Why don’t many people “trust the science” anymore? Perhaps because science, as an institution, has fallen prey to the same ideological infection that has invaded and corrupted many other institutions. But it is too rarely discussed, which is why a Sunday Wall Street Journal column by theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss is so important.
Krauss highlights how our various moral panics over real and less provable inequalities have transformed labs and schools into thought prisons where research is stifled and heterodox views are punished. From “The Ideological Corruption of Science”:
Actual censorship is also occurring. A distinguished chemist in Canada argued in favor of merit-based science and against hiring practices that aim at equality of outcome if they result “in discrimination against the most meritorious candidates.” For that he was censured by his university provost, his published review article on research and education in organic synthesis was removed from the journal website, and two editors involved in accepting it were suspended.
An Italian scientist at the international laboratory CERN, home to the Large Hadron Collider, had his scheduled seminar on statistical imbalances between the sexes in physics canceled and his position at the laboratory revoked because he suggested that apparent inequities might not be directly due to sexism. A group of linguistics students initiated a public petition asking that the psychologist Steven Pinker be stripped of his position as a Linguistics Society of America Fellow for such offenses as tweeting a New York Times article they disapproved of.
Bench scientists and others in the sector are paralyzed with fear and possible career loss if they don’t toe the line.
As ideological encroachment corrupts scientific institutions, one might wonder why more scientists aren’t defending the hard sciences from this intrusion. The answer is that many academics are afraid, and for good reason. They are hesitant to disagree with scientific leadership groups, and they see what has happened to scientists who do. They see how researchers lose funding if they can’t justify how their research programs will explicitly combat claimed systemic racism or sexism, a requirement for scientific proposals now being applied by granting agencies.
This authoritarian atmosphere stifles free scientific inquiry, the essential hallmark of the scientific method, and threatens the objectivity so essential to the sector’s success.
Such corruption has real world consequences. Not only the stifling of scientific advances that Krauss worries about, but a loss of trust by the people in what “the scientists” tell us. If you doubt me, just look at what has been happening in the current pandemic crisis.