The Science of Social Justice

Centuries ago as the Dark Ages came to a close, we moved into the Enlightenment. For the first time, science and reason was valued above religion and the authority of the church. To this day, science is still a major social authority and is seen by many to be the ultimate objective truth-finder. While the scientific method is in theory a stable and unbiased way of discovering new information and learning about the world around, scientists are just as biased as humans every have been. Science has an influence on culture, but culture also has an influence on science.

A major example of this is scientific racism. From the 1600s until the early 20th century, the scientific method was abused to promote white supremacy. Experiments that were questionable at best were performed with heavy biases and taught to the masses as fact. This supposedly ironclad discipline overlooked blatant racism for hundreds of years. “Scientists” would use the skull sizes of Caucasian and African men to show that white brains are bigger, by shoving beans inside and counting them as a way of measuring intelligence. When the experiments weren’t going the way they were expected to, they were tweaked, altered, or reconstructed to produce the desired result and confirm the racial prejudices of the day. We like to think that objective truth will eventually win out – after all, it did in this case, though only after too much time and too much brutality. But we’re smarter now, right?

The current social justice debate steeped in scientific rhetoric is gender and sex. I’ve studied this subject in depth and can go on for days about the scientific justifications behind the separation of gender and sex as concepts, the legitimacy of trans and nonbinary identities, and the social construction of our current system. Bill Nye Saves the World hit Netflix last year and took on the topic in a wonderfully crafted and scientifically backed episode. People who are opposed to the current gender movement use the DNA episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy to show that Bill has been bought out by the liberal tumblr snowflakes as though a kid’s show from the 1990s is a better authority than a show for adults in a time when the topic is gaining more progressive scientific attention. When people try to refute these social justice points using “science,” I am attempted to come right back at them with… actual science.

This should be completely unnecessary. Maybe it’s a product of our competitive, capitalist society, but the intense scrutiny people face in order to validate their own existence on someone else’s terms is absurd. These pseudo scientists who believe their middle school level understanding of biological sex makes it okay to invalidate marginalized people will likely not change their mind no matter what evidence you throw at them. They will invent conspiracy theories or try to delegitimize certain areas of study. The best argument against them is kindness and human decency. It is about respecting people’s identities and making life as livable and enjoyable as possible for every type of person. It is about promoting the rainbows of diversity and individuality over the grey clouds of conformity. It is about defending people’s experiences and feelings because they are human and worthy of respect, not because a scientist said it was okay.

The science is there, but why does it have to be?

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