ANALYSIS: Scholars say DEI is having a potentially disastrous impact on the hard sciences

Ahead of MIT's DEI debate, Heather Mac Donald and Patanjali Kambhampati sat down with the National Association of Scholars to describe how identity now trumps objectivity in science.

Mac Donald, Kambhampati, and moderator Scott Turner argue that DEI initiatives harm academic freedom, stall scientific advancement, and politicize grantmaking.

At an Apr. 4 event hosted by the National Association of Scholars (NAS), Heather Mac Donald and Patanjali Kambhampati describe a new normal in the sciences. Objectivity, they suggest, has been replaced with a hyper-fixation on identity. 

Mac Donald and Kambhampati are participants in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) debate on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). 

As they prepared to answer the proposition “Should Academic DEI Programs be Abolished?” (spoiler: they say “yes”), they sat down with the NAS’ Scott Turner to argue that DEI initiatives harm academic freedom, stall progress, and insult the historical figures who introduced some of the greatest scientific advancements. 

[RELATED: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion vs. Merit, Fairness, and Equality– Both sides of upcoming MIT debate weigh in]

“We think that science depends upon meritocracy, which DEI undermines, perhaps fatally,” Turner, a physiologist and Director of the NAS’ Diversity in the Sciences Project, told Campus Reform

Turner facilitated the conversation with Mac Donald, an author and Manhattan Institute fellow, and Kambhampati, a chemistry professor at McGill University in Canada, to describe what DEI is doing to the sciences. 

The heads of some major institutions such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are boycotting conferences if speakers are not deemed diverse enough.  

University administrators, the panelists say, pressure faculty to substitute scientific discovery with metrics, including the number of articles published and the dollar value of grants as major grantors become increasingly politicized

Activists engage in a proverbial statue toppling, calling for the cancellation of Charles DarwinThomas Huxley, and any paradigm-shifting scientist whose beliefs no longer conform to present-day sensibilities. 

Leftists have also presented a claim that Kambhampati argues against: there is no objectivity, only lived experience that is formed by a person’s identity. 

[RELATED: ACADEMICALLY SPEAKING: Whoopi Goldberg’s thoughts on Jews prove that ‘lived experiences’ count for squat]

“We don’t look at science in different ways based on race or gender,” he says. “This has nothing to do with how you study electrons or photons or organelles or cells.”

Before the MIT event, Campus Reform asked Mac Donald about common ground with her debate opponents, who support DEI. 

She references the justifications that prop up affirmative action and other DEI initiatives, saying that both sides might agree to “a shared commitment to evidence and data that explain the absence of proportional representation in different institutions–an explanation that does not rest on racism.”

In an interview with Campus Reform, NAS Director of Communications Chance Layton recommended policies and practices that look more like merit, fairness, and equality (MFE)–the framework that Mac Donald and Kambhampati supported in the debate. 

“Number one is to end racial preferences. Number two is to end legacy admissions. Number three is to find an objective standard to grade each student by their academic abilities, such as the ACT,” Layton says. 

“These tests offer such a project, but many elite schools are moving away from such standards so that they may continue to discriminate against those who they don’t want.”

Watch the full discussion here

Campus Reform contacted all relevant parties listed for comment and will update this article accordingly.