When the Left Denies Science

Galileo’s Middle Finger is one of the most important social-science books of 2015 because of how thoroughly it punctures liberal smugness about science.

Jesse Singal
When Liberals Attack Social Science
The New Yorker
December 30, 2015

I spare no virtual ink in this forum excoriating those who would deny science in the name of political ideology, and am studiously non-partisan about this: the conservatives who still refuse to consider the possibility of climate change, end stem-cell research, or keep evolution out of textbooks come under as much fire as the liberals engaged in a jihad against GMOs, who deny the role of evolution in the human brain, and who in the words of Michael Shermer, maintain that “everything natural is good, and everything non-natural is bad.”

So it is encouraging to come across Jesse Singal’s moving review of Galileo’s Middle FingerAlice Dreger’s new book about what happens when science clashes with activist liberal dogma. In the book, Dreger documents in meticulous detail two specific cases of when this happens, and the results are disturbing. I won’t go into specifics, but suffice to say that both researchers collected evidence that pointed in a direction that challenged liberal dogma, and as a result, faced baseless academic and popular witch hunts aimed at ruining their lives and their careers, not simply challenging their conclusions.

That this is reprehensible is axiomatic. As Singal notes:

We should want researchers to poke around at the edges of “respectable” beliefs about gender and race and religion and sex and identity and trauma, and other issues that make us squirm. That’s why the scientific method was invented in the first place. If activists — any activists, regardless of their political orientation or the rightness of their cause — get to decide by fiat what is and isn’t an acceptable interpretation of the world, then science is pointless, and we should just throw the whole damn thing out.

These accusations are not being flung by some right-wing PAC. Not only is The New Yorker somewhere to the left of center in its own editorial policies, Dr. Dreger is a genuine progressive who has spent years working with the transgendered. Her conclusions are thus animated by a desire to rid science of politics rather than score points on the opposition.

Read the entire review, and then do what I did: pick up Dregel’s book. This nonsense has to end, and we, by being informed, can help end it.

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Yale and the Apotheosis of Infantile Leftism

“Free speech is all well and good, apparently, when the speaker is a bigoted lunatic from a “marginalized” group; not so good when the person in question is a Yale professor advocating for her students’ freedom to choose a Halloween costume.”

Source: Where Are The Adults at Yale? – Tablet Magazine

Read James Kirchick’s article. It is not perfect – he tries to make too many points at once – but he manages to make many that are worth positing.

First, that there are better ways to handle hateful speech, much less moderate arguments from a “well-meaning child developmental psychologist,” than plead for safe-rooms and the elimination of opposing voices on campus. He did so when he was a student, engaging in open debate without calling for institutional retribution against the individual (or the campus groups that sponsored him) who attacked both his identity and him personally.

Second, that any parallels between what is happening at Yale and the campus uprisings of the 1960s is superficial at best. Five decades ago the demand was for student empowerment and the freedom of speech on campus; now students are demanding protection from emotional pain and the end to free and open debate.

Third, that the current issue at Yale is the natural evolution of an identity politics that has devolved to ” ‘grievance mongering,’ which holds that the relative virtue of an argument is directly proportional to the professed ‘marginalization’ of its proponent,” and that whatever the virtues of such thinking may be, it is inimical to the goals of a liberal education.

Fourth, that the condemnation of such behavior comes not just from conservative old white men, but from acknowledged liberals like President Barack Obama.

And finally, that a university is not and should not be a democracy. It is, rather, an environment run by leading educators with the advice and input of students and primarily for the benefit of those students. Thanks to the efforts of the student movement of the 1960s, those being educated have a vote in the way a university is run. But they do not be pandered to and allowed to run rampant over the operation of the university, if for no other reason than their short-term desires are often at odds with the long-term interests of the university and the wider community it serves.