Big Science Driven by Political Correctness
Scientific institutions often imbibe their political and cultural milieu rather than directing it.
‘Political correctness’ (PC) is a misnomer if there ever was one. It is neither political nor correct. What it means is leftist intolerance: the opposite of freedom of thought. Certain cultural beliefs of leftists have become dogmatic orthodoxies, from which no one must waver, be they politicians, reporters, teachers, students or professional spokespersons. Anyone who wishes to gain a respectable hearing must use PC language from the leftist catalog of belief. The person must hate what the ‘PC police’ hate, and embrace what they embrace.
Political correctness defines tolerable views about class, gender, sexual orientation, immigration, globalism, defense, taxation, climate, creationism, and a host of other topics. People are expected to parrot these positions without thinking about them, using the appropriate Newspeak vocabulary, such as marriage equality, social justice, inclusivity, and global governance – terms invented to sound so intuitively desirable, no definition is necessary. Just as unthinkingly powerful are the loaded words on the negative side: hate speech, science denier, far right. Straying from PC positions invites shunning at best and violence at worst. If you are PC, you are rewarded with the Orwellian label “progressive.” Political correctness is today’s cultural groupthink.
Ideally, science should stand apart from the cultural and political climate surrounding it. Science, the timeless and impersonal quest for accurate descriptions of the nature of reality, should speak truth to power. Science should declare what is ‘correct’ according to the evidence. But institutional science today (‘Big Science’) shows itself just as gullible to cultural conformity as any other group. Here are some recent examples.
Study explores how gender defines the gym (Phys.org). ‘Gender’ is the preferred PC term these days, because it can be defined in a fluid, socially-constructed way. Should not a scientist be able to speak truth about sexual identity based on chromosomes? This article would have been considered absurd before the PC era. It focuses on ‘gender stereotypes’ rather than the scientifically-obvious differences between men (with XY chromosomes) and women (with XX chromosomes). No one would disagree that proper comportment between the sexes is a matter of cultural maturity, especially in these days of harassment allegations. But this is a touchy-feely, mushy-gushy look at attitudes of males and females in a gym setting, with a not-so-hidden agenda: the need to “intervene and change the gender interplay” and “change gender relations” for workout companions. That’s none of science’s business, but it sure plays well in a PC culture.
Researchers examine social identity threat and religion in the US (Phys.org). Typical of PC literature is to treat religion as a matter of social identity, not propositional truth. This article sounds quite gentle in its analysis of attitudes among religious groups, such as which groups feel threatened, but its PC orientation is right there in the headline: ‘social identity’. The PC left is well known for dividing people into identity classes, as if members are unable to escape their class through rational thought. Without doubt, America’s constitutional commitment to freedom of conscience forbids preferential treatment or violence, but what if one group commits all the violence, and another group receives it? Is that a matter of science? To focus merely on psychological factors and the need for ‘tolerance’ (a favorite PC word*) ignores the elephant in the room: the doctrines that religions believe and teach, and their consequences.
*Strange that the ‘tolerant leftist’ progressives often support ‘zero tolerance’ policies toward those they are intolerant of.
The only scriptures fair to attack (Science Magazine). It is not PC to attack the Koran. That would be ‘Islamophobic’. The only sacred writings you can safely attack are the Christian Scriptures, and so Barry Wood lets loose in his vitriolic attack on the Museum of the Bible in this article, attacking the Bible’s “questionable science” and, along with it, the creationists who believe it. “The archaeological Museum of the Bible, like the Creation Museum in Kentucky, is a Medieval throwback featuring spurious evidence in support of an invented narrative misread as historical fact.” Don’t wait for Science to publish a rebuttal from Dr Frank Turek, Lee Strobel, Dr J. P. Moreland or any other conservative Bible scholar.
Why parents should never spank children (Medical Xpress). Two psychologists on this ‘science’ platform make themselves out to be wiser than Solomon, who warned, “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15). No righteous parent would punish in anger or inflict physical damage on a child, but it’s that word “never” in the title that is problematic. Science can never say ‘never.’ Scientists can describe statistically the outcomes of children who received corporal punishment, but has no business raising kids. “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die,” Solomon (a parent) also said. “Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell” (Proverbs 23:13-14). So which would be preferable: stern discipline—spanking if necessary—or letting a rebellious child grow up to be a criminal, or terrorist on the way to hell? Wise parents use the rod sparingly, only for the most egregious offenses, and follow it up with love. Tough love corrects. Christian psychologist James Dobson has long taught the value of corporal punishment used wisely. Not all children need a spanking, he warns; only the deliberately defiant. Sometimes ‘time out’ is not enough for defiant children in tantrums of rebellion. These secular psychologists, however, set themselves up as shamans who warn “never” to spank. That’s a politically-correct view, where all forms of discipline are dubbed ‘violence’ without considering extenuating circumstances that might make corporal punishment the only option to prevent a worse outcome. There are grown-ups happy that their parents loved them enough to stop them from going down wrong paths. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15). Ask yourselves: Did these PC ‘scientists’ measure the spread of foolishness in society as an outcome of permissive parenting? Did they?
Grand Staircase, Home to Countless Dinosaur Fossils, Could Be Destroyed by Mining (Op-Ed by David Polly, Live Science). We can’t fault David Polly from clearly labeling his article as an opinion piece, but it’s noteworthy that this ‘science’ site website would never post a contrary opinion favoring conservatism. Debate on a politically sensitive topic would seem to be a nice, scientific thing to do, but political correctness demands trashing Trump, exalting Clinton, demeaning business, and thinking in either-or categories of identity politics. One could imagine ways that both interests in the policy dispute could be accommodated: some mining, and protection of the richest fossil deposits. Perhaps miners could be instructed to protect new fossil deposits as they are discovered. This is standard practice in many locations now, including west Los Angeles with its La Brea Tar Pits and the Lompoc diatomaceous earth beds. How many fossils of the same species does a scientist need, anyway? No; to be politically correct, David Polly, quoting only liberal sources, must exalt the value of fossils and denigrate the mining business and conservative politicians. Where is his memory? Did he forget that Bill Clinton unilaterally declared Grand Staircase a ‘national monument’ with no local input, as a favor to his rich Indonesian friend to protect his coal mines from competition? The coal beds Clinton put off limits are some of the highest-grade clean coal deposits in the world, equaled only by Indonesia’s. The Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument is a vast area. Much of Utah is already owned by the federal government. Surely it would be politically astute to achieve a compromise benefiting all parties. But it would not be politically correct. Let’s see if Live Science presents a conservative Op-Ed in response (don’t hold your breath).
Inequality in nature and society (PNAS). This paper illustrates the clash between political correctness and Darwinism. As evolutionists viewing mankind as another kind of evolved animal, they need to value inequality as a driving force for Darwinian evolution. To them, evolution is driven by mindless laws of nature, and natural selection—their favorite ‘law of nature’—requires variation. But they are also sensitive to PC values where equality is the highest good, and ‘wealth inequality’ requires redistribution of wealth. Their solution? “Our analysis suggests that due to the very same mathematical principle that rules natural communities (indeed, a ‘law of nature’) extreme wealth inequality is inevitable in a globalizing world unless effective wealth-equalizing institutions are installed on a global scale.” This idea is intellectually incoherent. First of all, they just said that wealth inequality is an inevitable outcome of mindless laws of nature. What, then, are ‘wealth-equalizing institutions’? Obviously, they must be moral choices by human minds. And why must they be “installed on a global scale”? These guys are Marxist-Leninist out for a world communist revolution! Let them consider what happened in the 20th century to the ‘mechanisms of redistribution’ they seem to feel are necessary to avoid ‘inequality’ that inevitably results from the very Darwinian ‘laws’ they espouse.
Science Is Not Simply “What Scientists Do” (Wesley J. Smith at Evolution News). To conclude this entry, consider Smith’s answer to the operational definition of science, “Science is what scientists do,” which is as vacuous a definition as “Temperature is what thermometers measure.” Smith observes scientists hijacking empirical work to make ideological announcements in the name of science. He considers the division of science into conservative and progressive branches a subversive trend, and watches politically-correct scientists using the label ‘anti-science’ as a cudgel to shut their critics up (see article on Science Daily for an example). “We already have a definition of science,” he warns. “Those who want to turn it into something else — whether ideology, social justice, politics, social engineering, etc. — are the real ‘anti-science’ ideologues.”
In the last decades of the 20th century, there was a surge of interest in the ‘sociology of science.’ Scientists were put under the microscope, as subjects to observe and analyze. In this genre of scientific papers, the social influences on scientists were considered, as if scientists represented an identity group with their own culture and biases. Scientists didn’t like that. They revolted, rallying around the Sokal Hoax as an excuse to reinstate their imperial authority under the banner of scientific realism.* Nobody seemed to notice that the escapade suffered from infinite regress: who would analyze the sociologists of science?
We think that science should pursue objective truth with logic and reason, just like any other academic pursuit should. As these news articles show, however (and there are many, many more like them), the sociologists of science were not all wrong.
*These historical episodes, part of the ‘social deconstruction’ movement that also infected literary criticism, are described in detail in two courses by the Teaching Company: Philosophy of Science by Jeffrey Kasser and Science Wars by Steven Goldman. Highly recommended as therapy for scientism. The courses tend to be on sale around the holiday season.