Month: December 2018

Headline Rhymes

As 2018 puts its coat on and finally leaves the building We must admit the place is a mess, the climate a little chilly Now, surely we can’t change everything, after all, we’re not blank slates But 2019 is unwritten and the future is ours to make May this be the year we remember that everyone gets to speak Geniuses, fools, insufferable tools, freaks, the strong and the meek Let’s hope corporations stop de-platforming competing visions Like they’re playing at being the mafia, disappearing the competition How ’bout we judge each other by character and action In a good ol’ fashioned court of law, and not before the facts are in? And let us stop breaking apart what for millennia has worked To appease the feelings of a tiny minority with nihilistic quirks That doesn’t mean denying dignity or forgetting our compassion But it does mean a staunch rejection of unproven flights of fashion As any sort of reasonable compass or reliable foundation For any person or policy, any group or any nation May we …

The Avant-Garde’s Slide into Irrelevance

Many adherents to the aesthetics of the avant-garde in tenured positions at American art schools and universities are still enthusiastic supporters of the ideas and strategies that won them the culture wars of the late twentieth century. They steadfastly cleave to the doctrinal ideas that brought them into their positions of power and authority and have entrenched themselves in defense of an exclusively Euro-centric cult of avant-garde art. But as Western culture has changed around them, they have been outflanked by sentiment and technology. The foundations of the avant-garde were built upon the opposition of true and fake art. The avant-garde provided true, ethical art, while its opposite pole was fake, sentimental kitsch. The Frankfurt School writer Norbert Elias was first to identify sentiment as the enemy, followed by Herman Broch, who provided doctrinal writings describing kitsch as evil, and tying true art to the exposure of social reality. The young Marxist Clement Greenberg came to the game late, famously bringing their ideas to an American audience with avant-garde doctrines that despised kitsch and favored an …

The 2018 Free Thought Awards

Quillette’s success comes from a group of writers compelled to express the truth as they see it. We couldn’t be prouder of our association with so many inspiring, talented free thinkers. From the dozens, we give a special nod to these five for their stellar contribution in 2018. STUART REGES Free Thought Award for Courage Stuart Reges, lecturer in computer science at the University of Washington, made headlines after his essay exploring the gender gap in computer science was published. The follow-up to his original essay documents the institutional blowback he endured for expressing his empirically validated opinion that, on average, men and women tend to have different occupational interests. Reges’ writing reflects a high level of intellectual integrity in the face of opposition. HIS WINNING WORK: Why Women Don’t Code Is It Sexual Harassment to Discuss this Article? URI HARRIS Free Thought Award for Original Contribution Using the analytical tools popular within the humanities and social sciences, Uri Harris has offered original insights on the social justice movement and critical theory itself. Taken together, …

The Uncharted Territories of Medically Transitioning Children

In medieval times, maps warned adventurers away from unexplored territories with drawings of mythological beasts and a warning that read, “Here be dragons.” Are we venturing into dragon territory with the transitional therapies increasingly made available to transgender youth? 12-16-18 Twelve-sixteen-eighteen isn’t a date, it’s a program developed in Holland for treating children experiencing gender dysphoria, the condition of feeling there is a mismatch between one’s experienced gender and one’s biological sex. When Dr Norman Spack, pediatric endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, learned of the approach, he decided, “I’m going to do this.” And he did. In 2007, Dr Spack co-founded the hospital’s Gender Management Service (GeMS), the first clinic in North America devoted to treating transgender children. There, he implemented the 12-16-18 program, which has since been adopted by clinics nationwide. (Dr. Spack did not respond to an interview request.) Hormones are the tools of the endocrinologist’s trade, which is why, in 1985, a transgender Harvard graduate sought Dr. Spack’s assistance. The patient, born female, had lived as a male named “Mark” throughout his …

Between Discipline and Chaos

“Anyone capable of living outside a city,” wrote Aristotle, “must either be a beast or a god.” Before taking offense or pride in that aphorism, the rural should know that the Greek for “city” here is polis, and the polis of classical Greece was not a city in our sense. It was smaller than a nation, to be sure, but unlike London or Washington, it was a sovereign state. Every human individual, Aristotle is saying, must live within such a group—whether it be a tribe or an empire. To lack such a polis, to live truly alone, would require the independence of a wild animal or the self-sufficiency of a god. We need groups to survive; we need someone else to do our hunting or growing, someone else to make our clothes and build our houses, someone else to fix our furnace and perform our surgeries. But the polis does more than help us survive. It encompasses the family, the school and the broader culture, all of which shape who we become. Without such groups, …

Younger Women Are More Left-Wing Than Men, While Older Women Are More Right-Wing Than Men

Young women across Western Europe and Canada are more left wing than their male counterparts, according to new research I carried out that also shows among older voters women more likely to be right wing than men. We already know that younger people are often more likely to vote for left-wing parties than their older peers, but it seems this trend is particularly pronounced among women. Younger women are the most left wing in their voting habits and older women the most right wing when we compared voters by age and gender. This is shown in a study using data on over 40,000 people from the World Values Survey/European Values Study in Western Europe and Canada, 1989-2014. This trend is summarised in the graph below. Negative numbers indicate more men voting for a left-wing party in a given country. Positive numbers indicate more women voting for a left-wing party. In almost all countries, women born after 1955 are more likely to vote for left-wing parties than men of the same age group. Conversely, in many …

Reversing the Descent of Man

On virtually every indicator that anyone might want to consider, men in Britain and various other Western states seem to be performing very badly at the moment, both for themselves and for the communities in which they live. Not that this is particularly unusual. Throughout history, men have been inclined towards being social outsiders. Their usefulness to communities varies much more than women’s, and depends greatly on the way in which social institutions define and reward their roles. Whereas most cultures seem to recognize this, in the West we have increasingly pretended that it is not the case. And we are now paying for our mistake. Many people are asking themselves whether some of the radical social experiments attempted in recent generations are viable in the long term, or should now be ditched. It is not too late to face up to the problem. But we have such an accumulation of policy errors to deal with that we require a thorough re-orientation of public discourse before we can expect any specific measures to have much …

What PETA Has Cost the Animal Rights Movement

Animal advocates constantly complain about the reputation of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). They frequently see their cause dismissed because of the strong associations with this rambunctious organization. Earlier this month was no exception, as PETA made major headlines by asking the internet to stop using idioms like “bring home the bacon”: In fact, the word “PETA” has become a pejorative for stunts, gimmicks, and putting feelings over facts when it comes to animal issues. I argue in my new book, The End of Animal Farming, that animal rights will succeed in building a food system where we eat meat, dairy, and eggs without the use of animals, but it’s a tragic irony that one of the biggest obstacles for activists might be the bad reputation of its best-known advocates. I should clarify. This isn’t to say PETA hasn’t done a lot of good. The first modern undercover investigation of farmed animal abuse was conducted by the pioneering organization in 1983 at a Texas horse exporter, shortly after PETA’s famous lab animal investigation …

Quillette Podcast 8 – Trans software developer Corinna Cohn explains why she disagrees with many trans orthodoxies

Canadian editor Jonathan Kay talks to Corinna Cohn, a trans woman and Indianapolis-based software developer who disagrees with Twitter’s policy of banning users who “deadname” trans people and, more generally, doesn’t believe she is obliged to support the causes associated with the Social Justice movement just because Social Justice Warriors support trans rights. Corinna tweets at @corinna_cohn.

From Astrology to Cult Politics—the Many Ways We Try (and Fail) to Replace Religion

If you count yourself among the secularists cheering for the demise of religion, it isn’t hard to find comforting statistics. Nearly every survey of the state of religion in my own country, the United States, presents a similar picture of faith in decline. Compared to their parents and grandparents, Americans are less likely to self-identify as religious, attend religious services, or engage in religious practices such as daily prayer. Full-blown atheism is still a minority position. But the ranks of the “non-religious”—a broad category made up of those who reject traditional conceptions of God and religious doctrines, or who express uncertainty about their beliefs—are growing. Even those who self-identify as Christians are less inclined to talk publicly about God and their faith than their predecessors. Indeed, many Americans are Christian in name only—using the term more as an indicator of their cultural background than as a declaration of a spiritual life committed to the teachings of Christ. And the rest of the Western world is even farther ahead on this same path. But secularism advocates …