Evolutionary Biologists Aghast at Cultural Wokeism
They’ve suffered the evils of Cancel Culture, but what can
they say about it? In their theory, culture evolves, too.
Evolutionary biologists are in a quandary. Their theory is entirely amoral; whatever is, is right. Whatever culture does, it evolved to do. Humans are no different than fruit flies or apes. Natural selection shapes everything, including language, culture and politics. Some evolutionary biologists study termites to try to understand the origins of human political systems.
But a couple of evolutionary biologists have been aghast at their culture after suffering the wrath of today’s “Woke” mob—those anarchists who promote violence in support of “social justice” (SJ). How can they say it is wrong? Their righteous indignation rings hollow when they rehearse the wrong that has been done to them, and then give advice on what should be done about it.
A young evolutionary biologist (PhD, UC Santa Barbara) who did postgraduate research at Penn State, Colin Wright specializes in behavioral ecology of social insects. Like most biologists, he is trained to identify and recognize biological sex in animals as a real thing. He knows that there are some unusual cases of sex in biology, such as hermaphrodites that can self-fertilize, male seahorses that perform the role of carrying the young, and members of one sex that act in ways characteristic of the opposite sex. There are also cases in humans of ambiguous genitalia and people suffering from gender dysphoria who deserve respect and understanding. These, however, do not imply that sex is a continuum of choices where anyone can self-identify as any spot on that spectrum. Sex is a biological reality, he argues.
Boy, was he in for a surprise. When he posted on Instagram a peer-reviewed paper that highlighted the advantages that men have in sports, his post was called “hate speech” and was promptly removed.
In a 52-minute interview called “Denying Biology” on “Tucker Carlson Today” (Fox Nation), Wright tells the details of the incident and explained why he still holds to the view that sex is a binary biological reality. He also volunteered the fact that he got involved in debates against creation and intelligent design in college. He received kudos from his academic peers for his standing up for “science” against what they perceived as pseudoscience. A young PhD and a self-admitted leftist, he planned for a life in academia where he believed his work would be judged by evidence rather than ideology. There weren’t many Christians or creationists in academia, so he believed it was safe to discuss controversial matters in biology there. When he started seeing ideas floating around that sex is a spectrum of only degrees of maleness or femaleness that can be altered by personal choice, he considered that notion pseudoscience. He even started writing about it. That’s when the Woke crowd in academia went after him big time. He wasn’t just criticized for being “wrong” about it. He was called a bigot, a transphobe and even a white supremacist!
Wright testifies that his scientific colleagues were comfortable writing about binary sexuality when it concerned flies or meadow voles, but they shielded off human beings in such a way that they were not allowed to speak of sex in the same realistic terms. When he tried to point out this inconsistency, he received responses that were “couched in social justice talk about these terms in vague ways” for fear of offending somebody. In 99.98% of cases, he says, the outcome of development leading to maleness or femaleness is non-controversial: it is binary, measurable by whether the body produces sperm or ova. For a time around 2010, he continues, he was willing to grant that “gender identity” might differ from biological sex, but he maintained that sex itself remained a binary reality. In the last couple of years, he says, scientists have been asked to make “another concession” – to say that biological sex is the same thing as gender identity: that it is fluid and can change, too. The Woke mob began insisting that one’s identity choice determines what sex they are. “That’s when I got off that train,” he says. It was blurring the line completely.
Interestingly, Wright says that the sex-blenders use “postmodern philosophy” to justify their beliefs in sex fluidity. “It’s all pretty insane when you get down to it.” As for the agenda, he sees the social justice (SJ) movement responsible for the new irrationality and insanity in cancel culture. “It’s kind of a bizarre place we’re currently in,” he muses, where “you can’t make the most introductory Biology 101 claims about sex differences without these things being considered hate speech.” On Instagram, he had only posted a graph from a peer-reviewed paper in Sports Medicine, a premiere health journal. Their judgment of it as “hate speech” prompted him to ask for a review. After two rounds of review, Instagram maintained its judgment that it was hate speech.
As a result of this incident, a leftist campaign was mounted against him — so public that he can probably never be hired in his PhD specialty at any university. Students at Penn State, where he did postgraduate work, complained of being triggered by seeing him on campus. Professors joined in the campaign of calling him a transphobe bigot. Even colleagues he had worked with and considered friends, whom he considered able to discuss anything, turned on him because of this issue. He noted that they didn’t read his writings, but made up their opinions based on rumors they had heard.
Wright is alarmed that these ideas are rampant now in science. So great is the pressure within academia, he says, that journals have to go outside academia to find people able to write about the reality of sex differences. To do so within most universities would be career suicide. For simply speaking about the biological reality of sex, Wright’s dream to work as a scientist was smashed. He has no future in academia and had to give up on the possibility of ever gaining tenure. He claims not to be a provocateur; in the interview, he speaks dispassionately and says that he favors accommodation and sympathy for those with issues of sexual identity. He just wants to maintain clarity between what is biological and what is not, and why it matters that humans are a sexually dimorphic species.
D.I.E., you bigot
Where did this pressure in universities come from? Wright attributes it to the focus on “diversity, equity and inclusion” statements (see previous article) that determine academic careers, promotions and tenure. He describes these required statements as confessions of social justice slogans. One is not allowed to disagree with the expected responses. One requirement is to acknowledge the value of segregated safe spaces for minorities (which he quips is illogical, the opposite of “inclusion”). DEI statements have become a political litmus test that Wright didn’t want to participate in, feeling it is immoral. For their own safety, his previous colleagues have issued denunciations of their former friend. Wright dubs these “Maoist apologies” like the confessions Chinese peasants under Mao Zedong felt compelled to make to not be imprisoned or shot.
Ironically, here is the “evolution” that Wright observed in his colleagues concerning biological sex: (1) “Nobody is saying that.” (2) “They’re saying it, but it’s not a big deal.” (3) “They’re saying it, and it’s a good thing, because they are right.” He says he has the texts and emails to prove it. Academia has become an “ideological monoculture.” It started in Obama’s 2nd term and really ramped up in 2016, he observed, when Trump was running for president. He feels that the left moved farther left than the right moved to the right.
As for the future of science, Wright doesn’t think that subjects that are outside the SJ [social justice] narrative are threatened (at least for now), but he worries that anything that even tangentially touches on any aspect of the official narrative (e.g., sex, police shootings, race) probably cannot get published today. “We’re through the looking glass on these things,” he quipped. Having left academia in 2020, he now works as a writer for some free thought organizations, and considers even some creationists and Christians as more rational friends with whom he can discuss controversial issues congenially. They can “agree to disagree” without canceling each other.
A similar experience with “diversity, equity and inclusion” requirements leading to cancel culture was felt by geophysicist Dorian Abbott. Tucker Carlson interviewed him here.
Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying
Other well-known evolutionary biologists who were canceled by the SJW mob are these two. Their deplorable experience at Evergreen University in Washington State was told on Dennis Prager’s documentary No Safe Spaces (2019). It’s an unbelievable case of revolt against rationality that, unfortunately, is not uncommon in universities these days. Weinstein and Heying felt secure as reputable evolutionary biologists in academia. They never anticipated the unmitigated wrath and irrational intolerance headed their way when they criticized the administration for endorsing a segregation event, a “day of absence” in which whites would not be permitted to attend classes.
Weinstein’s polite but direct email to faculty and staff, appealing to logic and unity, did not go over well. It led to a riot, in which students heckled and shouted down both Bret and his wife to the point that they could not go on (see summary of the incident by Pauline Enck at The Federalist). The two professors were leftists and evolutionists, but they were not “woke” enough to satisfy the mob. Enck quotes Weinstein,
This isn’t about free speech, and this is only tangentially about college campuses. This is about a breakdown in the basic logic of civilization, and it’s spreading. College campuses may be the first dramatic battle, but of course this is going to find its way into courts. It’s already found its way into the tech sector. It’s going to find its way to the highest levels of governance, if we’re not careful. It actually does jeopardize the ability of civilization to continue to function.
Weinstein and Heying won a settlement with the university for not protecting them from the mob. A 3-part video on YouTube shows some of the over-the-top antics of students trying to silence the professors. The mob barricaded professors in the library and would not let them out. Enck feels it was a foretaste of the riots that have plagued American cities in 2020.
The two professors have since become voices for free speech in their popular “Dark Horse podcast” and YouTube channel. Another hot button for them is postmodernism: they feel almost a divine calling to denounce relativism and uphold belief in objective truth. They feel the future of science depends on it. Lately they have also taken issue with the scientific consensus on Covid-19 policies.
They still adhere, though, to evolutionary biology. How does that square with objectivity and free speech? They explain that natural selection favors stable societies that accept reality. This depends on the assumption that unguided natural processes can perceive, understand, or care about reality (so-called “evolutionary epistemology”). The reasoning, however, is circular: Major Premise: evolution explains everything; (2) Minor Premise: stable communities exist; (3) Conclusion: stable communities evolved. That begs the question on evolution. An amoral theory like Darwinian evolution has nothing to say about whether the actions of the mob in their case was good or bad. In their view, culture evolves aimlessly in insect societies and in human societies. Who’s to say that liberty is better than tyranny, or that scientific truth is superior to “indigenous expertise”? (see previous article).
Theories of “cultural evolution” producing stable societies also ignore history. Tyrannical regimes that destroyed free speech and “cancelled” rebels, going back to the empire of Sargon I, have been stable for decades and centuries; did those not evolve, according to the syllogism? What about China, Iran and North Korea today? One could even argue that rebelling against today’s cancel culture is an anti-evolutionary act! Maybe Weinstein and Heying need to get with the program and join the mob, in the name of survival of the fittest. On what basis, using Darwinism alone, can they complain that they were mistreated?
In the previous commentary we promised an authoritative response to the intrusion of Woke culture into science. It’s the gospel of Jesus Christ. Give it a hearing.
The God who created the universe, earth, life and man knew that we humans are sinners. We became captive to the chief liar, Satan, due to our disobedience. When our universal common ancestors (Adam and Eve) chose to disobey God, they chose to obey Satan and, in doing so, cast their allegiance to him. Their offspring have been “held captive by him to do his will” (II Timothy 2:26), but God had a plan to redeem (i.e., buy back) the rebels. It cost a horrid death of his son Jesus on the cross to satisfy the justice of God, a price only one who was both God and man (Jesus) could pay. When Christ came out of the tomb, he declared victory against Satan that will be fully realized in the new heavens and new earth. In these last days before his triumphant return, individual rebels—you and I—can repent and believe this good news: the promise that Christ will forgive and rescue sinners if they repent and trust in his atoning death instead of their own efforts. See more about this in our Site Map.
What does this have to do with social justice and the demise of science? The answer is in the Christian worldview that starts at Creation and proceeds to consummation: it is a linear view, instead of a cyclic view that leads to fatalism (i.e., nothing we do in this life has any lasting value). By creating mankind in his image, God gave us rationality and morality. His nature and revelation is the foundation for ontology. We can trust the senses he created to be able to perceive reality: that is the foundation for epistemology. We can know in our conscience what is right and good; that is the foundation for moral philosophy. Scientists can expect to find rationality and regularity in their observations of nature, because God created a habitable world that runs according to discernible natural laws. In summary, the Christian worldview is the foundation for science. Within it, we find a necessary and sufficient cause for the design of life in a finely-tuned universe, and a joyful, purposeful reason to study its workings. We also have a moral foundation to rebuke those who act irrationally or with evil motives. Science needs the integrity that the Christian worldview provides.
Evolution, by contrast, is the empty philosophy that Stuff Happens. There is no reason for the universe to exist. There is no assurance that the human mind can know anything. And amoral evolution destroys any non-evolving standard for moral philosophy.
The evolutionary biologists above who experienced the irrationality and the pain of cancel culture can make no complaint. In a real sense, they tasted the bitter fruit of the evolutionary worldview they have promulgated. We encourage all evolutionists who are alarmed by the Wokeness intrusion into science to study the Christian worldview, and to escape while they can the irrationality of academia’s embrace of Woke Darwinism.
Recommended Resource: The Ultimate Proof of Creation, by Jason Lisle. Dr Lisle explicates the argument from reason to demonstrate that only the Christian worldview can account for the preconditions for science: rationality, morality and regularity. Indeed, like Romans 1 states, everyone already knows this in their conscience from “the things that are made.” The book explains this in some detail, then provides responses to critics who would deny it.