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1 day ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Joy Morrissey: From pe... · 0 replies · +1 points

(reply to your later post, which has disappeared (as if happens from time to tme) where you talk about how left-wing ideology has undermined the Government)

Yes, I think it is a fair point - parts of society have moved much more to the left than we sometimes appreciate, and that's true also of much of the Civil Service. Even in the Conservative Party the social consensus has shifted to the left quite a bit.

1 day ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Joy Morrissey: From pe... · 0 replies · +1 points

Yes. His support for traditional teaching methods makes him sound like a rightwinger these days.

1 day ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Joy Morrissey: From pe... · 0 replies · +1 points

Thanks Colin - I replied above, and I blamed you for bringing Gramsci into this, just in case FullFactsUK's pressure gets a hike. :-)

I hope it is less hot there now - here we were down to 29 C today, very pleasant.

1 day ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Joy Morrissey: From pe... · 2 replies · +1 points

Colin already replied about me - I used to work at GEC/Marconi when Lord Weinstock was still there. My interest in bioscience is very recent: my wife gave me for my birthday an interesting book, Blueprint: How DNA makes us who we are, by Robert Plomin, an American scientist who works at King's. Fascinating book, and the results reported in it have been replicated widely, so it's solid science. The ageing thing was completely new to me - apparently the correlation between our traits and our DNA increases from about 50% to 80% by the time we are in our 60's. The other thing I didn't know is that most of our traits are correlated not to few specific genes having a big impact, but to a very large number of genes having very small impact, which influence many traits.

Now, Colin mentioned Gramsci. I think he refers to Gramsci's views on education. Briefly, Gramsci knew that a kid brought up in a home with many books and a habit of learning, reading, discussing, will have an advantage over a kid born in the home of illiterate peasants (this was Italy in the 20's after all). Gramsci thought that this advantage could never be eliminated, but that strong, rigorous schooling could bring the peasant kid closer to the skill level of the more privileged kid. "Rigorous" is the key word: Gramsci believed in a traditional education, grammar, phonics, arithmetic, languages, the lot. He also added, interestingly, that once the Left was in power there would be a temptation to ascribe the difficulty inherent in serious study to something artificial, put there by the privileged classes to keep the working classes kids down; so, the Left once in power would be tempted to make schooling easier - which is exactly what the Left has done, in Italy and in the UK (and elsewhere). According to Gramsci, this would simply entrench the initial difference and amplify it. I suspect that the fashionable follower of this postmodern stuff haven't read much of Gramsci themselves - and I doubt that he would have liked them.

Apologies for the long post - I blame Colin for bringing Gramsci into the conversation!

2 days ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Joy Morrissey: From pe... · 7 replies · +1 points

Yes, the younger generation can be very black and white. Capitalism is not perfect, but the alternative has been tried and hasn't worked, and if one cares about lifting people out of poverty, capitalism is the only game in town. Governments can help but their influence is limited. Protesting against specific injustices is right, but they should still consider the big picture.

With regard to age - you might be interested in one recent result of genetic research. The influence of our DNA has been proved to be on average about 50%. The rest is environmental - but, as we age, the correlation between our individual traits and our DNA grows stronger, not weaker: that's because as we age we make more and more choices about the environment we live in, and these choices are influenced by our DNA. When we are small kids, our parents and our schools largely dictate our environmental influences; as weage, we take control more and more. So much for environmental determinism.

If I were philosophically inclined, I could speculate that, if we really become more conservative as we age, then our DNA is facilitating that - the weight of inherited tradition. It would be interested to discuss this with some black-and-white leftwingers.

2 days ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Joy Morrissey: From pe... · 9 replies · +1 points

Thanks for the compliment, possibly undeserved. By the way, I am a sort of leftie but I have voted Consrvative more oftenthan either Lab or LD.

anyway, I don't have evidence to say that you are wrong in stating that almost all the non-natural sciences people take that position; it is just not my experience, which of course is limited. However, the number of students exposed to this ideology is relatively low: at UCL, they are some 12,500 out of almost 44,000 - hardly enough to state that the university as a whole is a stronghold for this kind of thinking.

I don't deny that the kind of culture discussed in the article exists - I just don't think it is representative of university culture, and I think its impact is more limited than people fear. Again, this is based on my experience - and I haven't heard of any cases where serious evidence-based research has been banned or impeded because of ideological reasons.

As an aside, I suspect that a supporter of the "environmentalist" ideology, if challenged about the lack of evidence for it, would say something like, I don't deny the influence of genetics, but the "nurture" element is the dominant one. That would be demonstrably wrong too, according to research as it stands now. So, in any discussion with people who are a bit aware of how genetics is going, that person could be rather easily silenced.

2 days ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Joy Morrissey: From pe... · 11 replies · +1 points

I didn't think it was an odd example. In the school of biosciences in my old university, UCL (and, I think, in all other universities), they teach genetics. Genetics research had thoroughly demolished the "blank slate" position, there are now thousands, literally, of papers published about it. If somebody teaches the "blank slate" theory in a university that's quite surprising - I gave that example because I thought only a few fringe people still took it seriously.

So yes, if it is still taught, that's very worrying - it is stuff that should not belong in a university.

2 days ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Joy Morrissey: From pe... · 1 reply · +1 points

You are right - it is not an unreasonable sample: increasing it would improve the margin of error but not by much, if the number of academics disturbed by this cancel culture is high enough. But is it? The underlying assumption here is that academia is dominated by lefties (which is not my experience - but that's another matter), therefore the number of academics of aconservative persuasion should be very small. If that's the case, a bigger sample would be needed.

3 days ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Joy Morrissey: From pe... · 16 replies · +1 points

I am sorry, but I think that there are a few misunderstandings in the conversation about free speech in universities. It is entirely correct that knowledge advances when the status quo is challenged by new evidence or new interpretations of existing evidence: that's the essence of scientific progress. But the key word is *evidence*. Opinions not backed by evidence are useless. They belong in newspaper, TV rooms, political circles, debating societies - but NOT in universities.

Evidence must also be independently replicable, in labs or in field studies, before being taken seriously. THIS is a real problem in academic research, in parts of social and medical disciplines: studies are published which are based on flimsy evidence, small samples, lacking control groups - and about 50% of them do not get replicated. The reasons are complex - this is not the place to discuss them. This is a serious problem, and has nothing to do with free speech per se.

Here is an example of in my view justified No Platforming. Assume that there is a conference about the role of DNA in influencing psychlogical traits. There are now thousands of studies, with replicable evidence, showing taht our genes influences who we are. Assume that an application is made to present the view that we are a so-called "blank slate" - that we are entirely the product of our environment, nurture and not nature. Unless there is new, solid evidence, I think that a unversity should NOT admit this presentation. Same for the position that the Earth is a few thousand years old - the evidence so far is that it is much older: lacking new, solid evidence, the "young creationist" position has no place in a university conference. The blank slate opinion is held by some on the left, the young Earth by some on the right - as long as they are just unsupported opinons, they should not be offered a platform in a university.

Finally - I have read the Policy Exchange eport, and it makes some interesting points - but it also uses as part of its key evidence a Yugov survey based on 800-odd respondents (some 300 of whom are retired academics0 to give a view of the opinions of 217,000 academics currently in work. Until the conclusions of tht survey are backed by independent studies based on much larger overall samples, I see no reason to take it seriously.

1 week ago @ http://www.conservativ... - Lack of viewpoint dive... · 0 replies · +1 points

Interesting. I have read the report, and the results are not surprising, although, with such a small sample (800-odd participants, including more then 300 retirees, over 217,000 academic in work) I would expect a significant margin of error, especially since - as we see from the report's own findings - the sample of people on the Centre-Right and Right is rather small. The focus seems to be on social sciences and associated disciplines like psychology - where research results are well known to be difficult to replicate, and herefore scientifically insignificant, precisely because of the widespread use of small samples. The discussion of this "replication crisis" in, for example, Blueprint by Robert Plomin (a geneticist0 is interesting. To me, as an engineer, this seems a good example of social science research. I am relieved that engineering and the hard sciences don't seem part of the perceived problem - which, again, doesn't surprise me.

Diversity of thought is critically important becaue knowledge advances by challenging the preveiling consensus - but this should be done by challenging it on the basis of evidence that can be replicated independently. The rest is fluff.