You might have heard of the peer-reviewed article “In Defense of Merit in Science” by “intellectual dark web” members like Peter Boghossian and old-school lefties like Jerry Coyne, John McWhorter and so on in the hilariously named Journal of Controversial Ideas. Authors Coyne and Kylov have a WSJ editorial on it.
I did a “live” Twitter thread last Friday on this, which I expand here and correct the many typos inserted by my enemies.
The author’s goal, a good one, an obvious one, is implied in the name of the paper. But I must report to you, sadly, that they seek to reach it by surrendering on every point made by the left.
The paper starts with an Obama quote—yes—the first reference is to Yuval Harari, and right off they signal “climate change” worry among the usual list of woes, announcing “science holds the key to solving these problems”.
All these might reflect genuine attitudes, or it might be purposeful strategy to stave off the inevitable criticisms of being bad people because they must later attack idiotic “identity based ideologies”.
That they even have to argue merit is the “best and fairest way to conduct science” shows they’ve already lost, though. If this isn’t obvious, it cannot be taught to those who do not care about the best way to do science, but do care about power.
Next is a long, and quite de rigueur, section on science being a “process” leading to truth. They have the usual smoke about willingness to be corrected, and how science beats up religion with its vaunted openness. We’ve all read thousands of passages like this:
The ability of science to self-correct—one reason that scientific truth claims are uniquely credible—can be epistemically contrasted with conformity to religious and political dogmas, which are disturbingly closed to self-correction. Self correction is facilitated by pluralism to maintain intellectual diversity and maximize the chances of uncovering provisional truths. Intellectual diversity ensures vigorous skeptical vetting of scientific claims by a critical mass of doubters who ultimately accept being bound by objective truths once they have been rigorously determined by extensive evidence
This kind of silliness always appear because most, not all, scientists never bother reading any theology, nor metaphysics, or even much history. But they do know all good scientists are supposed to say how humble scientists are. This “epistemically contrasted” stuff is anyway obviously false, but you won’t see them self-correctthis error.
They say, “Scientific truths are universal and independent of the personal attributes of the scientist. Science knows no ethnicity, gender, or religion.” Et cetera.
This section goes on a long time. All the stock phrases are used. Problem is, gender ideologues don’t care. It’s not interesting to them. GIs use science language when it suits them, because scientism belongs to everybody, but they don’t give a damn about science itself, it’s only a rhetorical tool. If they did “—- love science”, they could never call a man a woman.
Our authors work hard signaling they are for most of the same things gender ideologues are. Two examples from many: “Whether sexism prevented Cecilia Payne Gaposchkin from receiving credit …” And “Merit based science is truly fair and inclusive.”
Science is not “fair and inclusive” in the way GIs want. To GIs and the left, it’s all about power, and power only, whatever window dressing of “feminist physics” they give it. They want what scientists got, and boy are they going to get it.
“Merit is a vehicle for upward mobility”, say our authors. Sure it is. For those possessing merit. For those who don’t—all the usual Victims—this is not satisfactory. It will not do. The woke are eager to sacrifice quality for power.
“While some might argue that CSJ [critical social justice] has improved science by disrupting the barriers to entry for marginalized groups, those barriers had been falling for decades, without any help from CSJ dogmas, and long before CSJ rose to prominence and power.”
This isn’t so. DIE quotas and other forms of Victim promotion account for a great deal of “entry” and falling “barriers”. Without the last 50 years of it, this “entry” would be a lot less.
“Yet politicians should not dictate how science is done”. Sigh.
So are you prepared to give up tenure, positions, and money? You should. Better science would come out of the freedom from the government lash. As I say, often, there is too much science.
“ideological control of the scientific enterprise leads to its decline.”
This is so, and obvious. And applies beyond GI. But again, they woke don’t care about standards. Standards are what hold them back. They won’t buy this. They believe in EQUALITY. EQUALITY is realer than gravity to the woke.
Social justice, rightly complain our authors, is “spreading to medicine, psychology, and global public health with worldwide implications.” To the woke, it means greater “inclusion.” That’s what they want. That’s what our authors should have attacked: The “goodness” of DIE.
EQUALITY is false. It is not true. It cannot be reached by pleading, money, effort, or any amount of DIE. Equity can only be had at the point of a knife. That is the only way. Our authors lament the “rejection of equal treatment” for all. The woke embrace it with vigor. To DIE is better than science!
Below we discuss publications making unsupported claims of systemic injustices and attacking merit. Such publications rarely, if ever, provide evidence that observed disproportionalities in the race or gender distribution of a scientific field are the result of present-day structural or systemic racism.
Again, all true. But the woke believe all “disparities” happen because evil people willfully hold back EQUITY because these evil people deny EQUALITY.
The woke complain that “Theme 1: Science is white and colonial” Well, it’s largely true. That’s the way it happened. It’s now yellow, too. But it’s not other vibrant colors to the tune of EQUITY. And that’s unacceptable to the woke. This is why the woke complain “Theme 2: Science is racist”. It is if “racist” means, as it means to them, denying EQUALITY.
And our authors are most anxious to deny “racism”. How’s this for a winning strategy!
A Nature editorial in 2021 reaffirms this narrative: “Racism in science is endemic because the systems that produce and teach scientific knowledge have marginalized and illtreated people of other skin colors and underrepresented groups for centuries”? organizations “must ensure that antiracism is embedded in their … objectives and that such work wins recognition and promotion”? [blah blah blah]
Instead of arguing “Stop believing in Equality, it is absurd,” our authors are anxious to show science can lead to EQUITY.
The role of science in rectifying social inequalities goes beyond “trickle-down” effects of scientific progress. Science can help to develop programs addressing both the root causes of inequalities and the effectiveness of remedial policies.
They surrender again, saying how tests can be used wisely to “increase diversity”. Yet after all we have seen, they still saying increasing “diversity” is good. Diversity is our weakness.
The goodness of Diversity is what their opponents believe. And in truth the woke have the better way to get it. By seizing it.
Our authors “recognize that the playing field is not level.” Not only is this true, it will always be true. No matter what effort. “Level” playing fields are an impossibility. Good grief. Why admit you want to aim for an impossible goal, the goal the enemy desires more than anything?
Finally, they say “If we continue to undermine merit, our universities will become institutions of mediocrity”. Two points:
1) Universities are on the path to Hades, and accelerating downward because of DIE. This is very true.
2) That universities are the best place or optimal way to do science has to be argued, not assumed. It’s far from clear it’s true, and I think it’s largely false, and is obviously false in many instances.
Prediction: the paper won’t change anybody’s mind.
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