The Corruption of Science by Social Justice

Western civilization depends on science, but science, especially social science, is now under threat.

Until WWII, science was mostly a vocation. Scientists were motivated by curiosity and the search for verifiable truth. Since the growth of centralized, largely governmental funding, science has become not so much a vocation as a profession. Career incentives now increasingly compete with disinterested inquiry. Conformity is favored, which has allowed our leading scientific organizations to adopt an anti-science ideology.

Science leaders, editors of premier scientific journals, the governing bodies of scientific societies, and funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health have infused science with popular notions of social justice. This corrupts science, damages public trust, and puts our civilization at risk.

Charles Darwin, in a letter to a friend, wrote that “A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, a mere heart of stone”—not that he didn’t love his family. His point was that science is about facts. A ‘fact’ is either true or false. Facts cannot be good or bad—or racist. Racists are those who censor, distort, or selectively promote facts, or use them to justify immoral actions.  Science is not “systemically racist.”

The two top scientific journals, Nature and Science, disagree. In a shocking break with tradition, both lead the pack claiming that science must serve social justice.

[Related: “Can the US Afford to Politicize STEM Accreditation?”]

During a time of national racial hysteria, Nature, in a June 9, 2020, editorial, proclaimed: “The enterprise of science has been — and remains — complicit in systemic racism, and it must strive harder to correct those injustices and amplify marginalized voices.”

In a 2022 special issue titled “RACISM Overcoming science’s toxic legacy,” Nature invited four scientists of color to address this question. As evidence for the aforementioned “systemic racism,” they cite the small proportion of blacks in science: “For centuries, science has built a legacy of excluding people of colour and those from other historically marginalized groups from the scientific enterprise.” Blacks may be underrepresented, but there is zero evidence that they are “excluded.”

Nature cites as a mea culpa a 1904 issue which published Francis Galton’s ideas on eugenics. Eugenics is a dubious political program based on the existence of heritable individual and group cognitive differences. The politics is questionable; the differences are not. The differences exist, but Nature’s editors deny them, despite a mountain of evidence.

Nature proposes to censor, if not ban, research on group differences: “Editors, authors and reviewers should together consider and discuss benefits and harms that might emerge from manuscripts dealing with human population groups … .” In other words, Nature is willing to suppress the truth about group cognitive differences because it “harms” certain groups.

This is extremely dangerous. If, for example, research that traces racial disparities to group differences in interests and abilities is censored, the only explanation left is racism. If people are really all identical, then best-sellers that blame disparities entirely on racism have a free ride. This is happening now, not by accident but by intent of scientists who should know better.

[Related: “Paranoia Strikes Deep”]

Science magazine is the US equivalent to the UK Nature. Holden Thorp, onetime chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and, since 2019, editor-in-chief of Science, has published numerous articles, by himself and others, slandering science. This began with a June 8, 2020 editorial titled “Time to look in the mirror,” which ignored cogent criticisms of systemic racism as a valid construct and of racial diversity as a synonym for scientific merit. In 2020, Thorp invited an editorial arguing that “Systemic racism persists in the sciences” and printed a petition/letter called “Systemic racism in higher education,” which claimed that racial disparities in science were all due to systemic racism and a “misuse of standardised tests.”

Thorp’s 2020 editorial began by pointing to disparities: “The U.S. scientific enterprise is predominantly white,” which makes as much sense as complaining that the NBA is predominantly black and nursing predominantly female. Thorp should know that disparities by themselves prove nothing. They pose questions; they do not provide answers.

Science and Nature are publications that have attained the pinnacle of prestige over many years. Because of their prestige, they are able to attract cutting-edge science articles and the unpaid labor of hundreds of highly qualified peer reviewers. It is wrong for their editorial staffs to exploit that hard-earned prestige by broadcasting facile slanders, no matter how fashionable and well intentioned, that corrupt the science they oversee. It is time for Science to remember its name and Nature to remember its mission. Otherwise, science, especially social science, is in peril, and policies that depend on it are doomed to disaster.

Image: Adobe Stock


  • John Staddon

    John Staddon is James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Professor of Biology emeritus at Duke University. His most recent books are The New Behaviorism: Foundations of Behavioral Science, 3rd edition (Psychology Press, 2021) and Science in an Age of Unreason (Regnery, 2022).

5 thoughts on “The Corruption of Science by Social Justice

  1. You’re right about how people don’t wanna hear science that shows the fact that people of different races are different. But the truth is they are. It sounds racist but it’s true people of different races are genetically different and maybe even be the cause of stereotypes. True “poison” is denying truth, offensive truth like the fact that Asian people are genetically different from white people for example, isn’t poison it’s just the truth.

    It doesn’t matter if this is offensive if it’s true, it’s true and we need to accept it but NOT treat people according to facts about their genes because facts about their genes are irrelevant to their value.

    Science that shows that different groups differ from each other isn’t bad, it’s people that try to use it as an excuse to be racist that are bad.

  2. I just think that science that tries to show that racial differences in aptitude are due, in part or in whole, to genetic differences is a loser’s game. People don’t want to hear it. And at least for now, I doubt that it is scientifically demonstrable. There are bigger and tastier fish to fry. Who needs this poison?

    1. You need to re-examine everything you have ever thought–you essentially called truth poison. (And yes, I know that the best-known truth is always open to further investigation). There is indeed a giant body of meticulous research demonstrating the validity of the connection between group aptitude and group outcomes–how could it be otherwise? The real poison is denying truth to recreate society based on verifiable falsehoods, such as blaming the failures by one group of people entirely on the actions of another when so many other obvious factors–including group aptitude–involved. Given the emptiness of your reasoning, my guess is that your idea of “tastier fish to fry” is obfuscating illusions to dupe the gullible.

    2. What matters is whether racial aptitude differences exist. Their genetic basis is irrelevant to the practical issue: how do these differences affect other differences–in wealth, socil and econ9mic success, etc.?

      If differences in interests and abilities are ignored, all that is left is systemic racism, invisible, unmeasureable and unfixable.

    3. Well sometimes racial differences are because of genetic differences. It sounds racist but it’s true people of different races are different genetically and maybe even be the cause of stereotypes. It doesn’t matter if this is offensive if it’s true it’s true and we need to accept it but NOT treat people according to facts about their genes because facts about their genes are irrelevant to their value.

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