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Liberal Orthodoxy and the New Heresy

I teach college in a small city in Arkansas, deep in the American Bible Belt. I am a historian of Africa and in my department that means that I also teach a world history survey. I always start with the expansion of modern humans out of Africa and their encounter with other types of humans: Neanderthals, Homo erectus, Denesovians and what seems like an ever-growing list of newly discovered human-like creatures. It’s less the case now, but when I started twenty years ago this part of the course was initially met with polite but firm resistance, which gradually gave way to a sort of furtive curiosity. I eventually realized that even my cleverest students knew very little about human evolution except that it was false and that they were supposed to reject it. They came to the university having been taught that evolution was part of a larger attack on their faith and values, but they had never really been exposed to anything but a sort of parody version of it. A small number of them accepted evolutionary theory, but being a Darwinian in rural Arkansas was usually more about youthful rebellion and non-conformity than it was about informed, rational consideration of evidence. 

Once we got past the denunciation or acceptance of evolutionary theory as a form of tribal affiliation, I found students to be deeply curious about it. It was such a taboo subject that their high school teachers had only skimmed over it and often with some careful personal distancing from the material. So the opportunity to delve into the details of this forbidden knowledge was intellectually thrilling for them. Despite the excitement engendered by the topic only a few changed their minds; most did not.

My students had grown up in communities where evolutionary theory was so wrong, so contrary to the accepted worldview of all decent people, that the only acceptable way to talk about it was to denounce it or reject it. The result was that most of my students rejected evolution, but getting a chance to learn about it was profoundly exciting, even if most of them were too conformist (these were Honors students after all) to change their positions.

If you are now rolling your eyes at how benighted rural Arkansans are and congratulating yourself on the open mindedness of the academic world, it’s worth considering a couple of recent news items.

The University of California, Los Angeles is now going to require an equality, diversity, and inclusion statement (EDI) as part of all applications for faculty positions and for promotion. Some of the criticism of the use of these statements has compared them to the loyalty oaths of the 1950s. I am not sure that is an apt comparison. The EDI is not government imposed like the loyalty oaths were, rather they are self-imposed by the universities that choose to require them. What they more closely resemble are the statements of faith that Christian colleges often require of their job applicants. EDIs are meant to show that applicants share, or at least do a compelling job of claiming to share, academe’s current orthodoxy on diversity.

As much as we might like to think that we are open to a broad range of viewpoints and perspectives, we too have areas that are as unchallengeable and as closed to debate as a Christian college’s faith requirements.

If you doubt that, consider that no less a figure than Peter Singer, a guy with a named chair at Princeton which is as close to complete job security as one could hope for, thinks the world needs a Journal of Controversial Ideas where people can not only publish peer-reviewed articles on controversial subjects, but they can do so anonymously.

As the use of EDI statements and Singer’s journal show, academics are expected to hew to a sort of general liberal orthodoxy and the consequences of not doing so are such that people are tempted to publish controversial work anonymously. This affects the public sphere but it also intrudes into more mundane aspects of teaching and scholarly discourse. Our unwillingness to talk in serious ways about controversial subjects risks creating a situation similar to what I saw with my history students 20 years ago. Some students will embrace those controversial ideas just to be unconventional and even those who accept the reigning orthodoxy and reject them will probably still be deeply curious about them.

I have seen this play out in my classes. Last year in a world history class a student asked me about lactose tolerance in adulthood. This may seem like an odd question to have come up in a history course, but the evolution of lactase persistence (lactase is the enzyme that lets you digest lactose and it normally stops being produced after childhood) in northern and central Europeans in the last 7500 years, has become an important issue to white supremacists. I don’t think the student who asked this question was a white supremacist, but I suspect his inquiry reflected honest curiosity prompted by an encounter with some sort of white supremacist material.

I had not mentioned lactase persistence during our discussion of animal domestication because it seems so uncomfortably close to Nazi-era, racialized interpretations of history. That student’s question forced me to address the issue and now I routinely include it my lectures. It’s a tough one to deal with because it forces us to acknowledge that although some or most aspects of race are social constructions, there are non-trivial genetic differences between human populations (not the same as races) and that evolution can occur on a historical and not just a geological timescale.

As the product of a humanities Ph.D. program where the constructed nature of race was an article of faith, this was as uncomfortable for me as doing a science fair project on Neanderthals would be for a Baptist preacher.

The growth of the alt-right, which draws heavily on college-age people, is explicable in part because it offers explanations (false explanations in my view) to questions we hesitate to raise. These topics don’t come up, they would argue, because the academy is beholden to political correctness. An example of this can be seen in a post-Charlottesville video in the Chronicle of Higher Education that has an excerpt from a white supremacist recruiting video that makes explicit reference to material excluded from textbooks and lectures.

Of course, these types of intellectual “no-go” zones are hardly confined to the genetics of people’s diets. Whole categories of inquiry about race, gender, sexuality, religion, ability, and identity can only go so far before the enquirer exercises prudent self-censorship or is shut down as racist, sexist, or x-phobic.

These lines of inquiry are judged so out of bounds that they don’t require a response based on evidence or argument. Rather it is sufficient to identify them as falling into a particular category (sexist/homophobic/Islamophobic/racist or socialist/collectivist/globalist/secularist depending on context and one’s politics) to discredit them. Once the appropriate category is identified, one is freed from the need to counter the argument or debate the point. It might be called refutation by categorization.

The best analogy I have found for this type of thinking is religious heresy. Heresies are ideas that have been judged to be false by religious authorities. Once an idea is judged heretical the faithful need no longer engage with proponents of that idea. The idea is heretical and the person who advocates it is himself a heretic and thus not just incorrect or wrong, but wrong in willful defiance of the truth as defined by authoritative consensus. Heretical ideas, and the heretics who espouse them, should not be ignored in their wrongness; they should be suppressed lest the innocent be harmed by the heretic’s falsehoods. It is even possible to dismiss someone’s ideas because similar ideas have been espoused by known heretics.

The logic of heresy depends on being certain of the truth. Does anyone think that the people at UCLA advocating for the EDI are any less certain of their rightness than are the creationist pastors of Arkansas? 

An ideal of academic life has always been that we question orthodoxy. Certainty is always the enemy of free enquiry. There are real costs to abandoning that ideal. The strident reactions that greet heretical thought keep people from exploring ideas that might challenge the orthodoxy, but they also lead to lesser omissions like my reluctance to talk about lactase persistence.

It makes an interesting exercise to watch the video I linked to above and to mentally substitute “heresy” for “hate” and  “heretical speech” for “hate speech.”

Middlebury students acted to prevent Charles Murray from speaking on the relatively benign subject of the travails of the white working class because he had previously written work that some have categorized as racist.  That label meant that they need not grapple with the substance of his earlier book, but it also meant that as a known heretic his subsequent work was likewise tainted.

The young people at Middlebury who shouted down Charles Murray and assaulted a faculty member who had tried to engage him in civil debate were, in effect, suppressing the ideas of a heretic. After all, a heretic’s ideas are too dangerous to be heard.

Dangerous ideas are, of course, interesting ideas, especially to young people. When we fail to address dangerous ideas in our courses, we add to their mystique. When activists shout down or assault heretical speakers they send two messages. The first and intended message is a display of righteous disapproval. The other, unintended message, is that there is something so menacing about the idea being expressed that it cannot simply be laughed off or even argued with, rather it cannot be allowed to be spoken.

Consider how that looks to someone who is starting to question the premises of the liberal orthodoxy on race, gender, diversity and so on. Why, our alt-right curious person might wonder, are there some ideas that are so laughably false that one need not even mount a counter argument (a flat earth or the financial benefits of college athletics), some ideas that are considered contentious but still open to debate (supply-side economics), and some ideas that are so outré that they can only be met with back turning, shouting, or by punches to the face?

Might it be, our waverer must wonder, that these people don’t want me to hear this idea because they don’t have a good answer to it?

When my students hungrily lapped up information on evolution, it was because they were genuinely interested in hearing what to them was a heretical idea. When people complain about political correctness, it’s not always because they are seeking a license to offend. That complaint sometimes reflects an honest desire to be able to ask the unaskable, speak the unspeakable, and ponder the imponderable.

When we as academics avoid those uncomfortable questions, we unwittingly invite others to answer them for us. When activists try to suppress rather than debate speech they find loathsome, they should know they are adding to its mystique.

Forbidden ideas have an appeal that orthodoxy never does-just ask Martin Luther. In fact, the parallels between the rise of the alt-right and the Reformation are interesting. In Luther’s world the printing press had recently created new and difficult to control ways for people to share subversive ideas. Early forms of capitalism led to the rise of new social classes and fueled resentment against traditional elites and traditional forms of authority. There were even early forms of the meme. Long before Pepe the Frog was coopted by the alt-right, drawing donkey ears on images of priests was a way of provoking the powerful.

It’s surely the case that some of the speech that activists and university administrators seek to suppress poses a much more direct threat to real people than does a debate about supply side economics or evolution, but it’s worth remembering that to the Church, the Lutheran heresy was a real threat too. It posed a mortal danger to the eternal souls of people who were deceived by its falsehoods and rejected orthodoxy. I doubt that the Inquisitors felt any more qualms about deplatforming Lutheran heretics than did the activists at Middlebury.

As the Church learned, simply suppressing heresy cannot guarantee that it will go away. If anything, meeting heretical speech with violence or disruption just adds to its allure, confirming in the minds of the already convinced that they are right and leading the fence sitters to take another, perhaps more sympathetic, look. Dismissing heretical speech because it falls into a category that is rejected by the orthodox is not that much more effective a strategy.

We can do a lot to keep things from getting to the sort of highly contentious encounters like the ones at Middlebury and Berkeley, just by addressing uncomfortable issues with evidence rather than just categorization in our courses. Next time you are tempted to sidestep contentious issues in your class or to dismiss a student’s question because it falls into a forbidden category, don’t.

In the long run we can’t win an argument by avoiding it.


Erik Gilbert is professor of history at Arkansas State University, where he teaches African and Indian Ocean History. He blogs at

Feature photo by jorisvo / Shutterstock.


  1. Tersitus says

    Erik Gilbert— I’m glad to see free thought lives in your classroom— I worked every day to keep it alive in mine. Now I take that effort to the coffee shops in my university town— when I’m not backpacking the Oauchita or Ozark Highlands trails. And I think you have a great entry point to intelligent discussions about race in the African origins of early humans— always worked for me— archaeology and genetics are strong levers.

  2. david of Kirkland says

    It takes current generational death (and more) to make good progress on ideologies. Like, what color/race is an Englishman? An American? A Canadian? An Indian? A Chinese? We often assign a race/color to a nation, even nations that are well established to be pro-immigrant. Does an Asian look like a Japanese, eastern Russian or Indian? Genetics makes it hard because it’s taught accepting the socially-created concepts of nations, race, color, etc. that are not part of biology or geography. Sure, geography once separated human populations more tightly, but migration created much of the separated populations initially and of course is now nearly trivial.

  3. Should universities host classes on Flat-Earth Theory, GeoCentrism, Phrenology, and Creationism, so as to engage with them in an environment of free thought and bold inquiry?

    The author is assuming a good faith naivete on the part of their adherents, and that clear scientific evidence will dispel the darkness.

    The fact that these ideas are so persistent is what shows that to be untrue. Creationism has been defeated a thousand times, yet persists, because its adherents cling to it for entirely irrational reasons. I’ve seen websites fervently insisting that Galileo was wrong.

    “You can’t reason a person out of a position they didn’t reason themself into.”

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says


      “Should universities host classes on Flat-Earth Theory”

      Firstly, ‘classes’ is not what is under discussion. The question is whether the unorthodox should be permitted to speak at all in extracurricular venues or to perhaps mention unorthodox ideas in class.

      Secondly, notice the difference: No one works to deplatform the Flatists because they are not really a threat to anything. Were a Flatist to be invited to speak at Middlebury we’d not see howling mobs trying to stop it. Everyone would enjoy the fun. As the author points out, the reason that we do have howling mobs trying to stop the Incorrect from speaking is that PC is very easily demolished, thus the Incorrect are a real threat.

      The doctrine that the races are identical internally has been defeated a thousand times, yet persists, because its adherents cling to it for entirely irrational reasons.

      • E. Olson says

        Good comment Ray – it is certainly possible to discuss the historic popularity of Flat Earth Theory or Creationism and how they have been scientifically debunked by astrological observation or archaeology findings, or use them as examples of the persistence of beliefs in the face of contrary evidence, but as you rightly point out these theories don’t threaten anyone. But show satellite temperature records that demonstrate the poor predictive power of global warming models, or show racial/gender IQ test score differences, or show clinical indications that transgenderism is a mental illness, or economic performance data showing the superiority of Capitalism vs. Socialism, and lots of Leftists start to call you names or want to physically harm you. Apparently science is only supposed to be discussed when it supports Leftist viewpoints.

        • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

          @E. Olson

          It is an interesting coincidence that I’m taking a Flatist position myself right now with a friend who observed the recent lunar eclipse here with me. It is obvious (and it IS obvious) that the world is flat, but given what we observed, I’m asking her to prove otherwise.

          • The Earth is a flat disk, which is consistent with what you observed. It is held up by turtles all the way down. The shadow of the turtles on the Moon cannot be seen during the eclipse because the disk of the Earth is in the way.

        • Ellar S says

          E. Olson, your comments about satellite temperature records have it the wrong way round. One set of satellite data out of five showed no stratospheric warming, contradicting predictions. It turned out the team working on this particular dataset had failed to correctly account for atmospheric decay. In short, the models and data diverged and better data showed the models were correct. Here is a good explanation:

          Incidentally, the fact that large sections of the right in the USA deny climate science doesn’t imply that accepting it is supportive of leftism.

      • alan white says

        The doctrine that socialism is the answer has been defeated in practice hundreds of times, yet persists because its adherents cling to it for entirely irrational reasons. But the consequences are far more deadly than holding a flat earth view.

    • Tersitus says

      No Chip, I don’t think they should. They should not be “pushing” any ideas, anymore than they should be actively seeking to exterminate others. A willingness to entertain, listen, fairly represent, seriously examine, and think about and think through critically, as occasion presents— that should be enough. Of course, as most any teacher or student knows, every classroom has its own dynamic.

    • Lightning Rose says

      Back in the early days of Christendom, it was well understood by the clergy that the Bible and its teachings were spiritual allegory–they mapped the realm of the spirit and the ascent of mankind, not a literal representation of the physical world. This goes equally for the teachings of all the other world religions. In the beginning, the true knowledge was shared only within the monastic communities of clergy, who had the education and spiritual rigor to receive it.

      To the laity was taught a dumbed-down, literalized version such suitable for the illiterate and small children, which was invaluable for helping the clergy, as vassals of the feudal lords, keep the peasantry at bay with the fear of God. I mean, how convenient was the custom of Confession?

      The everlasting fight between “faith” and “science” is a crushing bore because it’s unnecessary.
      Faith and its works concern lived human experience, and how best to live a good life. Science in theory explains the physical world, though lately it seems to be rotten with cooked data due to politics. The point is that they cover two different dimensions of the world entirely, and need not be at odds. Einstein and other great scientists understood this well.

      The Creationism/Evolution argument is just a waste of time since neither can prove a negative.
      Search “Karl Popper.”

      • Tersitus says

        Lightning — always lightening up the conversation.
        Are we at a point now where the universities (the spired Churchs of Reason) fill a like function as the Church once did, shepherding and shearing the bleating flock, giving absolution after sufficient virtue signalling, the occasional obligatory issuance of pronunciamentos and paper bull in a language inaccessible except to the initiate few? Meanwhile the vaults fill to the vaults with the assets of the kingdom—titled real estate and cathedralesque architecture, bonded state securities, collaterized debt obligations, endowed thrones, art and artists’ patronage, indentured drones, a docile mass of long suffering apprentices to do most of the ministering to the young lambs who nurture on the text? The annual pilgrimages to more southern climes sound cool, what with mass baptisms in a sea of love and all— but those probably harken back to an earlier, more pagan faith. Still, there’s the Hallelujah Chorus of spirited masses echoing in the vaults of arenas, stadiums, and televangelicized living rooms across the land. Not to mention a brisk reliquary trade in sports paraphernalia?
        Good science seems pretty much an afterthought.

      • I know perfectly well that you can’t prove a negative. Scientific hypotheses are tested based on evidence, not proof. The evidence for evolution is overwhelming although incomplete, and the evidence for creationism is nonexistent.

      • Katherine says

        I wouldn’t mind seeing some evidence about how the clergy “back in the early days” of Christendom “well understood” that their religion wasn’t literally true.

        • Taylor Overbey says

          Jesus’ first words to the Devil were, “It is written…” Apparently, he took scripture literally. As a follower, so do I. In fact, I assign more validity to his statements than to those who view them as allegorical. But, call me a heretic.

          • Nicholas Decker says

            The trouble is is that if you interpret the Bible as being literally and full true, the text becomes untenable. For example, there is a verse in 1 Timothy 2:12 that states, in part, that “a woman must be silent.” Does this mean that a women should never speak? Or at least never speak in church? Or how in James it is said that one is not redeemed by faith alone, but by works too, whereas in Romans it is said that one is redeemed by alone?

            Also, not a contradiction per se, but if God knew how everything was going to turn out when he created the world, then aren’t sins the result of God setting up the world in a way that would result in a given person’s actions? And if so, is not God condemning the sinful to hell simply a result of how he made us?

          • @Nicholas Decker The text does not become untenable if you take it literally. The questions you are raising are good questions but not ones that Christian apologists are unfamiliar with. Firstly, when Paul is stating to Timothy that women must be silent it is very contextual. Paul was specifically adressing heresy being spread in the early church and in fact, much of that was being spread by women as didnèt typically have as much understanding of doctrine. It was never intended to a permanent ban for every women everywhere. People often forget that these are letters written at a specific time for a specific purpose.

            Secondly the James and Romans distinction is certainly a good question but there are many answers out there. In Roman’s Paul communicates that faith is what saves you. James then, who is not at odds with Paul but is addressing those who are taking Paul’s words to the extreme, is saying that you cannot live just by faith and never do anything good. To have true faith, actions must inevitably follow. So he says “Faith without works is dead”. He doesn’t say that faith no longer saves. Just that it needs work to prove it to be true.

            Thirdly, God’s design for humanity was to bestow Free Will upon us and the only way we could be truly free was if we had the capacity for destruction and rebellion. God certainly would have foreknew that we would choose this option but the alternative was creating obedient, mechanistic robots. God’s foreknowledge does not mean he condemned us to destruction intentionally. In fact, Paul says that Jesus was crucified before the foundation of the world. So God knew we would reject life and truth and so He already had Jesus’ sacrifice take place. Ultimately, for us to ever freely choose life we had to freely choose death and God, foreseeing that, sacrificing himself on the Cross as a redemptive act while before we even had a chance to save ourselves.

        • Joe Lammers says

          Katherine, a good place to start would be “God’s Philosophers” by James Hannam. Contrary to popular opinion, the Medieval Church was not opposed to scientific (known as natural philosophy then, they didn’t have a word for science as we understand it) or philosophical inquiry, and many important scientific and technological advances were made then. No medieval cleric that I’m aware of ever said the Earth was only 6,000 years old, for instance, and most of those who were educated (most educated people in the middle ages were clerics, but not all clerics were educated) knew the earth was round, not flat.

        • Lydia00 says

          Katherine, There is truth in all sorts of ancient literary genres. They told stories to paint a picture. Later they wrote them down. An interesting exercise is to read some other ancient creation accounts. Some have angry gods, etc.

          For those with faith it’s not a question of whether it’s true. It’s a question of how it was communicated. Some ancient scholars believe the Torah was scribed either during or after the Babylonian exile.

          I think the biggest mistake in Christendom is the lack of scholarship in the area of ancients Scholars, linguistics and philosophy. Christendom also eschewed Hebrew scholarship early on and instead merged some Pagan dualism into the mix by guys like Augustine.

          It’s not as if all groups are going to agree but so what? But, to NOT consider the different genres of communication and the historical context ofoeach book to seek better understanding seems anti intellectual to me.

      • Finally, someone who actually knows the beliefs of the historic Judeo-Christian tradition. When atheist materialist intellectuals assume the unfortunate and short lived American fundamentalist distortion of Christianity is the “real thing,” they reveal how much they don’t know. I was in shock as an undergraduate philosophy major, known to have faith, that a professor who detested me was genuinely surprised when I gave a soft defense of evolutionary theory. I realized these people had little knowledge of the depth and breadth of Chrisitian thought and assumed we all believed in a literal 6 day creation. Any hope they had in converting me was lost. 20 years later, I am still seeking God and growing. God bless all real open minded people. The academy is lost.

      • Lydia00 says

        Lightening Rose, thank you. Well said. A State church mentality still reigns on both sides in certain circles, sadly.

    • Accidently got it reversed, evolution has been defeated a 1000 times, by science. Look @ 1st & more importantly 2nd law of thermodynamics. Points to creation with “entropy principle.” Evolution says everything expanding over time, 2nd law shows all in deterioration to an end. Earth’s magnetic age now shown after study by both sides & the earth is young. Millions of years to evolve just kicked out the door. Also, magnetic end of earth coming up, so don’t worry about global warming, you have more serious issues to confront. No evolution movement fossils have been found, admitted by evolutionists, Steven M Stanley, David B Kitts, David Raup & many more evolution scientists. So dinosaur bones point to recent creation, now finding blood & muscle tissue in bones, that could maybe survive from 4500-10,000 years @ max, so T-Rex didn’t walk this earth that long ago. Ton’s more science supporting creation, if you need something more, read your Bible, starting with Genesis, especially ch1-11. Good luck with your beliefs, mine are on sound ground.

      • William says

        Whatever evidence someone is presented with, he can’t help but interpret it within the construct of the paradigm he is in. For example, on another subject demonstrating this is two people; one who believes the US is a force of evil in the world, and one who believes the US is a force of good in the world. Looking at the history of slavery in the country, the first person would be reinforced in their paradigm that the US is a force of evil. The second person would pick out different historical facts that reinforce their own paradigm; that the US was able to overcome the largely practiced institute of slavery. The same psychology applies on evolution/creation debates. The belief comes first, then the interpretation.

        • You’ve identified motivated reasoning. It’s a big roadblock for clear thinking and seeking truth.

          But is it the only kind of thinking? I’d argue no.

        • Tersitus says

          Who’s to say we inhabit (by your thought, William, we are trapped in) a single “paradigm”—how did Kuhn engineer his escape, or we (presumably) our own? Why remark on it if we’re all just bubbledwrapped in. It’s a construct or model of structuralist thinking we’ve worn out through overuse and simplistic application. By your own line of reasoning I could conclude every individual’s mind is its own changeable “paradigm.” Let’s rethink it, and a good place to start might be revisiting Nietzsche’s “perspectivalism.”
          Who’s to say where one’s own thinking ceases to be one’s own as it shades into groupthink— or, conversely, slips its bonds and becomes (to borrow a phrase) where “free thought lives?”

          • William says

            Of course one can escape his paradigm. I meant that it is difficult to do so, especially in the case of evolution/creation as in the comment I was originally replying to.

    • Peter from Oz says

      By the same token black studies, feminist studies and all the rest of them are just as wrong, vapid and useless as flat earth theory ever was. Yet Universities are bending over backwards to establish and enlarge such courses.
      WHy should we give all the deviants a platform to howl their anti-intellectual nonsense at the rest of us? Sack them all, and make colleges like proper universities.

    • Leppy Wangface says

      “Should universities host classes on Flat-Earth Theory, GeoCentrism, Phrenology, and Creationism, so as to engage with them in an environment of free thought and bold inquiry?”

      Sure. Why not? My RA in college hosted a guy who did a lecture about UFOs. The RA went on to be a famous film director. We watched the very compelling presentation, then went on with our lives. WTF are you afraid of?

    • Black Swamp Meadery says

      On the flip side, we have all seen science put forth a theory only to later have it over-turned. Scientific theories come and go, evolve or die…so why with this uncertainty in scientific theory would anyone “believe” the current theory as being gospel?

      I am a Christian, but I believe in evolution to an extent…there are aspects of the theory that don’t hold up to scrutiny. Does that mean it is completely wrong…probably not, but the hubris of science doesn’t allow us to object without being shouted down.

      As a Christian, I also do not put God in a box…if she wants to use evolution than power to him! Who am I to say she didn’t? The Bible is, I believe, purposefully vague in Genesis. Not because God didn’t do this or didn’t do that, but because it is not all that important to lessons she is trying to teach us.

      We all take up positions that have no reason…because life is hard, really hard and then you die. Sometimes an unreasoned position is what gets you through to the next month, or week, or day, or hour, or minute. Maybe if we stopped trying force our reasoned position onto folks and simply loved them and helped them through their humanity, they then might be willing to seek a position with more reason.

  4. Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

    Brave man if he’s used his real name.

  5. Vivian Darkbloom says

    A picky issue … I am wondering if this article doesn’t exaggerate the extent to which evolution is still taboo among kids enrolled in Arkansas State University. I taught at a rural state college in Mississippi 30 years ago. Most any student who had taken the SAT or ACT and gotten into college had an okay knowledge about evolution. The kids were dumb about most stuff because they were kids, not because they were religious. I mean, the author is not a public high school teacher in the Delta. Also Jonesboro is about as close to Memphis as Oxford. Standard-issue small college town. This is not truly the darkest intellectual wilds of America.

    • Yes, indeed.

      I was also surprised that a history teacher had managed to work so much anthropology and evolutionary biology into a world history survey syllabus and I question his distinguishing a “race” from a population possessing a common language and culture. Before about 1950 the two terms were usually treated as synonyms in this context.

      I also noted a lot of “woke” language he must have picked up a an academic in training in the humanities and an odd citation the NYT that linked lactose intolerance to white supremacy. He sound very much like a 19th anthropologist writing about his adventures amongst the savages.

      • Lionlady says

        “Ethnicity” is the term used by most anthropologists to denote a group possessing a common language and culture. “Race” is considered a socially constructed term denoting a broader, more geographically defined group, although current GWAS studies are tending to show race as genetically defined groups broadly related to geographic regions of the world and having fuzzy boundaries more like clines.

    • Agreed 100%. I also taught many yrs at a rural MS Delta college, attitudes and knowledge there a bit more progressive (and way less racist) than home stamping grounds of rural PA.

  6. SeanV3 says

    UC Davis is also requiring EDI’s for faculty. I just applied and had to look up how to write one. It seems like it might be all of the UC’s (except UCB, which has probably already had one for years).

  7. Steve says

    Virtually nobody understands this issue properly. Bible-thumpers who summarily reject evolutionary biology are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. What they ought to object to is the postmodern conceit that evolutionary biology (along with related scientific fields) is sufficient to explain humanity in toto. Evolution’s role in the creation of homo sapiens is a necessary part of the explanation, but not a sufficient one.

    Meanwhile the bovine atheists including mediocrities like Sam Harris et al (whom atheist John Gray mercilessly eviscerates) are unable to reflect deeply and therefore do not grasp that any world view that asserts that humanity — and therefore reason, logic and all cognitive activity — is fully explainable in these reductive materialist terms necessarily precludes the very possibility of truth. Evolution is not interested in “Truth” and there is no possible way to reconcile the two.

    It is crucial to understand the foundations of evolutionary theory if we are to make sense of man. However it is as foolish to say that evolution explains everything as it is to reject the theory outright.

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says


      I’m inclined to agree. Evolution certainly happens, but does it really explain everything? Materialists now think they own science, but they don’t.

    • Steve

      You’re raising a subtle but profound issue about the very nature of science and scholarship in general. Scientists and so-called philosophers of science (like Sam Harris) don’t seem to have a good sense of the limitations of science and frequently make pronouncements which they claim to be scientific but are more philosophical or even metaphysical in nature.

      This is especially true of evolutionary theory. There is a great deal of evidence that the earth is billions of years old and there is a great deal of evidence that simple organisms evolved into more complex organisms. But to say all of this happens by a “random” process is to leave the world of science and enter the world of metaphysical speculation.

      • K. Dershem says

        @CA, I think you’re right that aggressively atheistic scientists sometimes claim they’re drawing scientific conclusions when they are, in fact, engaged in philosophy. However, the evolutionary process is not completely random.

        “Natural selection is sometimes interpreted as a random process. This is … a misconception. The genetic variation that occurs in a population because of mutation is random — but selection acts on that variation in a very non-random way: genetic variants that aid survival and reproduction are much more likely to become common than variants that don’t. Natural selection is NOT random!”

  8. It is now generally agreed upon that Homo sapiens from Africa, after spreading out to Europe and Asia, hybridised with the species Neanderthal and Denisova. The Africans that remained did not. From breeding and domestication of hens and pigs, we know that the superior, most productive and robust types are hybrids, due to the so called hybrid effect (not well understood, but a matter of experience, and a very useful one). I wonder whether this positive hybridisation effect also works (worked) in Homo sapiens.

  9. Robert says

    Sometimes the quasi religious aspect of liberal orthodoxy is explicitly made. In 2009 the New York Times Magazine ran an interview with the physicist Freema Dyson, regarding his somewhat contrarian views on climate change. Title of the article? “Heretic”

  10. Tersitus says

    Species, subspecies, hybrids, secondary hybrids— lines in the sand. A man and a woman cross the sand, their footprints alike and different. The wind blows, trillions and trillions of unique grains sand each other, the wind blows, the sands shift, and the desert is still a desert of sand. Time and the river.
    Which one was superior?

  11. Peter says

    Another strange phenomenon (perhaps stranger) than lactose intolerance is the fact that black people are lousy swimmers. Professional sports is full of them through the spectrum, except for those activities that are going down in a pool of water where you won’t even find half-black swimmers. Even the US water polo team has a black member.

    I wonder why that is the case in terms of evolutionary development. After all, Africa is a gigantic island with plenty of islands around it (eg Sao Tome or Cape Verde) and huge internal water ways (eg Niger, Volta) and lakes (eg Lake Victoria). Did Africans really ignore fish throughout the past 20k years as the primary reason for learning how to swim to gain an evolutionary advantage??! I can hardly believe that.

    • Peter says

      *Even the US water polo team _does not have_ a black member.

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says


      There is something to that. When I lived in the West Indies I couldn’t get my black buddies to go swimming with me. Some few like the water, but very few. They seem perfectly able to swim, but they don’t like it.

    • Cornfed says

      I suspect this is just a cultural thing. There are lots black of sponge divers in the Caribbean, they seem to do just fine. Remember, you have to be taught to swim. It’s not like caucasians pop out of the womb doing the backstroke!

    • Another comment that cries out for more active editorial moderation of the site.

      Given the near absence of serious swim programs in Black communities in the US, I suspect that the number of Black swimmers at the top of the sport in the US is disproportionately high. Consider the number of nationally ranked Black swimmers as a % of all Black swimmers enrolled in quality swim programs and compare to whites. Out of the limited number of Black swimmers, a remarkable number of them float to the top, as it were.

      • Peter says

        Oh, really @Kyle…

        How come Eastern Asian swimmers don’t need training wheels in the form of “serious swim programs in Black communities in the US”?

        Let’s take a quick look at Chicago’s swimming youth, a city where the population is 32% black. Here’s the current competition rooster:

        Don’t worry, you don’t have to count them, I will do that for you. The result is that out of 30 swimmers, 10 are Asian (by name and looks) and 19 are white Europeans of all corners of the continent. One – in numbers 1 – of them is black. His name is Taye Baldinazzo while his last name (as well as the light brown skin color) indicates that he had at least one Italian male ancestor.

        Black swimmers as in black-black: None!

        Asians by the way make up 5% of Chicagos population. Looks to me like they are overrepresented. So, perhaps they are even better swimmers than Europeans.

        What do you blame that on? Racial discrimination? Do you seriously believe that someone keeps away a third of all teenagers from the pools in Chicago? I don’t think so.

        Also: Name me one successful black swimmer. I doubt there is one.

        • Peter says

          .. and just out of curiosity, I looked up how many black players the NHL currently has. There’s a list on Wikipedia with them. It’s 90 out of around 800 players, which puts it well above the 11 percent. That is almost exactly the national average of the US.

          Bottom line: If it was discrimination and lack of facilities in swimming, the same phenomenon would exist for hockey as it also needs a special building to be played in.

          Bottom line #2: You are a left-wing bigot as described in the article.

      • Anti-Censorship Lady says

        If you want to comment on a site with lots of censorship of comments that hurt your feelings, there are plenty of them out there, but this site isn’t for that. Go back to your liberal safe spaces, which, is, like, literally most of the internet at this point because of censorship authoritarians like you.

    • One big factor in the relatively low number of elite black swimmers worldwide is that there are thousands of Olympic standard pools in rich neighbourhoods in the USA (and Europe etc) and fewer in poorer, black-dominated parts of the USA (or Africa). To reach Olympic standards in swimming you need more than just water. An Olympic-standard pool, good coaching, nutritionists, sports physios, and wealth helps. Culture and “tribe” history play a role too.

      Physiology may play a part but you’ld have to tease out all of the other differences which (provably) do make a difference.

    • Nicholas Decker says

      This is frankly absurd, and based off of some truly foolish premises.

      You are assuming that the reason participation rates in swimming amongst people of african ancestry is genetic, without considering the far more compelling reason that swimming is a sport that takes a lot of money, something which african americans are less likely to have, the physical space to have a pool, which again, african americans, being more concentrated in cities are less likely to near a pool. Beyond that, Mr. Peter fails to take into account that the sport is simply less popular, and promising athletes are more likely to play football or basketball.

      If a lack of participation in a sport is caused by genetic origin, then we ought to assume asians are really bad at handling stones, because I have never seen an asian curling team, or that white people are stupid, because only white people play lacrosse, and all lacrosse players are stupid. (The last one only slightly kidding)
      It’s like wondering why people from kansas are bad at surfing.

  12. Sydney says

    I was with the author til this:

    “The growth of the alt-right, which draws heavily…”

    The fantacist left misuses this term on a daily basis. I expect this tired piece of hyperbole to be hurled carelessly by mediocre media personalities, uneducated celebrities, and politicians; but I have no tolerance for it from someone who should know better.

    There is no “growth” of a right-wing, or “alt-right” movement. The right has not “grown”; rather, the left has morphed. The left has swung so FAR left that anything to the right of Gandhi looks like a Nazi to them.

    Example: Canada’s globalist, far-left PM Trudeau and his far-left Cabinet insult ordinary Canadians (who come from 100 nations and are overwhelmingly ultra-tolerant, liberal centrists by any broad international definitions) ‘Nazi’, ‘alt-right’, ‘homophobic’, ‘Islamophobic’, ‘racist’, ‘lazy’, ‘sexist’, and ‘white privileged.’ The problem is the far-left government and its crazy agenda; the problem is not millions of reasonable Canadians.

    No, there is no “growth of the alt-right” in the West. The left has become delusional and intolerant, and the rest of us (including many of us ex-leftists) have pushed back. Push-back by reasonable people does not an “alt-right growth” make.

    I’ll read the rest of the piece, but I don’t apologize for stopping and choking on that piece of propaganda. The author should know better.

    • Farris says


      The schizophrenic nature of this article made it a fail. The article contains the broad insinuation that the author laments he feels to compelled to criticize the puritanical left and would much prefer to be bashing the right. The inference is your motives be good but please stop before you become as bad as those heathens.

      • K. Dershem says

        It’s possible that the author was virtue signalling. However, it’s also possible that he’s equally opposed to both the regressive (illiberal) left and the regressive (reactionary) right. While it’s true that the “alt-right” (aka white nationalists) are highly marginalized in North America, they seem to be gaining support in much of Europe due to the backlash against immigration.

        • Sydney says

          @K. Dershem

          Europeans voting conservatively aren’t reacting “against immigration” as much as they’re reacting against their weak leaders putting globalist policy demands of EU and UN bureaucrats ahead of working, tax-paying, law-abiding citizens. (It may be truer to say that they are reacting against the EU and UN.) Also, because Muslim immigration is of a type not seen before. It clearly erodes Western democratic pluralism, and liberal leaders are afraid to admit it or to react to it. Also, it has ceased to make reasonable sense to Westerners that we owe a livelihood to the people of every failed nation of Africa and the ME.

          I didn’t vote for Marine Le Pen (after demonstrating against her father’s FN in the 1990s) because I’m a “white nationalist” who is “against immigration.” I voted for her because she spoke truthfully about significant social, political, and economic issues. I believed Macron would be utterly useless, and I was correct. These issues are far more complex than the liberal-left media reports, or than you indicate in your comment.

          The idea of “a backlash against immigration” is as much an empty cliché of the left as the author’s declarative, “growth of the alt-right.”

          • K. Dershem says

            @Sydney, I didn’t mean to imply that the backlash against immigration is necessarily unjustified, or that everyone who opposes the E.U. is motivated by white nationalism. However, a subset of the support for far-right parties can fairly be described as xenophobic. Some (like the Golden Dawn in Greece) are explicitly fascist.

      • Farris: “The schizophrenic nature of this article made it a fail.”

        Well said, thank you for clarifying what it was about the article that made me uneasy. Upon reflection I don’t think that he, or many other articles I’ve read by academics who write the same way, would necessarily rather be “bashing the right.”

        I think that he/they are covering their asses to keep their jobs and avoid the ever growing mob of Twitter Savonarola’s on heresy watch 24 x 7 x 365.

      • Parts of the article bother me too, but it’s not schizophrenic. It’s just that the author isn’t preaching to a choir, but sincerely (I think) trying to convince leftist academics yo see themselves in a different light. He’s supplying them, in places, with the narrative they want to hear.

    • Tersitus says

      I think you’re on to something here. I suspect appending the conveniently vague ”alt” not only allows anyone so inclined to expand “the right” and the threat they imagine— its slipperiness affords a “we know it when we see it” air of dismissive superiority. Especially convenient label for those addicted to their ever-expanding definitions of racism, sexism, blah blah blah.
      The education industry has done much the same with the labeling of “at-risk” students. Try and get a clear answer to the simple question, “At risk of what?”

    • Num num says

      Sydney, I was exactly going to comment a question on that… Where’s the evidence that there’s some growing “alt-right”? I’m skeptical of that claim and suspect it’s an optical illusion created by media to whip the left onto a panic.

      If anything is growing, it’s the ever-expanding semantic boundaries for terms the left uses to categorize targets of its scorn.

    • Thank you Sydney, well said. Leftists have literally left any classical liberal behind, and many have found a home on the right where discussion and the free exchange of ideas is still encouraged and critical theory and intersectionality are not going to be swallowed like just so much kool-aid. Some of us prefer not to see the entire world through the lens of oppressor or oppressed, and prefer instead to see the world made up of complex, fallible individuals.

    • Had the same reaction. Assuming there is agreement as to what the phrase “alt-right actually” means, I am unaware of any evidence of its growth. When moving left one obviously increases the number of people to one’s right but does not represent growth on the right.

    • Jon E says

      Not to mention the concept of the ‘dangerous idea’ belongs strictly to the censorious. He’s not advocating for open dialogue here, he’s lamenting the missed opportunity to ensure someone with the ‘right’ opinion is there to translate these ‘dangerous’ ideas for the too impressionable students. It’s arrogant, paternalistic, and condescending (par for the course for the left) and honestly kind of antithetical to Quillette’s stated purpose.

    • Sydney says

      Thanks to everyone who replied to my original comment!

      I learned something germane from every reply. Non-leftists are being gaslit by the left in the most pernicious ways, and it takes good communication among us to tease out all the various ways that this is happening. And especially important for the parents among us, because we need to explain to our kids how they’re being indoctrinated.

      Glad Quillette gives a platform for these conversations!

  13. codadmin says

    Liberals have no orthodoxy, because if they did they, by definition, they wouldn’t be liberal.

    Leftists have rigid orthodoxy, and leftists are not liberal.

    • Num num says

      Codadmin, exactly! It’s critical that we defend and recover the hijacked term ‘liberal’ from the illiberal left. The conflation gives cover for the new left’s war on liberalism. Yet folks on both the left and right perpetuate this linguistic error.

      • Dan Love says

        @Codadmin and @num num

        The word “liberal” was classically used to mean the opposite, in very many ways, of how the word is used today.

        However, “liberal” is now far too deeply associated with leftism and regression for it to be worth to regain. The term “liberal” is a limb that’s so deeply infected with a flesh-eating virus that its best to amputate it.

        However, people not on the left have been able to retain and successfully defend the term “classical liberal”. That’s the term that can be owned. It points to the enlightenment – something almost everyone prefers to postmodern bullshitery. It connotes reason, rationality, intelligence, thoughtfulness, and progress.

        I don’t use the word “liberal” to describe myself because too many leftists use the term to describe themselves, and in correlation, too many people associate it with leftism.

        Also, using the word “classical liberal” implies “liberal” was once used to mean something different than it means today. This reveals the historical language manipulation strategy of the left. People are less likely to be manipulated when the strategy is brought to light.

        • In the NL (and some other European nations), “liberaal” means: conservative, right leaning, pro-capitalist, contra too much socialism. Maybe, often a source for misunderstanding and wrong judgment on both sides of the ocean. BTW, it has nothing to do with reason, rationality, intelligence, thoughtfulness and progress. In the political controversies between continental liberals and illiberal, I can’t see any difference in these features between the two, though, a large diversity, yes, but not a typical or average one. I wonder how this is with Quillette commenters (but have my soupcons).

          • Peter from Oz says


            That’s a good point. The main Australian centre right, anti-socialist party is the Liberal Party.

            In Austraia and the UK the liberal parties (the equivalents of the US Democrats) fractured in the early 20th century. Some liberals joined the parties that were equivalents of the US Republicans and others went across to the socialist parties (Labour in the UK and Labor in Australia).
            In Australia, one PM took a few of his liberal colleagues in 1909 and fused them with the conservatives. For some reason this group became the Liberal Party, even though it was mostly Conservative in outlook.
            The Liberal Party then changed its name twice over the years as took in defectors from the Labor party who had realised that socialism was a harmful creed.
            In 1944 the party changed its name back to the Liberal Party, because it still needed to capture those who sat between the socialists and the conservatives.

          • Dan Love says


            Are you not familiar with the classical liberal philosophers? They were a huge part of the Enlightenment – Mill, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Hume, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Descartes, Hutcheson, Wolff, Spinoza, etc. They were very influential to the American revolution, the thinking of the U.S. founding fathers, and the creation of the United States constitution.

            The scientific revolution was fueled by classically liberal thought, and it skirmished with religion and traditional governments who did not have a good track record of tolerating dissent.

            New liberals, influenced by postmodernism, openly oppose classical liberalism. It’s why they have a problem with science and rational thinking; they consider these things “patriarchal” “heteronormative” “constructions” for the purpose of raping.

            Libertarians, to my knowledge, like to claim the mantle of “classical liberalism”, as new liberalism is just leftism for people who don’t want to admit it.

            I think you’re confusing the inconsistent political term “liberal” with the historical and philosophical term – which was exactly the point I was making in my original comment.

        • Peter from Oz says

          Classical liberal = Tory
          It’s an easier and quicker term to use.

        • codadmin says

          @Dan Love

          That’s an interesting point. BUT, it’s still vital people stop calling leftists ‘liberal’, regardless who how tainted you think the word has become.

          • @ Dan: for me (and most Eurropeans) the sound Liberal and Liberaal has tones of: of the right, anti-socialist,the party of free enterprise and a small government, this term is also used as such, the rightish liberals also call themselves so. I only learned much later in life that liberal in the US has a completely different meaning and color.
            Of course we admire our biggest philosopher Spinoza, who taught the main task of the state = to ensure the freedom of citizens, a complete new and unheard of statement at the time. And an inspiration for the Bill of Rights. But he was not in favour of equality, if I’m right.

    • D.B. Cooper says


      This is one of the better explanations I’ve heard on the dichotomy of Leftists/Liberals. Nicely done.

  14. K. Dershem says

    I greatly appreciate this article. It reminds me of John McWhorter’s essay comparing the anti-racism ideology to a religion ( I attended an anti-racism seminar several years ago and was greeted with derisive laughter when I said that the U.S. is less racist than it was fifty years ago! Orthodoxy of any kind is the enemy of free inquiry.

  15. Philip says

    I have often heard that dogma is the death of science. I think this article elaborates on this theme quite well.
    Unrelated to my first point, I have found myself in situations where I must explain uncomfortable, unpopular things to my children from time to time. I am stuck by the way that the description of teaching heretical things to students reminded me of my own experiences.

  16. Jack B. Nimble says

    “…… Some of the criticism of the use of these statements has compared them to the loyalty oaths of the 1950s…..”

    Loyalty oaths are not some historical relic from the 1950s. I had to sign a loyalty oath to the US and State constitutions when I took my first ‘real’ academic posting 35 years ago, and the requirement is still in effect in 2019 for new hires in that state.

    And those EDI statements? Since the major funder of basic research in the US, the NSF, encourages investigators and institutions to integrate diversity and inclusion in their research programs, having professors write EDI statements could well make them more successful in the competition for scarce research grants.

    See this, for example:

    “What NSF’s new diversity grants say about attempts to help minority students

    By Jeffrey Mervis, Sep. 14, 2018, Science Magazine

    Ted Hodapp has spent the past 5 years helping boost the number of minority students pursuing U.S. graduate degrees in physics. But Hodapp, who works on education and diversity issues at the American Physical Society in College Park, Maryland, knows the society’s Bridge Program will at best make only a small dent in the nationwide dearth of blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans working in all science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. He wanted an opportunity to show that Bridge’s approach—which starts by encouraging graduate schools to de-emphasize scores on the standardized GRE entrance exam in the student selection process—could work in other STEM disciplines and, in doing so, promote the value of diversity in U.S. higher education.

    Last week, the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Alexandria, Virginia, gave Hodapp $10 million to make that happen. The grant was one of six 5-year awards that the agency announced on 6 September under its new Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) initiative, which NSF Director France Córdova rolled out in 2016 as one of her priorities. The $57 million outlay marks NSF’s first major investment in INCLUDES.

    The five Alliances, as NSF calls them, will allow STEM educators to scale up existing diversity efforts by partnering with like-minded businesses, schools, nonprofit organizations, and local and state governments. The goal is to tear down disciplinary, geographic, and cultural barriers that hinder efforts to promote broader participation in STEM…..”

      • Jack B. Nimble says


        In my 40 year academic career, I mentored or help mentor graduate students and postdoctoral scholars from The Netherlands, Taiwan, China, Japan, India, Mexico, Peru and a few other places I can’t recall at the moment. That illustrates the fact that higher ed in the US is currently a diverse, multicultural enterprise. So yes, encouraging faculty to incorporate geographic and cultural diversity in their research and teaching IS a good thing!

        • Lionlady says

          As is the NIH, NIE, and NSF requirement that research subjects and samples in scientific research be diverse as to gender, ethnicity and race unless there is a specific scientific reason for exclusion. As a result, for example, we now know more about the risks for certain adverse conditions and diseases across genders, ethnic groups, and races than we knew previous to this requirement.

  17. ccscientist says

    Suppressing ideas that are heretical does actual damage to the academy and to society. For a long time it was forbidden to include race in studies of disease but it now turns out that many diseases differ in their incidence by race, and not just malaria resistance. Blacks have a higher tendency toward high blood pressure and glaucoma, for example. The same applies to men vs women, with different incidences of disease and of mental illnesses.

    Social problems are often off limits as well. When it is asserted that black crime is totally due to oppression and racism it is then not possible to identify ways to actually address it. For example, the drug epidemic created lots of incentives for young black men to get into violent crime. Not having a father in the home is bad for young men of any race. And so on. But off limits.

    On the loyalty oath thing: I applied to a college with such a requirement and there was no way I could write a loyalty statement that they would find convincing unless I was an active social justice warrior, which is anathema to me.

    • Jack B. Nimble says


      You: “Suppressing ideas that are heretical does actual damage to the academy and to society. For a long time it was forbidden to include race in studies of disease but it now turns out that many diseases differ in their incidence by race, and not just malaria resistance….”

      Your assertion is nonsensical. Who forbid the inclusion of ‘race’ in disease studies? The Supreme Court?? In reality, blacks were [and are] largely excluded from clinical trials for promising new drugs, which is absolutely NOT the same thing as ignoring ‘race’ as a variable. Look at this:

      “African Americans Are Largely Excluded From Cancer Clinical Trials

      Drugs are safer and more effective for everyone when there is diversity in clinical research, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, ProPublica reports, many Black people are excluded from important clinical trails for cancer drugs.

      “African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial and ethnic group in the U.S. for most cancers,” the American Cancer Society notes. Black people are much more likely to die from breast cancer, prostate cancer and stomach cancer compared with their white counterparts.

      Furthermore, one in five people in the United States diagnosed with multiple myeloma is Black, and African Americans are more than twice as likely as white Americans to be diagnosed with this cancer.

      So when the FDA approved a new promising drug for multiple myeloma called Ninlaro in 2015 after a successful clinical trial, it was shocking to learn that only 13 (1.8 percent) out of the 722 trial participants were Black…..But as the article notes, this isn’t the first instance of racial disparity in cancer drug clinical trial research. Findings showed that less than 5 percent of Black patients were included in trials for 24 of the 31 cancer drugs approved since 2015. (African Americans account for 13.4 percent of the population.)…”

      You: “Blacks have a higher tendency toward high blood pressure and glaucoma, for example.”

      Yes, but disease incidence varies more strongly at a micro-level that has nothing to do with ‘race’ but everything to do with recent ancestry. Here’s what I said about this topic in an earlier thread:

      “If you replace ‘race’ with ‘ethno-religious-linguistic group’ then yes, persons of African descent or persons of Ashkenazi Jewish descent or members of the Pennsylvania Amish have higher frequencies of certain Mendelian diseases such as Tay-Sachs disease. But to call the Ashkenazim or the Amish ‘races’ is just nuts.”


      You: “The same applies to men vs women, with different incidences of disease and of mental illnesses.”

      True, but women have also historically been underrepresented in clinical trials. Again, largely excluding women from clinical trials is NOT the same as ignoring gender/sex as a variable.

      Bottom Line: when conservatives bring up the supposed importance of ‘race’ in medicine, I’m never quite sure if they are serious or just concern trolling.

  18. k. Dersham

    Thanks for the response. I think we are using the word “random” in different contexts. I think it’s quite reasonable and common to use the word random in kind of a practical way as in the above quote (at least the first part). The etymology of the word “random” suggests “disruption” or “violence”, so a random mutation is a disruption of the genetic code. Here the word random is used descriptively and in a limited way.

    However evolutionary biologists have also been asserting for well over a century that what is called natural selection is driven by random processes. Over time these random or “chance” processes create all life. Here the word is used in a metaphysical way – we live in a random or accidental universe. Such assertions are not science.

    Moreover, such assertions are unempirical in that what we actually experience is a dynamic of randomness and orderliness, permanence and impermanence, form and energy, wave and particle etc. etc. The use of the word random to suggest something fundamental about reality is a classic case of what Alfred North Whitehead called “misplaced concreteness”. To get back to “concrete reality”, observes Whitehead, we need the poets because the poets understand and acknowledge the fundamentally paradoxical nature of experiential reality.

    Evolutionary biologists have been beating up on fundamentalist Christian strawmen for well over a century with little or no awareness or acknowledgement of the more fundamental issues. They’ve been playing fast and loose with the little word “random”. By the way, Darwin himself never affirmed a random universe.

    • K. Dershem says

      “Evolutionary biologists have also been asserting for well over a century that what is called natural selection is driven by random processes.” I don’t think this is true; as the link I provided above argues, natural selection is anything but random. It may be true that the origin of life required random chance, but once life was established more advantageous characteristics would be systematically favored over less advantageous ones. If by “random” you mean “undirected” — i.e., the universe is not guided by a higher power toward a specific purpose — then I think you’re right that scientists with a naturalistic metaphysical view would affirm the “randomness” of the world. It’s undoubtedly true that many scientists have a shallow view of fundamental issues in the philosophy of science. They often dismiss philosophy as irrelevant, refusing to acknowledge that every claim and observation presupposes a philosophical view.

      • TarsTarkas says

        I agree that natural selection is undirected towards anything except survival and reproduction. However once the ecological niches have been filled up at a particular site (be it a sidewalk crack or a continent) natural selection ceases except in marginal habitats, because genetic outliers no longer can take advantage of unfilled ‘space’. It takes a catastrophe, be it a comet, a plow, or the introduction of a new invasive species to disturb the system and allow natural selection to work again. There aren’t gaps in the fossil record, increasingly the evidence shows long-term ecological stability in any given area that changes only when destruction strikes.

        It’s interesting that you say many scientists have a shallow view of philosophy, considering that science was once considered a branch of philosophy.

        • Stephanie says

          Random genetic mutations are the raw material of natural selection, and they are both undirected and actually random. The selective pressure the environment applies onto life is directed towards greater “fitness,” meaning greater ability to survive and thrive in that environment, judged by how many of your offspring survive and thrive compared to the offspring of genetically different organisms.

          Obviously if the environment doesn’t change much, species don’t change much, but they do indeed still change because some selective pressure always exists. It is true that extinction events and drastic changes in the environment open up more ecological niches. This “punctuated equilibrium” is indeed the favoured paradigm, but equilibrium does not that mean there was no change between events. That would be catastrophism.

          • K.Dershem
            This is from the New World Encyclopedia which was simply the first place that popped up when I googled “neo-Darwinism”. I’m quite sure if you google any other source at some point the word chance or random will appear as essential to the process.

            Tenets of neo-Darwinism
            At the heart of the modern synthesis is the view that evolution is gradual and can be explained by small genetic changes in populations over time, due to the impact of natural selection on the phenotypic variation among individuals in the populations (Mayr 1982; Futuyama 1986). According to the modern synthesis as originally established, genetic variation in populations arises by chance through mutation (it is now known to be caused sometimes by mistakes in DNA replication and via genetic recombination—the crossing over of homologous chromosomes during meiosis). This genetic variation leads to phenotypic changes among members of a population. Evolution consists primarily of changes in the frequencies of alleles between one generation and another as a result of natural selection. Speciation, the creation of new species, is a gradual process that generally occurs when populations become more and more diversified as a result of having been isolated, such as via geographic barriers, and eventually the populations develop mechanisms of reproductive isolation. Over time, these small changes will lead to major changes in design or the creation of new taxa.

            Notice it says, “ . . . genetic variations arise by chance through mutation . . .” I repeat, this is metaphysical speculation not science. Evolutionary biologists are in effect saying that since our methodologies can’t determine why genetic variations arise we’ll call it chance. And when you write, “It may be true that the origin of life required random chance . . .”, this too is metaphysical speculation. The above paragraph appears to be simple scientific fact, but what I’m contending is that it, like virtually all of modern science or how we think about all kinds of things, contains metaphysical speculation. Seems to me the words “chance” and “random” carry a lot of metaphysical baggage or they are virtually meaningless.

            I’m not sure what you mean by “scientists with a naturalistic metaphysical view”. What is “naturalistic” about presuming chance as the basis for evolution?

            I think much of the confusion which arises on this issue is the result of the rejection of the traditional Christian world view of an inherently orderly, directed world “guided by a higher power toward a specific purpose”. The Christian interpretation is based upon a metaphysical presumption of unity – everything has meaning, everything is connected. In a unified universe there really is no such thing as random.

            What happens in the modern world is that with the collapse of the believability of Christian interpretations of where we come from, modern human beings adopt a metaphysics of disunity. In other words, the baby of metaphysical unity is thrown out with the bathwater of dysfunctional Christian interpretation. In a dis-unified universe, chance occurrences happen all the time.

            I may sound like I’m nitpicking but I think I’m merely extending arguments about the nature of modern science (and the modern world in general) made not only by Whitehead but many others, Nietzsche, Heidegger etc. Usually conceived as a scientific problem, the problem of biological evolution is but a particular subcategory of the ever evolving paradoxical nature of the universe itself. The nature of this paradox is a kind of insoluble polarity which can be described in many ways – design/chance, order/disorder, wave/particle, etc etc. We seem to have trouble accepting the paradoxical nature of reality so we insist one aspect of these polarities must be the true one.

            Do we, in our daily lives, experience chance or randomness as the guiding principle? Don’t we actually experience some dynamic of order and disorder?

            We human beings use words like “chance” or “design” to describe aspects of experiential reality. These words are human abstractions. Another phrase for Whitehead’s “misplaced concreteness” which describes our tendency to worship our abstractions is “idol worship”.


            “It’s interesting that you say many scientists have a shallow view of philosophy, considering that science was once considered a branch of philosophy”

            I believe it was called “natural philosophy” as the word “scientist” does not even appear until 1832. Science as we think of it today is virtually defined by its methodologies, whereas many of the early natural philosophers were not so bound by methodological fetishism. In fact, Nietzsche claimed “the most significant event of the nineteenth century” to be the “triumph of scientific methodologies over science” – the word “science” being derived from the Latin for “knowledge”. And we see today that we grant inordinate authority to science as a series of methodologies as our most commonly accepted form of knowledge. Think how strange Coleridge’s praise of “Shakespeare’s science of human character” sounds to us today.

            The common criticism of many of today’s prominent “philosophers of science” like Pinker, Dawkins, Wilson, Harris etc is that they have a very shallow understanding of the history of philosophy and virtually never truly address the great critics. These kinds of thinkers are champions of the Enlightenment but critiques of the Enlightenment appear virtually simultaneously with the rise of so-called Enlightenment ideas.


            You seem to be giving a good account of current orthodoxy. When dealing with such an important topic its quite difficult not to be operating on all kinds of presumptions. And those presumptions are so powerful and so commonly accepted as to become virtually invisible – who said: “It wasn’t a fish who discovered water.”?

            I’m not denying anything for which there is strong scientific evidence. All I’m trying to do is tweek out the underlying presumptions.

          • K. Dershem says

            @CA, I was referring to “naturalism” as the metaphysical view which denies the existence of supernatural forces or beings (see I’m not sure how this view (which I hold) entails disunity. Christian theism presupposes a different kind of unity, but I think that a universe which consists of matter in motion governed by natural law seems unified.

            When scientists refer to mutations as “random,” this is what they mean: “Mutations are ‘random’ in the sense that the sort of mutation that occurs cannot generally be predicted based upon the needs of the organism. However, this does not imply that all mutations are equally likely to occur or that mutations happen without any physical cause. Indeed, some regions of the genome are more likely to sustain mutations than others, and various physical causes (e.g., radiation) are known to cause particular types of mutations.” ( I’m not sure how this description is dependent on metaphysical speculation. I think it derives from observation and an understanding of the mechanics of DNA.

            You’re right that theorizing about the origin of life is unavoidably speculative. Scientists have proposed a number of different possibilities, but in the absence of decisive evidence most remain agnostic about the issue.

  19. Cornfed says

    I taught biology in grad school, to undergrads taking it as general ed. In other words, not scientists and not interested in being scientists. There was a mix of beliefs about evolution, but what struck me the most was how little most of them cared about it one way or the other. Belief in evolution is one of those “loyalty oaths” of academia and sometimes an explosive issue in the culture wars. Yet as i considered my apathetic students, it occurred to me that they would go through life none the worse for not believing in evolution, or no better for believing it. That will struck many as strange, but remember, these were non scientists. A good (or poor) understanding of evolution was of no practical significance to their future lives as accountants, sales people, parents, etc. and they knew it. The big fight over evolution is just a proxy for bigger fight between two cultural perspectives, being waged by the intelligentsia!

    • I agree Cornfed, and I experience the same in my surroundings. Feeling myself an academic, sometimes I realise that this propensity and background might just be kind of tumor, at best a benign one, at worst a malignious, keeping one from the real, practical and serious things in life. In pure professional science, biology. medicine, agriculture, geology etc. etc., the scenes are different of course.

      • Lydia00 says

        @cornfed, totally agree. It’s an issue a few on both sides use against each other. Some of the most arrogant and insulting I have encountered are the Christian old earthers. The Young earthers embarrassed themselves long ago with theme parks and other such silliness.

        With that said, I have enjoyed reading over at biologos now and then.

  20. Stephanie says

    “It’s a tough one to deal with because it forces us to acknowledge that although some or most aspects of race are social constructions, there are non-trivial genetic differences between human populations (not the same as races) and that evolution can occur on a historical and not just a geological timescale.”

    Human populations with distinct clusterings of phenotypes is the definition or race. Or at least it was before the deconstructionists corrupted academia. Now you have supposedly reputable “scientists” saying that the lack of a single absolute genetic difference distinguishing every member of one race from every member of another means that race doesn’t exist. This is incredibly foolish because by this standard half the categorisation in science across the board would collapse, and it ignores that two-component systems are all that is required to identify discreet population groups that – surprise! – fall along racial lines. It’s like principal component analysis stops existing when it’s inconvenient to the leftist narrative.

    What definition, other than a biological one, makes sense? Is a black baby adopted by a white family white because he was socialised by white people? Race has always referred to heritable, visually identifiable characteristics. The claim that social effects play any role requires a redefinition of race such that it approaches the definition of culture.

    This purposeful obfuscation between race and culture is much like that between sex and gender. The leftists use them inconsistently and non-sensically until people are so confused they can’t notice that different definitions are applied at different times to suit the polical goal of activists.

    This was over all a good article, but I wish people would deprogram faster once they see through the bullshit. Is it of some fascination to catch people mid-process?

    • Dan Love says


      I was thinking the same throughout many of these comments. I was going to mention it but was too lazy and fatigued. I’m glad somebody took the torch.

      • @Dan: Compare also ” Academic’s mobbing—–“, 7 dec this blog, with quite extensive discussions on the significance of race as a biological categorisation/taxonomy, or social construct, at the end of the comments section (Of 274, so, a hot item on Quillette).

    • Alistair says


      +1. When my biostatistics became good enough, I was equally amazed at the denial of the principal component analysis with regard to human populations. But Lewontin’s Fallacy is orthodoxy in the Cathedral now.

      Real work gets done, of course, but when you listen to practitioners in human genomics you realise how very, very, carefully they code their phrases to avoid triggering the left-wing mob; Like heretics in medieval Europe, they’ve evolved (heh) a language to communicate – “population haplotypes” etc – which the inquisitors aren’t smart enough to decode. The scientists knows the Orthodoxy is false, but everyone has to pretend for fear of their jobs.

      • Lionlady says

        Reading Reich, Plomin, and Haier, recent populizers of human genomic information and behavioral genetics, you get a feeling of how very cautious they are in couching recent genetic findings. Still, we will have to come to terms with what is being learned. Maybe the first step is helping people to understand what a normal distribution
        is…without using the term, gasp, “bell curve.”

    • Jack B. Nimble says


      You: “……Human populations with distinct clusterings of phenotypes is the definition or race……two-component systems are all that is required to identify discreet population groups that – surprise! – fall along racial lines. It’s like principal component analysis stops existing when it’s inconvenient to the leftist narrative…..”

      Look, modern genetic analysis has become so powerful computationally that–with enough independent genetic loci–ANY group of humans that shares recent ancestry can be identified. This is the basis of using DNA databases to identify a criminal using evidence left at a crime scene even if the suspect’s DNA is not in any database! See here for examples:

      What this means in practice is that, for example, if DNA samples from two unrelated family groups (say, Smiths and Joneses) somehow lost their individual labels, it would be possible to separate the DNA samples into two mostly non-overlapping groups using computational means alone. That is true even if the Smiths and Joneses belong to the same ethnic group. But no one would call these two distinct clusters ‘races’ or even populations.

      Your confusion stems mostly from the failure to separate biological significance from statistical significance. Statistically significant genetic differences among individuals or groups is now easy to achieve, if enough of the genome is sequenced. But that doesn’t necessarily reveal anything if biological or medical interest.

      In my hypothetical example, maybe the Smith family has a history of genetic disorders like diabetes or hemophilia and the Jones family doesn’t. That is an unfortunate accident of ancestry, but it doesn’t really have any implications for the clustering algorithm.

      Bottom Line: The reason human geneticists use terms like ‘shared ancestry’ is because humans are embedded in networks of common ancestry ranging from recent ancestry to distant ancestry. Flattening these networks into phylogenetic trees or principal component plots distorts rather than reveals the actual genetic relationships.

      • Bies Podkrakowski says

        So in effect you are saying that races… excuse me – ancestral groups – are real and can be recognized using statistic analysis of clustering of genetic traits.

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          @Bies P.

          The word ‘real’ in this context is loaded and resembles the phrase ‘race realism.’

          What is real are the individual and mostly unique genomes that people carry around inside their cells. Even conventional representations of that genome are abstractions [or constructions], like

          5’…A C A G Y C T …..3′

          where Y= A or G. But does Y indicate ambiguity in the ‘base call’ at that position or polymorphism within the genome? The answer depends on the context.

          Getting back to individual human genomes, if we assume that each genome is unique, then any group of genomes is also unique and can be distinguished from any other group of genomes. As I said earlier, this simple insight into the uniqueness of human genomes is the basis of ‘DNA fingerprinting.’ But a group of genomes, even though it is a collection of real objects, doesn’t necessarily** have any higher-level or supra-genomic features that distinguish it from other groups. So in that sense, clusters of genomes might or might not be ‘real.’

          **Shared ancestry [genealogy or family tree] IS a higher-level feature that distinguishes one family group from another, by definition. But that is not the same thing as INFERRING ancestry from genomic data using statistical models.

  21. Fickle Pickle says

    Perhaps the place to attempt to make sense of the now universal confusion in which every idea from all times and places about the nature of Reality is now freely available to anyone with an internet connection would be the Integral world-view promoted by Ken Wilber and the various Integral theorists associated with him.
    A good place to start would be a set of 6 presentations beginning with the title Whats Missing In Intellectual Dark Web.

    At its best a “university” is where one is confronted by the very best sophisticated adult thinking about what we are as human beings, and the nature of Reality altogether.
    How much sophisticated thinking does a teenager get exposed to in high school anywhere in the world. And particularly (in this case) a Christian high school in Arkansas or Bible Belt America.
    Two basic foundational questions would be:
    1. What do you really know?
    2. Who and what are you?
    Such a confrontation would necessarily involve a thorough-going examination of ones inherited child-hood religiosity.

  22. ga gamba says

    The EDI is not government imposed like the loyalty oaths were, rather they are self-imposed by the universities that choose to require them.

    Is not UCLA a publicly funded institution of the state?

    Sure, the governor and the state assembly aren’t imposing this equality, diversity, and inclusion statement, but I think the higher ups have learnt that often it’s more effective to have the underlings do the dirty deeds. Certainly, the governor and the state assembly haven’t rebuked the uni admin for doing this, so we may understand that it’s been given their tacit blessing.

  23. David Wall says

    Digesting milk is now a third-rail topic? Good grief. Err…what about the Masai? I can only imagine what will happen with respect to alcohol metabolism in Asian populations. Next onto the highly charged subject of how humans and guinea pigs are inferior mammals because we can’t synthesize vitamin C.

    But this is serious. Racial differences in drug metabolism and medicine response are real, and if you get this wrong to be woke, you kill people.

    • Alistair says

      Yup, Cheese is a just an aspect of white supremacy and an oppressive tool of the Bovine-Industrial complex. Get with the programme or we’ll dox you.

  24. Aldousk says

    “… academics are expected to hew to a sort of general liberal orthodoxy”…
    … and, god forbid, never to joke about it …

  25. Jezza says

    There seems to be a major problem in the branding of philosophical positions. The word ‘liberal’ has accrued so many different and sometimes contradictory meanings that it is vague and useless for practical purposes. Likewise the word ‘progressive’ which seems to imply forward movement while actually blocking movement in unwanted directions. I prefer the word HERD to describe Progressives and others who take comfort in (from?) political correctness, going with the flow, finding relief in a blinkered view life. Then there are those endowed with courage, excited by the adventure of leaving the herd and striking out on their own, blazing their own trail, pioneers risking all for a voyage of discovery. The term for one who rejects, or is rejected by, the HERD, is ROGUE. A ROGUE frightens the compliant. Are you one of the HERD or are you ROGUE? Please consider. I am a non-academic casting about for a benchmark. Perhaps I should compile a list of Great Rogues of History?

    • I agree Jezza, HERD and ROGUE, but wonder whether most commenters here will agree. BTW, at first sight, herd might seem a rather negative connotation, and I saw it like that most of my life, but now that I’m old, no longer.

  26. Chris says

    If orchestras are improving thanks to blind auditions why not use anonymity in academic publishing to remove preconceptions of the subject matter based on the identity of the author? Sounds a reasonable idea

  27. Wentworth Horton says

    “Does anyone think that the people at UCLA advocating for the EDI are any less certain of their rightness than are the creationist pastors of Arkansas?”

    Neither one has anything to do with “rightness”, something few ponder and fewer act on. There’s always a sword somewhere to fall on but in the meanwhile careers need to be made, homes bought and status achieved. These are choices made by each of us every day in our own little way. There’s some bad mojo going on right now and some have chosen to climb that ladder but it’s not Righteousness motivating them, it’s achievement; the career, the home and the status. Same reasons I got up this morning, only I’m not trying to ram a poisonous ideology down the throats of fellow citizens. Take away the incentive and they’ll find another ladder and may even turn into useful humans but like with Religion, we won’t get there by rational discussion. We need to kick the ladder out from under them. Most of the major purveyors are at least partly gov’t funded, so that’s a pretty easy “kick”.

  28. K.Dershem

    Again, thanks for your response. Let me back up a little and try to explain where I’m coming from and what I’m trying to get at.

    I think you are correct that “naturalism” does not necessarily imply a disunified universe, but what I’m arguing is that in our modern interpretation of reality naturalism has blindly become associated with the metaphysics of a disunified random universe. The very presumption of a disunified universe is what defines the modern world and distinquishes it from all other civilizations. This issue is what concerns philosophers like Nietzsche, Heidegger, C.S. Lewis, David Bohm, Roberto Calasso etc etc.

    Christianity once provided a comprehensive vision of how the universe worked and how we humans fit into that universe. Along comes someone like Galileo and he points out that the universe actually is moving in ways not in accordance with accepted Christian cosmology. Likewise, Darwin and Wallace realize life forms aren’t static but in the result of long slow processes. In other words, the simple observation of nature around us tended to undermine the Christian interpretation.

    So the Christian unified vision collapses. But it is not replaced with another unified vision. A religion (as its etymology suggests) represents an acknowledgment or “binding” to forces greater than ourselves. However dogmatic and rigid a religion becomes it begins as human imaginative responses to powers outside of ourselves. A religion represents a kind of “fossil poetry” (to paraphrase Emerson).

    A religion like Christianity represents a way of revealing reality. A religion represents a kind of knowledge of the whole. With the collapse of Christianity our new way of revealing reality is by using scientific methodologies. Put simply, these methodologies operate on the assumption that reality can be known by breaking the world into pieces, not by looking at the whole as does a poetic vision. Nature is treated as an object outside of ourselves. Modern science as science does not presume the need for any knowledge of the whole.

    Virtually by default modern science, regardless what any given scientist believes or doesn’t believe, becomes our way of “knowing” reality. Again, it has no unified vision, it presents no knowledge of the whole. Science transforms the world into usable information, that information is transformed into technologies which can control and manipulate nature. Science treats nature as an object outside of ourselves which can be known by counting, measuring etc.

    This is a fragmented materialistic vision of reality. Events have no intrinsic meaning, aspects of nature may follow certain laws but with no goal or purpose. We human’s make our purpose.
    The unified force of what Wendell Berry calls “science, technology and industry” is so effective and powerful that we are ultimately enveloped by an objectified reality which we now take for true. Metaphysical questions are forgotten or rendered irrelevant. We find it hard to appreciate why the likes of Kierkegaard or Dostoevsky were so alarmed.

    The more we are enveloped by this objectified reality the more we think of ourselves as subjective powers. The more reality appears to be determined by human ideas (hence the emergence of the modern word “ideology”). Human society, we are to believe, is merely a “social construct”.
    Human consciousness simultaneously forms and adapts to this new reality.

    We do not feel bound to forces greater than ourselves which require acknowledgment. We are now, as Nietzsche said of modern people, educated for “unbelief”. In our accidental secular universe skepticism, not belief, becomes the new orthodoxy. Religion itself devolves to a personal affectation or, in William James’ terms, “varieties of religious experience”.

    The powers of science, technology and our rational bureaucratic systems are so effective that the kind of “metaphysical” questions I’m raising seem meaningless or abstract or trivial. (In a unified reality all events are interconnected so there are no such thing as purely random events). We’ve been operating for two centuries on the metaphysical presumption that reality is not unified. This has been the source of our great wealth but now the bills are coming due – climate change, mass social disruption etc etc.

    So is reality unified or not? Are there such things as random events? Science itself has no metaphysics, science as science makes no presumptions about the ultimate nature of reality. However, modern science has absorbed a modern metaphysics of disunity which it erroneously thinks of as science or as “naturalistic metaphysics”. When scientists believe that scientific methodologies are the only reliable way of revealing reality this is virtually the definition of “scientism”. The only true knowledge is that which is revealed by science.

    A truly great scientist like Albert Einstein understands the limits of science and this is why he said that religion without science is blind but science without religion is lame.

    And, by the way, modern science is anything but empirical.

    • As you say science does not include metaphysics but science has often revealed things completely beyond the speculations of any philosophers.

      ‘So is reality unified or not?’
      If you accept reality then you accept it is unified. I don’t think I know what a non unified reality would mean. Current scientific theoriel are not unified but that just shows theiron limitations and that there is more to lean.

      ‘Are there such things as random events?’
      Orthodox quantum physics is that there are but what can be proven and is amazing is that whether there are true random events or whether the randomness is due to hidden variables those hidden variables or randomness are non-local and in a way consistent with relativity. Totally amazing.

      All the progress and some remarkable discoveries has come fron science not philosophers or theologians .

    • K. Dershem says

      “So is reality unified or not? Are there such things as random events? Science itself has no metaphysics, science as science makes no presumptions about the ultimate nature of reality.”

      I agree with this statement. The scientific enterprise is compatible with Christian theism, as long as theists refrain from making claims that contradict well-established scientific explanations. However, it seems to me that methodological naturalism (as opposed to metaphysical naturalism) is a necessary component of science. You’re right to criticize Scientism: metaphysical questions cannot be answered by the methods of science.

      “[M]odern science is anything but empirical.” I’m not sure what you mean here. If you’re arguing that scientists rely on foundational presuppositions that cannot be empirically proven, I agree.

      Thanks for your sharing your perspective. Bonus points for including Nietzsche and C.S. Lewis in the same list!

      • K.Dershem

        I’m not sure what “methodological naturalism” means as am I not quite sure what “metaphysical naturalism” is . . . ?

        Both Nietzsche and C.S. Lewis recognized that science in itself cannot discover meaning and that a society which puts an over reliance on science and reason may end in totalitarian dehumanization.

        Speaking of C.S Lewis, his Abolition of Man deals precisely with the same “metaphysical” issues I’ve tried to bring up. C.S Lewis speaks of the unity/disunity problem in terms of the existence or non existence of the Tao. Lewis’ whole book is concerned with the modern world’s implicit denial of the Tao (i.e.denial of unity).

        More recently, Jordan Peterson’s reintroduction of the idea of the Logos (a unified universe) is, I would argue, the most profound aspect of his popularity – all postmodern thinking in particular rejects the reality of the Logos or the Tao etc.and this is how they misread Nietzsche.

        You are correct that science operates on all kinds of assumptions which cannot be proven, but as far as “science being anything but empirical”, I would point out that the first thing one does when doing science is to suspend the subjective inclinations of the oberserver. This of course is necessary but suggests an immediate distortion of reality – as there are no observations without observers. This unempirical nature of science is brilliantly illuminated in Alfred North Whitehead’s Science and the Modern World.


        “I’m not sure what a non unified reality would look like” Here are a few quick examples: any exploitation of a resource with no consideration of environmental consequence; any medical procedure which does not consider the body as a whole; virtually all ideological thinking is fragmented thinking; the Soviet Union; Maoist China; in fact, it seems, the whole modern world operates with no unifying vision and has been for a while – thus climate instablity, social disruption etc etc. . . other manifestations of non unified thinking: “end of metanarratives”, “celebrate diversity” “conceptual relativism” anything which exists “for its own sake” etc etc. . .

        • K. Dershem says

          From wikipedia: “Metaphysical naturalism, also called ‘ontological naturalism’ and ‘philosophical naturalism’, is a philosophical worldview and belief system that holds that there is nothing but natural elements, principles, and relations of the kind studied by the natural sciences, i.e., those required to understand our physical environment by mathematical modeling. Methodological naturalism, on the other hand, refers exclusively to the methodology of science, for which metaphysical naturalism provides only one possible ontological foundation.” In essence, methodological naturalism rules out supernatural causes.

          We may be defining “empirical” differently. In my view, the suspension of subjective biases is essential to the operation of science and provides the basis for its remarkable success in understanding the world. It’s true that the “view from nowhere” (to use Nagel’s phrase) is impossible, but the self-critical and self-correcting methods of science enable it to approach the ideal of objectivity.

          • Go back about 2700 years to the ancient Aegean. Imagine a shepherd tending his flock of sheep.

            While tending his sheep this shepherd. observes the changing patterns of wind and clouds. He notices that strong winds often occur with the darkest of clouds. And he especially notices strong winds and rain are even accompanied with violent bursts of lightening and tremendous rumbling and roaring; Such events frighten the shepherd.

            One day, while experiencing a particularly violent storm and in a state of extreme agitation the shepherd screams out this word: “Zeus!”

            Is this a case involving “supernatural causes” or not? Is the shepherd being empirical or not?

  29. ConnGator says

    Very good article, but your (apparently) thow-away comment about “the financial benefits of college athletics” struck me as off. Are you saying that college athletes do not benefit? Or that colleges do not?

    Strange to throw this out there without explanation, as I hardly think this is in the same league with supporting flat-eartherism.

  30. Defenstrator says

    The EDI is the modern religious test. Those were made illegal for a reason.

  31. Today in my newspaper, from a certain Paulien C., the final solution: don’t talk with professionals and scientists, and don’t even listen any more to them, because, most probably, it hurts or damages your own objective truth!! Hakuna matata!

  32. Rich Dilorenzo says

    My first time on the site. Very interesting and provocative. Thanks to all.

  33. Tersitus says

    Welcome, Rich, to the place where free thought lives. (Love that logo!)

  34. Jeff Buresh says

    Excellent article. The same thinking can be applied to the persistent idea that ideas must be opposed rather than rationally contested or just ignored. Charlettesville (SP?) is an example. A small gathering of right wing nuts in a small city could have been ignored to let the participants punch air in the dark. Instead they were given a massive amount of publicity to attract and energize like minded people. This is true of all anti Trump demonstrations

  35. Lydia00 says

    Even though I grew up Christian, my mother’s brothers were serious scientists so this stuff was talked about a lot from that POV. I just don’t have any experience with “creationist” mobs as I have had with PC mobs.

    If they want to teach it at church or private school that is their right. I just think it’s sad if that is the only POV they encounter as children. But then, I feel the same about the Mosque school down the street where elementary girls have to wear hijabs.

    I love the idea of swapping “heresy” to describe PC speak. I often say the left reminds me a lot of the sin sniffing, thought policing, authoritarian Puritans I have studied. Some of the most pejorative writing about them comes from John Adams letters, who grew up in that world.

    Too bad the author did not Define alt right. It sounded like he was using it with white supremacists. All 500 of them? He could be describing Thomas Sowell as alt right for all I know.

  36. Optional says

    The author still starts with the fallacy inherent to all leftists.
    He is right, and others are wrong. And what is the best way to prove he is right.

    But what Mills argued (not being an arrogant leftists) was, we allow debate because we admit that sometimes we are actually wrong.

    For 2000 years there where 5 fundamental axioms of geometry. And then one day (after it was all settled and obvious for 200 years) – there were only 4.
    There a million more examples in science and mathematics where the settled – suddenly wasn’t.

    If that can happen in mathematics, imagine how fragile identity politics, equality of outcome, and leftist hate and intolerance of others is, to just a tiny bit of introspection.

    Religious people and Leftists don’t shout people down because they don’t like what is being said. They shout it down because what is being said would destroy their religion if people were to hear it.

    Debate and Progressivism/Socialism are totally incompatible.
    Debate assumes people who disagree can still live side by side anyway.
    Socialism requires the group to all agree – or be forced to agree.

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