Our new paper in Skeptical Inquirer on the ideological subversion of biology

June 20, 2023 • 9:00 am

The free link to a new paper by Luana Maroja and me in Skeptical Inquirer has now appeared, and you can access it by clicking the screenshot below. It’s the cover story and is about 9300 words long (I am unable to furnish “reading times”!).  It’s also in the paper magazine, where they give the full references since you can’t use the hyperlinks on paper.

The opening photo is subtle, and I like it a lot.

Our purpose was to demonstrate how “progressive” ideology is worming its way into organismal and evolutionary biology, impeding research and promoting misconceptions about science to both the public and scientists themselves.  We do this by discussing six areas: the sex binary, evolutionary psychology, sex differences, individual differences, group differences, and the sacralization of indigenous knowledge. (I believe I’ve discussed all of these topics on this site). I won’t say any more about the piece, but if you read it I hope you enjoy it.

Here’s the summary from the beginning of the paper:

SUMMARY: Biology faces a grave threat from “progressive” politics that are changing the way our work is done, delimiting areas of biology that are taboo and will not be funded by the government or published in scientific journals, stipulating what words biologists must avoid in their writing, and decreeing how biology is taught to students and communicated to other scientists and the public through the technical and popular press. We wrote this article not to argue that biology is dead, but to show how ideology is poisoning it. The science that has brought us so much progress and understanding—from the structure of DNA to the green revolution and the design of COVID-19 vaccines—is endangered by political dogma strangling our essential tradition of open research and scientific communication. And because much of what we discuss occurs within academic science, where many scientists are too cowed to speak their minds, the public is largely unfamiliar with these issues. Sadly, by the time they become apparent to everyone, it might be too late.

By “too late,” of course, I don’t mean that science will be gone or swallowed by ideology. Rather, I mean that the character and practice of science may have changed permanently—and for the worse.

Our thanks go to the many people from whom we sought advice about our ideas (too many to list!) and especially to Robyn Blumner, who encouraged us to submit the paper to the magazine, and to interim editor Stuart Vyse and managing editor Julia Lavarnway for shepherding the paper to print and e-space while making really useful edits.

Oh, and as Steve Job would say, “There’s one more thing.” This paper grew out of the Stanford Academic Freedom conference panel on “Academic Freedom in STEM,” where both Luana and I talked (you can see our short presentations here). I presented these six topics, but Luana also talked about them in a very different piece she wrote for Bari Weiss’s Free Press. We decided to join forces and write a longer and more comprehensive paper.

43 thoughts on “Our new paper in Skeptical Inquirer on the ideological subversion of biology

  1. “… most of us were too busy working in the lab to engage in partisan squabbles.”


  2. One more – I didn’t know this :

    “.. iodine deficiency can reduce IQ by a full fifteen points, and genes might affect how well one responds to a diet low in iodine.) ”


  3. Ok last one:

    “Indeed, radical egalitarianism is itself a form of faith, resistant to facts and rational argument. ”

    Precisely – apologies for dominating the thread – great article!

    1. Since egalitarianism is an ideology it may make more sense to interpret it as such. Of course, it may effectively be the same thing.

      As for the article, after perusing Wikipedia criticism of the hypothesis I’m not sure “culture wars” is a thing in US and how much such societal environment should be conflated with internal processes of science. But I’m fairly sure the article is focusing mostly on US. I don’t see much politics involved in science and education here in Sweden, it is for example an explicit hands off attitude on internal processes from politicians.

      As always, I would like to see some hard data. Say, what would a large language model such as ChatGPT collect on ideological expressions used in scientific works!? What is the incidence rate and how does it vary over time?

  4. Excellent article Jerry!

    Minor typo: I’m fairly sure that when you reference the “famous biologist …Aldous Huxley” you meant T. H. Huxley?

    1. OMG I thought it really meant my Doors of Perception were about to bust wide open for some reason!… I mean, I suppose they did, but not like Aldous meant!

  5. I figure just short of 10,000 words with illustrations is a couple of hours for a first read for me. Very much looking forward to the next two hours this morning. Thanks to you and your co-author for putting this paper together and working it through to publication. Hope to have some substantive comment later.

  6. As a subscriber to Skeptical Inquirer, what a pleasant suprise to see your article featured in the latest issue. Always look forward to reading almost anything you write but this time you surpassed even your high standards. This is a masterful job of presenting the issues confronting science today. Thank you for being a ray of hope in these challenging times.

  7. That’s an excellent piece of work. I’m forwarding it to a number of friends. It’s well-reasoned and written with great clarity. Thank you.

  8. 38 minutes. 🙂

    A tour de force. Thanks to both of you for writing this important piece. I look forward to reading the feedback you get, and I hope that the article gets picked up by the major news outlets. It deserves wide readership.

  9. I learned much from your Paper. I read from start to finish in one session. I couldn’t put it down.
    Thanks to you both and to all those who made it possible.

  10. A terrific article: full of good evidence and persuasively argued. Thank you so much. I hope it is widely read, and has the success it deserves.

    I do have one query. Towards the end, this sentence appears:

    “Further, the attacks on science come not just from the public, religious believers, or political authorities, as in the past, but involve scientists themselves—scientists who deem certain research taboo, restrict the availability of publicly funded data, argue that research funding should depend on merit rather than ideology…” Shouldn’t that be “ideology rather than merit”?

  11. “Not a single degree-granting institution in the United States, to our knowledge, requires even a single course in evolutionary biology as part of a degree in psychology—an astonishing educational gap that disconnects psychology from the rest of the life sciences.” – Astonishing is right!

  12. A tour de force. Bravo.
    I wonder which of the following will garner the most pushback:

    Scientific MYTHS/ERRORS
    1.) Sex in humans is not a discrete and binary distribution of males and females but a spectrum.
    2.) All behavioral and psychological differences between human males and females are due to socialization.
    3.) Evolutionary psychology, the study of the evolutionary roots of human behavior, is a bogus field based on false assumptions.
    4.) We should avoid studying genetic differences in behavior between individuals.
    5.) “ Race and ethnicity are social constructs, without scientific or biological meaning.”
    6.) Indigenous “ways of knowing” are equivalent to modern science and should be respected and taught as such.

    Based on my own experience I’d say #1, but it could be #3. I predict #6 will get the most support, but crickets on #4 & #5. And the most popular complaint will be “But we never disagreed with that, it’s not what we mean — you’re fighting a Straw Man!” without a lot of explanation afterwards re what they do mean.
    Second most popular: “But the CONSERVATIVES push this for BAD REASONS.”

    I’ve no idea, really. Just guessing.

    1. *( To clarify, I’m predicting agreement or disagreement that those are indeed myths, not agreement or disagreement with the statements.)

      1. In 2019, Noah Carl lost his job at Cambridge University for making the argument that you make in #5 (that it’s worthwhile to study the causes of group differences in psychological traits). You’ve got tenure, though, so you’ll hopefully be at less risk than he was. I appreciate your having the guts to address that particular topic.

  13. What a superb, comprehensive and informative article Prof CC and Prof Maroja!

    Bookmarked with alacrity!

  14. Excellent, relentless. You (Jerry and Luana) covered all the bases so thoroughly and yet it was easy to read and understand. It’s also filled with quotable original lines, excellent quotes by other notables and lots of references to fascinating research. One example . . .

    “But you don’t even need DNA sequences to predict ethnicities quite accurately. Physical traits can sometimes do the job: AI programs can, for instance, predict self-reported race quite accurately from just X-ray scans of the chest.”

    I wouldn’t care to guess whether or not this article will have an impact, but it damn well should. You’ve left no room whatsoever for any significant reasonable refutation of the arguments or facts you presented. No doubt there will be plenty of unreasonable refutations, though.

    It continues to amaze me that so many science literate people, scientists even, can believe that humans are, unique among animals, “blank slates.”

  15. Abstract fluid shapes iridescent colors background. Tar water surface asphalt pit.
    Contributor:Dimitris Kolyris / Alamy Stock Photo
    File size:51.3 MB (2.6 MB Compressed download)
    Releases:Model – no | Property – noDo I need a release?
    Dimensions:5186 x 3457 px | 43.9 x 29.3 cm | 17.3 x 11.5 inches | 300dpi
    Date taken:28 September 2017

  16. Truly truly the best and most important article on this topic to date…heartful thanks! My only regret is that it should have been published in Scientific American! Or Nature! Let’s hope it raises enough hackles to enter into wide public discussion/argument. Mille grazie! Mazel tov! I am distributing to all my lists. A milestone on the path to reason and truth.

  17. BTW…I was initially surprised by this article being sent to and published by the Skeptical Inquirer. I could have sworn there was talk…even on this site…at some time that even the magazines like Skeptical inquirer were turning more “woke.”

    Am I hallucinating that?

  18. Excellent. Well ordered into six short, independent vignettes that are clearly understandable by many. I recommend that this paper be the basis for a keynote address at the next National Science Teachers Association Conference (i do not have any juice to help that along…sorry..just the idea). Also it would be a good basis for workshop sessions for all middle and high school science teachers …. certainly all life science teachers… at the start of K-12 school year in the Fall.

  19. Superbly written, concise and informative. It will be a hot potato for awhile, but the clear thinking and sanity so well argued that it is likely to have a big’ impact.

    Thank Dr. Coyne and Maroja. This was sorely needed.

  20. Excellent summary of a number of points that Dr. Coyne has made here at WEIT. I will join others here in forwarding it to people who should read it.

  21. Superb article, succintly argued.
    I love that you called out JAMA on the facts of biology – ‘you’re wrong!’

    Classic. Super excited that you listed so many examples in biology (crocodiles, etc.) that trans activists illegitimately argue as evidence for gender fluidity or being non-binary. No.

  22. Adding my kudos to the authors and the paper. Superb. Unfortunately, as they themselves point out: “We aren’t under the illusion that calling attention to these points, and emphasizing the fallacy of the reverse appeal to nature, will push ideology completely out of science. Progressive ideology is growing stronger and intruding further into all areas of science.” Lysenkoism hasn’t yet reached its high-water mark.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *