The paper, entitled “In Defense of Merit in Science” and authored by a number of prominent academics such as John McWhorter and Peter Boghossian, contended that modern postsecondary institutions replace merit with “politically motivated criteria” in a manner which threatens the “core principles of liberal epistemology.” The researchers opposed the ideologies of postmodernism and critical social justice, some proponents of which assert that scientific inquiry is “racist” and “patriarchal,” in favor of meritocracy as the ideal mechanism for “maximizing scientific advances.”
“Scientific truths are universal and independent of the personal attributes of the scientist. Science knows no ethnicity, gender, or religion,” the paper noted. “In order to achieve a more fair and equitable scientific community, we should strengthen meritocratic practices. It would be unjust and pernicious not to identify and nurture talent wherever it may be found.”
The authors revealed that they approached several outlets to publish their paper, but were repeatedly denied. One prominent science journal allowed them to submit the manuscript, but were told to remove the word “merit” from the title. Members of the editorial board claimed that “most readers will immediately associate the term” with recent debates over affirmative action and college admissions and said the “concept of merit” has been “widely and legitimately attacked as hollow.”
The paper was ultimately rejected by the editorial board for its purported “hurtfulness.” The authors then approached several other scientific journals with informal inquiries about publishing the paper, efforts which bore outcomes they described as “not encouraging.” None of the journals which rejected the paper were mentioned by name.
Peterson blasted the publications for dismissing the paper. “Merit is oppressive,” he commented on social media. “Particularly to those who lack merit.”
The dismissal of merit for alternative ideologies was an impetus for Peterson’s own departure from academia. The bestselling author and podcast host wrote in an opinion piece last year that he had once seen himself teaching at the University of Toronto “until they had to haul my skeleton out of my office,” but said he could no longer participate in a system where superficial diversity metrics are prioritized over competence. He voiced frustration that his “heterosexual white male graduate students” faced lackluster career prospects due to diversity mandates.
“These have been imposed universally in academia, despite the fact that university hiring committees had already done everything reasonable for all the years of my career, and then some, to ensure that no qualified ‘minority’ candidates were ever overlooked,” Peterson wrote. “My students are also partly unacceptable precisely because they are my students. I am academic persona non grata, because of my unacceptable philosophical positions. And this isn’t just some inconvenience. These facts rendered my job morally untenable.”
Most academic institutions in the Western world now subscribe to the diversity, equity, and inclusion movement, also known as DEI, which has often been accused of fomenting division and limiting viewpoint diversity while entrenching a left-wing orthodoxy on college campuses.