Steve Moxon, Deepcar near Sheffield, UK. stevemoxon3(at)talktalk.net
My background science-wise is psychology and biology; politically, centre-Left (in UK terms) / ‘green’, but now non- and indeed anti-ideological as far as it’s possible to be so. What went for BSc psychology as I was ‘taught’ at the University of Liverpool, England, in the late 1970s, was the behaviourism and even psychoanalysis still holding sway, before psychology became much more a science as it gained its crucial evolutionary underpinning, and Robin Dunbar arrived to transform the department very much for the better. I was there a decade too early, and the experience inoculated me against academia, but I retained a strong interest in psychology, biology and evolution theory to later resurface. Also at that time, there was no escape from the absurd fusion I encountered there — notably in those supposedly the brightest — of the pseudo-science and fraud of Freud fused with the denial of human-nature in the insistence on only environmental causation through (neo-)Marxist politics. This was in-embryo what has since filtered down through society and across the whole establishment in its every facet, and to almost every workplace and civic space, to produce the ‘identity politics’ / ‘political correctness’ totalitarianism — truly the new fascism — now ubiquitous, and promoted not least in the centre-Left/’green’ political circles I once inhabited. Often it makes any intelligent discussion of politics, much philosophy and large areas of science difficult or near impossible. Frequently, debate is just shut down, with those who offer informed correctives subject to all kinds of personal attack: routine complete misrepresentation, libel, and ‘no-platforming’ as the standard response. I should know.
After a very long interlude of just trying to get by, to be just like everybody else — I never got good at that — and immersing myself in music scenes (running and promoting venue slots, music journalism, etc), contemporary political (un)reality was finally brought home to me in ways I could hardly continue to ignore when I decided I should return to my Pennine South Yorkshire roots (Northern England, in the area north-west of Sheffield), and ended up working in the Home Office, which was designated the lead organisation in UK government re ‘equal opportunity and diversity’. From the attempts to indoctrinate all staff in EO&D to the deliberate astonishing wilfully inept immigration non-system I was party to ‘administering’ (I was in the Immigration & Nationality Directorate, as it was then called), I saw first-hand and up-close how ‘identity politics’ / ‘PC’ had comprehensively derailed key governmental activities and more or less successfully persuaded ordinary people, against their common-sense, of a very firm entirely ideological view of what makes people and society tick. With my wide reading across sciences even back then, I well recognised that this was utterly at odds with any reasoned and reasonable position; a cluster of anti-scientific notions virulently intolerant of any other perspective.
In consequence, I turned ‘whistle-blower’ — attracting the usual barrage of knee-jerk bogus charges of an ‘identity politics’ ‘ism’ (being re immigration, ‘racism’ / ‘xenophobia’, of course). From being a Liberal-Democrat activist for the best part of two decades and on the outside of academia, I got out of party-politics and in effect moved into academia by the back door. I became an independent – non-affiliated – review researcher/writer re what makes people and society tick, reading in-depth within and widely across disciplines to gain a perspective few if any of those working within a university ever have time to acquire, even if they have the inclination; bringing the perspective of a relative outsider, which, time and time again, has proved to provide important new insight in science and all academic disciplines. The now fully open nature of science academia, with the invariable readiness of researchers to share their work in full, means that there is no difficulty in conducting review research outside of a university base.
The major insight I gained is that the root completely contrasting biological functions of the sexes are key to understanding the basis of social system, and I see my role as originating major review papers and longer texts investigating the ramifications of this, rather than to enter into politics. Certainly, though, I see no conflict between researching and writing about science and attacking the anti-science that is the totalitarian elitist-separatist hypocrisy of ‘identity politics’ and ‘PC’, which has seriously undermined if not hopelessly compromised much of the social sciences as well as the humanities; indeed, academia in general, impinging even on biology. Party politics, which anyway for me is in ‘been there, done that’ territory, is nigh-on impossible to engage in, because of the virulent misrepresentation at every turn of criticism of mainstream extremism, as it were, as itself somehow extremism. I had found this in once standing as a mere ‘paper candidate’ for an anti-establishment party (UKIP), when (just as I expected) I was bogusly accused of “supporting” Anders Breivik in pointing out that the scholarship on the origins of ‘identity politics’ cannot be dismissed simply because Breivik cited it — the standard ‘guilt by association’ idiocy.
To maintain sanity I’ve long been a musician (guitarist and singer), and for over a decade now I’ve developed as a songwriter – because nobody was writing what I wanted to hear, either musically or lyrically: ambitious incisive material for a discerning audience, updating the singer-songwriter model to take in wider influences, trying to build on the pinnacle of achievement in the 1960s/70s (starting with Beatles period McCartney & Lennon and Brian Wilson, obviously). I spend more time just tinkering on guitar than any other of my activities, but I’m not a performer, other than very informally. Composition, lyric-writing, arrangement — and guitar doodling! — are what fascinate me: performance is a compromise with all of the sub-optimal conditions applying at the time. I’m still awaiting a viable business model to emerge before I would even consider recording, but as there seems no sign of one then I may never realise my parallel destiny as the new Laughing Len (with more melody, I quickly add) musical philosopher for the baby boomers!
Researching/writing science on the one hand, and songwriting on the other, utilise entirely different facets of the brain, and seem to me to keep the two contrasting activities mutually fresh and healthy — as long as I also very regularly trek out with the various friendly walking groups in Pennine South Yorkshire, go mountain-biking, and engage in sports to keep the physical fitness needed in tandem. For further immunisation against mental fatigue, I’ve a significant interest in studying the origins of English/British mythologies; and though very different is in a way obliquely an extension of my interest in psychology and social system.
My researching/writing is not through any commercial motivation. It’s as accessible as possible (usually entirely open-access) and I do not obtain an income through what anyway hardly could be remunerative as journals do not pay for papers, and if I were to be within an academic institution then many journals would require it to pay for me being published. Not being reliant on income from any source connected to my output contrasts with academics who are often compromised – not infrequently seriously so – in the funding strands available, as well as by the now extreme political constraints (or, rather, requirements) imposed by their university’s administration. These pressures can produce papers sometimes little short of tautological political propaganda, and profoundly false within a wider framework beyond a particular discipline. It is the combination of academic fragmentation and the refuge academia provides for extreme ideology that is so toxic to truth-finding.
With plenty on the horizon in the various areas of my interests, then there is little prospect of losing motivation. It seems to me that we live in interesting, nay exciting times, with the currently hegemonic, risibly poor, faux-egalitarian (actually elitist-separatist), hate-mongering political and philosophical understanding of what makes people and society tick, set to become a dinosaurial laughing-stock within our lifetimes. I am a part of the effort to bring this about, and I fully expect to remain so.