by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Orwell famously said that “there are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.”
His adage now applies to anyone associated with academia in any capacity.
The New York Times ran a report the other day on the canceling of University of Chicago geophysicist Dorian Abbot for his dissenting views on affirmative action. The paper quoted a Williams College geosciences professor, Phoebe A. Cohen, who supports Abbot’s shunning. She explained her dim view of academic freedom thusly: “This idea of intellectual debate and rigor as the pinnacle of intellectualism comes from a world in which white men dominated.”
Ah, yes, that poisoned fruit of the patriarchy — intellectual debate and rigor.
This idea isn’t new, even if Cohen expressed it in a memorably pithy and direct way. Of all the faddish notions blighting college campuses and the broader culture, it is among the most indefensible and self-destructive.
Start with the fact that to reason is deeply human.
Steven Pinker points out in his latest book, Rationality, that one of the world’s oldest people, the San of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa, don’t survive by happenstance. These hunter-gatherers make closely reasoned, evidence-based judgments about their prey; without the use of logic, they wouldn’t be successful. If someone told them they needed to give up all this reasoning and cede it to white males, they’d presumably react with fury and incomprehension.
Needless to say, other cultures and civilizations are capable of great intellectual rigor. It doesn’t require endorsing the fashionable theories that the West invented nothing and rose to preeminence through colonialism and theft to acknowledge the historic achievements of China, India, and the Islamic world. …
… The beauty of reason is that it is open to everyone, and it’s a powerful tool of truth and justice.