These days, once-great academic institutions are fond of commissioning long reports into their historical ‘links’ with slavery, racism and/or eugenics. When the report inevitably finds that such ‘links’ exist and are very concerning, the institution issues a statement denouncing itself and promising to ‘do better’.
The latest example of an academic institution partaking in this ritual is the American Society of Human Genetics – publisher of the prestigious American Journal of Human Genetics.
On Tuesday, the ASHG released a lengthy report titled “Facing Our History – Building an Equitable Future Initiative”. The report was accompanied by the usual statement in which the institution “acknowledges and apologises, deeply and sincerely, for the participation of some ASHG founders, past presidents, and other leaders in promoting eugenic ideals that harmed people of minoritized groups”.
Poor black people in inner cities who are scared to leave their homes because violent criminals roam the streets can finally rest easy: an institution they’ve never heard of issued a statement they’ll never read! These statements aren’t about helping black people, of course. They’re about keeping activists off the backs of scientists, and making work for people with degrees in critical race theory.
Anyway, one paragraph in the statement did catch my eye. It outlines some of the “challenges” facing human genetics, one of which is “denouncing the warping of science for advocacy agendas”. Here, they’re presumably referring to the misuse of science to justify racism and eugenics.
What’s remarkable, though, is that the very same paragraph includes this sentence: “ASHG encourages individual members, peer societies, academic centres, agencies, industry partners and others to reflect on how everyone’s contributions will help foster inclusive equity agendas.”
So on the one hand, we must denounce the “warping of science for advocacy agendas”. But on the other, we must “help foster inclusive equity agendas”. You can’t make it up! They even managed to use the same word ‘agenda’ in both places.
The statement’s authors would no doubt assure us they’d never dream of warping science to foster an “inclusive equity agenda”. Only people with Bad agendas warp science! But this is what’s known in the technical jargon as a lie.
And the sentence I highlighted is far from the only place where the authors take an openly political stance. They begin by noting that ASHG has been “late in making explicit efforts to integrate equity, diversity, and inclusion into its values, programs, and voice”. And they further note that ASHG will continue “its recent actions to prioritise diversity, equity and inclusion”.
Now, the statement is attributed to the American Society of Human Genetics Board of Directors – who are serious researchers, not CRT grads who happened to land jobs in a genetics department. So the fact that it includes such blatant hypocrisy is telling.
Perhaps these distinguished scientists weren’t able to spot the contradiction? I doubt it – you’d never catch them making such an obvious contradiction in one of their scientific papers. More likely is that it didn’t bother them because they weren’t addressing other scientists; they were addressing activists (or they were addressing other scientists in their capacity as activists).
Either the Board didn’t see it as a contradiction because they’re true believers in DIE, or they did see it as a contradiction but included it anyway because they know what the activists want to hear.
I don’t know which is true. But we’ve got to the point where a group of leading scientists can engage in the politicisation of science, while denouncing others for politicising science – all within the same paragraph – and the rest of the profession acts like this is normal.