Saturday, 09 July 2005

The Pseudonymunculus Returns, or Last Month's Squid Fancy, Anyone? [Apologies in advance to those whose sites I cluttered with redundant trackbacks. Must remember: press "Post" once. Remain patient. Patient.] The latest Chronicle pseudonymunculus to discuss the (potential) professional pitfalls of blogging, one "Ivan Tribble," reveals the real problem with the academic hiring process: namely, that candidates are vetted by search committees as imperfect and impolitic in their lives as the candidates are in theirs. What say ye, masses? Daniel Drezner suggests that Ivan Tribble's department avoid adding to its collective imperfection by never hiring anyone ever again. I'm inclined to agree. J. Rice criticizes Tribble for condemning academics who have interests outside academia. Again, I agree. KF wants to know why Tribble assumes that professors who blog responsibly will turn turncoat once hired and air departmental dirty laundry. So do I. Finally, Colin wonders whether Tribble's candidates will recognize themselves in the article and file a formal complaint. This one I'm not so sure about, but I'm not an overly litigious fellow. Why, do you ask, have I taken you on a little tour of the results Technorati returns when you search for blogs that link to the Chronicle article? (FYI: I could link to many more.) Because anonymous or not, the almost instant response of working academics to an article published in the Chronicle is the very reason more academics ought to be blogging, not evidence of why more shouldn't. Why is that? Because I'm not intelligent enough to encompass an issue on my lonesome. In my perhaps over-enthusiastic response to the opening of the Valve, I noted the difference between what I thought academia would be like and what it turned out to be. What I thought it would be: an intellectual forum in which stimulating ideas were bandied back and forth by parties arguing in good faith. What it turned out to be (quoting Appiah again): an environment in which "the intertwining of academic and social agendas has given rise to an outlandish rhetorical inflation, a storming-of-the-Bastille bombast brought to bear on theoretical niceties." My point? This is a blog, people. As Mr. Tribble correctly observes, I don't need a point to write an entry. Having a point isn't an enabling condition of blogging, it's an enabling constraint. I could begin with a point (enabling condition) and communicate it to the world in the totaliterian fashion favored by totalitarians, but I could easily begin by entering a conversation (enabling constraint) among fellow academics and contribute to it. Sometimes even constructively. Or I could hunker down in my departmental office and silently grumble about the specious venditations of every one else employed by my employer. Like the dreadful Dr. De Tenebration who published fourteen articles last year, and the insufferable Dr. Oegopsid, always carrying the latest issue of Squid Fancy, &c. Were I inclined to grumble so, my mutterances would be heard by a party of one. No conversation. No feedback. No plaudits. Nothing. Still, I could always cart my muttertations to the Chronicle for anonymous publication....
Evolutionary Ideology, or the Stuff of Shuddering Via La Lecturess (herself via Inside Higher Ed) or via The Panda's Thumb: Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, "a theologian who is close to Pop Benedict XVI," is "redefining" the Church's position on evolutionary theory in the New York Times' Op-Ed pages. According to Schonborn--whose names bears an umlaut over the second "o" which Typepad refuses to register--while evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true ... evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense--an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection--is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science. Where to begin? With the appropriation of humanistic rhetoric against the sciences? Why not. I've read Sandra Harding and know that the critique of the science studies in general, and feminist science studies in particular, is often misplaced. I have no patience with the anti-realist social constructivist position in its strong form, but I recognize that its weak form speaks to a general truth: namely, that to maintain the cultural, historical, sexual or even individual contingency of all claims to knowledge doesn't ipso facto deny of the possibility of accurate or objective reckonings of the world.* I know that. Am on board. With the program. But I recognize that Sandra Harding causes problems when she says stuff like: the Third World forms of democratic, pacific, life-maintaining, and communal tendencies so at odds with the imperialistic, violent, consuming, and possessively individualistic ones that critics find in Western sciences and culture. (Obviously the former are not always well practiced in Third World cultures prior to the expansion into them of European culture, nor are they absent from First World cultures, as the postcolonial critics are perfectly aware and as they always caution.) The result would be many, culturally different sciences, each with culturally diverse origins--but central among the elements most valued in each case would be those that advance cooperation, democracy, the richness of indigenous achievements, and sustainable development. Advocating the creation of "culturally different sciences"--removing, even momentarily, the strong materialist claims subtending the better work in science studies--puts into the hands of those who would disembowel science of everything scientific the rhetoric of self-marginalization the good Cardinal employs. Evolutionary theory, the culture of the Catholic Church can argue, is a misnomer. What we as Catholics oppose is the ideology of evolutionary theory imposed upon us by a secular scientific community. The call for a feminist, post-modern or post-colonial science could (and has) slipped silently into a call for post-scientific science. Given the general tenor of the contemporary scene, frankly I'm frightened by the idea that a prominent Cardinal can publish an anti-evolutionary editorial in "The Newspaper of Record" and expect it to be taken seriously. *I may have cribbed that from somewhere. Bits of that sentence are in a notebook but I can't tell whether they're bits of my thought or bits of someone else's. So if it's plagiarism, it's unintentional and I apologize, profusely, in advance....

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