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The Peril of Politicizing Science [pdf] (usc.edu)
186 points by vikrum 26 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 141 comments

The people who are currently successfully utilizing science to legitimize knowledge are doing so off of the moral, social, and cultural capital accrued by previous generations of scientists.

The assumption that the general public will always perceive science with a reverent and trusting eye is wrong: once the capital runs out, science will be perceived as just another tentacle of the establishment. Politicizing scientific language is a surefire way of accelerating this process.

This is what has already happened with the MSM, of course.

> are currently successfully utilizing science to legitimize knowledge

I don't understand the problem here. Isn't science - as in Poppers falsifiability - the only way to legitimize knowledge?

I expect GP to have thought along the lines of "established journals, academic titles, and prestigious universities", aka "the institutions of organized academia". And other signals that one belongs to these groups, like the aforementioned "scientific language".

Which is what most people use as the actual heuristics of competence, including journalists and politicians. GP seems to believe that this heuristic will cease to be accepted if things continue, just like "being a religious authority" ceased to be an accepted heuristic for moral authority in many communities.

I agree that this is a problem, since going back to the substrate of hypothesis and experiment is just not very efficient. We need institutions like those.

I am just an interested layman, but I have found Historians as prime examples of academics who get this balance right. This, to me, seems to be because they have to squarely level with their own biases and preconceived ideas of what they are studying from the outset.

Once that is addressed upfront (whether it is personal preference, or cultural bias/context), the authors are able to both express themselves more freely as well as be more critical of their own perspective.

I think other social sciences researchers are more OK with this idea, and unfortunately STEM researchers seem to go out of their way to assume they have no perspectives or biases, as the assumption is that 'pure research' is unable to be tainted by such things.

To expose my own personal bias, I find this article to be very heavy handed and reactionary.

I think it's probably relevant that Historians don't actually claim to be "science" at all... I'm not being sarcastic, I think that's probably helpful for remembering your fallibility.

In my experience historians are quite interested in politics and many end up going into politics. Studying history is almost like a macro study in politics.

It seems like this has been with us since there has been science, certainly Galileo paid a certain price and many others paid a price for Lysenkoism. It's certainly sad what can be done "in the name of science" and in denial of science (or service of psuedoscience).

I agree with the author's discussion of the complexity of individuals, their beliefs, and their contributions. The desire to simplify a narrative about a person's value or intent common and even effective, but still dangerous. That can be a simplification mores over different times or cultures. One of the best cures I've seen is travel (outside your cultural sphere), but that's not likely to be universally available any time soon.

What I don't really see is that scientists themselves share a greatly disproportionate responsibility or blame for the current situation, which seems historically fraught. Media (social and otherwise), "news", and advertising on the other hand...

The peril of noting the peril of politicizing science is that that itself will be politicized.

There's going to be some number on either side of the issue that genuinely don't believe they're politicizing the issue, they're just right.

If I were to say the sun rises in the east, that would be just objectively correct. If the Penguin Party were to say that it instead rises in the west and not accepting their belief is politicizing the issue, then what are my options here?

Sure there are probably those in the Penguin Party who know the sun doesn't actually rise in the west. But toe the party line, because it antagonizes the other party. And they know that there are those out there who actually believe it. And now they join the Penguin Party because here's a major group that is validating their existence.

But there are both Democrats and Republicans who believe the other party is the Penguin Party. They believe they are right. And they believe the other party is led by people who are telling people lies just to garner support.

Which leads all of us, down here, back to where we started.

And as long as there's support to be had for pushing a fantasy, there's going to be some unscrupulous people who are going to do it. I don't think it can be avoided.

> In modern terms, Hughes was canceled […] Indeed, new words are canceled every day […]

The author seems to be unaware that the word “canceled” [sic], and especially “cancel culture” are themselves only used by one of the two sides in modern U.S. politics. This will cause the article to go unread by the other side.

Indeed, the other side seems to have no corresponding acceptable word for the concept. The closest I have seen is “consequences of a person’s own actions”, but what I have mostly seen is the existence of the concept being denied outright. Thus, the allusion by the author to Newspeak – which tries to eliminate words for concepts it wants to remove – is rather apt.

What? People on the left use “cancelled” all of the time. It’s just “cancel culture” that many don’t think exists.

> People on the left use “cancelled” all of the time.

I believe you, but I have not seen it. On the contrary, I have seen people berated for using the word.

The biggest problem from my PoV is that people seem like they are always absolutely sure that the contemporary understanding of morals is actually correct, unlike the primitive beliefs of the past, and that there's nothing left to challenge. Convincing people that this is what people always believe and yet it has never been true seems impossible. It seems difficult for people to imagine that there's more left to discuss.

What I'd rather do is try to convince people that it's wrong to apply this kind of ideological control regardless of whether or not you think it's correct. But that's hard, because if it was correct, and people do earnestly believe it is, then what do they have to lose?

I also think that dishonest portrayals of even recent history are a huge problem for understanding that a lot of the moral conundrums we have today are not new. It's mostly the sensationalism and moral panics that are always changing.

Professionals have long leaned pretty liberal, but they had at least putatively neutral principles and honestly tried to put those ahead of personal politics. That seems to be eroding now as millennials have decided that the professions should be vehicles for social justice, and of course it ends up being their left-leaning vision of how to achieve that. In the process, it’s destroying the credibility of our institutions.

The behavior of the medical community during the pandemic has been outrageous. My dad has done public health for 30 years in the developing world. You don’t get vaccine-skeptical people in rural Bangladesh to get vaccinated by telling them they’re idiots and making threats. Yet that’s been the main game plan with less educated rural people here in the US: berate the white ones for not being vaccinated, and then ignore the lack of vaccination among the non-white ones. That’s a profound failure to understand the profession’s role relative to the rest of society.

> The behavior of the medical community during the pandemic has been outrageous

Yes sure. This is the community, the medical community, that has been absolutely outrageous in its behavior over the past year and a half and must attract our ire in these discussions. We have a really awful medical community (as confirmed by your father) - How do we appropriately censure this absolutely outrageous behavior. I am at loss for words!

Intersectional thinking is killing people!

>Yet that’s been the main game plan with less educated rural people here in the US: berate the white ones for not being vaccinated

Do people who do this genuinely believe they are helping to encourage people to vaccinate? My impression is that they just want to feel smug.

I think intersectional thinking clouds their understanding of the power relationship. Ordinarily, a public health person recognize non-college rural people as a disadvantaged group, and understand that these people may have less trust, be working with poor information, etc. Getting those people to use available health services is Public Health 101.

But in an intersectional analysis, “non-college rural whites” is near the top of the “oppressor” hierarchy. I think that causes people to perceive their attacks as “punching up” against more powerful people who are being willfully malicious.

> I think that causes people to perceive their attacks as “punching up” against more powerful people who are being willfully malicious.

You still haven't said who these public health people are, publicly berating the white, less educated rural people for not being vaccinated.

Right now it sounds a lot more like you're summing up someone's twitter trending section, not public health officials, so I'll throw up the old [Citation needed].

I agree that shaming people is probably unlikely to work, but I’m not really sure that anything will work in the short term here. We’re dealing with a crisis of social trust. What do you think the CDC and the federal government should be doing that they aren’t, that would be more effective at getting ideologically vaccine-resistant people in outlasted in this case?

And I feel the need to mention, intersectionality does not itself create an “oppressor hierarchy.” Intersectionality is just a way of describing how people can be vulnerable to to subjugation in some ways while having the power to subjugate other people in other ways. This is a good thing, specifically for reasons you identify! Just because you’re white in America and are less likely to be killed at a traffic stop than a black person, does not mean that you have enough money to live comfortably or have adequate access to healthcare, or are abled or have no criminal record and so on. You are arguably making an intersectional argument when you talk about the specific needs of low-information white people in rural areas.

I think it's sort of a type of double standard where you say that "your side" is only acting out of fear/confusion/emotion/ignorance/etc but the "other side" has a long, complicated game plan that is surely going to fail, and everything they do is committed towards their bad plan, so you feel the need to "call them out" on it. You can't really "call someone out" in the same way if they are just confused or upset, rather than evil.

> You don’t get vaccine-skeptical people in rural Bangladesh to get vaccinated by telling them they’re idiots and making threats. Yet that’s been the main game plan with less educated rural people here in the US: berate the white ones for not being vaccinated ....

It could be that lower educational level is merely coincidental, and that the relevant characteristic is, instead, an insecure-but-obstinate egoism whose Prime Directive is, "You're not the boss of me!" If that's true, then:

1. scorn, mockery, and threats seem just about as likely to convert obstinate anti-vaxxers — EDIT: that is to say, not likely at all — as any other approach, because by this point in a pandemic, there's little hope that anything will convince stubborn contrarians that they should get vaccinated, not even the deathbed pleas of their fellow contrarians who realize too late that they fatally screwed the pooch; but

2. for the vaccinated, public mockery of anti-vaxxers could help to reinforce their sense of community with other vaccinated folks — and, more generally, with community-minded folks, as opposed to selfish individualists — by evoking primitive us-versus-them feelings, with "them" being the insecure-but-obstinate egoists. That could be socially useful, in a backhanded sort of way.

EDIT: We've seen this kind of behavior before in die-hard (so to speak) smokers; cf. the anti-smoking public service announcements by former smokers such as Leonard Nimoy, who died of COPD after smoking for years. [0]

I agree that #2 is what’s actually happening. Instead of trying to reach less educated rural people, medical professionals are reinforcing blue tribe solidarity by attacking them. A lot of blue tribe behavior these days is based on that—antagonism toward less educated whites is a key force keeping the coalition together—but now it’s killing people.

If (by hypothesis) the insecure-obstinate anti-vaxxers can't be convinced no matter what, then it's not the blue-tribe attacks on them that are killing people, it's the anti-vaxxers' pig-headedness.

And if blue-tribe attacks on anti-vaxxers help to increase blue-tribe and independents' vaccination rates, then net-net the attacks are a good thing from an overall-vax-rate perspective, because (again, by hypothesis) the blue-tribe attacks won't decrease the anti-vaxxers' vaccination rates, which are already at or near zero, and nothing will increase those rates.

EDIT: There's also a question of patience (an exhaustible resource) and cost-effectiveness: when dealing with a toddler screaming for candy in the grocery store, at some point you stop trying to reason with them and just physically remove them from the store. Likewise with anti-vaxxers: At some point the rest of us are going to lose patience and stop being willing to incur costs in terms of dollars, unavailability of ICU beds for other patients, and needless deaths and long-haul illnesses. Personally, I'd be OK with putting voluntary anti-vaxxers under house arrest, akin to being locked up for contempt of court: The key to your cell is in your own hands.

EDIT 2: You persist in labeling the blue-tribe attacks as being on less-educated and rural people. From where I sit, the attacks are on pig-headed voluntary anti-vaxxers — some of whom are well-educated city-dwellers such as the commenters on Fox News (some of them doubtless being vaccinated themselves).


> Scorn, mockery, and threats is NOT going to convince stubborn and contrarian people to get vaccines.

Please re-read that part of my comment: you and I are in agreement.


> Professionals have long leaned pretty liberal

I'm sorry, but I think today's partisan politics are clouding your memory. There's been multiple points in history where poltically left leaning professionals were systematically kicked out of their jobs and blacklisted from their careers.

> berate the white ones for not being vaccinated, and then ignore the lack of vaccination among the non-white ones.

People around me are being given like $100 and a pat on the back when they get vaccinated around here. Antivaxxers are idiots, but people getting vaccinated are having the gold carpet rolled out to them.

Also it doesn't look good to repeat a racist fox news soundbite that's already been debunked about how the blacks are invading our cities and spreading covid [1].

[1] https://abc7chicago.com/dan-patrick-texas-lt-governor-blames...

> Also it doesn't look good to repeat a racist fox news soundbite that's already been debunked about how the blacks are invading our cities and spreading covid [1].

This is a strawman argument. The OP proposed that on average whites are more vaccinated than blacks, which your citation supports. So vaccine marketing should target the biggest vaccine skeptics, otherwise the racially inequal outcomes will only grow.

A) White people, like black people are not homogenous, so certain white groups could benefit from being targeted

B) There are more white people in America than black people. So, while in relative terms there may be less vaccinated black than white people, in absolute terms, there are more unvaccinated white than black people.

The vaccines don't care about the proportion of various demographic groups. The community benefits from there being more vaccinated people overall.

> The vaccines don't care about the proportion of various demographic groups. The community benefits from there being more vaccinated people overall.

Careful, you might pull something with those mental gymnastics.

You’re right that more vaccinated people is what matters so everyone should do their part. That means per capita should be the same across all demographics. Any group that has a lower per capita is dragging covid progress, regardless of how large or small the group is.

You ignore my previous point about the fact large segments of the white population also being vaccine hesitant. The problem is more obvious with black people because the demographic information collected during vaccinations doesn't generally include things like voting intentions, strength of religious faith, profession, understanding of who won the last election, or opinion on what caused the twin towers to collapse.

However, if you look at the cross tabs of opinion polling, supporters of a particular party are much more hesitant to get the vaccine.

> There's been multiple points in history where poltically left leaning professionals were systematically kicked out of their jobs and blacklisted from their careers.

Well, communists right? Literal sympathizers with the US' greatest geopolitical foe?

> Also it doesn't look good to repeat a racist fox news [blah blah blah fox news..]

Wait are the vaccination rates between whites and blacks actually substantially equal? And your link is just playing the trick of swapping out percentages for absolute numbers to make a tendentious argument.

See Figure 3: https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/latest-...

Vaccination rates for whites is 10-15 points higher than for Black people in blue states, but about the same in the poorest and most rural states.

That’s my point—what you’re looking at is low vaccination rates among disadvantaged groups. Public health officials have just forgotten that non-college rural whites are one of those groups.


Tired old meme

> That seems to be eroding now as millennials have decided...

...you're really going to lead with this?

> The behavior of the medical community during the pandemic has been outrageous. My dad has done public health for 30 years in the developing world. You don’t get vaccine-skeptical people in rural Bangladesh to get vaccinated by telling them they’re idiots and making threats. Yet that’s been the main game plan with less educated rural people here in the US

What part of the medical community, specifically, are you talking about here? What concerted pattern, explicitly planned or not, are you referring to here?

It honestly seems more like you're giving a take on popular discourse, with more than a little generalizing.

What I do see is many many medical professionals trying to counsel their patients and communities, finding out Fox News and Facebook have gotten there first, and still trying to do their jobs, sometimes in the face of a lot of abuse.

> berate the white ones for not being vaccinated, and then ignore the lack of vaccination among the non-white ones

Well, first, we know about racial disparities in vaccination rates because it's been measured and reported on as concerning well before people turned it into a talking point.

But I hope this isn't a reference to the Texas Lt Governor's comment, because not only is he stupidly wrong and his comment is a huge distraction for public health efforts and discourse, but he's the one who trotted out relative vaccination rates in different groups out of the blue in an interview that was about (wait for it) public health policy. Can't blame the medical community for that one.

And he's not remotely a millennial.

The most astounding thing is that the people who are so confident that their current understanding of morals is absolutely correct and there is no possible reason to debate it or challenge it were, not very long ago at all, just as confident and vehement about things that they now consider morally abominable. This is very obvious in rapidly-changing areas like trans rights, where you can see people insist that only evil bigots would be uncomfortable with trans activists beating up elderly lesbians just for holding views that, only a handful of years earlier, the same people insisted it was bigoted to even criticise in any way.

But are you right or wrong? Any evidence of such a person existing? Groups and political labels change their membership over time so you can't use those as a proxy for people.

The science and societies of the past were always flawed, and mistaken, they just didn't know better. The science and societies of the present never are wrong or flawed in their thinking.

Always was true always will be.

I think it's cause: 1. Arrogance 2. Dead people take blame very well, and can't really argue back.

Yes and 3. There's an element of group belonging in a collective righteousness. And that's definitely not unique to the present.

> The science and societies of the past were always flawed, and mistaken, they just didn't know better. The science and societies of the present never are wrong or flawed in their thinking.

That's also the reasoning the communists and the National Socialists used in their reasoning; turns out they were faced with the same problems their predecessors had to deal with but they didn't really have better solutions. In the end the people paid because it was more important to save face than to admit being wrong.

Or maybe it’s always true, at least on average over long time spans.

I’ve always thought that if your children think they are wiser than you it means you have been an excellent parent. If they look back with awe at your superior wisdom, it means things got worse and you perhaps failed to leave a legacy.

The logical conclusion of this train of thought is ... not to make policy based on science. Just make the science available, and let people do what they like.

If the plan is to create policies based on "the science", then people will lie about what the science is in order to get their policies into play.

It is hard to convince people with that opener, but the evidence is that it works quite well. One of the interesting tricks about Western democracies is that it channels the fleeting madness of crowds in the most productive direction without trying too hard to suppress it.

> If the plan is to create policies based on "the science", then people will lie about what the science is in order to get their policies into play.

Or, in my opinion, more frequently - sincerely adhere to, but not actually understand the science and still push those policies anyway.

I've been more concerned with people who claim that some viewpoint is based on "science" while they actually don't even have a surface level understanding of it and whether it's been twisted to support a particular viewpoint. For the sufficiently hardheaded and ignorant, "science" is another form of religion and one-word conversation stopper.

More of a comment, no suggested solution.

Except what are policies supposed to be based on? Replacing "science" with "data" is effectively the same thing. So policies are supposed to be pushed without evoking evidence of their effectiveness? Referencing where such policies have worked elsewhere is referencing experiments

Policies are supposed to be (and inevitably are) designed based on a balance between empirical analysis of their likely effects and a more holistic analysis of what people want. The holistic factors determine what kinds of empirical evidence are relevant and how much of it is required. If someone tells you they've designed a policy based purely on "science" or "data", they've baked in some implicit value judgments, and you've gotta understand what they are to properly evaluate the policy.

I think part of it is that different conditions that different societies exist in affect what's morally right and wrong. For example, in a secure stable country, the need to fight wars may seem unimportant and you might even think war is morally wrong. But in a country that's constantly under threat of being destroyed by enemies, war is essential to survival, and a conscientious objector would reasonably be seen as morally wrong.

That's an important part, yes. Morals are ideas, and as such evolve in an environment that makes them thrive, with the ones more adapted to the situation gaining more weight. If only because a population led by maladjusted ideas will disappear.

Ideally, scientific facts thrive by surviving to experiments that fail to disprove them, but this does not exclude them entirely from that dynamic of social evolution. What experiments are performed is decided on the basis of what is desirable to investigate, according to the beliefs of the type of research that is deemed appropriate.

> "The biggest problem from my PoV is that people seem like they are always absolutely sure that the contemporary understanding of morals is actually correct, unlike the primitive beliefs of the past, and that there's nothing left to challenge."

If they claim to be on the left, point out to them that that type of worldview is actually a form of conservatism. Quoting from Wikipedia, "Traditionalist conservatism places a strong emphasis on the notions of custom, convention, and tradition." and note that "customs [and] convention" is the same as the "social norms" argument trotted out by the modern left to defend their activities.

If what you are trying to say is that what's new and modern today will someday, probably sooner then later, be old and "normed" tomorrow, then yes...absolutely this will be the case.

This understanding is the basis of the Right's "slippery slope" argument...that in normalizing behaviors today that yesterday were considered "wrong", they tomorrow can we expect ever more and more outrageous behaviors to follow this same template?

The answer is, of course, yes.

I don't get it, what is that supposed to do?

"Owning the libs", in a way that won't actually change their minds, but will make the speaker feel smarter and righter.

In other words, nothing useful.

It is my belief that many, if not most, people believe themselves to having never changed their opinion, even though they have done so many times. To admit to yourself that you once were wrong is to admit that you were imperfect; it is easier to believe that you have always thought what you currently believe.

And, consequently, if you have never changed opinions, your current understanding of things must therefore be correct and unchanging, and policy can be written and implemented with this assumption.

In a way, it is the antithesis of science.

Sorry, what does "Traditionalist conservatism places a strong emphasis on the notions of custom, convention, and tradition." have to do with the left?

What do you do if they claim to be on the right? Or if they claim that they're not political at all, they're just stating facts? (Genuinely asking!)

For the right, conservatism is their schtick so there's no criticism to be made. One can (and should) disagree with their beliefs but the contents of the box is exactly what the label says it is, so to speak.

It's the new left who claim to be on the side of liberals but whose continue to espouse illiberal beliefs that need to be called out as to what they are.

> and that there's nothing left to challenge.

Also, I would add that history is not linear, it’s not the progressive challenging of old prejudices.

Sometimes, in our efforts to strive for better morals, we make terrible mistakes. Phrenology come to mind, but there could be many other examples.

Both past societies and current ones contain contradictory points of view. There was always conflict between people of opposing opinions. They were always people who broke contemporary moral codes, either for money, power or profit or idealism.

There were always sociopaths or people who were cruel for fun.

As in, here you are attacking strawman.

I wondered about that. ... science is political, always was and always will be. As we humans are biased and driven by politics and beliefs so is the science we do. In most debates I see here on hacker news both sides believe the science is in their camp (masks, nuclear power etc.) We should acknowledge that. Science is a process and never right. .. all models are wrong, yet some are useful.


People are political.

Science is a method of confirming/ dis-confirming / finding truth.

You are conflating the problematic statements of people who believe truth is on their side (using scientific finding to confirm their biases) and the process itself. I suspect you are correct except in your overloading of the word “science”

Truth is a tricky word.

Science is not about finding the truth. Science can help you find evidence for a hypothesis you formulated. Yet, you still formulated the hypothesis.

The scientific methods help you to be more evidence based. Yet,they don't take away any bias that came in over the research question or hypothesis you formulated.

You are making an argument about a single scientist and a single experiment.

I am making an argument about the aggregation of knowledge created by all scientific experiments since at least The Enlightenment.

Admittedly truth is difficult to pin down, but science has been the best engine for helping humankind overcome myths and superstitions and give tools for people to use evidence to come to a common understanding of a common objective truth.

My point is more that "being human" limits any type of knowledge acquisition, as we are tribal/political beings.

Check the nature podcasts I linked to, they go into quite some detail and give good examples.

I don't think, we as humans can understand an objective truth. A concept of knowledge makes only sense if we as species can comprehend it. This means knowledge and intelligence need to be embodied. Yet, if they are, they must be limited by the embodiment.

Foucault makes some interesting arguments around that.

The models themselves aren't political. They're not right, left, green, fascist or anything. They're just explanations and successful predictions of some part of nature. Politics comes into play with funding and what to do with technology. But that isn't the science itself.

The models aren't political. That is true. But the models do not exist without humans generating them and interpreting them.

The idea that science is somehow apolitical is dangerous. It's no more true than the idea that journalism is apolitical.

You can try to take more of a metaperspective with both, but to assume politics doesn't enter into the endeavors is dishonest. In many ways the position that science is apolitical is itself political.

> The idea that science is somehow apolitical is dangerous. It's no more true than the idea that journalism is apolitical.

The alternative is propaganda, which we already see enough of with journalism, and has happened in science when the government dictates the science. Science and the news should be held to an objective standard independent of any political considerations, even though humans are fallible and have biases, including political views.

> In many ways the position that science is apolitical is itself political.

This is like saying that atheism is religious. If you say everything is X, and I tell you that Ys are not Xs, then your rebuttal that my statement is X is abusing language and conflating X with Y. I could turn around, "everything is political", to be, "everything is scientific", and then claim that your statements to the contrary are scientific. But that would be collapsing meaningful distinctions, and potentially violating the law of identity, since it doesn't make sense for all political things to be scientific.

> The models themselves aren't political.

It depends on what you are modelling. If you're modelling human populations and behavior, they may become loaded with extreme political assumptions embedded in the model; and not all of those will be wiped out by the scientific method.

> "In modern terms, Hughes was canceled. For a few months, the city was called Trotsk (after Leon Trotsky), until Trotsky lost in the power struggle inside the party and was himself canceled (see Figure 1)."


Yeah, I had a laugh there as well. The author's equivocation between cancel culture and Stalinist censorship does seem like a bit of a stretch. I think a better analogy would be the explicit promotion of 'patriotic education' as a matter of official state policy [1].

[1] https://www.newsweek.com/what-1836-project-texas-promote-pat...

There's also plenty of examples of political ideas being dressed up as morally neutral science, the classic example being eugenics.

Hoo boy. Here we go.

Eugenics is technically sound science. Selective breeding for traits is something we do with plants and animals. It works. You want pug nosed humans that yield 20% more crops, you can breed for that . There is nothing about selective breeding that technically wouldn't work for humans.

Now. Despite all of that, we should not do it. It is a moral wrong. It would require us to violate the autonomy of people. Don't want short people, you can't let short people reproduce. And so on. That's what makes it icky.

That's why we don't do it. And why we shouldn't. Not because it wouldn't work, it would. But because it would require us to violate another's autonomy.

"all of the things that are evil also don't work" is very a convenient belief. It's also wrong.

Eugenics isn't just selective breeding, it's the extension of genetics to traits such as "intelligence" or "criminality." These sorts of things are broadly non-hereditary.

That is exactly what the parent meant: Intelligence has in fact been shown to be hereditary to about 2/3rds. This is difficult to integrate into a humanistic world-view, so the easy way out is to outright deny that fact.

Who exactly are the totalitarian rulers sending people to the gulag or executing them for continuing to say "strawman argument"?

What an incredibly strained analogy this all is.

The author is pointing out parallels between the way our society is trending in terms of ideological control, and similar things that happened in the USSR. Your argument amounts to "the US government hasn't rounded up political/ideological dissidents and murdered them yet so this article is flawed" which seems a bit dismissive. Two triangles can be similar even if one is an order of magnitude bigger than the other.

In USSR, there was massive Civil War with around 6 different parties struggling to gain power via violence. The victor turned out to be violent. Nothing similar is going on in west now, you could compare Islamic regions.

And incidentally, both Russia and those regions were destabilized by wars prior that.

Using someone's preferred pronouns is not "ideological control".

Using them it’s not, forcing people to use them it is.

It’s the argument Jordan Peterson was making, and probably one of his most misunderstood points.

He’s fine with people asking to be called in a certain way, and he would most likely oblige. He’s not fine with a state law dictating how pronouns should be used.

I think it makes sense.

That's supposed to be a generous position? I demand the right to harass you, and in return I promise that I most likely will choose not to?

Imagine a law stating that if your neighbor came to your door and asked for a cup of sugar because they ran out, you had to give it to them. Now, this might be common decency, and the sort of thing that you'd always do for those around you. That doesn't mean you'd be happy with such a law.

Which law are you talking about? C-16 is nothing like this.

>I demand the right to harass you

You have to be pretty creative with redefinitions to equate "someone not using the preferred pronouns of someone" with harassment.

Also, it's the people who has preferred pronouns who are demanding these preferences be codified into law, Peterson isn't demanding anything, just refusing the demands of those who are suspiciously interested in controlling how others use language.


Peterson seems to be full of shit. Can he produce an example of a Canadian who was actually prosecuted for not using the right pronoun? That’s not what the law says.

It does make it a crime to “advocate genocide.” It would take a pretty creative judge to interpret not using a pronoun as advocating genocide. Patent lawyers don’t usually prosecute criminal cases so you are probably safe.

(I do have issues personally with criminalizing any form of speech beyond the absolute most extreme cases. I’m just commenting on what this law actually says.)

Peterson is one of those crackpots who sounds reasonable for a while, then you realize he’s nuts. Go look up his hilarious “lobsters” nonsense.

If you like the stuff about myth and meaning, go read Jung. That’s where Peterson got most of the interesting things he says. Jung is a much better writer too.

What is interesting about Peterson is not original, and what is original is not interesting.

>so you are probably safe.

I don't actually live in Canada, and would probably comply with a person's request to call them "Supreme Emperor" if they asked nicely. So I didn't feel very threatened to begin with.

>who was actually prosecuted for not using the right pronoun? That’s not what the law says.

The article you linked has this section, Cossman is a legal professional.

> According to Cossman, accidental misuse of a pronoun would be unlikely to constitute discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, but "repeatedly, consistently refus[ing] to use a person’s chosen pronoun" might.

Now here's the part that rubs people the wrong way: refusing to use the correct pronouns is a prejudice against an ideology, not a person. The person misgendering is not in any way or form advocating for violence or discrimination, just refusing the right of the misgendered to determine their own gender. Unless you somehow include "The right to determine one's gender" among fundamental human rights, misgendering, no matter how consistent or deliberate, isn't an attack on anybody.

Imagine you live with a very vocal minority of otherwise-nice Muslims who are very offended that each time you mention prophet Muhammed you do not follow it with the obligatory "Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH)", do you agree that it's hate speech to repeatedly mention Muhammed without PBUH? It's probably divisive and immature, but it lacks the key component of hate speech: actual hate, of the type "against people". There is no violence in refusing to use language like Muslims do, just the implication that you're not a huge fan of what they believe and do[1].

>Peterson seems to be full of shit.

Not a fan of Peterson and never read a book by him or watched his videos, he does seem to venture sometimes. But men derive worth from their ideas not the other way around. If the Taliban said they agree with not forcing people to use language in the way a specific group demands, well I would hate to agree with the Taliban but they're right.

[1]*: And before the inevitable "Islamophobia!!!" accusations, I'm a born-raised-living middle eastern ex-muslim regularly forced to pretend I believe things I don't to avoid harm and ostracization. I wouldn't like violence against Muslims because all of my family and nearly every friend I knew and know is a Muslim, but I sure do appreciate the ability to say to someone their beliefs are stupid without that reflecting badly on me.

That's the position I'm coming from here "Your ideas suck", while an unpleasant thing to say and best avoided, is not hate speech. Refusing to use language in the way someone wants is implicitly a "Your ideas suck" statement.

Even the worst people in the world may have some good contributions. For example this comment, by kovarex (factorio dev), expresses my opinion on it better than I could: https://old.reddit.com/r/factorio/comments/o2ly6f/friday_fac...

Let's not bring quacks into the discussion.

Hacker News is a place for rational, informed and open minded discussion.

I suggest you avoid ad hominem attacks and discuss ideas, independently of who is expressing them.

> Hacker News is a place for rational, informed and open minded discussion.

Yes, which is why quacks like Jordan Peterson shouldn't be bought up here.

…and again you repeat the ad hominem logical fallacy.

> Using someone's preferred pronouns is not "ideological control".

... until it's written into law in some countries / made mandatory in this or that institution's rules ...

It's very cunning, because it forces people to adopt a certain thought framework... against their will, it's not just about being polite. It has subtle ramifications, the people who architect these ideology are fully aware of.

The whole preferred pronoun thing is akin to religion in my book and purely ideologically driven.

10 years ago it was: "why do you use my preferred pronouns? It costs you nothing". Today it is "Use my preferred pronouns or you're a bigot and group X or Z will shun you".

Would it also be a matter of state mandate to use someone’s non legal name, or to not to use someone’s legal (dead) name?

If the latter, is the state mandating that the state must be ignored?

In many, many cases trans folks change their legal name to their preferred name. A hint so your future concern trolling endeavors can be more successful: your biases become evident when you drag them into it by assuming trans people could never "legally" have the name they want, as if your actual concern with referring to trans people by their desired name is to make sure you use the name on their license. Do you card everyone you meet, or do they instead tell you their name and you use that name? Do you expect anyone to read your comment and believe that if a trans person changed their license to have their desired name, you wouldn't find another excuse to deadname them? Once again, I think you'll find your concern trolling is far more effective when you don't make it so obvious.

In answer to your insincere question, no one demands anything as "a matter of state mandate". C-16 does not even once mention pronouns. If I had to guess, I'd say you're probably building the house of this comment on the shaky foundation of a thousand YouTube videos from the same side of YouTube that you've gone out of your way to watch about C-16. The biggest issue you'll have with that is that it means you're going to have a hard time in discussions with people who are actually even somewhat educated on the topics you're trying to jump into.

I actually have no idea what C-16 is (I'm not Canadian and do not follow Canadian domestic politics). I'm just going off what previous commenters said about some pronoun mandate.

I am aware one's legal name can be changed, because here everyone has the right to change their name. Doesn't matter if one is or isn't trans.

My point is that if a preferred (rather than legal, by way of ID) pronoun is desired to be mandated (that's the interpretation I've understood, I could be misunderstanding) by the state, why not also mandate that one cannot deadname someone?

Not saying that it would be a bad thing to mandate non-deadnaming. Just that the conclusion seems odd, from the legal perspective, in that time period between when a deadname becomes dead and when that name is legally replaced.

By the way, I don't deadname people. Deadnaming is a combination of being an asshole and sticking one's nose where it doesn't belong. The state's legal opinion on that doesn't affect my behavior.

The word “yet” is doing tremendous amounts of work in your comment.

The author is essentially saying that being asked to use respectful language makes her university administrator Joseph Stalin. Cherry-picking a few examples, stating "I am not personally offended by these so obviously no one could be", and using that to claim "Social Justice (note the capitals) has gone TOO FAR", does not a good argument make.

It's a bit beyond "similar triangles".

First they ask us to stop saying "master/slave architecture". Next it's FORCED FARM LABOR. It's a non-sequitur.

The next step isn't "forced farm labor," that would indeed be a non-sequitur. A most likely next step is putting someone in jail over a tweet (already happening in the United Kingdom). It takes three or four more steps to get to forced farm labor.

People have been put in jail in the US for the equivalent of a tweet, but it doesn’t prove your point. The freedom of speech does not guarantee an individual freedom from the consequences of that speech. There is established jurisprudence to allow such prosecutions.

And no, being jailed for anything you can name does not mean we are on a path to following the USSR (or any similar trajectory). The problem with allegations of “slippery slope” is that it discounts that the US and UK have legal tools to challenge bad prosecutions and bad legislation. The courts have the ability to check the prosecution and juries have the ability to reject bad prosecutions (used infrequently, but importantly when the US government went after Dan Ellsberg)

> And no, being jailed for anything you can name does not mean we are on a path to following the USSR (or any similar trajectory)

Ex-USSR person here. It absolutely does mean that.

Seriously asking: How can putting someone in jail over a tweet be closer to forced farm labor when the united states already has forced farm labor (see below for link)? How can we simultaneously be approaching something and also already there?


Because the farm labor isn't for a tweet.

> It takes three or four more steps to get to forced farm labor.

Make that "one or two more steps":

> Prisoners to plug worker shortage in meat industry


Strong agree. Similarly, the OP’s jocular use of the word “canceled” when referring to Soviet assassinations during the Stalin years. No, Stalinist political execution is not comparable to losing your job because you have groped women at work.

Some of the Western audience mentioned here that the comparison of Cancel culture with Trotsky's "cancellation" in USSR is a huge stretch.

I'm more familiar with the Soviet cancel culture and can assure you it's exactly the same. The author just did not show more examples, and it seems a different thing.

In reality, not only Trotsky, but many other early Soviet leaders were removed from books -- by removing mentions of them and photo editing. In fact, most of the early Soviet government of 1918 fell victims of that (the reason was that they lost to Stalin in the fight for power).

A famous example was Interior Comissar (Minister) Yezhov, who initiated the greatest political purge of 1937-38. He was himself arrested and executed based on falsified accusations in 1939. Mentions of him were removed (in fact in my schoolbooks in 1990 I did not see his name), him edited out of photographs. Here's a good collection of such photo editing:


But these examples continued into science and other areas.

Scientists, teachers, book authors and actors, who'd fall in disfavor with management, were "cancelled" the same way, except not sentenced to death.

Various sources mentioned they read books from 1930s-50s in libraries, and saw many pages missing or pieces cut out.

In my favourite child cartoon, "Last Years Snow Was Falling", the voice actor Stanislav Sadalksy's name was not mentioned. Why? He got detained being drunk. The studio immediately "cancelled" him. His name was added to the cartoon ending titles in a separate frame years later.

In 2006-07 I read an interview with Yulia Dobrovolskaya, author of a good Italian manual, who mentioned that librarians were ordered to go and either cut out pieces of books, or paint with black ink their names and citations. The reasons were mere conflicts with management of Education Ministry or even with the University management. She fell victim of that in her unversity (can't recall which one, probably Institute of Foreign Relations) and had to teach in another one (fortunately, there was some competition between them). She (IIRC) also mentioned "photopalming": putting palm trees instead of "cancelled" people in interior group photos.

Importantly, this happened not because of ideological herecies, but of mere turf wars.

For some reason I thought just the living conditions in the Soviet Union were bad; I didn't realize 1984 (the book) is literally modeled after Stalinist Russia. I always assumed thought policing was just a theoretical construct of a technological dystopian future, I didn't know the Soviet government actually did it for decades - and to their best and brightest scientists and thinkers! Interesting article, and interesting parallels to our day. Luckily most of the parallels in modern society are reflected in social media mobs and not the government itself (or we would be in very deep trouble), but it's still a bit disturbing how much power said social media mobs seem to wield over corporations and politicians.

There are plenty of contemporary parallels in political parties (who become government).

The distinction with 1984 might be that the media is not entirely controlled by the government of the day, but that is not for want of effort.

I’m curious how the thought policing parallel escaped you. Are you younger or just didn’t really get taught/research what happened? Not intended as a critique- just genuinely curious.

As for today’s problems, why are you so sure the social media mobs aren’t in some instances government controlled? Certainly we have clear evidence of this happening at least partially in the 2016 US election. Lots of investigative journalism has done good work uncovering how the industry around this kind of stuff is financed. In fact, the KGB 100% exploited social divisions in the past for political gains (eg supporting both white nationalists and the black power movements to encourage more political violence and destabilize US politics). Why would you think that a ruthless politician like Putin who came from t be KGB would be so opposed to leveraging those same tools again? In fact, it seems like they’ve learned their lesson about how to engage in such warfare more effectively.

I was pretty surprised to learn those details much less the correlation between 1984 and Stalinist Russia. You're simply not taught that much about this event where and when I went to school.

Fascinating. There’s a lot of very good popular media exploring the various facets.

Killing Stalin East/West Lives of Others (about the Stasi and a bit later than Stalin, but same concept since East Germany was part of the USSR)

I’m sure there’s more but they escape my immediate recall at this time. Most of the focus of these kinds of examinations is typically on Nazi Germany but the tactics have replicated in a lot of places, and some clearly pop up in the USA (usually in the form of propaganda being rebranded as advertising or PR).

It’s a fascinating (and saddening) period of history to learn more about in terms of how propaganda works, how people exert influence and control of others, retain power, etc.

Orwell was initially a socialist sympathizer (went to spain during the spanish civil war), but after the Soviet Union went through major purges in the 30s, and the USSR (bad) treatment of other countries and major ethnic forced relocations inside USSR, he might have had a change of heart later on. He opposed totalitarianism in general, and after the defeat of nazism, he started seeing communism as evil/bad.

He worked for communications in the BBC during WW2, and had first hand experience with the language censoring of the time, especially of communication towards British colonies at the time.

My understanding is that the NKVD’s purges of Republicans in Spain was what first alarmed Orwell. I believe that he had to escape ‘warrants’ out for his assassination on his way out of Spain.

Right. Read "Homage to Catalonia" for Orwell's own story.

>had a change of heart later on.

He certainly did. Toward the end of his life he produced a list of notable people in the UK and US whom he believed to be Stalinist sympathizers, foreign agents, communists, etc, and passed it to a British Foreign Office employee. Charlie Chaplain was on it, among others. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orwell%27s_list


This comment breaks the site guidelines by calling names (lots of them) and adding flamebait (lots of it). Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and stick to the rules when posting here. Note this one: "Comments should get more thoughtful and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive."

Agree or disagree, the OP is substantive and thoughtful and deserves much better than what you posted here. Not only that, but threads are sensitive to initial conditions. Rushing into a new thread with a denunciatory quickie risks destroying the entire thread and is therefore particularly bad.

People working in these areas are why we have things like 5 day work weeks (instead of having to work 6 or 7 days) and human rights. Why do you find them useless?

This article begins with the clearly implied belief that "Science" is not political, and degenerates from this false assumption into a paroxysm of wounded cries over the renaming of buildings and other, may I say, even less weighty matters – comparing them to the gulag and mass murder.

"Science" is not a singular object, nor a single method, nor even a set of ideas; what we must concern ourselves with is Science as it is practiced in our society.

Can one do Science without funding? Certainly! Any child with a simple telescope can observe celestial bodies in motion, reason about observations, make conjectures, and test them against more data. But this is a toy example, and this young scientist's influence may extend to a handful of child peers, and perhaps an interested parent.

The "Science" that concerns us almost always includes published, peer-reviewed research. And thus, it is inherently and obviously political. First, and most obviously: how does one become recognized as a peer whose work is eligible for publication? It necessarily requires many years of study, apprenticeship, and supervised practice. Admission to these ranks requires scholastic and social preparation, and is literally subject to the vote of a committee. That we pretend this process operates entirely on "merit" is but one of the many delusions and useful fictions we tell ourselves when we speak of a "Science" that is somehow "not political."

Second, consider not the training of new scientists, but the actual conduct of research. All research must be "sponsored" by someone, in rare cases, by the wealthy scientist themself – the exception that proves the rule. The sponsoring entity always has a material interest in the science it is funding, whether it is to extend the shelf life of canned goods, to more cheaply deposit thin strips of metal onto a substrate, or to meaningfully improve the accuracy of a weapon system guidance module. It is left as an exercise to the reader to discern the various ways that this process is clearly and nakedly "political."

I feared the worst upon viewing this article's title, yet held to a slender hope that the author might address the real threats of using science to achieve political ends, such as that posed by eugenics, or by nuclear weapons research. Reader, my hope was in vain.

We appear to have here another member of our society's establishment who has become too accustomed to unquestioning deference, yelping like a hit dog because, for instance, a presumptuous collection of students and faculty has dared suggest that perhaps UC Berkeley's $70,000 annual grants from the Genealogical Eugenics Institute Fund might be not only better named but more prudently distributed.*

One wonders if there is a corollary to Godwin's Law that stipulates that the first person to draw a comparison to Stalin has already ceded the argument?

*(this happened in October of 2020, you can look up the fund by name).

> This article begins with the clearly implied belief that "Science" is not political, and degenerates from this false assumption into a paroxysm of wounded cries over the renaming of buildings and other, may I say, even less weighty matters – comparing them to the gulag and mass murder.

Science is not partisan. Saying "Something is political" is not precise enough for different listeners to really understand what you want to convey when you say it. If you meant "political" in any other way then please explain what you meant. Saying "Everything is political" is a perfect example of sophism in my book.

If we mean by politics as “pertaining to the mediation of social/material relations”, then what the commenter said about the politicalness of science is right on point. In fact, this is very compatible with the constructivist view of science (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructivism_(philosophy_of_...)

Maybe, but you can't have it both ways. If science is just another political theory, set up to propagate the social values of the scientific community, then it's perfectly legitimate for someone to reject science if they don't think their values or interests align with those of the average researcher. That is not, I think, a conclusion that you or the original commenter would endorse.

What do you mean by “rejecting science”? First of all there is no singular “scientific community”, there are a multitude of different communities with their own norms and practices. (You’re going to expect big differences between the mathematicians and anthropologists!) And people in academia fight all the time over existing norms in sciences, sometimes fields get split over this, sometimes people really leave, and sometimes there are revolutions that change the norms of how scientists perform experiments and gather/process data. I’m not saying that I’m not endorsing science, I just want to say the practices of “science” is socially mediated and constantly in debate & subject to change. There’s a whole history of science (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_science) to delve into if you’re curious about this.

For example, there's a lot of frustration over people who make politically-motivated judgments that climate change is bunk. Under the normal model of science, it's easy to explain why this frustration is legitimate: climate scientists aren't working on some kind of higher plane, but they're smart people trying their hardest to find the truth, and if you're going to discard the entire field you need a better reason than "I just don't buy it".

If science is just another sociopolitical theory, it's hard to explain why people shouldn't do this, because it's entirely legitimate in that space. There's lots of smart, honest experts working on political theories whose fundamental premises I don't agree with, and I feel entitled to ignore their conclusions without necessarily pointing to flaws in specific arguments. If someone showed me a bunch of Islamic scholars with arguments against charging interest, my response would just be that their perspective doesn't interest me because I'm not Muslim.

I’m not saying that science is just another sociopolitical theory, I’m saying that scientific theory and the scientific method are products of the social relations we make ourselves in, and this is precisely why science is important. The collective effort to build rationality so that we can understand and control our hostile environment, is a social constructed effort that has been carefully developed throughout history, and is something that needs to be actively preserved. Rationality is not something that is just “given” by nature; it is an entirely synthetic concept made up by humans and only exist because of humans, and that is precisely why it is so precious. Read Thomas Moyinhan’s X-Risk (https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/x-risk), there’s a lot of Kantian underpinnings in this argument.

So returning to your climate change example: the reason why there are so many climate change deniers in the US doesn’t have to anything with science (as you’ve said), it has more to do with the retaliation from the industrial-based conservatives, as well as general distrust against the current political elites. However, that doesn’t mean that we have no responsibility in doing anything political because science is simply the “objective truth”: we need to actively make decisions in social terms so that this distrust towards climate science doesn’t end up preventing ourselves from making important future decisions for humanity. (What we actually need to do is too far out of scope for this comment, but you get the idea.)

I agree with everything you're saying, but one of the key social decisions I think that scientists need to make in this regard is to maintain deliberate neutrality on controversial political issues which aren't directly related to their field of expertise. Distrust towards science can't be prevented or mitigated in an environment where journals endorse presidential candidates.

The real problem is not journals endorsing presidential candidates, it’s the other way around. It’s the political class funding various think tanks and institutions to steer research the way they want to influence public opinion (which has been done for more than a century). And let’s not forget that the majority of the scientific advancements we had in the 20th century were made by military research!

And if you look at historically famous scientists of the past 400 years, many of them had interest in politics and were quite politically active. That doesn’t prevent them from doing objectively good research, but it definitely guides what kind of research they are doing.

There are undoubtedly massive dangers to politicising science.

But personally, I am far more concerned with lobbied interests persuading politicians that climate change is a hoax, or with idiots deciding that masks and vaccinations are something you can make your own mind up about.

These are real problems with substantial negative outcomes.

Whether we stop naming things after Nazis or pedophiles is lower on my list of priorities.

It's amazing that someone could write an essay titled "The Peril of Politicizing Science" and not once mention the actual civilizational peril we are in due to the political polarization over climate change and the coronavirus.

One follows from the other. If you politicize science, then I have no reason to listen when you claim that science supports your position.

Do you actually think science isn't political?

Everything is political to a degree, that doesn't mean we have to accept the degree at which it is political, the author shows quite a few examples of how that can become a problem.

Given that a lot of science gets funded by the government, of course it's political.

Was just listening to a podcast yesterday about the attempts to develop an AIDS vaccine. It was definitely not prioritized in the early days because it was viewed as a "lifestyle disease".


Obviously the decision as to what gets researched is going to be at least partially political.. there's a finite amount of money to split between NASA and the CDC for example.

But it would be really nice if results weren't politicised.

Presumably the reverse is also true: if I claim science supports my position then you'll say I'm politicizing science?

That was not my position. Let me try again, with more careful use of pronouns:

When some "authority" (some random internet commenter, or the CDC, or Facebook, or whoever) politicizes science, and people detect that they're doing so, then those people tend to "flip the bozo bit" on that authority. That is, they tend to discount any further science-based claims from that authority, because the authority has destroyed its own credibility.

What you're describing also happens, along two paths. Sometimes it happens as a result of what I described - if you've burned your credibility, and now you're claiming "science says X", people may say that you're politicizing the science without actually checking, because you politicized it last time. It also happens because some people just don't like what you're saying and don't want to believe it, and "you're politicizing the science" gives them a convenient excuse for ignoring you.

But my point was going the other direction: When you[1] politicize the science, you set your credibility on fire, and I[2] will no longer believe you when you say "the science says".

[1] "You" meaning not the parent, but anyone claiming to speak authoritatively.

[2] "I" meaning not I, AnimalMuppet, but people in general listening to authoritative statements.

> When some "authority" (some random internet commenter, or the CDC, or Facebook, or whoever) politicizes science....

What does that mean though?

For example, I would hope most people on HN accept that our current best research indicates that climate change is a real thing and a problem.

But given that (apolitical) starting point, you then need to do something with that information, and that is inherently political. Even doing nothing with it is a political position (the position that government should not interfere).

So how do you avoid politicising science?

OK, take climate change. Here's the data. That's not politicized (or at least, that's not what I'm talking about). "Vote Democrat, because climate change" is politicized. And when the Democratic program is going to not actually address climate change in any meaningful way, then people tune out on those who say "but science" to tell people how they should vote.

Or take vaccines. The data is there that vaccines are helpful. But "get vaccinated or you're a Nazi" is... something else. It's politicizing. It's also stupidly ineffective, because what you're saying is ridiculous, and people know it. So they tune you out.

But the problem in both those cases is that one group are dismissing the data. The Democrats might not being doing anything about climate change, but half of the Republicans are flat out saying the science is a hoax.

I'm really trying not to make this about be a one-sided "left vs right" argument (god knows, there are enough dumb ideas on the liberal side around "alternative medicine"), but the two most pressing issues right now (climate change and covid) are markedly worse on one side of the aisle.

That's not "politicising the science", that's acknowledging reality.

One thing that is beyond vexing is that politics comprises both policy and tribal allegiance. I have no interest in the latter but it seems impossible to discuss policy without tribalism crashing the party.

Maybe I'm uninformed, but the nazi/vaccine correlation I've seen have been likening being told that one should get vaccinated is similar to the holocaust.

dluan 26 days ago [flagged] [–]

Yeah this is a meme that surfaces every few years spontaneously irregardless of the field or discipline. "Oh no we are being oppressed for not following the [current mainstream boogeyman idea], only we the true freethinkers are aware of the danger and must warn blah blah". Usually too it is some former soviet person.

> Whereas in 1950, the greater good was advancing the World Revolution (in the USSR; in the USA the greater good meant fighting Communism), in 2021 the greater good is “Social Justice” (the capitalization is important: “Social Justice” is a specific ideology, with goals that have little in common with what lower-case “social justice” means in plain English).

It's just astonishing that it's so reliable even in 2021, so far removed from the cold war, that the journal editors still feel the need to stir the pot this way. Younger scientists don't care about this, lmao.

Science is inherently a political process, and this author seems to lack the self awareness of how her own bias has influenced her.

> Usually too it is some former soviet person.

Sure, what would a former Soviet scientist have to inform us about about the dangers of politics interfering in the scientific process. Not like they have a history of jailing scientists who don't tow the party line, of bright scientists defecting to enemies to escape oppression, of politics dictating what academic conclusions are and are not permitted.

> Science is inherently a political process, and this author seems to lack the self awareness of how her own bias has influenced her.

Or maybe that bias yields some useful historical lessons worth learning from, rather than simply dismissing it as "bias".

> Science is inherently a political process

Nothing could be further from the truth. Nowhere in the scientific method does it say that you need to be smart, or have a fancy degree from an esteemed university, or that your results must be published and affirmed by The Correct People in appropriate scientific journals.

If you prove or disprove hypotheses by collecting data from experiments you design in a reproducible way, you’re doing science. The result of that is objective truth. What the political machinery decided to do with that objective truth is entirely independent of the process of science.

Science is a process of measuring cause and effect. What you decide to study using the scientific method might be political, but to call science political seems like a lazy use of language.


Would you please not take HN threads further into flamewar? If you know more than other people, it's great to share some of what you know so the rest of us can learn. Snarky dismissals, on the other hand, are not ok.


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