As 2018 comes to a close, I am sharing some of my top posts from this year.
A trio of concerned academics has published seven intentionally absurd papers in leading scholarly journals as part of an investigation to expose extreme bias in fields that study race, gender, sexuality, and other politically-charged topics.
The trio say the papers, which used fabricated authors and credentials, highlight that these fields are being misled by politically-motivated research and biased methodologies.
–Media Release – James Lindsay, Peter Boghossian, and Helen Pluckrose
This is the summary from a group of researchers who set out to expose some of the pitfalls within humanities and liberal studies academic disciplines. They submitted a series of papers to various journals. There work was published in seven of them.
The scholars really are professors who do research. Their press material also identities them as all being liberal. Despite their political leanings, the researchers see issues in the manner in which academic studies are done within certain academic fields. From their “fact sheet:”
We prefer to call it “grievance studies” because many of these fields refer to themselves as “[something] studies” and because they operate primarily by focusing upon and inflaming the grievances of certain identity groups. We think it represents a significant and influential subset of the scholarship coming out of cultural studies within the humanities, sociology, anthropology, and other social sciences and that isgaining increasing power over our universities, institutions, media, and culture.
The researchers argue that there needs to be reform in the methodologies used to do research within these disciplines. Because much of what comes out is biased. And some of the “academic” studies that get published need to be viewed critically (you might be thinking “well articles in good journals get peer reviewed.” Do they? Because the researchers were given opportunities to peer review articles based on their own bogus scholarship).
“That problem is that a political bias which intentionally blends activism into scholarship (sometimes described as “academic leftism”) has become dominant and entrenched in varying degrees within those fields it has successfully corrupted. Moreover, it aims to spread its assumptions and methods into other fields, including the hard sciences. This, in turn, delegitimizes this scholarship and casts serious doubt upon its conclusions and results. These results and methods are therefore in need of reconsideration.
And their articles were over the top crazy.
One of the papers talked of dog mating habits in dog parks being symbolic of societal toxic masculinity. Another published paper dealt with fat bodybuilding and the need for such competitions for overweight people. Afterwards the researchers argued that the fact that this paper was published indicated: “Journals will accept arguments which are ludicrous and positively dangerous to health if they support cultural constructivist arguments around body positivity and fatphobia.”
Another article was published in a leading feminist philosophy journal arguing that “social justice activists can make fun of others, but no one is allowed to make fun of social justice.”
The issue with this that the researchers found is that this is indicative of a current problem which is that it’s difficult to critique social justice scholarship. They ironically entitled the bogus and satirical paper “When the joke Is on you.”
I do think that it exposes the subjectivity and lack of academic rigor that can happen in these disciplines. And this is harmful to any meaningful conversation. As I read their summaries and consider some of the ridiculous ideas I’ve seen written up in recent years that are based off of a study someone did, it makes me question if these disciplines are just spreading a political philosophy as if opinions are grounded in reality.
Another problem is that these classes are being taught by professors who are peddling this anti-intellectual nonsense and people are going into huge debt to subsidize them.
I’m sure that it’s only a matter of time until these writers are subject of scorn and articles in these same types of journals about their hierarchical dominance making a mockery of these legitimate academic fields. I think the people who are the targets of this brilliant critique will do more to prove their point than to work for reform within their disciplines.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think, and don’t forget to subscribe!
Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.