All posts filed under: News

Can Heterodoxy Save the Academy?

“When we decided to do a conference, we weren’t sure if we would get 25 people in the audience—and here we filled the Times Center,” says Debra Mashek, executive director of Heterodox Academy during an interview in midtown Manhattan. “There is broad consensus there is a problem on campus in terms of open inquiry and viewpoint diversity.” It’s understandable why Mashek was uncertain about attendance. Academic conferences usually are organized around particular areas of study or well-defined ideological viewpoints. But by its very nature, Heterodox Academy doesn’t provide any such organizing principle. Begun in 2015 as a blog, and now a network comprising over 1,800 academics, HA asks members to endorse the proposition that universities and colleges must uphold and protect political and ideological diversity. But the times we inhabit make championing viewpoint diversity an urgent project. And last Friday’s one-day inaugural conference near Times Square attracted a full house of about 350 academics, university administrators, students, and journalists. The event featured speeches and panel discussions from speakers who addressed the crowd from all points …

Why Can’t a Woman be More Like a Man?

A fascinating paper about sex differences in the human brain was published last week in the scientific journal Cerebral Cortex. It’s the largest single-sample study of structural and functional sex differences in the human brain ever undertaken, involving over 5,000 participants (2,466 male and 2,750 female). The study has been attracting attention for more than a year (see this preview in Science, for instance), but only now has it been published in a peer-reviewed journal. For those who believe that gender is a social construct, and there are no differences between men and women’s brains, this paper is something of a reality check. The team of researchers from Edinburgh University, led by Stuart Ritchie, author of Intelligence: All That Matters, found that men’s brains are generally larger in volume and surface area, while women’s brains, on average, have thicker cortices. ‘The differences were substantial: in some cases, such as total brain volume, more than a standard deviation,’ they write. This is not a new finding – it has been known for some time that the …

Damore, Diversity, and Disruption at PSU

I held my breath as the protesters stood up and began their walk-out. “Please, let it be peaceful,” I said to myself. In the weeks leading up to the event, we had received threats of violence. One person on social media said he would bring explosives. The university administration found the threats credible enough to send a team of armed campus police to patrol the lecture hall. As the protesters neared the exit, a woman suddenly lunged for the audio equipment, pulled leads out indiscriminately, and knocked some of the equipment to the floor. The microphones stopped working. Another protester shoved a student volunteer into the door. What caused this extreme reaction? Ex-Google engineer James Damore had been invited to speak as part of a panel discussion on diversity, held at Portland State University on February 17. As I had previously written in the Wall Street Journal, we were anticipating controversy. After the incident, however, the disruption and violent misconduct were downplayed. Willamette Week, a left-wing alternative newspaper, was dismissive: “[The Freethinkers] expected controversy. They warned …

No, There’s No Evidence of a Murder Wave Targeting Gay Americans

“Why Are Murders Of Gay And Bi Men Up A Staggering 400 Percent?” asks the headline atop Michelangelo Signorile’s new HuffPost column, shared at least 13,000 times so far “Hint: This Alarming Surge Has Taken Place Since Donald Trump Became President,” adds HuffPost unsubtly in a tweet promoting the column. If your response was to wonder first whether such murders are in fact skyrocketing, yours is the right instinct. With the FBI reporting 11,821 male homicide victims in the U.S. in 2016, even a conservative estimate of how many are gay or bisexual yields a number of annual victims well into the hundreds, and perhaps significantly above that. Were such a number to jump by 400 percent, it would generate a noticeable blip of 1,000 or more extra gay male murder victims in a single year. Terrifying, right? But Signorile, it seems, is working with a different data set. Citing a report by an advocacy group called the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, he says the number rose “from four in 2016 to 20 in 2017.” Wait a …

Academics Accuse Howard Dean of Repeating Falsehoods About Halloween Costume Scandal

One of the professors at the center of the 2015 Yale Halloween costume controversy, who publicly accused the former governor of Vermont and Democratic leader, Howard Dean of dishonesty for his remarks at a free speech panel held at an Ohio college last year, is finding support among other prominent academics. Nicholas Christakis, a physician and sociology professor at Yale University, slammed the former Democratic National Committee Chair for spreading “off-base and reckless” misinformation about him and his wife at the “Free speech, Civil Discourse” conference at Kenyon College in a series of tweets. “We have maintained a policy of near silence for over two years—but Dean is a former presidential candidate in the U.S.A. and a former governor,” Christakis told Quillette. “The great amount of evidence that is nevertheless in the public record is one of the reasons that I think it is so important to make the effort to get the facts right if people are going to make public statements.” Steven Pinker, who shared the stage with Dean at the conference in September, agreed …

‘Islamophobia’ Hoaxes and the Rush to Judgment

Two weeks ago, Canadians responded in horror to a disturbing news story in Toronto: before a bank of cameras, a tearful 11-year-old girl said that a man had repeatedly cut her headscarf with scissors as she walked to school. Khawlah Noman, a student at Pauline Johnson Junior Public School, told the roomful of reporters that the brazen attack had left her terrified and screaming. She was flanked by a Muslim activist, her mother, and younger brother Mohammad. Mohammad confirmed his sister’s story, stating that he had witnessed the attack while walking with her to school. Soon after, politicians at the upper echelons of the Canadian government rushed to express outrage at the incident, even though details remained scant. “My heart goes out to the young girl who was attacked, seemingly for her religion,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a televised speech. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne promptly called the alleged attack a “cowardly act of hatred.” Passionate reactions to the incident were swift on social media. Echoing a common belief, Twitter user @Sakira_writes said: “A …

Education NGO Faces Backlash from Academics After Retracting Essay Citing Intelligence Research

A British education training nonprofit is being accused of censorship after it retracted an opinion essay challenging environmental determinism from its website. The essay, titled “Are there any limits to what schools can achieve?” was published on the website of Teach First last Thursday to foster more dialogue following an education summit in Wembley a day earlier. The essay’s author and summit panelist, Toby Young, says he was blindsided at the sudden retraction two days after its publication. “The first I knew about it [the article’s retraction] was when I heard about it on Twitter,” said Mr. Young, director of the New Schools Network, a charter school advocacy charity based in London. “As it was, I found myself on a Saturday morning having to defend myself from an organisation I have always supported and which I had always thought of as on the same side as me in the education reform movement.” Mr. Young’s opinion piece summarized some of the scientific literature on intelligence to cast doubt on the belief that environments alone can determine …

Academic Article Withdrawn Following “Serious and Credible” Threats of Violence

Editor’s note: the following article has been updated to include details obtained via a police report from Portland State’s Campus Public Safety Office regarding a voicemail threat sent to Associate Professor Gilley on September 14.  An academic journal that published a controversial article making a case for Western colonialism has withdrawn the piece after its editor received “serious and credible threats” of violence. “These threats are linked to the publication of this essay,” Taylor and Francis, the publisher of the Third World Quarterly (TWQ), wrote in a statement in place of where the article was formerly available. “As the publisher, we must take this seriously. Taylor & Francis has a strong and supportive duty of care to all our academic editorial teams, and this is why we are withdrawing this essay.” The article’s formal withdrawal concludes a month-long controversy that saw its author, Portland State associate professor of political science Bruce Gilley, at the center of an international firestorm culminating in threats of violence against both him and the journal’s editor-in-chief, Shahid Qadir. First published …

Best of the Web, 28th July 2017

Culture A Secularist vs. the Progressive Faith Tom Wilson, Commentary Liu Xiaobo and Twitter’s Theatre of Radical Cruelty Jamie Palmer, Tablet Magazine Science Don’t Believe in God? Maybe You’ll try U.F.Os Clay Routledge, The New York Times First Human Embryos Edited in U.S. Steve Connor, MIT Technology Review  How Species Originate Thomas Near, The Economist Ketamine Breakthrough for Suicidal Children Jack Turban, Scientific American Out of All Major Energy Sources, Nuclear is the Safest Hannah Ritchie Our World in Data  The Polygamous Town Facing Genetic Disaster Zaria Gorvett, BBC Future Politics and foreign policy Burke to the Future: The Evolution of Conservatism Emily Jones, History Today Unraveling the Mystery of Putin’s Popularity Jay Ogilvy, Stratfor Worldview Like Rome, America Could Be Ripe for Tyranny Robert W Merry, American Conservative

Richard Dawkins Celebrated by Activists and Ex-Muslims at London Conference for Free Expression

When ex-Muslim Bonya Ahmed reached out her hand to accept an award in London on Sunday, it was missing her thumb. Islamists hacked it off in Bangladesh, 2015. She had thrown her arms in front of her husband Avijit Roy to shield him from machetes as a mob cut the life out of him for criticising Islam. The attack happened in a crowded public street but the people – including police – stood by and did nothing. The ceremony that recognised this brave woman had to be held in a secret location because London is no longer safe for ex-Muslims, atheists or even secular Muslim believers who dare to say that Islam should not be implemented as a system of laws. Let that sink in: these people had to gather in an undisclosed location.. Not in Bangladesh, but in Britain. The room was filled with free thinkers from around the world: Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Pakistan, Iran, Tunisia, France, Poland, Turkey. They came from everywhere to attend the International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression. Many …