The Great Taboo

In 2019, I shared quotes I excerpted from a 16-page paper by a young Cambridge academic, Nathan Cofnas, in the journal Foundations of Science:

"Science Is Not Always 'Self-Correcting' Fact–Value Conflation and the Study of Intelligence," Nathan Cofnas Published online: 1 February 2015:

Meanwhile, Nathan Cofnas has written another significant piece on the Great Taboo. This new piece on taking the taboo to its logical conclusion, which is what America is doing to itself as of 2023:

"Four Reasons Why Heterodox Academy Failed," Nathan Cofnas, Winter 2022, Vol. 35, No. 4.

I can't provide a link as its its not yet online, but below are extended quotes. But in summary, Cofnas compares Wokeism, now the reigning religion of universities and, increasingly, all Western institutions, to the centrality of Christianity for the founding of America's most prestigious colleges.

I happened to have been reading a pamphlet I picked up decades ago, "Education and the Founding Fathers" by David Barton, a prolific Christian historian (dangerous enough to have earned an SPLC profile). Barton claims that "106 of the first 108 colleges formed in America - and 123 of the first 126 - were formed on Christian principles" and that "even in 1900, it was extremely rare to find a university president who was not an ordained clergyman."

Today it is just as rare to find a university president is not a practicing wokeist. As Cofnas puts it below:

. . . what is happening at universities - an in the culture at large - is not a new phenomenon. Most off the older universities were founded by religious fanatics who wouldn't let you on campus if you didn't pledge allegiance to their favored brand of Christianity. The rise of political correctness, hysteria about sex, and cancel culture is a return to our natural state . . .

Will our wokeist academics and their graduates be as gentle with heretics from their religion as Christian academics were with the 'free-thinkers' and 'atheists' of the centuries of Christian dominance?

"Four Reasons Why Heterodox Academy Failed," Nathan Cofnas, ACADEMIC QUESTIONS, Winter 2022, Vol. 35, No. 4.

NOTE: The piece has 52 footnotes. None are shown in excerpts below:

The purge of heretical scholars and ideas in academia is intensifying. Many job applications now require loyalty oaths to woke orthodoxy in the form of 'diversity statements.'... Entire departments devoted to ideological-driven fields like a gender studies have been established to promote 'social justice' and provide sinecures to activists. Academic papers that undermine the woke narrative are being retracted... Many undergraduate and graduate programs... are increasingly making admissions decisions based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and ideological conformity.

Seven years ago, Heterodox Academy (HxA) came on the scene to promote 'ideological diversity' in academi... Seven years later, you can count HxA's accomplishments in promoting heterodoxy on the fingers of zero hands... The situation at universities as part of a larger cultural phenomenon; namely, the triumph of wokeism as the religion of the ruling class, and the purge of dissenters from every mainstream institution...

Wokeism as Religion

… For decades if not centuries, 'skeptics' and 'freethinkers' trained their guns on religion, and especially on belief in an anthropomorphic God. The words 'skeptic' and 'freethinker' can both literally be used as synonyms for 'atheist.'... It rarely occurred to such self-congratulatory brights [athiests] that there were other issues of comparable importance, or that much of what they didn't like about religion was an expression of general human tendencies that, in the absence of belief in God, would re-emerge in new forms. 'Wokeism,' or 'social justice,' is what replaced Christianity among the ruling class in the West.

Although Wokeism technically has no gods, it is no less devoid of magical thinking than traditional religions. It posits an armada of invisible forces of wickedness and impurity - 'white privilege,' 'systemic racisim,' patriarchy,' and so on - which control every aspect of our lives operating in ways that no one can clearly explain or verify empirically...

Like traditional religions, wokeism teaches a sacred narrative to make sense of the world. The woke narrative is primarily concerned with explaining inequality... It is an empirical fact that different groups of people - races, genders, sexual orientations - have different outcomes with respect to virtually everything that can be measured: educational attainment, income, incarceration rate, IQ, blood pressure, life expectancy, and so on.

According to the woke narrative all differences favoring whites or men are a consequence of forces such as white privilege and the patriarchy... to consider alterative explanations is an act of unspeakable wickedness....

I highlight four reasons why HxA failed.

Reason 1: It Became Another Club for Leftists

The so-called Great Awokening is dated to circa 2012, when there was a spike in social justice talk in leading American newspapers. But the core principle of wokeism - all groups have the same distribution of potential, and disparities are the result of discrimination by whites or men - has been widely accepted among mainstream western liberals for two or three generations. What is new is that this idea is being taken to its logical conclusion....

Reason 2: It Refuses to Leverage Political Power

Wokeism is the religion of the ruling triumvirate — the Democratic Party, big tech, and academia. Even more than most religions, wokeism is based on blatant, empirically refuted falsehoods: there is an epidemic of police killing unarmed blacks because of racism, women are underrepresented in STEM because of discrimination, and many more. Therefore, the woke narrative must be protected by coercion and censorship...

In fact, it is the Democratic Party that has taken an extreme turn.... ...

Reason 4: HxA Won't Support Heterodoxy on the Most Important Topic

Wokeism is built upon an ideological certitude about the origins of inequality: all groups have the same distribution of innate potential, and all differences favoring whites or men are due to past or present white racism or sexism. The whole ideology stands or falls on this empirical claim. Therefore, the greatest taboo in our society is to consider alternative explanations for inequality, particularly those that implicate natural differences in the distribution of traits among racial groups.

The ideological precept underlining wokeism has to be protected from scrutiny by a taboo for one simple reason: it is not scientifically supported... the facts will not change. Different ancestral populations - call them 'races,' 'ethnicities' or whatever you want - are genetically distinguishable. They have different distributions of traits, including measured IQ and athletic abilities, likely in part because they were subject to different selection pressures in recent history. It is possible these differences play a nontrivial role in social outcomes...

The Future of Free Thought

Because wokeism is based on demonstrable lies, it can only survive if people are prevented from telling the truth. It is inherently incompatible with open inquiry. Wherever there is wokeism - and it is metastasizing to every major institution in our society - there is censorship, intimidation and groupthink....

[Cofnas then gives brief accoungs of the woke targeting of Noah Carl, Jason Richwine, Bo Winegard, Amy Wax, Sandra Sellers and David Batson (fired adjunct Georgetown U law professors)]

... Attempts to resist wokeism outside of academia have foundered for some combination of the same reasons as HxA. Dissident leaders and institutions (a) are themselves going woke, (b) are squeamish about allying with the Republican Party, (c) make futile attempts to find common ground with woke dogmatists, and (d) avoid confronting the Big Lie about the cause of group differences upon which wokeism is based. But most people don't want to live in a woke dystopia. Now is not the time to surrender. We will win if we change our strategy and put up a real fight.


The Great Taboo: a follow-up, by Tom Shuford 23 February 2023.

A Modest Proposal for Transforming the Universities, by Roger Kimball, 18 February 2023: The entire apparatus can be restaffed and employed to help dismantle all the bogus, intellectually vacuous programs, departments, and initiatives whose sole purpose is to foster permanent grievance.

Can Nations Have IQs? And why hasn't there been a well-funded attempt to find out? by Ideas Sleep Furiously, 23 February 2023.