The Corruption of the Scientific Community

Certainly all those who have followed the l CESNUR case will find this article of interest.

Miguel Martinez

Dr. Benjamin Zablocki.

"The Blacklisting of a concept: The strange history of the brainwashing conjecture in the sociology of religion".

Some excerpts from a large article published on "NOVA RELIGIO", The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions.

October, 1997.

To justify the charge of blacklisting requires additionally that there be some degree of collusion within the established power structure of a discipline to defame, ridicule, or ignore the theory and to marginalize its adherents. I want to show that this has happened and try to explain why.


This quote was taken from an email message in 1989 that was sent out to an extensive list of recipients. I was one of the recipients on the mistaken belief that I would be sympathetic to the ideas expressed. Even though the email message has been widely distributed and is famous throughout the discipline, I see no need to embarrass the author by citing his name.


My work on the subject as well as that of Richard Ofshe, Marybeth Ayella, Robert Cialdini, Amy Siskand, Roy Wallis, Philip Zimbardo, and others has never been directly confronted, much less refuted by sociologists of religion. Rather it has been defamed,ridiculed, or ignored. There has been a sophisticated and subtle form of intellectual bullying by an entrenched majority within the discipline of a small minority composed of both sincere scholars and academic opportunists.


Another source of the bias against the brainwashing conjecture may be found in the role that NRMs play in sponsoring scholarly activities. Irving Louis Horowitz’s early warning of the corruption of the scientific community by lavish funding from NRMs is relevant to this issue. [Irving Louis Horowitz, Science, Sin and Scholarship: The Politics of Reverend Moon and the Unification Church - Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1978]


Sociologists such as Irving Louis Horowitz, Amitai Etzioni and Seymour Martin Lipset were as yet speaking openly of the danger of academic co-optation by wealthy new religious organizations.


With regard to finances, a major obstacle toward the sort of progress desired is the cloud of secrecy that surrounds the funding of research on NRMs. The sociology of religion can no longer avoid the unpleasant ethical question of how to deal with the large sums of money being pumped into the field by the religious groups being studied and, to a lesser extent, by their opponents. Whether in the form of subvention of research expenses, subvention of publications, opportunities to sponsor and attend conferences, or direct fees for services, this money is not insignificant, and its influence on research findings and positions taken on scholarly disputes is largely unknown.


I know there will be great resistance to opening this can of worms, but I do not think there is any choice. This is an issue that is slowly but surely building toward a public scandal. It would be far better to deal with it ourselves within the discipline than to have others expose it. I am not implying that it is necessarily wrong to accept funding from interested parties, whether pro or anti, but I do think there needs to be some more public accounting of where the money is coming from and what safeguards have been taken to assure that this money is not interfering with scientific objectivity.

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