Science Goes "Woke": Part II

HELP WANTED: Scientist Needs "Woke" Consultant

In efforts to enhance diversity, many universities have established new guidelines for hiring faculty, that no doubt are informed by the radicals forcefully promulgating everything “woke.” Unfortunately, these guidelines undermine diversity where it is most valuable in the world of free thought and academia: neurodiversity. The word and its definition indicates that neurological differences within the human population – such as ADHD and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) – are the consequence of normal, natural variation in the genome. This viewpoint is fundamentally new — in the past these syndromes were viewed as pathologies, and “sufferers” were in need of “fixing,” “rehabilitation,” and “training.”

However, the woke mandates of these universities in effect marginalize ASD individuals, by contradicting the very tenets of autism advocacy: to encourage individuals, institutions, and employers to accept people who are not so “lucky” to navigate the social landscape as capably as their neurotypical, socially-adroit counterparts. With 2017 unemployment rates for college graduates on the spectrum at eighty-five percent, clearly, this population does not need additional obstacles to job placement such as those set forth by the diversity guidelines mandated by an untested social movement run amok.

Woke’s New Hiring Guidelines

As an example, the University of California, in its Initiative to Advance Faculty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Life Sciences at UC Berkeley mandates that all faculty candidates must submit diversity statements along with their resumes. These statements are then reviewed and scored by a complex “Rubric to Assess Contributions to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” in three key areas: the job candidate’s, 1) Knowledge about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; 2) Track Record in Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and 3) Plans for Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. As part of the screening process, candidates are ranked in each area from 1 (being the most unsatisfactory in meeting the criteria) to 5 (being the most satisfactory).

For the unwoke recruit, if they indicate a track record of having only minimally participated in any specific activities to advance diversity, they risk earning a lowly score of 1 or 2 on criteria #2. On criteria #3, they would similarly score abysmally if they merely state they are happy to “help out” in advancing the University’s goals for diversity, but expects the University or department to assign them to such activities – as opposed to them taking initiative. So, it is not enough that the candidate is in agreement with helping their respective department advance diversity; to earn a rating of 4 or 5 they must demonstrate a greater commitment to such activism.

Now, what might this activism look like? To earn the highest number of  brownie points the recruit must demonstrate a “consistent track record that spans multiple years,” or have, “organized or spoken at workshops or other events . . . aimed at increasing others’ understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion . . .”, or even, “served as a leader in a student or professional organization that supports underrepresented individuals.”

These are but a few of the items on the rubric demanding social skills that people on the spectrum often lack, and would find considerably challenging to satisfy: lacking these skills and aptitudes are in fact characteristic and diagnostic of ASD folk! So, I doubt if Madame Curie were alive today, that she would be woke enough to satisfy the criteria for social justice activism on UC Berkeley’s rubric; Albert Einstein also would be “screened out.”  

Systemizing at the Cost of Empathizing

If it is not a perceived cognitive or speech delay that sends parents to the neuropsychologist requesting an assessment for ASD, it is more than likely the challenges their child has in social settings. The DSM-5 diagnostic criterion for ASD lists this deficit in social functioning at the very top, ahead of repetitive behaviors, fixated interests, and ritualistic behavior.

More recent models for ASD by Simon Baron-Cohen1 and colleagues have suggested that affected individuals possess neurological structures that enable them to hyper-systemize. This ability makes them excellent at analyzing systems (natural or artificial) and even deriving laws or rules that govern such systems (as did Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin). Hans Asperger went so far as to write that success in science or art is contingent on a dash of autism!2

This remarkable ability to systemize likely comes at a cost to the brain’s ability to empathize, which accounts for the social awkwardness of ASD individuals. When they try to apply their well-practiced rubric of system analysis to social interactions, they are bewildered – as humans are exceedingly more complex and messy. For most on the spectrum, social exchanges can be exhausting, since they do not possess the natural neural circuitry that enables “back and forth conversation” with ease. In summary, community organizing and social activism do not typically come naturally or even comfortably to people with autism.

Singularly Focused & Specialized Scientists Need Not Apply

The very traits of hyper-focus (disparagingly referred to as “obsessive interests” in the past) and hyper-systemizing can facilitate excellent scholarship in science. Asperger noted that for success in science and art, a necessary ingredient “. . . may be an ability to turn away from the everyday world . . . with all abilities canalized into the one speciality2.” We are all familiar with many examples of singular focus on the part of several scientists, most notably Isaac Newton, Henry Cavendish, Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, and Albert Einstein – to name just a few. It was their singular focus that enabled them to emerge as revolutionaries in their respective fields, and to see the world quite differently from their neurotypical, more socially-capable peers.

Einstein admitted, “I do not socialize because social encounters would distract me from my work and I really only live for that, and it would shorten even further my very limited lifespan2.” How would the physicist have responded if he had to take the time to involve himself in activities facilitating diversity, or formally submit his plans to promote inclusion and advance equity, in order to land his position at the University of Prague? He more than likely would have seen such mandates as superfluous, onerous, and a distraction from phenomena he wanted to investigate. Could he have published over three hundred scientific papers if he had to take time to mobilize faculty and students in a protest against the likes of a Ben Shapiro or Milo Yiannopoulos?

Given the challenges that autistic people face when taking on socially demanding tasks, we should ask how many excellent scientists will not be awarded a post-doc, faculty position, or laboratory space, simply because they may not possess the credentials of a social justice warrior or community organizer. We can hope universities at some point will realize the best scientists are not the ones with impressive diversity credentials… but how will they respond? As bureaucracies, we might just expect them to do what bureaucracies do best: “educate,” grow, and expand. It’s easy to imagine in the future, mandated certification in woke, as a requirement for awarding PhD’s. This would certainly be good news for the women’s, minorities, and gender studies departments as they can hire more faculty to teach brilliant – but socially awkward - scientists how to be woke.

1. Baron-Cohen, S. (2006). Two new theories of autism: hyper-systemising and assortative mating. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 91(1), 2-5.
2. James, I. (2003). Singular scientists. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 96(1), 36-39.

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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