26 July 2013

Oxford’s Professorship of Science and Religion

A year ago I applied for the University of Oxford’s recently created Professorship of Science and Religion. This was set up to investigate
questions raised for Theology by the natural and human and social sciences (including moral and social questions), and on the impact of Theology on the natural, human and social sciences.
I was not shortlisted for this post, even though I have plenty of ideas about how aspects of what is called ‘religious’ thought might have implications for science, and vice versa.

I think – and my colleagues at Oxford Forum agree – that if Oxford was genuinely interested in making interdisciplinary progress on the overlap between ‘science’ and ‘religion’ then the individuals responsible for filling this post should at least have wanted to meet me to find out what ideas I have for research and what I might do if offered the position.

In fact of course, it is doubtful that such motivation exists in modern academia, at a level capable of having an impact on such decisions.

Far more important is that mechanical rules are observed. For example, the candidate should have at least so many publications under their belt, they should have at least x years’ ‘experience’ at other institutions. This regardless of whether they have actually contributed anything significant to the advancement of knowledge, or are likely to be capable of doing so in the future.
The successful applicant will be an outstanding scholar, with an international reputation and distinguished research profile in Science and Religion ...
said the advertisement for the post. I suspect that the ‘research’ carried out by the candidates whom they did interview has made negligible contribution to the understanding of anything of significance, though no doubt it satisfied appearances. Something was written which seemed to have at least a nominal connection with religion and may have looked vaguely clever. That anything ground-breaking was said, however, is highly unlikely.

If opportunity is to depend on previous publications, and on ‘experience’ within the system, then those who have been rejected (and implicitly repeatedly rejected, as all their efforts to gain reinstatement have been ignored or opposed) are condemned to permanent exclusion. This has been my position. The difficulties of supporting myself and an independent academic institution, without status or funding, has effectively prevented any but the most minimal expression of my views.

The present attitudes to science and religion are determined by the most fundamental unexamined assumptions in modern philosophy and psychology, and realistic analysis of these assumptions is taboo.

The area covered by the professorship is probably particularly prone to the principle that nothing genuinely progressive should get done. In subjects such as physics it is necessary to pretend that progress is aimed at. The desire that the status quo be maintained has to be kept at a subconscious level. In ‘science & religion’, by contrast, the goal of keeping things safe and unthreatening may well be openly espoused by those in charge.

10 July 2013

Needing to expand

text of a letter

I think that Christine has mentioned to you in the past our interest in renting rooms or houses in the vicinity. We would like you to know that this is an ongoing need, as you might hear of something.

We are freelance academics, in effect a residential college, although living in separate houses for the time being. Eventually we are aiming to expand to a larger campus with a dining facility and live-in staff, but at present it is convenient if we expand in separate houses within Cuddesdon, and we do not want to tie up capital in house property at the moment.

The reason we are outside the University is that we are not in tune with the modern ideology, and it is difficult to get university appointments without being left-wing, apart from any other considerations. As the ideology gains ground, it has become even more difficult for us to expand our operations, as our main source of funding is from investment, not from jobs or pensions, and one of the aspects of the ideology is that it extols the norm and makes no room for exceptions. Nevertheless, we are respectable in an old fashioned middle-class way.

In fact we are experienced and sophisticated investors, as I started trying to make money to compensate for the loss of a university career over fifty years ago. I started with no capital but over the years, as my present associates joined me, we have become well-informed about investment newsletters, to the best of which we still subscribe. On the other hand we regard ‘normal, sensible’ investment, as advised by banks and accountants, as risky and vulnerable – as many have found to their detriment of recent years as the government has assailed building society deposits and pension funds.

At best, managed funds are usually pedestrian, and a good deal of the benefit is eaten up in management fees.

It was the change of social outlook which led to the credit crunch, started by the sub-prime lending crisis in America.

We not only need to expand our operations, but also to accommodate visitors who might become permanent associates. Since we have been in Cuddesdon, we have had three, from America, Sweden and Slovenia, and although none have become permanent, we are likely to go on getting such visitors.

Our having visitors from a variety of countries arises from the fact that the books we have published are widely read throughout the world, although they are suppressed and censored in this country and we are no longer invited to express our views on broadcasts. If we could get more apartments or houses with spare rooms, it would be easier for us to have more visitors who might stay longer.

Anyway, if you ever do hear of a room or house going vacant nearby, we would be very glad to know about it.

Modern society is becoming increasingly hostile to those who have been able to keep themselves alive and healthy into later life without the aid of the state. People may like to consider the idea of moving to Cuddesdon, or nearby, well in advance of retirement age. They could do some voluntary work for us and perhaps join in on some of the smaller business projects, in anticipation of more full-scale involvement at a later stage.