Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Junk science and holocaust denial

A few months ago, in criticising an article on academic freedom (or the alleged lack of it) authored by David Klinghoffer, I compared some examples of junk science to holocaust denial and got ribbed for it:

http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2007/06/03/academic-freedom-evaporates/

(See comment #2.)

Well, I just discovered that my comparison was not original. Ellen Goodman had made a similar comparison months earlier. I had not seen her article until today:

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2007/02/09/no_change_in_political_climate/

I yield to Ms. Goodman the dubious honor of having to point out the analogy between junk science and junk history. (She got ribbed for this as well.) I ask my right wing blogger opponents the following: Why is holocaust denial taboo in academic circles when equally-unsupported-by-fact junk science is ok?

And why has there been absolutely no cry from the right wing bloggers in support of this academic who was recently denied tenure:

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Controversial-Professor.html

Maybe the right wing bloggers want academic freedom only for those who share their ideology?

3 Comments:

Anonymous Kylopod said...

It's old news that most people other than civil libertarians tend to defend free speech only when it supports their preferred ideologies.

Keep in mind that Holocaust denial is not the only pseudohistorical theory. Another popular one is the Afrocentric claim that much of Greek culture was taken from Egypt.

But there are few pseudoscholarly ideas, whether from science or from history, that inspire as much emotional pain as Holocaust denial. Which is why I would be careful about such comparisons.

2:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want academic freedom even for people that do not share my political beliefs. (I'm not sure I'm right-wing, though.)

There are two reasons why comparing holocaust denial to global warming "denial" is so odious.

First off, global warming is a still-contested theory. (Yes, I know, the editorial pages of the newspapers favored by people that tend to demonize industry and favor governmental interference have presented one side of the story to create the impression that there is a scientific consensus where in fact there is not. But if one is actually interested in the truth (and I'm not suggesting that you're not), there's no shortage of fully legitimate material out there disputing, say, Al Gore's hyperbole.

Second, the holocaust is an empirical historical fact. Where it is not inaccurate (Which was the warmest year of the past 100?), concerns over global warming reflect modeled expectations, which have a funny way of diverging from reality when all of the elements of an infinitely complex system have yet to be understood.

Global warming could well be a problem (although one wonders why global warming crusaders are so very relaxed in their own carbon emissions if it's actually as threatening as they claim). But, as in so many cases, the reality is not close to its portrayal in the news.

Pop quiz - how people have quoted by the most recent IPCC report have disavowed its conclusions? How many times has this been in the New York Times?

- Moishe Potemkin

5:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's another "denier". If only he had Ellen Goodman's meteorological education...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/04/09/do0907.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/04/09/ixworld.html

- MP

1:56 PM  

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