All posts filed under: Editorial

After Christchurch, Remember the Victims, But Resist the Urge to Blame

The terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand—the largest terror event in Australasian history—carried out against a migrant community in a place of worship has left us all in shock. The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Arden, has described this attack as an attack on all New Zealanders. Part of the shock comes from the feeling that these types of events don’t happen here. Not in Australia, not in New Zealand. We are small, quiet countries, where people feel safe. Random violence is not a feature of everyday life, let alone on this scale. People deal with shock and grief in different ways. Some people mourn. Others get angry. Many of the early reactions to the event have expressed legitimate anger about the lack of action taken over violent, right-wing extremism. Observers have been warning about the toxicity of online echo-chambers and their potential to foment hatred and motivate people to commit violence for some time now. Much of the anger is directed at big tech companies who are seen as making a profit via …

We Must Defend Free Thought

You probably have felt afraid to speak your mind freely at some point. Whether it is in a university class, a meeting at work, or amongst friends online, it’s likely that you have remained silent when you have had ideas or opinions that haven’t conformed to received wisdom. This is not an unusual or maladaptive response. In fact, knowing when to stay quiet and knowing how to avoid conflict is a necessary and important part of being an adult. Most arguments are pointless and there is no reason to get into fights with people whom we otherwise want to cooperate with and build mutually beneficial relationships. Nevertheless, I worry that intellectual self-policing is happening more and more often, particularly for those living in tight-knit and politically homogenous communities. In such environments, challenging the prevailing ideological orthodoxy—even if it’s only to plead for more tolerance of diverse viewpoints—can lead to reputational damage, harassment, and, in some cases, career suicide. Today, these strictly enforced thought codes are pervading spaces where naturally open-minded and liberal people work, such …

Feast and Drink For Our Community’s Health

Earlier this year, for the first time in history, the government of Britain appointed a minister for loneliness. Although not a medical condition, loneliness is starting to be described in such language, with descriptors such as “epidemic” and “public health crisis” bracketing the term. Large-scale studies have found that around ten percent of adults in Western nations experience chronic loneliness. In a letter published this year in The Lancet, two neurologists from the University of Chicago asked readers to “imagine a condition that makes a person irritable, depressed, and self-centred, and is associated with a 26% increase in the risk of premature mortality.” They went on to explain that it is not a condition that only affects those with poor social skills, or those who are highly sheltered or introverted. Loneliness is not necessarily about being alone, either—we can feel isolated when surrounded by other people. Somewhat counter-intuitively, social skills training, social support and social contact have all been found to be ineffective as interventions for social disconnection. *  *  * Drawing on the work …

Academics’ Mobbing of a Young Scholar Must be Denounced

The latest victim of an academic mobbing is 28-year-old social scientist Noah Carl who has been awarded a Toby Jackman Newton Trust Research Fellowship at St Edmund’s College at the University of Cambridge. Rarely has the power asymmetry between the academic mob and its victim been so stark. Dr Carl is a young researcher, just starting out in his career, who is being mobbed for being awarded a prestigious research scholarship on the basis of his peer-reviewed research. While getting a position like this is normally a time for celebration for junior academics, Dr Carl has gone to ground, unable to defend his reputation from libellous attacks, as he has been instructed not to talk to the media. Three hundred academics from around the world, many of them professors, have signed an open letter denouncing Dr Carl and demanding that the University of Cambridge “immediately conduct an investigation into the appointment process” on the grounds that his work is “ethically suspect” and “methodologically flawed.” The letter states: “we are shocked that a body of work …

From the Editor

Another week, another defenestration. This time it’s Ian Buruma, forced to resign his post as editor of the New York Review of Books after publishing an essay written by Jian Ghomeshi – a disgraced Canadian radio journalist who was acquitted on several charges of sexual assault back in 2016. Buruma said in Slate: I’m no judge of the rights and wrongs of every allegation. How can I be? All I know is that in a court of law he was acquitted, and there is no proof he committed a crime. The exact nature of his behaviour — how much consent was involved — I have no idea, nor is it really my concern. My concern is what happens to somebody who has not been found guilty in any criminal sense but who perhaps deserves social opprobrium, but how long should that last, what form it should take, etc. The rate at which such purges are happening now is disquieting. Ghomeshi’s piece was published online just last Friday and Buruma is out the door before the …

From the Editor

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

Help Us Build a Third Culture

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

Become a Patron to Receive our Weekly and Monthly Newsletters

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

Help Support Our Fundraising Goal

Since January 2017, our traffic has been growing rapidly. We’d like your help to continue to grow, expand and keep producing quality content that is scientifically literate. We believe that this is more important than ever. Mainstream news media is tribal and polarized, and universities have cemented their own monoculture. For this reason, spaces and platforms that are committed to free and open debate are worth protecting. This year, when The Guardian and New York Times published glowing reviews of a new book disputing the biology of sex differences, Quillette published a review written by the lead author of the biggest study of brain sex differences to date. When various news sites such as Slate and Vox misrepresented the work of the social scientist Charles Murray, Quillette provided neutral analysis from two psychologists familiar with the subject area. Although we feature writing from esteemed academics, we also publish essays from students and freelance writers. And our writers gain recognition. After her essay was published on Quillette, Carrie Pritt, a freshman at Princeton, was featured in …

Help Us Build Our Platform for Free Thought

Dear reader, Quillette has been proud to offer an independent source of unorthodox commentary since November 2015. With your support we wish to increase the frequency and variety of commentary available to you. Jerry Coyne has described us “as a site you should be bookmarking. Think of it as Slate, but more serious, more intellectual, and without any Regressive Leftism.” We’ve hosted distinguished writers such as Jamie Palmer, Brian Boutwell, Jeffrey Tayler, Toni Airaksinen, Brian Earp, Cathy Young, Sumantra Maitra, W. Kevin Campbell and Heather Mac Donald. We’ve published articles on a range of challenging political issues including free speech, political correctness, Islam, immigration, feminism, foreign policy, and crime. And we’ve published a number of expert articles on scientific topics such as genetics, evolution, psychology, Bayesian statistics and technology. An open-minded readership has found Quillette and we are grateful to you for your loyalty and feedback. But we are now asking for small contributions to grow and improve the website. And we would also like your input. We would like to know what works and what doesn’t, and …