Science Goes "Woke": Part I

How the Winds of Social Justice are Informing New Scientist Credentials

The “Woke” movement—like a Category 5 hurricane—has found new territory on which to make its ominous landfall. In its foreboding wake, it threatens to exact high-velocity wind damage on yet another institution: science. If you have been sleeping during its previous storms, wreaking havoc on the unprotected terrains of Hollywood, Washington media, and select domains of academia, perhaps you are not familiar with this term.

If you are woke, you have awakened to the progressive truths of intersectionality, which also requires defining. Intersectionality characterizes the “complex, cumulative manner in which the effects of different forms of discrimination combine, overlap, or intersect.” In summary, any individual or institution adopting the self-congratulatory term of “being woke,” has a perceived awareness of the social injustice issues (as currently defined) around them.

The humanities departments of universities—being as they are the nutrient-rich petri dishes generating and feeding the latest cultural trends, have been stalwart supporters of everything woke. To the credit of these departments, the unwashed, unwoke masses have become ever more aware of their past sins of assumption; for example: that marriage is between a man and a woman; or, that people who menstruate are women; or, that everyone can succeed if they work hard. This unqualified support for all things woke  manifests itself as campaign cries for diversity (as currently defined); I challenge you, click on the home page of any university website to see if that word is not there.

Certainly, racial, cultural, and religious diversity in academia can make for a fuller, well-rounded learning experience for all. But the term diversity is ambiguous, with semantics that change like the shifting winds of a violent storm. The very latest definition sweeps in people based on sexual preferences and gender identification.

The drive for diversity (as currently defined) is now informing the ideal credentials for science faculty, as universities are changing the rubric by which they select and hire. In times past, hiring committees within natural science departments viewed ideal candidates as those who 1) could contribute promising research to the university, 2) had published prolifically in the peer-review literature, 3) had satisfied the graduate-level coursework necessary to act as subject matter experts in the courses they would teach, and 4) could effectively manage a teaching load. In woke’s disastrous wake, however, the rubric has changed, with these demanding credentials oftentimes taking a backseat, to those prized by the overzealous dictators of diversity.

Case in point: Abigail Thompson—Chair of Mathematics at the University of California at Davis and Vice President of the American Mathematical Society—penned a controversial essay which appeared in the December 2019 issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society (NAMS). Thompson, while an advocate for increasing diversity within her field, condemned the authoritarian “diversity statements,” that the University of California (UC) campuses now impose on all job applicants. She writes, “The professed purpose is to identify candidates who have the skills and experience to advance institutional diversity and equity goals,” dubbing such statements as a political test with teeth.  

Why this harsh characterization? Job candidates must submit a “contribution to diversity” statement with their application, which is then scored using complex rubrics, serving to screen out “unqualified” applicants early in the search process. Under the category of Knowledge about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the unwoke candidate may only engender a lowly score of 1 or 2 if they “state having had little experience with these issues because of lack of exposure, but then not provide any evidence of having informed themselves.” So there’s no excuse for the Philistine candidate who—through no fault of their own—in their career past had little to no exposure to the issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion; they are penalized if they did not actively seek out information to inform themselves (whatever that means). The woke scientist, however, can earn the prize of 4 to 5 points if they discuss “. . . diversity, equity, and inclusion as core values that every faculty member should actively contribute to advancing.”

What is worse, the rubric assesses not only the candidates’ knowledge and understanding of these issues, but also their past Track Record in Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and their current Plans for Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. One wonders how many geologists, chemists, physicists, and mathematicians have had the time to add these cherished credentials to their job portfolio, along with meeting a challenging course load, satisfying the demands of a dissertation, and submitting continued publications? It seems that the UC system is interested in hiring social justice warriors, rather than true scientists.

Most disconcerting is the fact that, in the pursuit of diversity (as currently defined), some who have contributed significantly to science in the past and present—Christians and people on the autism spectrum—risk being blown away and eliminated by winds of woke. Christians because of their stand against transgenderism and homosexuality, cannot satisfy current woke credentials. People on the autism spectrum because they often dispossess the social skills to jump through all the psycho-social hoops that being a woke social justice warrior activist demands.

The impact to these two groups will be addressed in future articles, but understand for now as the violent tempests of woke begin to blow through the institution of science, they will need to run for cover.

graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno, with a BS in molecular biology and a minor in cognitive psychology. As an undergraduate, she conducted research in immunology, microbiology, behavioral and cognitive psychology, scanning tunneling microscopy and genetics - having published research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, and projects in scanning tunneling microscopy. Having recently completed an M.Ed. from University of Cincinnati and a Certificate in Apologetics with the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, Emily is currently an instructional designer/content developer for Moody Bible Institute and teaches organic chemistry and physics. As a former Darwinian evolutionist, Emily now regards the intelligent design arguments more credible than those proffered by Darwinists for explaining the origin of life.

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