Innocents imagine that universities, the names of many of whose departments include “science” (as in social science), do not perform exorcisms. That is a mistake. Today, universities are among the busiest sites for the practice of intellectual exorcism. Ask any current student to define “investigate”: you will get the definition for “indict.” The latest outbreak of academic exorcism comes to us from anthropology. At issue are the Yanomamö, a stone-age, indigenous people of the Amazon rain forest. The current repellent effort rests on postmodern scripture: the idea that science is just window-dressing for Western hubris and colonialism.

Thirty years ago the distinction between technical disagreements and moral-political warfare began to dissolve. A whole generation of students and teachers became convinced that everything, including scientific inquiry, is inextricably political because...

 
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