“Help, help, I’m being silenced!” says professor in opinion piece in Newsweek and MIT guest lecture


Healthy young white person who is quite convinced that the world is conspiring against him

I am really disgusted with these privileged POS’s who complain about diversity. Here’s another one, Dorian Abbot of the University of Chicago.

Dorian S. Abbot, an associate professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, is speaking out against the cancellation of a lecture he was scheduled to give later this month at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He says he’s being punished for his views on higher education’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, which he’s referred to as a top-down “regime.”

“I view this episode as an example as well as a striking illustration of the threat woke ideology poses to our culture, our institutions and to our freedoms,” Abbot wrote in a guest post for former New York Times writer Bari Weiss’s Substack newsletter, which is becoming a go-to venue for professors who feel they’ve been wronged by the academic left. “I have consistently maintained that woke ideology is essentially totalitarian in nature: it attempts to corral the entirety of human existence into one narrow ideological viewpoint and to silence anyone who disagrees.”

He’s a tenured professor of geophysics at a prestigious university. I have a little exam for him.

  • Define “woke ideology” and explain how it is totalitarian. For that matter, define “totalitarian”.
  • If I accept the claim that it is a “narrow ideological viewpoint”, explain what your ideological viewpoint is that conflicts with it. Saying that you don’t have an ideology is an unacceptable answer.
  • Explain how your invitation to present a public outreach lecture to a diverse audience was not inappropriate, given your recent opinion pieces against diversity published in Newsweek and Bari Weiss’s newsletter. You are aware that those opinions are in conflict with the intent of the lecture, right?
  • You were instead offered an opportunity to present your scientific results to the scientific community at MIT, which is a rather prestigious opportunity right there. Explain how this substitution harms you. Bonus points: demonstrate self-awareness by explaining how peculiar it is that opposition to diversity can be offensive to the general public, but somehow can be acceptable to the faculty at a university.
  • Why would you go crying to Bari Weiss, a known conservative ideologue, about “unfairness”? Do you think that the playing field is not level elsewhere? Why?
  • It is an assumption in your complaints about diversity, equity, and inclusion that women are on a “level playing field” in science, and that therefore efforts to level that field imply that “women can’t excel in science.” Justify your claim that women and minorities do not face discrimination.
  • In your Newsweek piece, you assert that diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives “entails treating people as members of a group rather than as individuals, repeating the mistake that made possible the atrocities of the 20th century” in an attempt to link efforts to offset generations of discrimination and oppression to, for instance, the Holocaust or Stalinist purges. Please try to demonstrate that you have any historical awareness at all, or even a sense of shame.

I don’t think he’d even be able to stumble past the first question without falling into mindless conservative cant, which is good, because I’ve got enough exams to grade this weekend without having to deal with a privileged asshole making up crap to justify his privilege.

Comments

  1. garnetstar says

    News flash from a woman in science: women in science are not on a level playing field, and the published, peer-reviewed, research data exists to prove it. Abbott is, as all these whiners do, completely ignoring the published data on this topic, and deliberate ignorance is still a lie. There is even a study, published in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, showing that, when male STEM professors read the published data on sexism in their fields, they refuse to believe it.

    As for minorities? I’ve never so much as met a black chemistry grad student or professor in my life. Ever. I am sure that they exist, just saying that they are definitely under-represented, and that there is a reason for that. I suppose he would say that the reason is the one that Charles Muarry has “researched.”

    I once interviewed for a professor’s job in the chem department at the University of Chicago, and the jaw-dropping sexism was beyond belief. Another professor I know, when he heard I’d interviewed there, laughed out loud that I’d wasted my time, when their sexism was so well known. During the interview, I got in trouble because when we went to lunch, I followed the other (all white male) professors into the cloakroom to hang up my coat, and they were shocked that I hadn’t known by ESP that there was a separate cloakroom for women to hang their coats! These weren’t restrooms, just places with coat hangers. It was very shocking to them that I hadn’t known my place and gone to the women’s cloakroom.

    This is the faculty lunch place at Abbott’s university. Ask him if separate cloakrooms still exist there, and tell him to clean his house first.

    Boy, is Jerry Coyne going to go crazy over this! He’s obsessed with the evils of wokeness, this involves a professor from his own university, and he loves Bari Weiss.

  2. garnetstar says

    A quick check of Abbott’s own department reveals 7 women professors (6 white and 1 Asian, only 1 full professor) and 28 male professors (26 white and 2 Asian). The only black person in the department, including all faculty, staff, grad students and postdocs, is the building manager.

    Now, there’s a level playing field for you! No need at all to think about diversity and equity.

  3. kome says

    Someone needs to tell this guy he can organize his own public outreach events to high schoolers. He doesn’t need MIT to do it for him. Chicago has tons of high schools populated with high school students who may be interested in science.

    What a lazy git.

  4. pick says

    “Define “woke ideology” and explain how it is totalitarian. For that matter, define “totalitarian”.
    If I accept the claim that it is a “narrow ideological viewpoint”, explain what your ideological viewpoint is that conflicts with it. Saying that you don’t have an ideology is an unacceptable answer.”

    These are the questions I have for these people, (I don’t know what to call them), as well. What do they calll themselves and what “anti-woke” ideology do they hold in such defiance? I think that in Weiss’s and Coyne’s their cultural/racial bias’s are obvious but not directly stated. It’s hard to see how these healthy judeo/chistian white men are so put upon. My dad taught me that “A hit dog always howls”. I think they protest too much.

  5. mssusan2112 says

    @3 & 4

    Have you considered the possibility that telling black people that formal education is a tool of the white devil and screaming “Uncle Tom” at any black person with such ambitions over the last 50 years may have had something to do with it?

  6. consciousness razor says

    There are so many things that “they don’t want you to know” and so many ways that they make sure most never do. So very obvious, but these assholes hijack it to talk about shit like this. I don’t think you can get them to have a sense of perspective on their “plight,” like a sensible person.

    An important story from ProPublica, while the media spends practically all of its time on garbage: Black Children Were Jailed for a Crime That Doesn’t Exist. Almost Nothing Happened to the Adults in Charge. For a shorter summary, a twitter thread from one of the reporters. And here’s a surreal/horrifying promotional video for the detention center (youtube, 5:07).

    As usual with stories about the criminal justice system, please don’t be tempted to think this has to do with “a few bad apples” or that it’s only about this one specific location. It’s not.

  7. says

    mssusan2112: That is a bullshit excuse. My experience at Temple University (40% students of color) was that our black students were just as ambitious and eager for learning as the white students, if not more so. I’m now at a university that is about 20% Indian, and the message is likewise. Don’t you dare place the blame on the victims of systemic oppression.

  8. raven says

    mssusan2112 the serial killer troll

    Have you considered the possibility that telling black people that formal education is a tool of the white devil and screaming “Uncle Tom” at any black person …

    Another serial killer. Of strawpeople.

    If that ever happened it was rare and not at all credible. Back in the mid 20th century, black people were occasionally escorted to schools and universities by the police and the National Guard. Because the vast majority of people trying to prevent Black people from getting educations were…white racists. Like you.

  9. raven says

    For those who weren’t even born in the mid-20th century.

    University of Alabama
    Facing federalized Alabama National Guard troops, Alabama Governor George Wallace ends his blockade of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and allows two African American students to enroll on June 11, 1963.

    University of Alabama Desegregated – HISTORY

    and

    Nine black students escorted under armed guard into all-white …https://www.history.co.uk › 25-september › nine-black-..
    .
    Under escort from the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, nine black students enter the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas on this day …

    Most of us reading this, including myself, never needed an armed guard of Federal army troops to protect us from screaming white racists, while we went to school. This was common back then.
    That is what white privilege is all about.

  10. garnetstar says

    To the white supremacist @7: I teach thousands, literally, of undergrads every year: 600+ per semester = 1200+ per year. Of those, a representational proportaion are Black, and they are ambitious, hard-working, and bright. They certainly do not suffer from massive entitlement, the downfall of ambition and effort in many white students.

    But, they know already that, in chemistry as a profession, the deck is stacked against them. They hesitate to enter a field where they’ll have to endure immense hassles and have to spend an immense amount of effort just trying to get ordinary advancement and success.

    I advise students, and these are the Black students concerns. I’ve taught these massive courses for at least five years, so that’s 6000+ students. That is quite a large data set.

    So, before your racist speculation gets going, how about acquiring some facts about the situation? Those are the facts.

  11. gijoel says

    Witness the tolerance inherent in the system. /s

    Why can’t shithead try and leave the world in a slightly better shape than they found it.

  12. PaulBC says

    garnetstar@3

    As for minorities? I’ve never so much as met a black chemistry grad student or professor in my life. Ever. I am sure that they exist, just saying that they are definitely under-represented

    “Never” surprises me a little. Black grad students are rare in computer science departments, but I have known some (including African immigrants). There may be a self-selection factor to chemistry because the return on investment (a substantial investment of prime money-making years) is not as clear, making it a lot more appealing to someone already coming from a secure background.

    There are also barriers and discrimination involved, so I don’t want to downplay that part. I just think that getting a PhD in nearly anything is a luxury. That’s the kind of dream you are more likely to have when dreams like buying a house and not worrying about medical bills seem too mundane to count as a dream. These remain dreams for many people.

  13. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    Man. It’s almost like he really would like his different opinions and ideas to have a place to be aired, and have respect for that…

    While wanting to kick out the ladder for other people to have the same.

    Whenever this happens, we hear, “So much for the tolerant left”.

    To which we can retort, “So much for the meritocratic right”.

  14. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @7: We have! Have you considered that maybe black folks aren’t ideological puppets and can think for themselves, and what they are encountering in reality is what is turning them off of education? And that perhaps right-wing stereotypes about them that are ostensibly supposed to encourage them to buck the trend and improve just make them think that no matter what they do individually they will always be judged collectively? Might right-wing tropes have had something to do with it, or is personal responsibility something that only leftists and marginalized people have to deal with (the way conservatives always think it is)?

    See, your argument, as Tim Wise pointed out to David Horowitz decades ago when he tried this zombie-horse argument, is fundamentally racist. It assumes that black folks and other POCs are so easy to bamboozle that left-wing arguments could make them not see the supposed actual reality (that in fact higher education is a place of perfect meritocracy), but that white folks (who have heard this same argument and have indeed been told by the left that the society is structurally not fair in other ways as well) are immune to that effect and see reality for how it is. Instead of assuming that maybe black folks know their own reality better than you do, you (apparently) assume otherwise. Which is infantilizing in the extreme.

    And your argument assumes something that conservatives just assume which tells me how astonishingly weak-willed they are: that you can react to the idea that there are barriers in your way only with despair. But… this is just bullshit, and actually, people in powerful communities can learn a lot from how marginalized people deal with adversity. It’s actually quite possible to recognize that you have barriers in your way but, being aware of them, find ways of overcoming them. We all know this is the case when we look at athletes who heroically overcome some obstacle. In other words: Jackie Robinson didn’t need to pretend segregation didn’t exist to succeed at baseball. He actually had to be bitterly aware of it, and then succeed.

    And the problem with the conservative lie of meritocracy is that it comes off as gaslighting. It’s delusional. If you try to tell a student encountering real barriers “You just need to try harder”, you are going to lose their interest and trust instantly. If you tell them “Yeah, you have huge barriers, but you can be better than them”, then you can do something. So… your implicit proposal is actually one of the worst solutions imaginable. And it is obviously that. Which makes me think conservatives keep proposing it because they don’t care about solving the problem.

  15. unclefrogy says

    So… your implicit proposal is actually one of the worst solutions imaginable. And it is obviously that. Which makes me think conservatives keep proposing it because they don’t care about solving the problem.

    it ain’t a problem for them until someone tries to point it out to them actively complains and tries to actually make positive changes, only then it is a problem.
    I will keep a copy of that test/questionnaire for future reference I am sure the opportunity will arise where it will be relevant sad to say.

  16. PaulBC says

    On the “minorities should try harder” theory (like Avis in the old commercials) I think I once expressed myself eloquently in a short facebook post that at least one friend liked. Somehow it came up thinking about V. S. Naipaul (who was IMO a great writer and an awful human being). Anyway, I found it and I offer it here, purely as opinion:

    There are two types of bigotry that are both logically and morally wrong but subtly different: (a) “Those people are a disgrace because they refuse to lift themselves out of squalor.” and (b) “Those people are inferior and need to be kept down.” Form (a) is somewhat harder to argue against, and can insinuate itself into polite 21st century conversation even among liberals (see ‘meritocracy’). So what hit me today is that there is in practice very little difference, because (a) is often just the cover story for (b). As soon as “those people” start to lift themselves up, (b) comes out in full force.

  17. bargearse says

    Every time someone is silenced I get to hear their odious lil opinion on gender, race, income equality etc. Poor widdle guy,.

  18. goodfella12 says

    Thank you, PZ! Speaking truth to power once again.
    I’m also sick of hearing complaints about the harm of ‘wokeness’.

  19. unclefrogy says

    @20
    not silenced just not listened too.
    if they were actually silenced we would not get to hear their odious blathering hate and victim-hood.
    they are really complaining that things like public sentimant and culture changes they are feeling their importance slipping away. soon they will feel their graves approaching who are they going to complain too about that?

  20. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @18: No, uncle, it’s never a problem for them. The complaining about the actual problem is their problem. And when people stop complaining, the disruption to the system is their problem. But the actual welfare of people? That’s never a problem they want to solve on its own terms.

    @19: Not only that, but (a) is always argued by people who will happily claim that the system is rigged against them when it suits their needs. Because they’re playing identity politics. So people like mssusan will happily say that academia is biased against conservatives. They will never accept you saying back “No it’s not, it is your own personal choices to be mediocre at academia and to enter the private sector instead”, no matter the fact that in that case it actually is true. When it happens to them, it is bias that needs to be redressed. Which means that (b) is what is actually being believed by default, including by the liberals who don’t point out the hypocrisy of those saying (a).

    @22: I forgot who specifically pointed it out (it may have been Thought Slime or Essence of Thought or Hbomberguy), but they noted how the supposed victims of cancellation never stay cancelled that long. Consequences are so poorly enforced that they barely last a news cycle.

    (And, of course, no one in the mainstream cares about the silencing of actual criminals, and terrorists, and extremists who don’t look respectable to those with power or who pick on the wrong targets. Which of course presumes circularly that, say, Louis CK shouldn’t be in actual jail for what he did).

  21. garnetstar says

    PaulBC @14, yeah, the absence of Black grad students and professors in my life is so complete as to be weird.

    But, chem grad school is free, no cost at all to the grad students, and the department pays the students a living wage. It’s like having a kind of low-paid job.

    So, the cause of the really startling under-representation is probably more the systemic racism. There is always, of course, the fact that chemistry is quite boring, and attracts a boring bunch of people! That’s probably a turn-off. But, the job market in it is always good, and it pays well too. I’d like to see many more Black and other minority people in such stable economic situations. And then, you know how when one’s parents are in jobs like that, there’s a tendency for the kids to go into similar fields, because they’re familiar with them. And, generational wealth would build. If they can stand the boredom!

  22. PaulBC says

    garnetstar@24

    But, chem grad school is free, no cost at all to the grad students, and the department pays the students a living wage. It’s like having a kind of low-paid job.

    Definitely, but there’s the opportunity cost as well. I wanted a PhD enough to stick it through for years when I definitely could have been making more money as a software developer. It’s also true there’s inertia involved, since I had professors more than happy to recommend me to graduate departments and no experience at all interviewing for industry jobs. Not that I’d doing bad now, financially, but on balance, the PhD is a feather in my cap and not a sound career investment. (That’s computer science, and I imagine chemistry is different.)

    Anyway, the life of a grad student has its benefits. I liked it a lot. It’s not for everyone. Some people would really like having a well-paying job in their mid-20s and even start raising a family.

    And then, you know how when one’s parents are in jobs like that, there’s a tendency for the kids to go into similar fields, because they’re familiar with them. And, generational wealth would build.

    Yes, the parental example is also a big factor, possibly the biggest one aside from systemic racism.

  23. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @24: It’s hard to say. When you talk about the lack of any particular kind of grad students, did they just not go into college at all, or did they not go into the field and chose some other field that was more welcoming, or did they get turned off at the undergrad level, or did their support from family and scholarships and loans and grants run out and they had to enter the private sector earlier than they may otherwise have? I know some effort has been made trying to separate out each effort of effect but I don’t recall if there’s been good enough answers to be sure.

    Paul is right that it’s not just the cost in and of itself but the opportunity cost. And that opportunity cost is felt differently, not just due to endemic resources but also due to calculations being made about how worthwhile it’s going to be. Will you get a graduate degree and still not be able to get a job in the field?

  24. garnetstar says

    Frederic @26, of course you’re right. The only thing I can say is, that in my undergrad courses, there are a representational proportion of Black students: I mean, equal to the percentage of Black people in the state, and pretty close to the percentage in the US population.

    Those students do express their concerns to me about the racism they’ll have to encounter in chemistry as a profession, but I don’t know if the factors you and Paul BC cite, the opportunity cost, the cost of even completing the undergrad degree, etc., may not also factor into it.

    But, a chemistry degree is always in demand, there is no such thing as unemployment because the degree is so versatile. You can enter almost any field of science or tech with it. Even during the crash of 2008, there were jobs for our graduates. The chemical industry itself is massive (the reason chem grad school is free is that the industry needs workers and they kick in to support grad education). The only way you won’t get a job is if you go into academia.:)

    Bachelor’s chemistry degrees are less in demand and less well paid: they’re basically technician jobs, and, in a shortage, the companies just cut back on technicians. But masters and PhDs are always hired. My first grad student PhD started an industrial job, right after she got her degree, at a higher salary than I, her professor, was getting.

    But, you have to be able to stand the boredom! The main reason that chemistry is a pretty small field, and jobs are always available.

  25. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @27: That makes sense, though that doesn’t mean the preexisting pressures that might, say, drive them into private industry instead of grad school aren’t operating in the background even as they study or that there isn’t some degree of cohort loss as you move up the undergraduate years. I was going to say originally that I actually really think the role of insufficient mentoring and the recognition of a hostile environment is really critical. I had lots of debates with anti-feminist CHUDs where women joined in to discuss how I was using statistics to discuss their own experiences (which led to one of my biggest lightbulb moments when I saw that the CHUDs would keep on engaging with me with endless, self-contradictory bullshit *but never once address the women directly, and they continued to have this blindness *even after I fucking pointed it out to their faces), and the biggest theme by far was “I wanted to go into a field but enough bad experiences both burned me out and convinced me that another field would be better for my sanity and time”. And many of them had made that new field their home, and showed real creativity and verve… which still won’t be counted by the misoygnists and implicit sexists as indications that they would have been perfectly talented.

    And as you well know, the calculus for a student in their fourth year isn’t just the eventual money they could make. Going into grad school not only means signing up for two more years of boredom but also an entire new process of applications, recommendations, standardized tests, etc. (and maybe doing it again to get into the Ph. D program). It is a ton of hassle and money. If you are then convinced that the field is full of people who are hostile to you (people likely to be your fucking bosses), you’re likely to decide to cut your losses.

    Chemistry may be an outlier for other reasons, of course: I’ve met plenty of people who did chemistry work and left it very quickly, and I am sure a perception of it being dull would be a part of it.

  26. PaulBC says

    garnetstar@27

    But, a chemistry degree is always in demand

    This doesn’t address the question of racial differences, but I would still emphasize opportunity costs. Software engineering skills are also in great demand, are (I’ll say it out loud) easier to acquire than any useful level of knowledge about chemistry, and lead to well-compensated work and comfortable working conditions without an advanced degree. So while someone may look at a chemistry degree as one path that can lead to a well-paying job, it may look less appealing relative to other choices.

    In fact, I sort of wonder who gets into chemistry in the first place. Some people probably get excited by the subject matter itself, and good for them. Some may have inspiring teachers or may have parents in the profession (actually my mother obtained a BS in chemistry during WWII, and was able to work in industry though as a technician; it didn’t rub off, and I didn’t even know to be impressed until much later). If I were doing it over again, I would have given chemistry more of a chance. At the time, it certainly seemed harder and seemed to make less sense than the math I preferred. I have a better appreciation of empirical knowledge today, but it would have taken a lot more maturity to see it at an age when it made a difference.

    Your point about Black undergrads vs. grads still stands and I don’t see how to explain that by opportunity cost if they chose chemistry in the first place.

  27. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @29: Your analysis is wholly astute, but bear in mind that black students are underrepresented there too: https://code.org/diversity . So there’s more going on than just those choices, obviously. In fact, my read is that the underrepresentation gap among disciplines isn’t all that substantial. I am sure that there are disciplines that are doing worse or better jobs, but I see a lot of the same barriers being repeated.

    More importantly, as you note: She was plenty of chemistry undergrads who were POCs, then started seeing them disappear at the grad level. Now, maybe the chemistry undergrads went into technology (including computer tech) in general even after having taken chem, so that’s still fair. And I think the opportunity cost, as I pointed out, needs to be framed in terms of the grad-school-versus-entering-job-market-early choice as well as between disciplines. But it still stands to reason that we’re seeing more than the opportunity cost you’re discussing, because we have to wonder then why these students went into chem at all before they left.

    We also, of course, are ignoring that there’s barriers that may make the talented undergrads not get into grad programs: Stereotype threat may make them underperform on GREs/GMATs/etc., they may not be able to afford the same kind of time to study for those tests, they may struggle to get good references due to bias, etc. etc. So we would need to figure out how many students in these disciplines survive the initial application process or don’t bother applying in the first place because they don’t think it’s likely enough they’ll get into a grad school to be worth their time, versus those who don’t even bother making that consideration and those who do get admitted and then don’t go or drop out very early.

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