Blogs > Liberty and Power > The War Against Radical Thinking, Revisited

Jul 1, 2004 8:38 am

The War Against Radical Thinking, Revisited

In my post,"Academic Curricula: At War with Radical Thinking," I argued that the penchant in higher education toward compartmentalization was undermining the need for integration, for context-keeping, that lies at the heart of all forms of radical, dialectical thinking.

A nice postscript to that blog entry is provided by the following book excerpt, recently published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. In their book, Debunked! ESP, Telekinesis, and Other Pseudoscience, physicists Georges Charpak and Henri Broch argue:

At every level, society is infected with unscientific thinking, with potentially disastrous consequences. In the space of a few years, the occult has gone from an individual, local craft to an international big business. This growth ... must be stopped because, once belief in the supernatural reaches a certain point, the seriousness of the damage may grow at an accelerating rate.
You can't lead people to accept the grossest errors, the biggest falsehoods, and the least justifiable reasoning without consequences. If you lead people to accept nonsense, you cannot do so without seriously inhibiting their intellectual development, without making them doubt the validity of science and all the values that come from reason. Our era is unfortunately a great example of this because of the magnifying power that the media provide the pseudosciences.
The re-emergence of occult, paranormal, or magical practices has been oddly swift—so rapid, in fact, that one must ask oneself this question: What are the favorable circumstances that have created such a need and have favored, perhaps unwittingly, its growth? For one thing, financial stakes have a great effect on this trend. But maybe the problem is more serious than that. The geneticist Albert Jacquard said it very clearly in his foreword to Incroyable ... mais faux! (by Alain Cuniot):"To transform citizens into passive sheep is the great dream of the powerful. There are many means to this end; poisoning their minds with pseudoscience can be very effective."

And, ultimately, that's what all this is about, isn't it? The trends against systematization, against context-keeping, against integration, are trends against reason, and it is only by undermining reason that the great mass of the citizenry can be turned into"passive sheep."

Try to remember that the next time one of our politicians asks us to follow his lead by an act of faith.

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