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We Must Give Power to the People Most Affected by Climate Change, While Also Disrupting the Capitalist System

I found your debate with @Trakar interesting enough to try to understand what it was about.

This may be my brain fog speaking, but it appears to me that Trakar is talking about the STEM process once a project begins. And that should be very logical and methodical.

While you are talking about what types of projects get priority, how a particular project gets chosen for funding, and what initial assumptions are made before it starts. And that is very much subject to the chooser’s inherent bias.


Hi Hens Teeth. Thanks for the input and for the effort to understand our different perspectives. I do see that STEM is disproportionately directed toward research that benefits business and the military. The is clear in the documents I have identified in my previous comment. I’ve gotten into heated fights with many researcher engaging in military research who argue that their research is “apolitical” and just “science”. Several years ago I worked on an effort to get STEM practitioners and academics to sign a petition saying that they would not engage in research and development of “Usable” nuclear weapons. I failed miserable. Many complained that my petition was an attack on their “academic freedom”. In one interested exchange, a researcher agreed that the freedom of innocent civilians should weigh more heavily than his “academic freedom” but this long tenured full-professor told me that he could not risk the loss of his funding that may come from signing the petition. Sympathetic people I know who work in private industry feared losing their jobs. I see this as a forced political position in STEM. I think this book articulates some of my concerns:

But, I’ll also add that I also disagree with Trakar regarding the manner in which STEM is undertaken once a project begins. White Supremacy, toxic masculinity, homophobia, capitalist ideology, are entrenced in US culture, particularly in STEM. So, when STEM practitioners engage in it, if they don’t take steps to counter this, their research can amplify these pathologies. This was the case in the Eugenics science of the past, and is the case of the New Jim Code that Ruha Benjamin has written about:

  1. =https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-08-20-the-new-jim-code-race-and-discriminatory-design
  2. =https://www.wiley.com/en-us/Race+After+Technology:+Abolitionist+Tools+for+the+New+Jim+Code-p-9781509526437

Motivated by an interest in social justice, a few of my friends have gone into environmental science. I know one, at the EPA, who was tasked with researching environmental consequences of a pipeline under a waterway near an First Nations community. My friend was very upset, at the point of resigning, because she was only allowed to conduct limited research that, she knew, would support the pipeline. She was prohibited from conducting broader research into potential negative impacts on the waterway that might have favored the First Nation’s people’s opposition to the pipeline. There are many examples of conscious and unconscious bias in STEM. So, my position is that, since it is human beings that conceive of and practice STEM, it is inherently social/political cannot be conducted in a way that is absolutely “objective”.

Maybe this is a consideration about when practitioners allow “stem” to become the weapon and what good can come of that, more intellectualizing? From some perspectives this is just hand wringing.

Note: When you are in predominately “brown” countries there is also a higher level of focus on brown supremacy. It is the articulation in a place like the U.S. that makes this a little redundant. In other words not everything can be attributed to racial thinking.

That is all true. I used to work in one of the newer STEMs, software engineering, which is probably more open to diversity than most. It was still very male, white, and conservative. The bias was easily seen.

The limiting of research you mentioned was probably justified by cost and efficiency. But all the same, the person setting those limits was human, and therefore had some sort of bias. And really didn’t want to tell his/her boss that there was a problem.

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Hello fern. I’ve heard many people in the US articulate the notion that Black, Brown, and Indigenous grassroots community-based movements are equivalent to the KKK. I disagree.

I have worked in a lot of the Global South and, mostly with rural communities with low-wealth. Many of the communities I have worked with have been First Nations communities. I continue to maintain ties, but its been over a year since I’ve been back to any of these places. Could you clarify what you mean by “Brown Supremacy”?

I have yet to see a post that doesn’t pair being white with racism, followed by a characterization of everyone else as a cultural group. (these are fairly distinct groups in my opinion) As a condition of group culture there is always significant self-interest, with racism an extreme. I think you fail to make that distinction.

Hello fern. You stated:

I asked you to clarify what you mean by “Brown Supremacy”. You have not. I am interested to understand what you mean. Perhaps you can give an example of “Brown Superiority” in predominately “brown” countries that you are referring to.

You touch on an important point. I’ve found that even folk, such as KKK leader David Duke, will react in indignation and denial if called a racist. Instead of calling individuals racists, I try to focus on the White Supremacy is embedded in US society. There are many pathologies entrenched in US society: patriarchy, homophobia, capitalist mindset, and more. People benefit from different combinations of their privileges in society. A White female will benefit from white privilege but will face the negative impact of patriarchy. A gay Black male will benefit from male privilege, but will face the negative impacts of White Supremacy and homophobia. I try to focus on the importance of all of us being conscious of the prevalence of social pathologies such as White Supremacy, acknowledging our privileges and taking action to bring about social change that ends these privileges. However, I will admit, and I sure you will enthusiastically agree, that I am far from perfect and, at times, I react in the heat of emotion.

Your comment that everything is not attributable to racialized thinking is true. However, in my interactions with many White people, I’ve found that they can often engage in social interactions without consideration of their “Whiteness”. For many Black, Brown, Indigenous, and People of Color, our interactions with White people often force us to address our non-Whiteness and manifestations of White Supremacy. I’ve found that many in STEM professions, and many self-described progressives, are resistant to acknowledgment of White Supremacy, their privileges, and a need for a change.

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If you understand white supremacy then you can generalize that to non-white supremacy. Decisions are based on race. Just being part of a particular group doesn’t make it a pathology. Or, combining groups into one as you have. In terms of pathology (cause and effect) there are many ways to look at this, and I’m pretty sure we are not looking at this using a similar metric.

You find what you find. If your job is to identify bias, there is plenty of it and not unique to the U.S.

  1. Science isn’t purely “objective,” as humans are incapable of complete objectivity, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t always strive toward objectivity, and struggle to root out, and remove all possible subjectivity from the processes of Science and our examinations of the evidence and findings of science. Science isn’t about what we do with the tools and understandings that science gives us, Science is about the integrity of the processes, and the findings resulting from those processes. Integrity isn’t strengthened by the deliberate interjection of personal biases and preferences into the processes or findings, nor the advocacy to do so.

  2. I’ve no problem with individual scientists, or even groups of scientists, publicly discussing their subjective views and preferences of how they would like society to integrate and apply their work and findings into public policy and social discussion. In fact, I’ve spent a great deal of my time over the last couple of decades urging, cajoling and facilitating researchers to take a much larger role in public discussions, writings, and presentations to make both their work and their personal perceptions of their findings more accessible and more widely understood. That said, there is a big difference between scientists participating in democracy and expressing their personal opinions regarding their findings and their subjectively perceived implications and applications regarding their research and public policy, and the interjection of these personal subjectivities into their research and findings.

As a further comment:

anyone whose support of social equity and justice is as tepid as you describe, never really supported such efforts in the first place, sounds like the centrist social justice hobbyists of the republitard-lite party. That said:

I am unaware of this happening to any significant degree among any significant population of the American scientific community, but it sounds to me like a very good example of the types of problems that can result from trying to push Scientists into including their personal perspectives into the processes and findings of their ostensibly as-objective-as-possible research and findings.

Hi Trakar,

I should clarify that I am not advocating for replacing rational, evidence based decision making with personal preference. On the contrary, I see White Supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and capitalist bias through all stages of the practice of STEM in the US.

The greatest degree of this White Supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and capitalist bias, is the determination of what problems are to be addressed by STEM. STEM research is a very resource dependent endeavor. In the US, as the sources I’ve previously cited quantify, private business and the military fund large percentages of STEM research. What I, and Science for the People, are working on, is engaging broader segments of the US population in identifying a vision for problems that STEM should address. This is especially important for particularly those from marginalized and vulnerable communities.

In addition to identifying problems to be solved, White Supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and capitalist bias determining which data is examined and which is excluded. Ruha Benjamin documents that well in her research (=https://www.ruhabenjamin.com/race-after-technology) as did Shalini Kantayya in her film Coded Bias (=https://www.codedbias.com/). This is also clearly seen in the fact that scientific studies, in the field of medicine, have often focused, disproportionately, on White and often on males:

White Supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and capitalist bias also play a role in methodologies in US STEM. In my field, engineering, the concept of “optimization” plays a large role in design. Methodologies are often developed to identify “optimal” along a capitalist bias. These methodologies often exclude consideration of impacts on marginalized, vulnerable, Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.

Finally there is the notion of the presentation of the research. STEM research is often hidden behind paywalls which make it cost prohibitively inaccessible to much of the population. Additionally, capitalism has lead to the commodification of knowledge. So the innovations, such as vaccines for COVID are not inaccessible to many in need due to patent prohibitions.

The persistent low representation of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income folk and the degree to which STEM has become a tool for capitalism and the military (See: =https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/1467-the-tragedy-of-american-science), speaks to the “tepid” support of many in the STEM community for change. Yes, this is like the right wing “centrists” of the Republican/Democrat Party.

The social justice push is for potential for the knowledge produced to be used for social justice. I engage with a great deal of folk in STEM. My sense is that many are so immersed in the corporate/military focus, that doing things differently doesn’t enter to highly into their consciousness. It is also not easy, for those in STEM in the US, to engage in social justice applications of science. The field pushes those involved to dedicate a large amount of their time to serving the interests of the corporations or military/military contractors that they work for or, for academics, their corporate/military funders. With the Black Lives Matter movement fading into the background, many in STEM seem to have lost the sense of urgency required to engage in a push for socially justice applications of STEM.

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Institutional behavior will not significantly change until you replace the institutions. Organizations do not become institutional through reform, but rather by resisting reform. Science isn’t the problem you seek to address and corrupting science will only exasperate the very problems you seem to want to address. I don’t mind people tilting at windmills, …until they start destroying the windmills that serve as a foundation for actual progress.

Hello Trakar. I agree. I am working with several grassroots community-based groups on explore “People’s Universities” such at those created by the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, the Venezuelan commune movement, and among the Solidarity Economy network in Brazil. Are you engaged in similar efforts?

Is your position that those promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice are corrupting STEM?

Do you consider the small snapshot of examples I have provided, as examples of uncorrupt practices in STEM?

Do you oppose efforts to engage grassroots community members in helping to set an agenda for STEM?

Do you oppose opening up what is considered acceptable/adequate data and methodologies, to more than that which is determined by the corporate and military funders in the current White Supremacist, homophobic, patriarchal mindset?

Can you indicate anything I’ve posted which you would equate to such an egregious accusation and personal attack, or is such toxic hyperbole merely a standard, default discussion tactic in your debate toolbox?

Hello Trakar. You are engaging in a personal attacks. I am not. I asked a sincere question. As I mentioned, with the Black Lives Matter movement fading into history in the minds of many in STEM, there has been a rollback of, if not backlash against, efforts to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. I am not sure of your perspective on this because, when I have addressed the White Supremacist, patriarchal, homophobic, capitalist mindset in STEM, your comment was:

You did not state that you support efforts to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. Then you went on to indicate your opposition to addressing White Supremacist, patriarchal, homophobic, capitalist mindset in the practice of STEM in the US, with comments including those shown below:

You also chose not to address my question of inclusion of grassroots community voice in working to set an agenda for science and you chose not to comment on the examples I gave of current STEM that promotes White Supremacist, patriarchal, homophobic, capitalist bias in identifying what data is collected and used and in determining methodologies. If your answer is that you support efforts to integrate diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice into STEM, then you can simply say that without hurling the derogatory and demeaning characterizations that you have used since you first decided to initiate commentary with me.

This “discussion” is over, as we apparently cannot converse or come to any reasonable, agreed upon manner to continue it in good faith without both sides feeling that their words are being disingenuously twisted, distorted, or lied about/ignored. You may respond as you wish to this or other posts I make, but this is the last post I will make attempting to engage or discuss this, or any other matter, directly with you.

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Hi Trakar. Thanks for articulating this. My sense is that we both identify as progressive, even though our individual interpretations may differ. Given that state of inequity, oppression, and right wing messaging, I think it is important that those of us who are progressive, should learn to work together. My opinion is that we both can do better.

For my part, I won’t take our interchange as a complete negative. I see how certain things you said, triggered a negative reaction in me. I will try to learn to see more of the positive and elements of unity in future interchanges with other folk. I hope that you can get see some positive lessons. One of the values I encourage for progressives, is a commitment to constant struggle for improvement.

I wish you well.