Environmental Ethics
and Public Policy
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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Lecture Topics

Conscience of a Progressive
    (A Book in Progress)

A Dim View of Libertarianism

Rawls and the Duty to Posterity
    (Doctoral Dissertation)

The Ecology Project

For Environmental Educators

The Russian Environment

    (Critiques of Post Modernism)

Notes from the Brink
    (Peace Studies)

The Gadfly's Bio Sketch

The Gadfly's Publications

The Online Gadfly: Editorial Policy

The Gadfly's E-Mail: gadfly@igc.org

Classical Guitar:
"The Other Profession




The Gadfly Bites Post Modernism and Deconstruction

A Personal History


"Isn't it more comforting to make believe that we know what reality is rather than [endure] the excruciating frustration it takes to figure it out?"

"Comment card"
from a Northland College Student
(I swear, I didn't make this up!)


From September, 1993, through May, 1997, the Gadfly held the Hulings Chair of Humanities and Environmental Ethics at Northland College, in Ashland Wisconsin. During his final two years of service there, he inaugurated and edited an informal newsletter, The Sporadical Gadfly, of which there were to be five issues. A concurrent "Online Gadfly" was also prepared for the Philosophy and Religion page of the Northland College website. (I've became so fond of that name, that I have carried it over to this site).

The Sporadic Gadfly was launched without a specific mission or agenda. Instead, I chose to comment on issues that emerged in our classrooms, in conversation with colleagues, and from items submitted to the newsletter by those colleagues. (As it turned out, only two such items were submitted, both critical of the history and the practice of science). I found this antipathy for science and even for scholarship (which was more conspicuous among the Northland students than the faculty), to be a singularly strange phenomenon for an institution that proclaimed itself to be an "environmental/liberal-arts college." Apparently, a hyper-romantic and deconstructive type of "environmentalism" tended to get the better of the "liberal-arts." So it was that I found myself, in the pages of The Sporadic Gadfly, to be a persistent defender of science. Indeed, this explication and defense of science from attacks, both on the campus and beyond, became the primary theme of The Sporadic Gadfly.

That theme continues in this section, "No Mo Po Mo." To my chagrin, I find that the viruses of "post-modernism," "deconstruction" and "new age" have infected far more than an obscure little college on the south shore of Lake Superior. Instead, irrationalism is rampant throughout the realm, indeed throughout the world. For example, in Russia the once magnificent Academy of Sciences is in decline as funding dries up and scholars flee to the west. In its place, a menagerie of occult craziness has invaded the newly "free" media. Here at home, except for the outpost of PBS, television has yielded to the notion that kookery will reliably outdraw science, as "psychic readings" are shamelessly hustled, with no intelligent warnings in sight to forestall the parting of fools from their money.  State governments, which once (with two exceptions) outlawed gambling, are now the primary promoters of gambling -- a new regressive tax on the poor and the ignorant.

Like the poor, the irrationalists will always be with us. However, after four years at Northland College, including occasional glances beyond that unfortunate campus, I sense an intensification of the flight from reason, most alarmingly among educated individuals who should know better. As the environmental scientists bring us alarming news regarding the prospects of nature and humanity, an increasing number of educators, politicians and media types have elected to shoot the messenger. So I have decided, in my modest way, to add my fingers to the holes in the crumbling levee.

As always, I welcome items, contributions and comments from our readers.


Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .