William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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ACADEMIC SICKNESS:  There's pushback against wokeness on college campuses, but we are not yet winning.  From City Journal: 

Nature Human Behavior, one of the most prestigious journals for social science research, recently published an editorial titled “Science must respect the dignity and rights of all humans.” Though short, the article generated tremendous pushback among academics and intellectuals concerned about the spread of social-justice ideology into science. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker said the journal was “no longer a peer-reviewed scientific journal but an enforcer of a political creed,” while Greg Lukianoff, the CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, described the journal’s statement as “an epistemic catastrophe.” What did the editorial say?

In short, it took the position that scientific truth should defer to politics. The journal now considers it appropriate to suppress research that “undermines—or could reasonably be perceived to undermine—the rights and dignities” of people or groups, as well as “text or images that disparage a person or group on the basis of socially constructed human groupings.” Researchers are urged to “consider the potential implications of research on human groups defined on the basis of social characteristics” and “to contextualise their findings to minimize as much as possible potential misuse or risks of harm to the studied groups in the public sphere.” Anything that could be perceived as disparaging is now fair game for rejection or retraction.

The implications on scientific inquiry and truth-seeking are clear. As the journalist Jesse Singal observed, an empirically flawless study could be retracted under the guise of social justice. “What’s most alarming is that unless I’m missing something, research that is perfectly valid and well-executed could run afoul of these guidelines,” he wrote.

But such behavior already occurs. Sometimes, studies that offend social-justice orthodoxy are assigned a “flaw” of some kind—usually one that would be treated as minor had the results been different—and rejected on that pretextual basis. The psychologist Lee Jussim has coined the term rigorus mortus selectivus to describe the widespread practice among social scientists to denounce research one dislikes using criteria that are ostensibly scientific but never applied to politically congenial research. Other times, studies that manage to penetrate the literature (despite the best attempts of ideological gatekeepers) are seized upon by observers who scrutinize every aspect of the research using unreasonable criteria. Because no study is perfect, it is always possible to find some limitation to justify a cancellation campaign.

Consider two recent examples. One study suggested that junior female scientists benefit from collaborating with male—as compared with female—mentors. The publication of this article in Nature Communications—another journal in the prestigious Nature franchise—resulted in a social-media firestorm and prompted angry demands for retraction.

Under growing pressure, the authors caved and “agreed” to retract the article on methodological grounds. As the psychologist Chris Ferguson noted, the issues discussed in the retraction note were limitations “typically handled in a comment and response format, where critics of the article publish their critiques and the authors can respond.” The authors of the mentoring study had published an earlier study in the same journal showing evidence that “ethnic diversity resulted in an impact gain” for scientific articles. This un-retracted study had used a similar methodological approach as the retracted one, but nobody objected...

COMMENT: Read the rest.  It is well worth it. How sad that our once-great scientific establishment is being eroded by the political left.  And yet, if you object, you're called either racist or anti-science.  Our opponents use words more effectively than we do.  And truth, to many of them, is not a requirement.

September 10, 2022