The Peril of Politicizing Science by Anna Krylov

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There has been a worrying trend in recent years of politicians interfering with science. Rather than letting scientists and research progress objectively based on evidence, politicians have started to change results to fit their own beliefs or agendas. This has hurt many areas, including mainstream media, economics, security, and educational policy. In these cases, decision-makers have chosen biased interpretations of data over making informed decisions based on factual information.

1. The politicization of science is a dangerous trend
2. Science should be based on evidence, not ideology
3. Politicians should not interfere with scientific research
4. Science should be funded by the government, not private companies
5. Scientists should be free to pursue their research without political interference
6. The politicization of science is a threat to our democracy and our way of life

From Russia with Love: Science and Ideology Then and Now

I am sure many of you have read Orwell’s books—1984 and Animal Farm. If it has been a while, you should reread them now. You may find them much more relevant than you did 20 years ago. 

Orwell’s characters live in a dystopian reality in which control of the individual by ideology has been taken to its limit. In the USSR, we lived in such a dystopia. When I read Orwell’s books in the late 80s, I was stunned. How did he know what it was like to live in our country, the happiest and most-progressive on the planet? 

When I left the USSR in 1991, shortly after the Wall came down, I thought that the oppressions of totalitarian regimes would be a thing of the past; a story you tell your grandchildren, and they tell you, “Oh, come on, grandma, you are making this up.” I thought I would never again experience an atmosphere of ideological control, omnipresence of ideology, policing of speech and thought, suppression of dissent,  compelled speech, fear, and self-censorship.

Yet living my life as a professor of chemistry at an American university in 2021 keeps bringing back memories from my school and university time in the USSR. Not good, sweet memories—more like Orwellian nightmares.

Not everyone sees these parallels. This is not surprising. How would someone who grew up in a liberal democracy recognize the tactics and tools used by totalitarian regimes? It takes a genius like Orwell to know. 

That is why I wrote my essay, “The Peril of Politicizing Science” [1]. I wanted to bring this message to my community. And I am happy to be here and to talk about these parallels.

I have organized my remarks around four themes: 

  1. The atmosphere of fear and self-censorship;

  2. The omnipresence of ideology (examples from science);

  3. The intolerance of dissenting opinions (suppression of ideas and people, censorship, Newspeak);

  4. The use of social engineering to solve real and imagined problems.

Read the full article at: hxstem.substack.com

by Anna I. Krylov, Department of Chemistry, University of Southern California

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