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Sunday, January 10, 2021

What does Silicon Valley's censorship mean for science?

Scientists who discover truths that conflict with official Silicon Valley dogma are about to find life increasingly difficult

T When I was a kid, I used to ask myself a hypothetical question: suppose a scientist discovered a cure for cancer while working in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. If he reveals the cure, it might save millions from cancer, but by gaining praise for his country, it might condemn the world to live forever under totalitarianism. What should he do?

At the time, I thought the question was pointless, like asking whether you should crash into Earth or Mars when your flying saucer goes out of control. But now totalitarianism is almost upon us in the form of massive political censorship by Silicon Valley. They started a few years ago when Cloudflare, an Internet infrastructure company, cut the DDoS protection from two Neo-Nazi websites. It continued with misinformation spread by the press, including the tech press. Now Twitter, Google, and Facebook have made the transition from destroying unsavory sites to blocking the president of the United States and his followers, all of whom are members of a legitimate political party, and they are actively working to prevent the creation of alternative venues for people to peaceably express their opinions.

To paraphrase JFK, those who make peaceable expression of their views impossible make violent expression of them inevitable.

We libertarians can offer support to our conservative friends, who are the hardest hit. But science has been under attack for years, and the effects are only now starting to be felt. There is no need for scientists to go Galt in protest. By its very nature, totalitarianism will prevent anyone from finding a cure for cancer or anything else.

To sustain a totalitarian system, those in control, whether they are a government or a corporate alliance, must suppress the flow of information; otherwise those seeking to regain their freedom will find allies and discover ways to avoid the repression. Since this same freedom is also essential for science, scientific discovery eventually stops as well.

In case anyone has not been paying attention, our California-based oligarchs have been not only suppressing political opinions they dislike but also the suppressing dissemination of scientific results that conflict with their worldview. Any conclusion about the coronavirus that conficts with the position of the World Health Organization now gets blocked and the offending website “demonetized.”

The chilling effect of censorship is already felt in biology, which is starting to follow the path led by climate studies. Some scientists have even retracted their own papers, either because they fear their conclusions might support unapproved political views or, more likely, because they fear retribution from the mobs and their woke colleagues. Even if some scientific and medical journals refuse to censor, foundations and corporations certainly will and the government will not be far behind.

The mere suspicion that scientific findings might be suppressed unless they provide ‘acceptable’ conclusions is enough to undermine the credibility of any findings that actually do get published. We can see this already in the reputation of research on topics such as IQ, sex, climate, and race. As the list of officially ordained conclusions inevitably expands, scientists will find life increasingly difficult.

Indeed, twenty years ago we libertarians would have been ridiculed for suggesting that declarations of loyalty to a specified political ideology would be required for consideration to an academic appointment. Now they are routine: at most universities in California and on the American east coast, they have been mandatory for at least three years. If a candidate does not provide documentation of adherence to the ideology of diversity and inclusion, or refuses to answer on the grounds that a scientist must be politically independent, he or she will not be considered for appointment.

That is how totalitarianism works: not only by suppressing knowledge, but also by replacing those who value truth with those who are loyal to the official dogma. What is just as disappointing is how little resistance our scientific leaders and even supposedly libertarian sites like Reason are offering.

As America descends into darkness, the world will have to look elsewhere for scientific progress, cures to diseases, and discoveries about our universe. If you think democracy dies in darkness, wait till you see what happens to science.

jan 10 2021, 6:55 am

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