March For Science Descending Into Farce

Diversity and Intersectionality edition

By William M Briggs Published on April 9, 2017

Last thing the March for Science needs, say some agitated folks, is Bill Nye the “Science Guy” co-leading the parade. Why?

Their complaint is not that he’s an errorprone non-scientist, though that’s true. See, Nye is white. And a man. And some organizers are concerned that onlookers will notice Nye is white, and a man, and project his male-whiteness onto science itself. That in turn will cause the gullible to figure science is mostly done by white men.

Which, historically and in many current fields, it was and is. Now this fact may be for good or for bad, but it is a fact. And it’s not likely those who say they are “for” science and reason would be pleased were the contributions from white men removed from science. So long, calculus!

Or maybe they would be. Because it seems organizers believe scientific results are less important than who is producing them. Diversity trumps science.

Proof? Buzzfeed reports that, so far, the March for Science has already gone through “four diversity statements.” So the Twitter account @ScienceMarchDC tweeted (and later deleted) “colonization, racism, immigration, native rights, sexism, ableism, queer-, trans-, intersex-phobia, & econ justice are scientific issues.” The tweet also pictured a black power fist and rainbow flag icons.

Of course, science per se is silent on all these matters. But that’s because natural science alone is mute on every moral and ethical question put to it. Including the question whether to deign to include a white man holding a science baton.

“I love Bill Nye,” said Stephani Page, a biophysicist at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who created the Twitter hashtag #BlackAndSTEM. Page was asked to join the march’s board in February after she tweeted criticism of its approach to diversity. “But I do feel comfortable saying to you what I said to the steering committee: He is a white male, and in that way he does represent the status quo of science, of what it is to be a scientist.”

And being a scientist is not about race and sex. It’s about intelligence, talent, interest, drive, money, and luck. Much the same as what success in most fields require.

The March organizers say nothing about this. They want us to know what they really stand for (emphasis original):

Inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility are integral to this mission and to our overall goals and principles. People have rightly pointed out that some of our own public communications, including social media posts, have not affirmed this stance. …We are actively partnering with and seeking advice from organizations and individuals with expertise in this area. We cannot ignore issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, xenophobia, or any other form of discrimination in the discussion and implementation of science. Nor can we ignore the ways in which science has been misused to harm marginalized communities. The lack of inclusivity and diversity in STEM thwarts scientific advancements not only by limiting who conducts the research, but also by influencing what topics are studied, who participates in the research, and who will benefit from or be harmed by it.

Sound like left wing politics to you, and not science? That was the effect they were going for. Organizers insist, “It was a mistake to ever imply that the March for Science is apolitical β€” while this march is explicitly non-partisan, it is political” (the original statement was in bold type).

Yet the positions taken by the politicians, activists, and many others involved in the March are rankly partisan. They insist on diversity. That means rigorous, mandatory and monitored balance between people from favored groups. This is not a scientific concept. It is pure politics. And anti-scientific politics, at that.

We observe that men and women have about the same averages on intelligence tests. But more men than women have extreme scores (both low and high). That’s one reason why there are far more men than women in the club of elite research mathematicians. There is also the matter of choice. Far more men than women choose to do theoretical physics.

Marchers call this a “disparity.” The rest of us call it a banal consequence of nature and freedom. Yet marchers insist on the theory of equality, which says that men and women must all be innately equal in all abilities, and must be equally represented in every field.

The march organizers are adamant, though, that theory rules over evidence. They tweeted, “For those wondering, #intersectionality is a core principle of #ScienceMarch, and we will soon be releasing our formal vision.”

Intersectionality is the theory that only trained academics and activists can spot “oppression” of favored political groups. Or it might be better said, as Andrew Sullivan did, that intersectionality is a religion and not just a theory. Except that that insults religion. It’s really a false religion.

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