My old alma mater is, I am informed, setting off in a new direction.

As expressed recently by the vice-chancellor; "The Canterbury Institution will no longer be a stand-alone traditional university, instead being reorganised and repurposed to become an enabler of collaborative initiatives involving multiple parties and various academic fields of study. It aims to help solve the 'grand challenges' of the land-based sector."

Only a blind man could possibly take any satisfaction from reading these words! Who composes such meaningless, nebulous nonsense? It is right up there with that PC classic, which allows for the possibility that it is possible to pick up a piece of dog turd by the clean end!

When I think of Lincoln University it is with words like; farming, agriculture, science, teaching, education, intelligence, enquiry, insight, graduates and degrees. In short - learning the skills required for independent, logical thinking and analysis, in order seek the 'truth' and to solve problems.


Apparently these words are no longer useful descriptors of what a modern university does. I wonder, will it be necessary for intending graduates to pass an entrance exam so that they can learn to translate Lincoln's PC ambitions and goals into plain English.

For example is it possible that the 'grand challenges' of the land-based sector is in fact PC for 'developing new knowledge so that agriculture can continue to be financially viable and at the same time reduce its environmental foot-print?'

I've have previously heard the expression "reorganised and repurposed" before – it was the battle cry of the CRI reformist and that theory worked really well, reducing direct government investment into agricultural research by about 50% in two decades. But fear not, there could be a bright side. Perhaps "enablers of collaborative initiatives involving multiple parties" is the new code for "going to the pub".

Let us not forget that PC speak has some advantages. It confers upon the user the marvellous advantage of appearing to be effective - speaking with apparent eloquence - without the need for accountability, which may arise if something useful is said or done. This of course the important management principle that Humphrey Appleby toiled so hard to get his Minister, Jim Hacker, to understand in that satirical sitcom "Yes Minister".

Listen to Jamie Mackay's interview with Dr Doug Edmeades on this opinion piece in the embed below:

PC speak is pervasive in our post modern world and for this reason I have developed a quantitative method for assessing the PC content of any communication, whether written or oral. It is called, aptly enough, after its inventor, the Ed-Quotient, which is defined as the number of understandable, coherent and useful thoughts or ideas, offered or produced per 100 words, written or spoken.

One this scale the Lincoln Vice Chancellor's new vision for Lincoln scores a big fat zero. It is meaningless, but that is its beauty and indeed strength and utility. The absence of meaningful content means that this vision allows for all and any activity. It confers freedom from the normal rules of intellectual rigor and logical analysis.

Evidence of this new found academic freedom emerged in the same week that Lincoln University unveiled its cunning new visionary master plan. The banner headline says it all: "Lincoln offers organic diploma".

My old Prof, T W Walker will be turning in his grave. The grand old man of Lincoln University expended a significant amount of intellectual energy exposing the myth of organic farming. I myself inherited a good dose of this meme gene from him. Lincoln's move can be seen as a measure of how far this University is prepared to sell it's intellectual heritage to PC driven 'bums-on-seats' commercial activity. Perhaps that was the intended meaning behind the VC's vision and I was too dim-witted to grasp its beautifully nuanced meaning?

There is no science in organic farming. It is a belief system based on a set of arbitrary rules and perpetuated by false claims. At its heart it is anti-science.

There is no scientific evidence that organic food is healthier than conventional food.

There is no scientific evidence that organic farming is better for the environment at the same level of production. There is no evidence that organic fertilisers are better for soil health than chemical fertilisers. Superphosphate and muriate of potash do not kill soil biology as they claim.

Lincoln justifies its move saying "organics is the fastest growing food sector in the world."

If this is so, then it is a measure of the successful marketing of a powerful myth and has nothing to do with science. To grow this sector more marketing of the myth is required and not more "science". If there is a place for teaching organic farming at Lincoln it should be offered as a paper in the marketing department and not dressed up to look like science. RIP Prof.

Dr Doug Edmeades, MscHons, ONZM (Services to Agriculture), is an independent soil scientist based in Hamilton. He welcomes feedback -