In a recent article for Quillette, Colin Wright argued that left-wing scientific denialism poses a greater threat to academic freedom than right-wing scientific denialism. In the past, evolutionary biologists could dispute the claims of creationists and advocates of Intelligent Design without jeopardizing their careers. But the same cannot be said of scientists who publicly dissent from progressive dogma when it comes to, say, the biology of group differences.
The reason, according to Wright, is because the Christian Evangelicals who denied the basic principles of evolutionary biology held no power in academia, while their secular equivalents are often professors, department chairs, deans, administrators, college presidents, journal editors, and so on. Indeed, the new denialist orthodoxy when it comes to biological sex—that it is “assigned” at birth, rather than observed and recorded—is now the official view of the scientific establishment, having been embraced by Scientific American and Nature. As Jordan Peterson wrote in The National Post two years ago: “Look out evolutionary biologists. The PC police are coming for you.”
I imagine few of Quillette’s readers will need convincing of this, but in case anyone thinks Wright is being alarmist I recommend A Dangerous Idea: Eugenics, Genetics and the American Dream. (To read more, click here.)
Another day, another mobbing. On the front page of today’s Times there’s a story about an attempt by over 200 academics to ruin the reputation of a young scholar called Noah Carl. These researchers, many of them professors, have written an open letter objecting to the fact that Dr Carl, who describes himself as a ‘conservative’, has just been awarded a prestigious research fellowship by St Edmund’s College, Cambridge.
Entitled ‘No Place for Racist Pseudoscience at Cambridge’, the letter attacks Dr Carl for his ‘public stance on various issues, particularly on the claimed relationship between “race”, “criminality” and “genetic intelligence”’, and accuses him of producing work that is ‘ethically suspect’ and ‘methodologically flawed’:
As members of the academic community committed to defending the highest standards of ethical and methodological integrity in research and teaching, we are shocked that a body of work that includes vital errors in data analysis and interpretation appears to have been taken seriously for appointment to such a competitive research fellowship.
What’s odd about the letter is that it makes these career-ruining allegations without offering a scintilla of evidence to support them. No specific papers of Dr Carl’s are cited and there isn’t a single quote from anything he’s written. The words ‘race’, ‘criminality’ and ‘genetic intelligence’ are quoted, but these are scare quotes not actual quotes taken from Dr Carl’s work. I’ve looked at his published academic research and cannot find a single instance of him using the phrase ‘genetic intelligence’, which isn’t surprising since no serious scholar writing about group or individual difference in IQ would use such a phrase. (To read more, click here.)
For months I’ve been looking forward to the Guardian’s much-heralded report on racism in Britain, which was unveiled this week. As a nation, we suffer from our fair share of divisions, with new fault lines opening up all the time, but our record when it comes to race relations is pretty good. Surely, a newspaper that prides itself on being guided by the evidence would reflect this?
We’re often told by members of the identitarian left that Britain is more racist than most other countries, but I didn’t expect the Guardian to fall for that. When comparing different countries, one way of gauging the level of racism is to ask whether people in that country would object if a person of another race moved in next door. By that metric, Britain is one of the least racist countries in the world. Less than 5 per cent of Britons say they would object, compared with more than 50 per cent of Jordanians. (To read more, click here.)
On 21 November, a debate took place in the House of Commons about proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for transgender people to self-identify as men or women. Among the public, this is a widely discussed issue, with most echoing the concerns of feminists about the risks of allowing biological males to enter women’s changing rooms, etc. But until last week the issue hadn’t been debated in the Commons, partly because MPs who have reservations about changing the law are afraid to speak out. Sure enough, nearly all the backbench MPs who contributed to the debate toed the line of the trans-rights activists.
The ex-lobby correspondent James Kirkup, now director of the Social Market Foundation, has become a must-read commentator on this issue and he recently disclosed he’s been keeping a ‘private list’ of people who’ve told him they’re deeply worried about gender self-identification, but haven’t said anything: 'That list includes: more than a dozen government ministers (including cabinet members); several Labour frontbenchers; numerous backbench MPs (the majority female); lots of BBC journalists (some very famous); charity executives; senior business people; teachers, lawyers, doctors and other professionals; and lots of ‘ordinary’ women who can’t understand why the potential implications of a law change are not being addressed.' (To read more, click here.)
When I proposed to Caroline back in 2000, she was a trainee solicitor and I was a freelance journalist. In my mind’s eye, I pictured myself enjoying several years as a DINK — Double Income No Kids. Imagine my horror, then, when she got pregnant as soon as she qualified and showed no intention of returning to work. Three years later, I had become a SITCOM — Single Income Two Kids Oppressive Mortgage. So much for my dreams of eventually retiring as a GLAM — Greying Leisured Affluent Married.
For years, I’ve been complaining about this in a half-serious, half-jokey way, by which I mean I needle Caroline about it until she loses her rag, at which point I say: ‘Calm down! I was only joking.’ To which she responds: ‘If it’s a joke, why do you bring it up every bloody day?’ (To read more, click here.)
When I first read about plans for a new academic periodical called The Journal of Controversial Ideas, I got the wrong end of the stick. Fantastic news, I thought, particularly when I saw the distinguished group of intellectuals behind it. They include Jeff McMahan, professor of moral philosophy at Oxford; Peter Singer, the well-known Australian philosopher; and Francesca Minerva, a bio-ethicist at the University of Ghent. An authoritative magazine bearing the imprimatur of these distinguished free-thinkers is a great way to persuade other, less celebrated academics to stick their heads above the parapet and publish essays that dissent from groupthink.
Then I spotted an important detail: all the material will be published pseudonymously. That’s right — the contributors won’t use their own names. Far from a cause for hope, this is confirmation of my worst fears. The Maoist intolerance of anyone who dares to challenge the ‘woke’ orthodoxy has reached such a pitch that the only way to persuade non-conforming intellectuals to contribute to public debate is to guarantee they won’t be identified. (To read more, click here.)
Once identified as right-wing you are beyond the pale of argument,’ wrote Sir Roger Scruton. ‘Your views are irrelevant, your character discredited, your presence in the world a mistake. You are not an opponent to be argued with, but a disease to be shunned. This has been my experience.’
Unfortunately, that experience is due to intensify for the 74-year-old conservative philosopher. Last weekend, the government announced it had set up a commission to try and make new housing developments ‘beautiful’ and appointed Sir Roger as its chair. It’s one of the few sensible things the present government has done; so, of course, it’s caused a scandal. (To read more, click here.)
I feel some sympathy for the director Anthony Ekundayo Lennon. According to the Sunday Times, which broke the story last weekend, he’s the beneficiary of an Arts Council England grant intended for ‘theatre practitioners of colour’ even though he’s white. To obtain the grant, Lennon described himself as ‘mixed heritage’ but what’s interesting about this case is that both the Arts Council and the theatre he’s linked to are standing by him. They have defended his right to identify as a person of colour, claiming it’s not an act of deception but a choice he’s made and which they respect.
Needless to say, he’s come in for a fair amount of criticism from the left-wing theatre community, including some prominent black actors, and he may yet be thrown under a bus. But this poses an interesting dilemma for the identitarian left. If it’s perfectly fine for someone born male to identify as female, why isn’t it OK for someone born white to identity as mixed heritage? (To read more, click here.)
Well done to Sara Thornton, a senior police officer who has warned against extending the definition of a ‘hate crime’ to include misogyny, misandry and ageism. Yesterday, she told a conference of the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners that they should be allowed to focus on ‘core’ crimes like burglary, rather than being forced to increase the already ridiculous amount of time they spend investigating hate crimes. In 2016, British police detained and questioned 3,300 people for making ‘offensive’ comments on social media – roughly nine arrests per day. Meanwhile, West Yorkshire Police, the fourth largest force in England, is failing to investigate 56 per cent of cases – and these aren’t minor crimes, but include things like theft, assault and burglary.
A ‘hate crime’ is any crime motivated by prejudice towards someone based on certain ‘protected’ characteristics. At present, those characteristics are race or ethnicity, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, and transgender identity, but the Law Commission is currently reviewing whether to add to them. Diane Abbott told police leaders this morning that she’s in favour of making misogyny a hate crime, although it won’t surprise anyone to learn that Labour’s shadow home secretary has misunderstood what a hate crime is. Merely harbouring hostility towards someone in one of the protected categories is not, by itself, a ‘hate crime’, so adding ‘gender’ to that list won’t make ‘misogyny’ a hate crime. In addition, the accused would have to commit an actual crime, such as sending an unsolicited, malicious email. In the words of the criminal justice system, a hate crime is an ‘aggravated offence’ it is not an offence in its own right. Then again, Abbott may actually want to bring forward a bill proposing that merely having a thought that she disapproves of should be classed as a ‘hate crime’. (To read more, click here.)
My heart goes out to William Sitwell, the editor of Waitrose Food Magazine who's just been forced to resign for making a joke about vegans. To lose your job as a result of a gag shows how extreme the climate of Maoist intolerance has become. When free speech advocates like me make comparisons between contemporary Britain and America and the former Communist states of Eastern Europe we are called ‘alarmist’ and ‘hysterical’, but this episode reminds of the first novel of Milan Kundera, the great Czech dissident. Set in Communist-controlled Czechoslovakia and called ’The Joke’, it concerns the fate of a young man who sends a postcard to his girlfriend that says, "Optimism is the opium of mankind! A healthy spirit stinks of stupidity! Long live Trotsky!” Being a horrid little sneak, the girlfriend passes it on to the local Communist Party official who doesn’t see the funny side and the poor man loses his job and is dispatched to the coldest part of the country to work in a coal mine. I daresay William won’t end up down a pit in Yorkshire, but the principle is the same. If you make an inappropriate joke, you risk losing your livelihood. It says something about the age we live in that a novel written to satirise the most oppressive aspects of Communist Czechoslovakia could, with very few changes, be about contemporary Britain. (To read more, click here.)