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Dawkins Foundation leader speaks out against ‘dogmatic social justice’ infiltrating science
Center for Inquiry's Robyn Blumner

‘Incredibly divisive and illiberal’

Critical race theory and “identitarianism” are having concerning effects on the sciences, according to the head of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

Robyn Blumner, (pictured) president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry and executive director of the Dawkins Foundation, spoke with The College Fix in a phone interview last week about her concerns with the shift away from merit-based scholarship and individualism.

“The identitarian project is very closely aligned with post-modernist views of race and racial essentialism and critical race theory and this idea that we are our immutable characteristics and that is the most salient feature of who we are as we go through society, rather than the individualism that each of us bring to our humanity,” Blumner said.

Her organization is made up of professors like Dawkins, a famous atheist evolutionary biologist and author, and other scholars who advocate for scientific research based on evidence and critical thinking devoid of religion and superstition.

The Dawkins Foundation, which is part of the Center for Inquiry, also advocates against conservative Christian beliefs influencing research and education.

But recently Blumner and others have become more vocal about the problems with politically left ideology in sciences, such as requiring diversity, equity, and inclusion statements from professors.

In a recent The Skeptical Inquirer article, Blumner wrote “increasingly dogmatic social justice/identitarian considerations are leaching into science in a way that is hampering progress in the field.”

She cited a case in New Zealand’s public school system where the traditional indigenous belief system Mātauranga Māori is taught as “equivalent to Western science.” She likened it to the United States teaching creationism rather than evolution, conflating a religious belief with scientific fact.

Blumner, a journalist and lawyer who previously worked for the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Fix she defines herself as a “classical liberal” but recognizes the division some on the political left are causing in the sciences.

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She referenced examples like “citation justice” in which scholars are encouraged to cite people of color, women, and others in their research, placing identity and race above merit. Some science journals even require research papers be scanned by software programs to avoid citation bias.

“Once again, identity is deemed a value higher than pure merit— the proper yardstick for when a citation is warranted,” Blumner wrote in her article.

Some universities require faculty applicants to submit “diversity, equity, and inclusion” statements, including the University of California at Berkeley.

Additionally, some science grant programs emphasize DEI in order to receive funding.

“It’s extremely dangerous. And that’s why I wrote the piece, I think, and put science back on its heels. It will get in the way of progress. It will. It will divert us from bettering human outcomes,” Blumner told The Fix. “And it’s incredibly divisive and illiberal. Because it will put people against one another in really destructive ways.”

She is not alone in her concerns.

New York Times columnist Pamela Paul wrote last year about the rise of subjectivity in research, referencing The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ rejection of the paper “In Defense of Merit in Science.”

“One needn’t agree with every aspect of the authors’ politics or with all of their solutions. But to ignore or dismiss their research rather than impartially weigh the evidence would be a mistake,” Paul wrote. “We need, in other words, to judge the paper on the merits. That, after all, is how science works.”

Meanwhile, renowned scientists like Dawkins have faced criticism for stating scientific facts that contradict leftist ideology.

Last August, the former Oxford University professor was accused of “transphobia” and “violent speech” for stating that “sex is binary,” The Fix reported at the time. Dawkins said it is “wrong” to claim “lived experience and personal choice trump biology,” and transgender activists are “tyrannical.”

While Blumner is concerned about ideology infiltrating science from the left and the right, she said society has progressed in other ways, including the destruction of “barriers to entry” and the welcoming of a “vast diversity” of scientists.

She brought up Martin Luther King Jr.’s words about getting past skin color as criteria for qualification, and said she hopes the equality she has seen grow throughout her lifetime can be celebrated.

“We have gone from the idea that certain kinds of people who look a certain way don’t have a place in the sciences, to it’s still a literal celebration of the vast diversity of people who are now putting on a lab coat,” Blumner told The Fix. “It’s hard now to generalize what a scientist looks like to us. It looks like everyone.”

“I celebrate that. I don’t blame society for this ‘lack of progress,’” she said. “I celebrate the fact that we got here.”

MORE: DOE gives universities $25 million to foster ‘diversity’ in STEM fields

IMAGE: Center for Inquiry

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Andi Shae Napier is a student at Liberty University where she is studying journalism and digital media. She also writes news and feature stories for the Liberty Champion.