A must-read report by the American National Association of Scholars describes a new concept called “sustainability” as “higher education’s new fundamentalism.”

We should by now be familiar with the basic message, proclaimed to students: The “debate is over” about such questions as global warming and what causes it, or what to do about it.

In reality, the debate has hardly begun, about the central question of what evidence matters, or who should suffer and how.

And there are  good reasons for doubt about the most fundamental propositions. Will there be an honest debate before public money is committed?

But that issue is only one aspect of a larger problem: the general prostration of science before just about any foolish, politically correct concept that gains air time and politicians’ attention.

For example, many people today front untenable claims by trying to abolish basic tests in science. For example:

– They don’t like Occam’s Razor (the simplest explanation that accounts for all the facts should be preferred).

– Nor do they like falsifiability, the idea that science claims should be made in such a way that they could be demonstrated to be incorrect.

– But it goes deeper than that. Some question whether science hypotheses need even be testable, especially if they are politically correct and taught in school systems.

Meanwhile, of 53 landmark publications in cancer, 47 could not be replicated (you get the same result in a different study, a typical standard in science). And already we’re hearing about all the damage a demand for replication might do.

What it comes down to is this: Is truth just something mechanical? Or does it point to a larger reality instead?

That will turn out to be the big issue.


Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.

Denyse O’Leary is an author, journalist, and blogger who has mainly written popular science and social science. Fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan’s description of electronic media as a global village...