Williams biology professor decries the wokeness of her students

May 29, 2019 • 9:00 am

Reader Rodney called my attention to a new short piece in The Atlantic by Luana Maroja, an associate professor of biology at Williams College who has written in these pages about the suppression of free speech at her institution.

Williams College, of course, is undergoing the same type of wokely degeneration as did The Evergreen State College, whose downfall I’ve discussed in many posts. As Williams’s administration is pusillanimous, eager to truckle to the mob of demanding students no matter what they request, I see the school as doomed to fall from its high academic ranking.  Maroja’s piece is largely about how the censoriousness of Williams students is eroding their science education.

Click on the screenshot to read the piece.

One difference between Maroja’s class and, say, Bret Weinstein’s biology classes at Evergreen State, is that Weinstein’s biology students didn’t seem to reject what he was teaching them about evolution and genetics; nearly all the pushback at his school came—as usual—from professors and students in the humanities. At Williams, however, Maroja describes considerable student resistance to her teaching about evolutionary genetics. The objection to teaching kin selection, which I’ve put in bold below, is priceless:

The trouble began when we discussed the notion of heritability as it applies to human intelligence. (Heritability is the degree to which offspring genetically resemble their parents; the concept can apply not only to physical traits, but also to behavioral ones.) In a classroom discussion, I noted that researchers have measured a large average difference in IQ between the inhabitants of the United States and those of my home country, Brazil. I challenged the supposed intelligence differential between Americans and Brazilians. I asked students to think about the limitations of the data, which do not control for environmental differences, and explained that the raw numbers say nothing about whether observed differences are indeed “inborn”—that is, genetic.

In class, though, some students argued instead that it is impossible to measure IQ in the first place, that IQ tests were invented to ostracize minority groups, or that IQ is not heritable at all. None of these arguments is true. In fact, IQ can certainly be measured, and it has some predictive value. While the score may not reflect satisfaction in life, it does correlate with academic success. And while IQ is very highly influenced by environmental differences, it also has a substantial heritable component; about 50 percent of the variation in measured intelligence among individuals in a population is based on variation in their genes. Even so, some students, without any evidence, started to deny the existence of heritability as a biological phenomenon.

Similar biological denialism exists about nearly any observed difference between human groups, including those between males and females. Unfortunately, students push back against these phenomena not by using scientific arguments, but by employing an a priori moral commitment to equality, anti-racism, and anti-sexism. They resort to denialism to protect themselves from having to confront a worldview they reject—that certain differences between groups may be based partly on biology. This denialism manifests itself at times in classroom discussions and in emails in which students explain at length why I should not be teaching the topic.

To my surprise, some students even objected to other well-established biological concepts, such as “kin selection,” the idea that, when individuals take actions for the benefit of their offspring and siblings, they are indirectly perpetuating their own genes. Startled students, falling into what we call the “naturalistic fallacy”—the notion that what occurs in nature is good—thought I was actually endorsing Trump’s hiring of his family! Things have gone so far that, in my classes, I now feel compelled to issue a caveat: Just because a trait has evolved by natural selection does not mean that it is also morally desirable.

Maroja’s main point is that we shouldn’t hide the truth about biology from students, for our determination to treat different genders and ethnic groups equally, and offer them equal opportunities, should be independent of biology. That’s a viewpoint I’ve long endorsed. But, I suspect, Maroja will be demonized at Williams because of this article—and especially from her suggestion that some of the dearth of American women in STEM fields may derive not from misogyny or bias, but from differential preferences of the sexes for areas of study (see some data to that effect here).

But even if one accepts that genetic differences between groups are irrelevant for how we treat people personally and legally, the mere suggestion that such differences exist is anathema to many, for such differences are seen a “biological determinism,” tantamount to racism and sexism. Nevertheless, some differences are of biological and general interest. Do sexes differ in preferences or sexual predilections? (That gives us some data on our evolutionary heritage.) Are there physiological differences among groups that might explain their differential success in athletics?

Some differences between groups, of course, aren’t worth studying because either their results are uninteresting or because they’re designed to feed into stereotypes. My advisor Richard Lewontin used to use, as an example, the hypothesis that Jews have genes for longer noses than other groups. There may well be such genes, as there are genes for morphological differences between other groups, but who would care?

As we see from Maroja’s discussion of IQ differences between Brazilians and Americans, she is no Charles Murray, but will the students of Williams be able to distinguish among different degrees of genetic determinism, or to understand that genetic differences among individuals of a group say nothing about the source of behavioral differences among groups? She ends with a John Stuart Mill-ian argument:

The argument favoring a certain amount of self-censorship is that it is necessary to protect minority students from feeling unsafe when they hear what they see as “hate speech.” However, by not talking about science that some find unsettling, we deny students opportunities for learning and for intellectual empowerment. How well can they argue their positions effectively unless they are seeing the world as it really is?

102 thoughts on “Williams biology professor decries the wokeness of her students

    1. At the present time it’s impossible to study the genetic contribution to human intelligence or behavior because there is *no* human society anywhere that isn’t lumbered with age-old cultural freight. We all know how much culture can effect mental, behavioral, and even physical characteristics — as well as how insidious its effects can be. Until we can definitively adjust for culture, there is simply no way to accurately study “genetic determinism”. We can make guesses, but they’ll only be guesses.

      1. At the present time it is impossible to study the cultural contribution to human intelligence or behavior because there is no human society that isn’t lumbered with age-old genetic differences. We all know how much genes can affect (not “effect”) mental, behavioral, and even physical characteristics–as well as how insidious their effects can be. Until we can definitively adjust for genetic differences, there is simply no way to accurately study “cultural determinism”. We can make guesses, but they’ll only be guesses.

        1. Chortle! I’m afriad Leslie Fish doesn’t understand the basics of scientific method. This often happens in ideological debates and there is almost nothing that gets people’s ideological juices flowing more freely than IQ

  1. “…but will the students of Williams be able to distinguish among different degrees of genetic determinism, or to understand that genetic differences among individuals of a group say nothing about the source of behavioral differences among groups?”

    I think the more pressing question is whether their seemingly spreading ideology will allow them to acknowledge such concepts. Students like this may well be able to understand these ideas in a vacuum, but their minds will still reject them outright because that’s the “right” thing to do. It’s a political reflex that can’t be stopped because they’re too far down the rabbit hole, so they never even get to the first step of trying to comprehend the concepts.

    Also, I would like to note that the person who wrote the article is an immigrant “WOC,” though I’m sure that won’t make a difference to the students, faculty, bloggers, and activists that are probably about to bring the backlash. Maybe this one might not be so bad. The author was smart enough to wait until the end of the school year.

    1. With one possible exception?
      “kin selection,” the idea that, when individuals take actions for the benefit of their offspring and siblings, they are indirectly perpetuating their own genes.”

      Perhaps it is just me, but I object when professional biologists use this common summary of kin selection. The whole point of kin selection is to break apart the meaning of the word “own” in that sentence (if those gene copies reside in other individuals, in what sense are they the actor’s “own” genes?).

      I know, the writer intends to say that the altruistic individual is perpetuating the same alleles found in both itself and in its relatives. But which alleles, and why? A better summary?:
      “when individuals take actions for the benefit of their offspring and siblings, they are indirectly perpetuating copies of alleles for taking action to benefit kin.”

      1. One good reason why “kin selection” should be replaced with “inclusive fitness”. It helps make clear that its not about promoting similar genes, per se, its about the fact that genes for altruism from common descent can be propagated throughout the population just in case rB>C

        1. I think if you pull technical jargon into a general discussion, you should give a definition of the terms. I’m not familiar with rB or C, and googling doesn’t help. So, your argument is unnecessarily murky.

  2. I wish Maroja good luck. It’s brave for an assistant professor without the protections of tenure to openly criticize the woke Williams students. Woke is a poor term for these people. How about delusional?

  3. The student are secular fundamentalists.

    Their objections sound so much to me in the style of how religious fundamentalists object to science and gay rights.

    The Atlantic article was also on Instagram, and a self-identified Williams student wrote in part that Dr. Maroja “was too fragile to learn concepts outside her field”.

    So folks, you want to sound up to date, start calling people “fragile”.

  4. … by not talking about science that some find unsettling, we deny students opportunities for learning …

    Further, such censorship sows disillusionment and radicalization in the students, ready to sprout once they hear hitherto unsayable truths from alt-righters, what Steven Pinker called ‘swallowing the red pill’ –https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/11/opinion/social-media-dumber-steven-pinker.html

    1. It contributes, definitely. It also makes the dissenters feel like radical heretics, which isn’t good when you’re talking about students, because that’s fucking cool when you’re that young.

      OTOH I don’t like the way this debate can slide into exculpation of alt-righters/Trump-voters/etc. The idea that they’re forced into voting a certain way, or adopting fascism, or ranting about women, simply because of some mis-step by the left. It’s a little too similar to the idea that Islamists were all forced to violently protest against Salman Rushdie because of western imperialism. There is, or there should be, a difference between explaining something and justifying it.

      1. It actually sounds a lot like a slide into the totalitarianism of the soviet regimes where certain scientific conclusions or speculations were taboo if the state saw it as a threat. Here it isn’t the state but it’s a step in that direction once these kids get power and of course once bullying threatens anyone with a dissenting opinion. I’ve been watching the Chernobyl series and there are parallels in that government not only with wokeness but the idea that the most unqualified people can be elevated to positions of power based on a flawed ideology (in this case that government should be by the workers for the workers).

  5. I think, on the one hand, that it is sad that human differences have been treated by society as such that now students are afraid of them. I think it is fear of differences that motivates them to protest.

    I was trying to read up on the women’s sports controversy stuff – and realized that I just didn’t know enough about it to have a good opinion. I wrote a biology professor I know (her PhD work was specifically on sex differences) and she is a two time Iron Man to ask her (presumably, well informed) opinion. Her response was interesting, surprising in parts (to me, at least) and I came away feeling much more informed. That is sort of a best-case scenario for this sort of inquiry, and I wish the students fortitude in their curiosity and hope they understand there is nothing to fear from knowledge.

    1. It’s also identity – not just in the identity politics sense but the idea of the self as a person who is not sexist or racist. When that identity comes into conflict with data it becomes difficult to manage.

  6. I think the irony in that article is that the students do believe in inherent racial characteristics. To wit… ‘Racism is linked to the White Gene’

      1. Clarification: That is, applied to white males, because in the woke equivalent of the Merck Manual one finds a condition called “male fragility” and another called “white fragility”.

        Then there is the genuine medical condition, “fragile X syndrome.”

  7. Depressing. More and more it seems denial of reality continues to become a virtue across the entire ideological spectrum. If a student refuses to learn the science because of their moral principles they should receive an 8-1/2″ x 11″ bold red F for the class.

    1. She says that some of them are denying the existence of heredity. Actual biology students. Denying that heredity is a thing.

      How can you teach someone who feels that way? I hope it was just an exaggeration on the author’s part.

      1. Well, I guess that student can go deny that reality doing something that doesn’t involve science.

  8. Meh. It seems to me very likely that IQ scores are partly heritable, partly influenced by social conditioning. It also seems to me to be highly probable that IQ tests can, either deliberately or more probably inadvertently, favour the culture of the person compiling the test.

    And of course there are going to be differences in career preferences between men and women. People tend to prefer doing what they have a natural aptitude for. Nature has given the two sexes (and I’m talking statistical averages here) very significant differences physiologically, it would be very odd indeed if these didn’t reflect back into preferred occupations. Which doesn’t mean society doesn’t also have an influence, of course. I suspect though that many of these differences (men working, women cooking, to take the crudest stereotype) originally arose naturally, and have been perpetuated and reinforced by society.

    I suppose I have to add the caveat that none of this means that the considerable number of people who do not conform to the average, should be discriminated against. In fact, the exceptions should be catered for, so far as possible. But it’s absurd to pretend that these statistical differences don’t exist.

    Manufacturers of any consumer product know this perfectly well, of course. The better their product suits the tastes of their target market, the better it will sell. It’s a rare product that doesn’t have some gender bias. The manufacturers are, pretty much, agnostic as far as ‘equality’ is concerned, they don’t care which sex or nationality is buying their product so long as somebody does buy it.


    1. “It seems to me very likely that IQ scores are partly heritable, partly influenced by social conditioning. It also seems to me to be highly probable that IQ tests can, either deliberately or more probably inadvertently, favour the culture of the person compiling the test.”

      I think that you are correct that IQ test scores are partly heritable and partly due to environment. I would be interested to know what experts thinks about this. If the results are partially environmental, I wonder if they can be studied for with the hope of raising the scores. Many years ago as a high school student I was told that the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), which is used by colleges as a factor in determining who gets admitted, could not be studied for since it measured “aptitude.” So, I didn’t study for it and didn’t do well the first time I took it. I then bought several test prep books and studied them diligently, particularly on how to answer the math problems. Surprise, surprise, the next time I took the test my score went up 200 points (in a range from 200 to 800). I do not know if the College Board, which administers the test, still spouts this bullshit. Today, of course, students taking the exam will or should study the test prep books if they cannot afford to take classes teaching how to take the test. This is why I wonder if IQ tests can be studied for. If so, it will debunk the notion that IQ is purely the result of native intelligence.

      1. The way to deal with this issue is not to guess, but to look at the data, much of which comes from twins and adoption studies. The question that can be answered is this: “What proportion of the variation in IQ AMONG INDIVIDUALS OF A POPULATION is due to variation in their genes as opposed to variation in their environments (or interactions between the two)?

        The answer is that the variation is about 60% due to genetic variation, but it could be higher. That is called the “heritability” of IQ. This is, of course, within a population, and, as Luana said, says nothing about the cause of differences between populations. Other tests would be needed to study that.

    2. Division of labour among sexist really started out by just who could do what. I don’t think anyone really preferred either task…it’s just a woman was less able to go out and hunt caribou in hunter gatherer societies. That’s different now. Personally, I’m looking forward to our robot overlords to free us all with our servitude.

      1. *sexes. It’s funny to think of sexists dividing labour “you call slap that person on the ass and you call that other person fat”.

  9. It does seem very logical that gender differences in STEM programs emerges from differences in interests. Why else for example there are fewer men in primary grade education or nursing.

    1. I’m sure that any deficits of male primary school (and later) teachers are at least in part due to fear of the Helen Lovejoy “Won’t somebody think of the children?” hysteria, with the real risk of being accused of paedophilia.

      1. And the long standing reputation of being a “wussy” if you go into those fields instead of a manly engineer.

  10. These students are behaving like dogmatists, and I suspect that a chunk of the identity left in these classes will probably just drop out. You can’t deny the reality of _heredity itself_ and hope to become a biologists ffs. You might as well go into a history class and deny the existence of the ancient Greeks.

    But I do find it strange and often telling when people fixate on genetic differences in IQ. I’ve spoken to people about this recently – what I always want to know is what difference such information is going to make? Of what use is it outside of a very narrow specialism in a particular field? Mostly they try and avoid talking about the political implications, but that’s usually why they’re interested in it in the first place(I’m not talking about academics studying the field for perfectly legitimate reasons, I’m talking about people who talk about it online, or post political videos about it).

    I think it’s crazy to claim that group differences don’t exist, because after a few seconds on the internet any sceptical student can find out that they almost certainly do.

    The question should be _why_ they exist, and how valid the concept of IQ tests are at determining innate intelligence when the average IQ of the population has been shown to increase reliably over the last century. To me, the Flynn Effect drives a horse and carriage through the idea that IQ can be a reliable measure of genetic intelligence, as opposed to a melange of different factors, none of which can be separated out in a clean way.

    Far-right political grifters who latch onto this research and spend their time confabulating future white-nationalist policy on its basis would be fought off much more effectively if we didn’t have to pretend the data doesn’t say what it says.

    1. If the average IQ has increased over time (though skimming over typical Youtube comment threads causes me grave doubts about that, but anyway…) then it must have been environmental.

      Either that or IQ tests have been getting better attuned to modern culture. (Or possibly they always were, and culture has fortuitously changed to align with them better). I don’t really think that, btw.

      But it can’t be genetic ‘cos genes don’t change that fast. Do they?


      1. Pretty sure genes don’t typically change that quickly, as in a new mutation occurring and then becoming prevalent in the population. But traits that are already well established though not dominant in a population can sometimes relatively quickly become dominant.

        Recently there was an example of this having to do with a species of lizard on, I think, a Caribbean island(s). A severe hurricane was the “filter” that caused it if I recall correctly. The population before the storm was dominated by lizards that lacked a certain trait and the population after the storm was dominated by lizards with that particular trait.

        1. It will take a catastrophe to rid us of our dumb lizard population. It’s amusing that population IQ is going up because there are so many stupids out there.

            1. Haha. It’s nice to have someone fond of you esp when your comment makes you LOL and you know it’s sad to laugh at your own remarks but they’re still funny and you can’t help yourself.

              1. I do that all the time…it is sad. And I still can’t help myself.

              2. I know what you mean. If it’s either laugh or cry I think laughing is better.

                Ever read the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant? Haven’t read it since my teens, dreadfully depressing by the way. But there was a giant character and in his culture laughter was considered a great antidote and the proper response to anything from a stubbed toe to tragedy.

              3. No I haven’t heard of that but I do find humour important and I find it horribly oppressive if I can’t express myself with it.

              4. I’m convinced that there are only two reasonable answers to “What is the meaning of life?” types of questions. One is humour. The other is humor.

              5. And I think both will probably bite me in the ass. It’s the great paradox.

      2. The pool of available genes may not change that fast, but the genetic composition of a population may change drastically under evolitionary pressure. Think of dogs. 15000 years ago, they were pretty much all regular wolves with a streak for inter-species contact. Now, under intense pressure, they have split into breeds that range from rat-sized neurotics to calf-sized chill dudes.

        Can such selection pressure exist in humans? Maybe not as systematically as in dogs, but think of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, where pretty much the entire educated elite of the country was killed off. Don’t you think that leaves a trace in the genetic composition of a people?

    2. It seems to me that IQ testing is clearly not sufficient to determine how likely a given person is to succeed, by whatever metric of success. We know there are other important factors, which are often even less well defined and less quantifiable than IQ itself. I’m an example. I scored quite high on IQ tests in my school years, but I have not achieved any success of special note, not even remotely. Meanwhile Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office.

      1. I never got given IQ tests as a kid. But recently I’ve been given a battery of neurological tests because of seizures I’ve been having at night, and one element was a three hour long cognition test. It measured pattern recognition and memory mainly but it was…fun. I enjoyed it and started to get quite competitive quite quickly.

        1. Ugh night seizures. My mom had those. Do they know what is causing them? Did you have migraines before? I am a chronic migraine sufferer and I know I am at higher risk for seizures because of it.

          1. I’ve never had chronic migraines, but my mother always did, and she’d have to go to bed wearing these enormous woolly hats because the cold gave her migraines. I get very bad headaches if the room is warm, which is the opposite.

            I’d really like to know, what happened to your mum in these night seizures? How did she behave? What was she like after they’d happened?
            I’m still at a loss as to what’s going on, haven’t had a diagnosis, so any more info is helpful. It’s not much fun, although the seizures happen quite rarely, once every six months or so.

            1. I think stress at work triggered my mon’s Seizures. The neurologist never could figure out why they happened and said night seizures are not well understood. However, she also had severe infections at the time so it could have been triggered by that as she had very high fevers.

              1. Okay, well at least it happens to other people. Callous I know, but I’m glad it’s not just me.

                I’m getting an EEG to test for epilepsy so hopefully that’ll shed some light on the subject and at least tell me what sort of goblins have made their home in my head. At this point I have no hope of evicting them, but it’d be a forward step to know what it is they want and why they keep doing what they do to little ol’ me.

                Anyway, thanks Diana, I’m really out in the wilderness with this fucking thing so any information is water in the desert.

              2. Neurology is a field that deals with a lot of variables and mystery. It’s a never ending frustration to me that I developed chronic migraines in my 30s and now with treatment (propanolol as a preventative & a triptan as an abortive) I am technically a person with episodic migraines instead of chronic as I get them less than 15x/month (this month has been rough at 6 of them so far). It’s god awful because each migraine has about a 1-2 day lead up & a 1-2 day recovery so you’re pretty much never at your best. And there just seems to be very little headway in solving the mysteries of them. There have been advancements in medications but they have some pretty dire side effects.

      2. Same here, I always did very well on IQ tests, but in actual life I consider myself well below ‘potential’, to put it mildly.
        And Mr Trump in the Oval Office is indeed an outstanding example of the contrary..

      3. ” but I have not achieved any success of special note, not even remotely. Meanwhile Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office.”

        It’s never too late. The Dem primary’s still open. Imagine…one of WEIT’s own in the WH. Or the WEIT House. You could fill the cabinet with other commenters.

        1. LOL!

          Actually, I’d be hard pressed to think of a less desirable job. But, I’ve no doubts whatsoever that I could do a better job of it than DT.

          I know, I know. That ain’t saying much.

          1. ” I’d be hard pressed to think of a less desirable job.”

            Some people say that the field should only be open to people who don’t want the job…

            And I checked the current polls.

            You’re already 3% ahead of Beto O’Rourke.

            1. Some people say that the field should only be open to people who don’t want the job…

              One of the morals of Game of Thrones.

      4. Certainly Trump is an example of the correlation of high IQ and success in life. After all, he is an extremely stable genius. How do I know? He said so himself and when did he ever lie? 😎

        1. Of course!

          I’ve always enjoyed how he adds “stable” to genius. But then of course he does have the best words.

          1. Perhaps he’s employing ‘stable’ in its other sense, ie, he’s claiming to be smarter than a horse. But I don’t believe he is.

          2. I keep saying how brilliant a character he would be if he was fictional. He’d be one of the most hilarious comic creations of all-time.

            He’s an absurdist’s dream, like a Sacha Baron-Cohen creation or like Douglas Reynholm from the IT Crowd. The things he says and does, and tweets…they’re just so funny, the tics and tropes and habits he has, the pauses in his speech when he’s trying to remember what he’s doing, where he is, what’s happened in the last five years…he’s hilarious. Hilariously stupid, ignorant, hilariously insecure, and absurdly underqualified for the role.

            The only problem is that he’s not fictional.

            1. I couldn’t agree more. He’d be great, and hilarious, as a villain in one of the more slapstick Stainless Steel Rat stories. Unfortunately we have to endure him in reality.

  11. At the end of the trail and all the discussion put forth, what this professor and all teachers require of their institutions is guidance and rules. If they get none or bad information then you have Evergreen. This is the bottom line.

    I looked at her article for indications of disruption and interruption of her duties and they are there. The denialism with explaination at length and even emails to her and stating she should not be teaching. All are not acceptable if a teacher is to do their job. So lets see a policy by administration that disruptions in the classroom are not allowed. The instructor has a plan to follow and complete and it cannot be if there are interruptions for endless opinion. All disruptions to this purpose will be removed from the room.

  12. It is useless to pretend that there are not differences between people, and that some of those differences are based in heredity. (Indeed, in some circumstances, such as medical care, it could be dangerous.) What is important is to commit to a constitutional regime where those differences are ignored, and cannot be used for discrimination and persecution. My challenge with the Wokiees is that they don’t seem to be interested in a regime of equality any more, but one of preference for certain pre-selected groups.

    1. The thing that grinds political neutrals’ gears is the element of…vengeance in it. Of demanding an eye for an eye.
      The most extreme politically correct types don’t just want to level the playing field, they want the right to do a lot of the shitty things that other people have done to them. So if a group of minority students surround a white professor and yell and shout in his face, get him fired, the defense is ‘we had to put up with that kind of thing for centuries’. Which is true, but not a legitimate defense, and it makes the brand of activism utterly toxic to anyone not already on that side.

      The people who agitate for this kind of approach are the minority in the movement for equality, but they also tend to be the loudest and most dominant.

      1. ” ‘we had to put up with that kind of thing for centuries’. Which is true, ”

        Well, actually, it’s NOT true. THEY didn’t. Their ancestors did. They are now in a privileged position and what do they do? – abuse other people who had nothing to do with past crimes because they weren’t there.

        It’s legitimate to complain about lingering ongoing injustices still happening now, but moaning about past offences – get over it. Anything else is just tribalism and revenge.

        (Me, I’m still grievously offended by the French for the way they treated my ancestors when they invaded. There was massive injustice perpetrated and reparations have never been made. That was 1066.)


        1. That’s odd. I don’t have to go back anywhere near that far before I find a reason to be grievously offended by the French.

          1. Certainly New Zealand doesn’t since the French kept testing nuclear bombs in the South Pacific up until 1995. New Zealand is not fond of France because of this and remains staunchly anti-nuclear. I think NZ felt they had quite enough Strontium-90 in there milk, thank-you very much.

            1. Or, more recently, the way some frogmen from the French government blew up th Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbor in 1985 as part of Operation Satanique?

              1. Rainbow Warrior just one in a series of awful behaviour. They cut the mast if one protestor and he had to be rescuers by the Aussies. I do get why NZ and many in the South Pacific don’t favour France.

      2. The most extreme politically correct types don’t just want to level the playing field, they want the right to do a lot of the shitty things that other people have done to them.

        “have done to their ancestors”, more like. They haven’t experienced the oppression that their ancestors did, but want to inflict it on others.


    1. I guess that understanding the conditions of reality might not be a bad starting point if you want to ameliorate ‘the reality of the human condition’.

  13. University students *should* behave this way: challenge the status quo, embrace radical ideas, take intellectual chances, follow new paths, be eccentric, be punks. That’s what 20-year-olds should be doing. The freedom to be stupid at this age is essential for personal growth.

    HOWEVER, it’s the job of faculty to teach what the evidence shows, teach critical thinking, and teach both sides of the argument.

    All these collegiate kerfuffles are 99% the fault of faculty and administrators not doing their jobs. Instead, they immediately roll over and accede to every ludicrous demand.

    What exactly are they afraid of? Loss of tuition? People being mean to them on social media? It’s exasperating!

    1. Yes. I like that. The more mature minds should not roll over (and p.ss on their bellies) every time a 20 year old behaves like a stupid punk.

    2. Absolutely. As I’ve said here before, student politician types have ALWAYS been idiots. They were idiots when I was a student in the 80s and they are idiots now.

      The only difference now is that the administrator types are giving in to the idiots. As others have noted, this may be an Unintended Consequence of the students-as-consumers model we’ve had imposed on us.

      Most of the world’s problems are not caused by idiots per se, they are caused by people following idiots or giving in to idiots.

  14. On heritability – the biologists can correct me, but from what I understand it is already relative to a given environment. (This is why Sarkar, Lewontin and others say focusing on it too much is to be avoided.)

    On IQ tests: It seems that in many contexts an IQ test is conflated with a generic aptitude test. I understand from a contact who does occaisonally make use of them that a *trained psychologist* or psychometrician has to *administer* these. Consequently almost the school uses are, in fact, illegal or unethical.

  15. A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, the entire field of medical genetics was denounced for “biological determinism” and its supposed ideological association with eugenics. I.I. Prezent, the foremost purveyor of these attacks, made the following demand of geneticists: “They must disclose the link between the metaphysical doctrine of the immutability of the gene in the course of hundreds and thousands of years—followed by contemporary bourgeois genetics—and the independence of nature from the conditions of life, on the one hand, and the delirious attempts at controlled human breeding, on the other.” The idea of a nature independent “from the conditions of life” seemed, to Prezent and associates, particularly suspect and counter-revolutionary.

    Elsewhere, Prezent explained the ominous background of the offending science as follows: “Rotting capitalism, at the imperialist stage of development, gave birth to a still-born bastard of biological science, the thoroughly metaphysical and anti-historical doctrine of formalist genetics.” [Both quotes come from Medvedev’s “The Rise and fall of T.D. Lysenko.”]

    Our contemporary campus pop-Left has evidently returned to views similar to those followed in that far away galaxy by Prezent and his close colleague Trofim Lysenko in the 1930s-40s. The reappearance of these views suggests a deep affinity between the Left and the hostility to science that underpins them. Presumably, this could be traced back to one famous aphorism of Karl Marx: “Hitherto, philosophers have sought to understand the world; the point, however, is to change it.” Anything that might seem an obstacle to changing the world—Biology, for example—is to be rejected and denounced.

  16. Remember, according to the #NewRacists and the anti-science, anti-skeptic loons, all these sorts of incidents are “hoaxes”.

    Peter “Humanisticus” Ferguson and Thomas “Serious Inquiries” Smith insist this is the case.

    Nothing to see, here, folks. Move on, Avert your eyes.

    And yet, another day, and another slab of evidence rolls in. No doubt the gaslighting will continue.

  17. One of the problems with “IQ” (as measured by an IQ test) is that it’s a very narrow kind of intelligence centered around developed academia, while the term “intelligence quotient” suggests a generalized intelligence.

    It is a failure of those talking about intelligence to not make that clear. The assumption that IQ refers to generalized intelligence is the source of all the political drama.

  18. As we see from Maroja’s discussion of IQ differences between Brazilians and Americans, she is no Charles Murray, …

    We should distinguish between the “Charles Murray” of popular mythology (complete with horns, tail and cloven hoves), and the real Charles Murray and what he actually wrote.

    1. Indeed. Having read and listened to some of his work, I don’t even think the comment makes much sense. Is the implication that he compares populations improperly? I was under the impression the NLSY database was a representative sample of large enough size to make valid comparisons. Is the implication that he would erroneously assign the cause of disparities to genes? I’ve understood him to be rather consistent in making clear we don’t know the proportions of genetic vs environmental influence for given traits.

      Maybe I’m misinterpreting the statement, but it rang false on first pass.

  19. In a sense I don’t understand the problem (or don’t see it as an exceptional problem) – students come in with erroneous misconceptions and it’s the teacher’s job to correct those misconceptions.

    1. Yes, but these misconceptions are a. based on ideology, not pure ignorance and b. are not dispelled by telling the students the scientific truth. In other words, teachers find it hard to correct them because the students prefer a politically palatable blank slate-ism.

      1. One of the people most responsible for this mischief was none other than Stephen Jay Gould, of course. His execrable and, frankly, libellous “Mismeasure of Man” gave a lot of people what they thought was biological warrant for science denial.

        1. He seems to have been the one who suggested that “school aptitude test = IQ test”, which is wrong. (Shame, because’s a good popularizer of other things …)

  20. Given that Dr. Maroja holds the rank of associate professor and has taught at Williams for over a decade, she likely has tenure. I’ve read the article twice and neither time did I see the part where she changes what she teaches or how she teaches it or where somebody with the power to do more than whine even suggested that she do anything in class other than what she thinks best. She is the teacher. They are the students. If they resist learning, she is certainly entitled to grumble that they should get off her lawn. Teachers have long grumbled, rightly, over less.

  21. I Would like to take up the following remark by our host in the article: “Some differences between groups, of course, aren’t worth studying because either their results are uninteresting or because they’re designed to feed into stereotypes. My advisor Richard Lewontin used to use, as an example, the hypothesis that Jews have genes for longer noses than other groups. There may well be such genes, as there are genes for morphological differences between other groups, but who would care?”

    If it is genuinely the case that “Jews have genes for longer noses than other groups”,it is not necessarily uninteresting. As exemplified by Belyaev’s work on the domestication of Arctic foxes, it would appear to be the case that certain seemingly purely physical traits (like floppy ears in foxes) correlate with behavioural traits like “gentleness” in foxes in the course of selective breeding for domestication. There seem to be no adaptive aspects to this process of correlation, simply a functional link between the genes that, for example, control aural and behavioural floppiness.

    As someone who both has Jewish ancestry and a well-developed proboscis, I feel that I can safely ask whether there might be a similar genetic link between the physical and behavioural expressions of “nosiness” among Jews, in other words our well-founded reputation for intellectual curiosity?

    1. That’s what immediately crossed my mind while reading your comment – “are big noses correlated with intelligence?”
      Of course some results may be both (a) interesting AND (b) likely to reinforce stereotypes. Which makes the study of them sensitive, but should not be taboo.

      Sadly, the crackpots out there will sieze on anything that appears to support their theories.


  22. I don’t see that the Professor’s academic freedom was compromised in this case. I do agree with her general points. But if what happened was open, productive classroom conversation and students raising questions about something else they had read elsewhere, this could actually be a healthy opportunity to address some issues. I’m not a genetecist. I’m not even a “real” scientist. It sounds to me as if the students read, or heard some lectures that possibly referenced Stephen J. Gould’s “The Mismeasure of Man”. At least I’m hearing echoes of Gould’s critique of IQ testing in this article.

Leave a Reply