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marching for science

This past weekend was Earth Day with a host of marches for science. In an age of fake news, science certainly deserves a march. I’m personally a fan of the annual march for life in DC due to the fact that a fertilized human egg, unless interrupted, always becomes a human person; it cannot possibly remain an embryo or become a porpoise or eagle. It’s basic science and science is a very good thing.

The problem, of course, is what humans do with science.
People are sincerely terrified of GMO food; ignoring—perhaps mostly ignorant of MIT’s support of genetically modified foods which is validated by the research of many other scientists as well as centuries of agricultural practices.

Then there’s our climate. The
Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece by Dr Steven Koonin of NY University, who served as President Obama’s Energy Department Undersecretary. He wrote, “What you saw coming out of (government) press releases about climate data, climate analysis, was, I’d say, misleading, sometimes just wrong.” Dr Koonin offers a proposal to enlighten our opaque debate about how much human activity contributes to climate change.

In 1968
Dr Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb predicting imminent global famine. The media reverently quoted Dr Ehrlich and other scientists who claimed their research had determined Earth was overpopulated. In the journal Science, ecologist Garrett Hardin argued, “freedom to breed will bring ruin to all.” All this inspired Communist China to adopt its monstrous one-child policy, using forced abortions and infanticide to limit their population. Today China is dealing with a dangerous demographic: a smaller workforce must support its large, aging population.

During the 1920’s scientists at Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins, and other leading universities claimed their research into genetics would improve humanity. Former President Theodore Roosevelt, then President Wilson, and
Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger were among the many who believed in eugenics. Eventually, other scientists—notably, in England—exposed the shoddy research and assumptions of eugenicists, but not before the involuntary sterilization or castration of more than 35,000 Americans.

How did science become what it has become?

In 2015 Prof Haidt of NY University published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, documentation of the lack of ideological diversity in science. It was accompanied by commentaries from 63 other social scientists, virtually all of whom—even the harshest critics, accepted the authors’ conclusion that the lack of political diversity has harmed science. The authors and the commentators pointed to example after example of how the exclusion of conservatives from fields of study blinds scientists to flaws in their work.

Groupthink is now so prevalent that scientists fail to appreciate the degree to which it infects research. Social psychologists, who have extensively studied our biases against “out-groups”, are quick to blame these biases for the lack of women or minorities in our institutions. But they’ve been mostly oblivious to science’s own diversity problem. Dr Haidt fears academia has become a “tribal-moral community” with its own “sacred values” about what a scientist is allowed to study and what is taboo. ~

Dan Nygaard