There are epochs in which science, academia and all intellectual activities are constrained by an ideological system to create monsters at the beck and call of political or religious agendas within totalitarian regimes that repress the free development of ideas.
One of the most remarkable examples in the history of science is the prosecution of heliocentric ideas at the time of Galileo, because they contradicted the Catholic Church dogmas. Nonetheless, one does not need to go so far back in time to find this kind of repression, or even worse examples. An example from the 20th century in the former Soviet Union and other communist countries is the campaign led by Lysenko, and supported by Stalin himself, against genetics and Darwin’s natural selection and in favour of Lamarckism, in which more than 3000 mainstream biologists were dismissed or imprisoned and numerous opposing scientists were executed. Marxism-Leninism postulated universal and immutable laws of history, only changeable by evolution and revolution, which was at odds with Darwin’s concept of random mutations being able to transform subsequent generations, perceived as bourgeois pseudoscience with strong liberal contents.
The intrusion of political ideology with scientific development is also evident today in Western countries in many aspects. Some topics of discussion may contain political elements but can still be argued on scientific grounds, such as the global warming. However, other topics are just impositions of dogma in which any scientist daring to challenge them is directly dammed to ostracism, especially those who compare the characteristics of different human groups and challenge the central dogma of democracy that all human beings are equal (and have equal rights, but this is not a scientific topic, whereas the first is).
Among such topics, the imposition of a gender ideology has been particularly aggressively pursued in recent years, both in scientific contexts and in the social organization of working environments in science. Indoctrination talks have become the norm, along with congresses on gender and science, in which only arguments in favour of the new ideology are accepted, all discrepant views being rejected or censored. For the ideologists of feminism in science, their own point of view is unassailable, and ostracism and witch hunts are meted out to those who dare to challenge them. Even women—who are supposed to be defended by feminism—suffer ostracism and obstacles to progress in their careers when they do not agree the leftist-feminist ideas. Paradoxically, the lemmas of inclusion carry hidden implications of exclusion: women and many historical minorities in science are overprotected and given advantages, but only so long as they openly endorse leftist ideology. This is similar to the solidarity of Catholic Church some centuries ago towards certain weak collectives, who were offered help provided that they converted into Catholicism, otherwise they were treated as scum.
We no longer burn heretics and the Soviet Union is dead; some countries still respect in some degree the laws that allow and protect academic freedom. In my country, Spain, the article number 20 of our Constitution is quite explicit about it and is similar spirit to article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. Therefore, I think there is legal basis to support a fight against ideological impositions, at least theoretically; although, in practice, sectarian behaviour in many academic departments, usually biased and externally pressured by political agendas on which funding depends, do not make such opposition easy. As scientists, we are faced with a powerful force that we cannot dominate. The only thing we can do is observe and experiment, and analyse the phenomenon through its reactions. I do this from my position as a staff scientist in an astrophysics research centre.
One of my experiments was as follows:
Given the chance offered by the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group of IAU (International Astronomical Union; the most important association for astronomers worldwide) to send ideas for new subtopics, I sent a proposal with the following rationale:
“I would like to propose the following subtopic within the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group: "Ideological inclusion". For this item, I propose to analyze within our astronomical community the cases of discrimination or exclusion for people with some political, religious, philosophical ideas away from the majorities. It is our moral and legal obligation to watch over the neutrality of our institutions against non-scientific ideologies that try to become dogmas. At present, indeed, there are many documented cases of ostracism/bullying in our community related to it. Paradoxically, extreme defense of "diversity and inclusion" programs carries implicitly sometimes "exclusion and lack of diversity" and lack of freedom of expression for individuals who do not share the political ideas usually associated to the first lemmas. But we pursue a society where everybody is welcome (within legality, of course), and in which only the merits of a CV and potentialities for research should be taken into account in the distribution of jobs, conferences,...in astronomy. Christian or Muslims or atheists, leftists or rightists, materialists or mentalists, feminists or non-feminists, etc. all of them should have a place in a plural society, and exclusion because of the ideology should be discouraged.”
This proposal was rejected, of course. Indeed, I did not expect anything else from the feminists of IAU hiding behind the shield of inclusion. They want their ideology to be the only one with no possibly discussion of their dogmas. However, the reply surprised me because it contained the recognition of a fact that is not usually recognized explicitly. This was the reply from the Chair of Executive Committee Working Group Astronomy for Equity of IAU:
“We regret to inform you that the Working Group’s OC has rejected the proposal. The IAU has a clear ideology about Inclusion that has to be accepted by all its members. In particular, its Strategic Plan 2020-2030, states that “The IAU strives to be an inclusive organisation within which all astronomers, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, or disability, are welcome at all activities. Astronomy as a whole is enriched when there is a diverse body of astronomers, who bring a variety of perspectives, ideas, and approaches to the field. Gender equality is a particular focus of the IAU, since men have largely dominated the field of astronomy (…) The IAU will continue to promote gender parity in astronomy across the world.”
Therefore, the IAU cannot include any ideologies that contradict these principles, and so we cannot approve the creation of an Ideological Inclusion subgroup whose goal is to include all ideologies.”
I had not talked about introducing new ideologies in IAU policy, but respecting individuals with different ideologies. Anyway, I find the answer interesting. The statement “The IAU has a clear ideology about Inclusion that has to be accepted by all its members” attracts my attention. This recognition of an ideology behind the IAU program was unexpected. Was it a lapsus—a Freudian lapsus, I would say—in which true intentions are revealed that are supposed to be hidden? Anyway, this statement may be interpreted as:
1) IAU is not a neutral organization from a political point of view; because there are different points of view about the topic of inclusion in different political orientations. IAU is not a political organization, so I wonder where the rights to establish an official political ideology stem from. This kind of organizations dedicated to research or education "cannot" be attached to any political ideology. It is not their mission. In particular, the mission of IAU is promoting astronomy, not promoting certain political ideologies. So, with this statement, it looks that they are adopting an illegal promotion of ideologies, which is now common practice in academia and scientific research.
2) Even more surprising is that an ideology "has to be accepted by all its members". Do they mean that a member that does not follow this ideology should leave the organization? This would be a case of discrimination of members because of ideological orientations. According to the Rules of Human Rights of United Nations, no individual may be rejected in an organization dedicated to research and education due to ideological orientations, and, of course, this member cannot be "forced" to change his/her ideology.
I have also reviewed the statutes and rules of IAU and point 22 of the rules explicitly states: “The Union strongly supports the policies of the International Council for Science (ISC) as regards the freedom and universality of science. Participants of IAU sponsored activities who feel that they may have been subjected to discrimination are urged, first, to seek clarification of the origin of the incident, which may have been due to misunderstandings or to the cultural differences encountered in an international environment. Should these attempts not prove successful, contact should be made with the General Secretary who will take steps to resolve the issue”. Within this context, I would understand that no scientist can be discriminated on political or ideological grounds (within legal limits, of course). And there is no justification for forcing astronomers to accept a given ideology different from their views, in particular the fashionable one of feminism.
What happens if an astronomer is not feminist? Should an astronomer be a feminist in order to be a member of IAU? This is the question that I transmitted to the General Secretary of IAU—responsible of clarification of IAU policy to IAU members (and I am a member of this organization)—together with a request for clarification of the statement “The IAU has a clear ideology about Inclusion that has to be accepted by all its members”. Probably, the Working Group Astronomy for Equity of IAU was not very fortunate in this choice sentence, and this should be either emended or better explained. I might have also misunderstood, so I asked the IAU General Secretary to tell me whether she agrees that statement and, if so, to clarify its meaning to me. I wrote an e-mail to the General Secretary of IAU in April 2020; no answer. I wrote again by e-mail one month later; no answer. A third time was tried in July 2020 through a registered/certified electronic fax, so an official communication has arrived to the General Secretary of IAU and, if the message was not read or answered, it cannot argued that the notification to read the message was not received. Result: again no answer.
The proverb says “Silence gives consent”. In this case, we could interpret the silence of IAU on my questions as consent for interpretation in terms of imposition of dogmas associated with ideas that have nothing to do with either science or nature. To speak clearly and without circumlocutions: the situation is such that liberal-progressive leftists form a majority in academia and particularly in most scientific research areas, and they have decided to convert research centres and universities in media for distribution of political propaganda and proselytism. Many minority rightist also follow the imposed stream under the pressure of giving their acquiescence or being excluded. This should not be allowed if we aim to follow the basic principle of political neutrality of these institutions—paid for with the taxes of all citizens of all ideologies, a high proportion of them probably not feeling represented by these diversity, equity and inclusion committees. From a professional point of view, the claims and demands of social justice warriors are not the province of scientists. If some researchers have leftists ideology, they should keep it to themselves, and not use their professional status to propagandize it.
Solutions to remove the leftist propaganda from putative neutral institutions have been suggested, including the abolishment of offices of diversity, equity and inclusion. Proposals to suppress gender studies because of their political bias have also been suggested. As a matter of fact, this solution has been adopted in countries like Hungary. However, in most Western Europe countries and the US, we are far from adopting such measures and it will be a long time before we can get rid of this ideological brainwashing. Maybe another solution would be declaring scientific research institutes and academic departments as ideological associations, such as political parties or religious organizations like the Catholic Church. However, in such a case, taxpayers should honestly be given the option to assign part or none of their taxes for such politico-scientific enterprises, such as it is done with Catholic Church in Spain, which receives State funds proportional to the number of individuals that tick the appropriate box of the taxes form.
The point here is not whether certain points of feminism are worth to be considered or not, but whether scientific research centres are the right places to discuss them. Many political ideas and proposals may be worthwhile, but it is not the mission of scientists to discuss ideologies, but observing nature and interpret those observations with models built with an objective methodology. Some scientists think we must join the social revolution, following the trends in other areas of the society, but they are usually awkward in their argumentation, becoming charlatan politicians rather than well-trained scientific minds.
Let us discuss another sentence given by the committee of IAU. They say in their Strategic Plan 2020-2030: “Gender equality is a particular focus of the IAU, since men have largely dominated the field of astronomy (…) The IAU will continue to promote gender parity in astronomy across the world”. This is comparable to the statement: fishes have largely dominated the seas, while mammals have been a minority; therefore, we have to promote equality and parity by killing the excess of fishes and throwing more mammals into the sea, even if they cannot swim. Certainly, this comparison with marine life is an exaggeration, since women on average can adapt their lives to any job much better than mammals to water, but the point to remark here is not the adaptation, but the ridiculousness of the conclusion that in cases where we find underrepresentation of a group in proportion to their population we must force parity: the equality of fishes and mammals to adapt to ocean live, or the equality of men and women in their preference to choose a STEM job. No doubt that there is much to discuss about the topic, but it is not a principle. Nowhere in nature is written that men and women have statistically the same interests in life and should be ~50% represented in any job; for instance, nurses are usually >90% women, and only fanatics of gender ideology would defend that 50% of them should be men. Of course, we may agree that equality of rights is a good principle, as it is already established in the laws of all civilized countries, but claiming that 50% of astronomers should be women is fruit of ideological fanaticism and is neither a legal duty nor amenable to scientific analysis. It is ideology in its purest state, an ideology that is producing a damage in the career prospects of many scientists: many good male scientists do not get positions in some centres, or get to give talks at conferences, under the excuse of increasing the ratio of women; and many excellent female scientists are having their careers devalued because of the assumption that they got positions, not through merit, but because of a scheme to reach parity quotas of women in the system. As a matter of fact, statistical analyses show that in the 1950s women and men in science got the same productivity and impact in their works with much lower ratios of women than today, but in the 2000s both average productivity and impact of women in research are around 35% lower than for male researchers, owing to the difference in length of career and other factors. It seems that in the past the selection of researchers was done in a better way than it is nowadays.
Is gender parity more important than professional merit? That is the question. Certainly, we should support any defence of equality of conditions in the selection of researchers, independently of gender, race, ideologies,etc.; only merit and potential capabilities should count, and we should reject any kind of discrimination (also the discrimination against men implicit in gender quotas). Promoting gender parity is immoral and moreover illegal in terms of discrimination, and it is worrying that official institutions within science are adopting it as part of their priorities in their agendas.
One wonders what the next crazy idea of extreme leftists within science in the name of equality of all human beings will be. Should we exclude Jews because they are overrepresented in science and Nobel prices in proportion to their population? Should we expel most of Europeans and US-citizens from science because they are only 10% of the world population and are overrepresented in science? Should we offer 20% of all scientific positions worldwide to black African researchers because they are underrepresented?
Or should we fight for a science free of ideologies and political agendas, a science where only the importance of scientific discoveries counts and not political correctness? I think this is much more reasonable, much more representative of the scientific spirit.
P.S.: I have been talking with lawyers about the present situation in science. It seems that, even if there are legal bases to denounce these malpractices in the politicization of science before a Justice tribunal, many of them see difficult in winning a trial on such grounds, because the leftist-feminist power has extended its tentacles everywhere in Western countries: most universities, politicians, journalists, judges,… It would be a fight of David against Goliath. Nonetheless, laws are not in their favor, and, unless laws change to defend totalitarian regimes, winning cases against these abuses of power will be only a question of time. We have to wait for a decline in this ideological fervour—and all ideologies die sooner or later because they are not based on undisputable real facts—and then it will be time to properly judge the aberrations of the present period in the history of science.