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Evolutionary biologist forced out of academia for insisting male and female are not social constructs

When evolutionary biologist Colin Wright has debated Christian conservatives on the topic of creationism or intelligent design, he said they would frequently tell him he is “wrong or stupid, but my critics never called me a bigot.”

Not so when it comes to some on the academic left, who Wright argues have effectively derailed his career in academia by targeting him with cancel culture, mob-like tactics to potential employers who might consider him for tenure-track.

Why? Because he refuses to stop saying this publicly: “Male and female are not social constructs, but are real biological categories that do not fall on a spectrum.”

Wright spells out his story in a July 30 piece for Quillette titled “Think Cancel Culture Doesn’t Exist? My Own ‘Lived Experience’ Says Otherwise.”

Wright, who graduated with a PhD in evolutionary biology from UC Santa Barbara in 2018 and most recently worked in a postdoctoral position at Penn State, detailed how his critics who are furious he will not agree biological sex exists on a continuous “spectrum” effectively forced him out of his plans to become a professor of biology.

The outspoken evolutionary biologist explains in his piece that he really did try to shut up about his views, knowing they could derail his career plans.

But time and again the ridiculous dogma from the far-left that insists in the “pseudoscience … that sex differences in human personality, preferences, and behavior are entirely the result of socialization” drew him out of the shadows.

The three sacrilegious pieces he has authored or co-authored over the last three years that have prompted him to be metaphorically burned at the stake as a heretic are as follows:

The New Evolution Deniers, Quillette, November 2018

No One Is Born in ‘The Wrong Body,’ Quillette, September 2019

The Dangerous Denial of Sex: Transgender ideology harms women, gays—and especially feminine boys and masculine girls, The Wall Street Journal, February 2020

In detailing the campaign against him, Wright pointed to several anecdotes. It started when “Blank-Slate feminists and trans activists alike publicly accused me of wrongthink” after his first piece in 2018.

After his second article in 2019, “I received word that someone had posted a new listing in EcoEvoJobs, the largest job board in my field, that read, ‘Colin Wright is a Transphobe who supports Race Science.’ This was during the height of the academic-recruitment season. The post was eventually removed by the board operator. But there was no telling how long it was up or how many of my colleagues had seen it.”

But it was his piece earlier this year in The Wall Street Journal that did him in for good:

Even more than other pieces I’d bylined, this one unleashed a tidal wave of online hate—perhaps because we’d pricked the precious conceit that gender ideology saves children instead of harming them. Several Penn State professors publicly denounced the essay as transphobic. Students and faculty complained to my department’s diversity committee that I’d launched “a personal attack on individuals with non-binary gender identity,” and that my presence at PSU “made them feel less comfortable.” …

It was around this time that I was contacted by a biology-department chair at a private liberal arts college in the Midwest. He commended me for my writings, and told me that he’d even used my New Evolution Deniers essay as a basis for discussion in his own classes. But while he and his fellow biology-department faculty would likely support my hiring, he said, the school’s own human-resources department would almost certainly block me as “too risky.” …

Guilt by association is a hallmark of all social panics. And in early March, I received a text message from a close friend and research collaborator who is now an assistant professor at a major research university, informing me that his colleagues had started questioning him about our affiliation. He told me that this sort of thing was happening frequently enough that he felt the need to publicly denounce my views to clear his name. And that’s exactly what he did. Ask yourself what other ideological movements and historical periods we tend to associate with such performative acts. …

Later that month, someone again posted “Colin Wright is a Transphobe who supports Race Science” to the EcoEvoJobs board. I contacted the board operator—again—expressing my concerns. This time, I received no response.

In April, Wright explained, he chose to leave academia.

“To give credit to Penn State, I was not fired. In fact, I had the opportunity to extend my fellowship contract for another year,” Wright wrote. “However, I no longer believed that any amount of hard work or talent on my part would lead to a tenure-track academic job in the current climate.”

“Nor did I want to spend my time constantly responding to false accusations of transphobia and racism,” he added.

“I had embarked on this journey because I love science, and wanted to help beat back the forces of pseudoscience in the public sphere. But that project is impossible when scientists themselves have become intimidated by small clusters of activists who demand that the scientific method be subordinated to magical thinking, and who seek to ruin the lives of those who dissent.”

Read Wright’s entire piece in Quillette. Wright is also listed in his bio as manager editor of Quillette, so it looks like he landed on his feet.

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.