The Corner

Education

Re: The ‘Intellectual Dark Web’

I mostly agree with Jonah regarding the New York Times piece on the supposed “Intellectual Dark Web.” (Please, God, don’t let that term catch on.) But I’d like to briefly jump in regarding this comment:

I guess I’m just having a hard time getting how the Intellectual Dark Web is anything more than a list of people some anonymous author of a website likes.

I’ve been following some of the intellectuals and publications in this sphere for quite a while — Steven Pinker, Christina Hoff Sommers, the irrepressible and indispensable Quillette — and I think they do represent a distinct phenomenon, even if “Intellectual Dark Web” is a silly name for it and the people involved do what they do very publicly (and sometimes even with the backing of mainstream institutions).

Here’s how I would define this phenomenon, somewhat more narrowly than the Times piece seems to. First, these folks are very committed to the idea that we must be free, socially as well as legally, to discuss the taboo in a careful and responsible manner. And second, they tend to share a fascination with human nature and human differences — sometimes including, most controversially, the biological underpinnings of sex, race, and behavior. Along with their scientific knowledge in these areas often comes a skepticism of the politically correct received wisdom that dominates certain corners of academia.

What they are trying to do is stake out some ground where intelligent people can discuss these matters, so that entire areas of the public debate are neither ceded to the alt-right nor ruled out of bounds by the extreme Left. Their own politics vary.

It’s a worthy project in my view, considering that the scientific findings in these areas are going to keep coming whether we like them or not.

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