Croatian philosopher of science and politics Neven Sesardic (b. 1949) retired from Lingnan University, Hong Kong, in 2015. He wrote a book shortly thereafter, When Reason Goes on Holiday: Philosophers in Politics (Encounter Books, 2016). He was wise to wait till he had his pension…
He chronicles the way in which 20th Century luminaries in science, philosophy, and their mutual colleagues excused and aided totalitarian rule. As a survivor of totalitarian rule himself, Sesardic does not focus on acknowledged racists or Nazi Party members in science, the ones that we are all taught to reject by popular science journalism. He spotlights brilliant thinkers we are encouraged to look up to as enlightened and humane, such as Einstein, Godel, and Lakatos.
First, Einstein. His cautious sympathy for Stalin comes as a surprise. Einstein seemed over-anxious to discount the obvious, as when, for example, 48 scientists were shot within a couple of days without even a show trial. He ended his friendship with Don Levine over the latter’s insistence that the mass starvation of the Ukraine (the Holodomor) was real. Einstein regretted his silence later but, Sesardiç notes, he never publicized his regret. He clashed with anti-totalitarian secularist Sidney Hook over similar issues. Arthur Miller called that pattern of behaviour, which he shared, “a special kind of obtuseness.” Saul Bellow called it a “deep and perverse stupidity.”
It was no different in biology. The journal Philosophy of Science largely supported the cranky, state-enforced theories of Stalin’s favourite, Lysenko, and downplayed the murders of dissenting biologists. But then editor Malisoff was a KGB agent. More.
Like we said, march for science if you want. Your problems are back at the desk, not out in the streets.
See also: The war on intellectual freedom: How political correctness morphed into a monster.
Marchin’, marchin’ for Science
These vids certainly show a different side to Bill Nye… Someone asks, does Nye has a future as the ”Pee Wee Herman of popular science”? Maybe that’s what’s left now.