The Wall Street Journal (USA): the corrupting influence of ideology on science

In the 1980-ies, when I was a young Professor of physics and astronomy at Yale University, at the faculty of English fashion was the deconstruction. We, the representatives of the faculties of natural Sciences, at that time laughed at the lack of objective intellectual standards in the Humanities — a good example of this lack of standards has become a movement, whose supporters opposed the very existence of objective truth and argued that any claim to knowledge inevitably clouded by ideological prejudice, based on race, gender or economic status.

In the exact Sciences this simply could not happen, of course, if not to take into account the examples of dictatorships such as Nazi, when “Jewish” science was persecuted, or the Stalinist dictatorship, when directed against genetics campaign led by Trofim Lysenko was dismissed by thousands of scientists to suppress any resistance of the political line of the state.

At least we thought so before. The last few years — especially escalated after the murder of George Floyd (Floyd George) police Minneapolis — leaders of the academic institutions began to adopt “the language of domination and oppression”, first encountered most often in cultural journals to guide the development of their disciplines, to suppress dissent and to remove scientists from leadership positions in those cases when, in the opinion of their opponents, their research somehow support the system of oppression.

In June, American physical society, which represents 55 thousand physicists from around the world, supported “strike over the life of the black people”. It closed its office, but not in order to protest against police brutality or racism, and to “commit ourselves to eradicate systemic racism and discrimination, particularly in academia and science”. Members of the American physical society stated that “physics is no exception” and that it is also exposed to the suffocating effects of racism in American life.

While racism in our society is real, yet there is no accurate data that could confirm the statement on the system of racism in science. In other articles I once wrote that there are good reasons to believe that this statement is false. The American physical community is no exception. National laboratory and the faculties of natural Sciences many universities have joined a one-day strike. Even the influential scientific journal Nature, where a publishes articles about the most important achievements of natural Sciences, released an article entitled “Ten simple rules for creating an anti-racist lab.”

At the University of Michigan a group of employees took advantage of this strike, to organise and coordinate a protest campaign against the Vice-President of the University for research work, the physicist Stephen Hsu (Stephen Hsu). One of his main crimes was that he was doing research in the field of computational genomics, which aims to show how human genetics can be linked to cognitive ability, — the protesters decided that this is very similar to eugenics. He was also accused that he supported research in the field of psychology at the University of Michigan regarding the statistics of murders committed by police officers, which is not directly confirmed statements about racial prejudice. During the week the head of the University made it so that Hsu resigned.

July 4 in Princeton more than 100 teachers, including more than 40 lecturers of the faculties of natural Sciences and engineering, wrote the head of the University an open letter in which they asked “to break the institutional hierarchies that perpetuate injustice and harm.” They proposed to create a Supervisory Committee that will “monitor the investigation and punish racist actions, incidents, research and publication.” They also suggested that each faculty, including the faculties of mathematics, physics, astronomy and other natural Sciences, established a special prize for research that are in some way “actively fighting racism and expand our understanding of the place race occupies in our society”.

When the leaders of the scientific and educational community to formally approve the unaudited statements and are not looking expose condemnation of scientific research or even the whole science, which at the moment are unpopular, it negatively affects all of science in General. This may result in the termination of the discussions and the flourishing of self-censorship.

Shortly after the dismissal of Hsu authors mentioned above research in the field of psychology addressed in the official journal of the National Academy of Sciences with a request to withdraw their research article — not because of any deficiencies in their statistical analysis, and abuse of the materials of their work from journalists who claimed that the article is contrary to the prevailing point of view on racism of police officers. Later, these scientists have made adjustments to his appeal, noting in the common facilities that their request to withdraw the article “was not associated with any political considerations, pressure from the “crowd”, threats against the authors or the rejection of the political views of those who spoke about the work with approval.” As a cosmologist, I can say that if we withdrew all the articles that have been misinterpreted by journalists, our articles do not would remain.

Real censorship also takes place. A famous chemist from Canada spoke in support of the evaluation of the services of scientists for their scientific achievements and opposed to to hire people on the basis of the principle of equality, if it turns into “discrimination against the most worthy candidates”. After that, the rector of the University fired the chemist, he published a review article on research in the field of organic synthesis has disappeared from the official website of the scientific journal, and two of the editors who accepted the article, was suspended from work.

One scientist from Italy working in the international laboratory CERN where the Large hadron Collider, was forced to cancel his scheduled seminar on statistical imbalance between male and female in physics, and also lost his job in this lab the assumption that the apparent inequality may not directly related to sexism. A group of students-linguists published a petition in which they demanded to deprive the psychologist Steven Pinker (Steven Pinker) membership in the Linguistic society of America for a “crime” like tweeting articles from the New York Times, which they did not approve.

Since the intervention of ideology leads to the decline of scientific institutions, the question arises about why scientists are not trying to protect your exact science by the invasion. The answer lies in the fact that many scientists are simply afraid and they have good reasons for such fear. They do not dare to argue with their leadership, because they saw what happened to those scientists who did. They see researchers lose their funding if they are unable to explain how their work will help combat the systemic racism and sexism — it is a requirement now nominate the sponsoring organization.

Whenever science becomes a victim of ideology, scientific progress suffers. That is what happened in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and in the United States in the 19th century, when biology was dominated by racist attitudes, and in the era of McCarthyism, when prominent scientists such as Robert Oppenheimer, was ostracized for his political views. To change the situation, the leaders of the scientific community, scientific societies and scientific and educational institutions must publicly speak out in support of freedom of speech in science, but also the quality of scientific papers free from political doctrine and the demands of political factions.

Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist, President of the Foundation Origins Project Foundation and author of “Physics of climate change” (The Physics of Climate Change), which will be released in January.