A growing number of scholars are concerned about how cancel culture’s censorship and suppression has infected the sciences, writes University of Southern California chemistry Professor Anna Krylov.
Krylov co-authored a Dec. 18 column in Quillette headlined “Academic Ideologues Are Corrupting STEM. The Silent Liberal Majority Must Fight Back.” In it, she discusses how some tried to cancel her for her paper “The Peril of Politicizing Science,” published June 2021 in the Journal of Physical Chemistry.
Despite calls for the paper to be retracted, she was impressed with the high volume of feedback she received via email from peers who shared and echoed her concerns, she wrote in her Quillette piece:
Nearly a quarter of the approximately 200 email responses I got included a description of some personally observed or experienced instance of cancel culture, or of the intrusion of politics into scientific pedagogy. But with few exceptions, these writers said they were scared of being seen as opposing this movement. “The situation in STEM is certainly Orwellian,” wrote one writer, whom I am quoting on condition of anonymity. “I am frequently scared of expressing the Wrong viewpoint, resulting in self-censorship. Worse, at times I feel pressured to give a statement (a social performance) [indicating] that I am aligned with the Correct viewpoint.”
Campus administrators also now enable such censorship in a term coined “coward culture,” she wrote, and cited the recent cancelation at MIT of a speech to be given by geologist Dorian Abbot, who is a target of cancel culture due to his criticisms of diversity, equity and inclusion.
In regard to the criticism I received, there was some that deserves a response. This category includes those who asked why my article didn’t also discuss political intrusion from right-wing, as well as left-wing, sources. By way of reply, I should acknowledge that conservatives have long sought to inject their beliefs into science—from creationism, to climate change, to stem-cell research, to COVID policy. But these examples are already well-documented, and there is little controversy among scientists about the need to reject such pressures. By contrast, the danger coming from the extreme left is more difficult to recognize and oppose, because it often enjoys official approval under such euphemistic terms as social justice, diversity, inclusiveness, and equity. And to be denounced as “anti-social-justice” in 2021 isn’t so different from being denounced as “bourgeois” in the USSR a century ago. In Soviet times, those who opposed the Party line were called “enemies of the people”; now they are called “racists” and “sexists.” Moreover, the extreme Right tends to attack objective science in discrete subject areas, whereas today’s leftist doctrines seek to undermine the entire enterprise of science, casting the very idea of objective truth and the scientific method as tools of colonialism and oppression.
Read the full column at Quillette.
IMAGES: Main — Nicku/ Shutterstock; Inside — USC