Jeffrey Epstein’s Disturbing Impact on American Academia and the Tides of Intellectual Discourse

Perversions of pedagogy...

Courtroom sketch of Epstein at a recent bail hearing./Reuters

Everyone knows that Jeffrey Epstein is a disgusting pedophile whose day of reckoning is far overdue, an observation that is as revelatory as the chromatic character of the atmosphere.

What is not known, however, is just how reactionary he is and what impact that has made on our public discourse.

Vincent Kelley recently pointed out in Counterpunch:

Epstein subscribes to a scientistic worldview, which sees not politics, economics, or religion as a driving force of history but, rather, evolution. He spoke fondly of E.O. Wilson’s famous evolutionary determinist theory of “sociobiology” in 2002 and founded the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics the following year. What is the cause of Epstein’s attraction to evolutionary thinking about human social development? In a word: money. Epstein stated, “If we can figure out how termites come together, then we may be able to better understand the underlying principles of market behavior – and make big money.” For Epstein, markets are not the product of human creation but, instead, evolutionally hard-wired systems that can be understood in terms of biology. This is all, of course, malarkey, but demonstrates that financial capitalists like Epstein see science not as a way of expanding human knowledge for the good of all; rather, it is, at best, an outlet for bogus theorizing about the so-called natural laws of the economy and, at worst, an unabashed intellectual justification for the wealth of key market players like himself.

There’s a certain cyclical irony to this revelation. Just over a century ago, a similar combination of scientific inquiry with economic logic led to the exact opposite opinion, that markets were illogical and instead it was democratic, centralized economic planning that was the next logical step both in terms of evolution and social organization. (Admittedly the proponents of this had their own wide spectrum of shortcomings, such as also subscribing to eugenics and arguments that colonialism could be a force for good, but our major policymakers today in both parties also subscribe to that grotesque spectrum, which makes that critique a moot point when it comes from liberals and conservatives.) Indeed, as Kelley points out, the desire to ‘discover’ “an unabashed intellectual justification for the wealth of key market players” is Social Darwinist eugenics updated for the 21st century!

Epstein’s odyssey to create a biological justification for unbridled free market capitalism recalls the most grating and altogether grotesque aspects of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist ramblings and shares several traits, including a dearth of moral compass and Nietzsche-like conception of an übermensch, homo sapien economicus superior. The fact the mysterious capitalist persisted for another decade funding this project after Randian Objectivism caused the near-total implosion of the worldwide economy in 2008 (thanks to the Federal Reserve policies of her acolyte Alan Greenspan) not only reveals a complete lack of ethics, it also demonstrates an abandonment of the scientific method that should be informing this scholastic enterprise.

Greenspan famously admitted here that he had discovered a “flaw” in his thinking.

This drive from within the academy to develop the intellectual foundations for the argument on behalf of untrammeled finance capital is not a new phenomenon (one need only call to mind the visages of Hayek, Von Mises, Friedman, and a wider coterie of economists, philosophers, and policy makers) but Epstein’s approach is novel. While these other ideologues based their theses in history (the Great Depression was caused by the Federal Reserve rather than over-saturation of speculation in the economy) or math (Austrian Economics is a whirlwind of complex contrarian calculus), Epstein’s inclination towards evolutionary biology combined with game theory carries a certain élan reminiscent of an entirely different project.

At the end of his life, no less than Frederich Engels, by that point the emeritus public intellectual of the burgeoning German socialist movement, explored similar ground in a manuscript posthumously published as Dialectics of Nature. Marx’s longtime collaborator sought to develop a sort of unified field theory showing that historical materialism was not just a viable philosophical endeavor but that its premises were themselves proven concretely in biology and physics. Such a project was not limited either, eventually both Stalin and Trotsky would author works that followed the same line of reasoning. Still later Mao dabbled with this in several writings, from his 1937 On Contradiction to his 1955 polemic ‘The Chinese People Cannot Be Cowed by the Atomic Bomb,’ wherein he rather flippantly proclaimed “Even if the US atom bombs were so powerful that, when dropped on China, they would make a hole right through the earth, or even blow it up, that would hardly mean anything to the universe as a whole, though it might be a major event for the solar system.”

All of which are of course noteworthy because it demonstrates that people of all political persuasions can and are easily hypnotized by the aura of projects that sound coherent and technically logical but which are in fact absolute and total poppycock. Dialectics of Nature was later evaluated by Einstein to be a confused, antiquated work that showed its age and therefore its shortcomings rather quickly, due in no small part to the Michelson-Morley experiments, performed some two decades after Engels wrote his manuscripts, that disproved the existence of the luminiferous aether, one of the cornerstone theses of the theory of special relativity we all know as E=MC². Dialectical and Historical Materialism by Stalin weds grade school chemistry truisms with perfunctory mathematical proofs to formulate embarrassing false tautologies. Trotsky’s writings are certainly more elegant than those of his rivals but also carry the hallmarks of an autodidact author, namely superficial grasp of the subject matter wed to egotism run amok (a trait overlooked by many a Trot). Mao’s decision to sign the whole of his country up for nuclear holocaust, combined with what we know of his policies towards the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and Southern Africa within a decade of authoring those words, demonstrates a mentality that can be called problematic.

The explanation for this intellectual flatulence is actually rather simple, it boils down to the fact humans invented math to better understand reality as opposed to math inventing the species. Math and science are fungible, self-professing flawed frameworks of measurement that we use so to better comprehend our surroundings and better calculate how we navigate the world. The scientific method’s preliminary admission is that whatever it produces will never be infallible regardless of how close things get to being proclaimed a scientific law.

Epstein and this bevvy of Commies all started from the opposite presumption, that their preliminary hypothesis was an infallible law of reality that mirrors the Canon Laws of the Catholic Church. Evolution, which Epstein took up as his immutable preliminary thesis, remains one of the most controversial topics in biology today, more than 150 years since Darwin promulgated the theory, because of how easily (not to mention frequently) it has been utilized by racist cranks like Herbert Spencer’s Social Darwinists, Francis Galton’s eugenicists, Herrnstein and Murray when they authored The Bell Curve, and most recently the alt-right.

By contrast, the proposition for economic planning from the pre-World War I socialist movement was adamant it was a flawed proposal that would need constant revision. Planning was not about creating an autonomous, self-propelling, perpetual motion machine powered by commodity exchange, instead it was intended to be the complete opposite, a calculated intervention seeking to record trial and error along the way.

Colleen Flaherty reported for Inside Higher Ed on July 17 that another beneficiary of Epstein’s largesse was Steven Pinker, a Harvard University psychologist who has used his podium as a popular science author and public intellectual to promote to mass audiences (usually the New Atheist clique) jaw-dropping reactionary piffle dressed up in a lab coat. Pinker’s greatest hits are as astonishing as the fact that he has yet to discredited in a fashion equivalent to the lunatic anti-Semitic Kevin B. MacDonald of California State University, Long Beach. Some of Pinker’s paeans have included:

Good gravy this man is disgusting!
  • Claiming that there is a legitimate debate to be had about female underrepresentation in the sciences being caused by the innate ability of biological sex. In plain English, he says it’s legitimate to ask whether it could be that there are fewer female than male scientists because women are by nature stupider than men (and by implication several millennia of patriarchy, sexism, and misogyny has nothing to do with it). (Can you imagine if such a suggestion were made about other minority groups in America?)
  • Saying out loud “I don’t think Malcolm X did the world much good.”
  • Trying to argue that the Enlightenment bears no responsibility for slavery, imperialism, colonialism, genocide, and the appalling inequalities of our age, conveniently ignoring the fact that his hallowed Enlightenment philosophers and statesman left an ample documentary record that explicitly articulated ownership of that responsibility. Case and point, there’s absolutely no denying that Thomas Jefferson was a key mind in the authorship of the Declaration of Independence, that the document articulated a valuable set of principles advocating abandonment of monarchy in the name of representative democracy, and that it furthermore contains verbiage that justifies incitement to genocide against the Indigenous and enslavement of the African. Those all come as a package deal, confirmed by the violent reaction of the newborn United States and Europe to the Haitian Revolution, whereupon self-emancipated Africans took up the Enlightenment ideals and were explicitly rejected by their contemporaries for doing so precisely and only because they were descendants of Africans.
  • Opposing the efforts of Israeli Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) at Harvard.

What is particularly noteworthy about these beneficiaries of Jeffrey Epstein is that they are all occupants of the liberal side of the American political spectrum. What I have just described, upon examination, sounds like the traits of goons that Steve Bannon or perhaps the Koch brothers would support. Instead these two are of a much more refined pedigree (give credit where it’s due, Republicans have long demonized the Ivory Tower for its elitism, its insularity, its metropolitanism, and it purported hypocritically libertine sexuality, which are not untrue accusations per se, it’s merely that those traits are considered virtuous as opposed to vices by occupants of said tower).

Over the past decade, as part of the fallout from the 2008 crash, a major query of the popular imagination has been in regards to the genesis of neoliberalism and why everyone was seemingly asleep at the wheel for 40 years while the American welfare state was being strip mined by the financial system. Jeffrey Epstein and many others like him played significant starring roles in building the intellectual support for the Democratic Party’s ejection of its labor union constituents and embrace of the Reagan administration’s platform. His despicable alleged predations of minor children are an altogether separate and uniquely vile crime against humanity. But one should not marginalize his other crimes against those who were too innocent and naive to comprehend just how much damage he was doing.

Is there a viable relationship to discern between the intellectual perversion of American liberalism and Epstein’s general perversion? A false tautological statement would be tremendously dangerous, absolutely incorrect, and, given the suspect’s heritage and career, an outright embrace of antisemitic tropes.

Instead it is the complete inverse equivalent to aforementioned presuppositions of matters herein discussed, the American liberal establishment allowed an alleged pedophile go on a purported rampage for decades because the suspect was trying to help that establishment make more money, which is of course an abject lesson in the morality of our liberal elites and their Democratic Party.

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