A new post by Peter Wood of Minding the Campus explores the danger of group think in academia.
The Pressure of Group Thought
Academic “consensus” is in the news. Stetson University professor of psychology Christopher Ferguson, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education,recently gave a run-down on how the American Psychological Association supposedly compromised itself by manipulating a task force into endorsing harsh interrogations of prisoners. Ferguson says the APA “crafted a corrupted ‘consensus’ by excluding those who might disagree.”
Which is, of course, exactly how the dodgy “climate consensus” works too. “Climate consensus” is the rhetorical club wielded by the proponents of the theory of catastrophic man-made global warming. On campus—and in many other venues—to express the slightest doubt about the theory is to risk a “climate consensus” drubbing. “Consensus” in this sense is pretty close to what John Adams warned in 1788 could become “the tyranny of the majority.”
The U.S. Constitution was meant to forestall that tyranny; but Americans also found other ways to hold back the eagerness of proud majorities to impose their views on everyone else. The doctrine of “academic freedom” is one of those majority-busting concepts. An idea isn’t necessarily right merely because lots of people like it. Keeping a space open for dissenting views is always a good idea.
And that’s why when someone pulls the “consensus” card out of the deck, it is probably time to demand a new shuffle.