The Coming Clash Between Woke Ideology and Big Science

By Brandon Aldinger Published on February 16, 2024

Unlike psychology, biology, or medicine, the field of chemistry in which I work once seemed relatively unscathed by the “woke” revolution. Aside from perennial calls for more diversity and one-sided views on climate change, the professional organizations that I belong to have merely dabbled in the politically correct.

Until now, that is.

In October, the American Chemical Society released its “Inclusivity Style Guide” for scientific publications. This extremely long document instructs chemists to examine their results for “what factors contribute to inequities,” “how to describe antifat oppression,” and that “someone’s gender does not dictate what their body looks like.” This so-called style guide is easily the single greatest repository of woke nonsense I have ever encountered — a digital one-stop shop of the most extreme, politically-correct, leftist thinking available today. Very little of it is applicable to chemistry, and even less could be classified as science.

The woke takeover of Big Science — that behemoth of research dollars, Ph.D.s, and lab coats — has finally reached the hard sciences. The world of Big Science ended not with a Big Bang but a whimper.

How Objective Science has Crumbled

This wasn’t the result of any decisive philosophical battles. The scientific establishment is comprised of individuals who are largely employed by academia, corporations, or government. As woke ideology marched unopposed through the institutions, Big Science was pulled along rather like driftwood caught in the undertow.

Science’s air of detached, apolitical objectivity began to erode in the 2000s. This erosion greatly accelerated during the COVID era through the blatant partisanship seen in many academic institutions. Since 2020, most centers of science have planted their flags firmly on the leftist side of current controversies, including gender, race, and abortion.

The Worldview Assumptions of Science

But this takeover has been an uneasy victory for wokeness. Science, as a discipline, rests on certain worldview assumptions. Three of the most important are:

  1. Science requires objective reality to exist. In other words, the external universe must exist independent of any observers.
  2. Logic, mathematics, and language convey real knowledge. Words have specific meanings and ideas can be communicated accurately to others.
  3. Human senses and logic are generally reliable. Using our five senses and our minds we can study the world around us and use reason to discover truths about reality.

These tenets are more comfortable in a Christian worldview than in our modern woke culture. Many historians have argued that the scientific revolution launched in the West primarily due to the Christian worldview after being stillborn in other advanced civilizations (see The Genesis of Science by James Hannam). These principles are also held by many atheists with a materialistic worldview, especially those in the sciences and engineering.

The Conflicting Worldview Assumptions of Woke Ideology

Woke ideology stands each of these principles on their head: Feelings reign supreme, not objective reality. Words and language mean different things for different readers, based on background and “lived experience.” It’s the reader, not the writer, who decides what the text means. Human rationality is questionable at best, marred by the biases and “privilege” of the identity group a person belongs to.

In its purest form, wokeness is the nemesis of the classical scientific enterprise. It imposes a militant relativism where truth is determined by the prevailing political ideology rather than objective reality. For the woke adherent, humans decide what the truth should be — God and the Universe do not get a vote. The pressure now being placed on scientists to conform is eerily like that which took place in the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, where scientific methods and discoveries had to align with official party doctrine.

Who Will Put Their Careers on the Line to Resist?

Some secular scientists are willing to speak up and say how wokeness eats away at the foundation of science itself. Peter Boghossian and Jordan Peterson are two prominent skeptics who left their university positions, citing harassment after criticizing the leftist takeover of academia. Both men have remade their careers as popular anti-woke crusaders and have sizable internet followings. Richard Dawkins himself, the big cheese of the New Atheists, fell afoul of the woke establishment in 2021 when he compared trans individuals to Rachel Dolezal, a white woman professing a black identity. The American Humanist Association retaliated by stripping the award it had given him in 1996, a full 25 years later.

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I believe that these scientists are merely the vanguard of a movement that will refuse to allow science to be smothered in its sleep by woke ideology. Currently, woke ideology mainly affects corporate or departmental politics, but as it is increasingly enforced in all areas of research, more resentment will grow. It may only be a remnant, however, at least for the short term. It seems unlikely that enough scientists will put their funding and careers on the line to overturn the reigning dogma. Look for the strongest resistance among emeritus or tenured faculty who have the least to lose by taking a stand. Perhaps the remnant will someday seed a return to scientific sanity.

Christianity’s Preservative Influence Against Woke Takeover

And perhaps God will use this existential crisis for Big Science to draw men and women to Him. Some positive signs are already visible, as documented by Justin Brierley in his new book The Surprising Rebirth of Belief in God. The New Atheist movement has largely petered out. Secular thinkers are increasingly realizing that Christianity’s preservative influence may be the only thing capable of staving off this woke cultural moment, and keeping it from becoming a woke totalitarian nightmare.

 

Brandon Aldinger is a PhD chemist who works in an industrial research laboratory. He had a lifelong interest in science/faith issues prior to discovering the rich world of classical apologetics in graduate school, and he is passionate about training fellow Christians to think clearly about their faith and equipping them to stand firm within a hostile culture.

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