Some Links

by Don Boudreaux on August 21, 2022

in Country Problems, Current Affairs, History, Taxes

Phil Magness reports on “the suicide of the American Historical Association.” A slice:

Other activist historians such as the New School’s Claire Potter retorted that the 1619 Project was indeed scholarly history, insisting that “big chunks of it are written by professional, award-winning historians.” [James] Sweet was therefore in the wrong to call it journalism, or to question its scholarly accuracy. Potter’s claims are deeply misleading. Only two of the 1619 Project’s twelve feature essays were written by historians, and neither of them are specialists in the crucial period between 1776-1865, when slavery was at its peak. The controversial parts of the 1619 Project were all written by opinion journalists such as Hannah-Jones, or non-experts writing well outside of their own competencies such as Matthew Desmond.

The frenzy further exposed the very same problems in the profession that Sweet’s essay cautioned against. David Austin Walsh, a historian at the University of Virginia, took issue with historians offering any public criticism of the 1619 Project’s flaws – no matter their validity – because those criticisms are “going to be weaponized by the right.” In Walsh’s hyperpoliticized worldview, historical accuracy is wholly subordinate to the political objectives of the project. Sweet’s sin in telling the truth about the 1619 Project’s defects was being “willfully blind to the predictable political consequences of [his] public interventions.” Any argument that does not advance a narrow band of far-left political activism is not only unfit for sharing – it must be suppressed.

Lawrence Krauss describes, accurately, the asylum of academia as being run by lunatics. (HT Roger Meiners) Two slices:

There are already a host of examples of such universities and institutions caving in to childish pressures exerted, not by students, but by young researchers caught up in this new era of victimhood and inferred oppression. Increasingly, various fields of science are being held hostage, infringing on research activities and terrorizing individuals.

David Sabatini, about whom I have previously written on this site. Sabatini had been terminated from his position at MIT after complaints lodged by a former colleague with whom he had had a relationship. No student of Sabatini ever complained about him. The NYU Medical School decided to hire him, and the Dean of the Medical School specifically stated that they had investigated his case and had determined he had been unfairly treated. No matter, shortly after the proposed announcement, junior researchers marched in the streets, again complaining that hiring Sabitini would somehow endanger the safety of young trainees, a claim made without any basis in fact. Nevertheless, not surprisingly, and fully aware of the impact on their own careers and the reputation of their school should they buck the mob, the medical school rescinded the offer.


The magazine Scientific American, which used to be the most prestigious popular science magazine in print but has now become a vehicle for social justice activism, recently published an article entitled “Cultural Bias Distorts the Search for Alien Life”: “Decolonizing” the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) could boost its chances of success, says science historian Rebecca Charbonneau”

In the article this young historian, whose research work appeared last year in a special SETI-themed issue of the American Indian Culture and Research Journal, was extensively interviewed in order to make the argument that the search for extraterrestrial intelligence might be “undermined by biases they only dimly perceive—biases that could, for instance, be related to the misunderstanding and mistreatment of Indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups that occurred during the development of modern astronomy and many other scientific fields”.

It is natural to wonder how looking for patterns of radio or optical pulses, or searching for signs of technological civilization impacting on the atmospheres of distant planets could reflect racial biases. Charbonneau’s response, in the Scientific American article, is clear. Focusing on the technology at the very heart of a search is a mistake. Instead of listening for signs of alien intelligence, we should first be listening to indigenous people here on Earth, or as she puts it, to taking into account “marginalized and historically excluded perspectives”.

It is tempting to simply dismiss this confusing logic as just fodder for a now-woke magazine. Unfortunately, however, the rot goes much deeper.

Dr. Charbonneau sent out a photo advertising her appearance in a large SETI meeting recently in Pennsylvania in which she reiterated her claims that racism might basically underlay much of the current SETI mission. She was not alone. Another observer at the meeting reported that many of the “scientific talks” were about forbidding language of “colonization”, “indigenous”, non-binary sexuality, and transphobia.

Indeed, it is telling that Dr Charbonneau is a Jansky Fellow at the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory. These prestigious fellowships are meant to assist the most promising researchers in radio astronomy. But one of them has gone to a historian who has argued that focusing only on doing better science and improving detection technology is itself misplaced.

Steve Landsburg isn’t impressed with the intellectual integrity of politicians.

David Henderson reminds us that taxation is coercive.

Larry Reed sings the praises of the Marquis de Lafayette.

Tracy Hoeg tweets: (HT Jay Bhattacharya)

Today kids required to mask during basketball in LA Show me good evidence this will benefit them @MayorOfLA @LACityParks, you can’t
This is a picture from a society that prioritizes irrational non data-driven policies that ease adult fears over the well being & happiness of kids

Writing in the Telegraph, Jeremy Warner decries the enormous cost of the covid lockdowns in Britain. A slice:

But lockdown was also sold as just a temporary hiatus, a bit like an induced coma, with the economy returning to normal substantially undamaged by its sudden stop as soon as the public health emergency was over.

This has turned out to be very far from the case. The economic harm these policies have caused, never mind their wider impact on health, education and general well being, may even turn out to have been worse than the financial crisis, which presaged a decade long pause in living standards.

Last week we had the shocking news that health conditions left undiagnosed and untreated while the NHS concentrated on the pandemic, together no doubt with today’s virtual breakdown of ambulance services, are now killing more people per week than Covid did.

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