Science + Politics = Politics

Jukka Savolainen writes at City Journal And Yet It Moves.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

A top scientific journal places political correctness above the search for truth.

Nature Human Behavior, one of the most prestigious journals for social science research, recently published an editorial titled “Science must respect the dignity and rights of all humans.” Though short, the article generated tremendous pushback among academics and intellectuals concerned about the spread of social-justice ideology into science. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker said the journal was “no longer a peer-reviewed scientific journal but an enforcer of a political creed,” while Greg Lukianoff, the CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, described the journal’s statement as “an epistemic catastrophe.” What did the editorial say?

In short, it took the position that scientific truth should defer to politics. The journal now considers it appropriate to suppress research that “undermines—or could reasonably be perceived to undermine—the rights and dignities” of people or groups, as well as “text or images that disparage a person or group on the basis of socially constructed human groupings.” Researchers are urged to “consider the potential implications of research on human groups defined on the basis of social characteristics” and “to contextualise their findings to minimize as much as possible potential misuse or risks of harm to the studied groups in the public sphere.”

Anything that could be perceived as disparaging is now fair game for rejection or retraction.

The implications on scientific inquiry and truth-seeking are clear. As the journalist Jesse Singal observed, an empirically flawless study could be retracted under the guise of social justice. “What’s most alarming is that unless I’m missing something, research that is perfectly valid and well-executed could run afoul of these guidelines,” he wrote.

In the words of a scientist and commentator, the Nature Human Behavior editorial codifies policies “that most social science journals already have.” In his 2014 book The Sacred Project of American Sociology, Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith laments the discipline’s unwillingness to come clean with the reality that pursuing specific kinds of social-justice goals is its central mission. As regrettable as the new editorial guidelines of Nature Human Behavior may be, at least they express honestly how contemporary social science is actually practiced.

Indeed, scientific journals cannot afford to remain neutral—but they need to take a strong stand for the pursuit of truth, not for any political cause. Like democracy, scientific inquiry does not happen by default; it requires unwavering commitment among its participants to play by the rules.

It is not acceptable to retract or suppress a methodologically sound study
simply because you don’t like the results.

Background Post:  Science Discredited by “Scientists”

Toby Young writes at Spectator How science became politicized. Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

New rules from a leading journal do not bode well

Here’s a paradox. Over the past two-and-a-half years, a cadre of senior politicians and their “expert” advisors across the world have successfully promoted a series of controversial public policies by claiming they’re based on “the science” rather than a particular moral or ideological vision. I’m thinking of lockdowns and net zero in particular. Yet at the same time, this group has engaged in behavior that has undermined public confidence in science.

Why appeal to the authority of science to win support for a series of politically contentious policies — and then diminish its authority?

Take Anthony Fauci, for instance, who recently announced he’s stepping down as chief medical advisor to Joe Biden. Even though he once claimed to “represent science” in the eyes of the American people:

♦ he misled them about the likely duration of the lockdowns (“fifteen days to slow the spread”),
♦ overstated the efficacy of the Covid vaccines when they were first rolled out,
♦ refused to countenance the possibility that Covid-19 leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology
♦ it later emerged that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, under his leadership, had given a grant to the EcoHealth Alliance, which helped fund “gain-of-function” research at the Chinese lab,
♦  and he conspired with other prominent scientists, such as Francis Collins, to besmirch the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration (“There needs to be a quick and devastating published takedown of its premises,” Collins told Fauci in an email).

A recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal concluded: “His legacy will be that millions of Americans will never trust government health experts in the same way again.”

Another case in point is a recent editorial in Nature Human Behaviour, one of several journals in the Nature Research stable, the world’s pre-eminent publisher of scientific research. “Although academic freedom is fundamental, it is not unbounded,” it begins, and then proceeds to set out rules that future academic papers will have to comply with in addition to meeting all the usual standards for publication, e.g. peer review. It says the journal won’t publish articles that might cause “potential harms” (even “inadvertently”) to individuals or groups that are most vulnerable to “racism, sexism, ableism or homophobia.” “Academic content that undermines the dignity or rights of specific groups; assumes that a human group is superior or inferior over another simply because of a social characteristic; includes hate speech or denigrating images; or promotes privileged, exclusionary perspectives raises ethics concerns that may require revisions or supersede the value of publication,” it says.

It should be obvious that far from being politically neutral, these rules embody a particular ideology and in future the truthfulness of a scientific finding will be subordinate to this perspective.

To see this, you just need to do a simple thought experiment, as Bo Winegard has done in Quillette. Imagine, he says, if this editorial had been written by political conservatives who announced that “any research promoting (even ‘inadvertently’) promiscuous sex, the breakdown of the nuclear family, agnosticism and atheism, or the decline of the nation state, would be suppressed or rejected lest it inflict unspecified ‘harm’ on vaguely defined groups or individuals.” Those progressive scientists applauding Nature Human Behaviour would throw up their arms in horror and point out – correctly — that these rules are at odds with one of the foundational principles of science, which is to pursue the truth, wherever it may lead.

This editorial is a disaster from the point of view of closet ideologues who want to appeal to the authority of science to promote lockdowns and net zero, including, I suspect, its authors. After all, the reason rhetorical phrases like “the science” are supposed to win round those who are skeptical about these policies — conservatives, for the most part — is that they invoke a popular conception of scientists as politically neutral, disinterested “experts” who are basing their guidance on reason and evidence, uncontaminated by value judgments.

Yet here is a group of senior scientific gatekeepers announcing that the only knowledge that will count as “scientific” is that which promotes their agenda.

It’s as if they’re saying that scientific research unconstrained by this progressive straitjacket, i.e. science as conventionally understood, will yield results that are incompatible with their radical egalitarian agenda and so ought to be suppressed. In other words, “the science” is actually at odds with their political views.

How to explain this own goal? As I say, it’s a head-scratcher.

via Science Matters

September 13, 2022 at 09:05AM

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