Anna Krylov, a professor of chemistry at the University of Southern California (USC), has a fruitful sideline in calling attention to the invasion of science by wokeness—much to the detriment of science. I’ve called attention to one of her papers before—a critique of politicizing science that she managed to get published in a reputable, peer-reviewed journal. And she did an interview that I wrote about here. Since then, we’re coauthors—with a gazillion other “concerned scientists”—on a couple of papers on related topics, but it’s hard getting them published since no regular journal will touch anything perceived as anti-woke.
Anna’s latest piece (click on screenshot below) appeared yesterday at the Heterodox STEM site, a site worth following if you’re worried about how science is becoming a mere appendage of “progressive” ideology. Anna lived and worked in the USSR until 1991, and draws on her experience, comparing the authoritarian forces that squelched Soviet science in her youth with the authoritarianism of the “progressive” left that afflicts and constrains us now. Here’s the abstract, and then click to read the whole thing:
My everyday experiences as a chemistry professor at an American university in 2021 bring back memories from my school and university time in the USSR. Not good memories—more like Orwellian nightmares. I will compare my past and present experiences to illustrate the following parallels between the USSR and the US today: (i) the atmosphere of fear and self-censorship; (ii) the omnipresence of ideology (focusing on examples from science); (iii) an intolerance of dissenting opinions (i.e., suppression of ideas and people, censorship, and Newspeak); (iv) the use of social engineering to solve real and imagined problems.
A couple of quotes:
Much more dire manifestations of the SJW [social-justice warrior] agenda are subverting research and education, most notably, in the life sciences and medicine . Just as happened in Soviet Russia, the new ideology is declaring entire disciplines—for example, mathematics—racist [16,17]. There are proposals, some already enacted in Oregon and California, that call to “dismantle white supremacy” in the mathematics classroom. How does white supremacy manifest itself in the classroom? By “the focus [being] on getting the ‘right’ answer” and asking students “to show their work.” Google “equitable math instruction” to see what this is all about. These programs are backed by serious institutions, such as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In California, there is a proposal to do away with advanced math programs in schools. Why? Because they are racist. Why are they racist? Because their demographics do not match the state’s demographics. How can we make math instruction equitable? Instead of raising the quality of education for everyone, the SJW favor the path that socialist regimes—real  and dystopian —took: bringing everyone down to the lowest common denominator.
For the same reasons, proficiency tests are being dropped, grading standards lowered , standardized tests eliminated , and so on.
What will the consequences of such policies be? I think they will be devastating, possibly on the scale of Lysenkoism.
Let’s hope not! At least we’re not yet at the stage where the editors of Nature can kill anti-woke scientists, as the Soviets did to the great geneticist Nikolai Vavilov, who dared stand up to Lysenko’s insane theories. For his honesty, Vavilov was sent to the gulag, where he died.
One more quote:
Now we live in the shadows of Cancel Culture. People are being disinvited and de-platformed. Or dragged through administrative investigations and reviews, which is a form of punishment . Dorian Abbot’s case is a good example .
Scientific papers are being retracted or self-retracted. Not because of scientific concerns—but because findings are deemed to be offensive to some. Or because they contradict the dominant narrative. Many examples are from biology , but this ideological intrusion is not limited to the life sciences [28-32].
The mechanism of censorship and suppression is different from Soviet Russia. It is not administered by the government, but rather by Twitter vigilantes—by outrage mobs who use social media to call for punishment of those whose views they find objectionable .
But mobs alone would not be able to enforce censorship. In Western democracies, outrage mobs do not burn heretics at the stake, at least not yet . They do not retract papers. They do not cancel seminars. People in positions of power do—university presidents, department chairs, journal editors. Bret Stephens called this “Coward Culture” in his New York Times opinion about Dorian’s case .
Sadly, some organizations are institutionalizing censorship.
Here is a recent example [29,30]: The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) issued guidelines to its journal editors to “consider whether or not any content [in a submitted manuscript]… might have the potential to cause offense.” The memos and published policies emphasize that it is the perception of the recipient that determines offense, regardless of author intent.
The RSC gave 15 “indicators” of offensive content, which included content that is “[l]ikely to be upsetting, insulting or objectionable to some or most people.” That covers a lot of ground, doesn’t it?
How does that align with the publisher’s mission to facilitate the communication of high-quality chemistry research? This is a subversion of the institution of science by SJW agenda.
One difference between the “science culture wars” of the Scopes Trial days versus now is that now scientists are complicit in their own muzzling. The ideologization” of science comes from both within the field, including journal editors and funding agencies, and without (social media, of course).
Anna uses lots of good pictures to illustrate her piece, and ends with a Jewish joke at the end that she got from me. Below is one photo of the much-maligned Trofim Lysenko, Stalin’s darling. (If you don’t know the story of Lysenko, his rise to power, and his strangulation of Soviet agriculture, which led to the death of millions, at least read the Wikipedia article on him.)
Here’s Anna’s final paragraph about possible solutions.
What can be done? Here are some ideas. First, speak up. Do not submit to bullies. Refuse to speak Newspeak. If you see that the king is naked—say the king is naked. Second, organize. There is safety in numbers. Organizations such as the Academic Freedom Alliance, Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, and the Heterodox Academy, can provide a platform for action and protection against repercussions . Do your share in defending humanism, democracy, and the liberal Enlightenment.
It all starts—like the New Atheism jump-started an increase in secularism—by saying out loud what the ideologues consider taboo.