthplace of Western reason, the 18th-century Enlightenment.

Actually, it goes back specifically to the French Enlightenment. In England and Scotland, the Enlightenment developed reason and political liberty within the framework of Biblical belief. In France, by contrast, anti-clericalism morphed into fundamental hostility to Christianity and to religion itself.

“Ecrasez l’infame,” said Voltaire (crush infamy) — the infamy to which he referred being not just the Church but Christianity, which he wanted to replace with the religion of reason, virtue and liberty, “drawn from the bosom of nature”.

[…] Instead of God producing heaven on earth, it would be mankind which would bring that about. Reason would create the perfect society and “progress” was the process by which utopia would be attained.

Far from utopia, however, this thinking resulted in something more akin to hell on earth. For the worship of man through reason led straight to totalitarianism. It was reason that would redeem religious superstition and bring about the kingdom of Man on earth. And just like medieval apocalyptic Christian belief, this secular doctrine would also be unchallengeable and heretics would be punished. This kind of fanaticism infused the three great tyrannical movements that were spun out of Enlightenment thinking: the French Revolution, Communism and Fascism. […]

In the Sixties, the baby-boomer generation bought heavily into the idea propounded by Herbert Marcuse and other Marxist radicals that the way to transform the West lay not through the seizure of political or economic control but through the transformation of the culture. This has been achieved over the past half century through what has been called a “long march through the institutions”, the infiltration into all the institutions of the culture — the universities, media, professions, politics, civil service, churches — of ideas that would then become the orthodoxy.

From multiculturalism to environmentalism, from post-nationalism to “human rights” doctrine, Western progressives have fixated upon universalising ideas which reject values anchored in the particulars of religion or culture. All that matters is a theoretical future in which war, want and prejudice will be abolished: the return of fallen humanity to a lost Eden. And like all utopian projects, which are by definition impossible and unattainable, these dogmas are enforced through coercion: bullying, intimidation, character assassination, professional and social exclusion.

The core doctrine is equality. Not the Biblical doctrine that every human being is owed equal respect because they are formed in the image of God: equality has been redefined as identicality, the insistence that there can be no hierarchy of values of lifestyles or cultures. There can no longer be different outcomes depending on different circumstances or how people behave. To differentiate at all is to be bigoted and on a fast track back to fascism and war.

So the married family was kicked off its perch. Sexual restraint was abolished. The formerly transgressive became normative. Education could no longer transmit a culture down through the generations but had to teach that the Western nation was innately racist and exploitative.

Subjective trumped objective. There was no longer any absolute truth. Everyone could arbitrate their own truth. That way bigotry and prejudice would be excised from the human heart, the oppressed of the developing world would be freed from their Western oppressors and instead of the Western nation there would be the brotherhood of man.

All this was done in name of freedom, reason and enlightenment and in opposition to religion, the supposed source of oppression, irrationality and obscurantism.

At the heart of it was an onslaught against the moral codes of Christianity. Those moral codes are actually the Mosaic laws of the Hebrew Bible.

[…] What they [Western “progressives” and the Islamists] also have in common is hostility to Judaism, Israel or the Jewish people. The genocidal hatred of Israel and the Jews that drives the Islamic jihad against the West is not acknowledged or countered by the West because its most high-minded citizens share at least some of that prejudice. Both Western liberals and Islamists believe in utopias to which the Jews are an obstacle. The State of Israel is an obstacle to both the rule of Islam over the earth and a world where there are no divisions based on religion or creed. The Jews are an obstacle to the unconstrained individualism of Western libertines and to the onslaught against individual human dignity and freedom by the Islamists. Both the liberal utopias of a world without prejudice, divisions or war and the Islamist utopia of a world without unbelievers are universalist ideologies. The people who are always in the way of universalising utopias are the Jews.

Do read it all, and there is a deal more than I have given you. The full title is: Secularism and religion: the onslaught against the West’s moral codes. It is simply a superb examination of where our basic morality came from, and how it has allowed us to exceed former civilizations by orders of magnitude, and how it has come to be endangered.

Crossposted from All along the Watchtower.

Progress is Dependant on Reason, Not Emotion

At CapX, Marian L. Tupy wrote about Stephan Pinker’s new book,  Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. It’s pretty interesting, and I suspect the book is as well. Pinker is a Harvard professor, which sadly is not the recommendation it once was, but neither is it a reason to ignore him. According to Pinker:

Tribal warfare was nine times as deadly as war and genocide in the 20th century. The murder rate in medieval Europe was more than thirty times what it is today. Slavery, sadistic punishments, and frivolous executions were unexceptionable features of life for millennia, then were suddenly abolished. Wars between developed countries have vanished, and even in the developing world, wars kill a fraction of the numbers they did a few decades ago. Rape, hate crimes, deadly riots, child abuse—all substantially down.

That is certainly true, and as Americans, we should note that our prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishments” is in the vanguard of this movement. So is much else having to do with our founding.

Most people agree that life is better than death. Health is better than sickness. Sustenance is better than hunger. Wealth is better than poverty. Peace is better than war. Safety is better than danger. Freedom is better than tyranny. Equal rights are better than bigotry and discrimination. Literacy is better than illiteracy. Knowledge is better than ignorance. Intelligence is better than dull-wittedness. Happiness is better than misery. Opportunities to enjoy family, friends, culture, and nature are better than drudgery and monotony.

I certainly can’t find anything to argue with in that definition of progress. Kind of appears to be common sense, doesn’t it?

Being a psychologist, Pinker discusses the reasons for our persistent pessimism. As I wrote previously, Pinker’s explanations include:

  • The interaction between the nature of cognition and nature of news. News is about things that happen. Things that did not happen go unreported. We “never see a reporter saying to the camera, ‘Here we are, live from a country where a war has not broken out.’”
  • Overestimation of danger due to the “availability heuristic” or a process of estimating the probability of an event based on the ease with which relevant instances come to mind. When an event turns up because it is traumatic – as opposed to merely being frequent – the human brain will overestimate how likely it is to reoccur.
  • The psychological effects of bad things tending to outweigh those of the good ones. Psychological literature shows that people fear losses more than they look forward to gains; dwell on setbacks more than relishing successes; resent criticism more than being encouraged by praise. Bad, in other words, is stronger than good.
  • Good and bad things tend to happen on different timelines. Bad things, such as plane crashes, can happen quickly. Good things, such as the strides humanity has made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tend to happen incrementally and over a long period of time.

Pinker’s is an 18th century understanding of progress. He believes, along with Hume, Kant, Montesquieu and Adam Smith, that people can gradually improve their lot through application of reason and science. The Enlightenment view of progress should not be confused “with the 19thcentury romantic belief in mystical forces, laws, dialectics, struggles, unfoldings, destinies, ages of men, and evolutionary forces that propel mankind ever upward toward utopia.”

And that is important. American conservatives occasionally speak of completing the revolution and bringing the country back on course. In a sense, this is what we are speaking of, a return to the rationality and sense, not to mention sheer intellectuality of our founders, contrasted with the mysticism, and searching for utopia (remember that ‘utopia’ means ‘ nowhere’ in the nineteenth century, bursting at the seems with Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, Tolstoy, even Lenin, and Trotsky. All of whom have brought us, far too often to the brink of dystopia.

In any case, a good read, to make you think, this cold Monday.


Peter Hitchens in Copenhagen

Peter Hitchens recently spoke to the Danish Free Speech Society. His message, while quite downbeat, is also quite (I fear) true. Perhaps, more so for Europe and Britain than for the United States, but perhaps we are all in this boat together. Sadly you young people will see. Listening to him put me in mind of King Arthur, to wit: The Once and Future King, the dream we share with the Roman Britons, that thing will be once again put right, but unexplained in that thought is exactly who will put them right.

In any case, a powerful and moving speech.


There is also a fairly long question and answer session that followed. To be honest, I haven’t made it all the way through it, but what I have, it is quite illuminating, so here it is.


Freedom, Bought and Sold

It always interests me to see what our readers are reading here. Yesterday, close to 20% of you were reading a fairly old article of Jessica’s, entitled The Exhausted West?.  In it, she spoke about Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s 1978 Harvard Commencement address. It is, I think quite appropriate to today’s subject, especially one of the paragraphs she quoted from the speech.

Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, the misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counterbalanced by the young people’s right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil. 

Indeed, we have lost here, and even more in Europe, the key fact that freedom imposes responsibility, and that there is much more to life than material possessions.

Today, we are going to speak of the late/current demonstrations in Iran, and even more the reaction to them in the west. The source of today’s is Douglass Murray in The Spectator (UK) article entitled The Iranian revolution the world wants to ignore.

If there is one lesson the world should have learned from Iran’s ‘Green Revolution’ of 2009 and the so-called Arab Spring that followed, it is this: the worst regimes stay. Rulers who are only averagely appalling (Tunisia’s Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak) can be toppled by uprisings. Those who are willing to kill every one of their countrymen stay. So it is that after almost half a million dead we enter 2018 with Bashar al-Assad still President of Syria and with Iran’s mullahs approaching the 40th anniversary of their seizure of power in 1979. […]

Yep, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and quite a few more died peacefully in bed, few of their opponents did.

Yet anyone who expects these demonstrations to lead to swift change in the nature of the Iranian government remembers no history. Shortly after the latest protests began, the country’s security forces, including the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, were seen photographing the events. In Iran, a regime camera is as deadly as a sniper’s sights. Only more delayed. As in 2009, the photographs will be used by the police to arrest demonstrators and also family members unconnected with the protests. This will be followed by the torture and rape of men and women in prison by the theocratic regime’s frontmen. As after the Green Revolution, there will in due course be show trials, forced recantations and executions. This is how a police state with four decades of experience goes about its business. In 1979, the behaviour of the Shah’s dreaded Savak secret police was one of the spurs for revolution. The Ayatollahs have superseded the Savak, fine-tuned their brutality and learned from their mistakes.

Anyone in doubt about the capacity of the Supreme Leader to hang on to power need only watch the footage of crowds in the city of Rasht advancing down the street on one of the first nights of protest. You can see the exact moment when the regime’s Revolutionary Guard starts attacking the protesters. The crowd that is marching one way down the street suddenly finds an organised army running towards them. These are trained killers being unleashed on angry but peaceful civilians. Six hundred people have already been arrested and dozens already killed. The civilians don’t stand a chance. […]

None whatsoever, the Supreme Leaders people are not fully trained troops, probably, although they are inured to killing, which is all it really takes, plus a modicum of organization to easily defeat a mob in the street. Not much different than murder on an industrial scale, but it is effective.

Unless, that is, the outside world takes any interest in their plight. In the early hours of the demonstrations, the US President took to Twitter to warn the Iranian authorities that ‘The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!’ But such is the obsession with Donald Trump and the parochialism of all our politics that Trump’s critics immediately took to the media to condemn his condemnation of human rights abuses. Again on Twitter, the most powerful man on the planet — determined not to replay the actions of his predecessor in office, who was highly reluctant to speak out during the crushing of the Green Revolution — warned that ‘The world is watching.’ He may be right. But the world may watch in silence.

This is one of those occasions where, whatever you think of Donald Trump, he is correct, the west invented human rights, and are the only guarantor. And yet, many, maybe most around the world for whatever reason decided to side with the Ayatollah against the west, personified by Donald Trump. Speaking for myself, I found it sickening.

Some international caution is justified. People have their reasons. Our own Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has expressed ‘concern’ over events, but has been careful not to go further. Fresh back from a visit to Tehran, the Foreign Secretary has been working to obtain the release of the British–Iranian dual citizen, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been imprisoned in Iran for the last 18 months. Thanks to a campaign by Labour MPs, the issue of Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release has been turned into an issue of the Foreign Secretary’s personal competence (at times as though it is Boris Johnson, and not the mullahs, who imprisoned the woman). Johnson’s Iranian counterparts know that he has a lot riding on his efforts to release her and have used this advantage well. So a campaign for one woman’s freedom has hindered a Foreign Secretary from campaigning for a nation’s freedom.

Other silences have been less defensible. The leader of the opposition is not normally silent when there is an opportunity to talk about unfairness or injustice. Yet after days of protests in Iran, Jeremy Corbyn said nothing.

One reason may be that the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition was until recently in the pay of the Iranian regime. For presenting programmes on its propaganda wing, Press TV (before becoming Labour party leader), Corbyn received up to £20,000. Damningly — or it would be damning if more people cared — he appeared on Press TV even after the channel lost its broadcasting licence. It lost that licence not because of its always clear political support for a sectarian, gay-hanging, women-oppressing dictatorship. It lost it because during the channel’s campaign to delegitimise the 2009 protests, Press TV broadcast a forced confession from a journalist who had been abducted by the regime and was being held in prison. Ofcom thought this crossed a line. Jeremy Corbyn did not and was happy to continue to take his apple-juice money from Tehran.

Elsewhere the silence indicates the dream-puncturing of an entire political class. In 2015 the UN security council agreed a deal with Iran to limit elements of its nuclear programme for a period. Iran’s incentives included a freeing up of trade and a delivery of billions of dollars in cash. For their part, companies and governments across Europe hoped to get their own cash bonanzas in the wake of that deal. Such deals always compromise the people who make them. One of the chief defenders of the 2015 deal, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, has spent recent days being studiously silent on the uprisings in Iran. When President Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital she couldn’t tweet enough condemnations of his action. Yet five days into the protests in Iran, she hadn’t even said that she is watching events closely. Europe’s leading foreign affairs ideologue needs Iran’s governing status quo to stay in place so that nothing about her own deal, future cash prize or putative Nobel award is in any way disturbed.

We’ve said speaking of the election that Donald Trump has F**k you money. He has enough that he can do what he thinks is right without regard to his next paycheck. It’s a major advantage. It applies here, as well. The US, seemingly alone in the west has F**k you money, too. Not that we do, but we have a historical record of trying to do the harder right instead of the easier wrong. Do we always succeed? Of course not. But maybe that is the reason why we, of all the nations of the west, still will go out into the world to fight evil.

But I suspect the day is coming when we will come to the conclusion that if the people of Europe amongst others value money above all things, especially above their own freedom, well, why should we care. That will be the day that Europe falls. Of its own volition, bribed by its own money. It will be a sad day, but it begins to appear inevitable.



Completing the Revolution

My title comes from the theory that the American founders rather than merely revolting against England were putting things right, completing the revolution so to speak. It’s often a useful concept because if things get out of hand, it will often apply. Case in point: Iran.

Melanie Phillips wrote Monday about it, let’s see what she has to say:

The scale and scope of these demonstrations across Iran is unprecedented: estimates suggest they have been occurring in at least 30 cities, including some places long deemed to be the regime’s power base.

With President Hassan Rouhani acknowledging economic “grievances”, a “lack of transparency” and “corruption”, the regime has responded with patent alarm. As well it might. If these protests continue to accelerate, they can produce an upset that was unimaginable until now. For this is an uprising against the regime itself.

Demonstrators have been chanting “Death to Khamenei” (|Iran’s supreme Leader), “Reformists, hardliners, it is game over now,” “Death to the Islamic Republic” and “Shame on you, mullahs.”

They are also chanting: “Forget about Palestine, forget about Gaza, think about us”, ‘Death to Hezbollah” and “Leave Syria alone, think about us instead”.

As Dr Majid Rafizadeh observes here, this uprising is more significant even than the “Green Revolution” demonstrations in 2009. People then were protesting against rigged elections and the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Today they are demanding regime change: an end to the Islamist regime that took power in 1979.

This of course shows up as utterly risible the gloss initially put on these protests by the western media – those outlets, that is, that even bothered to report the demonstrations when they first erupted – that the issue which has brought Iranians onto the streets is merely economic privation.

Well, yeah but what else can they say, they are pretty close to nihilists, believing in nothing beyond false economics, except of course the State and Global Warming. It’s got to be a tough life, going through life disbelieving the evidence of your eyes, mind, and heart, in favor of the party line.

The result has not been merely that the free world has been placed in hugely increased danger. The European/Obama axis also abandoned and betrayed the Iranian people who have been suffering under the cruel tyranny of a regime which oppresses women, jails dissidents and hangs gay men from cranes.

When the people previously rose up in the 2009 “Green Revolution”, they were brutally suppressed. That revolt was put down with the tacit connivance of President Obama who said and did nothing to support them. So why have the Iranian people now risen up again and in such huge numbers? The answer is two words: Donald Trump.

For he has changed the dynamic of the entire region by signalling from the get-go that he has the Iranian regime in his sights. The Iranian people have been thus encouraged to believe they will be backed by the president of the most powerful nation on earth, rather than betrayed as they were by his predecessor.

Since the uprising began, Trump haas tweeted his support several times, saying:

“The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”

“Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice. The world is watching!”

“The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most….”[…]

Trump’s tweets are aimed at both the regime and the demonstrators. To the regime he’s saying: your time is up and the US will be helping the people make that a reality. He’s saying this to demoralise and weaken the regime. To the people he’s saying: we’re with you. That message of backing from the most powerful leader in the world is aimed at giving the people the courage to continue. Without it they are far less likely to persevere.

If people are to rouse their courage to pit themselves against the might of a regime that can kill and crush them, the support of the rest of the world is absolutely crucial. So far, though, Trump is alone in offering such support. Apart from Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson feebly and pointlessly tweeting his “concern”, Britain and the EU have been silent. They are not supporting the people of Iran against the regime. They are not trying to weaken it. How can they? They have helped empower it. As have their cheerleaders and Obama sycophants in the media. […]

Dr Rafizadeh writes: “The fault lines are completely visible. If you are on the side of justice, freedom, and basic human rights, and if you respect humanity, you will not be able to remain silent. Let us at least give moral support, if not more, to the Iranian people. Justice and truth need to prevail. This is what history has repeatedly shown us. Let us not be on the side of history that would remain silent in the face of such crimes against humanity, let us not join the ranks of other dictators, terrorists, and criminals, that turned a blind eye to violence, and the will of brave, innocent people.”

Alas, on this Britain and Europe are, as so often, on the wrong side.

Yep, completing the revolution. What Carter in his naive stupidity helped to throw away, the Iranian people are attempting to reclaim. Europe, as usual, can only see the Euros they have been making by allowing the suppression of the freedom of the Iranian people. America knows better, freedom is worth pain, sometimes a lot of it. John Kennedy said…

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans […] proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

That includes Mrs. May’s government and the rest of Europe. In the threadbare ancient capitals of Europe, it soon will be a time for choosing. For choosing freedom, or choosing to oppress your people, and thus earn the contempt of the United States. And mark my words, once again your best and brightest, will see the wonders of freedom and become Americans.

For once again, “wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us;” and they see what freedom has wrought, and they will flock to us. This is American leadership, it’s not about easy, nor is it about safe, it is about doing the harder right instead of the easy wrong. It always has been, and it is again.

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