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Spring course at Princeton asks: Is science ‘gendered, racialized, ableist’?

A course coming this spring to Princeton University will ponder whether science is actually, well, objective.

The description for Gender and Sexuality Studies Postdoctoral Researcher Catherine Clune-Taylor’s “Science After Feminism” class says that science “is commonly held to be the objective, empirical pursuit of natural facts about the world,” and notes the students will investigate how feminism has challenged this notion.

“Is science gendered, racialized, ableist or classist?” the description continues. “Does the presence or absence of women (and another marginalized individuals) lead to the production of different kinds of scientific knowledge?”

The University of Chicago’s Jerry Coyne, a professor of ecology and evolution who in the past has offered controversial opinions on proponents of intelligent design and the euthanasia of newborns, asks on his blog if anyone really doubts that the two questions noted in the course description will be “true.”

“In fact,” he writes, “if the answers to the course’s questions were ‘no,’ there would be no need for such a course. What we have here is a semester-long exercise in confirmation bias.” He continues:

But I digress. The course above is an embarrassment for a school of Princeton’s reputation. It is simply social-justice propaganda that will distort science for ideological ends. It’s dubious scholarship, a waste of the students’ tuition money, and unlikely itself to produce new knowledge. It will produce clones that parrot Clune-Taylor’s ideology.

[Clune-Taylor’s] thesis at the University of Alberta was “From Intersex to DSD: A Foucauldian Analysis of the Science, Ethics and Politics of the Medical Production of Cisgendered Lives.” Enough said.

Pluralist adds that the two readings for the course, Science and Feminism and Science, Policy, and the Value Free Ideal, indicate the material will be “following a rich postmodern tradition.”

Clune-Taylor’s course may not be as far-out as, say, the ideas of Whitney Stark who combined the faddish term “intersectionality” with quantum physics, or that of students at the University of Cape Town who want to “decolonize” science. However, it does seem to be at least on par with events such as UC Santa Cruz’s “Research Justice 101: Tools for Feminist Science.”

The College Fix reached out to Dr. Clune-Taylor for comment but did not receive a reply.

MORE: Wacky world of feminist science: The Fix’s Campus Roundup

MORE: $1 million for ‘social justice teaching’ in math, science classes

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