THE HUNT FOR HERESY…

…Is eternal. Because every belief system requires a priesthood. “Science”–even mathematics–included:

But, that same day, the Mathematical Intelligencer’s editor-in-chief Marjorie Senechal notified us that, with “deep regret,” she was rescinding her previous acceptance of our paper. “Several colleagues,” she wrote, had warned her that publication would provoke “extremely strong reactions” and there existed a “very real possibility that the right-wing media may pick this up and hype it internationally.” For the second time in a single day I was left flabbergasted. Working mathematicians are usually thrilled if even five people in the world read our latest article. Now some progressive faction was worried that a fairly straightforward logical argument about male variability might encourage the conservative press to actually read and cite a science paper?

In my 40 years of publishing research papers I had never heard of the rejection of an already-accepted paper. And so I emailed Professor Senechal. She replied that she had received no criticisms on scientific grounds and that her decision to rescind was entirely about the reaction she feared our paper would elicit. By way of further explanation, Senechal even compared our paper to the Confederate statues that had recently been removed from the courthouse lawn in Lexington, Kentucky. In the interests of setting our arguments in a more responsible context, she proposed instead that Sergei and I participate in a ‘Round Table’ discussion of our hypothesis argument, the proceedings of which the Intelligencer would publish in lieu of our paper. Her decision, we learned, enjoyed the approval of Springer, one of the world’s leading publishers of scientific books and journals. An editorial director of Springer Mathematics later apologized to me twice, in person, but did nothing to reverse the decision or to support us at the time.

(Theodore P. Hill, Quillette online, Sept. 7, 2018)

If you read Hill’s entire piece at the link (highly recommended), you will note the thoroughness with which any ideas that do not conform with specifically political goals are hunted down and banished, in this case by his fellow scientists. I don’t have a great interest in modern science (or whatever particular arguments Hill and his colleagues were making). But I do have an interest in priesthoods and the way they emerge to regulate specific patterns of human behavior. Of the dozens of essays I’ve read (online and in books and magazines) about the way even the most thoroughly researched dissent is suppressed in the halls where The God of Science is worshiped (always in the name of Reason) this is at once the most detailed and succinct.

It’s also the best example I’ve seen yet of the far reach of Confederate Statue Syndrome. As I tried to point out, ad nauseam, a year-plus ago, when CSS was making almost daily headlines–and as the subsequent removals of memorials to, among others, Ohio’s William McKinley (a Union war hero), Pennsylvania’s Stephen Foster and Laura Ingalls Wilder, (who spent most of her formative years in Wisconsin, Kansas and Minnesota before moving on to the Dakotas) not to mention incidents like a Bernie-bro being savagely beaten by Antifa street fighters, at one of Portland, Oregon’s protests, for carrying an American flag–it was never about the Confederacy and it was never about statues.

What was it Orwell said? Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.

Hey Gene, can I get an amen?

 

2 thoughts on “THE HUNT FOR HERESY…

  1. There are new developments in this saga.
    This made for interesting reading and seeing as how I enjoy a good controversy, I wanted to know more but my eyes glaze over after after a few paragraphs in math or science journals.
    My daughter is working on a Masters in wildlife biology, studying grizzly bears and their interactions with ranchers. She didn’t inherit her fearlessness from her mother, by the way. She uses biology, mathematics, statistics, GIS and any other tool available to crunch data. When I asked her to look at this article, she followed the links and came up with a few responses.

    https://gowers.wordpress.com/2018/09/09/has-an-uncomfortable-truth-been-suppressed/

    https://math.uchicago.edu/~wilkinso/Statement.html

    https://www.math.uchicago.edu/~farb/statement

    It seems to me that the mathematics journal in which he chose to publish was not the appropriate publication for his topic. In addition, his science may be a bit suspect.
    This may make it clear as mud!

    Thanks

    • Hi Peggy. (I’m sorry your comment got hung up in the “waiting for approval” section–no idea why. Anyway it should be visible now!)

      I hope I made it clear in my piece that I was unqualified to comment on the science being discussed (my knowledge of science proper amounts to–Electricity…it seems to be operating on some pretty sound principles to me!)

      What I found interesting was the parameters of the political narrative lying within, which amounted to “Don’t rock the boat.” This does not seem to change (or toe be limited to science) just because the subject under discussion is supposed to transcend them.

      Hill’s piece was emblematic of the type (whatever its veracity, it is in line with dozens of others I’ve read in recent years). The links your daughter provided seem very much in the same vein (and, for that reason, are equally fascinating). I only hope her own experience going forward is a happy one–and that her evidence will always matter more than someone else’s feelings (or political considerations).

      BTW: If you have any problems commenting in the future, if you would like to send me your IP address at my email: jwr1960@gmail.com I’ll be happy to add it to my White List (Been having issues with my regular commenters for months since I added a Firewall).

      jwr

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