>From the Editor
By Edvard A. Hemmingsen
As expected, the calendar change from the year 1999 to year 2000 passed without any serious hitches or glitches in the world of computers. Airplanes continued flying, the telephones continued working, water and electricity kept flowing, and banks remained open and fully functional. And there was no apocalypse as we entered the new millennium, which really is not a millennium until next year. The Y2K computer "problem" proved to be one to the most over hyped non-events of all time. We predicted this to be the case in this space. It was the easiest and most certain prediction we have ever made. Luckily, few people fell for the hype in the end, a credit to rational thinking and common sense.
With all of this nonsense now out of the way, we can focus on the real problems which will continue to face us when rational and critical thinking are abandoned.
During a recent travel I read a book, Higher Superstition - The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science, by Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998). It deals with the anti-science movements and the rejection of reason that are becoming ingrained in some departments in many major universities. The authors use the term "academic left" to describe a segment of the academic community, mostly in the humanities and the social sciences, that for a variety of reasons takes a hostile attitude to science. When it is to their advantage these people attach themselves to segments of the scientific community with legitimate concerns, for example, environment pollution, unsound industrial processes and questionable scientific priorities. In other cases, they press their dislike of science in general and attack it with irrational arguments.
Students often are taught to reject science as it does not provide certainties (e.g., a view strongly promoted by post-modernism) or because it is seen as a socially damaging process (e.g., a view expounded by Afrocentrism and feminism). Even more so than in debates between evolutionists and creationist, scientific arguments and facts are flatly rejected. These views of the so-called academic left are absorbed by people who are destined to become teachers and decision-making managers in our society.
This is a deeper and more troublesome problem than the schism between science and religion. Although direct conflicts frequently arise between the two domains, religion with some exceptions tends to cede to science. There is a recognition here that one is a faith-based spiritual domain while the other is a material one subject to the laws of nature. Thus, science generally is not rejected by religion.
It is difficult to predict what the rejection of reason and rationality in some of our academic institutions will lead to. It is not likely to have an impact on how the hard sciences are conducted, but may through cultural influences affect how various fields within science are prioritized for support. However, it is likely that it will, over time, affect science education, how scientific truths and facts are perceived, and the general trust which the mass media and the public have in science. We may be seeing some effect of this creeping into public agencies when the government so dramatically increases its support of alternative medicine, against all rational professional advice. And some medical schools, hospitals, health maintenance organizations and insurance companies are joining in. We need to be aware of what is happening.
The editor can be reached by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by FAX at 858-454-1158.