Moral Cowardice: MIT Prof. Robert van der Hilst

By | October 13, 2021

[October 13, 2021]  There comes a time in all our lives that we must take a position that is neither safe, popular, or diplomatic.  We take that position because it is the right thing to do.  Over the past few years, we’ve seen many leaders take the low road of moral cowardice rather than subject themselves to ridicule.

The latest involves another case of college administrators who willfully reject the principles of academic freedom, inquiry, and free speech.  MIT Professor and chairman of MIT’s Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary studies department succumbed to Twitter whiners when they objected to University of Chicago professor Dorian Abbot speaking on the esoteric field of “climate and the potential for life on other planets,” a field of his expertise.

Professor Abbot’s “thought crime?” He advocates that hiring and admission decisions should be based on individual merit rather than identify group membership.  And, he has stood up for principles of free speech and academic freedom.  Prof. Abbot’s research is beyond reproach.  MIT had awarded Prof. Abbot the Carlson Lecture based on his contributions to the field.

But, steps in Prof. Robert van der Hilst.

Prof. van der Hilst quickly caved to the mob and canceled the Carlson Lecture to his and MIT’s shame. MIT’s official statement passed the buck to Prof. van der Hilst and made not even passing reference to MIT’s prior statements in support of free speech and academic freedom. For his part, Prof. van der Hilst took full responsibility for the decision, claiming that the “current distractions” created by the Abbot’s cancelers would detract from the effectiveness of the lecture. He also downplayed the importance of the Carlson Lecture (previously promoted by MIT as a prestigious annual event), saying it was “not a scientific talk for fellow scientists,” but merely an outreach event to “inspire and engage with area high school students.” – Louis K. Boham1

Several leaders in academia have rightly condemned Prof. van der Hilst.  The Foundation of Individual Rights in Education and the Academic Freedom Alliance issued blistering condemnations of MIT and Prof. van der Hilst.  Good!  At least not all academics are cowards.

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  1. https://www.nas.org/blogs/article/the-shame-of-mit-canceling-dorian-abbott

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

24 thoughts on “Moral Cowardice: MIT Prof. Robert van der Hilst

  1. Dennis Mathes

    I can’t help but look at Prof. van der Hiltst photo put up by Gen. Satterfield and see a kind of “smugness” in his face. That is the kind of man you cannot trust.

    Reply
    1. Frankie Boy

      I was thinking the same thing. Too bad that the militant, anti-American, tyrant-loving ideology we see is now creeping into the STEM sciences.

      Reply
  2. Deplorable John

    “A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.”
    ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Children of Húrin

    Reply
    1. Deplorable John

      “It may…be judged indecent in me to come forward on this occasion; but when I see a fellow-creature about to perish through the cowardice of her pretended friends, I wish to be allowed to speak, that I may say what I know of her character.”
      ― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

      Reply
      1. Army Captain

        … and cowardice is something all our troops fear will overtake them. We exercise our mind so that we can resist fear overtaking us. That is not an easy exercise because few know how to properly do so. But we can never teach not to fear but only to resist it.

        Reply
  3. Don Snow

    Crazy man. HOW in the world can you be so smart but so stupid at the same time? Answer – be a coward.

    Reply
  4. Laughing Monkey

    I only wish that these wimpy professors could actually ‘see’ themselves in the eyes of others like us here on Gen. Satterfield’s blog. But, of course, that is the whole point. They don’t have the capability or the fortitude to do so. They operate in an intellectual vacuum.

    Reply
  5. Harold M. Smith II

    Pow, General Satterfield, you’ve done it again with another great article. I just love your cowardice series.

    Reply
  6. JT Patterson

    “MIT’s official statement passed the buck to Prof. van der Hilst …” I’m not so sure that he didn’t write it himself. In America and I do believe everywhere else, we value strength, not weakness. Esp among men. Well, here we have a case of a craven, woke smart wimp who would rather cry than actually do something with backbone like stand up to the mob. This is how you lose your manhood. Prof Hilst, are you listening to us?

    Reply
  7. Frank Graham

    Crazy!?? I don’t think so. Yes, I know this is a strawman argument and its fallacy but I just wanted to highlight the fact that if you are not a moral coward in academia, then you ain’t nuttin.

    Reply
      1. Bryan Z. Lee

        Hi Jonnie, I was thinking the same thing. Cowardice is a way of being woke. You also have to be really really good at lying to yourself (first) and then lying to everyone else (second), and then pontificating about your cowardice (third). What’s up with digging that whole deeper?

        Reply
  8. Goalie for Cal State

    Gen. Satterfield could make a whole new section or an entire website full of moral cowards. We see them every day and yet no one comments on it. Or comments rarely. I’m glad that we can see “cowardice” for what it really is here in these leadership pages. Gen. S. has given us a forum to call these wimps out. PRes Joe Biden is another moral coward.

    Reply
  9. Rev. Michael Cain

    The most dangerous folks in the world are stupid smart people. I got that from Dan Bongino. Ha Ha Ha Ha ——–

    Reply
    1. Dead Pool Guy

      Pray for their souls, Reverend. Assuming they have a soul, of course.

      Reply
  10. Forrest Gump

    Of course, MIT Prof Hilst is a coward. Do you expect anything else from a “woke” college professor? I sure don’t. He met my lowest expectation. Stupid is, as stupid does.

    Reply

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