Author: Claire Lehmann

From the Editor

Quillette was created with the intention of giving non-journalists — in particular scientists and scholars — a platform to share ideas without unnecessary editorial interference. I used the tagline “a platform for free thought” when the site launched because I wanted to encourage a wide range of contributions, no matter who and where they came from. Since Quillette launched in November 2015, free thought has definitely shown itself to be alive and well. The platform has not only become popular across the English-speaking world, but we receive insightful and bold contributions almost every day. It’s as if, somehow, a dam has burst. Why did I chose the name Quillette? In French, a synonym for quillette is bouture d’osier, which is a type of wood off-cutting used to grow new trees. An off-cutting planted in the ground that grows into a tree — this seemed to me a great metaphor for an essay. An off-cutting just needs the right conditions to thrive. Give it sunlight, water, and fertile soil and it will grow into something majestic, lasting generations. …

Understanding Victimhood Culture: An Interview with Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning

Bradley Campbell, Associate Professor of Sociology at California State University, and Jason Manning, Associate Professor of Sociology at West Virginia University, have been described as “prophets of the academic world” by psychologist Jonathan Haidt, and their new collaborative work The Rise of Victimhood Culture: Microaggressions, Safe Spaces, and the New Culture Wars, “a book of revelations,” by the sociologist Donald Black. The two sociologists have aimed to supply us with an empirical sociological analysis of the recent moral conflicts that have erupted on U.S. college campuses—and the extent to which these conflicts are spreading outwards into mainstream society. After reading the book, I reached out to the American sociologists to interview them about some of the key themes of their book, and also to gain insight into some recent cultural trends that were not covered.  What follows is a transcript of our interview conducted via email. I. Three Moral Cultures Claire Lehmann: Just briefly for our readers who have not read your book, can you explain the main differences between the dignity, honor and victimhood cultures which you …

The Skeptical Optimist: Interview with Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer is the founder of The Skeptics Society, and its associated magazine Skeptic. He is a science writer with a monthly column in Scientific American and the author of many books including The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom, and, most recently, Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia. I contacted Dr Shermer for an interview with Quillette: what follows is a transcript of our conversation, conducted via email.  *   *   * Q: Thank you for taking the time to talk to Quillette. You recently published Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, can you briefly describe what your new book is about, and the research you did for it? Michael Shermer: Since I just finished my book tour I can now do this while standing on one foot! Here are some take-home points: It’s a myth that people live twice as long today as in centuries past. People lived into their 80s and 90s historically, just not very many of them. What modern science, technology, medicine, and public health have done …

The Autistic Buddha—An Interview

The UK writer Thomas Clements recently published a book titled The Autistic Buddha. I wanted to find out more about the book, so I contacted Thomas who agreed to be interviewed for Quillette. What follows is a summary of our interview conducted over email. Thanks for agreeing to talk to Quillette. Tell us about The Autistic Buddha, what is the book about?  The Autistic Buddha is a memoir detailing the extraordinary inner and outer journeys I have had to undertake in my life in order to make sense of the world as a man on the autism spectrum. Because of my disability, I have struggled throughout most of my life to fit into polite society, and like many autistic people, I’m quite blind to the finer nuances of social interaction which are often so crucial for getting on in the world. Autistic people like me are also characterized by their intense and sometimes excessive level of focus on one particular theme which in my case happened to be the culture of East Asia. This particular obsession was an alternate universe into which I …

The Empathy Gap in Tech: Interview with a Software Engineer

Last year I was working on an article about the tech industry when I decided to interview a software engineer who writes for Quillette under the pseudonym “Gideon Scopes”. Gideon had mentioned to me in passing that he had Asperger’s Syndrome (a mild variant of autism spectrum disorder) and I wanted to find out more about the industry from the point of view of someone who is not neurotypical. I first asked him when it was that he knew he wanted to work in technology. He told me that he first knew it when he was five. His family got their first home computer and he was transfixed. Later, he would come across a brief introduction to the BASIC programming language in a book and proceed to teach himself his first programming language. He was only seven. As a child he taught himself programming out of books, mostly alone at home. He told me that his family were not particularly supportive of his hobby. His mother was not happy to see him focus so intently on one …

The Neuroscience of Intelligence: An Interview with Richard Haier

Richard Haier is a Professor Emeritus at the University of California Irvine and is the author of the Neuroscience of Intelligence published by Cambridge University Press. Over his career he has used neuroimaging to study how brain function and structure relate to intelligence, and the ways in which “smart” brains work. He is the editor-in-chief of the journal Intelligence and the past president of the International Society for Intelligence Research. I reached out to him earlier this year to ask about his new book. What follows is an interview conducted with Quillette via email. Thank you for taking the time to talk to Quillette Professor Haier. You’ve spent forty years studying intelligence and have compiled your knowledge into a new book accessible to the general reader called The Neuroscience of Intelligence, which looks fascinating from its précis. Firstly, can you tell us how you became interested in intelligence research, and how you came about studying intelligence through neuroimaging? When I started graduate school at Johns Hopkins in 1971, I was interested in social psychology and personality …

Help Us Build a Third Culture

Last year, an anti-vaccination activist was awarded a PhD from an Australian University. She conducted her thesis in the School of Law, Humanities and the Arts. Her thesis was titled “A critical analysis of the Australian government’s rationale for its vaccination policy”. In it, she argued that the Australian government’s vaccination policy was not based on solid evidence but a conspiracy concocted between the World Health Organisation and Big Pharma and this was the basis on which the policy rested. When she was awarded her PhD, Australia’s medical and scientific community were horrified. It was soon reported that the examining panel did not have a single member with a scientific background, let alone a background in immunology or epidemiology to judge the merits of the thesis. While the names of the three examiners have been kept confidential, we do know that they are all scholars of the humanities. On one hand, the Wilyman scandal is an aberration and is not an indictment of academia. The controversy that it generated is evidence that it was a …

Become a Patron to Receive our Weekly and Monthly Newsletters

Dear Readers, I’m excited to announce that Quillette will soon be launching a weekly and monthly newsletter for our generous patrons: Weekly Quillette Newsletter We will be featuring a short summary of the articles that we have posted on Quillette during the week so you can catch up on any articles you may have missed. Monthly Quillette Newsletter We will feature our top-read articles of the month, some of our top reader comments, ‘best of the web’ links, plus an exclusive interview with one of our writers. These newsletters will only be available to patrons, and will be sent out via the Patreon website. Automated Quillette emails from WordPress will cease, as of this week. Additionally, we are going to start posting selected articles first at Patreon so that our patrons can have early access to them. This week we have the following articles scheduled for early release: Leftist Hypocrisy about Islam and Malignant Humor: Setting the Stage for Violence, written by Jeffrey Tayler. Evergreen State and the Battle for Modernity Part 2: True Believers, Fence …

Q and A on the Syrian Airstrike with Sumantra Maitra

Sumantra Maitra is a regular contributor to Quillette, and is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the University of Nottingham and is a member of the Centre for Conflict, Security and Terrorism (CST). His area of research is in Great power politics and NeoRealism, with a focus on Russian foreign policy and military strategy. What follows is a QandA session regarding the US strikes on Syria. Hi Sumantra. Thanks for chatting with Quillette. You’ve said that the airstrike on Syria is a good show of deterrence from the US? Can you expand on this – who do you think this message of deterrence is aimed at? The airstrike on Syria is a fall back to a more conventional US foreign policy. Since 1993, the United States has been a leader of the Western liberal order, and has often used airstrikes and missile strikes to deter principal adversaries as well as defend liberal norms. It is, of course, questionable how effective that strategy was, but it has been standard practice. That changed during the second …

On Meaning, Identity Politics and Bias in the Academy — An Interview with Clay Routledge

Meet Clay Routledge, a social psychologist and Professor of Psychology at North Dakota State University. Professor Routledge studies such things as intergroup relations and how people create meaning in their lives. He has over 90 scholarly papers and has authored the book “Nostalgia: A Psychological Resource.” I discovered Professor Routledge on Twitter, where he tweets interesting observations about the state of orthodoxy on campus and in the broader culture. I thought it would be useful to capture some of his insights in a more in-depth form — what follows is an interview with Professor Routledge for Quillette. Hi Clay, thanks for chatting to Quillette. Before we get into other topics, what do you research and how did you become interested in that area? I mainly study psychological motives. And much of my work is on the meaning motive. A considerable amount of empirical research indicates that perceiving one’s life as meaningful is important for psychological, social, and physical health. People who feel meaningful are happier, more motivated, more productive, less vulnerable to mental illness, better able to cope with …