From the editors of Nature:
The article by Mark Lilla, a researcher at Columbia University in New York City who specializes in the history of Western intellectual, political and religious thought, called for an end to what he described as an overemphasis by liberals on racial, gender and sexual identity politics. He believes that this focus distracts from core fundamental concepts of democracy and so weakens social cohesion and civic responsibility.
In short, he asserted that many progressives live in bubbles; that they are educationally programmed to be attuned to diversity issues, yet have “shockingly little to say” about political and democratic fundamentals such as class, economics, war and policy issues affecting the common good. Of direct relevance to the US election, he argued that the excessive focus on identity politics by urban and academic elites has left many white, religious and rural groups feeling alienated, threatened and ignored in an unwelcoming environment where the issues that matter to them are given little or no attention. More.
Identity politics in science does way more damage than that, actually. It undermines the idea that academic elites are even people to be taken seriously.
Elites can always be outvoted by the sheer numbers of non-elites. But usually they haven’t been. At one time, they were held in high regard: After all, they invented antibiotics and nuclear power, put man on the moon… you get the picture.
Even people who didn’t agree with their views had to respect them for what they achieved. Even though they did not properly recognize all the Hidden Figures who contributed.
But identity politics changes all that. For example, we are told that we need more “women in science.” Sure, if it means that the hidden figures become visible figures so that other women are encouraged to imitate them.
But who needs another few hundred tax-enabled Aren’t I good! girls?, fronting the status quo?
Just to prove that women can be mediocre too? Do the elites not think that the rest of us are well aware of that fact? We deal with mediocrity in all types of people every day. We object to rewarding and promoting it in order to achieve, for example, parity in employed mediocrity between men and women, at our expense.
Actually, at least some editors of Nature have seemed reasonably sound on key issues lately, pointing out for example that the way peer review currently works is unscientific.
They must have felt a little foolish listening to all the scientists who were stunned by the recent U.S. election results. The results aren’t that difficult to understand, assuming that polling is really a science that analyzes the game, and not a player in the game.
As everyone now knows, when it comes to the life of the mind, the opposite of diversity is university. At this point, the university can sink or swim. Either it grows up or other venues will be found for the life of the mind.
See also: Professional skeptic Michael Shermer on convincing others when facts fail. Why does he need to believe in this stuff? Recently, he got as far as realizing that the social sciences he relies on are in large part replication desert, fraud squad files, and party pep rally.
Coffee!! Urban legends still alive and well in social psychology But as long as students pay without protest, it’s hard to see how anything will change. Except that, gradually, schools may just start de-emphasizing or dumping social sciences.
Here, alas, is a throng of women in science who will NOT be the next Lynn Margulis
Rob Sheldon: Don’t go home, Europeans
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