How science cements the power of oppressors, contributing to systemic equities and racism

April 4, 2023 • 1:30 pm

Here’s another paper (this one from Nature Communications Chemistry) accusing science of structural racism at present and calling not for equal opportunity, but for equity now.  And we’re clearly all complicit in a system of oppression that, somehow, not only stems from racism, but also contributes to racism:

The boilerplate beginning, which could have been written by Chat-GPT:

The last two years have shaken the consciousness of human societies because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, extreme weather events, fatal incidences of racial injustices, discoveries of mass graves of Indigenous children in Canada, refugee crises, and ongoing armed conflicts. Also, the last two years have shown the world how scientists work collaboratively and in real time to develop new vaccines, design new tools and technologies to detect and analyze airborne pathogens, purify indoor air, and quantify improvements to outdoor air quality because of lockdowns. We also witnessed unprecedented levels of openness to talk publicly about uncomfortable truths pertaining to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the sciences, including chemistry. The ongoing practice and culture of science has failed marginalized communities and mostly being used to cement the power of oppressors partly leading to systematic social and economic inequities and racism2. Leaders in academic institutions, scientific societies, funding agencies, and publishers have finally acknowledged the need to shift the root causes of inequities facing marginalized groups from individuals to institutional cultures and policies that historically enabled the exclusion of the ‘other’.

I reject the claim that science is “mostly being used to cement the power of oppressors”, which is wildly hyperbolic. The way to increase the diversity of science is to start at the beginning of life (seriously) and try to give everyone equal opportunity. Yes, I know that’s near impossible, but that’s where the money and effort should go. Efforts applied at the graduate student and faculty hiring level can create equity as an appearance, but not a permanent equity that supposedly (but need not necessarily) reflects equality of opportunity. I’m amazed that scientists can read this stuff and just accept it wholesale.

Below is an instructional figure, explained this way:

Figure 1 shows an illustration of the ongoing practice and culture of science. EDI efforts bridge the gap between the higher objective of doing science, which is to be in the service of society, and the composition/diversity/power structure and dynamics within the scientistic community. The composition of the scientific community should -ideally- reflect the society being served and its changing demographics. However, composition alone is not enough as it does not equal power. Even in “diverse” settings, scientists from under-represented groups continue to be marginalized in scientific fields3. The ingredients for doing science are: (a) humans, who include mentors and students4. The pool from which scientists come from is the general population of a given country or community, (b) soft assets, which include time, freedom of thought, persistence, ability to prioritize, hard work, ability to bounce back, good daily habits, and (c) hard assets, which include money, space, tools, instruments, and computers. The combination of these ingredients enables knowledge generation through original research, i.e., scientific scholarly output, which comes in the form of peer-reviewed papers, new products, new policies, or changes to existing ones. Some of that scholarly output has short- and/or long-term benefits to the wider communities locally and globally.

The peers in each scientific field are also humans, who use the scientific evidence presented in the scholarly output to judge and rank the merit of ideas and competency of other scientists. Peers also judge and rank the quality of the scholarly output and stature of other scientists to justify recommendations for more, or less, assets needed to do the science. Recognitions of this scholarly output come in the forms of invitations to speak at conferences, invitations to join expert panels, awards, promotions and more titles, and coverage by science journalists in the media (TV, radio, newspapers, etc.). Therefore, the practice of science is labeled as self-correcting, selective, and reinforced by feedback from peers leading to the illusion among scientists that doing science is the most objective human endeavor for the pursuit of knowledge with little room for subjectivity. However, as detailed in the next section, while scientists aspire to be as objective as they can, they are not immune to historical and ongoing social struggles that manifest in the form of racism, sexism, ableism, and phobias of all kind leading to propagating an image about the scientific community as an exclusive club for elites.

Here you go.  Do you understand now why we’re all oppressors?


I have nothing more to say about this, because every journal is publishing this paper in just a slightly different form. The only thing new here is the highly informative figure.

41 thoughts on “How science cements the power of oppressors, contributing to systemic equities and racism

  1. Evidence. Data. Where are they, in the references? I did not find them on a quick look. But of course, I think the piece was written almost as if there is no requirement to show how the arguments are true.

    1. Things like requiring “evidence” and “data” regarding subjects like this are also tools of and help to further white supremacy, don’tcha know?

      (seriously, you can find many papers arguing this)

    2. One of the most annoying characterstics woke writing is that often consists mostly of opinions unsubstantiated by references aaargh

      Don’t forget MIT dei debate livestream from MIT at 7:30 edt tonight

        1. Saving some clicking for anyone :

          “Resolved, that academic DEI programs should be abolished.

          Debating in support of the resolution are Heather Mac Donald, Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of numerous books, including the forthcoming When Race Trumps Merit; and Pat Kambhampati, professor of chemistry at McGill University whose writings on campus DEI issues have appeared in the National Post, among other publications.

          Arguing against the resolution are Pamela Denise Long, CEO of Youthcentrix Therapy Services and a contributor to Newsweek magazine; and Karith Foster, founder of INVERSITY Solutions and a diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging specialist.

          Moderating the debate is Nadine Strossen, Professor of Law Emerita, past president of the American Civil Liberties Union, and author of HATE: Why We Should Resist It With Free Speech, Not Censorship, among other publications.”

          I think Kambhampati was highlighted here.

    3. I’m pretty sure the arguments would fall apart just from looking for data to support them. Even framing the question in scientific terms is anathema for that sort of reasoning. That’s one reason I think it’s more useful in general to ask questions of the woke than trying to enlighten them.

    4. ^^this comment is the one to mark the point where I finally came to understand it all.

      Critical theories are simply immune to measurement, data, or evidence. True/false is similarly irrelevant. This explains how baffling it is to refute or show how little sense this Nature paper or the post on the DEI firing make. What matters is all explained on the New Discourses site that James Lindsay wrote: to get anywhere, even to write a Sokal hoax of it, one must problematize the theory. To do this, we have to use intersectionality, and simply invent an oppressor group that harms and erases a minoritized group. Lindsay uses the example of Weight Watchers enacting genocide of fat people (absurd) but that illustrates the strategy. Every reader here knows all these elements – it just has to be put together. I was not (won’t go into it).

      Sorry to go off but I can’t help it when I finally understand everything!

    1. “It’s been almost two years since those first shocking headlines broke. During this period, not a single actual unmarked grave is known to have been found — either at Kamloops, or any of the other First Nations communities that subsequently conducted their own GPR surveys. Not one.”

      This is a little misleading, as it might suggest to people unfamiliar with the story that excavations of these sites has failed to turn up evidence of human remains. The truth is that the FN communities weren’t actually looking for the remains (there is a lot of debate in the FN community about whether the sites should be excavated).

      That said, I found this article from last May that suggested they might start to exhume remains shortly.

      I can’t find anything more recent. Either they haven’t started yet, or they have and haven’t found anything. You can bet if they had found remains it would be front page news in Canada.

      1. Sure, just keep saying, “we can’t decide whether to dig”, and then you can just keep saying: “100s of unmarked child graves.” and no one can contradict you.

      2. Dean, you’re right of course, but I don’t agree the quote and the Jon Kay article are misleading. There seems to be no will or interest among First Nations or anyone else to find graves or human remains at these sites (as you noted correctly, banner headlines if such had been found). Kay’s point is that if the GPR survey results are as horrific as claimed (if these are the graves of murdered children), then there should be such will and interest: some of the residential schools were still active in the 1980s and 90s, and the murderers might still be walking among us.

        1. Many of these supposed graves are located in old churchyard cemeteries on Reserve land that the native bands who live on them forgot about once the simple wooden markers that poor people got rotted away. Neglected they became overgrown. It would be most surprising if you excavated what is shown on old maps to be a cemetery and didn’t find human remains. Yet the site at Kamloops was excavated several times over the decades for various infrastructure—including a swimming pool for the students— and no human remains were found.

          The story the Natives are trying to sell is that their discovery of ground radar anomalies in what might or might not be a forgotten cemetery is, by definition, evidence that if there are any bodies interred there they were were victims of murder. The entire claim of genocide rests on this unfounded assertion. There is not a shred of evidence that anyone was murdered at any residential school, nor is there evidence that children just went “missing” and are now turning up in these “unmarked” maybe graves. The police have indicated that they have no reason to believe these old cemeteries contain evidence of unsolved crimes. They could get court orders to exhume in the interests of justice whether or not the First Nation, which is in no way sovereign, gives assent.

          If the Natives do any digging it is because they have been given a big government grant and have to go through the motions so they don’t look like thieves. But they really don’t want to find collapsed drainage tiles and swimming pool plumbing. The idea that a private entity like a Native band would be given licence to disturb a crime scene with free-lance digging is preposterous. Anything “discovered” there should be taken with a grain of salt.

        2. Mike, without knowing Kay’s mind it’s impossible to tell if he’s trying to mislead, because it’s absolutely correct that no bodies have been found. But eliding the fact that they haven’t actually looked for them can make readers think they’ve tried and failed to find actual remains. If I was trying to make the FN people look like liars, that’s probably how I’d do it.

          That said, I’m not sure the truth makes them look great, either. The original claim was that they “uncovered the remains of 215 children buried at the site.” (

          That is unquestionably untrue. I have been skeptical from the outset about the claim, not because I don’t think it’s possible there are 215 dead kids buried on the site, but because:
          1) the technology they used is simply not capable of such certainty
          2) of the reluctance of the Kamloops band to verify the GPR findings with excavation. I was not at all surprised that they did not plan to dig up the site to confirm the count. I am reluctant to ascribe bad faith motives to people (I try to be very charitable with the benefit of the doubt) but it certainly felt convenient to me that it would “cause trauma to the community” to dig up the site when they had a media willing to unquestionably publish the “fact” that they found 215 dead children.

  2. How one wishes for those quaint days of the ’90s, when the Sokal affair was met with chuckles throughout the science community. At least among those who paid attention to the rot emanating from elsewhere in the universities. Who is laughing now?

    1. The Sokal affair was the blaring siren warning us about the incipient takeover of our cultural and educational institutions by an intolerant form of Leftist fundamentalism.
      As with so many of these eruptions, people spent more time and energy waving them away and changing the subject—ie. oh, it’s just a few kooks on campus, it will never take hold in the real world, and hey they’re just trying to “help the marginalized”—rather than face the metastasizing cadre of intolerant zealots and their quasi-religious belief system.
      And I get it for the most part: who wants to risk their career and social status battling that nest of vipers who smear any and every opponent with shrieking accusations of bigotry and stealth campaigns of personal destruction?
      So everyone kept their head down and thus here we are…

  3. I’ll read in full later, but when I hear “structural” or more, “systemic” racism, I always want to say — “Be specific! A “system” consists of individuals, protocols, cultures, inventories, etc. Which PART, or which INDIVIDUAL, which conspiracy…is racist and how? Just hand waving “raacism” is meaningless without specificity.”

    The utter obsession with all things racist in the past decade has actually MADE MORE PEOPLE RACIST as I see it. It’ll get worse, woke-ism, DEI and “anti-racism” racism because of the HUGE amount of Money in it pushing it along. I don’t see an end point.


      1. Thanks, my like-minded and like-habited friend! (adjusts turtleneck after head spun while reading pomo). I too value James Lindsay’s encyclopedia.

  4. “The ongoing practice and culture of science has failed marginalized communities and [is] mostly being used to cement the power of oppressors partly leading to systematic social and economic inequities and racism.”

    I don’t think so. It’s the ongoing practice and culture of science that developed and made COVID-19 vaccines available to the entire world, saving countless lives. How the benefits of science are distributed *is* a legitimate topic of debate, but the motivations of scientists are not. Scientists don’t go to their labs to experiment on new ways to cement racism. They wouldn’t waste precious resources, talent, or time on such evil.

  5. There are no mass graves in Canada. Even the Native Advocacy Propaganda Machine which would like you to believe that the residential schools were a genocide acknowledges that. Dr. Al-Albadleh is a liar.

      1. Oh, it sure is. What’s not clear is whether the mass grave idea was a deliberate lie or wishful thinking by media people unable to second-guess their good fortune at running with the story of the century.

        1. Thanks. I read the comments above including the link to the Kay article. I was only vaguely aware of the issue altogether, but recalled the NYT article. My guess is they too haven’t retracted their claims either. I wish I could say I’m surprised.

          1. I appreciate your taking the trouble to do that, Edward. When a person is still referring in a public document to mass graves nigh on two years after it was debunked, she is perpetuating a blood libel against my country.

  6. This reminds me of a comment on teaching evaluations decades ago. A team of us were teaching political theory. One colleague on the team was smart but a particularly dull lecturer, and he liked to ‘illustrate’ his points with drawings of stick figures on the board. There were quiet chuckles when the teaching evaluations came in: “The stick figures really helped to clarify Rousseau. Thanks.”

    1. At my Canadian university, criteria for advancement and salary review in science departments now include demonstration of ongoing contributions to diversity, inclusion, and equity. A paper like this could be worth thousands of dollars in personal income per year for many years for the author. Or more, since this is part 2 of a series of papers in the same journal. Part 1 was more of a personal reflection…

  7. I’d read somewhere else that English departments had gotten hollowed out (and as a result funding for grievance studies would be down). This is at the same time all these grievance “scientists” started showing up.

    STEM is getting plenty of funding at a time when English departments aren’t, so it makes sense. I recall my wife doing a sort of DIY Master’s degree where she wrangled an only tangentially related degree out of a commercially backed science program so this is probably more of the same.

  8. Neither the author nor Dr. Smith and associated wizards at the University of Calgary have addressed another burning issue in the campaign to pervade every corner of science with EDI. It is a little-discussed outrage that the reference sections of science papers do not cite marginalized groups in proportion to their frequency in the general population. This is particularly glaring in the case of authors of the female gender, who are represented in less than 50% of citations. Fortunately, we can all take a step toward citation justice in this matter by henceforth computing the Gender Balance Citation Index in our manuscripts, and making appropriate adjustments. For this tool, see: . Perhaps the author of the paper under
    discussion is busy developing a similar tool for the “marginalization” balance of citations.

    1. (All of this is IIUC):

      This would be the equivalent of the correct bits of The 1619 Project. Evidence produced by presumably serious effort for a critical theory in which evidence is irrelevant, and irrelevant to dismantling the cis-dominated patriarchy – particularly where knowledge is controlled by hegemony, the university.

  9. Does anyone else find it weird that people immigrate to Western European (aka “white”) countries, find safety and prosperity for themselves and their families, enjoy careers like teacher, professor, social worker, etc, and then denounce these countries and their peoples for the supposed evils of “whiteness”?
    (Like this woman for instance, not that I mean to pick on her:
    It just seems bizarre and unprecedented to me.
    My feeling is that the truth is quite opposite to their claims: they don’t denounce “whiteness” because our countries are so evil hateful and intolerant, but because these denunciations have become a social and career credential, a new way to get ahead.
    America (among others) is a crazy country: one of the easiest ways to gain access to an elite lifestyle is by denouncing the country, its history, and its citizens.

    1. Oikophobia is a common disease in our universities and the other institutions of our cultural elite.

  10. The energy of DEI initiatives in academia seems to regularly miss the point that real progress can only happen at the community level, with improvements in housing, policing, community employment, access to essential goods, quality K-12 education, parental involvement, etc. etc. I would bet on getting some effective results out of work on those things over DEI initiatives at the college level any ‘ol day.

  11. While I agree with you about the greater importance of society, there are also some really good things going on in academia under the broad heading of DEI. For example, making more internships be paid rather than unpaid, doing outreach to community colleges to interest more students in science, experimenting open-mindedly with teaching approaches, and so on. It’s not all extremist, by a long ways, at least from where I sit.

      1. They get much more focused attention now. As DEI has become a mainstream value at my large public university, reasonable people are finding plenty of sensible things to do under its banner (like the ones described above). There are some extreme voices around, but they seem much less prevalent than in mid-2020s. I thought people here might be a bit heartened by this perspective from someone who’s still ‘in the trenches’ and reads lots of DEI statements.

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