All that is wrong with the “marketplace of ideas”

This can be seen in a UK education system that has been compromised by left-wing progressive ideas that have been repeatedly tried and found wanting; and yet we keep trying them – why is that?… The so-called “marketplace of ideas” is a product of a postmodern world that has been over-run by all-pervasive, morally-bankrupt, relativism. It is – as David Aaronovitch points out in the conclusion to his Voodoo Histories book (yes I am back to that again!) – the root cause of the paralysis that prevents many people from resolving their ambivalence towards climate change: “If all narratives are relative, then we are lost… Relativism doesn’t care to distinguish between the scholarly and the slapdash, the committed researcher and the careless loudmouth, the scrupulous and the demagogic” (2010, p. 335). Thus, the curse of relativism convinces non-scientists that their opinions are just as valid as those of scientists; and erodes respect for all reasonable authority. In this context, the serial failing of our educational system over recent decades (in stealing from teachers all effective sanctions and forms of punishment for errant behaviour) has merely compounded the problem. Somehow, our society needs to re-discover its respect for authority; and realise that all ideas do not have equal merit. Because if it does not do so, we are doomed to a future in which the topsy-turvy thinking of people like James Delingpole will hold sway. For example, in a remarkably frank interview with Sir Paul Nurse, as broadcast on a BBC Horizon programme entitled Meet the Climate Sceptics on 24 January 2011, Delingpole admitted that: — he believes concern about climate change is being driven by a “political agenda” seeking “control” over people; — “the peer review process has been perhaps irretrievably corrupted” (presumably he meant ‘discredited’?) by Climategate; — Science should now be assessed by “peer-to-peer review” over the Internet by thousands and thousands of people including “people like me [i.e. him!] that haven’t got a scientific background”. When Nurse queried the legitimacy of this [non-peer review] process, by asking if he would or could read peer-reviewed scientific literature, Delingpole’s response was stupendously illogical: “It is not my job to sit down and read peer-reviewed science papers because… I haven’t got the scientific expertise… I am an interpreter of interpretations…” [Some might argue that one or two comments posted 6 months ago in response to this particular youtube video of the interview seem to have got the measure of JD; but I could not possibly comment!] However, if we acquiesce in allowing such relativism to be dressed-up as seeking the common interest (i.e. populism), we will soon be so far up an excrement-filled channel without a means of propulsion that the only viable means of employment left for those of us concerned for the welfare of our environment may be to open a waste to energy (biogas) plant!


About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Environment, James Delingpole, Maketplace of Ideas, Populism, Scepticism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to All that is wrong with the “marketplace of ideas”

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  6. Bill Everett says:

    I watched this pernicious change occur in the United States. Part of the cause was television, in my opinion. When I was a young kid in Iowa in the early 1950s, there was a natural hierarchy based on age. You knew who your group members were, and you knew the older group you looked up to and tried to imitate. My family moved to New Mexico when I was in fifth grade. The old paradigm still held up somewhat; in seven grade, we ignored the eighth-graders but tried to imitate the ninth-graders. But I could see among the little kids in my neighborhood that the old “growing-up” paradigm was breaking down. Young ones no longer looked up to older ones; they tried to imitate the adult heroes of popular television shows. I think this “premature” maturation (in contrast to the earlier natural age progression) resulted in a reduction of acquired wisdom and a kind of superficiality. Of course, the major cause of the change then became the education system in which the reasonable democratic ideal of an “equal right to form an opinion” was illogically converted from teach “respect the rights of other people (to form an opinion)” to teach “respect the opinions of other people.” An exemplary episode stuck in my mind. Late one evening around 1980 in Anchorage, Alaska, I was listening to a talk show on the car radio. I remember the road, I remember the Northern Lights, and I remember part of the conversation. There was a teacher strike at that time in the Anchorage public school system. The talk show host, Herb Shaindlin (, had a committee of teachers from the strike leadership as guests. A caller-in introduced himself as a businessman who frequently hired high school graduates as file clerks. He said he had a simple test that 75% of Anchorage high school graduates could not pass and that he could not successfully train those who failed the test to become file clerks. Herb asked, “What is this simple test?” “Name the vowels. If they can’t name the vowels, then I can’t teach them to file alphabetically quickly enough. If they can name the vowels, then they can usually learn to file alphabetically.” Herb asked the English teacher on the strike committee why they didn’t teach students the English alphabet and the difference between vowels and consonants. The teacher answered that they considered it more relevant to teach students “life skills.” Herb asked for an example of a life skill. The teacher replied that, for example, they taught students to discuss ideas in groups and to show respect for others’ opinions. Herb retorted, “Isn’t being able to get a job a life skill?” I had to pull over to the side of the road and stop for a while. I was too angry to drive safely. In my humble opinion, it is so wrong to teach people to be stupid.


    • Anthropocene Reality says:

      Thanks Bill – some very illuminating and amusing anecdotes.


      • Bill Everett says:

        Rick: I encountered you as a commenter on some climate change/global warming post yesterday (I follow such “discussions” on the web to the extent my limited time permits). In your comment there, you linked to two of your own blog posts. Because I found your comment there pertinent and useful, I followed those two links. Finding your linked blog posts pertinent and useful, I commented on them and thought about bookmarking your blog. Given your positive response, I have bookmarked in my browser favorites and therefore may return to browse your blog further in the rare event that nothing more pressing is provoking my attention in my few moments of free time. FURTHER, I have just joined 236 other e-mail followers; hence, if free-time doesn’t bring me back on my own, at least I will be notified of your future posts.


      • Anthropocene Reality says:

        Many thanks Bill. I am not browsing, commenting or posting much at the moment – as I am rather overwhelmed by the need to end my unemployment. Having said that…


      • Bill Everett says:

        Rick, I found time just now to glance through Home and About, without finding a way to contact you directly. I have the opposite problem to the one you mention and would be willing to trade problems with you. Specifically, you take my job (probably very unlikely, but entirely possible from my standpoint), and I will start a blog about dealing with the climate change problem. If that is out of the question for you, I would still like to do whatever I can to help you. Details should be discussed privately. A fact that would help you find me: I am a leading authority (perhaps the only authority in the world) on “subprime factorization” in particular in relation to “binomial coefficients” and their divisibility by powers of primes. I look forward to hearing from you.


      • Anthropocene Reality says:

        Thanks Bill – very intriguing. Having Googled you, I have sent you an email.


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