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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31 Number 14. June 25, 1968



A Supreme Court decision, given almost concurrently with the demise of McCarthyism, forbade the executive branch of government to restrict a person's right of free travel on account of his political views.

How many of our academic liberals, so completely anti-American by nature, would be willing to acknowledge this?

By nature, academics are not tolerant of others. Anyone who has watched the infighting when a new idea is produced, the attempts, often based on little more than prejudice and fear of supercession, to denigrate a new idea, will have realised this.

Academic maintains its own Inquisition, which operates in just as sordid a way as its religious progenitor.

It used to be said that if, for instance, one could not trust a Professor of Orthodontics on the subject of Vietnam, one could at least trust him on orthodontics—or whatever his speciality was.

This is not necessarily so. The "experts" are just as likely to be blinded by bias as a non-professional worker.

Examples are not hard to detail. The cases of Velikovsky and McConnell are of particular interest.

Both are scientists working in the United States and have been subjected to scurrilous abuse and attempted censorship from academic circles.

In 1950 Dr Immanuel Velikovsky published a revolutionary theory of world chronology.

The book, Worlds in Collision, was published by Macmillan in the USA.

As a result of pressure applied to the publishers by various scientists threatening to boycott the company; the publisher's editor. who approved the book, was dismissed and Macmillan ceased its publication.

The scientists instrumental in forcing the issue, defended their action as the "democratic privilege of organised protest".

Velikovsky has, of course, been vindicated since that time.

Dr James McConnell conducted his research at the other end of the scale.

Where Velikovsky dealt in time intervals of a thousand years and units the size of the solar system. McConnell, in the early 1960's, carried out his experiments on a species of earthworm.

These experiments were designed to show that memory can be transmitted through the cellular chemical ribonucleic acid (RNA).

At the time, it was a "known fact" that memory could not be transmitted genetically.

Vilification from leading invertebrate physiologists and biochemists almost dried up McConncll's sources of funds, and prevented his work being published.

Now, independent researchers are beginning to duplicate his results.

They show how even the most gifted scientists have no protection from those of their own kind who feel that they are stepping out of line.

One of the more sordid facts about academic protest is that most are willing to take part as long as they are not too involved.

Few fled from Nazi Germany before the last war: a notable exception was the great Einstein.

Possession of academic qualifications is not sufficient reason for general acceptance as an all-purpose prophet

Neil Wright excepted, these people, cloaked in a self-assumed authority, should not command our deference to their opinions.

Until it is generally accepted that scientists and academics are only technicians, qualified to deal in their particular fields, we will remain with the problems outlined above.

When it is realised they have no peculiar moral authority, are just as likely as anyone else to falsify facts and just as fallible as mere ordinary mortals, they will lose this authority.

Their comments will have the authority of a well-informed metaphorical plumber: valid within limits on the subject of plumbing, merely of interest on world politics.

This is the importance they should have.