Dorian Abbot is a professor of Geophysical Science at the University of Chicago, researching climate change and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Dr. Abbot was invited to give the Carlson Lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last month, where he was to speak on “climate and the potential for life on other planets.” However, he was informed that the Carlson Lecture would be cancelled after a Twitter mob complained about an op-ed he co-wrote for Newsweek in which he and his colleague argued that the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion model employed by colleges “violates the ethical and legal principle of equal treatment” and “treats persons as merely means to an end, giving primacy to statistic over the individuality of a human being.” Instead, Abbot and his colleague recommended “an alternative framework called Merit, Fairness, and Equality (MFE) whereby university applicants are treated as individuals and evaluated through a rigorous and unbiased process based on their merit and qualifications alone.” They pointed out that MFE would mean the end of legacy and athletic admission advantages, which favor white applicants.
Immediately the woke Twitter mob at MIT took aim at Abbot, demanding that the university, one of the most prestigious in the world, cancel Abbot’s lecture. It only took eight days for MIT to fold to the demands of the ideologues. The 2021 Carlson Lecture was cancelled.
In an article about the incident written for Bari Weiss’ website “Common Sense,” Abbot wrote:
“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. 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. I believe that these features ultimately derive from the ideology’s abandonment of the principle of the inherent dignity of each human being. It is only possible to instrumentalize the individual in order to engineer group-based outcomes within a philosophical framework that has rejected this principle. Similarly, it is easy to justify silencing a dissenter if your ideology denies her individual dignity. Clearly, wokeism has not reached a terrible nadir of destruction yet, but the lesson of history is that we need to name and confront totalitarianisms before they cause disaster, while it is still possible to do so.”
Happily, Dr. Abbot’s lecture was picked up by Princeton University through the efforts of Dr. Robert George. The lecture will be available on zoom. So many people have registered for the lecture that Princeton has twice had to increase the number of available spots on zoom.
Dr. Abbot had been the target of a previous attempt to cancel him by a Twitter mob at his own university when, in the fall of 2020, he published some YouTube videos in which he denounced the riots taking place in Chicago in the summer of 2020 and also argued that persons ought to be treated as individuals who possess a dignity that is worthy of respect, and that this meant that applicants to positions at the university be treated fairly and equally and that all be allowed to express their opinions openly. The organized effort to cancel him demanded that the university restrict his teaching and research, claiming that his views represented a threat to the “safety and belonging of all underrepresented groups within the department.” A statement in support of freedom of expression for faculty members by University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer put a stop to this.
The cancelling of Abbot has not stopped. David Romps, director of Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center (BASC), in California, resigned his position when the faculty members of BASC refused his recommendation that Abbot be invited to speak at Berkeley because of Abbot’s politics. Romps wrote, “I was hoping we could agree that BASC does not consider an individual’s political or social opinions when selecting speakers for its events, except for cases in which the opinions give a reasonable expectation that members of our community would be treated with disrespect. Unfortunately, it is unclear when or if we might reach agreement on this point.”
Dr. Abbot is dead on in his assessment of wokeism. It is a totalitarian political and social ideology and movement that seeks to judge all members of society according to their ethnic or racial group or sexual orientation and to demonize and, worse, eliminate those who either belong to the “wrong” ethnic or racial group or sexual orientation or disagree with or oppose woke ideology. By “eliminate” I don’t mean kill (yet!). I mean to mitigate or eliminate their ability to contribute to the political process or social/cultural movements and priorities. It is especially dangerous when it demands that persons be judged worthy of political office, of academic positions, or for career opportunities based on their membership in so-called “underrepresented groups” or “historically marginalized” groups rather than on the basis of merit and qualifications. It is especially dangerous when it demands that a person is worthy of respect and being treated fairly based on their membership is these groups. Basically, wokeism claims to fight discrimination and racism with discrimination and racism. Rather than work to bring various groups together based on what we share in common, it seeks to separate groups based on how we are different. It inspires a competition among groups that have been the historic targets of racial animus and discrimination. Algorithms have actually been created to determine which groups are the greater victims. People are encouraged to think of themselves first as victims of an unjust, oppressive system, regardless of how much they have benefited from that system, or as beneficiaries of an unjust, oppressive system, and even oppressors themselves, regardless if their life circumstances suggest otherwise – all on the basis of skin color or sexual orientation. No wonder the number of people who “identify” as gay, bisexual, or transgender is exploding, especially among minors, and even some people who are pretty obviously white are claiming that they are not white. There’s a lot of social, cultural and political cache in being a victim member of an “oppressed” minority. So much so, that victimhood must be claimed even on the most tenuous grounds.
A student at Baldwin College recently wrote an op-ed in the college paper complaining that new radiators were being installed in his residence at Baldwin Cottage by straight men. Baldwin Cottage, or some of the floors of the cottage, are apparently set aside for women and transgenders, as a “safe space” where straight men are not allowed. But, the workers installing the radiators were straight men (not sure how he knew their sexual orientation). The writer says he was “angry, scared, and confused.” I understand that renovations to living spaces can be an inconvenient intrusion and there could be some confusion about when they are scheduled and why now rather than over the summer, as the writer points out. But, “angry” and “scared”? What about workers installing radiators inspires anger or fear? Absolutely nothing, except the woke narrative that straight men are a threat to gay men, transgendered persons, and women, regardless of the situation. They are a threat by their mere existence. I should point out that it costs $80,000 a year to attend Baldwin College. At that rate, I think the students at Baldwin Cottage can manage their fear for a few hours while workers who can’t afford to attend Baldwin College install new radiators for the winter. Judging a person as a threat to your safety based solely on their appearance used to be called prejudice. Now, it is the privilege of people who can afford $80,000 a year in tuition payments, so long as they claim victimhood.
There is a great difference in acknowledging the genuine historical oppression, racism and prejudice that almost every ethnic and racial group has suffered over the course of human history, and hoping to exploit such history to one’s advantage. There’s a great difference in acknowledging the racism and discrimination that exists today among some individuals of all groups and the racism that still exists in some systems, and exploiting such in order to gain social or cultural sympathy by claiming victim status. Frankly, it’s an insult to those who suffer genuine harm because of the racism and prejudice that still exists in virtually every human heart when others claim victim status over oppression that exists only in their minds. A student attending an $80,000 a year college does not need to be fishing for sympathy over a straight male worker coming to install a radiator when there are people in this country who are losing their opportunities or even their lives because of the prejudice that still soils many a warped mind, or who live and too often die under constant threat in inner city war zones controlled by gangs and drug cartels.
Perception is everything. A little perspective helps, too.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.