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Scientific Studies Disrupted by the Easily Offended

If you are offended by something you read, or your feelings are otherwise hurt, you own the problem.

-Lawrence Krauss

Theoretical physicist Lawrence M. Krauss, who serves as the President of the Origins Project, wrote an Op-Ed for the National Post explaining how the “easily offended are a threat to scientific progress.” He starts off by providing an example of new guidelines set forth by the Journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry that requires authors to be mindful of any content that “might have the potential to cause offense.” Authors of the journal are reminded that “it is the perception of the recipient that we should consider, regardless of the author’s intention.”

Krauss makes an interesting point, noting that any sentence in the English language could be perceived as offensive to somebody. According to Krauss, the new guidelines essentially freeze all discourse. Offensive content is defined as “any content that could reasonably offend someone on the basis of their age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs, marital or parental status, physical features, national origin, social status or disability.” Basically, everyone under the sun can take offense to anything published by the scientific journal, and the authors will be asked to make edits or their article will be removed completely.

The new guidelines allow the journal’s editors to reasonably censor many fields of scientific study. Evolutionary biology and the Big Bang Theory, for example, could be determined offensive to religious Americans. According to Krauss, genetic research is already at the forefront of many protests, suggesting that it is nearly impossibly to study correlations between race and other genetic traits. He also recognizes sex and gender as “untouchable” subjects because of the varying views surrounding the two areas of study. Lastly, scientific studies regarding climate change are likely to upset one side of the political aisle, depending on findings.

While I am no scientist, nor have I ever claimed to be, I agree that impeding scientific progress with social justice is a dangerous practice. We use science to better explain what’s going on around us. If scientists are incapable of providing evidence for their claims because said evidence may be found offensive, then the entire study is rendered useless. How are we able to trust any scientific findings if the scientists themselves have to be careful about what information the convey to us when publishing their findings?

The “easily offended” aren’t only a threat to scientific progress, but to academic progress as a whole. With a chilling effect placed on learning, scientists are limited to what they can study and write about. Instead of assuring that there aren’t any “microaggressions” in their journal entries, wouldn’t we prefer our scientists remain focused on their studies? The realm of academia shouldn’t be dictated to us by an offended few, but many of our elites have placed virtue over factual information.

Krauss recommends that the “easily offended” either refuse to read any potentially offensive content, ignore the offensive language, or write and publish an adequate response detailing what is wrong with the findings. Researchers are no longer tasked with discrediting findings with better findings. All they have to do is find it offensive and said findings are removed from the journal.

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