On Cambridge University, post-modernism, climate change, Oppenheimer’s Razor, and the Re-Enlightenment
By Neil Lock
In the early 1970s, I studied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge. I enjoyed it at the time, but was left with a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Although I scraped a First, and was offered a place on Part III of the Tripos, I decided to go out into the real world instead. Never did I make a better life decision.
Over the intervening decades, I have come more and more to question the value of universities. I would have expected the remit of a university to be (1) to seek, (2) to develop, and (3) to pass on, ideas and practices to improve the human condition, both today and in the future. There should be no dishonesties in their processes, no imposed orthodoxies, and no restrictions on the freedom to seek, or to tell, the truth. Yet, universities – not just at Cambridge, but world-wide – seem to have become bastions of political correctness. Anyone in the faculty, who doesn’t toe the party line and parrot the narrative of the moment, will find difficulties in funding or in getting papers published, or may even be in danger of dismissal. Peter Ridd in Australia and Susan Crockford in Canada are topical examples.
Political community and the Anti-Enlightenment
By Neil Lock
It’s plain that there’s a lot wrong in politics today. Our prosperity, our lifestyles, our rights and freedoms and our sanity are all under assault by the political class and their hangers on. So today I’ll ask: What has gone wrong?
I’ll state my conclusions up front. I see two strands of mishap, which together have led to the present situation. The first is weakening of the bonds that ought to hold political communities together. This, I think, has led to the decline and consequent failure of the nation state as a political system. It has also aided the rise of internationalist and globalist schemes, such as the European Union and the United Nations.
The second strand is a climate of thought, shared by many in the political class and among their cronies, which rejects the values of the 17th- and 18th-century Enlightenment. It rejects ideas like human progress, reason and science, objective truth, universal natural law, tolerance of difference, and the rights and freedoms of the human individual. Instead, it resists progress, denies the value of facts and rational thought, promotes moral relativism, and aims to politicize everything and to impose a suffocating conformism on everyone.
(Neil’s Note: This is the final part of my 8,300+-word monster essay on the subject of bottom up versus top down thinking.)
Thus far, I’ve presented bottom up and top down thinking as polar opposites. While this is indeed what they are, it’s also true that few people think either in a totally bottom up or a totally top down manner. Each individual tends, by his nature and training, to go one way rather than the other. Those trained in mathematics and science, for example, tend to exert the discipline to think bottom up; while those in “softer” disciplines, like politics or media studies, are far more likely to think top down.
Young children, as I noted earlier, start their lives learning, and so thinking, from the bottom up. And yet, many – too many – seem to reach a point of stagnation. Often, at quite an early stage in their lives, individuals’ mental development seems to stop. And they no longer learn, as they did when children, from the bottom up. Top down thinking seems to take over.
Why is this? I think it’s because they have caught a disease. I call this disease endarkenment. Top down thinking is a symptom of this social ailment. It’s a very serious malady; societies afflicted with it are likely to die, if it isn’t cured. I think of endarkenment as like a cancer – a cancer of the body politic, if you will. And I think of the top down thinkers, or endarkenmentalists, that carry and spread this disease – many of them in high positions in politics, government, academe and the media – as like cancer cells.