Scientists now champion censorship and cancel culture, scientific publications are reduced to political polemics with no scientific value while claiming their unique expertise is relevant anywhere they see fit. Science died in 2020. Now, they want to bury it so deep it might never be found again.
Future historians will likely look back on the third decade of the second millennium and identify 2020 as the year science officially died. Beset by a global pandemic, the public health establishment aided by the scientific community completely abandoned the free exchange of ideas and public discussion of dissent necessary for the scientific method to operate to pursue completely untested, unproven strategies with disastrous results. Perhaps even worse, those same strategies were promptly abandoned midstream in favor of convenient political ends when hundreds of real card carrying experts, as Dr. Anthony Fauci would say, endorsed the need for massive protests that were completely incompatible with all of their previous positions. Racism was immediately declared a public health emergency more pressing than the pandemic itself, and the restrictions the scientific establishment had been pushing for months were immediately abandoned for a specific kind of protest. The message was clear: If your political goals aligned with their own, you were permitted, indeed encouraged, to violate the very policies that the establishment had declared were critical to battling the pandemic in the first place, but those whose political opinions differed were not granted the same amnesty. By any objective standard, this was not science. The purveyors of science, however, did not care in the least, content to radically restructure a field rooted in a rich history of free inquiry and the free exchange of ideas into a political movement that brooked no argument and countenanced no dissent.
Two years later, those trends have only accelerated. Last month, a group of 10 scientists from prestigious universities embarked on a program to actively defend censorship and cancel culture in the scientific community. Writing for The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, these scientists asked, “What do we value as an academic and a scientific community? Do our core values include only the pursuit of facts and inventions, to the exclusion of other considerations? Or do we accept that scientists have a responsibility to serve society beyond simply expanding the knowledge base, and should therefore concern themselves (at least in part) with how their words and actions intersect and impact the human sphere?” Their answer was clear: Scientists and therefore science in general should no longer be judged based on whether their “innovations might be profound” or even benefit “many,” but instead on whether their “words or actions create an alienating or hostile workplace or learning environment.” Toward that aim, these so-called scientists champion the “un-publishing” of essays that deviate from their preferred narratives such as the primacy of diversity and inclusion above all other things because it is “natural for any community to maintain and enforce its social norms.” They support the “un-naming” of buildings when a person in question, whatever their contribution to the field or the institution, falls out of favor because this is not “‘canceling’ but rather recalibrating.” The “un-naming” of phenomena is also perfectly acceptable, even if the phenomena is named after a Nobel Prize winner. Here, they graciously stop short of removing the co-discoverer of DNA, James Watson, who they describe as promoter of eugenics and racist ideas about intelligence, from the eponymous “Watson-Crick base pairs” that make up the genetic material for all life on earth because “that seems perilously close to rewriting scientific history,” but the removal of Watson otherwise is acceptable “when it makes an implicit statement that the humanity of the namesake individual is unimportant.” Ultimately, they “advocate for speech that empowers the next generation of scientists to create a more just and equitable—and hence more excellent—scientific community.” In other words, progressive speech.
Others in the scientific community have gone a step further, using an entirely new term to describe speech they consider antithetical to their diversity, equity, and conclusion goals: Stochastic terrorism. “Stochastic terrorism is a specific type of extremist violence that occurs when an environment has ‘othered’ a population or individual to a significant enough extent that results in subsequent violence against them,” according to Business Insider. You might wonder what this has to do with science. Scientific American, the once venerable publication for lay people, provides an answer. “Pundits are weaponizing disgust to fuel violence, and it’s affecting our humanity.” According to Bryn Wilson, “psychologists have come to view disgust as a kind of behavioral immune system that helps us avoid harm. Whether in response to feces or rats, disgust triggers an aversion to things that can make us physically sick. The emotion has a darker side, however: in excess, it can be weaponized against people.” Ms. Wilson provides a litany of examples. “Propagandists have fomented disgust to dehumanize Jewish people as vermin; Black people as subhuman apes; Indigenous people as ‘savages’; immigrants as ‘animals’ unworthy of protection; and members of the LGBTQ community as sexual deviants and ‘predators’ who prey upon children.” More recently, she believes “the ongoing monkeypox outbreak has further amplified bigotry” because its “name and origins in Africa have stoked racist misinformation about how it spreads, and its link to men who have sex with men has fueled stigma and homophobia as well.” She also takes aim at people “who are trying to outlaw gender-affirming care for transgender kids and purge pro-gay books from library shelves.” These radicals have “stirred up disgust by invoking the specter of sexual ‘grooming’…The manufactured grooming mythology has spurred another round of moral disgust and outrage.”
Amid this diatribe about the outrages of what Ms. Wilson surely perceives as the right-wing in American culture, she even finds time to namecheck Tucker Carlson. All that’s missing is the actual science, which she finally arrives at rather offhandedly, saying only that “disgust is an emotion that evolved to keep us out of danger, but people have long misused it to inflict cruelty and catastrophic harm.” Her solution? Shutdown the communities spewing what she perceives as hate, refuse to “buy into the ‘both-sides’ false equivalence and the normalization or dangerous rhetoric or extremism,” enforce “laws against hate speech and incitement to violence” and “disengage with media platforms that make money by keeping us disgusted.” You might agree with Ms. Brin or you might not, but whatever the merits of her argument, there’s nothing remotely scientific about it. It’s a progressive diatribe against everything they disagree with, using much the same language as President Joe Biden at times.
These are not merely semantic games in the scientific community, however. The once-respected journal, Nature, recently claimed that the failure of climate models to accurately predict future temperatures and the inability of scientists to convince skeptics is not because the models themselves are flawed or because a history of poor predictions has given people good cause to distrust climate science in general. It’s because they fail to account for the “psychology of climate change.” “In the light of the empirical evidence for the role of human behaviour in climatic changes, it is curious that the ‘human factor’ has not always received much attention in key research areas, such as climate modelling. For a long time, climate models to predict global warming and emissions did not account for it. This oversight meant that predictions made by these models have differed greatly in their projected rise in temperatures.” Technically, this is at least partially correct, but it should also come as no surprise to anyone. Economists have known for decades that it’s near impossible to predict human behavior, specifically how people en masse will respond to incentives, perceived risks, and other factors. They’ve created a whole field, “behavioral economics” which attempts to combine traditional economics with psychology with admittedly mixed results. The fact that climate scientists, who have been studying this for fifty years now, are only recently becoming aware that human behavior influences the climate, after telling us for decades that human behavior is causing the climate crisis, is extremely puzzling. Putting this another way, climate models are supposed to take into account the growth of so-called greenhouse gasses which are emitted as a result of human behavior. If they aren’t taking into account that behavior, how could they possibly get the growth right in the first place?
Otherwise, the focus of this joint venture between Nature Human Behaviour and Nature Climate Change seems to be on far more than models. Instead, it’s focused on you, what you think that they don’t want you to think, and what you do that they don’t want you to do. We see this in their “toolkit for understanding and addressing climate scepticism,” which of course includes the “infrastructures of disinformation.” “Despite over 50 years of messaging about the reality of human-caused climate change, substantial portions of the population remain sceptical. Furthermore, many sceptics remain unmoved by standard science communication strategies, such as myth busting and evidence building. To understand this, we examine psychological and structural reasons why climate change misinformation is prevalent.” Once again, we encounter what is now the standard language of the progressive establishment. Facts and information counter to their theories and policies are misinformation by definition. In the case of climate science, it couldn’t possibly be that they themselves have spread disinformation for decades, starting with claiming mass starvation was imminent, followed by a coming ice age, then warming so rapid New York and Florida were supposed to be underwater already, and there would be no snow in England. Instead, “climate change” is the “reality” and you are a recalcitrant, misinformed moron for not going along with their schemes. The plan is to figure out how to make you less of a retrograde for your own good, not to actually conduct science of any sort.
This is the pandemic messaging from the establishment, recycled to climate science. It is inherently authoritarian, not remotely scientific, and cribs language and ideas straight from the progressive movement, but it’s what scientific publications for both the average reader and the real card carrying expert are publishing. Even worse, they are simultaneously pushing this garbage while claiming that science’s sphere of influence is expanding to include “everything.” The editors of Scientific American recently claimed that “Every Story is a Science Story.” “Science applies to every important social issue. Saying so doesn’t make us ‘unscientific.’” As they see it, a group of “detractors are telling us to ‘stay in our lane,’ that scientific inquiry is a pure, clean, completely objective enterprise, and that what we publish should be devoid of politics or the perspectives of people who are affected by the culture of scientific research. But the truth is that science is relevant to every element of society, including policy and politics. As a publication committed to explaining the world around us, that means that every lane is our lane.” In fact, merely telling them to “‘stay in [their] lane’ is a tactic to silence people with relevant expertise from weighing in on divisive issues.” Lest there was any mistake this weighing in would be on the progressive side of the equation, the editors are sure to note “In some cases, the criticism attempts to maintain the power of wealthy, white, male members of society.” Logically, this makes no sense. If science is everything, science is nothing and loses all meaning. Science is unique in human endeavors because of its methodology. Everyone has an opinion, but only science proposes theories and hypotheses and tests them against any and all available evidence. Science is not special because of the “people with relevant expertise.” It’s special because of the process supported by the free exchange of ideas and open debate. Otherwise, scientists are pundits, propagandists, and prognosticators, just like everyone else. Taken together, it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that the 21st century scientific establishment believes they have the right to silence any and all dissent while never being silenced themselves, can cancel those they disagree with at will, and are no longer bound by anything resembling the scientific method. Science died in 2020. Now, they want to bury it so deep it might never be found again.