MIT “Could Not Tolerate That a Scientist Be Permitted to Speak About His Uncontroversial Research”
October 10, 2021 | Tags: free speech
From Prof. Yascha Mounk, writing in The Atlantic, writing about MIT's cancellation of Prof. Dorian Abbot's invited lecture about climate science, because of Abbot's criticism of race-based affirmative action:
Abbot's case is far more shocking than that of either Murray or Yiannopoulos. That's partly because his opinions are much less extreme. It is also because the views that provoked such controversy are completely unrelated to the subject on which he was invited to lecture….
MIT did not rescind its invitation to Abbot in the expectation that he would repeat his views about affirmative action. Rather, he was disinvited from one of the most important research universities in the world because it could not tolerate that a scientist be permitted to speak about his uncontroversial research after daring to express unrelated views that, although controversial, happen to be held by a majority of the American public….
[T]he principle that MIT has effectively established is deeply worrying. For it would, if other institutions should follow the university's example, amount to a severe restriction on the ability of Americans to disagree with a specific set of beliefs about how to remedy injustice without raising the risk that they might no longer be able to carry on their work, even if it is completely unrelated to politics. In effect, this would create a prohibition on controversial political speech for all academics—and eventually, perhaps, professionals in other highly visible domains.
MIT's decision is not just another in a long series of campus controversies, then. It sets a precedent that will, unless it is forcefully resisted, pose a serious threat to the maintenance of a free society.