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The NYT, the Soft Sciences, and the Slow, Stupid Return to Reason

All of this is wonderful news, a sign that the Marxist stranglehold on higher education may be unraveling.

Unfortunately, there is a catch, a kink in the unraveling which may slow university culture’s return to reason, and which does not inspire confidence in the development of a full-blown post-Moron movement. The kink is that the concept is being investigated via soft-sciencey methods, by which I mean that an experiment used to study the issue was performed by a Harvard professor and was very stupid.

From the Times article:

As part of a large research project in Chicago, Professor Sampson walked through different neighborhoods this summer, dropping stamped, addressed envelopes to see how many people would pick up an apparently lost letter and mail it, a sign that looking out for others is part of the community’s culture.

In some neighborhoods, like Grand Boulevard, where the notorious Robert Taylor public housing projects once stood, almost no envelopes were mailed; in others researchers received more than half of the letters back. Income levels did not necessarily explain the difference, Professor Sampson said, but rather the community’s cultural norms, the levels of moral cynicism and disorder.

I can think of several ways to better measure a community’s or culture’s tendency to “look out for others,” and all of them involve statistical analysis, and none of them could be thwarted by a stiff wind or dog poo.

I have not read Professor Sampson’s study, but my hope -- stemming from my altruistic interest in the advancement of science -- is that he was aware of the experiment’s potential pitfalls, and thus recruited a Harvard AGW expert to write some “smoothing” software:

Accounting for the neighborhood’s Sidewalk Powerwashing Frequency Score of 3, plus the Rabies Incidence of 1.2 infections per million residents, we could have expected 3.4 more oppressed minority members per block willing to touch the envelope. Weezer rocks!

There is fine news here, though, for which we should be thrilled, and not just for the wonderful mocking opportunities: the university is jettisoning multiculturalism. And as fast as they can, though this is tremendously slow. More tuition dollars will be wasted, more science fair-level experiments will be funded, and more weekend forums featuring moderator Ira Glass will be held.

But we are on the correct path again: leftism can’t prove it’s case for remaining in the university, it is not sustainable, and so the market has begun to filter it out.

A commitment to Reason -- an actual oppressed culture -- is returning.