School of Scepticism

  • We need to combat the groupthink that has developed in Universities as shown in the area of climate
  • Sceptics from years outside Universities show great diversity of views – and encouraging older experienced people could restore the “genetic diversity” of ideas.
  • Academics are likely to strongly resist any move and/or attempt to enforce conformity to the existing group-think and thereby nullifying any benefits
  • Subject to a small number of constraints, there appears no legal way to stop such a venture and it could proceed without the consent of group-think academia.
  • Such a venture could offer three levels of awards equivalent to “honour’s years”, masters and doctorate.

In the last article (Sceptical of sceptics?) I raised the issue of increasing “groupthink” in academia as seen in their response to climate and I attributed this to the way the internet has created single subject communities with little diversity. In contrast sceptics – largely because of our diverse background from working in many different areas – seem to have more than our fair share of diversity. Thus there is a huge potential to utilise the diversity of older people to offset the increasing issue of groupthink in Universities.

However, based on other research I undertook, it seems likely that academia will inherently be hostile to anyone from outside “treading on its turf” and getting involved in research. And that it would only ever permit outsiders into the area of research if either:

  1. It is in charge, researchers effectively pay homage to the (groupthink) of academia, and basically researchers agree to perpetuate the very groupthink that needs breaking apart.
  2. It cannot stop them (such as industrial research or medical research)

So, whilst I’ve been discussing the possibility of a “Sceptic School/University” awarding “doctorates” for research it is almost certain based on my research (See: The Academic Ape) that any such move will be strenuously resisted with academia doing all it possibly can to stop the project. So, doing this by the front door looks impossible. The question then is can the ends be achieved without giving academia any control or power over it?

So I’ve been looking at the legal position. As far as I can tell:

  1. The name “University” is allegedly protected “in law” in the UK. But that may just mean certain acts like the company act prevent its use without permission. So it would not be possible to set up a company called “University of Inverness”. But I doubt there is anything to stop a group of people setting up a “University tiddlywinks association”. There is no restriction for company to call itself a “school”, “academy”
  2. Likewise there is claimed to be protection for “Degree” under for example the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992, but the act is carefully worded :
    An institution for the time being specified in such an order may grant a degree, diploma, certificate or other academic award” but in saying who can award “academic awards” it is careful NOT TO SAY SOMEONE CAN’T. And it does not take much thought to see that it cannot for example stop a local club issuing to youngsters a “Certificate of reading”. So the issuing of academic awards is not protected. As the meaning of degree simply means ” rank” – and ranks are commonly given out in online quizzes, unless the rank being awarded is itself protected then there appears to be no legal protection stopping a body awarding degrees.
  3. The title of “Doctor” is not legally protected (and it would open a minefield if it were as medical doctors are not technically doctors). So there appears to be no protection for given someone the title of “Doctor of Philosophy” shortened to PhD.
  4. Likewise, the title “master” is not protected so “master of Science” is not protected.
  5. And there is no legal protection for Post nominal letters. like PhD

So, it appears (in the UK) any group of people can award titles to themselves such as “Dr John Smith PhD MA, MSc, ETc. The only proviso would be laws applying to “passing off” which would come into effect if an individual pretended that your title had been awarded by an “approved” University.

Way forward

If one were to set up a sceptic school aimed at the “Emeritus” (retired) to award research work, the following system seems sensible:

  1. That initially it aims to award some form of merit to  research equivalent to an honours year project (perhaps equivalent to a year’s worth of research).
  2. That if anyone having already secured the first level carries on to equivalent to a masters degree of work – that this is suitably recognised.
  3. Similarly for a Doctorate for work equivalent in standard to PhDs in Unversities and taking approximately 3+ years full time equivalent.

What could not be provided would be the following:

  1. Laboratory facilities
  2. Library facilities
  3. Any funding – such as that which would be normally available to present at conferences (or indeed, any guarantee that an academic community that is likely to be hostile would not bar access to conferences let alone co-operate)
  4. Any formal recognition for the awards

What could potentially be provided is:

  1. Assistance to help secure a suitable panel of experts to assess the merit of the awards (most likely such experts would need to be compensated for their time).
  2. Some means to publish the work online.
  3. A certificate.

Are you Interested?


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8 Responses to School of Scepticism

  1. Nigel Boyle says:

    Currently I have no time to give, but I thoroughly commend the idea, spirit and intention within your post.

    I hope you succeed and get diversity of thought and research into the mainstream.

  2. TinyCO2 says:

    Personally I think that the future of education as a whole belongs on the internet but climate sceptic qualifications seem the wrong direction to me at this time. We already have too many students studying degres with no obvious job direction. Climate scepticism is a very niche market and there are few jobs that require it. It would even damage the careers of those people that took it. Sadly climate scepticism must remain the preserve of the already well placed. However in maybe 15 years there could be a call for it.

    I would think the country could benefit from more scepticism in all fields, so a qualification in thinking rationally across all subjects would seem more logical. More of a subject to run along side other courses as a way to improve separating fact from fiction.

    As I say, the future of eduation is the net. I’m already benefitting, having learned all I need (so far) to model in 3D from videos and manuals online. I’ve also been able to learn the history needed for my project and gain a support group of like minded people.

    • Scottish-Sceptic says:

      Yes “School” does imply teaching, but the aim it to utilise the skills and experience of the retired – like climate sceptics, and for obvious reasons starting with sceptics, but not limited to this subject.

      And the focus would be on the RESEARCH not the qualification – because most people would be retired. Indeed, I really hope to see the information flow being the other way around. Not from academia to student – but from experienced retiree back to academia.

  3. Mark says:

    Diversity of thought in the universities? Blasphemy! Didn’t you know? Nowadays you go to university to be told what to think, not to be taught how to think. Thinking for yourself is so passé ;-)

  4. Tom says:

    It seems to me that in today’s academic environment what exists is students who are afflicted with “blank slate syndrome” who are being taught by faculty who are afflicted with a “simplism tendency.”

    • Scottish-Sceptic says:

      In part you could view the “climate war” as a battle between the gullibility of youth and the wisdom of age. And teachers corrupting the youth is an accusation as old as Socrates.

  5. Wyss Yim says:

    As a retired academic in the field of Earth systems science still actively involved in research in climate change sceptism I am happy to be involved if my advice is required.

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