The integrity of the scientific and scholarly research record is as near to something sacred as can be found in the secular academic world. This is because this canon is the fundamental basis for what we can consider (provisionally) true about the world, which then leads to the development and implementation of technologies, procedures, and policies. The effectiveness of these we, in turn, depend upon for everything that keeps a modern, advanced nation and economy functioning.
Accordingly, there are stiff penalties involved for those who are found tampering with the integrity of the scholarly record. Papers will be retracted, for example, and researchers who engage intentionally in biased or bogus practices can be sanctioned or barred from making future contributions to the scholarly literature.
Determining when academic misfeasance has occurred is therefore not just a time-honored practice amongst academics, but it is also a crucial component of the knowledge-production methodologies upon which we rely. This is so integral to the academic process that we’ve created and adopted a system called “peer review” to do our best to prevent insufficiently rigorous work from entering the academic canon at all. Moreover, academic culture and integrity demand that the publication of work isn’t sufficient to guarantee its status as valued and valuable. Any researcher at any time can mount a counterargument, provide contravening evidence, or challenge an existing model with another, and when any insufficiency is found, older work of lesser quality can be replaced by newer work that is better.
This process, like all human endeavors, is good but susceptible to corruption. Peer reviewers can be taken in by a prevailing moral view that biases or blinds them, leading them to let research lead itself down a primrose path away from knowledge and truth and toward sophistry and error. Other pressures exist also, including intentional methodologies and practices that warp the scholarly canon so that it is more heavily populated by and biased toward conclusions that preceded the research rather than that followed from it. This occurs when some value other than the ultimate quality of the research and integrity of the scholarly canon enters the system and competes for the capacity to legitimize claims, at times successfully.
In The Trojan Horse Episode 2: Radical Subjectivity, Dr. Peter Boghossian, Dr. James Lindsay, and Michael O’Fallon sit together at a table in New York City to explore the ideologies and strategies being employed in the fields of research and science that are negatively impacting true progress. Their discussion opens with and revolves around one such alternative value that currently threatens the integrity of the scholarly canon: research justice, which is an intentional practice to introduce the ideas and objectives of Social Justice into the scholarly canon.
Under a rubric of research justice, there are two primary objectives. First, there is the goal of increasing the direct representation of certain members of certain identity groups that have been historically considered marginalized or oppressed. Second, there is the corollary objective of importing the claims, arguments, ideas, methods, and epistemologies that have been associated with those identity groups by postmodern critical Theory and its descendants, including postcolonial Theory, queer Theory, and critical race Theory. Research justice can be achieved, Theory instructs, by intentionally citing, teaching, and forwarding more “oppressed” identities, providing people of those identities with more opportunities to teach and research, importing the “knowledges” and “ways of knowing” associated with cultures other than white and Western ones, and by concomitantly reducing the citations and teaching or research opportunities of people with more “dominant” identities, specifically straight, white, Western males.
It should be noted that not all points of view from oppressed identities are welcome under a program of research justice. Only those that speak to the Theoretically authentic “lived experience” of oppression as a person of that identity are allowed. To do otherwise would be to “speak into” discourses of power and privilege rather than to speak critically of them in an effort to dismantle them. That is, research justice is a deliberate attempt to undermine the integrity of the scholarly canon, under a nice-seeming banner of “inclusivity” and “justice,” in order to forward a particular political agenda rooted in the Social Justice worldview.
As Boghossian and Lindsay discuss, this view of the world requires a radical turn toward subjectivity and away from objective approaches to knowledge. It therefore replaces the truth, however provisionally that might be held, with my truth, which will be pitted against your truth. The arbiter of who is right and who is wrong under this radical subjective turn is one’s identity and its relationship to the power dynamics of society today and throughout history. In shortest expression, those who are deemed oppressed and who speak from that experience of oppression have stronger claims on truth than those who aren’t and don’t.
This turn proceeds and develops from the social theorizing of the postmodern philosophers, like the French thinker Michel Foucault and the American Richard Rorty, who contended that while objective reality may exist “out there,” we have no access to it. Objectivity–a “God’s eye view,” as Rorty held it–is inaccessible, and what remains to us is to recognize our subjective natures and, as a consequence, that all we hold true is true first and foremost only to us and as a social construct of the sociopolitical environment we find ourselves. Truth, in this view, becomes either entirely subjective or a noble fiction, and science and other rigorous methods become but one way of knowing that is embedded in and skewed by its default political orientation as a product of the white, male, Western culture that produced it.
As has been noted in our article that accompanied Episode 1: Deconstructing Communities, the strategic underpinnings of how current fields of social justice-minded research begin with their conclusions in mind, create unrelated causes for their conclusions, and reject rigorous processes of utilizing multi-varied analysis. In the end, whether in the fields of science, mathematics, geography, medicine, finance, history, sociology, or theology, radical subjectivism is utilized to create proposed truth claims as the correspondence method of discerning objective truth is rejected.
Episode 2 Audio Version: Soundcloud, Google Play, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher
Erratum: In the video, Boghossian references the book The Rise of Victimhood Culture by Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning and erroneously attributes it to Jonathan Haidt, who with Greg Lukianoff published a related book called The Coddling of the American Mind.
Boghossian and Lindsay, How to Have Impossible Conversations: https://www.amazon.com/How-Have-Impossible-Conversations-Practical/dp/0738285323
Lindsay’s articulation of how Postmodernism and Social Justice forms a faith system: https://areomagazine.com/2018/12/18/postmodern-religion-and-the-faith-of-social-justice/
On radical subjectivity in postmodernism:
Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. [1966/1970] London: Routledge, 2002.
Kvale, Steinar, “Themes of Postmodernity,” in Anderson, Walter Truett (ed.), The Fontana Postmodernism Reader (pp. 18–25). London: Fontana Press, 1996. (p. 20)
Rorty, Richard. Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity.  Cambridge University Press, 2009. (p. 3)
On research justice:
Hancock, Ange-Marie. Intersectionality: An Intellectual History. Oxford University Press, 2016.
Jolivétte, Andrew. Research Justice: Methodologies for Social Change. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2015.
Mutua, Kagendo, and Beth Blue Swadener. Decolonizing Research in Cross-cultural Contexts: Critical Personal Narratives. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2011.
On Standpoint Epistemology:
Collins, Patricia Hill. “Intersectionality and Epistemic Injustice,” in Kid, Ian James. The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice. London. Routledge. Taylor & Francis Group, 2017. (p. 119)
Harding, Sandra. “Rethinking Standpoint Epistemology: What Is ‘Strong Objectivity’?” The Centennial Review 36, no. 3 (1992): 437–70.
Harding, Sandra. Whose Science/Whose Knowledge? Cornell University Press: Ithica, NY. 1991.
Tuana, Nancy. “Feminist Epistemology: The Subject of Knowledge” in in Kid, Ian James. The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice. London. Routledge. Taylor & Francis Group, 2017. (p. 125)
Other references, sources, and citations:
Lindsay and Pluckrose, an articulation of the value of the university: https://areomagazine.com/2018/03/23/a-principled-defense-of-the-university/
Leszek Kolakowski, The Presence of Myth: https://www.amazon.com/Presence-Myth-Leszek-Kolakowski/dp/0226450570/
“Wokeness and Myth on Campus,” Alan Jacobs: https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/wokeness-and-myth-on-campus
The “Hoax Papers Project,” Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship: https://areomagazine.com/2018/10/02/academic-grievance-studies-and-the-corruption-of-scholarship/
Lindsay’s poetic inquiry paper from the perspective of a bitter, divorced, feminist woman: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Q70Ttx_MKFrg2J-riShwQOWnVrB4G9-6
Jonathan Rauch, Kindly Inquisitors: https://www.amazon.com/Kindly-Inquisitors-Attacks-Free-Thought/dp/0226705765
“Progressive Style Guide”: https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.sumofus.org/images/SUMOFUS_PROGRESSIVE-STYLEGUIDE.pdf
How postmodernism was repackaged in terms of identity:
Kimberle Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins”: https://alexy.asian.lsa.umich.edu/courses/readings/Crenshaw_Mapping%20the%20Margins.pdf
Regarding gender performativity:
West and Zimmerman, “Doing Gender”: https://www.jstor.org/stable/189945?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: https://www.amazon.com/Gender-Trouble-Feminism-Subversion-Routledge/dp/0415389550
Regarding an “incredulity toward meta-narratives”
Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: https://monoskop.org/images/e/e0/Lyotard_Jean-Francois_The_Postmodern_Condition_A_Report_on_Knowledge.pdf
Richard Rorty on the lack of an objective (“God’s-eye”) view: https://www.amazon.com/Through-Glass-Darkly-Marquette-Philosophy/dp/0874626684
“Science Must Fall” South African postcolonial meeting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9SiRNibD14
Rebecca Tuvel and the Hypatia Transracialism Controversy (Wikipedia): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypatia_transracialism_controversy
Rebecca Tuvel’s experience after publishing the transracial philosophy paper: http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/05/transracialism-article-controversy.html
Tuvel’s transracialism paper: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/hypa.12327
Bruce Gilley’s experience after publishing “The Case for Colonialism”: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Last-Fall-This-Scholar/242880
Gilley’s colonialism paper: https://www.nas.org/academic-questions/31/2/the_case_for_colonialism
(Related, unmentioned, on subject of silencing on campus): Laura Kipnis’s Title IX Witchhunt: https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/229128/title-ix-campus-witch-hunts-kipnis
PSU People of Color only event: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3399534
James Damore fired from Google: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/07/business/google-women-engineer-fired-memo.html
Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning, The Rise of Victimhood Culture: https://www.amazon.com/Rise-Victimhood-Culture-Microaggressions-Spaces/dp/3319703285
Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: https://www.amazon.com/Coddling-American-Mind-Intentions-Generation/dp/0735224919
Oreo “pronoun” cookies: https://thefederalist.com/2019/07/01/special-lgbt-edition-oreos-indoctrinate-kids-trans-pronouns/
Trans-hippopotamus paper: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0969725X.2017.1322822?scroll=top&needAccess=true&journalCode=cang20
Man who lives as a goat video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1jIMaw4inM
Rapper Zuby declares himself female and breaks weightlifting records: https://wqad.com/2019/03/11/male-rapper-identifying-as-female-informally-breaks-female-dead-lift-record-to-prove-a-point/
Transgender mixed martial arts fighter Fallon Fox breaks skull of female opponent: https://bjj-world.com/transgender-mma-fighter-fallon-fox-breaks-skull-of-her-female-opponent/
Gender, Place, and Culture, a journal of feminist geography: https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/cgpc20/current
Chick-Fil-A flourishes under protest: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/06/19/chick-fil-a-becomes-third-largest-restaurant-chain-us/?arc404=true
Christina Hoff Sommers, et al., at Portland State University, “Victims, Victims Everywhere” talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xUisjHoB_8
Lindsay, Boghossian, Pluckrose, “Is Intersectionality a Religion?” talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AvyqUOKhGA
Origin and meaning of the phrase “the personal is political”: https://www.thoughtco.com/the-personal-is-political-slogan-origin-3528952
Critical Dietetics and Critical Nutrition Studies: https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783030031121
Lindsay’s review of Critical Dietetics and Critical Nutrition Studies (pdf): https://bit.ly/314Pix6
Summary of “antiracist” creed from Critical Race Theorists: https://areomagazine.com/2019/01/20/the-influence-of-anti-racist-scholarship-activism-on-evergreen-college/
Heather Bruce, Robin DiAngelo, etc., articulate an “antiracist” creed for education: https://vimeo.com/116986053
Mike Nayna’s video about Peter’s accusation by his campus newspaper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thHO2btnWJA
“who contended that while objective reality may exist “out there,” we have no access to it. Objectivity–a “God’s eye view,” as Rorty held it–is inaccessible, and what remains to us is to recognize our subjective natures and, as a consequence, that all we hold true is true first and foremost only to us and as a social construct of the sociopolitical environment we find ourselves.”
This isn’t an unreasonable conclusion, it even has a basis in Aristotelian thought, shadow and form, etc. The problem isn’t with the analysis, that humanity doesn’t have access to absolute truth seems uncontroversial. The problem arises with their conclusions and subsequent policy reforms. The idea that uncertainty about the truth should invalidate all truths equally is not reasonable. That in the absence of absolute truth identity and the fuzzy notion of “justice” should stand in for what little epistemological rigor can be applied, is poor policy.
For some history on how this happened ser the book Hidden Danger in the Classroom by Pearl Evans