Science, the science fetishists often argue, is self-correcting, so the truth always prevails, and in contrast with religion and it’s dogmas, it becomes clear, so they also often argue, why science and not religion is the avenue through which knowledge — the kind that matters, at least — should be had. But that science is always self-correcting and is therefore always reliable is itself a dogma that needs to be corrected:
Throughout its 169-year history, Scientific American has been an august and sober chronicler of the advance of human knowledge, from chemistry to physics to anthropology.
Lately, however, things have become kind of a mess.
A series of blog posts on the magazine’s Web site over the past few months has unleashed waves of criticism and claims that the publication was promoting racism, sexism and “genetic determinism.”
The trouble started in April when a guest blogger, a doctoral student named Chris Martin, wrote about Lawrence H. Summers’ assertions when he was president of Harvard University about the paucity of women in some scientific fields. While acknowledging that discrimination played a role in holding back women, Martin also concluded, “the latest research suggests that discrimination has a weaker impact than people might think, and that innate sex differences explain quite a lot.”
The second land mine was a post in May by Ashutosh Jogalekar, which favorably reviewed a controversial book by Nicholas Wade, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History.” Jogalekar praised the book, saying it confirms the need to “recognize a strong genetic component to [social and cognitive] differences” among racial groups.
What the post makes abundantly clear is that when the results of science seem to marshal ideas deemed too politically incorrect (particularly racial and anti-feminist ideas), science loses and butt-hurt people win, and, for good or for ill — although obviously mostly for ill — science often gets corrected not by other, more accurate science, but by people with hurt feelings.
Of course science is generally reliable. But the people who don’t feel the least bit embarrassed about bandying-about the word science to give their pet ideologies a whiff of credibility can also be relied upon, perhaps even moreso, to do the idiotic.