Sunday, October 21, 2007

"DON'T SILENCE THE SCIENTISTS"

Susan Blackmore's quips on Watson and academic freedom. Particularly sensible is this:
Surely a society based on denying a possible truth is not a healthy one. If there are such differences we need to be absolutely clear that they do not mean that some groups are intrinsically inferior, superior, or more or less deserving. If it is true that children of different races, by and large and on average, differ in their abilities, then we need an education system that encourages and develops all those varied abilities rather than one narrowly and rigidly based on glorifying the particular kind of intelligence and academic achievement that comes more easily to the dominant group."
I am not so sure that cancelling his lecture at the Science Museum was uncalled for; I see it more as an angry rap on the old man's hand. On the other hand, I now am agreeing that suspending him from his CSHL job does not serve much of a purpose, and reflects badly on respecting academic freedom. After all, institutions have been known to distance themselves from their employees, especially academic ones, and most people don't equate institutions' opinions with those of their employees. For example, should MIT fire Noam Chomsky because he has sometimes espoused what some have claimed as radical and bigoted views? Of course not, and here the issue clearly is about academic freedom. If Lehigh University can simply get away with putting a disclaimer on their site distancing themselves from Michael Behe (whose creationist leanings are much more crackpot than even Watson's, if not as offensive-sounding), then why can't CSHL?

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2 Comments:

Blogger Abi said...

Correct me if I am wrong here, but CSHL has just removed him from his administrative responsibilities, no? Doesn't he continue to be on the faculty (emeritus or otherwise)?

Admin positions aren't covered under the academic freedom clause. And rightly so, too!

8:54 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

That's an interesting question! I will check up on it, but yes, the separation of admin and academic freedom clauses is wise indeed, otherwise admins will wreak havoc (which they generally do!)

11:43 PM  

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