Here’s some excellent news. A week from today we launch a new podcast, Great Minds with Michael Medved. In brief, Great Minds seeks to step back from the chaos and distraction of the daily news cycle to consider great, ultimate problems of culture and science.
It will be a journey of exploration, and our friend Michael Medved is the perfect guide. He is, of course, the famed nationally syndicated radio host, with 4+ million listeners who appreciate his own great mind and profound spirit, his consistent passion and wit. Michael is a Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute, and a bestselling author (most recently, taking what we might call an intelligent design view of U.S. history in The American Miracle). Now alongside his daily radio program, Medved undertakes a totally new added mission: conversations, recorded on video and audio, with deep thinkers, great minds united by a concern for questions of permanent interest.
Discovery Institute is delighted to launch this provocative initiative, which you will find on the sharp new Great Minds website, starting on January 18.
This is all urgently needed. Why? Well, coincidentally, I can’t think of a better introduction than an inspired tirade this week over at the Chronicle of Higher Education, by University of Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith. He declares (and you will forgive a bit of brief barnyard vulgarity that I think is entirely called for):
I have had nearly enough bulls**t. The manure has piled up so deep in the hallways, classrooms, and administration buildings of American higher education that I am not sure how much longer I can wade through it and retain my sanity and integrity.
Even worse, the accumulated effects of all the academic BS are contributing to this country’s disastrous political condition and, ultimately, putting at risk the very viability and character of decent civilization. What do I mean by BS?
BS is the university’s loss of capacity to grapple with life’s Big Questions, because of our crisis of faith in truth, reality, reason, evidence, argument, civility, and our common humanity.
Smith makes a couple of points that particularly resonate here:
BS is the ascendant “culture of offense” that shuts down the open exchange of ideas and mutual accountability to reason and argument. It is university leaders’ confused and fearful capitulation to that secular neo-fundamentalist speech-policing.
BS is the invisible self-censorship that results among some students and faculty, and the subtle corrective training aimed at those who occasionally do not self-censor.
BS is the only semi-intelligible outbursts of antagonism from enraged outsiders incited by academe’s suppressions of open argument, which primarily work to validate and reinforce the self-assured superiority of the suppressors, and sometimes to silence other legitimate voices.
“Open argument,” characterized by reason, evidence, and civility, without “speech-policing” or “self-censorship,” those familiar features of the evolution controversy. Professor Smith’s solution?
In my view, genuinely positive changes in higher education, if they ever do happen, will have to combine some forms of visionary traditionalism and organizational radicalism.
“Visionary traditionalism and organizational radicalism” — yes, that hits the mark. This is, remarkably, very close to a mission statement for Great Minds, which is intended to cut through and sweep away a great deal of BS that plagues our media culture. There is indeed something radical about setting aside our collective fixation on passing headlines — in the wider culture, a result in large part of pervasive social media — to discuss those Big Questions, uncensored, that Christian Smith says go unaddressed in academic life, and in intellectual life in general.
All Things Considered is what we might have called it if National Public Radio had not got there first. Great Minds is not a talk show about intelligent design. However, ID does offer an intellectual model: multidisciplinary, ranging across fields unhindered by narrow specialization, considering science in the light of philosophy and philosophy in the light of science, with no patience for self-censorship or enforced BS, but instead, an enduring admiration for skepticism and vision. Similarly, Great Minds will consider the major issues that, for thoughtful people, never go away, from a variety of perspectives, without fear or favor.
Scholars from Discovery Institute and elsewhere will share the stage and the microphone with Mr. Medved. More information is forthcoming, but for now, explore the Great Minds with Michael Medved website and be sure to subscribe there, or directly through iTunes, so that you don’t miss a single episode.
Photo credit: Nathan Jacobson.
H/t: Rod Dreher, who points out the article by Christian Smith.