Cancel culture backfires when banned lecture by Princeton professor at MIT draws thousands

on Oct11
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Cancel culture seemed to have backfired in one instance, as thousands have registered to attend a guest lecture at Princeton University by a geophysics professor whose initial speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was canceled amid pressure from campus activists. 

“I’m delighted to report that we’ve expanded the Zoom quota for Dr. Dorian Abbot’s Princeton lecture – the one shockingly and shamefully canceled by MIT – and literally thousands of people have registered,” Princeton professor Robert P. George tweeted on Monday. 

The lecture, titled “Climate and the Potential for Life on Other Planets,” is scheduled to take place via Zoom at 4:30 p.m. ET on Oct. 21 – the same day it had been scheduled to take place at MIT. 


George, who is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, wrote in a follow-up tweet Tuesday, “I extend a special invitation to those MIT students, faculty, and alumni who believe in truth-seeking and understand that its indispensable conditions include freedom of thought, inquiry, and discussion, to Zoom into Dr. Dorian Abbot’s Princeton lecture. #solidarityintruthseeking.” 

Dr. Dorian Abbot, a geophysical sciences associate professor at the University of Chicago, was slated to deliver the John Carlson Lecture, which is billed by MIT as an annual lecture meant to communicate “exciting new results in climate science to the general public,” in light of his research on climate change. But MIT retracted his invitation, not because of the content of his planned lecture, but instead after activists and MIT academics took issue with Abbot’s past comments arguing academic evaluations should be based on merit, not on race or ethnic identity. 

Abbot, and his colleague, Ivan Marinovic, had criticized diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives by universities and some employers in an August opinion piece for Newsweek titled “The Diversity Problem on Campus.” 

After MIT announced it had canceled Abbot’s participation in the lecture, the geophysicist wrote a piece on the “Common Sense with Bari Weiss” substack noting that, “a small group of ideologues mounted a Twitter campaign to cancel a distinguished science lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology because they disagreed with some of the political positions the speaker had taken.”


“I am a professor who just had a prestigious public science lecture at MIT cancelled because of an outrage mob on Twitter,” Abbot wrote. “This is not a partisan issue. Anyone who is interested in the pursuit of truth and in promoting a healthy and functioning society has a stake in this debate. Speaking out now may seem risky. But the cost of remaining silent is far steeper.”

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