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Self-censorship and science denialism on campus

It can be terrifying, and professionally suicidal, to speak out against the growing forces of campus intolerance. But one professor has done so in a bold way, slamming higher education’s “self-censorship” as well as students’ growing opposition to basic scientific facts.

Luana Maroja at The Atlantic writes that, following the election of Donald Trump, she noticed “well-established scientific ideas that I’d been teaching for years suddenly met with stiff ideological resistance.”

Among those ideas to which students began to be opposed was that of “heritability as it applies to human intelligence.” Maroja found numerous students arguing that it “is impossible to measure IQ in the first place, that IQ tests were invented to ostracize minority groups, or that IQ is not heritable at all.” (As Maroja points out: “None of these arguments is true.”)

She found “similar biological denialism” regarding “any observed difference between human groups, including those between males and females.” Students “push back against these phenomena not by using scientific arguments, but by employing an a priori moral commitment to equality, anti-racism, and anti-sexism.” Students even argue that Maroja should not even be teaching such topics.

Maroja has observed numerous other instances of scientific denialism:

The duty of scientists is to study the world—including the human body and mind—as it is. Some of our students, however, are seeing only what they want to see and denying real-world phenomena that conflict with their ideology. Take, for example, the obvious biological differences between the sexes, not only in physical traits (men, on average, are clearly stronger and faster than women are), but also in aptitudes and preferences (boys generally prefer wheeled toys, and girls prefer plush toys, a preference that is also observed in baby monkeys!).

People expect an equal sex ratio across academic professions and sometimes ascribe the lack of such equality to bias. In the so-called STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—the relative paucity of women is frequently taken to reflect endemic sexism. While this is undoubtedly a factor, the effect of bias as opposed to other factors, such as differences in what male and female students prefer, requires detailed empirical study.

“Sadly, students do not seem to realize that their good intentions may lead them to resist learning scientific facts, and can even harm their own goal of helping women and ethnic minorities,” Maroja writes.

“The existence of any genetic differences between males and females, or between different ethnic groups, does not imply that we should treat members of those groups differently. Denying reality and pretending that differences do not exist—as if this were the only possible path toward equality—is dangerous.”

Read the article here.

IMAGE: Luis Molinero / Shutterstock.com

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