The Western world considers itself a bastion of free thought – a marketplace of ideas. But some scholars who questioned prevailing liberal groupthink have quickly discovered that academic inquiry has tightly-controlled limits.
There are more Democrat than Republican supporters among scientists of almost every academic field in the US, voter registration studies have shown. In fields such as social studies and sociology, conservatives can be outnumbered a dozen or more to one. With such an overwhelming advantage in numbers, one might think that dissenting viewpoints in these fields would not pose a meaningful threat to prevailing orthodoxies. Unfortunately, a number of high-profile cases reveal that scholars and thinkers – some who do not even identify as conservative – risk their careers when they challenge the liberal majority.
Lisa Littman and ‘rapid onset gender dysphoria’
Lisa Littman, assistant professor at the Brown University School of Public Health, found herself the target of liberal rage after her research challenged a sacred tenant of LGBTQ dogma. She published a paper which supported the thesis that some young adults who identify as transgender but previously showed no symptoms of gender dysphoria may have been influenced to “transition” by social media, friends and their environment.
The resulting uproar caused the professor endless grief – even after an exhaustive post-publication review of the paper confirmed her key conclusions. She lost her consulting job and some local clinicians even called for her immediate firing from Brown. Ironically, Littman is not a conservative – showing that a liberal worldview won’t save you from the outrage mob. In an interview with Quillette, she claimed that she received pushback because her paper “did not support the gender-affirming perspective.”
James Watson alleges link between race and IQ
The scientist who discovered the structure of the DNA molecule, and received a Nobel Prize for his findings in 1962, found himself on the receiving end of social justice wrath in 2007, after suggesting a genetic link between race and IQ.
According to Watson, his unpopular position on the subject quickly transformed him into an “unperson.” The ire of the scientific community eventually led to his expulsion from most of his positions, and left him bereft of public speaking opportunities for years to come. Stripped of most sources of income, Watson was forced to sell his Nobel Prize medal.
Undeterred, he recently said that he stands by his controversial idea that there’s a genetically-backed “difference on the average between blacks and whites on IQ tests.”
It was not Watson’s only eccentric idea. He believes, for example, in a link between sunlight and libido – and that doesn’t devalue his genuine input in genetic research. Nonetheless, his thought crime essentially led to his banishment from the public stage and the scientific community.
Larry Summers and female aptitude
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who served two Democratic presidents, found himself ostracized by the left after he gave a short address exploring the reasons why women are underrepresented in tenured positions in science and engineering at elite universities and research institutions.
Summers ultimately concluded that the phenomenon may be due to a difference in aptitude at the highest levels of scientific work – but admitted his hypothesis was provocative and encouraged the audience to prove him wrong.
Instead of sparking a rigorous academic debate on the subject, Summers was dragged through the mud and labeled an unrepentant sexist. He later stepped down as president of Harvard University – a decision which many attribute to his “sexist” comments.
Although Summers provided economic guidance for the Obama White House, his remarks reportedly cost him the top job at the Treasury Department.