Saturday, May 3, 2008

Universities Full of Nonsense?

One of the more idiotic comments made by Ben Stein in the Expelled kurfuffle (and wouldn't that be a contest), reflects a common opinion among the lower academic sphere of society. It is a very unscientific comment that contains an interesting bit of circular reasoning worth fleshing out:

"There are very few places where more nonsense is spoken than in universities. They are supposed to be the residual fortress of knowledge and sense, but they are fortresses of nonsense."

We've all variations of this: "Just cuz you went to college doesn't mean you're smart", "he's book smart but doesn't have any common sense", and so on. But notice the reasoning process that occurs here. Universities promote nonsense? OK, well when such a person is asked for an example of this nonsense, what do we get in reply? From Stein, apparently we'd get the notion that evolution is sound science and creationism/ID is pseudoscience. From others, it would be multiculturalism, or gay rights, or any number of issues.

The one thing they all lack however, is any factual basis for the proclamation of nonsense. It is not as if those "nonsense" positions violate some scientific law/theory, contain logical contradictions, or run contrary to some fact. Stein has no basis for proclaiming universities promoters of nonsense beyond the fact that they reach conclusions he doesn't care for.

It's a nice little circle of ignorance, dontcha think? The implicit assumption is that Stein can't be wrong. I believe the word for that is "faith". It always comes back to that, doesn't it?

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