So, this tweet, from James Lindsay, sharing the thoughts of an evolutionary biologist, was shared into a group chat I’m in, and I wanted to talk about it here. I’ll include the screengrab of the email he’s talking about for those who don’t want to click away.
Firstly, it’s important because not all biologists feel the need to speak out about the denial of biological sex. We really should be thankful for those who do. I’ve heard from friends in the field that many see it as being like flat-earthism or creationists and so don’t want to give it the oxygen of talking about it. I get that to a point, but this pseudo-science is being used to influence policy and laws, so really everyone who knows it’s nonsense should speak up.
What I really wanted to pick up on though is the point about not being allowed to criticise the left. I think this is really important to recognise and it’s something I’ve talked about before – the idea that everyone who belongs to a specific group is right or pure or good.
To be clear, I would consider myself left wing. I grew up in an area highly impacted by the UK miners’ strikes of the 1980s. I have friends who picked coal off the road to heat their homes while their dads stood on picket lines. Tony Benn was our MP, Dennis Skinner was, and still is, the MP just down the road. As teenagers we read The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and talked passionately about socialism in the pub. We joined Amnesty and wrote letters against the incarceration and torture of political prisoners. We volunteered for charities that supported people with disabilities. We supported our LGBT+ friends in the fight for their rights. We attended marches and protests, waved banners and hoped that, in some way, we would contribute to a better future.
I still believe in the ideals of collective responsibilty and shared resources. I still think social justice has a meaning and a place that’s important for equality. I just don’t believe in idpol. Nor do I think everyone who calls themselves a leftist is beyond my criticism. I don’t think believing in any “ism” places anyone above comment.
For a start, let’s be frank, some leftist politics are entirely destructive. I’ve also lived in China and seen the damage done to people and an entire culture from the Maoist regime and the cultural revolution. I’ve spoken to someone who was a student in Tianamen Square on that fateful day. I know that left wing policies, when taken to extremes, and put in the hands of self-interested politicians and idealists, can be a force for bad.
We see this in the UK now as the likes of Owen Jones and Momentum try to paint themselves as the virtuous left, policing the thoughts of the non-woke. They would be right there, with the people attacking the biologists for stating scientific fact. We’re supposed to accept that Owen et al are right and pure and good because they use the label left wing and that is right and pure and good.
Nevermind that they’re pushing homophobic, misogynistic trans activism, believing the police force is their own private militia in the fight to make us all forget what a woman is. Nevermind that it’s people experiencing true disadvantage who will miss out; women in domestic violence shelters and prisons, people with disabilities who can’t request same sex intimate care staff, and so on. Owen and all have rainbow badges and left wing language…you must agree with them or you’re literally Hitler.
I can’t stand purity politics. The idea that we must all think the same at all times, to be able to agree on anything, is nonsense. The idea that the loudest virtue signallers are the best people is frustrating. When was the last time Momentum effected change, rather than concentrated on calling people names for disagreeing with them? Instead, they declare themselves on “the right side of history” because they can edit wiki in their favour and organise social media pile-ons, but without doing any work to ensure the future (which is where we will be assessed for our role in history) is actually better in some way.
And, let’s be fair, we know this in Europe. Less than 100 years ago, another similar regime, declaring themselves socialist, took a hold in Germany. The consequence was the death of millions. It’s easy to wear a label, it’s easy to get others to do the same, and whipping up hate and hostility towards others is a favourite human pastime. It doesn’t make you right.
I’ve recently been enjoying (although that’s the wrong word) Benjamin Boyce’s The Complete Evergreen Story, over on YouTube. If you’re not familiar with Evergreen and what happened there and you’re involved in the gender debate, I’d recommend you look into it. What it shows us is how idpol and social justice can be weaponised and is as susceptible to collective narcissism as any other ideal. It’s compelling and alarming viewing.
I think, all the time, about that quote “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. I hope more good men, and women, like the evolutionary biologist in that tweet, do speak up. We can’t know what the right side of history is. We won’t be the judges, but we can look back at history and learn from past mistakes. The left need to call out extremism in its ranks, just as the right does. I don’t want to be part of a collective that stifles academic thought and freedom of expression. I want to be part of something better and to build a better future…that’s actual evolution.