This text is in place of footnotes for my article 9 Causes of Scientific Decline in Academia in the American Thinker.
Dr. Catharine Drew Gilpin Faust became Harvard President in 2006 after the previous president, Larry Summers, was found guilty of a thoughtcrime. He had been thinking unapproved thoughts about under-representation of women in sciences. His thought was that there is greater variability of cognitive abilities among men compared to women. Of course, oppression of women in our society is the only allowed thought on this subject. Larry Summers got caught when he foolishly confessed his thoughtcrime before the thought police.
The term “science journalism” is an oxymoron. We can examine this further and say that an existing fact, like rabid dogs bite humans, is science. On the contrary, the report of a single occurrence, such as “A man bites a dog,” can be called journalism. However, real science is not very newsworthy. Even exciting new discoveries are tentative because evidence in their favor accumulates slowly. Then, when a theory is finally accepted, it is already old news. When a purported scientific discovery is sensationalized in the news, it is likely a hoax. This is especially true when it’s “reported” in a newspaper before it’s published in scientific journals, like in the case of the infamous 1981 NY Times article featuring James Hansen. In cases like this it’s surely a hoax.
“Science communication” is an academic twin of “science journalism.” Many well-intentioned scientists did not understand that the supply of “science communication” was exceeding the public’s demand for it. That made science communication totally dependent on government funding and an easy prey to the Left.
One “scientific” leader of climate alarmism is Stephen Schneider, a man who led students in their 60’s movement before he becoming a prominent name in climate alarmism since the 90’s. James Hansen and he used to be buddies.
Holtzbrinck Group is also the publisher of ScAm, the former Scientific American.
This is called “courtroom science”: pseudo-scientific theories, methods and results that are intended to be tested in a courtroom (advocacy, regulation, legislation, etc.), rather than in a lab or in nature. In the 1970’s, ecology was a new science that incorporated knowledge from biology, chemistry, physics, and math. Then, “environmental studies” started rapidly proliferating, eating away at budgets and overshadowing the sciences. Since the early 1990’s, environmentalists lacking even basic training in the sciences started calling themselves scientists, and the media parroted these claims.
Among other things, tobacco litigation confused Americans about the health dangers of tobacco use. Yes, nicotine is the addictive substance in tobacco, but tar became exposed as the cause of most severe health damage. While tobacco companies attempted to decrease the tar-to-nicotine ratio, litigators and lawmakers were spending a fortune of the public’s money to make minimize the real dangers of tobacco use.
“Gore reinterpreted medieval metaphysics as an ecological philosophy connecting man to nature in a web of life, matter and meaning, now lost to the modern world. By breaking with Aristotleanism, Bacon and Descartes had separated man from nature and science from religion. For them, facts derived from science had no moral significance. ‘As a consequence,’ Gore wrote, ‘the scientific method changed our relationship to nature and is now, perhaps irrevocably, changing nature itself.’” – Darwall, Rupert. The Age of Global Warming: A History.
Military-oriented nuclear programs were mostly abolished by the end of the Cold War. But Clinton and Gore also stopped civilian nuclear research and abandoned plans to build new particle accelerators, causing immense damage to the American physics. They also canceled work on the replacement to the Space Shuttle. Since 2012, the U.S. has been entirely dependent on Russia to launch and return its astronauts in and out of orbit. Just recently, we’ve witnessed a deterioration of relations with Russia. In fact, one of its officials said that if the U.S. applies sanctions to Russia, it would have to launch its astronauts with a trampoline. This was partly a joke, of course, but still unnerving, nonetheless. (Off-topic: this comes to my mind every time when Hillary and anyone taking cues from the left stream media promise to “hold Putin accountable”.)
There was also backdoor infiltration and consequent conquest of the National Academy of Sciences by the hard Left – environmentalist axis, and progressive corruption of AAAS and other scientific and professional societies.
Invasion of the social constructivism and its thesis that science is just a social construct is a related phenomenon.
The biomedical sciences have been thriving in the private sector but they are completely dependent on the government, and frequently come under attack by enviros and politicians. The attacks by enviros frequently take form of physical attacks. So, the biomedical scientists have to keep low profile and forget about the First Amendment. Also, the standards of medical experiments and observations are so strict that biomedical scientists might not believe what “climate scientists” pass as statistically significant observations.
There is anecdotal evidence that since the 1990’s the National Scientific Foundation and the rest of the Democrat-linked academic establishment chased the best American students out of sciences by closing promising scientific directions (frequently under influence of environmentalists), failing to properly adjust scientists’ salaries to inflation, and financing sciences through short term grants that created instability and job insecurity for all but tenured professors. I can bet that they also blamed all that on the Republicans — and the academic scientists believed them!
Accurate statistics about what percentage of faculty in science and engineering departments is born and raised abroad is surprisingly difficult to find. See International Faculty in American Universities: Experiences of Academic Life, Productivity, and Career Mobility (DOI: 10.1002/ir.20020)
The industry was thrown a bone in the form of “non-immigrant” H-1B visas for specialist workers; in the early 2000’s, an employee on H-1B visa could not move to another US employer, and was almost an indentured laborer. Every mass import negatively impacts domestic production. Beneficial to economics in the short term, the import of engineering and scientific specialists suppressed the production of such specialists in the U.S. The offshoring of manufacturing further contributed to the offshoring of scientific and engineering education.
Adding insult to injury, academics claim in unison that the annual influx of nearly a hundred thousand foreign specialists (excluding family members), plus an unknown number of foreign students who remain in the U.S. is not only good, but necessary. This implicitly suggests that Americans are too stupid to become scientists and engineers. In fact, young Americans have better options than spending four years studying a profession in which the government and academic aristocracy intend to replace with immigrants from countries where average wages are twenty times lower than the minimum wage here.
From 2013 Forbes article, which also provides useful statistics: “Across the board, the number of foreign-born students getting tech-oriented degrees is staggering: One out of every five engineering graduates from American universities are foreign born. At the master’s degree level, the ratio is closer to one out of every two. And 56 percent of doctoral grads in engineering were from abroad in 2011. The more advanced the education level, the higher probability that STEM graduates are foreign born.”
In the 1990’s, there was a joke that American universities were places where Russian professors taught math to Chinese students.
The offshoring of manufacturing contributed to weakening of engineering in academia, except for computer/software engineering. This is especially unfortunate because for many sciences, engineering is where the rubber hits the road: where the scientific theories are tested and the test results cannot be hidden from the public.
The words said by President Eisenhower in 1961 seem prophetic now: “The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.”
The prediction made by Carl Sagan in 1996 was fulfilled, as well: “We’ve arranged a society based on science and technology, in which nobody understands anything about science and technology. And this combustible mixture of ignorance and power, sooner or later, is going to blow up in our faces,” with the difference that the political activity of his friends contributed to its fulfillment.
On a more philosophical note, it seems that increasing material well-being led to a situation where activities requiring a knowledge of natural sciences and engineering were relegated to lower roles, and other activities like marketing, advertising, entertainment, etc. received a more prominent role.
The liberals swear by the name of science but they have damaged the American science beyond imagination.
Updated on 03/03/2017.