by D Frederick Sparks
This past Wednesday, the Black Skeptics of Los Angeles were featured at CFI Los Angeles’ Cafe Inquiry for a presentation titled Debunking Science as Savior: Is Science Infallible. The talk focused on the history and present reality of racism and racist exploitation in science, specifically with respect to medical science and medical research.
Black Skeptics members Frederick Sparks and Daniel Myatt gave a brief overview which covered several topics, including the history of scientific notions of racial superiority, exploitation of African Americans in medical reasearch (which included discussions of Thomas Jefferson’s experiments on his slaves and more recent testing of AIDS drugs children of foster care in addition to the wider known Tuskegee syphilis study) , and medical misdiagnosis based on race including the overdiagonosis of schizophrenia in African American Men. This history was then connected to current mistrust of the scientific and medical establishment among African Americans today, and how this affects attitudes towards everything from the Theory of Evolution to HIV denialism. The lack of diversity within scientific fields (notwithstanding rock star astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson) was also touched upon as a continuing contributing factor to cultural myopia and racism within the practice of scientific and medical research,
The question and answer session that followed was lively and covered such topics as how even the basics of the scientific method, making observations and forming hypotheses, are affected by cultural perspective. And while this specific talk focused on black Americans, it was noted that those who are marginalized in society due to economic circumstances are also more vulnerable to abuse from the medical establishment. The group also discussed the challenge of increasing African American participation in needed medical studies given the historical back drop of abuse and exploitation.
Special thanks to Jim Underdown from CFI Los Angeles for coordinating this event with BSLA.