If we slowly and painfully make our way back to the life of the mind, we may find some unexpected companions on the journey.
Readers will remember Larry Krauss, a cosmologist formerly of Arizona State University, known for bashing ID, who got Me Too’d.
One wonders if he has learned a few things, given his recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal:
In recent years, and especially since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, academic science leaders have adopted wholesale the language of dominance and oppression previously restricted to “cultural studies” journals to guide their disciplines, to censor dissenting views, to remove faculty from leadership positions if their research is claimed by opponents to support systemic oppression.Lawrence Krauss, “The Ideological Corruption of Science ” at Wall Street Journal
The article is paywalled but you can find it here at the site of a Canceled person.
A friend comments, “There may be a touch of irony here. Hasn’t Lawrence Krauss, been quite close-minded to ID ideas and publications?” Well, that would be putting it mildly.
David Klinghoffer weighs in:
As to the Journal article, it’s hard to disagree with his conclusion about politicized science and censorship. As I’m not the first to have pointed out, it’s been a really bad year for science. Between fawning over BLM and the spinning color wheel of contradictions that expert scientific opinion has presented from the start on COVID-19, reasonable laypeople greet what scientists say with increasing skepticism if not mockery. On this score, last year wasn’t so good either, with the tale of Jeffrey Epstein laying bare scientific corruption as never before, what Michael Egnor summarized here as the “silence of the scientists.”
So, as bizarre as it is to see myself type these words, Krauss is right. We’ve been saying much the same for years. …
But hold on, before his abrupt retirement and equally abrupt reemergence as a defender of free speech, silencing opponents with ideological bullying was among Krauss’s specialties. The bio with his Journal article indicates he’s got a new book coming out on The Physics of Climate Change. Interesting — Krauss is among those who called for climate skeptics to be tarred as science “deniers,” a formulation applied many times over to proponents of intelligent design and intended, obviously, to create an association with Holocaust deniers. The whole point of such an exercise is to deny skeptics, whether on biological origins or on climate change, an opportunity to address the public. If “many academics are afraid” of speaking out, as Krauss correctly notes, that’s because they fear being sprayed with skunk juice by the likes of Lawrence Krauss.David Klinghoffer, “Awesome Recovery for Atheist Lawrence Krauss” at Evolution News and Science Today
That said, Krauss’s message should, at least, appeal to people who imagine that, because they are part of an establishment, they are safe from Cancel Culture. Some of them may be motivated to do something more constructive than fling a colleague to the mob, hoping to save themselves for a while.
There are many victims who should properly garner more sympathy than Krauss. I (O’Leary for News) can’t help but think of veteran Canadian journalist Margaret Wente, who got Canceled recently for essentially revolting reasons. She writes about it at Quillette. Here’s a passage that stands out:
Because I had written in the Globe and Mail that the prevalence of rape on university campuses had been highly exaggerated, I was accused of “creating an unsafe environment for disclosures of misconduct.” I was also denounced for questioning the science behind “implicit bias” training (which has, in fact, been thoroughly discredited). I was even accused of “self-plagiarism,” the journalistic equivalent of #MeToo-ing oneself.
“I thought Massey had just resolved to educate its members about racism and microaggression and do better to create a safe and welcoming environment for marginalised people,” one complainant wrote. “And then we invited Margaret Wente to join us? Seriously? How are my friends and colleagues supposed to feel safe sitting across from her at dinner?”
Dozens of scholars threatened to resign from the college if my appointment were allowed to stand. A few did so pre-emptively, in fact. They included Alissa Trotz, director of the University of Toronto’s Women & Gender Studies Institute.Margaret Wente, “It Wasn’t My Cancelation That Bothered Me. It Was the Cowardice of Those Who Let It Happen” at Quillette
First, these people are mostly not scholars. They are mediocrities with degrees. The numbers of such people have ballooned with the notion that everyone should go to college. The cheap virtue that comes from trashing a more able person is exactly what they would have enjoyed in the factory lunchroom before the idea got started that they should become part of the university. But in the factory lunchroom they would not have been interfering with the life of the mind. Now they are.
What does it mean, not to feel “safe” sitting across the table at dinner—at a university hall in Toronto—with someone with whom you disagree on a current issue? As noted above, these people are not scholars and they should not be listened to in any forum other than an anxiety recovery group.
In general, Cancel Culture is a movement of people whose achievements lie in canceling others, not in creating anything—who are nonetheless convinced that they and their ideas should rule. There will never be enough victims to satisfy them because, whatever their problems are (cf the people who wouldn’t feel “safe” above), they are not solvable in this frame of reality.
No one can read Larry Krauss’s mind but if he and others like him are beginning to count the cost of feeding the monster, perhaps the monster will shrink. We can all be glad for that.
See also: Larry Krauss? Francisco Ayala? And Now Neil DeGrasse Tyson?