Lawrence Krauss: Stop indicting science for systemic bigotry

March 27, 2022 • 10:15 am

I didn’t realize the Lawrence Krauss had a Substack site, but all the cool kids seem to be getting one, along with the dosh that comes with it. Krauss’s site, named “Critical Mass,” is new, but already has interviews with notable people he knows, including Steve Pinker, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Richard Dawkins, Roger Penrose, and Stephen Wolfram.

This is all well and good, though I shy away from podcasts of any stripe, but there’s one article that should be read by all the Pecksniffs and Virtue Flaunters who are, in my view, dragging down modern science by turning its purpose from the investigation of nature towards a form of social engineering.

Krauss’s piece doesn’t say much that hasn’t been said before, but he’s a good writer and doesn’t pull any punches.  I wish that every scientist—and that includes my Chicago colleagues who indict evolutionary biology for current bigotry—would read the piece below (click on the screenshot):

Krauss’s words are indented; mine are flush left.

Earlier this month Science magazine, whose editor since 2019 has promoted the notion that science is systemically racist and sexist, ran four hit pieces on physics in a single issue. It was claimed that physics is racist and exclusionary, run by a “white priesthood,” and based on “white privilege.”

The articles themselves were inconsistent at best. They promoted a specific viewpoint and sometimes made claims that were manifestly contradicted by their own examples. I don’t want to spend a lot of time here critiquing the specifics, or the magazine in general, because I don’t think either are worth it. But it is worth summarizing some of the misconceptions they promote. If one hears the same things over and over again, even if they are not true, it is easy to begin to believe them. So, it is important every now and then, to step back and question the assumptions on which they are based.

(a)  If the representation of various groups in scientific disciplines does not match the demographics of the society at large, the cause must be racism, sexism, or other forms of discrimination.

This comes straight from the Kendi-an playbook: one of the major theses of How to be an Antiracist is that “inequity” in organizations—ethnic or gender composition differing from that of society as a whole—is an unquestionable sign of bigotry currently acting against members of those groups less represented in government, companies, science, and so on.

This accusation is just wrong, and wrong for several reasons. First of all, “inequities” may be the sequelae of past bigotry, and not the sign of present racism or misogyny in organizations like universities. While both alternatives indict bigotry, the way to fix the problem, given that “equity” is one’s goal, are very different.. Most people, including me, think that fixing such problems for good requires fundamental structural change. John McWhorter, for example, suggests that fixing the root cause of inequity can be largely with just three changes: teaching kids to read via phonic, ending the war on drugs, and discarding the idea that everyone must go to college.

But if inequities reflect differences in preference and not just racism, then they don’t necessarily need to be rectified to equal the existing proportions of groups in society.

So we have three hypotheses for inequities—present-day bigotry, reflections of past bigotry with minimal present bigotry, and differential preference. Asserting that only #1 is true, as Kendi does (and many scientists and science journals), is not only unjustified, but goes against some evidence, particularly regarding inequity of the sexes.

None of this is to deny that bigotry still exists and still holds people back. Of course it does. The question is whether the bigotry is structural—still built into the system—and what proportion of the variance in representation is due to bigotry past, bigotry present, or difference in preference. Here we have no evidence, but anecdotes and a lot of assertions involving “lived experience.” Data contravening the bigotry narrative—including the negative correlation between measures of gender equality and the proportion of women in STEM careers, so that more egalitarian societies have a lower proportion of women in STEM—is ignored.

The glomming on to favored hypotheses without strong evidence as well as the rejection of counterevidence are both unscientific.  It’s odd that scientists themselves are so ready to behave unscientifically when it comes to this issue. But a lot of it is understandable as a way of signaling one’s virtue.

As Krauss says,

Without some control over confounding factors or some other clear empirical data validating a theoretical model, it is impossible to isolate the cause of this effect. Most areas of human activity are self-selecting. To argue that people don’t become scientists because they are excluded by the scientific community is an extraordinary claim. And extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This is not to claim that racism or sexism do not exist in society at any level. Nor that examining such demographics might not be useful. But to lay this demographic on the doorstep of science without further justification is inappropriate. Moreover, there is a lot of empirical data that shows quite the opposite

That data includes not only the negative correlation mentioned above ,but studies showing that there is no evidence for racial discrimination in evaluating NIH grants. You rarely hear about data like these because they don’t support the preferred narrative. Krauss continues:

(b) When interviewed, white male scientists cannot provide examples of racism or sexism in their disciplines

In the Science articles, this was taken, as it often is, as manifest evidence of white privilege. One is reminded of one of the ancient ways of determining if someone was a witch. If they claimed not to be, that was good evidence that they might be. Alternatively, it could be because most faculty at universities are acutely concerned about possible discrimination on the basis of race and gender and would root out efforts to discriminate on the basis of either. In these articles, and in most other claims about systemic racism in science, empirical examples of such systematic racism are generally absent. Instead vague anecdotal claims are made.

This is dead common. Articles indicting modern evolutionary biology for racism, for instance, invariably lack either supporting data or even examples.

c)  Anecdotal claims of slights based on ability, or of working in an atmosphere that seemed neither friendly nor inclusive are not in themselves evidence of anything except an atmosphere that seems neither friendly nor inclusive.

. . . Science is an intensely competitive field, and, as I will argue below, it probably should be. It is tempting, to view such a situation as a reflection of discrimination, and to feel victimized on the basis of your race, gender, religion, or other personal identity characteristics. Especially if you are constantly told in training sessions that this must be the reason for any hardships.

It’s considered impolite to claim that some people blame their failures on the bigotry on others, but that’s sometimes the case. This is one reason why “hate crime” hoaxes are common on college campuses, with members of minorities fabricating racist or sexist graffiti—something that always raises a huge ruckus. When those crimes are found to be fabricated as a way to exaggerate the extent of bigotry, they are quietly forgotten. (Jussie Smollett is an exception, because he was caught in the act and the evidence against him too damning.) Indeed, sometimes the narrative is reversed, with the fabricated hate crimes actually serving to underscore the continuing presence of bigotry. 

(d) It is claimed that too few programs exist to recruit and retain women and minorities.

As Krauss says, “this is manifestly wrong.” Anyone in science knows that universities are falling all over each other to recruit minority professors and graduate students.

Another critique that is raised is that minority scientists pay a price because excessive demands are placed on them to assist in diversity recruiting and retention efforts. Yet a number of the individuals interviewed for the Science articles, who complained about this, are the very individuals who have lobbied hard for such programs to be expanded. If they were not included, I suspect that omission would be criticized even more. Universities have worked for over 40 years to increase diversity, through affirmative action programs at all levels, and other programming. In 1960, women in science may not have been taken seriously, but that was 62 years ago.

Finally,

(e)  It is claimed that standard merit-based evaluations must be relaxed to increase diversity in science, and that this will strengthen the field.

This is a form of affirmative action in which the bar for hiring or admission to graduate school—indeed, even for evaluating performance—is lowered as a way to increase diversity, almost always ethnic diversity.  And this is one area in which people dissimulate like crazy when explaining the changes. It is rarely admitted, for example, that ditching standardized tests like SATs or GREs is done explicitly because if test scores are used to evaluate people, many minorities will score lower, creating inequities. And above all, people can’t bring themselves to admit that there is a negative correlation between the height of the bar and the degree of diversity. (If there wasn’t, there would be no reason to get rid of standardized test.)

The question that Krauss raises in his title bears directly on this: when thinking about the future of science when hiring or taking on students, do we go for maximum quality or maximum diversity? You can’t have both—at least now—though people pretend otherwise. Krauss goes for quality:

. . . there is little or no objective evidence that talented students or researchers who have a genuine interest in science are excluded on the basis of these measures. It is true that social inequities, financial at least as much as racial, mean that some individuals who, had they access to proper educational resources early on, end up not following a career track in science. But the solution to this is not diluting requirements for researchers at an advanced level.

Krauss’s most telling argument is that the very reason science is supported by the taxpayer is the reason that quality of work, past record of achievement, and future promise to produce good science must be prized above al else:

Similarly, while enjoying science is everyone’s right—I have spent a large part of my career trying to spread that joy as widely as I can—being paid to do science is a privilege, not a right. It is largely solipsistic and self-indulgent. What right have we to be supported by the public to simply explore questions that interest us? Science is supported by the public because of the public good it does. That good is not met by employing a rigidly diverse workforce. It is met by producing the best science money can buy. We should reserve that privilege to carry out this public good to those who can best exploit it. No system of culling is perfect, but not all students should succeed, nor should all researchers.

Finally, while admitting that bigotry, especially against women, is a major barrier in non-Western countries, Krauss argues, and I agree, that the supposed “colonial” nature of modern science—the claim that it’s structurally racist or misogynist—is not the cause of inequities.

And that is the key point. There may be economic and racial barriers that currently restrict equal opportunity in society. But science itself is not the cause of any induced lack of diversity, nor can it be the solution. To address deeper issues of racism, or sexism, requires addressing societal problems at a much deeper level, and confusing the end result with the root causes is folly.

Krauss then asks the Question that is Most Taboo:

Put another way, as harsh as it may sound, we need to ask a question that is currently impossible to ask in polite company, or even impolite company: Why is it so necessary for more women, minorities, and transgender individuals, and fewer white males, to become scientists? Surely the science doesn’t care about melanin or gonads or sexual preferences or identities.

Here I differ from him—not wholly, but a bit.  Insofar as minorities aren’t represented in science, that points to a societal problem that must be addressed, and if inequities reflect bigotry in the past, as they must surely do to some degree, that must also be fixed. But the fix is not to indict science itself as a bigoted enterprise, nor lower the bar to a level that won’t support limbo.

And, as I’ve said before—and here I differ from many of my colleagues—I think that some degree of affirmative action is still needed in science and in schools in general,  As I’ve said, the “optics” themselves point out a problem, but also, as a matter of reparations, one should at the very least give some preferences to underrepresented people if they show promise to do good future science. It’s not a matter of admitting the unqualified, but of putting ethnicity in the balance among qualified people.

Yes, the real solution to inequities, if they be caused by bigotry, lies in creating equal opportunities beginning at birth, but that won’t happen for decades.  And given society’s unwillingness to make these fundamental changes right now, we must do something. And we can do something without severely affecting the quality of science. To me that means more outreach combined with a bit of affirmative action.

45 thoughts on “Lawrence Krauss: Stop indicting science for systemic bigotry

  1. As for women in STEM, it is well known that women have made steady gains in most STEM fields, and are fairly close to equally employed with men in some of them. Women outnumber men in the social sciences. Of course there are still significantly fewer women in several of the STEM areas, despite the gains – but don’t forget that there have been gains. This is summarized here: https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/01/women-making-gains-in-stem-occupations-but-still-underrepresented.html
    I would attribute these changes to efforts in recruiting girls to become interested in STEM areas, effectively changing the culture of children as they make their way through K-12 education. I don’t perceive how any of this has come about by op-eds that continually shout about male chauvinism, and flog search committees to hire women in the job market. Believe me, they want to hire women!
    The other wrinkle to those changes, though, is that women still tend to [I]earn[/I] less than men. I don’t fully understand why that still is, but surely it is a flog-worthy subject in those op-eds.

    1. The earnings question I think goes back a long time.
      There was a time when telephone switchboard operators and typists were men (“because women couldn’t understand the machinery”(?)), then the jobs went to women.
      There was a time when teachers were men, now I think that elementary teachers are overwhelmingly women and more often than not secondary teachers are women.
      There was a time when doctors were men, now I think more than half the med school graduates are women.
      There was a time when lawyers were men, now more than half the law school graduates are women.
      What does seem to happen/have happened, though, is that as the proportion of women in a field increased, the prestige of the field and salaries declined.
      You can speculate on the reasons for that: perhaps historically it was viewed that men were the primary breadwinners and that women didn’t need the salary previously associated with the positions, though it would be hard to argue that this would be an acceptable rationale now.
      How this will play out with minorities, I haven’t the faintest.

      1. Before 1972 (iirc) the standard wages for the same job in NZ were less for women than for men. The reasoning was that men needed more to support a family. When the law change occurred, there was a prediction by those opposed to it that it would mean women losing their jobs because employers would have to pay them more. No such thing happened.

        About 25 years ago, an analysis of the skills needed to be a nurse or a police officer was done. Nurses were paid a lot less than police officers and there was a claim that this was because nurses were mostly women and police officers men. It was discovered the two jobs required similar skill and education levels, and nurses’ wages were increased accordingly. Now many jobs dominated by female employees are having, or have had, their pay reevaluated based on the skills etc. needed to do them.

        Women in NZ have, on average, been better educated than men since the 1910-1920 decade but our incomes still lag behind. I don’t know why, though I suspect these days a lot is to do with women having to be the ones to take time out to have children. Everyone gets 20 hours free childcare a week, but that is obviously not enough for everyone. Further, once a child is at school there are after school hours and school holidays to contend with until they’re older. Not everyone has family who can help out.

      2. What does seem to happen/have happened, though, is that as the proportion of women in a field increased, the prestige of the field and salaries declined.

        There could be all sorts of reasons for that, some due to unacceptable bigotry, and perhaps some due to economics. If the availability of workers increases then the wage necessary to employ them decreases.

        But I expect it is more complicated than that. 🙂

    2. The earning gap can be mostly explained by:

      Men — on average — have a greater tendency to prioritise their careers, at the expense of work/life balance, and to target more-senior roles.

      Women — on average — have a greater tendency to prioritise their families, social lives and their work/life balance, and are less likely to seek fulfillment from more-senior roles.

      1. IIRC, the effect is *entirely* women with children. Which is not what the discrimination theory predicts.

        For couples with children, the right measure is surely the couple’s total income. Nobody is so stupid as to count stay-at-home mothers among the destitute unemployed, but somehow when both parents have a nominally full-time job, the default is to be exactly this stupid, in order to see a “wage gap”.

  2. “So we have three hypotheses for inequities—present-day bigotry, reflections of past bigotry with minimal present bigotry, and differential preference. Asserting that only #1 is true, as Kendi does (and many scientists and science journals), is not only unjustified, but goes against some evidence, particularly regarding inequity of the sexes.”

    I’m no Kendi expert but doesn’t the recognition of so-called “structural racism” imply that it is not only present-day bigotry that must be corrected? It seems clear to me that structural racism exists but I disagree with the CRT folks on how to remove it. They just want to declare it verboten and cancel anyone who disagrees. That’s just not going to work and will simply piss everyone off. These structures took time to build and will take a long time to remove. CRT is a bit like the War on Drugs. It is too easy to just criminalize the behavior to be eliminated. It can only be done by sustained hard work.

    1. It seems clear to me that structural racism exists …

      In saying that, are you adopting a Kendian definition of “racism” such that any inequality between groups is “racism”?

      Or are you adopting a more-usual definition such that for there to be “racism” there has to be less-favourable treatment of people owing to their color/race?

      1. I wouldn’t go as far as Kendi does. We do have to allow for differences in preferences due to culture. On the other hand, I think we have to take a close look at any area where there is an unexpected difference in outcome between races. Looking for racist individuals, and doing nothing if we can’t find them, is just not good enough. A difference in outcome is a racist “smell” that must be taken seriously. Deciding what the non-racist outcome should be for any measure will be difficult but it is the right discussion to have, IMHO.

        1. OK, but how about something like economic inequality, such that fewer black than white people get large inheritances from their parents.

          Is that “racism” because there’s a group inequality (and because it may be partially the result of past racism)?

          Or is it not “systemic racism” if no-one today is being treated less favourably owing to their race/color?

          And is there a necessity to even out such group means? If yes, is there also a necessity to even out within-group differences? (Note that within-group differences in parental economic status are much greater than differences between racial-group averages.)

          1. All tough questions. My argument is simply that the tough questions must be tackled. Neither the Kendi strategy of calling the whole system racist, or the GOP strategy of denying the existence of racism or making racism a personal trait only are helpful.

  3. I think racism and sexism are two of those things that at some point tend to exist everywhere you look.

    Thus, the notion that “what would it hurt to take every step possible / examine every nook and cranny” for those -isms appears to me to – even after the real good advances have been made <- I am acknowledging this here<- – will nonetheless seek what it proposes to find everywhere. Particularly so with racism and sexism as it has a direct relationship to what people look like, how they talk – i.e. their overall personality.

  4. What is most depressing about such nonsense is no one trying to make the statistically literate counter argument that perfect representation is a mathematical impossibility. It’s like flipping a coin 100 times, and since the result is not a perfect 50 heads vs 50 tails, declaring that you’ve proven that the coin must be biased.

    I am certain that the vast majority of clustering examples in populations can be explained via non-nefarious feedback processes. However, not only have I never seen this discussed, but even more basic questions are left unanswered. For example what is the relevant population to base your statistical representations off? Global, national, regional? There is also something suspect about the way these studies define their terms. Take race based studies for example. I have seen ones where Jews are classifies as white. Asians seem to be mostly ignored, unless they can make the case against whites worse. It’s a shame no one takes the methodology of these studies to task.

    1. Judaism is a religion, a culture, but not a skin color. There are Jews that exhibit all colors. And actually, the culture itself is diverse. Ashkenazi is culturally different than Sephardic. And none of this has anything to do with being a scientist. That is an interest and talent unto itself. A personal affinity.

      1. Yes and Islam is also a religion but Muslims like Linda Sarsour, who is whiter than I am, is counted as a person of color. As has been pointed out in this thread, it’s not skin color that marks one as a person of color, but a claimed (or real) history of oppression.

  5. I just read one of the Science pieces, titled “The Toll of White Privilege.”

    Here’s a quote: “listen to and do what Black employees say they need, and not make plans for us without us.”

    This sounds great. I agree. Let’s encourage white scientists to talk with Black colleagues about racism.

    Here’s another quote from the same article:

    “Mason, who is Black, recalls a senior white faculty member asking her for advice during a 2020 campus event on how to combat racism. “I don’t know what to do. Can you help me?” he asked her.

    “I told him that the point of the event was for whites to think about their actions,” Mason says, “not to ask Black people what they think. I don’t think he liked my answer.”

    So… white people must ask Black people for their thoughts on systemic racism, otherwise they’re racist, unless, of course, asking Black people for their opinion is a bad thing that reveals your white privilege and unfairly places the emotional burden of educating you on an oppressed Black person.

    I would be much, much more sympathetic to Social Justice activism if it wasn’t chock-full of contradictory, damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t stuff such as this.

    1. “Unfairly places the emotional burden of educating you on an oppressed Black person”

      Not to mention that in this instance the conversation is happening between two highly educated, well paid, middle class people with great health insurance, job security, and a pension plan, working in a bottom-up organization in which faculty members run the departments and get themselves elected to the faculty Senate. The evidence for ongoing race-based oppression of either of those two people is pretty thin.

    2. Just as a matter of interest: what is the rationale behind capitalising “Black” but not “white”?

      In “black people”, the word “black” is an adjective, not a noun much less a proper noun. If the argument is that “black people” is a proper noun (which I could see) then both words should be capitalised: “Black People”. But then why does that not apply to “white people”?

      1. This was pretty good

        https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/06/time-to-capitalize-blackand-white/613159/

        where “Black” refers to people with a shared culture and experience, and “white” is a physical description of people from many different cultures.

        Biologists have an analogous capitalization convention. In phylogenetics and classification, one capitalizes the proper name of a taxonomic group that forms a clade or natural evolutionary group in which all the members of the group are more closely related to each other than to members of any other group (e.g., Arthropoda). But we don’t capitalize the common name of a group that doesn’t form a clade (e.g., invertebrates) where some members of the group are more closely related to are more closely related to some other group. We don’t have a taxon “Invertebrata” because some animals without backbones (like the starfish and sea urchins) are more closely related to vertebrates than they are to some other invertebrates (like the arthropods). So talking about invertebrates can be useful, and you can teach a course about them, but we don’t call them “Invertebrata”. And of course there are also lower-case words used as the common names of proper taxa as well (e.g., “arthropods”).

        It’s interesting that those two usages of capitalization convey the opposite meaning: in the case of Black/white, capitalization indicates a group with some traits shared in common, and the lower case indicates a group with close historical relatedness (white people are descended from the out-of-Africa diaspora 50,000 years ago); but in classification, capitalization indicates a group of close historical relatives (natural evolutionary groups of organisms), and lower case indicates a group with some traits shared in common (but maybe not among genealogically close relatives).

        1. But [as the article says] the usage doesn’t seem to follow this “shared culture and experience” line. The capital B will still be used for Kamala Devi Harris who, like Obama, has african descent unrelated to the long-standing African-American culture. Which makes me think it’s a post-hoc explanation.

          Maybe it’s just a form of reverence: if Asian and Hispanic get capitals (from proper nouns) then is it disrespectful to deny one to Black? Seems like playing with fire to do this and not White — it seems calculated to encourage precisely the kind of assertive white identity which lower-case “w” seeks to deny.

          > close historical relatedness (white people are descended from the out-of-Africa diaspora 50,000 years ago)

          I’m not sure this divide is correct:

          First, “white” in america implies a closer connection, since Chinese people’s ancestors left Africa in about the same wave. White americans come from the post-Roman world, less than 2k years.

          Second, I think “black” in america mostly means descent from the people of the Bantu expansion, and this is also much more recent than 50k years, more like 3-4k.

        2. That’s interesting but also fails to stand up to scrutiny. Black people don’t all have a shared culture and experience. Black Americans have far more shared culture and experience with white Americans than they do with Nigerians or Ethiopians. Africa itself is home to many diverse cultures just like Europe where all the white people came from.

          I don’t think your biology analogy really works for various reasons. One is that in taxonomic terms white people are probably all more closely related than black people – we are all descended from black Africans. Secondly, you failed to apply the rule yourself. You didn’t capitalize “vertebrates” or “arthropods”. “Arthropoda” is a proper noun, “arthropod” is not.

          1. Sigh. I’m not endorsing that Atlantic article or its interpretation, just pointing to one interesting explanation for the Black/white convention. IDK if everyone capitalizes Black for the reasons given in that article, maybe not.

            Yes, white people are on average more closely related to each other than Black people are; that’s what I meant by opposite meanings of the two capitalization conventions.

            No, common names for taxa are not capitalized; “arthropod” is the correct common name; “Arthropoda” is the correct proper name. IDK what rule I failed to apply, maybe Jerry himself will tell us. I thought I was drawing an interesting connection between two usages, but I guess not. YMMD.

      2. John McWhorter has presented the most compelling case for it. In particular, Losing the Race has a good take – he asks to consider what image, precisely, the idea of an American citizen brings to mind – I can’t recall it exactly – but he writes on this point all over the place, it seems.

        In a nutshell, African American is outdated / not working. Yet, blacks in the United States occupy an important space…. I can’t write like McWhorter!

    3. Ha. Social Justice just is “chock-full of contradictory, damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t stuff such as this.” That’s how it works. It’s a feature, not a bug. It’s intended to divide, to spite, to proudly show the chip on your shoulder, and to get one-up. Always has.

      Best is just not to give it uptake. Ignore it as much as possible. If you are in authority and there is a specific complaint about someone you have to address it. But by engaging you otherwise they are only looking for evidence against you. They don’t care about your opinion so they won’t even ask you what you think. If they did — and the “they” would probably be a well-meaning “ally” white colleague — just say, “Oh, is that what the crowd on the Quad was about. I thought maybe they were protesting the Newfoundland seal hunt. Sorry, I hadn’t given it any thought. I’m only a biologist.”

  6. The question of interest is why individuals (like the editor of Science (not to mention umpteen academic administrators) should for an instant entertain the delusion that physics is racist and exclusionary. The
    reason is that the history of physics did not take place simultaneously amongst all human populations. From Galileo through Einstein, those who discovered physics in the natural world did not include Africans, Maoris, AmerIndians, Australian Aborigines, Inuits, or indeed Samis or Turks. In Victorian times, members of the west European culture congratulated themselves on this asymmetry. Today, it has become fashionable to apologize for it.

    But there is no law of nature guaranteeing that all discoveries are made simultaneously in every culture and every sub-population of the human species. Since there is no such law of nature, there is nothing to
    apologize for. Otherwise, every time we write something, that would be “racist and exclusionary” because writing was developed first in Mesopotamia, not England. And we would have to apologize incessantly for the “racist and exclusionary” character of cooking food—because that discovery was first made in East Africa, perhaps 400,000 years ago, and not in France.

    1. Quite true. And it’s worth pointing out that there’s been plenty of Japanese, Chinese and Indian people contributing to science at the highest levels.

      As ever, Asian people tend to refute the “everything is racist” and “science is white/European/colonialist” rhetoric of the woke.

  7. We have this problem in New Zealand too – invoking structural racism as the cause of inequities in numbers of minority people who work as scientists.

    We should acknowledge assertions that systemic racism exists on the basis of disparities in rates of minority representation in science. We also acknowledge anecdotal reporting of experiences of racism in academia. We acknowledge assertions that systemic barriers exist for minorities within our academic institutions and that conscious and unconscious bias, and sexist and racist processes and notions of excellence, account for disparities.

    However, the truth or otherwise of systemic racism (or sexism) in science is difficult to determine objectively and often presented without evidence. We acknowledge such assertions but, though bias in the past has given rise to problems of today, not every disparity reflects racial bias in the present.

    Racial bias today as the major or exclusive cause of disparity, may be real but is a perspective that lacks evidence other than anecdotal. We agree that minorities (especially indigenous peoples) have experienced oppression in the past and, unfortunately, the inter-generational effects are felt to this day (although affirmative action is an attempt to counter-balance past oppression). These lasting effects have yet to be completely overcome but, just as science is universal, so too is oppression.

    We agree that science has been used to aid colonisation, as have literature and art. Is science at fault here? We suggest that the fault lies in the way that the authority of science, established through empiricism and falsifiability, has been manipulated for political, economic or social ends.

    Over the last century in particular, science and technology have been used to support dominance and oppression. However, we need debate and constructive criticism over one crucial point – that science is not exclusively a Western European invention.

    We suggest that science does not provide substantive evidence of European dominance over indigenous people. The fact that over twenty per cent of Nobel Prize winners in science are historically-persecuted indigenous Ashkenazi Jews (much less than one per cent of the world’s population) should help to counter that misconception.

    David Lillis

  8. “So we have three hypotheses for inequities…”

    We have three debatable hypotheses, and a fourth possibility that may not even be mentioned. Whether or not that fourth hypothesis is true, huge taboos like that limit to how freely we can investigate inequities.

  9. I find that in discussions like this it’s very helpful to include nursing where the overwhelming number of spots are taken up by women and men are vastly underrepresented. Developing explanations for this “discrimination” helps us to understand the arguments that are used in other disciplines.

    We can also discuss the fact that over 65% of professional football (America football) players are black and whether this is an example of systemic racism. Again, the goal is not to criticize the professional football leagues but to clarify the issues and what the results might mean.

    1. If I’m not mistaken, nursing as a typical female occupation is a quite recent phenomenon. Basically since Florence Nightingale (underrated as a statistician, btw).
      I think ‘professional’ nursing was a predominantly male occupation before that, the Knights Hospitaller, Order of St John come to mind there.

      1. In more recent history, my lifetime, in the US, nursing has been a typical female occupation. As in nursing was not something that manly men would do.

  10. Jews are of course counted as white, as are those of east Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Japanese
    descent if they succeed professionally or economically. On the other hand, a pallid Linda Sarsour can surmount the disadvantage of being “just another white girl” when she announces herself as a WOC,
    and wears a shmatte on her head to exhibit it. I guarantee that some Black writers like John McWhorter
    and Glenn Loury (and particularly Thomas Sowell) are counted in the quarters under discussion as being “white” inside. That is no contradiction to wokely doctrine, given that XY males can announce that they are female inside, and expect this announcement to be deferred to.

    1. That notion of ‘white on the inside’ is older than woke-ism. ‘Coconut’ (ie. dark on the outside, white inside) is an old (and feared) insult in South Africa..

      1. Here, stateside, the term of art is “Oreo” (after the cookie in which white cream filling is sandwiched between chocolate wafers). Also “Uncle Tom” after the title character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s pre-Civil War novel, and “wannabees” (which reached broader public consciousness via the production number in Spike Lee’s 1988 film School Daze).

        All of these long predate Wokeism.

        1. Nobody would accuse the wokies of originality. They derive their tropes from earlier usages:
          those of the authoritarian Left (e.g., east Germany, much admired by Angela Davis), the Black nationalist clichés of the 60s-70s, and, of course, the affectations of academic postmodernism.

  11. Good post. I think the issue here is that woke politics which advocate for playing the “blame game” are ultimately doing nothing to increase the number of minorities in the sciences. I think we need to look to other causes, such as education, cultural issues, and activities which promote awareness of and involvement in science for kids.

  12. 100 m running: in the international races, all the finalists are black, always black (I know only one exception). So what should we think? Has short-distance running been colonized by racist blacks, who want to impose the black suprematism and discriminate against all whites and Asians?

    Some people don’t want to accept disparities, but disparities can arise among different individuals and also among different groups for a lot of reasons, not necessarily racism. A disparity is NOT a proof a racism in itself.

    Of course, it may be: SOME disparities can be due to discrimination or privilege. But exactly to fight these privileges, it’s of a vital importance to not conflate them with merits. Unfortunately, this is exactly what the woke left is doing nowadays: it stifles all the merits, labelling them as privileges, and creates a false and dangerous equality. An equality which does not give people the same rights, but impose the same results.

    I recommend the book “Taboo: 10 facts you can’t talk about” by Wilfred Reilly. https://www.amazon.com/Taboo-Facts-Cant-Talk-About/dp/162157928X

    1. But of course, clearly, they were forced out of better, more fashionable athletic pursuits by white people and that’s all they had.

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