The Marketplace of Ideas — Command-Economy Style
Observers of — and players in — Howellgate (see the preceding New Oxford Note, “Another Victim of Institutional Coddling”) would be well advised to consider an identical case that took place in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In June 2007, June Sheldon, a veteran chemistry and biology professor of twenty-plus years, was teaching a human heredity course at San Jose City College. During a class period, one of her students queried her about the link between heredity and homosexuality. Sheldon responded that the cause of homosexuality is the subject of much debate in the scientific community. The professor then presented her students with various differing theories, which were to be studied in a later class, citing the readings from the assigned and approved course textbook. She also made mention of a German study, referred to in a website listed in the textbook, which claims to have found a link between prenatal stress and male homosexuality (but which found no such link to female homosexuality). Concluding thus, the class, and the course, continued apace.
But only for a month. That’s when a second student in the class lodged an anonymous complaint with the San Jose Evergreen Community College District, claiming that Prof. Sheldon’s response was “offensive and unscientific.” The anonymous allegations prompted the dean of Sheldon’s department to launch an investigation into whether, as the student charged, Sheldon had not only claimed that the German study “proved” that prenatal stress causes homosexuality, but that there are “no real lesbians” — only women who tire of relationships with men. Though Sheldon denied the charges, the dean concluded that the professor was teaching “misinformation as science.” Prof. Sheldon was summarily fired in February 2008.
The politically correct version of the genesis of the homosexual orientation in individuals is that gays are “born that way” — the nature-over-nurture hypothesis. Evidently, examining how and why this might be is not only offensive, it’s downright unscientific! It is a hypothesis proved merely by being stated, an assumption we must all swallow without question. And so the politics of sexual identity trumps legitimate scientific inquiry.
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