by Bo Winegard, Aug 28, 2022 in Quilette
A once-respected journal has announced that it will be subordinating science to ideology.
And science, we should insist, better than any other discipline, can hold up to its students and followers an ideal of patient devotion to the search for objective truth, with vision unclouded by personal or political motive.
~Sir Henry Hallett Dale
Although the modern prestige bestowed upon science is laudable, it is not without peril. For as the ideological value of science increases, so too does the threat to its objectivity. Slogans and hashtags can quickly politicize science, and scientists can be tempted to subordinate the pursuit of the truth to moral or political ends as they become aware of their own prodigious social importance. Inconvenient data can be suppressed or hidden and inconvenient research can be quashed. This is especially true when one political tribe or faction enjoys disproportionate influence in academia—its members can disfigure science (often unconsciously) to support their own ideological preferences. This is how science becomes more like propaganda than empiricism, and academia becomes more like a partisan media organization than an impartial institution.
An editorial in Nature Human Behavior provides the most recent indication of just how bad things are becoming. It begins, like so many essays of its kind, by announcing that, “Although academic freedom is fundamental, it is not unbounded.” When the invocation of a fundamental freedom in one clause is immediately undermined in the next, we should be skeptical of whatever follows. But in this case, the authors are taking issue with a view very few people actually hold. At minimum, most academics will readily accept that scientific curiosity should be constrained by ethical concerns about research participants.