Canceling Science

Canceling Science July 14, 2020

Science, the realm that purports to be totally objective, must now conform to the dictates of identity politics.  Scientists whose data leads to unapproved conclusions are getting censored and fired.  So says physicist Lawrence Krauss.

From Lawrence Krauss, The Ideological Corruption of Science in The Wall Street Journal [subscription required]:

In the 1980s, when I was a young professor of physics and astronomy at Yale, deconstructionism was in vogue in the English Department. We in the science departments would scoff at the lack of objective intellectual standards in the humanities, epitomized by a movement that argued against the existence of objective truth itself, arguing that all such claims to knowledge were tainted by ideological biases due to race, sex or economic dominance.

It could never happen in the hard sciences, except perhaps under dictatorships, such as the Nazi condemnation of “Jewish” science, or the Stalinist campaign against genetics led by Trofim Lysenko, in which literally thousands of mainstream geneticists were dismissed in the effort to suppress any opposition to the prevailing political view of the state.

Or so we thought. In recent years, and especially since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, academic science leaders have adopted wholesale the language of dominance and oppression previously restricted to “cultural studies” journals to guide their disciplines, to censor dissenting views, to remove faculty from leadership positions if their research is claimed by opponents to support systemic oppression.

He goes on to give details.

Researchers whose findings have gone against the “woke” narrative about gender and race–including the author of a statistical study that found that police violence does not, in fact, disproportionally target African-Americans–have lost their jobs.  Peer-reviewed articles have been retracted, not because of mistakes or research shortcomings, but because they have been “misused” by the media.  Dr. Krauss also cites the effort to impose racial and gender quotas on research projects, publications, grants, and staffing.  A prominent scientist who argued instead for “merit-based science” was censured, his article removed from the journal that published it, and the editors who accepted it for publication were suspended.

Here is an example of what is happening, according to Dr. Krauss, in an Ivy-league institution:

At Princeton on July 4, more than 100 faculty members, including more than 40 in the sciences and engineering, wrote an open letter to the president with proposals to “disrupt the institutional hierarchies perpetuating inequity and harm.” This included the creation of a policing committee that would “oversee the investigation and discipline of racist behaviors, incidents, research, and publication on the part of faculty,” with “racism” to be defined by another faculty committee, and requiring every department, including math, physics, astronomy and other sciences, to establish a senior thesis prize for research that somehow “is actively anti-racist or expands our sense of how race is constructed in our society.”

To be sure, science, being a human enterprise, has never been completely free of bias and personal agendas.  But the scientific method attempts to limit such subjectivity as much as possible.  But to, in effect, require positive bias–though in the name of combatting negative bias–strikes at the foundation of the scientific enterprise.  And to censor the results of scientific research and mathematical analysis just because they do not support a preconceived ideology is to make science impossible.


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