The totalitarian university

The totalitarian university, by Dan Hannan.

During the Cold War, most Warsaw Pact states bore only a mild resemblance to George Orwell’s Oceania. They were altogether more banal, more tawdry, more sordid. Yes, they depended on police informers and, yes, only one party was allowed to win elections. But, by the 1970s, quite a lot of normal life had reasserted itself. There were shops and underground punk bands and sports teams and even limited foreign travel. …

The consequences of expressing an unorthodox opinion were not usually judicial. A few committed dissidents were locked up for sedition, but, more typically, the penalties were unofficial. Your driving license would somehow go missing in the system. Your kids would lose their university places. Above all, you’d be unable to find any but menial jobs. The bitter joke in Czechoslovakia was that the window cleaners were professors, poets, and playwrights.

Can you imagine living in such a society, where your words, though they broke no written law, might condemn you? Where saying the wrong thing, even unintentionally, could end your career?

Welcome to our universities.

Last week, more than 200 academics demanded that Cambridge University sack a young scholar named Noah Carl who was guilty, they averred, of “racist pseudoscience.” They accused Carl of “vital errors in data analysis and interpretation,” although they failed to cite any of these errors. They went on: “Carl’s published work and public stance on various issues, particularly on the claimed relationship between ‘race’, ‘criminality’ and ‘genetic intelligence’, leads us to conclude that his work is ethically suspect and methodologically flawed.”

Despite the quotation marks, none of Carl’s works is being quoted there, and for a good reason. As far as I can make out, he has not himself written about any relationship between race and intelligence.

His actual offense seems to be that he published a paper arguing that scholars ought to be free to explore such issues. … Carl has not himself carried out any research on the heritability of IQ. He has simply defended the right of researchers to follow their studies as they see fit.

Oh the irony:

Most societies sacralize certain values, sometimes pretty arbitrarily. The doctrine of diversity, equality, and inclusion is, in a sense, our modern Trinity. But note the extraordinary reversal. Darwin’s theories were, by and large, taken up by people who preferred science to faith, evidence to dogma. Evolutionary biology was seen as a rational and progressive discipline, a challenge to obscurantism, and it eventually prevailed for that reason.

Today, though, evolutionary biology has become the most dangerous of topics to people who regard themselves as progressive in other contexts. They are the first to howl down antiscientific prejudices when it comes to, say, climate change. But when confronted with this topic, they suddenly act like medieval inquisitors, refusing to allow any discussion that might offend against the approved dogmas.