Postmodernism on campuses has lead to illogical, anti-science zeitgeist
From the outside, college campuses can seem like places run by inmates of an insane asylum. From the inside, however—even to professors who have worked on liberal campuses for well over a decade—it looks even worse, like “a hostile takeover by fringe elements on the extreme left.”
The “revolution” on college campuses “seeks to eradicate individuals and ideas that are considered unsavory,” argues former biology professor Heather Heying in The Wall Street Journal.
Heying previously worked as an instructor at Evergreen State College, along with her husband, Bret Weinstein. Heying and Weinstein both left the school after the campus descended into madness, with students specifically targeting Weinstein for refusing to leave campus on an anti-white “Day of Absence.”
The “revolution” on campuses across the country, Heying argues—the type of “revolution” that led to Heying and Weinstein being driven from campus—“is an attack on Enlightenment values: reason, inquiry and dissent. Extremists on the left are going after science. Why? Because science seeks truth, and truth isn’t always convenient.”
“The left has long pointed to deniers of climate change and evolution to demonstrate that over here, science is a core value,” she claims. “But increasingly, that’s patently not true.”
The battle on our campuses—and ever more, in K-12 schools, in cubicles and in meetings, and on the streets—is being framed as a battle for equity, but that’s a false front. True, there are real grievances. Gaps between populations exist, for historical and modern reasons that are neither honorable nor acceptable, and they must be addressed. But what is going on at institutions across the country is—yes—a culture war between science and postmodernism. The extreme left has embraced a facile fiction.
Postmodernism, and specifically its offspring, critical race theory, have abandoned rigor and replaced it with “lived experience” as the primary source of knowledge. Little credence is given to the idea of objective reality. Science has long understood that observation can never be perfectly objective, but it also provides the ultimate tool kit with which to distinguish signal from noise—and from bias. Scientists generate complete lists of alternative hypotheses, with testable predictions, and we try to falsify our own cherished ideas.
Science is imperfect: It is slow and methodical, and it makes errors. But it does work. We have microchips, airplanes and streetlights to show for it.
In a meeting with administrators at Evergreen last May, protesters called, on camera, for college president George Bridges to target STEM faculty in particular for “antibias” training, on the theory that scientists are particularly prone to racism. That’s obvious to them because scientists persist in using terms like “genetic” and “phenotype” when discussing humans. Mr. Bridges offers: “[What] we are working towards is, bring ’em in, train ’em, and if they don’t get it, sanction them.”
The “equity movement,” Heying writes, “is a highly virulent social pathogen, an autoimmune disease of the academy,” one that has resulted in “weaponized” diversity offices. “Science creates space for the free exchange of ideas, for discovery, for progress,” Heying says. “What has postmodernism done for you lately?