Abbotgate hits the mainstream media and Quillette: MIT gets egg on its face

October 21, 2021 • 11:00 am

UPDATE: Now NBC News has covered the story in an article called “After lecture is canceled, free speech debate roils science academia.” It deals largely with David Romps’s resignation as Director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Science Center, which he details in a series of tweets (first one in the thread is below).  (h/t Simon)

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The saga of Dorian Abbot began quietly on my campus, and when it was resolved at the University of Chicago, I thought that was the end of it. But then, because Abbot had written and made videos criticizing affirmative action and DEI initiatives, he was disinvited from the prestigious Carlson lectures at MIT, where he was supposed to speak on global warming (they later offered him a smaller technical lecture on his work). This deplatforming was picked up by several venues in the conservative media, including the conservative columnist Bret Stephens at the NYT, but I was frustrated that the non-conservative press ignored such an egregious incident of cancellation.

It was especially egregious because Abbot wasn’t going to talk at MIT about DEI or the like, but about global warming and other planets. In other words, he was being punished for saying things in other venues that offended people. More than that: there is a valid debate about the methods of DEI initiatives, though their intent is admirable. I accept the need for some affirmative action as a means of reparation, but others don’t, and none of us should be punished or cancelled for our views.

Now both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have published new pieces on Abbotgate, which you can access by clicking below. The NYT piece is an article by Michael Powell, and seems to me pretty favorable by way of making Abbot seem unfairly treated by MIT. (He’s not biased, but the facts do indict MIT.) The op-ed in the WSJ is by Lawrence Krauss, and also deals with Abbot, further describing how DEI initiatives are stifling science and swallowing up academia. There’s also a piece in Quillette (third screenshot below) that is largely about Abbot.

All in all, MIT has not come out of this looking good. And although the MIT President, Provost, and head of the department that invited Abbot, Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (DEAPS) originally affirmed that yes, the school was strongly in favor free speech, and that Abbot had not really been canceled, but offered another (far inferior!) lecture, now they’re getting more defensive and hostile. Such is the Streisand effect.

I’ll give just the new information from the NYT piece. First, some anti-free-speech sentiments from the head of EAPS, much stronger than we’ve heard previously:

On Sept. 30, M.I.T. reversed course. The head of its earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences department called off Dr. Abbot’s lecture, to be delivered to professors, graduate students and the public, including some top Black and Latino high school students.

“Besides freedom of speech, we have the freedom to pick the speaker who best fits our needs,” said Robert van der Hilst, the head of the department at M.I.T. “Words matter and have consequences.”

The consequences are that you don’t get to talk about something irrelevant to words you’ve said before. And, as I emphasized, though Abbot and a colleague went a bit too far at the end of their Newsweek editorial on free speech, why should criticism of DEI, a perfectly valid philosophical and ethical debate, have such dire consequences? (Abbot notes correctly  at the end that “these controversies will have a negative impact on my scientific career”.)

I’m quoted as well after a long interview with Powell, expressing surprise that scientists would get just as wokified as humanities people:

“I thought scientists would not get on board with the denial-of-free-speech movement,” said Jerry Coyne, an emeritus professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago. “I was absolutely wrong, 100 percent so.”

My point was that freedom of speech is taken for granted in science: each of us has the right—nay, duty—to criticize others whose work we think is wrong. I assumed (wrongly) that that scientists’ emphasis on free speech would carry over into politics. Well, I’m neither a politician nor a pundit.

A professor at Princeton asked Abbot to give his Carlson lecture at his school, and that will happen today. But there were other consequences:

The story took another turn this week, as David Romps, a professor of climate physics at the University of California, Berkeley, announced that he would resign as director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center. He said he had tried to persuade his fellow scientists and professors to invite Dr. Abbot to speak and so reaffirm the importance of separating science from politics.

“In my view, there are some institutional principles that we have to hold sacred,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

His colleagues weren’t persuaded, so Romps resigned.

Now the NYT piece isn’t perfect, for in the two paragraphs below I see reporter Powell trying to imply that science is guilty of present-day as well as past racism:

The history of science is no less marked than other fields of learning by abhorrent chapters of suppression and prejudice. Nazi and Communist regimes twisted science to their own end, and scientists buckled, fled or suffered perilous consequences. Some professors point to aspects of that history as a cautionary tale for American science. In the United States, so-called race science — including the measurement of skulls with the intent to determine intelligence — was used to justify the subordination of Black people, Chinese, Italians, Jews and others. Experiments were carried out on people without their consent.

The worst of that history lies decades past. That said, the faculty at geoscience departments in the United States has more white faculty than some other sciences. Departments have attracted more female professors of late but struggle to recruit Black and Latino candidates. The number of Asian Americans earning geoscience degrees has decreased since the mid-1990s.

Indeed, the worst of that history lies decades past; at present, science departments are lining up in droves to hire good minority candidates. But the second paragraph, at least to me, is a Kendi-an implication that inequities in geoscience departments still reflect racism in those departments.  That’s simply not true. It is a “pipeline problem” whose rectification requires a huge and necessary societal effort well beyond DEI efforts on the college and grad-school level.

There were professors who supported Abbot’s cancellation, of course. One is Phoebe Cohen, a geoscience professor at Williams College, who makes an unbelievably dumb statement that I’ve put in bold below:

Phoebe A. Cohen is a geosciences professor and department chair at Williams College and one of many who expressed anger on Twitter at M.I.T.’s decision to invite Dr. Abbot to speak, given that he has spoken against affirmative action in the past.

Dr. Cohen agreed that Dr. Abbot’s views reflect a broad current in American society. Ideally, she said, a university should not invite speakers who do not share its values on diversity and affirmative action. Nor was she enamored of M.I.T.’s offer to let him speak at a later date to the M.I.T. professors. “Honestly, I don’t know that I agree with that choice,” she said. “To me, the professional consequences are extremely minimal.”

What, she was asked, of the effect on academic debate? Should the academy serve as a bastion of unfettered speech?

“This idea of intellectual debate and rigor as the pinnacle of intellectualism comes from a world in which white men dominated,” she replied.

What? Intellectual debate and rigor are signs of toxic male white supremacy? What an outrageously stupid statement! Intellectual debate and rigor are de rigueur not just in science, but in academia as a whole. I mourn for Dr. Cohen’s geoscience students at Williams: are they taught to go with their feelings and emotions instead of “intellectual rigor” when they take her classes?

Finally, we return to the chair of MIT’s EAPS defending the cancelation. I’d be surprised if Abbot takes up the invitation to address his department (my emphasis):

Dr. van der Hilst speculated that Black students might well have been repelled if they learned of Dr. Abbot’s views on affirmative action. This lecture program was founded to explore new findings on climate science and M.I.T. has hoped to attract such students to the school. He acknowledged that these same students might well in years to come encounter professors, mentors even, who hold political views at odds with their own.

“Those are good questions but somewhat hypothetical,” Dr. van der Hilst said. “Freedom of speech goes very far but it makes civility difficult.”

Dr. van der Hilst added that he invited Dr. Abbot to meet privately with faculty there to discuss his research.

What happened to the departmental lecture? Has it been replaced by “private meetings with faculty”? At any rate, yes, students might have been repelled or offended by what Abbot said outside MIT, but they have plenty of recourse. They don’t have to go to Abbot’s lecture, they could picket it outside quietly, or they could use counterspeech. But Hilst even admits that the world is full of encounters with speech you don’t like, so why is Abbot being deplatformed? This is not “somewhat hypothetical”—those are weasel words—but real. So why can’t MIT use the Carlson Lecture as an example?

As for his last sentence, “Freedom of speech makes civility difficult,” yes, it’s partly true but not inevitable, and so what? Violation of civility is not protected by the Constitution, but freedom of speech is.

All in all, I’m pleased that the NYT not only covered Abbot’s disinvitation, but, in describing it objectively, still makes MIT look pretty bad. (I am of course biased, but I am not alone in my feelings.)

Here’s Lawrence Krauss’s short piece in the Wall Street Journal. He’s careful not to go after DEI initiatives in the way Abbot did, but still calls them out for injuring science and causing academic bloat. Click on screenshot:

Just two short from Krauss:

Several years ago, one began to see an additional criterion in advertisements for faculty openings. As a recent Cornell ad puts it: “Also required is a statement of diversity, equity and inclusion describing the applicant’s efforts and aspirations to promote equity, inclusion and diversity through teaching, research and service.” This sort of requirement became more common and is now virtually ubiquitous. Of the 25 most recent advertisements for junior faculty that appeared in Physics Today online listings as of Oct. 15—from research institutions like Caltech to liberal-arts colleges like Bryn Mawr, and even in areas as esoteric as quantum engineering and theoretical astrophysics—24 require applicants to demonstrate an explicit, active commitment to the DEI agenda.

This isn’t merely pro forma; it’s a real barrier to employment. The life-sciences department at the University of California, Berkeley reports that it rejected 76% of applicants in 2018-19 based on their diversity statements without looking at their research records. A colleague at a major research institution, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her students, wrote to me: “I have a student on the market this year, agonizing more on the diversity statement than on the research proposal. He even took training where they taught them how to write one. It breaks my heart to see this.” Other colleagues relate that their white male postdocs aren’t getting interviews or have chosen to seek jobs outside academia.

This is happening not only in universities. Last week the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a biomedical research charity, announced a $2.2 billion initiative aimed at reducing racial disparity, made possible by a contraction in its funding of significant research for senior investigators. The initiative includes $1.2 billion in grants for early-career researchers. Science magazine reports that because antidiscrimination law prohibits disqualifying applicants on the basis of race and sex, the recipients will be chosen based on their “commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” in the words of the institute’s president, Erin O’Shea. How? “Diversity statements,” she says, are “a very promising approach.”

In other words, diversity statements are a surrogate for the candidate’s race, and you can do an end run around illegal race-based hiring by ranking diversity statements. We’ve known this for a while, though.

Krauss’s conclusion:

Beyond these fearful faculty members, and talented would-be scientists who will be dissuaded or excluded from academic research, DEI offices are working to indoctrinate incoming students. This year at Princeton, the New York Post reports, freshmen were required to watch a video promoting “social justice” and describing dissenting debate as “masculine-ized bravado.” If such efforts succeed, a new generation of students won’t have the opportunity to subject their own viewpoints to challenge—surely one of the benefits of higher education.

Critics have likened DEI statements to the loyalty oaths of the Red Scare. In 1950 the University of California fired 31 faculty members for refusing to sign a statement disavowing any party advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government. That violated their freedom of speech and conscience, but this is worse. Whereas a loyalty oath compels assent to authority, a DEI statement demands active ideological engagement. It’s less like the excesses of anticommunism than like communism itself.

And now I’ve run out of space (and steam), so I’ll refer you to the article in Quillette (click on screenshot below) by Peter Schuck, the Simeon E. Baldwin Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law school. It ends like this:

The MIT fiasco should remind us how much cancel culture has to answer for. Although this culture’s activists are relatively few and its rhetoric is often risible in its hyperbole, its militants on college campuses sometimes have an outsize effect on others: cruelly blighted reputations, perverse policy agendas, stigmatization of moderate Democrats, and much more. But Princeton’s swift response to Abbot’s cancellation by providing an alternative, honored forum also suggests a hopeful, low-cost remedy, consistent with free speech and liberal academic values. MIT should be ashamed of its craven support for bullying—and perhaps other more principled institutions will heed this simple exemplary lesson.

Perhaps, but probably not.

30 thoughts on “Abbotgate hits the mainstream media and Quillette: MIT gets egg on its face

  1. Dr. van der Hilst speculated that Black students might well have been repelled if they learned of Dr. Abbot’s views on affirmative action.

    Is Dr. van der Hilst suggesting that black students’ self-appraisal is that they would be unable to win posts on merit, but only as diversity hires?

    1. Good point. In fact, a certain number of black professionals dislike affirmative action because it leads some people to judge that they have not legitimately earned their degrees, jobs, etc. I don’t have any idea what the numbers or percentages are, but if people are going to speculate in one direction, it seems reasonable to consider the other.

      1. If we want a society in which race is a non-factor – and I do, then I believe we have to say that MLK’s colourblind approach is the way to go. The Kendi/DiAngelo alternative of keeping racism alive isn’t going to achieve the desired end; it will prolong the bitterness on all sides. No doubt I don’t understand all the nuances, not being an American, but to some extent isn’t affirmative action a forerunner of the Kendi/DiAngelo approach? Is it sometimes a nice leg-up that one would be a fool to decline, but does it move us any closer to the society we want? One might be forgiven for wondering if everyone does want that non-racist society, when there is the option of permanent unearned advantages by use of grievance politics, and if affirmative action is justified as a form of reparation, then does that make reparations respectable generally? One sees the attraction of settling a debt and being free of it, but does anyone think that would magically end racism in America?
        I’d propose that what is often thought of as purely racial is actually an economic, classist issue. Don’t worry, I’m not a Marxist! But would affirmative action for all poor and disadvantaged people do any good? Yes, as far as it goes, and there’s the rub; the perceived stigma of having been given your place by a utopian engineering program rather than by virtue of your own ability or hard work. Difficult, but there is a middle way and I’m a product of it. As I have become older, I have come to appreciate more and more the cleverness and fairness of the Attlee post-war social engineering. (Some respects, anyway, as the inflation, strikes and ‘industrial disease’ of the 1970’s were probably the result of their policies.) But with higher education they did a beautiful thing. Anyone could go, provided they could win a place on merit (and merit was the only way in – no legacy entrants or kids of donors). Tuition was paid, and a grant for living expenses was means tested. In my case, tuition was free, and other expenses were divided half and half between the government and my father. If he had nothing, the grant would have paid everything. If he was rolling in cash, he would have been expected to pay up the lot. Fantastic system, and I was lucky to benefit from it. No debt at the end, you see. Around 10-15% of school leavers went to university on this system. It’s all gone now, replaced with universities that have to make a profit by allowing anyone in (as many as possible, in fact), many of whom will end up with no degree, or a useless degree, and a massive debt. I’ve said here before we need to reassess the way we look at tradespeople. In my small community a good carpenter, plumber or electrician is valued just as much as I was as the doc. The couple who ran the general store were loved by all. Human worth and value to society aren’t just measured by having a degree. Sorry for wandering off-topic!

    2. I can’t speak for him, but I wouldn’t be surprised that many of them would appraise the selection system as prejudiced against them regardless of their merits. After all it hasn’t really been all that long since such prejudice was common, and it still is in many trades, even if no longer in the academic sciences, in many places, at least in the US. I know this because I work in a region and trade in which such prejudices against non-whites and women are still very common and so does my wife.

  2. As a semi-retired recording engineer I don’t have a dog in this horse race, or however the cliché goes, but I just want to express my appreciation to PCC(e) for his dedication, integrity, and even courage in following this issue and reporting on it so thoroughly!

  3. Extending cancellation to remarks made outside one’s field was an obvious next step in the effort to impose ideological conformity. Next up, cancellation because of something a relative said, followed by being a known associate of someone who once said something. It’s all there in Soviet History. I’m just waiting for when they start editing people out of photographs.

    1. As scary as it may be, I think you might be right. The woke ideology seems to be that crazy…

      This line from Phoebe A. Cohen (a university professor for heaven sake !) says it all: “This idea of intellectual debate and rigor as the pinnacle of intellectualism comes from a world in which white men dominated”

      Anyone claiming to be on the left of the political spectrum and with the slightest concern for morality and ethics should fight this kind of ideology with even more energy than any idea currently being proposed by any right of center politician. Nothing compares to this level of deranged bigotry and nothing seems more dangerous for our public life and societies at the moment.

  4. The Krauss article includes information far more appalling than Dorian Abbot’s disinvitation. This is the
    report that 24 out of 25 Physics Today notices of new junior positions “require applicants to demonstrate an explicit, active commitment to the DEI agenda”.

    This example of compelled speech is far worse than anything seen in the supposedly terrifying 1950s period of the Red scare and the loyalty oaths; the latter, for example, did not require job applicants to demonstrate a history of activity on behalf of a pro-capitalist agenda. In fact, the Diversity Statement requirement—now apparently creeping into all fields—seems more anti-Liberal than the Soviet academic world during the worst of the Lysenkovshchina. It is more analogous to the domination of medieval universities by Holy Mother Church. Welcome back into the world of pardoners (in the DEI offices), indulgences for sale (in the booming market for ghost-written Diversity Statements), and, of course, heresy trials conducted by the Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition.

  5. Both here and in the NYT comments, Dr. Cohen has rightly taken heat for her comment about intellectual rigor being a white male domination thing. But that’s been said so often it’s a cliché now. It’s her statement below that riled me up:

    Dr. Cohen agreed that Dr. Abbot’s views reflect a broad current in American society. Ideally, she said, a university should not invite speakers who do not share its values on diversity and affirmative action. Nor was she enamored of M.I.T.’s offer to let him speak at a later date to the M.I.T. professors. “Honestly, I don’t know that I agree with that choice,” she said. “To me, the professional consequences are extremely minimal.”

    This implies that she thinks the professional consequences for having an opinion she disagrees with should be more severe than just a canceled lecture. This just blows me away, coming from an academic with a PhD. It’s one thing for a Twitter rando, but this person teaches at a university!

    1. Yes agreed. Cr. Cohen and her allies are all over twitter claiming she is a victim of this reporting. She claims her comments were taken out of context by the NYT reporter, and that she tried to add some kind of explanation of her position but that the reporter ignored her efforts and additions.

    2. There seem to be plenty of would-be authoritarian cultural revolutionaries in American academia (and my country’s too) who would be very comfortable with China’s Social Credit System, so long as they were in charge of it.

  6. When I read the statements of outrage, such as those displayed in Krauss’ opinion piece or the comments on this blog, I really wonder whether folks genuinely do not understand what DEI efforts are trying to do or whether there is an actually willing misrepresentation. Supreme court precedent is explicit in stating that applicants cannot be hired (or passed over) purely on the basis of their protected status but that that status may be considered as part of the overall consideration in certain conditions. And when an institution values diversity, in all its forms, and decides that its lack of diversity needs to be addressed, those precedents provide the framework within which we act. In every DEI-related meeting or discussion that Ive been involved in, that has been the focus. No talk of quotas, no token hiring of minorities who are not as good as the other candidates. Just thinking about factoring in diversity considerations when evaluating applications as a whole. The repeated statements made by a number of prominent anti-DEI proponents to the contrary are just false.

    Krauss’ consternation regarding DEI statements in job applications appears similarly misplaced for two reasons. First, if you’re going to consider these things in a job application, which we’ve always done to some extent anyway, it’s a good idea to give the applicant the opportunity to provide information that will help elevate their ranking in this area. If I was making the decision on who to hire and I had to chose between two applicants of similar research status but one has an outreach program for kids from socioeconomically disadvantaged kids and the other just does their research, I think my decision is made easier. There’s an extra point in there too – this isn’t just about a person’s protected status – its about what they actually do. Krauss seems to feel that an individual’s “excellence” should be sufficient to get them their job. Most hiring committees, in any field of employment, are really looking at the total package and I think it takes a special kind of arrogance to think that shouldn’t apply to scientists too. If anything, asking for such a statement is fairer. It does helps do away with “legacy hiring” where one prof calls up another and says “hire my grad student, he’s great”. Aren’t we doing a better job of evaluating applications on their merit if we have more information?

    The second point regarding DEI statements is that it seems quite reasonable to evaluate an applicant on their outreach efforts in addition to their research. Most of us are funded through grants that ultimately are funded by the taxpayer. Why should we not have to take that extra step to show that we are included those folks in our work somehow?

    So what’s unfair about this? I struggle to understand. I’m sure I will be enlightened…

    1. Two points:

      In many places the DEI applications are the first thing looked at, and if they’re insufficient, your application is not further vetted. But there are ways of outreach (I’ve written about them) that aren’t “DEI”. I think it’s unfair to discard applications that don’t pass DEI muster given that there are lots of kids of outreach not encompassed by that rubric (public lecturing and writing, mentoring, and so on). Remember, DEI does not equal “outreach”; the latter is far more all-encompassing.

      I am wondering if you last line is sarcastic, because it sure sounds that way. Plus you characterize statements like Krauss’s as “statements of outrage.” Really, that’s pretty hyperbolic. I don’t see any outrage in his editorial.

      1. I’m likely naive to other cases, but the only example I explicitly heard about that looked at the DEI statement first was Berkeley. For those who would argue that this is a ruse to filter out desirable racial groups, the data indicate otherwise. So clearly the whole of the statement was reviewed and evaluated.

        I agree that there are lots of ways to do outreach, including the examples you mention. Departments that chose to emphasize a more narrow definition or that chose to prioritize faculty who have strengths in certain kinds of outreach are free to do so though, are they not? Isn’t it up to the departments in question to decide what their hiring priorities are?

        Perhaps my use of “outrage” was too strong. Kinda like the use of “tyranny” in his op-ed title.

        1. No, departments are not free of the ability not to violate civil rights laws, especially public universities.

          As for your last sentence, the snark is not appreciated.

          And, yes, I know of other cases in which DEI statements are vetted first, and if they don’t pass muster the application is trashed.

        2. Isn’t this a bit besides the point of the OP, which was essentially a free-speech issue? Do you agree that Abbott should be prevented from speaking about his scientific work because he has expressed opinions on a completely unrelated topic that some people don’t like? Do you agree with Dr Cohen that having a speaking engagement cancelled represents ‘minimal professional consequences’ and would you like to see him suffer more serious sanctions?

          It is chilling to hold the view that only those people publicly adhering to an orthodox view should be allowed to speak or work in universities, however self-evidently virtuous that view may seem to the people promoting it. With respect to DEI, it is also the case that it is possible to fully accept and be committed to a fair representation of all groups (race, gender, sexuality, abledness, etc) in academia without necessarily accepting that current approaches to achieving this are effective or appropriate. For example, Prof Coyne points out that the under-representation of some racial groups in geoscience is a ‘pipeline problem’ and that addressing this effectively depends on actions far upstream of university recruitment.

          Many people may well consider that Abbott’s views on DEI are disagreeable or wrong but they have plenty of ways available to them to debate and challenge those views without needing recourse to freezing him out of academic discourse.

    2. If you have non-scientists rejecting 75% of applications on the DEI statement alone, such that they never get as far as having the science evaluated, then that’s a real problem,

      Second, if the requirement for DEI amounts to a requirement that they assent to “equity” doctrine (equality of outcome), not just “equality”, then that’s a demand for allegiance to political ideology.

    3. Krauss seems to feel that an individual’s “excellence” should be sufficient to get them their job. Most hiring committees, in any field of employment, are really looking at the total package and I think it takes a special kind of arrogance to think that shouldn’t apply to scientists too.

      I don’t really understand that. When I’m hiring, I always prefer the candidate that would be the best at doing the job. I regard what they do outside of work as non of my business, provided it doesn’t impede their ability to do a good job.

  7. The kind of delirious, racists and sexists statements made by Cohen and other radical activists disguised as “university professors” accross the western world, speak volume to the level of decay and rot affecting the core of our academic institutions and culture in general.

    What a mess.

  8. It’s good to see this egregious incident receiving attention from the liberal press. That is a pretty shocking quote about diversity statements being used as a source of blatant race discrimination – anti-racism racism is becoming increasingly ridiculous.

  9. I fear America’s primacy in higher education is doomed unless something is done soon. I have no doubt that universities in other countries not as affected by this western zeitgeist will pick up the mantle, but I’d hate to see it happen.

  10. The anti=racism movement is losing potential supporters and allies every minute. There is no way that I as a white liberal/leftist will ever lift a finger or word to defend their goals regardless of how
    progressive and necessary they are. They are alienating millions of people who recognize indoctrination Soviet=style when they see it. As John McWhorter has said, we are dealing with a religion, a cult, not a movement for change. It is a movement solely to socially engineer the brains
    of all white people to conform to a dogma no different from those of established churches. The lack of principles, societally attractive goals, reason and logic, and even minimal political smarts is glaring.
    The right wing, neo cons and their ilk are hopeless so don’t start comparing the SJW or BLM to them. What we face is an unprecedented social divisiveness and anger that has nothing to do with race or
    white privlege. Worse, these are people and movements who haven’t yet noticed that planet is burning and that people far more persecuted and impecunious than them will bear the brunt. At my age I am glad that I will not be around to see the destruction of democracy and Enlightenment values. The tragedy, the pity, is that so many have capitulated purely out of self concern, ignorant of or indifferent to the amazing American experiment started by educated intellectuals. Indeed, it is the backlash against learning and history that is at the root of this, and the result is the neo Stalinist
    witch hunt and purge, which destroyed Russian science for decades. it is possible that the same will happen here if the scientific community doesn’t speak out and cut this all off at the pass.

  11. Very well stated Lorna, I,as a centrist find myself agreeing with the odd headline from the
    righting. Not too happy with myself to swing a little right, but someone has to fight this disease.

  12. “Intellectual debate and rigor are de rigueur not just in science, but in academia as a whole.”

    If only this were still true.

  13. We are beginning to see some pushback against the wokelies and the DEI ideologues, in public statements and in principled resignations, such as that of Professor David Romps at the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center. Let us hope these are straws in a surging wind. If not. then real science will continue to be done, but not so much here. I think the USSR had the largest number in the world of individuals with an academic degree in Biology—but, after the Lysenkovshchina, that society scarcely participated in the biological revolutions of the second half of the 20th century. If signs of resistance to the Church of DEI in the Anglosphere academic world turn out not to be straws in the wind, then we should start advising young people interested in the life of science to learn Chinese.

  14. I’m going to disagree with this statement:

    “Freedom of speech makes civility difficult,” yes, it’s partly true but not inevitable, and so what?

    Freedom of speech does no such thing. People are the ones who make it difficult. Those who engage in personal attacks instead of engaging on ideas and those who feel disagreement with their ideas are personal attacks,etc. That’s when it becomes uncivil.

    Freedom of speech only makes civility difficult for those who want to control the speech of others.

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