Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Unscientific American | City Journal

Shermer submitted a column discussing ways that discrimination against racial minorities, gays, and other groups has diminished (while acknowledging the need for continued progress). Here, Shermer ran into the same wall that Better Angels of Our Nature author Steven Pinker and other scientific optimists have faced. For progressives, admitting that any problem—racism, pollution, poverty—has improved means surrendering the rhetorical high ground. "They are committed to the idea that there is no cumulative progress," Shermer says, and they angrily resist efforts to track the true prevalence, or the "base rate," of a problem. Saying that "everything is wonderful and everyone should stop whining doesn't really work," his editor objected.

Shermer dug his grave deeper by quoting Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald and The Coddling of the American Mind authors Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, who argue that the rise of identity-group politics undermines the goal of equal rights for all. Shermer wrote that intersectional theory, which lumps individuals into aggregate identity groups based on race, sex, and other immutable characteristics, "is a perverse inversion" of Martin Luther King's dream of a color-blind society. For Shermer's editors, apparently, this was the last straw. The column was killed and Shermer's contract terminated.