Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science

Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science


With the emergence of “cultural studies” and the blurring of once-clear academic boundaries, scholars are turning to subjects far outside their traditional disciplines and areas of expertise. In Higher Superstition scientists Paul Gross and Norman Levitt raise serious questions about the growing criticism of science by humanists and social scientists on the “academic left” This paperback edition of Higher Superstition includes a new afterword by the authors.

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We’re at war with antihumanism and the postmodernist reasoning behind such ideas as New Historicism. This is something that knows no political affiliation. As documented in Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt’s Higher Superstition, this sort of nihilistic anti-science full of foregone conclusions and closed circular thinking has spread to the Intelligent Design debate, business classes, the academic left, it’s everywhere. It’s an attack on the entire foundations of science and post-Enlightenment knowledge. I presume most of us at least appreciate the benefits of science and value their own human agency, which antihumanism says doesn’t exist. We’re supposedly unthinking products of our media and culture.

According to Christina Hoff Sommers herself in Who Stole Feminism?, Michel Foucault is the one of the most cited philosophers in what she describes as ‘gender feminism’. Both Foucault and Jacques Derrida in particular are responsible for a good chunk of the philosophical game that allows one to find hauntings and signs of malice in any facet of life you’d care to look in.

To understand what postmodernist thought is like, try to imagine a world where all of the following is true:

  • There existed a force before any of us were alive that has shaped our consensus on reality. Nothing we say, think or create escapes this force’s influence. In postmodern feminism: patriarchy, eco-activists: the petrochemical conspiracy — whatever you want, this is generic!

  • In light of this force, reality itself is an illusion created by consensus. There is no ‘real world’, there’s just everyone’s individual interpretations of it and we’ll never understand the intersection of everyone’s interpretations, so give up on truth already! Things do not exist unless we agree that they do! The oppressors benefited by this force do not have the right to define reality for the oppressed! In practice: There’s no truth, only points of view and I insist you treat my narrative as the actual truth, since it’s just as good as yours or science’s or anyone’s!

  • Science itself is tainted by this outside force, it is a socially constructed system that is attempting to define reality by oppression. Science attempts to preserve the culture it was created from, made up of dead white Christian European men. It doesn’t discover facts about reality, it invents them with arcane language games and consensus. Translation: Your science is no good here, because it’s tainted! So there!

  • In fact, words have no meaning. They’re all socially constructed and agreed upon. Nothing is actually definable, everything is all made up. In practice: We don’t have to define nor stick to anyone’s definition of ‘harassment’, ‘threats’ or whatever, we can just use whatever word we feel will get the reaction we want from others. If we feel it’s ‘harassment’, then it is.

  • There is no possibility to know the author or their intentions, all that exists is work or ‘text’. On its surface it looks like a way of saying ‘Attack the message, not the messenger’, which would almost seem reasonable if it were not being used to justify everything else and deflect questions such as ‘How can you be conveying these ideas to me, even though you yourself are part of this tainted culture? Aren’t you also tainted?’. It reframes the conversation back to crazyland.

These ideas come with the authoritarianism built-in, after all, it’s all about consensus of narratives and supporting the group’s narratives over all others.

I do want to stress that while people will argue these points, not everyone who does will actually be true believers in them. I sincerely doubt a number of people at Gawker are true believing postmodernists, they just love the perfect clickbait philosophy for their clickbait journalism. True believers do exist however and their lives must be truly frightening to them.

There’s plenty of more of this fatalistic sophistry if you go digging through postmodernist thought. Foucault makes it a point to attack the history of psychology and mental health (such as this video – where in the same breath, he also decries scientific falsifiability), to define it as a system of oppression and control. While there’s some unfortunate historical truth to this assertion, this is also another means of neatly avoiding the subject of reality and truth by defining the topic of ‘sanity’ off-limits, as well.

They use techniques influenced by Derrida’s idea of ‘deconstruction’, a throwback to 12th century scholasticism where scholars are essentially divining the truth based upon their own personal interpretations of text, except now with postmodern interpretation, they’re completely unfettered by rules or rationality. If you want to force a text to imply some sort of weird pun and then use that as part of a greater argument to call someone a shitlord, go for it. If you want to select a completely unrelated work and then contrast them to find cherry-picked meaning and treat it like a smoking gun, knock yourself out. Much like, the only limit here is yourself.

While not everyone in the SJW camp may apply or use all the lines of thought I mentioned above, the spirit of postmodernism is mixing and matching and you’re sure to find at least a few of these assaults on logic, the most famous being: We just assume going into it that ‘patriarchy’ as the postmodernist defines it, is real, a systematic conspiracy into every facet of life and that’s not up for debate nor can it be probed except through language itself and criticism.

Most of the other ideas are just ways of making this a closed system that cannot be contested and tools you can use to scream whatever today’s variation of ‘bourgeois!’ is, be it ‘misogynist!’ or worse. Whatever that person feels is appropriate. They have ‘proof’, after all, and it starts with their feelings.

The Thick of It has a scene that I think perfectly captures the essence of postmodern politics:

> Hugh Abbot: So what are we gonna do now?

> Malcolm Tucker: You’re gonna completely reverse your position.

> Hugh Abbot: Hang on a second… Malcolm… That’s not gonna be easy. That’s gonna be quite hard.

> Malcolm Tucker: Well, the announcement you didn’t make today – you did.

> Hugh Abbot: No, I didn’t. And there were television cameras there while I was not doing it.

> Malcolm Tucker: Fuck them.

> Hugh Abbot: I’m not sure what level of reality I’m supposed to be operating on.

> Malcolm Tucker: Look, this is what they run with. I tell them that you said it, they believe that you said it. They don’t REALLY believe that you said it, they know that you never said it, but it’s in their interest to say that you said it, because if they don’t say that you said it, they’re not gonna get what you say tomorrow or the next day, when I decide to tell them what it is you’re saying.

This is what our problem is.

For extra points of view on the subject:

Edit: Had to add the Chip Morninstar doc, it’s a fun one. It also mentions how Wired #1 in 1993 already had an SJW meltdown over a harmless prank. This has been a problem brewing for a while.

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Paul R. Gross

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Johns Hopkins University Press

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Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science

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#ShirtGate Is Not Trivial. It is Showing the World Why #GamerGate Exists and Why it Must be Won.

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