Is the "Cancel Culture" Dangerous to Good Science?

Since a number of people here have stressed the need for good science, and for responsible criticism of science by other scientists, the following column may be of interest:

I wonder how people here react to the phenomenon discussed in the article.

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Subscription required to read the article. Why don’t you summarize the key points for us.

Can’t see more than some fraction of the first paragraph.

The full article was readable when I first posted the link, because I read it on this computer. I guess that after a certain number of days, WSJ starts charging to read old articles, and the transition happened just after I posted my link, i.e., this evening. Sorry about that. Does anyone have a way to get the whole article to us here? Or would that be violating copyright?

I wonder whether this link is to a similar report.

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Yes, Neil, that’s the article I read – or looks very much like it. Thanks for helping us out.

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My BS detector started pinging loudly while reading that. A meeting on addressing reproducibility in science that includes multiple climate change skeptics? Seriously?


Read this twitter thread by the person being accused of the “censorship”:

Here’s the thread unrolled:


No surprise, as Eddie seems to have climate-denial leanings himself.


Gotta teach that “controversy”. Can’t be doing actual science.


From the WSJ piece:

Cancel culture in various forms is taking root in American science and elsewhere. Last July Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, announced that he would decline invitations to speak on panels at scientific conferences where women are not among the speakers. That idea has spread rapidly, and several organizations have begun to penalize conferences that don’t meet a quota of women. The Third International Brain Stimulation Conference held in Vancouver last February took steps to find additional female neuroscientists, so that six of its 20 featured talks were by women. A software conference scheduled for October in Dresden was canceled for failure to attract female speakers.
These may sound like small matters, but they are the drawing board for how science is willingly subjecting itself to the yoke of political orthodoxy. The sex or race of scientists has no bearing on the quality of their work. What does have bearing is the openness of science to vigorous intellectual dispute.

Oh no, the horror! Scientists and others are making an effort to actively improve the gender balance of their fields!?
It’s all very well saying “sex and race has no bearing on the quality of a person’s work” when you’re not a member of one of these minorities that actually feel the effects of implicit or explicit bias. Pretending these biases don’t exist, or that we should completely disregard the effects of historical biases, isn’t going to instantly solve these problems.


Any bets on how long until the DI picks up on this and starts lobbying the phony NAS organization to fight for the “right” to teach their ID-Creation science under the guise of “fairness”?

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Your remark shows you’re part of the problem the author is posing, rather than part of the solution. You are question the value of an important conference on the basis of the fact that some people whose views you don’t like will be there. It’s as if you would rather see an important discussion not held at all, rather than see it held by people you don’t 100% endorse.

Also, are you now an expert on climate change as well as genetics? Shouldn’t you be withholding your opinions in that area?

Actually, as I said at length on BioLogos (and for my remarks, I was banned from BioLogos permanently):

1 – I accept that the earth has warmed 1 to 2 degrees over the past 150 years;

2 – I accept that the causes of the warmth could and probably do include human activity, including the output of CO2 (and it was the CO2 that the groupies over at BioLogos were stressing);

3 – I accept that it’s possible that the CO2 output is responsible for most (meaning more than 50%) of the warming.

What I challenged was the description that 97% of all scientists accept that the vast majority of the warming (almost all of it) was caused by CO2 emissions. I did not trust the 97% figure. And indeed, that figure has been challenged; its source is dubious, to say the least, and it has been repeated endlessly, despite being of questionable origin. I also said that there was no fixed number, uniformly held by all experts, for what percentage of the global warming was caused by CO2; that it was not as if everyone agreed that 88.7% of the warming came from CO2 and the rest from other causes. I said that there was a range of views among the experts regarding that number. I also challenged the standard slur, repeated religiously by the BioLogos commenters – not one of whom had training in a scientific field anywhere near climatology – they were, respectively, a computer programmer with a History and Government degree, a salesmen of equipment to the Army overseas with a Psychology and Business degree, an autodidact with a Classics degree, a Music major, etc. – that all those expressed scientific caution regarding the amount of warming specifically caused by CO2 were not climatologists or were in the pay of big oil companies, and I pointed out leading contributors to climate science and the climate debate who were not of those types. In short, I tried to moderate extreme and partisan statements, while granting that climate change was real and that human beings were partly the cause, and I did not even oppose policy action, as long as any policy action was guided by a balanced view and not a knee-jerk reaction to exaggerations.

For taking that stand, I was banned from BioLogos. The head moderator admitted to me in a private note that I had violated no rule of polite discourse but that he just didn’t want to deal with the angry protest against my views by the other commenters any longer, so he was kicking me out. And this is exactly the problem of the modern university; views are censored, people are kicked out, denied tenure, etc., merely for holding unpopular views (unpopular among the cabals of self-appointed experts, that is, not necessarily unpopular elsewhere). The spirit of demagogy and groupthink is rife in the modern academy, and in places like BioLogos, where they worship “consensus” thought to a dangerous degree.

Of course, human beings being the partisan creatures that they are, it’s not surprising that those who find themselves in a majority in any field often think that it’s just obvious that their view is true and that any opposition to it must come from wicked or stupid obscurantists, and that it’s right to shut them down, ban their views, punish them for promulgating them, etc. And having a Ph.D. or being an “expert” is no guarantee against falling prey to this human, all-too-human temptation.

You assume it’s an important conference. Based on what?

It seems to have been set up for just those people.

You don’t have to be an expert to understand how greenhouse gases force climate change or to notice the effects. What if there had been 7 flat-earthers at the center of this conference? Would you react the same way?


You lack any basis for making that judgment. And where on earth did you get the idea that this was an important conference?

A conference supposedly on the subject of reproducibility in which a large fraction of the speakers are climate change skeptics, and which just happens to be put on by two explicitly ideological organizations with a history of attacking anthropogenic climate change – if that doesn’t set off your BS detector, you need to have it in for a checkup.

An expert? No. But I do read some of the primary literature in the field, and I have the necessary background in physics and computation to have some idea of what the issues are and to have a reasonable grasp on what the consensus is in the field.


This is the language that crackpots use when protesting no one takes them seriously. I suggest avoiding it.

When you understand why doctors don’t bother checking patients for demonic possession, you’ll understand why mainstream science doesn’t take flat earthers or AGW deniers seriously.

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You don’t seem to have digested the article. It’s clear that the issue it addresses is one of wide concern. Articles about problems with reproducibility are very common now. This isn’t a problem noted by only some narrow group of dissenters. It has been a concern of many scientists.

You do have to be an expert to debate about the exact numbers. And no one here is an expert on that level. But that doesn’t stop people here from pontificating. Geneticists and molecular biologists know everything about every subject, it seems.

It’s on an important subject. It has been reported time and again in a number of fields, such as medicine and psychology, that reproducibility has become a serious issue.

There is room for many conferences on this subject.

You are missing the point of the article, I think. The article is not about whether the views of any given speaker on climate change are right or wrong. The article is about the kind of justifications used to veto not only particular views (e.g., on climate change) but even to veto whole discussions about the current state of science. Those arguments are frighteningly totalitarian in their implications.

Remember, Eddie requires that you be a qualified expert in a field before you agree with the scholarly consensus, but strongly asserts that he needs no relevant qualifications in order to disagree with the scholarly consensus.

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Written by the man who endorses Christadelphianism, considered “crackpot” by 99% of the Christians in the world that have even heard of it.

The attempt to silence has been directed not just against people who deny any anthropogenic warming, but against those who accept the warming, but who merely question the amount of the warming caused by human activity – and they have been targeted even when they provide detailed mathematical justifications for their conclusions. There is definitely an orthodoxy, and you, who are constantly belittling the orthodoxy of the vast majority of highly learned Christians over 2,000 years, are not in the best place to argue that we should simply ignore people who question the opinion of the majority of the learned today. Your whole position in religion and theology implies that the majority of the best-trained and socially certified professionals can be seriously wrong; and if that can happen in theology, it could also happen in scientific fields. The way to deal with challenges is by meeting them, not by trying to silence the opposition.