All posts filed under: Top Stories

The Grievance Studies Scandal: Five Academics Respond

Editor’s note: For the past year scholars James Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose, and Peter Boghossian have sent fake papers to various academic journals which they describe as specialising in activism or “grievance studies.” Their stated mission has been to expose how easy it is to get “absurdities and morally fashionable political ideas published as legitimate academic research.”  To date, their project has been successful: seven papers have passed through peer review and have been published, including a 3000 word excerpt of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, rewritten in the language of Intersectionality theory and published in the Gender Studies journal Affilia. Below is a response to the scandal from five academics who are currently researching, publishing and teaching in the fields of Philosophy, English Studies, Behavioral Genetics and Economics. From Foolish Talk to Evil Madness — Nathan Cofnas (Philosophy) Nathan Cofnas is reading for a DPhil in philosophy at the University of Oxford. His work focuses on the philosophy of biology, broadly construed. He has published on such topics as innateness, the ethical implications of individual differences in intelligence, and Jewish …

Resolving the Venezuela Crisis: Is There a Case for Outside Military Intervention?

For the past four years, in plain sight of the world’s media, and just a few hours by plane from the world’s most powerful democracy, a criminal regime has been inflicting a humanitarian catastrophe on its own people, provoking widespread hunger and impoverishment, the spread of disease and death, and an exodus of Biblical proportions to neighboring countries that threatens regional stability. The national health system has collapsed, fostering the outbreak of infectious diseases, which, given the flight of millions of the country’s citizens abroad, poses a growing health risk to the continent. (Polio, long ago eradicated in the country, has returned.)  The same regime’s most senior members (as well as those of lower rank) have been credibly accused of narcotics trafficking and personally profiting therefrom. Even relatives of the president have been involved and given long prison sentences. The regime also commands a police force implicated not only in the drug trade, but in kidnapping, extortion, and corruption. Not surprisingly, the population it is supposed to protect is left subject to the highest homicide …

I’m a Male Teacher Surrounded by Women. But Please Don’t Call Me a Victim of Sexism

The conversation surrounding gender discrepancies in workplaces and universities often focuses on STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — because these are high-paying fields in which women typically lag men in both representation and advancement. There is far less attention paid to similar or greater disparities in other disciplines. Rarely, for instance, does one hear much complaint about lower-status professions such as construction, logging or roofing, all fields where, in the United States, men make up over 96% of workers. The pattern is similar in my own country, Canada, and in the wider Western world more generally. In regard to skilled occupations that women dominate — such as accounting, nutrition, pharmacy, physical therapy, psychology, veterinary medicine, social work and nursing — advocacy groups fighting for equal representation tend to fall mute. My own field, education, also features a striking gender imbalance. As a man with hopes of becoming a teacher, I am embarking on a career that is overwhelmingly dominated by women. According to Statistics Canada, women make up roughly 60 percent of high …

Alex Jones Was Victimized by One Oligopoly. But He Perpetuated Another

This month, Twitter joined Apple, Facebook, Spotify and YouTube in banning the popular right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from its platform. Like the other bans, Twitter’s decision was announced as a fait accompli, with opaque justifications ranging from “hate speech” to “abusive behavior.” The seemingly arbitrary nature of these bans has raised fears from all political quarters. Alexis Madrigal, writing in The Atlantic, cited the development as proof that “these platforms have tremendous power, they have hardly begun to use it, and it’s not clear how anyone would stop them from doing so.” His sentiments were echoed by Ben Shapiro in the National Review, who expressed alarm at “social-media arbiters suddenly deciding that vague ‘hate speech’ standards ought to govern our common spaces.” Even some on the left displayed concern. Steve Coll wrote in the New Yorker that “practices that marginalize the unconventional right will also marginalize the unconventional left,” and argued that we must defend even “awful speakers” in the interests of protecting free speech. Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union described …

The High Cost of Free College for All

During the 2016 Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders advocated a new federal entitlement making U.S. public colleges and universities tuition free. Since then, Democratic Socialists and some mainstream Democrats have begun supporting such a proposal. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Bronx, NY candidate running on a socialist platform who became a media star after unseating a senior House Democrat in a primary upset, has made it one of her central campaign issues.   Sanders argues that countries like Germany, Finland, Norway and Sweden have successfully made college free, but there are some major differences between the education systems of continental Europe and those of the United States that make Sanders’s proposal impractical. Everyone has access to higher education in the United States According to data collected by the U.S. Census, 90 percent of adults between ages 25 and 34 have a high school degree or its equivalent, and after high school about two-thirds of adults went on to one of America’s more than 4,500 institutions of higher education.  While many people’s archetypal idea of “college” is a selective private …

What ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’ Gets Wrong About Early Education

Back in 2015, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt published an essay in The Atlantic about the nascent American campus culture of safe spaces and no-platforming. In the intervening three years, this culture has flourished and Lukianoff and Haidt have turned their critique into a book. The book is an interesting read and one that is strong in documenting some of the defining events of the last few years. I am less convinced of the explanation that Lukianoff and Haidt put forward for those events; an explanation they describe as a culture of ‘safetyism.’ Modern society, they claim, is teaching young people the opposite of the tenets of cognitive behavioural therapy. Young people are told to trust their feelings, that what doesn’t kill them makes them weaker and that the world can be divided into goodies and baddies. This seems like a plausible account, even if I am no expert in the veracity of cognitive behavioural therapy. However, Lukianoff and Haidt’s explanation may underplay the extent to which campus politics is a real, if misguided, reaction …

Purity or Universalism?

A few days after his recent passing, the Manhattan Institute reposted a speech by V. S. Naipaul from October 1990. The title, “Our Universal Civilization,” captured the triumphal and optimistic spirit of that moment, nearly one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In order to render this universal civilization in greater relief, Naipaul related the following about his travels in Asia [emphasis added]: Traveling among non-Arab Muslims, I found myself among a colonized people who had been stripped by their faith of all that expanding intellectual life, all the varied life of the mind and senses, the expanding cultural and historical knowledge of the world, that I had been growing into on the other side of the world. I was among people whose identity was more or less contained in the faith. I was among people who wished to be pure. If we had read this paragraph without knowing its date or the subjects’ actual geography, religion, and history (in this case colonized non-Arab Muslims), we might have surmised that Naipaul was talking about …

Western Civilisation “Not Welcome Here”

In 2017, following the wishes of the late Paul Ramsay, a businessman and philanthropist who made his fortune in the healthcare industry, the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation was set up in Australia.  Paul Ramsay was deeply concerned that Australians are not being taught about Western Civilisation either at school or university. So he left part of his $3.4 billion fortune so that something would be done about it. As the Director of the Foundations of Western Civilisation Program at the Institute of Public Affairs, I have been keeping a close watch on developments. The Ramsay Centre has devised a Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation based on great books and works of art, to be taught in partnership with universities. Since its launch however, the Ramsay Centre has encountered almost nothing but open hostility and resentment from potential university partners. At the University of Sydney, staff some months ago launched a ‘Keep Ramsay out of USYD’ petition. The same staff are currently having conniptions because their Vice–Chancellor has now announced that he’ll consider taking …

The Soviets and the JFK Conspiracy Theorists

Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from Fred Litwin’s new book, I Was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak. For further information, please visit www.conspiracyfreak.com. It’s an open question whether the Russians successfully tilted the 2016 American election to Donald Trump. We know they did their best, but we’ll probably never know if their attempts really shifted the vote. What is certain is that Russian attempts to influence American politics and public opinion are not new. Back in the 1960s and the 1970s, the Soviets tried to convince people that the CIA was behind the JFK assassination. 45 years later, we are still learning about the full extent of these efforts. In the following extract from my new book, I look at just three of these Soviet disinformation campaigns. They have had a demonstrable effect on the thinking and arguments of conspiracy theorists, and these, in turn, have gradually seeped into the wider popular culture and helped shape public misperceptions about the assassination. The Mark Lane Connection Some of the evidence of Soviet interference comes from …

Effective vs. Pathological Altruism

The effective altruism movement grew out of an understanding that sometimes charitable giving doesn’t achieve its desired effects. Even when aid works, effective altruists argue that aid can be given more efficiently through the application of cost-benefit analysis. Effective altruism enjoys widespread support, including among Quillette readers ranging from Sam Harris to Geoffrey Miller. In fact, it’s hard to deny that if we’re inclined to act charitably, we should follow our head as much as our heart. We should subject charity to scrutiny. When Helping Hurts The problem comes when the view we take of what we’re trying to achieve becomes too myopic. For example, we all agree that if we’re going to relieve a famine, we should find the cheapest way to feed the famished. But what if feeding the hungry creates more hungry people to feed? What if it indirectly contributes to more civil conflict, enriches warlords, or interferes with agricultural markets in ways that drive domestic farmers out of business? Recent studies suggest that food aid to African countries has done all …