Quantcast

«

»

Mar 19 2014

If you won’t pay people what they’re worth, you’ll get people worth what you pay

Here’s another twist on the problematic trend to hire more temporary/part-time/adjunct faculty at universities. It’s a disgraceful abuse of skilled academics and good teachers — would you believe that some schools hire adjuncts to teach four courses a semester (a brutal load, let me tell you) and pay them $16,000 per year? Who would be insane enough to accumulate all that college debt, then invest 4+ years in an advanced study program to get a Ph.D., for a poverty-level income? But that’s where we stand.

Here’s the other ugly side of the problem. The University of Idaho needed someone to teach microbiology, so they carried out a ‘national’ search for a temporary microbiologist, offering $6-8,000 per semester for a one year position with no promise of a continuation. Moscow, Idaho is a truly lovely place, but would you pack up and move across the country to spend one year in Moscow for maybe $16,000, and then probably have to move somewhere else again after that year was up?

No, you would not, if you had a choice. If you were really desperate, maybe.

But they hired someone. Someone local. They got Gordon Wilson who teaches at the New Saint Andrews College in Moscow. New Saint Andrews got some fame from Christopher Hitchens; Hitchens did a debate tour with Doug Wilson, the founder of the school. It’s notorious for a number of other reasons, too, including this stunning list:

  • In some circumstances, the penalty for adultery should be execution.
    Women should be permitted to date or “court” only with their fathers’ permission and, if they’re Christian, date and court with only other Christians.

  • Woman “was created to be dependent and responsive to a man.”

  • A rapist should pay the victim’s father a bride price and, if the father approves, should marry the victim.

  • Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people are “sodomites” and “people with foul sexual habits.” He favors the “exile [of] some homosexuals, depending on the circumstances and the age of the victim.”

  • Cursing one’s parents is “deserving of punishment by death. Parental failure is not a defense.” Christian parents “need not be afraid to lay it on” when spanking their children. If fact, in Wilson’s world view, “godly discipline” should include spanking 2-year-olds for such “sins” as whining.

  • “A rapist should pay the victim’s father a bride price and, if the father approves, should marry the victim.”

  • “Slavery as it existed in the South … was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. … There has never been a multiracial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.”

It’s also an incestuous little place of marginal academic credibility.

The faculty at New St. Andrews is hardly diverse. Several are N.S.A. graduates who went on to do master’s degrees elsewhere and came back to teach. Only 4 of 17 faculty members have Ph.D.’s (those few are always addressed as “Doctor” — proof that N.S.A. has not entirely escaped the intellectual insecurity typical of evangelical colleges). Doug Wilson’s son, son-in-law and youngest brother teach at the college. “Someone’s going to say, ‘Isn’t that a little cozy?’ ” Wilson admits. “Part of modernity’s negative legacy is the pretense of objectivity. All institutions thrive on interconnectedness, affection and loyalty.”

Read their statement of faith. Of greatest relevance is that they say:

In the beginning, God created the material universe from nothing in six ordinary days. He spoke, and by the Word of His power, it was. Our science on the nature and time of this event must be determined in full submission to the Word of God.

That’s right. The University of Idaho has just hired a young earth creationist, biblical literalist, and racist evangelical Christian to teach microbiology. UI biology students: you are getting ripped off.

For a sample of the mental gymnastics involved in creationist “science,” look no further than Wilson’s contribution [PDF] to a 2004 conference, in which he posits that God created every living thing with extra “gene sets” for carnivory, venom, pathogenicity, and other “natural evils,” which were, metaphorically, stored under glass to be activated by the Deity in the event of human malfeasance.

He’s going to be teaching microbiology.

He says he won’t be teaching creationism in the class — I don’t believe him — but this is what he does consider legitimate to teach.

I made it clear 9 years ago and this semester that I wasn’t going to promote my views or disparage evolutionary views in class. That said, I have stated that I do not share the views of common descent held by the main stream scientific community. Which is well with in my rights to do. The only thing that I have presented (briefly) is a distinction between historical science and empirical science, and that conclusions drawn from the former don’t have the high level of certainty as conclusions drawn from the latter. This distinction is not a creationist invention. Ernst Mayr holds to this as well. The conclusions drawn from historical science are as good as the presuppositions on which they are based. This was simply a moment to encourage students to exercise some critical thinking skills in assessing truth claims of the scientific community.

That should sound familiar — it’s the same bogus rhetorical ploy Ken Ham uses.

I do not consider Mayr the sine qua non of the science of philosophy (pretty far from it, actually), but you don’t get to use him to defend Ham’s idiocy. All biologists acknowledge a historical component to our science, but we don’t treat it as a pejorative, nor do we claim that it lacks observational power. Mayr’s thoughts on the subject are quite clear.

Despite the passing of a century before this new branch of philosophy fully developed, its eventual form is based on Darwinian concepts. For example, Darwin introduced historicity into science. Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science—the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain.

For example, three different scenarios have been proposed for the sudden extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous: a devastating epidemic; a catastrophic change of climate; and the impact of an asteroid, known as the Alvarez theory. The first two narratives were ultimately refuted by evidence incompatible with them. All the known facts, however, fit the Alvarez theory, which is now widely accepted. The testing of historical narratives implies that the wide gap between science and the humanities that so troubled physicist C. P. Snow is actually nonexistent—by virtue of its methodology and its acceptance of the time factor that makes change possible, evolutionary biology serves as a bridge.

So basically, Wilson is saying, Mayr used the word “historical”, therefore our wacky weird abuse of the word “historical” is valid. He’s an idiot.

The University of Idaho just hired an incompetent religious crackpot who thinks black people were happier as slaves and who despises women to teach a biology course.

And everyone is going to sit back and be fucking fine with it. And if you point out that this man isn’t fit to be pretending to be a microbiologist, he’s going to whine about the persecution of Christians.

39 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    colnago80

    It should be pointed ut that IDiot Scott Minnich, who testified for the defense in the Dover trial also is an Associate Professor of microbiology at the Un. of Idaho. Anybody who goes there to major in biology should be forewarned.

  2. 2
    lordshipmayhem

    Apparently, they only investigated one of his qualifications: “He works cheap”.

    The hiring committee should be fired.

  3. 3
    =8)-DX

    More like microbiocreationist, no?

  4. 4
    Pierce R. Butler

    Slavery as it existed in the South … was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence.

    What this implies about the personal intimacies of whoever says it gets very worrisome very fast.

  5. 5
    left0ver1under

    US College football players are trying to “unionize” in the hopes of being treated (better) as employees. And people are empathizing with them, unions helping them.

    http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/10363430/outside-lines-northwestern-wildcats-football-players-trying-join-labor-union

    Meanwhile, professional instructors are paid below minimum wage for their qualifications and the work they are doing. (Considering the cost of living and moving expenses with no guarantee of long term employment, it is minimum wage.) It makes me wonder what would happen (arrests? police violence?) if the adjuncts tried to unionize nationally.

    Once again, football gets all the attention while educators and education get the short end.

  6. 6
    raven

    It should be pointed ut that IDiot Scott Minnich,>/blockquote>

    Quick fingers there.

    Yeah, UI Microbiology already has a notorious creationist on the faculty.

    I doubt it is an accident that they hired another one. And now I’m wondering how many UI Microbiology faculty are xian creationists. There is never just one cockroach.

  7. 7
    Christophe Thill

    By the way, creationists of all kinds seem to love (mis)quoting S. J. Gould.
    Do you think they’ll be interested to know that Gould loved to talk about experimental and historical science?
    And that he always insisted that both are equal in scientific dignity?

  8. 8
    raven

    Wikipedia:

    Scott A. Minnich is an associate professor of microbiology at the University of Idaho, and a fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

    Says it all.

  9. 9
    Feminace, formerly Qurikythrope

    Women should be permitted to date or “court” only with their fathers’ permission and, if they’re Christian, date and court with only other Christians.

    I hear the word “court” in this context and I vomit in my mouth a little.

    Also, I really am a little dismayed that someone who takes on the amount of debt and time it takes to become a professor can make $2,000 less than I made last year, and I didn’t even finish college.

  10. 10
    corwyn

    It is unclear from your description if there is any relationship between Gordon Wilson and Doug Wilson, and to which Wilson the quotes you give should be attributed to. And if attributed to Doug Wilson whether they apply to Gordon Wilson.

  11. 11
    aggressivePerfector

    The testing of historical narratives implies that the wide gap between science and the humanities that so troubled physicist C. P. Snow is actually nonexistent

    I’m not sure who is responsible for this idea, but may I just say: huh?

    I’d say, the existence of this incoherent thought proves that there is an enormous gap between those who understand scientific method and those that don’t.

    More generally about historicity & science:

    A description of an experiment I did 30 seconds ago, including inferred causal mechanisms producing the observed result, constitutes a historical narrative. The hard distinction drawn between evolutionary biology on one side, and physics & chemistry on the other is simply an error.

    It is essentially an error of wishful thinking on the part of anybody who gazes upon the numbers on the display of some instrument and concludes that they have been granted direct experience of some physical parameter other that the state of the instrument’s display.

    Every experiment faces a calibration problem belonging to a single class of calibration problems. Many ‘physics’ experiments are harder to calibrate than many of the important experiments in biology.

  12. 12
    brucegee1962

    Oh, PZ, you are so sheltered at your four-year institution. Here in the trenches at our community college, five courses a semester are standard for full-time faculty, and they are now hiring underpaid ($40,000 a year, I think) “Associate Instructors” who teach SIX courses a semester. I don’t care how good a teacher you are, there is no way you can do a good job teaching eighteen hours of credits.

  13. 13
    ekwhite

    This guy lists papers on Baraminology, fot crying out loud. His Ph. D. Thesis was apparently on the behaviour of box turtles. What qualifies him as a Microbiologist?

  14. 14
    geekgirlsrule

    I didn’t finish my master’s thesis, because I got done with my coursework, took a clerical job at a different University (for access to their library primarily), and discovered that as a (at the time) Secretary Senior, I made double and had benefits, versus what my friends who were teaching on the adjunct level made.

    I do WANT to finish my thesis, some day, but there just didn’t seem any point, since I’d been looking forward to teaching and realized there was no way I could afford to do that for a living.

  15. 15
    raven

    from studentsreview. com

    Within the Department of Microbiology, Molecular Biology & Biochemistry (MMBB), I observed an atmosphere of suspicions and non-cooperation. There are professors who will destroy your academic career if you dare (as I did) to stand up and say that there is something wrong (nepotism, leadership vacuum, safety concerns, clique-ish infighting, reduced academic standards, etc.).

    Avoid the MMBB department at the Univ of Idaho. If you are an undergraduate in the Northwest, look at WSU or UW in Washington, and OHSU in Oregon. If you want a quality M.S., I hightly recommend Boise State University in southern Idaho.
    Jun 21 2004 Genetics

    I’d barely heard of UI.

    Here is one review of UI Micro from a Google search.

    It is one opinion with no corroboration so take it any way you want. It’s not unbelievable though. Academic and science politics can be gruesome and some departments are notoriously dysfunctional i.e. Philosophy at UC Boulder.

  16. 16
    Marcus Ranum

    New Saint Andrews got some fame from Christopher Hitchens; Hitchens did a debate tour with Doug Wilson, the founder of the school.

    I watched that movie and Wilson came across as not a complete drooling religious goof. I guess he was hiding it, because his faith was weak in the presence of someone who’d hammer him if he talked about his true beliefs.

    I can’t decide which I dislike more – the out-and-out raving in denial fideists like Ken Ham, or the sneaky ones who try to seem reasonable until your back is turned. Wait! I think I just resolved that matter to my satisfaction.

  17. 17
    EvoMonkey

    UI microbio students are getting shafted. I sadly left teaching precisely because of hiring practices like UI. I am now running a biospecimen and tumor bank. It’s a decent gig, but my passion is still undergrad biology education. We are losing way too many dedicated good teachers (K-12 a well as university level).

  18. 18
    lpetrich

    Reminds me of “We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us”, one of the jokes that citizens of the Soviet Union would tell each other (Russian political jokes – Wikipedia).

  19. 19
    raven

    Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science—the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes.

    This is just the usual lies of fundie xian creationists.

    1. Evolutionary biology is both a historical and experimental science.

    2. At any given time there are dozens or hundreds of evolution experiments running. Whenever we treat a cancer patient, plant GMO crops, dump some week killer on our gardens, or prescribe an antibiotic or antiviral, or generate new crop varieties we are running natural evolutionary biology experiments.

    3. Most people have heard of Lenski and his experiments evolving citrate utilizing E. coli. This is just the latest in a long series of experiments where bacteria evolve new metabolic pathways. And oddly enough, this is in the field of…microbiology.

    Guy doesn’t even know the field he is teaching in.

    4. There are now mesoscale experiments running where scientists isolate an outdoor area of dozens of acres/hectares and see what happens. Giant outdoor petri dishes.

  20. 20
    Rey Fox

    If you want a quality M.S., I hightly recommend Boise State University in southern Idaho.

    Oh man. Speaking as a UI grad myself, that’s a big ouch. I went through the College of Natural Resources (so…macrobiology), but perhaps I should express my disgust to the university personally.

  21. 21
    Richard Smith

    A rapist should pay the victim’s father a bride price and, if the father approves, should marry the victim.

    A vice so nice, they listed it twice!

  22. 22
    pinkey

    I have a computer science degree from University of Idaho, and am saddened to hear this. It is a mar on my school’s reputation, and a shame for all who have graduated from her. Though this happened in a different college, the University’s loss of reputation devaluates all degrees they have issued, whether in microbiology or otherwise. (And they have a great CS program!)

    So disappointed.

  23. 23
    Rich Woods

    in which he posits that God created every living thing with extra “gene sets” for carnivory, venom, pathogenicity, and other “natural evils,”

    So where’s my gene set for venom? Godammit, motherfucker! I want venom. I want to be able to spit real venom, not just long, vituperous words picked out of a dictionary or badly-misquoted cliches from popular films. Activate my venom gene set, godmotherfucker!

  24. 24
    Moggie

    Slavery as it existed in the South … was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence.

    Plus “owning people as property”, of course, but he’s noticed that people get upset when he mentions that, for some reason.

  25. 25
    Alan Boyle

    @22 pinkey

    It is a mar on my school’s reputation, and a shame for all who have graduated from her

    I’ve never heard a university referred to as female before. Is that a US thing, or just a University of Idaho thing? Some cursory Googling tells me that ships and countries are about the only inanimate things that tend to end up with gendered pronouns.

  26. 26
    rrhain

    @25: It’s common English. It goes back quite some time. From the Little Rascals, Waldo is wooing Darla and refers to his boat as “her.” When Darla asks, “Is it a she?” He replies: Things of beauty, grace, and speed are often referred to in the feminine matter.

    Cars, boats, countries, institutions, even ideals are referred to as female. It’s Lady Liberty. It’s why your old college is called your alma “mater,” not “pater.” Clearly, there are exceptions such as Father Time (but he’s usually paired with Mother Nature), but the general concept is that ideal concepts tend to be personified as female.

  27. 27
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Alan Boyle:
    I dont know pinkey’s reason for using a feminine gendered pronoun but all too often male pronouns are considered the default. Perhaps it is an effort to fight back against that subtle sexism.

  28. 28
    imthegenieicandoanything

    Xians and fellow conservatives – “conservative” now means “willfully ignorant and insane to a varying degree” person – seem to have had the stupid-smart idea that, since the facts (and everything else except, at the moment, the power of money) were against them and always would be, they would attempt to destroy the nation’s ability to discover and understand such annoying things.
    One the one hand they will simply destroy public education and allow the rich the chance to educate their own at the peasants… sorry, public’s expense while their ignorant crusaders’ army of morAns will be allowed to make whatever their particular fetish is be declared as “science” – because that’s what “freedom” now means, other than being allowed to hold a gun and kill whoever threatens you.
    This will destroy the nation and leave their grandchildren in a horrible position, and perhaps far worse, but what passes for the right wing in America these days is something I can only describe as brutish, short-sighted, utterly corrupt, and suicidal on a Jim Jones level.

  29. 29
    grumpyoldfart

    Do you reckon you’ll ever recover, or is the whole country going down the gurgler?

  30. 30
    Alan Boyle

    @26 & @27

    Fair enough, that makes sense. I was familiar with countries and boats, I just wouldn’t have ever thought of referring to a university as any pronoun other than “it,” but it makes sense in the context of “alma mater.” I’ve never graduated from one, and neither has anyone in my family, so perhaps I find it strange due to a lack of exposure to people that would have an emotional connection with an educational establishment?

    Anyway, thanks for your replies.

  31. 31
    diego

    I taught adjunct at a community college for a semester after I completed my Master’s Degree, but even working three jobs I could barely scrape by. I’ve been tempted to go back and teach night classes as a supplement to my current income and because I miss teaching but I just don’t know if it’s worth it.

    Fortunately, my girlfriend who has her PhD is a full time teaching professor at the university here and though she has sub-human status in the faculty trophic levels she does make enough to live on.

  32. 32
    shouldbeworking

    $16 000 a semester for teaching 4 courses? That’s indentured labour. I get 4x that each semester for teaching 4 high school science courses and I only have a M. Sc. and a B.Ed.

  33. 33
    footface

    Two of the many things I don’t understand about this:
    * If you’re willing to include magic people who do magic stuff in your theory, why even bother dressing it up with scientific entities or concepts, like genes?
    * If you’re a Biblical literalist (“six ordinary days” and so on), how can you say things like “he spoke, and by the word of his power…”? So he didn’t actually, literally speak, like, uttered an actual, audible word with an actual larynx and lungs and tongue and stuff?

    I’m telling you, it’s almost like they’re a bunch of inconsistent, make-it-up-as-they-go-along nitwits.

  34. 34
    chigau (違う)

    footface #33
    not to mention all the other *ahem* parts

  35. 35
    =8)-DX

    @Tony #27

    Perhaps it is an effort to fight back against that subtle sexism.

    I always felt the female pronouns were to express a relationship similar to “men’s relationships towards a woman”: ships are mounted, boarded, ridden, the sea is punged into, embraced, etc. Alma mater (just like motherland) and universities as “she” are envoking nurturing and motherly relationships. Even naming active or violent, nominaly “male” objects such as battleships, bombers, guns, rockets and tanks with female pronouns seems to be about defining these things in terms of male relationships, from a male=default point of view.

    So I’d say that this, along with male being the default pretty much is *exactly* the subtle sexism inherant in common English, although I dunno if that means using female pronouns is bad. I guess there’s probably more qualified and informed people who could chime in on this. =/

  36. 36
    Stacy

    @grumpyoldfart #29

    Do you reckon you’ll ever recover, or is the whole country going down the gurgler?

    Ah, good question.

    I figure we’re done for, as a world power at least, but maybe (hopefully) the dream will live on.

  37. 37
    Stacy

    Oops. Apologies; I only meant to post the link.

  38. 38
    twas brillig (stevem)

    3. Most people have heard of Lenski and his experiments evolving citrate utilizing E. coli. This is just the latest in a long series of experiments where bacteria evolve new metabolic pathways. And oddly enough, this is in the field of…microbiology.

    The common anti-evolutionist “answer” to this experiment is, “That ain’t evolution, those things are still E.Coli, you didn’t get them to evolve into parameciums or frogs or fish or cats or dogs!!!! Evolution is a lie! What you call ‘evolution’ is just arranging old bones into imagined sequences, it aint experiments; its only history. Its just a fantasy story you brainiacs tell yourselves, and try to tell everyone is absolute truth. Brainiacs are not as smart as they think they are, we are smarter than they are cuz we have God on our side and they reject God. God tells us everything we ask him for. Try that evilutionairs!! God won’t talk to you cuz you refuse to talk to him! You know nuthing, you just pretend you do, and try to convince everyone you are geniuses.” /parody

  39. 39
    madscientist

    Hey, make that Moscow Russia and $16k looks good. :)

    It really is something – on the one hand everyone who works hard has got to be paid as little as possible and, typical of this case, you get someone who shouldn’t be doing the job but on the other hand you have people paid outrageous amounts of money because they claim “we’ve got to pay top dollar to get the best” and yet virtually all these “best” people are demonstrably not worth what they’re paid. Oh well, that’s libertardianism and raw monkey greed for you.

Comments have been disabled.