A note on the Stanford Academic Freedom Conference

October 27, 2022 • 9:00 am

I’ve already posted about the upcoming meeting on Academic Freedom at Stanford that takes place November 4 and 5.  The first link shows the schedule of events and names of the participants.

At the time I posted, I wrote this:

The good news is there are a lot of people whom I want to meet, many of them of the “heterodox” stripe. Some of these people I find sympatico, others I don’t care for at all, but I like the idea of the meeting and want to hear some of these folks. Be aware that some speakers have been extensively canceled or demonized, but I refused to be tarred by going to the same meeting with them, so please refrain from that.

You probably know, if you keep up with academic stuff, which speakers have been deemed beyond the pale. Indeed, some of these I disagree with or have found some of their actions offensive. (I’m not going to name names, as that’s irrelevant.) Because of their presence, I’ve been asked by several readers to remove myself from the conference on two grounds:

1.) My reputation will be tarred because I’m speaking at a conference where these other people are speaking.

2.) My very presence will lend credibility to the “miscreants” speaking at the meeting.  (This is like saying—if you’re a liberal—that Ross Douthat’s columns in the NYT devalue all the other columnists.)

These two sentiments were expressed again by one reader who wrote me this morning, urging get to withdraw from the meeting:

 I saw your name appear in an article about the upcoming Stanford conference on Academic Freedom, and I hope you will reconsider your participation.  You have a solid reputation as someone who speaks his mind and is honest in his arguments.  That is, even people who disagree with you see you as a good faith actor.  On the other hand, the same is not true for some of the people who are also on the conference invitation list, and I am concerned that your name good name will lend credibility to people who do not deserve it and that your reputation will suffer from the association with them.

. . .  Letting your name be associated with these folks can do you no good, nor can it help efforts to actually advance the cause of free expression in the academy.  I realize that there are several appealing features of the conference; some of the other invitees are impressive, and Stanford is often fun to visit.  I hope, however, that you will reconsider.

I am pretty sure that these sentiments will be pretty common. I predict that the mainstream media and many on social media will deem the entire conference a conclave of bigots, racists, and transphobes because a few people on the schedule have been called those names. Indeed, Steve Pinker himself has been the object of criticism, and has been called a racist; and I (deemed “someone with a solid reputation who speaks his mind and is honest in his arguments”) have also been called a transphobe and a racist. Hardly anybody is immune!

The fact is that any conference on academic freedom worth attending will have people in it who could be used to smear the reputations of the “honest brokers”.  There are entirely too many accusations of “guilt by association” these days, as some people look for any reason to tear down those with whom they disagree.

I did not decide on (or see) the schedule of speakers before I agreed to participate. Were I to hold such a conference, there are a few people I wouldn’t have invited. But they have been invited, and if you find them offensive as a person, don’t listen to them. (That might be your loss.)  I for one will be listening to everyone and making up my own mind about what they say at the meeting, independently of how I regard their past speech and actions but also noting whether what they say comports with what I know about what they’ve said in the past.

So let me state this clearly: I am going to the meeting and I will speak on academic freedom in science on a panel on November 4. My topic will be how ideology is distorting biology, something I’ve written about on this site many times before.

And let me be clear about this, too:  My views are my own, and my presence at the conference does not imply endorsement of any of the other speakers. If you deem me as somehow “tainted” because I’m on the bill with some people regarded as unsavory, that is your own decision, but it’s a viewpoint that’s both unfair and incurious.

Make no mistake about it: you will hear a lot of dissing of this meeting by people who object to the speakers, and you’ll see people criticized for being on the schedule with others judged “unacceptable.” To all of you, I say this: “judge each speaker’s presentation by what they say at this meeting. If you want to criticize somebody in advance for what they’ve done or said in the past, that’s fine. But please don’t heap the sins of a few upon everyone else.”

I am going because I have something worth saying (I think) about the corruption of biology by ideology, and why it’s so common. I also want to see several of the participants whom I haven’t had the pleasure to meet.

It seems to me almost unnecessary to say these things, but the modern tendency to deprecate others because of they’re somehow associated with the Demonized (even just being in their presence or speaking at the same meeting) is not only widespread, but deeply unhealthy.  Judge each of our talks by its content, not by whether you’re offended by other people speaking over the same two-day period.

84 thoughts on “A note on the Stanford Academic Freedom Conference

  1. “I am going to the meeting and I will speak on academic freedom in science on a panel on November 4.”

    And why not? A great idea!

  2. ^^^^[adding]… I forgot one critical element :

    The food better be good.

    You know, that might be a deal breaker. Just imagine:

    “Continental Breakfast”… […shudder…]

    1. What, you don’t like watery Maxwell House, burning your own waffles, rock hard honey dew, or eating stale Froot Loops from a dispenser?

      I can understand that some would be hesitant to speak alongside an unsavory character, however you choose to define that, but I think that having those people (I’m not sure who they might be; I haven’t heard of most of the speakers) already fulfills the goals of the talk: academic freedom. People must have the freedom to think for themselves, to be exposed to opposing views, to agree or disagree, to confront ideas they may not like or accept, and maybe have their worldview widened and their minds changed. How else can one expect to learn, to grow and mature intellectually? Not by sitting beside a pool of water, gazing lovingly upon one’s own reflection. Enjoy your time, I look forward to hearing about it.

      1. How else can one expect to learn, to grow and mature intellectually? Not by sitting beside a pool of water, gazing lovingly upon one’s own reflection.

        Didn’t work out so well for Narcissus, did it? 🙂

      2. You know what bothers me?

        When they put grapes, strawberries, and blueberries in with the melon.

        Why do they do that?

        And so cold – how does it stay so cold? They should use it to counteract global warming. My teeth hurt!

  3. There is no question in my mind that you should attend. Having said that,

    1. What is the justification for inviting Peter Thiel to a conference on academic freedom?
    2. Will there be any discussion of the responsibilities that come with academic freedom? Such as, for example, not teaching creationism in a science class?

    1. 1. Why are you asking me? I didn’t invite him nor did I know he was speaking when I accepted. I suggest you ask the organizers.
      2. I’m going to mention creationism as an unwarranted incursion of ideology (Christianity in this case) into biology.

      1. My questions were not directed at you personally (again, I am fully supportive of your attendance). Rather, they are questions that occurred to me as I perused the program. I will be very interested to see your follow up posts regarding any/all of the speakers. I am genuinely curious about what Thiel will have to offer.

    2. One should hear the best argument the other side has to offer. This will help you understand the issue better, and often will let you improve your understanding of an issue. Unless Mr. Thiel has advocated violence, I can’t see any reason for not inviting him.

      A basic philosophy course that covers the rudiments of ethics should be mandatory in high schools and first year college. It is clear that many basic ethical issues are simply not well understood.

  4. The claim that X is “not a good-faith actor” is just one of the many ways in which people try to get someone shut down and ostracised these days. (Another is positing a linkage, however indirect and tenuous, between that person and the “far right”.)

    1. > The claim that X is “not a good-faith actor”…

      And it is a cheap ad hominem attack. The worst of it, I think, is the claim that someone is ‘sea-lioning’, engaging in calm, polite discussions with underlying bad faith. There’s no way to respond to something like that.

    2. In most cases I think that those who accuse so-and-so of being a “bad faith actor” have an optimistic understanding of the human understanding. They’re assuming there’s just no way so-and-so could believe that bit of nonsense or that if so-and-so contradicted themselves then they must be well aware of the contradiction. Not necessarily. Our minds are often absolute garbage. They are quite possibly sincere.

  5. Jerry, so well said, for all of us! I find the idea of deciding own participation conditioned on who else is attending preposterous. And even more preposterous is the idea that participation in a conference is an endorsement of the worldviews of all other participants. We should listen not only to people we agree with, but also to people we disagree with — we do it routinely at scientific conferences, and this one should not be treated differently.

    I am going to the conference too, to express my own views on politicization of science and to listen to what others have to say on the issue of academic freedom.

  6. Good on you, Jerry. I think your position is the only one somebody truly committed to academic freedom can assume.

  7. I am sorry you found it necessary to say that, though it clearly was. Have a great time, continental breakfast notwithstanding.

      1. How long is your slot? I have found that making slots short is a ‘clever’ way of some organisers of conferences to curtail ideas.

  8. Bravo for your defence of the importance of publically speaking your own views, and not adapting your participation in an academic proceeding according to whoever else may be speaking, and whether their views align with yours. The notion that academics should boycott a conference or denounce the presence of speakers they might disagree with is quite bizarre.

  9. The belief that agreeing to be at a conference with Despicable People means you’re just as despicable as they are is I think aligned with the belief that agreeing with Despicable People means you’re both wrong. They’re both instances sloppy thinking reverting to tribalism and a Manichean view of the world.

    Soothing the concerns of people who engage in that by not going to the conference is unlikely to do any good. They’ll just write you off for something else. I’m with you going.

  10. The website for the conference provides a link for zoom registration, but it was inoperative when I attempted to use it. Is it possible to attend remotely as a mere interested person? I would like to hear Jerry and some of the others and make up my own mind about the extent of the problem. I’ll keep trying.

    1. Same for me. I tried twice. Once I think I was thanked for registrating, but never got the promised email with the zoom link.

  11. I looked again at the list of speakers. The only person I’d object to is Peter Thiel, not because of his politics but because he foisted PayPal on the world. OTOH he did vanquish Gawker so they cancel out.

    Jerry you might be interested in this symposium at the January meeting of the Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology. The speakers will argue that “Sex is often described in language that centers a dyadic and anthropocentric model as default, and diversity beyond the binary is portrayed as inferior or deviant.”

    Members of the society will be told that “Sex is rarely, if ever, truly binary, and this symposium’s presentations underlines this and intentionally engages language that goes beyond the limitations of binary human sex and gender stereotypes.”

    As usual it’s all about the language of epistemology, little about the ontology. The argument from clownfish doesn’t seem to work any longer, so they’re now having to reach for the fungi and “mating types” in order to tell us all that human sex is not binary.

    [edit to add the symposium link]

    1. I recall a pop sci article that claimed slime molds have over 700 sexes! Yay! We can be like slime molds, too! Except, no, not sexes, mating types. I’m not sure what a good analogy is, but not human sexes. Maybe blood types plus Rh factors? Naturalistic Fallacy strikes again! And I noticed that the above mentioned talk includes intersex activists. So, are they promoting science and knowledge or promoting activism and ideology? What an insult to science.

      1. Even if we had 700 sexes, there would be those that claim that humans are not really “hept-centenerary”, or whatever. They would still say that sex is a continuum because weird-species-x has over 800 sexes.

      2. Some minor comments, my 2 cents:
        – Mammals are not slime molds, fungi or even clown fish.
        – I seriously doubt there are really 700 actual sexes in slime molds,
        – Some fungi have no sexes at all, all gametes of intermediary size. (An interesting question about why that is). *
        – In most eukaryotes and in all vertebrates sex is a binary, even in clown and other fish that can change sex. When you can change from one to the other sex, that implies a binary.
        – Mammals, as far as we know, cannot change sex.

        * Are these ‘intersex’ people contending they are fungi? Slime molds? Clown fish? Or what? I don’t think so. I think these comparisons are fanciful and spurious.

        1. Who knows what they are actually contending. I’m not sure they even know. Such a bizarro world we live in these days. It is also worth noting that we may be mammals but we aren’t bears or cats or dogs. We are primates but we are not bonobos or chimps or, despite what my own fur color might suggest, orangutans.

          I really would like to get a proper understanding of what the actual meaning of the “sexes” (which I think have been referred to elsewhere as mating types, which is I used that term) is in slime molds. Setting all the wokie nonsense aside, slime molds are just damn fascinating! Beautiful things, too. I’ve failed to keep them for more than a month or so, in the slimy state that is, and one major regret of not being able to continue my biology degree is that I dearly wish to study them deeply. Such charming little blobs.

        2. The explanation for the interest in fungi and the basis for mating types is too long to fit in this margin. But Mark is right that it’s all a non sequitur. These folks all want to talk about sex and gender in humans, using sex in these other organisms as proxies. “Clownfish can change sex” and “Fungi have 700 sexes” is somehow an argument that supports the idea that when Eddie Izzard puts on heels and lipstick he’s a woman. That’s as sophisticated as the argument seems to get.

        3. Heck, I know they are not really ‘sexes’, but are instead described as ‘mating types’. But everyone pushing the naturalistic fallacy will say they are sexes.

      3. Evidently some have over a thousand mating types. I’m not sure why these couldn’t just as well be called sexes. Two (and only two) gametes are required to form a zygote, but an A-type can only mate with non A’s, B’s can only mate with non B’s, a C can only mate with a non-C, etc. So it is still very ‘binary’ in that sex requires two unlike gametes.

  12. By attending Prof. Coyne shows he is not a hypocrite. “No platforming” is a tactic of the illiberal tribe. While shunning isn’t quite the same, it’s a move in that direction and motivated by the same intolerance.

  13. The views of most of the attendees at this conference are well known and can easily be found by simple internet searches if one needs a refresher or some attendees are unfamiliar. It is unlikely that many revelations will come out of it. Based on this, if I had been invited to speak at a conference such as this my decision to attend would be based on how I answered this question: Would my sharing a platform with individuals whose views I find both abhorrent and dangerous provide them with intellectual respectability or serve as a means to demolish those views? This is not an easy question to answer and I would spend a lot of time mulling over it. However, I would most likely decide not to attend because I think those with views I consider abhorrent could use the pretext of the conference to say, “hey, look, many so-called respectable speakers on the topic had no trouble sharing a platform with me, so this must mean they considered my views worthy of engagement.” The logic of this assertion may be questionable and contradicts the motives of many of the speakers, but, I fear, many people will buy it. In other words, I would not be complicit in propagating, unintentionally, abhorrent views. I would use other forums to express my beliefs.

    It would be interested to know if there were any potential speakers that declined the invitation on the grounds that I discuss above.

      1. That is informative. Reading farther down, we learn about how participants evolved away from progressive speakers bc they were refusing to be part of it.

      1. Amy Wax is reported to have said that our country would be better off with more whites and fewer non-whites. She is also reported to have said that the US would be better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration. If these reports are correct, then it seems to me not unlikely that many people would regard her as holding views that are abhorrent and that in a political context like ours might well be taken to be dangerous. She is protected at Penn by academic freedom, but it is not surprising that she does not teach classes that students are required to take.

        1. Amy Wax did a long interview on Glenn Loury’s podcast recently. First, she disputes many of the allegations about what she’s said. Second, yes, she did speak against too much Asian immigration. Her justification, though, was clearly about cultural attitudes, not race. I didn’t agree with her view on this, but Loury questioned her directly about it, and it seemed to me more wrong than “abhorrent and dangerous”. Lastly, if Loury is willing to interact with her and platform her, then his judgement on this is good enough for me. I think, overall, that academia is sorely lacking in people willing to speak openly against prevailing views, and thus she performs a needed role (even if only as someone to disagree with).

          1. While it may be true that immigrants to the United States have cultural values than society as a whole (this applies to all immigrants, not just Asians), I have seen little evidence that the first native-born generations have values very different from the society as a whole. Indeed, it seems to me that Asian-Americans have adopted American cultural norms of the value of education as the road to success. This is why, for example, that Asian-Americans are now the majority in New York City’s elite academic high schools and other groups whine about too many of them being there. If my perception is correct (and I would demand proof to contradict it) then Amy Wax’s views as you present them are certainly bigoted.

            1. It wasn’t the valuing-education that she was objecting to, it was the voting-Democrat. Again, I don’t agree with her, but an opinion of “I don’t want mass immigration because it’ll move the country to the Left” seems within the bounds of legitimacy. Plenty of people see mass immigration as a positive for that same reason.

            2. Fanatic Muslim fundamentalists in this country are busy collaborating with ultra orthodox Jews to unite religion and state and get special privileges (as witness the refusal of the yeshivas to provide a secular education as required by law, and the anti semitic statements of our Muslim congresswomen, not to mention Muslim honor killings and overall reluctance to obey our secular laws and relegate religion to the home). Muslims in particular rant about being “victims” of ‘Islamophobia”. Ilhan Omar is in violation of our Constitution because congress passed a special law allowing her to wear a religious head covering in congress).
              And of course there are the usual anti evolutionists, evangelicals and
              anti abortion Catholics who also dont believe in our constitution. The Asians for the most part are not religious (probably atheist), while American black Christians are anti abortion and socially conservative on gay marriage and other issues. The lesson is CAUTION and quick rebuttal and response wherever these religious nutcases try to attack secularism or twist or manipulate our laws to get privileges, like the huge funding of the ultra orthodox that went into private pockets instead of school lunches.

            3. “Indeed, it seems to me that Asian-Americans have adopted American cultural norms of the value of education as the road to success. This is why, for example, that Asian-Americans are now the majority in New York City’s elite academic high schools and other groups whine about too many of them being there.”

              I’m inclined to think that many if not most Asians bring the values of intellectual curiosity, academic acheivement and a considerable work ethic with them.

              So far as I can tell, it is not about Asians that Richard Hofstadter held forth in his “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life” (but rather perhaps – likely? – about certain native-born American groups, including not a few of the above-referenced whining groups).

          2. Prof. Wax said that people of Asian ancestry—and I think she meant Chinese, not Indian—are too docile in the face of what she sees as government pressure to conform to progressive views on, for example, affirmative action for blacks. She said Asians are too culturally conditioned to hunker down and take it, rather than fighting against it. Since this stance benefits themselves—getting ahead, despite affirmative action in my example, which benefits them but doesn’t benefit the rest of us, who would benefit more by fighting to dismantle it. Being a minority themselves, they are reluctant to stick their heads above the parapet and devote their efforts to success through other means.

            So I don’t think her objection to Asian immigration was based on Asian culture per se, as much as those attitudes tend to disengage them from fighting against the progressive-liberal cancer she sees. Maybe once the viper of wokeness has been beheaded, disengaged Asians may not be harmful. But for now, we need them and they aren’t helping. Asians may be contemptuous of Black (and Indigenous) social dysfunction but they aren’t helpful allies against government-mandated social decay.

    1. It appears an earlier version of this comment was deleted. I don’t know why but perhaps it is because I had a link in it? I’ll try again but this time just cut out the obivous link buster.

      A number of progressives were invited but at least some declined for the reasons you cite; h##s://www.insidehighered.com/news/2022/10/25/some-stanford-professors-oppose-closed-event-free-speech

    2. That remind us of the Australian biologist (I forgot who, I am not even sure it was an Australian, was it Robert May?) that quipped, declining the invitation of a creationist to a debate: “That would look great on your CV, on mine, not so much.”

    3. The notion that “sharing a platform with x” means endorsement of the views of x is itself something that should be fought against and that increases polarization. “Respectable” is a very subjective notion, what was or who was mainstream and perfectly respectable even yesterday can be taboo extremism/a marginalized individual today and vice versa. Biological males with lipstick and high heels and their opinions on sex and gender were not respectable in 1990 (at least where I live), now they are.

  14. Two thoughts: First, I hope C-Span covers the conference. It often covers academic conferences and plays segments from them on weekends and during Congressional breaks. That is how I was introduced to Dr. Haidt’s work a few years ago. Second, I wonder how anyone who is self-aware could suggest that someone remove himself from a conference on free speech or academic freedom because that person was sharing a platform with others who are also concerned with the same issues but whose views or personalities are considered problematic by the person giving the advice. I dare anyone to look in a mirror and give Dr. Coyne that advice aloud. If they can do that without understanding the irony of their positions and laughing at themselves, they need an intellectual and personality reboot.

  15. Peter Thiel has funded extreme right-wing candidates that represent a danger to democracy. Billionaires can do that. Perhaps if Thiel were just a panelist instead of the keynote speaker, I would not consider him setting the tone of the conference.

    Scott Atlas has asserted very dangerous anti-scientific beliefs about the Covid crisis.

    1. What on earth makes you think that Thiel “has set the tone of the conference.” He certainly has not, even if he’s a keynote speaker. I never even heard of the guy before this conference was announced.

      Okay, bring out your evidence that he’s “set the tone of this conference.” That accusation, frankly, is ludicrous.

      1. What do you think a keynote speaker’s purpose is?

        Here is a quote from a site dedicated to keynote speakers:
        “An effective keynote speaker will set the tone for the rest of the conference, diffuse the tension that usually accompanies these events and get your attendees excited to take part in the rest of the program.”


        Obviously, neither you nor I know what he will say, but it is the role of a keynote speaker to set the tone of the conference. The keynote speaker does not dictate what other speakers will say, But, for example, if Thiel should say that the purpose of the conference is to demonstrate that the Woke is out to destroy academic freedom then that is indeed setting its tone. On the other hand, maybe what he will say will be innocuous. In any case, the fact that a far-right Trump loving billionaire is the keynote speaker, in my mind, sets the tone of the conference without him speaking a word. If it were the intent of the conference organizers to have a dispassionate discussion of academic freedom, certainly a divisive character such as Thiel would not have been chosen to be the keynote speaker.

        1. Who gets to decide who is the sacred keynote speaker in any gathering? Who is obligated to accept in their own private minds a given speaker as the keynote speaker? (“O, Great and Powerful Oz!”) Perhaps the conceit of keynote speaker should be done away with.

    2. Historian, you now have me wondering what the reaction would be if Trump were giving the keynote instead of Thiel. He promoted Truth Social as a free-speech social network.

  16. BS can’t be refuted if people who are competent to do so don’t show up to make it happen.

    Bravo to you, Jerry.


  17. Some of your readers sound like fundamentalists who wouldn’t wish to be caught dead with, let alone listen to, a group of atheists.

    The real danger of such conferences is that a person may find out that he likes someone with whom he strongly disagrees. Abhorrent thought, really!

    Thanks for attending and firmly defending that decision.

  18. Have fun! I hope you get to meet everyone you want to meet.

    I don’t get why you’d be sullied by attending this conference; I wonder if the right-wing panelists are being told not to attend because of all the lefties that will be there. I tend to doubt it.

  19. Bjorn Lomborg? Was he invited to talk about anti-green and anti-science grifting? I thought this was a conference on academic freedom. I would never argue that he should be “cancelled” but he is among the worst of the worst propagandists that doesn’t belong anywhere near a university.

    Ditto for Peter Thiel, who represents everything wrong with American democracy.

    Nonetheless, I support your decision to participate and wish I could attend!

    1. The whole session involving Lomborg is ludicrous: Academic Freedom Applications: Climate Science and Biomedical Sciences. It includes two people who have minimized dangers of Covid and two who have minimized dangers of climate-change. These individuals have received harsh criticism from scholarly peers attacking their ideas on the merits. They are NOT victims of “censorship and stifling debate” (a phrase from the conference web site). Indeed, these people get even more attention than their bad ideas deserve precisely because journalists love them some both-sides-ism, and corporate funders love to put the focus on scientific uncertainty to distract from inconvenient certainties.

      1. As horrible as these people seem to be, the fact is you just don’t know what they are going to talk about, do you?

        How do you know they are going to re-hash whatever it is they’ve said that you think makes them horrible people? How do you know they aren’t going to talk about academic freedom with respect to the debate on climate change and its consequences?

        I do believe this gets to the heart of one of the issues Dr PCC(e) is talking about; people are unwilling to listen to others because of pre-formed ideas about what they might say.

  20. I’ve read the linked article on the controversy carried by some of the invited speakers, and as Cole has done above; I’ve looked a bit deeper into some, and don’t see anything egregious that would create an ethical dilemma for me. One question that springs to mind is why the bar is so much lower for some in this very comment section.

    Amy Wax may be the best example of the worst, but even her waxing has reasonable context of the cultural differences between centralized and more conforming societies versus more Western setups. I would probably draw my line at Putin and below, delivering a speech at the conference (joke).

  21. It’s shocking that anyone could read your blog and think you’d cave to this kind of pressure. One of the perennial themes of your blog is the moral imperative NOT to cave in to such pressure. Have they even read your blog, or do they just see themselves in the mirror when they look at it?

  22. This is mostly for the fun of it, because its such a great, uplifting lyric – or, maybe not uplifting – the meaning could be dark, in this context though – not sure – very expressive at least :

    “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose”

    “Me and Bobby McGee”, by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster, released 1971

    Most renown recording with Janis Joplin : https://youtu.be/sfjon-ZTqzU

    And I didn’t know Roger Miller recorded it earlier : https://youtu.be/pwU89X4k6bM

  23. From the link given:

    Well of course – if you are debating freedom of speech you want to debate where the boundaries are. This is a good thing in such a conference not a bad thing. Several of the commenters, and the 30 Stanford professors, seem to be missing this point.

    1. Sorry this got garbled by my formatting:

      From the link given: [Referring to Thiel and Wax] More than 30 Stanford professors from a variety of fields said in a statement asking Stanford to distance itself from the conference: “While we respect the rights of free speech and academic freedom, both [i.e. Thiel and Wax] are meant to encourage debate and discussion that can test those assertions”

      Well of course – if you are debating freedom of speech you want to debate where the boundaries are. This is a good thing in such a conference not a bad thing. Several of the commenters, and the 30 Stanford professors, seem to be missing this point.

  24. There are entirely too many accusations of “guilt by association” these days, as some people look for any reason to tear down those with whom they disagree.

    Absolutely – this kind of purity spiral is very damaging. The same thing happens with where a factual story is reported. Because the confrontation between women’s rights and gender identity ideology isn’t covered by the liberal left media the reports tend to appear in the right-of-centre press. Some people then feel free to dismiss the stories not on the grounds of the facts, but just on their dislike of the Daily Mail or Daily Telegraph.

  25. So encouraging to see this academic conference has invited the literally crusading Professor Douglas Murray – a worthy standard-bearer for the Powell legacy.

  26. Thank you, Professor Coyne for speaking at this engagement.

    Imo, this is one of the burdens (so to speak) of maturity and responsibility.

    Sadly, there are way too many otherwise sensible people who would disagree. Again, imo. The “cancel culture” crap (excuse my language) needs to end.

  27. Good call, as usual, Dr. Coyne. Guilt by Association needs to be rejected wherever it rears its ugly head.

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