Nonsense becomes dogma, «woke» activists turn into left-wing authoritarians: the principles of the Enlightenment are collapsing faster than we might think. We must resist while we still can.
Sex came first. It arrived before any concept of self or other, before there was care for anyone at all. And certainly before love. Sexual reproduction first evolved 1.2 billion years ago, eventually cropping up in our lineage 500 million years ago, give or take. There are two kinds of us: male and female. These names that we have given to the sexes are human terms, but they describe a reality that is far older than any language.
Allow me to start 500 million years ago. Our ancestors have been reproducing sexually, with two sexes, for at least that long. Male and female have been real biological categories since then. There are often external indicators—genitals, plumage, song—but the thing that is most fundamental is the type of gametes an individual produces (or did or will or might produce). Females have eggs, which are relatively immobile and large, due to being filled with all of the cellular stuff of life. Males, meanwhile, have sperm (or pollen), which tends to be mobile, and tiny, stripped of almost everything needed for life—except DNA.
All of these things can be true. All of these things are true:
1. Systemic racism has a long history throughout the world, and the legacy of slavery in the U.S. is a particularly salient example.
2. In the U.S., we were making progress against racism, both at the societal and individual level. We were not there. We were not “post-race.” But we were making progress. The legacy of the Civil Rights era meant that it was ever more shameful and embarrassing to be publicly racist, and therefore more difficult to be privately so, as well. We were making progress until the last several years, when a perfect storm arrived. Just two of the parts of that perfect storm are these:
This week, the Los Angeles Review of Books published a piece that includes the following sentence, about a man whom the author does not like: “He posts things on Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein, disgraced evolutionary biologists who were fired for speaking against anti-racist protests on campus.” The sentence contains three transparent errors. After discussion on Twitter shed light on its libelous absurdity, the statement was amended to correct just one of the falsehoods—namely, that my husband, Bret, and I were fired from our tenured positions (we weren’t). Both the author of the piece, Ariel Saramandi, and the object of her ire, are from the small Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Later in the article, the same man, who is asserted to be a member of the “multicultural Mauritian alt-Right” is described as a “Heying–Weinstein enthusiast.”
I have often said to my students: Nature is not out to get you.
In fact, the truth is worse. Nature is not out to get you. It is indifferent to you.
We had been immersed in nature on this trip. Explorations of rainforests, cloud forest, páramo. Slogs through mud and mule dung. Hikes around an equatorial crater lake rich in wildflowers; on the rim of a barren, active volcano; in a windblown, horizontal-rain fantasy landscape 13,000 feet up. Swims through lava tubes long since cool.