Robert F. Shedinger came across an open access 2020 paper in Social Psychology of Education, “Why are there so few ethnic minorities in ecology and evolutionary biology? Challenges to inclusion and the role of sense of belonging” which brought up something you are not likely to hear from the
It is well established that people of color are poorly represented in STEM fields compared with their representation in the larger population. That is for a host of complex sociological and economic reasons. But even taking this into consideration, the authors note that African Americans are even more poorly represented in EEB [ecology and evolutionary biology] fields in comparison with non-EEB fields of biology. This extremely poor representation in EEB cannot be explained by the factors leading to underrepresentation in STEM fields, so there must be something else going on.
To find out what, the authors surveyed a sample of college undergraduates from different racial and ethnic groups about their attitudes towards STEM in general and EEB in particular. The findings point to a number of factors, especially among African Americans, leading to a sense of not belonging in the culture of the EEB community. Two of these factors were a greater tendency toward religiosity and moral objections to evolution.
Surprisingly, and contrary to the expectations of the authors, African American (as well as Latino) undergraduates expressed a greater desire than white students to seek advanced education in ecology and evolutionary biology. Yet despite their interest level, the perceived lack of belonging they would experience in the EEB community appears to prevent their actual pursuit of advanced education (in 2014 African Americans earned fewer than 2 percent of PhDs granted in EEB fields but 5.1 percent in non-EEB subfields of biology).
As the authors note, African Americans consistently score higher on surveys of religiosity than the general population. This will not be surprising to anyone familiar with the African American church tradition. But African American undergraduates seem to be aware of the absolute requirement that EEB research be done in accordance with methodological (and de facto metaphysical) naturalism. Their religious inclinations will therefore be in conflict with the culture within the EEB community and it will be difficult for them to feel a sense of belonging in that community. The same with their moral objections to evolution, moral objections that are well founded in the African American experience (see Human Zoos). The demands of methodological naturalism thus become an impediment to the greater participation of people of color in ecology and evolutionary biology. What insights might we be losing as a result?Robert F. Shedinger, “Is Methodological Naturalism Racist?” at Evolution News and Science Today (August 27, 2021)
When Shedinger asks, “What insights might we be losing as a result?”, one wants to ask, “Who is the ‘we’”? The Darwinians don’t want insights; they want control. Yes, the rest of us are losing insights but that hardly counts. Breaking the stranglehold sounds like a team effort.
It’s an interesting discussion of the findings in the light of the recent op-ed in Scientific American claiming that creationism was based on white supremacy.
See also: At Evolution News and Science Today: The casual racism of Charles Darwin. Shedinger calls Allison Hopper’s piece in Scientific American, “startlingly vacuous,” which raises — once again — the question of why on earth the mag published it. It’s not as if there is no scholarship on the topic of Darwin and racism. Did the editors not want to address that scholarship? Well, we can’t read minds but we can make some reasonable guesses. How about: Create a big uproar and hope everyone will focus on that and not on the topic at hand? Shedinger also notes perceptively, “One does not become racist because of the view one holds on human origins. One becomes racist for other complex reasons and then reads that racism back into whatever view on human origins you hold.”