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The Wars on Science and Knowledge

—KENDRICK FRAZIER

[ FROM THE EDITOR

When CSICOP and the Skeptical Inquirer were founded, in 1976, the nation was awash in credulous paranormal belief, so much so that our organizing conference was called “The New Irrationalisms.” It is now 2018 and a whole new set of anti-rationalist, antiscience, anti-intellectual concerns confront us. These are of a much broader and deeper danger. The attacks are against the very foundations of any democratic society. They delegitimize knowledge, facts, expertise, and science itself. They sow confusion and distrust.

“We now live in a scary and confusing ‘post-truth’ era of disinformation, ‘fake news,’ ‘counterknowledge,’ ‘weaponized lies,’ conspiracy theories, magical thinking, and irra-tionalism,” anthropology professor H. Sidky writes in our cover story. Many recent SI articles have examined different aspects of this disturbing trend, but in “The War on Science, Anti-Intellectualism, and ‘Alternative Ways of Knowing’ in 21st Century America” Sidky surveys the whole troubling scene. Like Shawn Otto in his recent book The War on Science, Sidky lays primary blame on “the decades-long systematic academic assault on science and rationalism” carried out by a wide range of academic scholars. These postmodernist scholars were so effective in their persistent attacks that science and rationality have, in the minds of much of the public, been delegitimized. Today’s political leaders and policymakers grew up with these views. Now the idea that truth is whatever one wants it to be—that objective reality is, well, overrated—carries disturbing new power. We see it everywhere, and we must continue to fight it. Sidky’s essay, it seems to me, vibrates in consonance with Kurt Andersen’s recent book, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, recommended reading for all. My own commentary, “In Troubled Times, This is What We Do,” in this issue is my clarion call for action.

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The War on Science, Anti-Intellectualism, and ‘Alternative Ways of Knowing’ in 21st-Century America

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Other Articles in this Issue


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