“Animal Cognition” becomes “Human Ideology”
“Allies … will have ‘ALLY’ presented on their name badges at the conference.”
What kind of conference is this, one wonders? Athletic? Religious? Political?
None of the above. This is the 2023 conference of the Comparative Cognition Society (CCS), a small scientific organization devoted to understanding the intelligence and learning capacities of animals. The “Ally” information is from a new group created by the organization’s president.
Does “ally” refer to ethical matters involving the well-being of animals—a PETA initiative, perhaps? Or maybe it represents an effort by CCS to resist attacks on animal research?
None of the above. The committee gently explains:
Warm greetings from your new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) committee. We are here to help promote EDI initiatives in the society, and are excited to share some of the new features you might notice at the CO3 [comparative cognition] conference this year … The CCS EDI Committee has advanced the following five initiatives with the goal of creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all …
The committee’s first job is to conduct a “Demographic Survey.” Will this involve counting animal species under study? Well, no, of course not. The survey will group people by career position, age (in 5-year increments, up to 84), country of residence, race (10 categories), gender (6 categories), how well they can speak English (!), and marginalized-group membership (11 categories).
Other questions include, “Do you feel that, in the context of CCS and the CO3 conference, you can be yourself openly and authentically?” and “In what ways do you think that CCS and the CO3 conference could improve to become more equitable, diverse, and inclusive going forward? [as opposed to “going backward,” which is not yet feasible].”
Next, readers are referred to a thousand-word Code of Conduct, much of which states etiquette that should not have to be reiterated. But it also rates as “unacceptable” “Verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, age, body size, race, religion, national origin. [italics added]” Any verbal comments? Would the claim that “Marie Curie was female” lead to disciplinary action? Possibly. But saying that Roscoe Arbuckle was “fat” is surely over the line.
This is followed by an invitation to snitch:
If you are the subject of unacceptable behavior, have witnessed any such behavior, or are acting as an ally to someone who was the subject of unacceptable behavior, please notify a CCS EDI member on-site or e-mail your concern to firstname.lastname@example.org [emphasis mine].
Then there is a section on that essential feature—pronouns—beginning, helpfully, with the question, “What are personal pronouns?” and continuing with a link to a 21-page American Psychological Association document titled “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Inclusive Language Guidelines.”
Finally, we have allyship:
Allies are people who recognize the unearned privilege they receive from society’s patterns of injustice and take responsibility for changing these patterns. Being an ally is more than being sympathetic and feeling bad for those who experience discrimination. An ally is willing to act with, and for, others in pursuit of ending oppression and creating equality.
Join the team, scientist: acknowledge your privilege, feel virtuous, grovel a little! But to be really safe, you must do something to “end oppression”—be an ally!
Do you feel better and more authentic now? Or, possibly, just a little nervous?
* * *
So, a scientific organization devoted to an uncontroversial topic, animal cognition, with zero evidence of past racial or gender discrimination, is subjected to the benign, benevolent (oh so benevolent!) and self-righteous rule of a philosophy derived not from science, but from a mixture of cultural Marxism, DiAngelo-esque white fragility, and the faux-psychology of authenticity. Cultural Marxists will agree that we are all (except for “marginalized groups”) bearers of “privilege.” Inequality is always unjust and must be abolished. “White fragility” softens up whites with the message that they are ineradicably racist, and that if they deny it, it just proves their racism. And, of course, authenticity is always good, which implies that no one is authentically bad—which is false. There are authentically bad people, even among ‘allies.’
After succumbing to “allyship,” and, perhaps, being warned a couple of times about their potential microaggressions, most of the now-cowed cognitive scientists will have forgotten that the purpose of the CO3 meeting is science; that the virtues to be promoted should be honesty, rigor, and creativity; and that the demographic makeup of the group is utterly irrelevant.
Good job, EDI’ers! You’ve shown how effective a short slogan like ally can be! (Another one that worked pretty well is heil).
Image: Adobe Stock