“The socialist society must therefore guard against taking over from science too much of scientific abstraction, scientific statistical ruthlessness, and scientific detachment from the individual.” – Joseph Needham, 1935i
The religious and political ideologies celebrating individualism and liberty were established to justify the use of the earth and all people and animals on it by a very restricted class of men. The restriction of science and academia to this same group developed the tools and further justification for exploitation. The popular individualism did not translate into autonomy for women over their bodies or indigenous people over their land. Europe’s scientific revolution occurred during a time when Europe was rejecting the bureaucratic patriarchy1 system of rule which had crushed their peasantry since the middle ages. It was necessary to create racism to replace religious bigotry as justification for slavery and land theft in the Americas, especially in the United States which espoused religious freedom. It was also necessary to replace patriarchy as a justification for the subjugation of women in the new fraternal order of the west.2 This new fraternal order was headed by the new men of science and scholarship, particularly after they broke the guilds’ control of information, so they set to creating explanations and justifications for their new order.
The push to isolate and classify everything and the reverence accorded to any opinions from the scientific class both established and justified sexism and racism. The sadism towards and dehumanization of everyone not in their class served to both establish an ingroup with no outside loyalty and to justify the exploitation of all outside of it. The exceptionalism of this group established by the new ownership and access to knowledge fed group narcissism within and dependency without, entrenching the racism and sexism that established it. Like religion, science was used to create division in service to the trade economy. Unlike religion, which was used to divide people into opposing societies, science was used to divide global society against the lowest classes.
In its war against all indigenous and female forms of knowledge, science created a near religious cult of nihilistic reason, a supposedly male faculty which celebrated a sociopathic disregard for animals, humans other than educated caucasian men and even the earth itself. Science as a religion was complete with prophets and promises to rid the world of evil and hardship through enlightenment. The saviour mentality that came with science, promised to free us all from drudgery, illness and even death, through finding all the truths. Acceptance or acknowledgment of scientific ideas or progress came with demands for unquestioning faith based devotion to both the ideas and the prophets. Any excesses of sadism and destruction were justifiable if they were depicted as a sacrifice to the twin gods of science and the trade economy as both were to be the path to our salvation. Any humanitarian concern was contemptuously compared to old traditions and religions and said to block progress. Human rights and environmental activists that opposed scientific nihilism or industry were depicted as naive, childlike and overwhelmingly female and indigenous as opposed to wise, professional, caucasian men.
Descartes assured the world that animals felt no pain on vivisectionii, contrary to the knowledge of people everywhere who lived with, observed and frequently worshiped animals. He and other scientists wrote that animal reactions were purely mechanical just as the same group of men were attempting to convince the courts that women’s tears were not to be trusted. The insistence that animals and the earth were given to man for his use and exploitation echo the claims that women were intended only for childbirth. The denial of the reality or importance of the pain of animals echoes the insistence that women were intended to experience extreme pain and frequent death in childbirth. Torture was justified by the pursuit of knowledge, in persecution of witches and terrorists and in science.
Eco-feminists of the 1970s forward have frequently pointed out the similarity in rhetoric when describing the scientist attitude towards the earth and its role as a thing to be exploited by trade and the rhetoric towards women and their role in lifegiving. The push to maximize production beyond need or the safety of women or the earth and the justification of anything sacrificed to the great trade economy god show the same ideology behind both. Mother nature was treated by the same principle as mothers, if they died fulfilling their role it was god’s wish or their destiny.
Freud called women the “dark continent”iii in a comparison with the uncolonized regions of Africa. Carolyn Marchant Bacon has found a great deal of similarity between the scientific exploration of nature and the Inquisition’s investigation of the secrets of witchcraftiv, not surprisingly as the same group of academic men were discussing both. “In 1696 Leibniz wrote about “the art of inquiry into nature itself and of putting it on the rack—the art of experiment which Lord Bacon began so ably.” Four years later, Jean Baptiste du Hamel, secretary of the Paris Academy of Sciences, wrote, “We discover the mysteries of nature much more easily when she is tortured [torqueatur] by fire or some other aids of art than when she proceeds along her own road.”v The belief that witches had power over nature which the scientists jealously sought to own and the respect accorded to the knowledge of witches which scientists also wanted for themselves, made the two wars against witches and against nature even more connected.
Experiments which would horrify the wider society have been a common theme in science since its establishment and continue today.vi The need to develop a collaborative body of knowledge had to be tempered by the need to restrict knowledge of its activities from the wider society. The preexisting class of scientists was therefore entrenched by limited access and restriction of scientific research to only their class. This restriction further exacerbated the racism and sexism science was born with and produced an ever-expanding list of atrocities conducted by scientists on those in classes below them. Ingroups are partially created by shunning and cruelty to outgroups and the intensity of the cruelty contributes to the intensity of the ingroup bonding.3 The scientific preference for reason over passion, or scientific experiment over sympathy, empathy or love, provided fertile ground for this cruelty. The scientific class then used their own standards and culture to pronounce what is normative for all societies, to depict sociopathy as incurable and the supposed greater good as justification for atrocities.
The continual harassment of nature and people is not simply for knowledge. In the world run by the trade economy that knowledge must find a use and a buyer.
Scientists did not just study the world around them, they also used their power as the arbiters of knowledge to recommend actions, not least in the way we ought to treat each other. Darwin told the world that “hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.”vii and hoped both that the “weaker and inferior” humans would refrain from marriage and that open competition would be encouraged which would allow the most able to succeed best. The trade economy trained people to look up at those more advantaged instead of down at those less advantaged and to feel envy instead of pity. Those who spent their lives striving for more advantages for themselves instead of assisting those more disadvantaged found a perfect moral justification in Darwin’s expert opinions.
Unlike some of his fellow scientists such as Arthur de Gobineauviii, Darwin did not believe in racial superiority or even different races of humans and he was a slavery abolitionist. These qualifications are commonly used to excuse him of promoting eugenics. It is only possible to excuse his writings in a world so fixated on the idea of race that they do not see class. Darwin was certainly wishing the lowest classes would cease to exist. The trade economy has continued to carry his survival of the fittest ideas forward to the unnecessary misery of billions, with very few objections. Mass murder is only considered genocide if it is against a nation or a fictional race. The extermination of the bottom class is still considered part of the natural order as preached by the scientific community. As Gary Wersky has pointed outix, that “weaker and inferior” bottom class included the unemployed. Hitler’s T4 Program was only following the popular international eugenics movement when it ordered execution of anyone deemed a burden on society, that society being defined as corporations. Valuation of people according to scientists was and is the same as the corporate valuation. The earlier fad of IQ testing is today largely replaced by academic testing but the corporate standards continue and the misery assigned to those who fail also continues. Herding people into slums based on the idea of race is now decried but herding people into slums based on corporate valuation is widely accepted. The eugenics program called economics continues.
Eugenics, and periodic other justifications of active or passive mass murder, are not an example of scientists putting reason over emotion. They are an example of the scientific class advocating cruelty to an outgroup. If scientists truly wanted to improve the human species, they would be investigating solutions to the tropical diseases and dysentery killing children more than male pattern baldness and erectile dysfunction.[cite] No scientist has pointed out that the wealthy are contributing the least labour to society. Instead of advocating that these most unproductive members of society be expelled from the nest (as capitalist reason may dictate), scientists are testing blood transfusions to allow the wealthy to feed off the young to extend their youth [cite] and preserving only that number of the young required to maintain the elderly. Scientists also continually experiment on prisoners and the poor for the benefit of the higher classes who can afford their products. Scientific reason is really economic advantage.
Neither are Darwin’s recommendations an isolated incident of a scientist unwittingly saying something which causes real world harm. Scientists have been protected for years by the claim that they are just seeking knowledge and they can’t control where their funding comes from, but scientists have been an actively participating part of every atrocity being committed against the general public for many years. From experimenting on prisoners for the cosmetics industry to torturing people for the military to creating surveillance and weapons worldwide, the scientific class has been as complicit as the industrial or political classes in maintaining oppressive tyranny and far less accountable than either. Protection from the public by both secrecy and limited access, dependency on the powerful for their own right to exist and an overwhelming group narcissism which celebrates the distance between themselves and the classes below them, have isolated the scientific class from empathy with the humanity they study and experiment on.
Intellectual justification for mass atrocities was taken from theology to science as science began to play god. The idea of ideal vs defective people replaced good and evil, but the defective were condemned just the same. Scientific labeling and categorization, the greater good, utilitarianism, reason over empathy and the justification of improving nature were used in aid of mass atrocities in the politics of both the left and the right. The concept of the greater good relies on an affiliated group being defined which will benefit from shunning those it considers harmful. Like theologists and capitalists, scientists were not all guilty or even acquiescent with the atrocities aided by some. They are all however, participating in and enabling a class structure which enables and ignores atrocities to its outgroups.
Scientists and academics stand with their own as strongly as every other class and far more effectively than most. Dr. Aubrey Levin headed a South African apartheid era torture program which used methods such as chemical castration, electric shocks and incomplete sexual reassignment surgery as a cure for homosexuality. After almost two decades of torture on mostly teenage boys drafted into the military, ending in 1989, he was licensed in Canada and employed by the university of Calgary until he was arrested on unrelated charges of sexual assault on male patients in 2010. Dr, Albert Kligman was a multi-millionaire who became rich after violating the Nuremburg Code against testing on prisoners for two and a half decades. He exposed hundreds of prisoners to the toxic chemical used in Agent Orange and many pathogens and was never prosecuted. These are two of an inestimable number of medical practitioners and scientists who have never, despite all professional codes of conduct, suffered professionally for their atrocities committed in support of power or pursuit of personal wealth. A 2015 independent review of the American Psychological Association (APA) found the organization “suppressed internal dissent from anti-torture doctors; cleared members of wrongdoing” in support of CIA torture programs.”x These are the people who define what is normative behaviour in the United States. The public can vote against or overthrow politicians and boycott or strike against industrialists, but there is very little recourse against scientists.
People can be conditioned to feel very differently about their ingroups than those outside. While empathy can certainly extend to all living creatures, people can also be taught to vilify anyone unfamiliar. It is easier to persuade people to kill an insect than a lizard and easier to persuade them to kill a lizard than a kitten. It is also easier to persuade a population to kill a woman, someone from a different ethnic group or people from a lower class if those groups are habitually vilified and presented as different and not included in the ingroup. Science has consistently used the lowest classes as a product or testing ground for the upper classes and consistently ignored the most vulnerable in favour of the most profitable.
These facts are not lost on the lower classes who do not bother depending on the scientific class for their expertise and go back to fixing their own problems. The limited resources at their disposal are still better than being experimented on or ignored. In Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, Paul Richards, describes how, after the world ignored the ebola epidemic outbreak, the villagers discovered that the expert advice being given to them was wrong and that they were more effective with their own solutions.xi The term People’s Science recalls the 1970s radical science publication Science for Peoplexii and is a perhaps unintentional reminder that the other science is most certainly not of the people.
In a world where we are governed by highly specialized epistemic communities of elite knowledge, it is essential that there is broad diversity in those communities. Corporate, scientific and academic propaganda since colonization in all parts of the world has depicted care and connectedness to the environment as aboriginal sentiments, implying bizarrely that some inhabitants of earth are not aboriginal and even more bizarrely that care for one’s own home and life essentials is cultural. This served the dual purpose of both ghettoizing environmental concerns as minority issues and inhibiting those labeled as non-aboriginal from speaking about concerns that were decreed the cultural property of others. This ghettoization and marginalization tactic was also used with women. Destruction of families and homes and abusive treatment of children were first depicted as feminist issues and then feminism was redirected to uphold a corporate ideal instead.
The objectification and othering of women and indigenous cultures was used to block any potential empathy with them or the causes they were associated with. By attaching all human social needs to these two vilified groups, capitalist power was able to marginalize the human social needs themselves. The environment, children and all human society that did not relate to capitalism was cast into a human rights ghetto and declared not real news. The survival of the poor was tacitly agreed to be not in the interest of the greater good. The only topics considered worthy of serious study were those which isolated and commodified little pieces of nature or humanity so they could be marketed for profit. The scientific religion that was supposed to bring salvation for us all sold their interest in those at the bottom for increased corporate profit.
The scientific class will never cease to be used as an oppressive tool as long as access and input to knowledge are restricted by class and dependent on political and corporate approval. Unlike politicians, industrialists and theologians, the world needs scientists and all of our knowledge industries. If the scientific community is to cease being an oppressive tool, it must become fully autonomous and separated from political and industrial power. If the world is to benefit from the epistemic communities we desperately need to progress, the scientific community must become transparent to and inclusive of the wider public.
1 Not the real form of clan based patriarchy as practised in the Greek and Roman empires and still throughout the Middle East but the mimicking form encoded into state, church and bureaucracy as described in Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha. In this dissociated form, women such as Queen Elizabeth I of England and Queen Isabella I of Spain could be powerful without disrupting the structure.
2The transition from the patriarchy to the fraternity in Europe is discussed in much more detail in the second book in this series, Exceptional Lives.
3Shunning and inclusion is discussed in much more detail in the third book in this series, Outcast.
Excerpted from Autonomy, Diversity, Society. Citations will be transferred when I get a minute.