He was “cancelled”, so he’s got to complain about all the “cancelling” going on, only, you know, it’s not just asshats like him being served their comeuppance, it’s The Ideological Corruption of Science. It’s not simply scientists being handsy or racist, this is an ASSAULT ON THE VERY FABRIC OF SCIENCE. Oh, fuck you.
In the 1980s, when I was a young professor of physics and astronomy at Yale, deconstructionism was in vogue in the English Department. We in the science departments would scoff at the lack of objective intellectual standards in the humanities, epitomized by a movement that argued against the existence of objective truth itself, arguing that all such claims to knowledge were tainted by ideological biases due to race, sex or economic dominance.
There’s the root of the problem right there, that he would scoff at other disciplines, and that he had this hierarchical notion of the value of knowledge that placed physics, no doubt, at the pinnacle of rigor and true science. Meanwhile, scholars in ‘lesser’ disciplines like sociology and psychology were doing real work to expose why, for instance, physics was so oppressive to women and why biology was infested with racists. One of the reasons is that so-called hard scientists have tended to dismiss the work of scholars outside their narrow domain.
Yeah, I was a grad student and post-doc in biology in the 80s. I saw that attitude, too, only I could see through it to the ignorant elitism behind it. Why can’t Krauss?
It could never happen in the hard sciences, except perhaps under dictatorships, such as the Nazi condemnation of “Jewish” science, or the Stalinist campaign against genetics led by Trofim Lysenko, in which literally thousands of mainstream geneticists were dismissed in the effort to suppress any opposition to the prevailing political view of the state.
Oh, yes, there has never been any political or social or economic influence on the hard sciences — those grants were awarded in a frictionless universe, professorships earned in a perfect vacuum, promotions achieved by pure disciplined calculation. Do tell me more.
Or so we thought. In recent years, and especially since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, academic science leaders have adopted wholesale the language of dominance and oppression previously restricted to “cultural studies” journals to guide their disciplines, to censor dissenting views, to remove faculty from leadership positions if their research is claimed by opponents to support systemic oppression.
You mean science has finally started cleaning up the deadwood and kicking the exploiters and frauds to the curb? You do realize that policies of oppression have affected the make-up of science, don’t you, and that granting agencies have slowly, deliberately begun cracking down on institutions that don’t practice the necessary principles of equal opportunity, right?
Well, let’s look at some of the examples Dr Krauss uses to bolster his argument. It’s curious how he thoroughly downplays the bad ideas of these “victims” to pretend that this is an attack on the purity of science.
… At Michigan State University, one group used the strike to organize and coordinate a protest campaign against the vice president for research, physicist Stephen Hsu, whose crimes included doing research on computational genomics to study how human genetics might be related to cognitive ability—something that to the protesters smacked of eugenics. He was also accused of supporting psychology research at MSU on the statistics of police shootings that didn’t clearly support claims of racial bias. Within a week, the university president forced Mr. Hsu to resign.
Hsu was outright promoting eugenics. He was making extravagant claims about genetics, a subject in which he has no expertise, and about intelligence (ditto), to propose ideas that were flatly rejected by the American Society for Human Genetics. Of course he would be found out and his qualifications rightfully questioned! Also, he only resigned from his administrative position. He is still employed as a professor. Perhaps Krauss is envious?
… Shortly after Mr. Hsu resigned, the authors of the psychology study asked the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science to retract their paper—not because of flaws in their statistical analysis, but because of what they called the “misuse” of their article by journalists who argued that it countered the prevailing view that police forces are racist. They later amended the retraction request to claim, conveniently, that it “had nothing to do with political considerations, ‘mob’ pressure, threats to the authors, or distaste for the political views of people citing the work approvingly.” As a cosmologist, I can say that if we retracted all the papers in cosmology that we felt were misrepresented by journalists, there would hardly be any papers left.
Is it common for cosmology papers to be used to justify discriminatory policies and police violence?
Also, there are a lot of papers in cosmology that ought to be retracted, because they are bad and go far beyond what the evidence warrants.
Actual censorship is also occurring. A distinguished chemist in Canada argued in favor of merit-based science and against hiring practices that aim at equality of outcome if they result “in discrimination against the most meritorious candidates.” For that he was censured by his university provost, his published review article on research and education in organic synthesis was removed from the journal website, and two editors involved in accepting it were suspended.
Oh, right, Tomas Hudlicky, who wrote a paper so backward and regressive that a large number of the board members of the journal promptly resigned in protest. It’s so good of Lawrence Krauss to come along and second guess prominent experts in the field in question.
Hudlicky also was not fired.
An Italian scientist at the international laboratory CERN, home to the Large Hadron Collider, had his scheduled seminar on statistical imbalances between the sexes in physics canceled and his position at the laboratory revoked because he suggested that apparent inequities might not be directly due to sexism. A group of linguistics students initiated a public petition asking that the psychologist Steven Pinker be stripped of his position as a Linguistics Society of America Fellow for such offenses as tweeting a New York Times article they disapproved of.
Right, Alessandro Strumia — hey! Have you noticed that Krauss is careful to not mention the specifics, like the names, of these more egregious cases? Is he afraid we might look them up? Or remember what stinkers they are?
Strumia is one of those physicists who dismissed the concerns of women physicists and scoffed at the humanities, so maybe he and Krauss are sharing a moment of fellowship. He also cherry-picked his data and used bad statistics to bolster his claim that Cultural Marxism was corrupting academia with the womens.
Whenever science has been corrupted by falling prey to ideology, scientific progress suffers. This was the case in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union—and in the U.S. in the 19th century when racist views dominated biology, and during the McCarthy era, when prominent scientists like Robert Oppenheimer were ostracized for their political views. To stem the slide, scientific leaders, scientific societies and senior academic administrators must publicly stand up not only for free speech in science, but for quality, independent of political doctrine and divorced from the demands of political factions.
We live in a country where climate data is suppressed, epidemiology disregarded, and the government is wrecking education, yet Krauss wants to compare the people who demand rigorous application of knowledge from all disciplines, even those less privileged than physics, to Nazis and Commies.
I’m more worried about scientific elitism that thinks it is above criticism and finds joy in spitting on research work that might expose their own flaws.
Oh, and Larry — are you still mad about those people who questioned your association with convicted pedophile and all-around sleaze, Jeffrey Epstein? It’s amazing that prominent publications still accept op-eds from you.