Dawkins’ final demise

Oh boy he had this coming! And how sadly true it all is. Richard Dawkins is now an ageing posterboy for arrogance. A sad thing to happen to a previously enticing intellect.

Also, do note the wondrous and important point in this article too: science may be one of the pinnacle achievements of the Enlightenment, but you cannot hope to comprehend all knowledge and human achievement through its lens without losing everything you tried to grasp. That would be the supreme arrogance of (natural) science.

Richard Dawkins, what on earth happened to you?

“Remember when Dawkins was widely respected? When his biggest detractor was late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould? I don’t. Having grown up after Dawkins made the transition from lauded science communicator to old man who shouts at clouds, it’s hard for me to understand why anyone continues to listen to him about anything.

Sure, he wrote some pop science books back in the day, but why do we keep having him on TV and in the newspapers? If it’s a biologist you’re after, or a science communicator, why not pick from the hundreds out there who don’t tweet five or six Islamophobic sentiments before getting off the toilet in the morning? If you need an atheist, there are many philosophers, scholars of religion, and public intellectuals available who don’t refuse to acknowledge the existence of theology.

Dawkins has been arrogant for years, a man so convinced of his intellectual superiority that he believes the one domain in which he happens to be an expert, science, is the only legitimate way of acquiring or assessing knowledge. All of his outbursts in recent years follow from this belief: he understands the scientific method, a process intended to mitigate the interference of human subjectivity in data collection, as a universally applicable way of understanding not just the physical world but literally everything else as well. Hence his constant complaint that those appalled by his bigoted vituperations are simply offended by clarity; feeble-minded obscurantists who cling to emotion, tradition or the supernatural to shield themselves from the power of his truth bombs.

You don’t have to be religious to find this level of hubris baffling. In his review of The God Delusion, Terry Eagleton remarks:

Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.

Dawkins’ narrowmindedness, his unshakeable belief that the entire history of human intellectual achievement was just a prelude to the codification of scientific inquiry, leads him to dismiss the insights offered not only by theology, but philosophy, history and art as well.”


The working poor of Academia

The working poor of Academia

Recently an American woman in her 80s died suddenly. She had no health benefits, no superannuation, no money. She wasn’t homeless or even without education or a profession. In fact, she was an adjunct professor at a university.

This story demonstrates the insidious tendency of universities employing academics under conditions that perhaps only non-educated fast food workers and the homeless endure. This maybe an American story but Australis is heading in the same direction with more than half of undergraduate teaching carried out by poorly paid postgrads, casuals of all sorts, part-timers and those on non-tenure track positions.

They are the dirty little secret of contemporary higher education. While universities tell students that getting educated is a ticket to a better life, those who are doing the teaching are sometimes destitute or frustrated to the max because recourse and change are impossible and they have wasted decades of their lives acquiring an education and a doctorate that leads to no decent professional life, sometimes not even a humane one.

“The dirty little secret is that higher education is staffed with an insufficiently resourced, egregiously exploited, contingent “new faculty majority.” In addition to the 49.3% of faculty in part-time positions (70% in community colleges), another 19% are full-time, nontenure-track. (These numbers do not include graduate assistants or postdocs.)

Adjunct professors, like many hard-working Americans, are the working poor. They are one step away from “We don’t need your services anymore” or one medical emergency away from being destitute, like Vojtko.”

Rhodes: Adjunct profs the new working poor

This is not the sign of a decent, rich, self-respecting or civil society.