Unsettled Science

Dec 13, 2017 |  NAS

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Unsettled Science

Dec 13, 2017 | 


In the Winter 2017 issue of Academic Questions, contributors discuss the crisis of objectivity within the sciences and issues of ideological prejudice tainting research.

Peter Bonilla (“James Enstrom vs. UCLA: Terminating Environmental Debate“) and Edward Calabrese (“Societal Threats from Ideologically Driven Science”) discuss the impact that ideological bias and academic dishonesty has on the study of the sciences. In “Straight Talk about Climate Change,” Richard Lindzen discusses how some of the claims of the climate changes alarmists are used to scare nonexperts into supporting the alarmist position.

In the last installment of “Unsettled Science,” Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva (“The Journal Impact Factor (JIF): Science Publishing’s Miscalculating Metric”) discusses the impact that published journals have in locking out scientists who do not have the financial means, or the endurance, to get their research published in exclusive research journals.

In the second special section of this issue, “Free Speech on Campus Today,” contributors discuss the decline of the free speech on college campuses and what can be done about it. In his piece “Promoting a Campus Culture of Policy Debates”, George R. La Noue discusses the findings in his report The Decline of Freedom of Speech and Policy Debates on Campus. Althea Nagai proposes solution on how colleges can fight to restore free speech in her article “Going Beyond Proclamations: Implementing Free Speech Principles.” The final piece in this special section, “What’s Wrong with Free Speech?” by Gerald J. Russello, reviews some books written about the subject of free speech on college campuses.

Finally, we have an article by Victor Davis Hanson on why it was just that the allied powers fought the First World War. We also have a piece by D. David Johnson on ways to reduce administrative bloat in the university system. And last but least, David Randall discusses updates to his Beach Books report.

NAS members will receive printed copies of this issue in the mail. (NAS members, click here for instructions on how to get full online access to all AQ articles.)

Two of this issue’s articles (Victor Davis Hanson’s “Should World War I Have Been Fought?” and Edward Calabrese’s “Societal Threats from Ideologically Driven Science”) are available for free through our website.


James Enstrom vs. UCLA: Terminating Environmental Debate

Peter Bonilla, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

            In the first entry in “Unsettled Science,” a special section in this issue, Peter Bonilla presents the case of epidemiologist James Enstrom, a researcher in environmental health sciences at UCLA’s School of Public Health since 1976, who was isolated, punished, and ultimately wrongfully terminated for publicly and persistently dissenting from his department’s stance—and that of the California Air Resources Board—on “the long-term effects of particulate matter.” Bonilla argues that Enstrom’s experience exemplifies “why protecting academic freedom, often viewed from outside the academy as a quaint, esoteric concept…serve[s] the public interest.”


Societal Threats from Ideologically Driven Science

Edward J. Calabrese, University of Massachusetts Amherst

            Tipped off by a “friendly critic” of a working paper, Edward J. Calabrese recounts his disheartening discovery of serious lapses in objectivity in the approach and work of geneticist and 1946 Nobel laureate Hermann J. Muller. Calabrese describes the real-world consequences of such dishonesty and the unscholarly reprisal he experienced on reporting it as he reflects on honesty and deceit in the practice of science and the threat ideology poses to research.


Straight Talk about Climate Change

Richard Lindzen, Cato Institute; emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

            Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Emeritus, at MIT, has been giving talks on the science of climate change for more than thirty years. In an engaging discussion adapted from a piece on flaws in the claims of climate change alarmists, and the scare tactics they use to take in nonexperts, Lindzen offers some explanations for why these claims “are evidence of the dishonesty of the alarmist position.”


The Journal Impact Factor (JIF): Science Publishing’s Miscalculating Metric

Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva

             Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva contributes the last installment of “Unsettled Science” with a hard look at the Journal Impact Factor (JIF), “the single most influential”—and corrupting—“metric in science publishing for the past forty years.” The JIF, Teixeira da Silva argues, is academically shallow, focuses on prestige and profit rather than sound research, and fosters a now entrenched system of publishing that increasingly shuts out those scientists who have neither the funds nor the stomach to pursue publication in journals with high-JIF factors.


Global Warming and Climategate:

An Excerpt from Sustainability: Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism

Rachelle Peterson, National Association of Scholars

Peter Wood, National Association of Scholars

Offered as a “For the Record” entry, this excerpt from Sustainability: Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism, a 2015 NAS report by Rachelle Peterson and Peter Wood, presents both sides of the climate debate as well as a review of the Climategate scandal.


Should World War I Have Been Fought?

Victor Davis Hanson, Hoover Institution; emeritus, California State University, Fresno

Little revisionism exists about the costs of the Second World War, but World War I is often considered a conflict that “that could, and should, have been avoided,” and its costs and benefits remain controversial. While World War I was “a tragedy that might have been avoided with greater Allied solidarity and prewar deterrence,” once the war began, Victor Davis Hanson argues, “an Allied victory was far preferable to a Germanized Europe.”


Administrative Bloat at the University of Kentucky: A Case Study on Retention

J. David Johnson, University of Kentucky

            Efforts to increase student retention, which includes raising graduation rates, often have little positive effect and are a major cause of administrative (read financial) bloat in America’s colleges and universities. J. David Johnson examines the tortured history of such efforts at his own institution, the University of Kentucky, and offers a case study and analysis of what practices higher education administrations should avoid.


Go Sell It on the Campus: Beach Books Update

David Randall, National Association of Scholars

            In its annual Beach Books report, the National Association of Scholars pinpoints and evaluates the common readings assigned to incoming college freshmen. David Randall’s assessment of the 2016 selections reveals the ongoing proclivity to promulgate current campus politics in the form of “prepackaged activism, prepackaged morality,” prepackaged rage, and “prepackaged tears.”


Promoting a Campus Culture of Policy Debates

George R. La Noue, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

In the first entry of “Free Speech on Campus Today,” this issue’s second special section, George R. La Noue describes the findings he reports in The Decline of Freedom of Speech and Policy Debates on Campus, which is based on research he conducted with a team of graduate students on the lack of debate diversity at today’s colleges and universities.


Going Beyond Proclamations: Implementing Free Speech Principles

Althea Nagai, Center for Equal Opportunity

Responding to the seemingly wholesale abandonment of free speech principles on college and university campuses across the nation, individuals and organizations dedicated to safeguarding higher education are turning to “external pressures” for assistance. Althea Nagai presents some ideas, her own and those of others, on how to apply free speech laws, regulations, and official university statements within the campus bureaucracy to initiate reform.


What’s Wrong with Free Speech?

Gerald J. Russello, University Bookman

            The past few years have witnessed free speech threatened on many fronts, most notably the college campus. Violent confrontation and shutting down, and out, those holding views deemed psychologically troubling or politically unacceptable, has become common—sometimes seemingly endorsed—practice. Gerald J. Russello provides the final piece in our section on free speech with a review essay of books that investigate this troubling development: What’s Wrong with the First Amendment? by Steven H. Shiffrin; Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity: Confronting the Fear of Knowledge, by Joanna Williams; Free Speech on Campus, by Erwin Chemerinsky and Howard Gillman; Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World, by Timothy Garton Ash; and Free Speech after 9/11, by Katharine Gelber. 

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