Monday, 10 April 2017

Something Crazy This Way Comes

Stream has a piece by William Briggs on the forthcoming March for Science.

Last thing the March for Science needs, say some agitated folks, is Bill Nye the “Science Guy” co-leading the parade. Why?

Their complaint is not that he’s an error–prone non-scientist, though that’s true. See, Nye is white. And a man. And some organizers are concerned that onlookers will notice Nye is white, and a man, and project his male-whiteness onto science itself. That in turn will cause the gullible to figure science is mostly done by white men.

Which, historically and in many current fields, it was and is. Now this fact may be for good or for bad, but it is a fact. And it’s not likely those who say they are “for” science and reason would be pleased were the contributions from white men removed from science. So long, calculus!

Or maybe they would be. Because it seems organizers believe scientific results are less important than who is producing them. Diversity trumps science.

I'm not overwhelmingly surprised by all this - who is? Politics trumps science and diversity is politics. Towards the end of my career, diversity was being insinuated into the laboratory and there was no question about where it came from, it came from the top. Briggs' article is well worth reading if you can stomach this kind of thing. Try another quote to get a fuller flavour of the madness coming our way.

“I love Bill Nye,” said Stephani Page, a biophysicist at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who created the Twitter hashtag #BlackAndSTEM. Page was asked to join the march’s board in February after she tweeted criticism of its approach to diversity. “But I do feel comfortable saying to you what I said to the steering committee: He is a white male, and in that way he does represent the status quo of science, of what it is to be a scientist.”


Sam Vega said...

Why are scientists marching anyway? Surely they would be of more use if they stayed in their laboratories inventing cures for racism and sexism?

Demetrius said...

We think of the ancient philosophers as white because of the colour of the statues etc. that remain from the long past. But what was their actual skin colour? Might it have been a sort of light brown common in many areas of the Med'? Apparently, blue eyes emerged in the Balkans at a time before the skins became white.

Anonymous said...

A masterful study in not saying what you think.

BTW Captcha is being very tedious today

A K Haart said...

Sam - that's the problem, many scientists don't want to toil away at the bench discovering things, they want to be out there on the streets mingling with excited young people.

Demetrius - good point, although I think of Plato and co as looking like Demis Roussos with less hair and less padding which may not have been the case at all.

Roger - having read quite a few of Briggs' pieces, I assume he thinks as he writes. One could turn this round and suggest that Bill Nye is ideal for such an absurd stunt, but some of the reasons for that could also be construed as racist or sexist.

Captcha is a pain because Google knows who I am and just presents me with my login screen when I leave comments such as this one, so I don't see the difficulties myself. If I leave the thing open I get spam with dodgy embedded links. A Google improvement is supposed to be imminent, but that could be the problem.

Bill Sticker said...

Bill Nye "Too white" to lead a "March for Science"? What strange days we live in.

A K Haart said...

Bill - strange indeed. It's okay for him to be a plonker, but the colour of his skin is a different matter.