Academia and the myth of matriarchy

Apparently if you believe in the perfectly logical and long-held philosophical concept that the universe did not simply appear ex nihilo for no reason, you are academically unfit, but it’s perfectly fine for academics to subscribe to the totally ahistorical notion that Man was once ruled by female committee:

There is no real evidence that humanity every passed through a stage in which society was matriarchal, and abundant evidence to the contrary. Goddesses, of course, appear frequently in the world’s religions and myths, but the notion of a great prehistoric cult of the Goddess in Europe connected to matriarchal rule has no foundation.

Why bring this up now? Because higher education’s relaxed attitude about appointing faculty members who not only believe but who actually teach this moonshine demonstrates the hypocrisy of those who say that faculty members are acting out of the need to protect the university from anti-scientific nonsense when they discriminate against conservative Christian candidates for academic appointment. The possibility that a candidate for a position in biology, anthropology, or, say, English literature might secretly harbor the idea that God created the universe or that the Bible is true, is a danger not to be brooked. But apparently, the possibility that a candidate believes that human society was “matriarchal” until about 5,000 years ago is perfectly within the range of respectable opinion appropriate for campus life….

I take it as one of the great intellectual scandals of our age that this nonsense has gained academic legitimacy. Hardly a soul who vehemently defends the university’s need to protect itself from the dangerous presence of Biblical literalists and the like sees anything amiss in having a whole tide of anti-scientific, ahistorical ideological fantasy claim the status of an academic discipline. Could there be a version of women’s studies sans the myth of matriarchal prehistory? Surely there could be, as there are substantial numbers of feminist scholars who reject that myth. But the field as a whole has not done so. If it is necessary that a candidate for an academic appointment in biology demonstrate competence in evolutionary biology, it ought surely be necessary that a candidate for appointment in women’s studies demonstrate show the ability to distinguish historical fantasy from fact.

I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon, but it is a useful thought experiment. Why won’t higher education hold women’s studies to ordinary standards of historical accuracy? Because contemporary American higher education cares far more about protecting its favored group of political ideologies than it does its standards of rational inquiry and scrupulous use of evidence. The standards are cited most conspicuously when they lend themselves to fencing off members of disfavored groups.

I’ve always found Sam Harris’s assertion that being a Christian somehow renders scientific work impossible to be an interesting one, considering that it is an intrinsically ahistoric and anti-scientific philosophical argument. And PZ Myers’s insistence that academics must subscribe to TEpNS dogma has always amused me, considering that he still subscribes to economic arguments that have been disproven for decades, and in some cases, centuries. If the standard that biologists wish to apply to other academics were applied to biologists on subjects such as economics or history, nearly every biology department in the USA would find itself empty.

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