Ihc delicacy of Lasch’s characterizationrnof Karp’s attitude was, I fancy, part-rn1 because he was saying it in personrn(Lascli was always ceremonious and gentlernin person), but also because he wasrnattributing the sentiment to Abe Karp,rnand \ ould not have wanted to attribute arnrealh’ extreme opinion to another person.rnHad I .asch put this idea into one ofrnhis own books, and into his own (written)rnvoice, it would have come out as arnblast, a firestorm, against what both Karprnand I ,asch, and many of the rest of us,rnobserc as a dangerous developmentrngrow ing from within the college facultiesrnof our time.rnTo explain what that misfortune actualKrnis would require a more leisurely formatrnthan the present comment allows.rnIts major aspects are probably wellrnknown to readers of this journal, thoughrnone more recent developnrent, the subjectrnof the book I ligher Superstition byrnGross and Levitt (Johns Hopkins, 1994),rnis as et little known, especially to therngeneral public. It is a kind of populist assaultrnon science, which, though affectingrna philosophical or sociological rationale,rnis politicalK’ motivated and draws on arncombination of recent ideologies, fromrnfeminism and Afrocentrism to ratherrntechnical developments in philosophy,rnart criticism, and academic cranniesrneven less likely than these.rnThe war on the intellect usually proceedsrnunder the cover of some humanitarianrnideal, setting up false conflicts,rnexalting “feeling” over (cold) judgment,rnfor example, or the love of one’s homelessrnneighbor over scientific truth; butrnthere is more to the phenomenon thanrnt\’o or three “isms” that happen to be goingrnaround this year. The attack has inrnfact alwas been yvith us, coming fromrnone place if not the other, now the state,rnnow the church, sometimes the military,rnsometimes an aristocracy, sometimes arnpopulist movement.rnIn recent centuries, surely since therntime of Galileo, scholars have wantedrntheir unixersities to be a defense againstrnthis attack, and have sometimes beenrnsuccessful. Today, alas, no one is louderrnin claiming liberty in the pursuit of truthrnand beauty than those enemies, academiesrnthemselves, wTio are puttingrnto the pillory their errant colleagues.rn(While at the same time announcing,rnsome of them, a proof that truth andrnbeauty cannot exist.)rnThe uni’ersitv, in other yvords, has itselfrnbeeoine a source of danger to its announcedrnideals. This is what Kit Laschrnwas saying, as Abe Karp was escaping intornretirement. Karp, to be sure, was oldrnenough and prosperous enough to dornthat, but where shall his successors go,rnwho still need the goodwill and encouragementrnof open-minded colleagues andrnstudents?rnRalph A. Raimi is a professor of mathematicsrnat the University of Rochester.rnEccentricity asrnEducationrnby Geoffrey Wagnerrnii th Sir, it is a great thing to dine witnrnthe Canons of Christ Church.”rnSamuel Johnson, Boswell’s Life.rnThough perhaps not with CanonrnJenkins.rnUniversities are, or should be, the lastrnrefuge of great eccentrics who emphasizernour humdrum norms. Such I discoveredrnwhen I went up to Henry VIII’s L>45 refoundingrnof Wolsey’s Cardinal College.rnThe monarch’s action established ChristrnChurch as an Oxford college, its Cathedralrndiocesan. There were thus a plethorarnof Canons about, who had no particularrnduties at all. These included in myrntime Claude Jenkins, Regius Professor ofrnEcclesiastical History, who used to pourrnsoda water into his coffee, rimming hisrnsleees with a corrosive snuff that producedrnparoxysms in the Senior CommonrnRoom. The dons who descendedrnto mere teaching were termed “students.”rnThis occasioned me some minorrnembarrassment when applying to thernphilosophy department at ColumbiarnUniversity, whose dean of admissionsrn(the late Hans Rosenhaupt) informedrnme that a letter of recommendationrnfrom a mere student yvouldn’t do. Myrntutor, Frank Taylor, was well into his 70’srnwhen he signed himself “Student” onrnmv behalf.rnAside from terminology, that Oxfordrncame back to haunt me when my Americanrnstudents became infected w ith arnvogue for J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lordrnof the Rings, my language tutor whom Irnhoped to have forgotten forever. For,rnfrankly, the lugubrious Tolkien wasrnabout the most boring man I ever listenedrnto, thougli I must confess that hisrnsubject, Anglo-Saxon, didn’t exactlyrnelectrify one, with its vowel changes intornMiddle English which one had to regurgitaternin one’s final viva. Tolkien perfectedrna sauve-qui-peut method of deliveringrnhis lectures in a whisper so that by thernsecond week of term only about half arndozen Beowulf hysterics were left in thernfront row. I later tried the technique myselfrnat City College and it didn’t work,rnfinally compelling me to put a notice onrnmy office door: NO MORE ELVES.rnC.S. Lewis has also been resuscitated,rnthanks to a recent movie about his extracurricularrnactivities with Joy Cresham.rnTogether with Ken Tynan and MartinrnRouth (who carried a hooded falcon onrnone elbow), I sat in at his lectures too,rnmostly flat jokes about Screwtape. Nonernof these, however, held a candle tornCanon Jenkins, a man my father, an oldrngrad, enjoined me to listen to even if Irndid naught else at Oxford. Then agedrn92, Jenkins was not only inaudible butrnincomprehensible.rnThe man died in Tlinbridge Wells inrn1959 with two teeth in his head andrnsome 40,000 books strewn in disorderrnabout his palatial rooms overlooking ourrnmain Tom Quad, quarters into which hernhad somehow contrived to secret his senilernmother, disallowing any servantsrn(scouts, in our term) in to clean. “Hisrnmind, like his house,” Dean Mascoll putrnit, “resembled a vast wastepaper basket.”rnIn the garden outside it, equally unkempt,rnhe installed a bird sanctuary and,rnas pet, a vicious stoat (subsequentlyrndealt with by the dean’s cat). Eventually,rnhis chambers became so disgustingrnthe college authorities had to force inrnworkmen on the grounds of correctingrndry-rot.rnI saw something of this establishmentrnwhen, returning from war service, a fellowrnundergraduate and I wished to usernthe court tennis facility in neighboringrnOriel College (one of a mere 20 in thernBritish Isles), only to find it encumberedrnby the Canon’s vast library which he hadrnstored there to avoid bombing. At considerablernlabor we harrowed the booksrnover to him, shoving througl: tiie blockedrnmain entrance and dodging cascades ofrnthem in various corners. The bath was arnrepository for secondhand Victorianrnparish histories and the like, a numberrnclearly “porrowed” (my portmanteaurnword for permanently borrowed) fromrnsundry libraries. It was certainly somerntime before the afflatus of the bibliomanerncould be replaced by good hon-rnSEHTEMBER 1995/45rnrnrn