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Colorado's Conservative Affirmative-Action Scheme
So the University of Colorado has hired my friend Steve Hayward to be a visiting professor in conservative thought and policy. Some alum' funded the position because he believed that students had no conservative voice from which they could learn the truth about what conservatives think.
Steve is a thoughtful, fascinating, and erudite guy. The students will get a lot out of having him around.
Still, conservative Max Boot wonders whether this is the right way to get the "right voice" on campus.
For one thing: Is this the worst form of tokenism? Won't the university wrongly believe it's become so inclusive that its big tent now even includes conservatives? The real problem is that there are hardly any conservative being hired in the various disciplines that make up the social sciences and humanities. Surely a genuinely open-minded place would sometimes hire scholars for their academic credentials who just "happen" to be conservative. But we don't see that going on in our elite institutions.
It might be no accident, as they say, that you find more conservative professors of physics and engineering than conservative professors of literature or history. The standards in the hard sciences are more objective, those in the soft sciences and the humanities more ideological.
Here's another problem: Intentionally bringing a conservative in because just he's a conservative—a kind of affirmative action—begs the question of just what does it mean—from a scholarly or public-philosophical view—to be a conservative. The conservative "brand" is used very loosely in political life, and that's fine. But it turns out that what it means to be a conservative is an intense bone of contention among conservative scholars and intellectuals.
Being a conservative is a pretty indefinite category. It's not like being Hispanic or being African American or being a woman. So when a university says (rightly or wrong) for reasons of intellectual diversity it needs a "critical mass" of African Americans, it thinks it pretty much knows exactly what it's looking for.
But you (especially if you're a conservative) might respond: Race-based affirmative action to achieve intellectual diversity never really made sense. (Affirmative action to achieve racial justice—or real equality—is a completely different issue.) There's no reliable guarantee that skin color predicts opinion. And it's paternalistic—not to mention contrary to the First Amendment—to insist that black faculty represent what are regarded as characteristically black opinions. The opinions of Clarence Thomas are deeply rooted in his experience as a black American, but everyone knows that getting his opinions on campus is not what the diversity people have in mind.
Steve, by contrast, is being hired because he clearly does well in representing conservative opinions. The diversity he represents isn't an accident of birth, but the product of conclusions reach by his free mind.
Still, what about the conservatives who don't think Steve's really a conservative? The most famous attempt to "brand" American conservatism with definite philosophical and literary credentials was Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind. But Steve's outstanding scholarly mentor, Harry Jaffa, spent a lot of his life trying to discredit Kirk's brand of conservatism as not really conservative and not really American.
Some Kirkians, meanwhile, call "Straussians" such as Jaffa and Hayward "Jacobins"—or French and revolutionary or the opposite of conservative. Steve is quite comfortable with bragging that he's all about conserving the American, revolutionary, natural-rights tradition. For the Kirkians, revolutionary tradition is an obvious oxymoron.
If you're suspecting I could go on and on, you'd be right. But I'll settle for one more example: Some conservatives (including many Kirkians) have a very traditionalist concern for the primacy of devotion to a particular place over abstract principle. That leads them to be pro-Agrarian and anti-industrial. They often end up thinking that techno-America is a wasteland that grows, and so they become environmentalists in the mode of the novelist Wendell Berry. (I refer you to the webzine The Front Porch Republic.) But Steve joins the libertarians in being quite skeptical of all "environmentalist" public-policy claims, and he has a corresponding faith in American technology as part of our proud tradition of devotion to individual rights and individual ingenuity.
So does that mean Steve is a libertarian, and that conservatives aren't libertarians? Well, I agree there is a big distinction between being a conservative and being a libertarian. And someone who holds a chair in conservatism shouldn't be a libertarian. The most consistent libertarians, like Ronald Bailey, are closer to BIG THINK transhumanism than Kirkian traditionalism.
But Steve doesn't hold a Randian belief that human beings should be evaluated only according to their creative productivity. He's also big on the study of philosophy and the thought of the American Founders and all that for their own sake. But that doesn't mean that his view of the "content" of liberal education is the same as that of many or most conservatives. Steve is all for "Great Books" education, but some conservatives, such as Pat Deneen, think that the effect of studying those books outside of their theological-traditional context is relativism, an education about great questions that don't have any particular great answers. And relativism—or indifference to the truth about who we are and what we're supposed to do—isn't conservatism. But Steve counters that respecting philosophy and being convinced of the truth of the American proposition are his effective antidotes to the relativistic temptation.
So here are my great questions: Does a professor of conservatism represent himself, or does he represent being a conservative in a more general sense? Can he teach what he really thinks or believes, or does he have to represent all or some of the various and conflicting kinds of conservatism in America? Is he the diversity, or is a representative of conservative diversity?
A man's skeleton, found facedown with his hands bound, was unearthed near an ancient ceremonial circle during a high speed rail excavation project.
- A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during an excavation outside of London.
- The discovery was made during a high speed rail project that has been a bonanza for archaeology, as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route.
- An ornate grave of a high status individual from the Roman period and an ancient ceremonial circle were also discovered during the excavations.
Foul play?<p>A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during a high speed rail excavation.</p><p>The positioning of the remains have led archaeologists to suspect that the man may have been a victim of an ancient murder or execution. Though any bindings have since decomposed, his hands were positioned together and pinned under his pelvis. There was also no sign of a grave or coffin. </p><p>"He seems to have had his hands tied, and he was face-down in the bottom of the ditch," <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">said archaeologist Rachel Wood</a>, who led the excavation. "There are not many ways that you end up that way."</p><p>Currently, archaeologists are examining the skeleton to uncover more information about the circumstances of the man's death. Fragments of pottery found in the ditch may offer some clues as to exactly when the man died. </p><p>"If he was struck across the head with a heavy object, you could find a mark of that on the back of the skull," Wood said to <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">Live Science</a>. "If he was stabbed, you could find blade marks on the ribs. So we're hoping to find something like that, to tell us how he died."</p>
Other discoveries at Wellwick Farm<p>The grim discovery was made at Wellwick Farm near Wendover. That is about 15 miles north-west of the outskirts of London, where <a href="https://www.hs2.org.uk/building-hs2/hs2-green-corridor/" target="_blank">a tunnel</a> is going to be built as part of a HS2 high-speed rail project due to open between London and several northern cities sometime after 2028. The infrastructure project has been something of a bonanza for archaeology as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route that are now being excavated before construction begins. </p><p>The farm sits less than a mile away from the ancient highway <a href="http://web.stanford.edu/group/texttechnologies/cgi-bin/stanfordnottingham/places/?icknield" target="_blank">Icknield Way</a> that runs along the tops of the Chiltern Hills. The route (now mostly trails) has been used since prehistoric times. Evidence at Wellwick Farm indicates that from the Neolithic to the Medieval eras, humans have occupied the region for more than 4,000 years, making it a rich area for archaeological finds. </p><p>Wood and her colleagues found some evidence of an ancient village occupied from the late Bronze Age (more than 3,000 years ago) until the Roman Empire's invasion of southern England about 2,000 years ago. At the site were the remains of animal pens, pits for disposing food, and a roundhouse — a standard British dwelling during the Bronze Age constructed with a circular plan made of stone or wood topped with a conical thatched roof.</p>
Ceremonial burial site<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDgwNTIyMX0.I49n1-j8WVhKjIZS_wVWZissnk3W1583yYXB7qaGtN8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C82%2C0%2C83&height=700" id="44da7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="46cfc8ca1c64fc404b32014542221275" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="top down view of coffin" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
A high status burial in a lead-lined coffin dating back to Roman times.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>While these ancient people moved away from Wellwick Farm before the Romans invaded, a large portion of the area was still used for ritual burials for high-status members of society, Wood told Live Science. The ceremonial burial site included a circular ditch (about 60 feet across) at the center, and was a bit of a distance away from the ditch where the (suspected) murder victim was uncovered. Additionally, archaeologists found an ornately detailed grave near the sacred burial site that dates back to the Roman period, hundreds of years later when the original Bronze Age burial site would have been overgrown.</p><p>The newer grave from the Roman period encapsulated an adult skeleton contained in a lead-lined coffin. It's likely that the outer coffin had been made of wood that rotted away. Since it was clearly an ornate burial, the occupant of the grave was probably a person of high status who could afford such a lavish burial. However, according to Wood, no treasures or tokens had been discovered. </p>
Sacred timber circle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDAwOTQ4Mn0.eVJAUcD0uBUkVMFuMOPSgH8EssGkfLf_MjwUv0zGCI8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C149%2C0%2C149&height=700" id="9de6a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee66520d470b26f5c055eaef0b95ec06" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="An aerial view of the sacred circular monument." data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
An aerial view of the sacred circular monument.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>One of the most compelling archaeological discoveries at Wellwick Farm are the indications of a huge ceremonial circle once circumscribed by timber posts lying south of the Bronze Age burial site. Though the wooden posts have rotted away, signs of the post holes remain. It's thought to date from the Neolithic period to 5,000 years ago, according to Wood.</p><p>This circle would have had a diameter stretching 210 feet across and consisted of two rings of hundreds of posts. There would have been an entry gap to the south-west. Five posts in the very center of the circle aligned with that same gap, which, according to Wood, appeared to have been in the direction of the rising sun on the day of the midwinter solstice. </p><p>Similar Neolithic timber circles have been discovered around Great Britain, such as one near <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/stonehenge-sarsens" target="_blank">Stonehenge</a> that is considered to date back to around the same time. </p>
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.
- It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
- Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
- As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.