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A Scientist’s Sexuality Shouldn’t Matter

If you've studied intellectual content or scientific theory or anything else for that matter from a white heterosexual male, you're a misogynistic prick!

In fact, where do you get off reading the Spritzler Report? BTW, were you aware that I have an honorary doctorate in particle physics from MIT?

A Scientist’s Sexuality Shouldn’t Matter

If you earn a doctorate, a federal agency wants to know if you’re gay, trans, ‘queer’ or ‘genderqueer.’

By Lawrence Krauss, WSJ

May 29, 2023 3:01 pm ET

The Survey of Earned Doctorates is an annual census of new postgraduate research degrees. The National Science Foundation, a federal agency, collects data on academic discipline, sex, race, ethnicity, debt burden, disability and citizenship. The results are used by government, universities and industry to track the demographics of women and minorities in STEM—science, technology, engineering and math.

The sex and race data—the latter has been collected since 1975—was initially useful in efforts to overcome barriers to women and minorities in academia. Those barriers have largely disappeared, yet quotas and preferential hiring have persisted. After such a concerted effort, demographic disparities are less likely to point to systemic biases in academia than to underlying societal factors.

That’s especially true when it comes to disparities of sex. Women earn a majority of postbaccalaureate degrees over all STEM disciplines in the U.S. Since female undergraduates outnumber male ones by about 3 to 2, this trend is likely to continue. Further, a recent large-scale study found that previous claims about sex bias in academic science were overblown. Tenure-track women and men in STEM receive comparable grant funding, journal acceptances and recommendation letters, and women have an edge in hiring.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision next month curtailing or abolishing the use of racial preferences in university admissions. Amid all this, the NSF appears determined to focus ever more intently on identity politics.

A pilot project was announced last week to track “sexual orientation and gender identity.” In addition to being asked about their sex—now qualified as the sex “assigned at birth”—they will be asked if they “currently describe” themselves as male, female, “transgender” or “a different term”; whether they consider themselves a “gender minority,” a “sexual minority” and “LGBT+”; and whether they accept one of a dizzying list of labels: “Non-binary, Gender nonconforming, Genderfluid, Genderqueer . . . Gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer or another orientation.”

The list of reasons why this is a bad idea is almost as long. For one, asking about sexual preferences is a violation of privacy. Will the NSF next be asking how many sexual partners each degree recipient had during graduate school, in case promiscuous students are underrepresented?

Such personal matters are irrelevant to science and essentially invisible. In my 40 years in academia, I have worked with all sorts of colleagues and students. Many were highly eccentric, but that didn’t matter if they were good scientists. As one colleague put it: “You are teaching a chemistry or physics course. Your lectures describe concepts and present equations. ‘Suppose a magnet is moving relative to a loop of wire.’ You barely know any of your students. You give tests and grade them. You have no idea, nor care about, the ‘sexual orientation’ of any of your students. . . . What career barriers are there?”

Identity divisions make the world more divisive, not less. Some of my colleagues and students have been gay. Unless they made a point of discussing it, it wasn’t important. If someone publishes a report claiming that gays are underrepresented in STEM, will diversity offices require that job candidates add information about their sexual preferences to applications, as they now require them to pledge to promote racial “diversity” and describe past activities that demonstrate such a commitment?

Asking respondents if they’re “transgender,” “gender non-conforming,” “nonbinary,” “gender-fluid” or “genderqueer” is patently ridiculous. These are subjective categories, unobservable by others unless the person in question makes it a point to label himself publicly. Most scientists, like ordinary people, couldn’t even define most of these terms, let alone use them as a basis for discrimination.

What’s the purpose of all this? Nature magazine paraphrases a statement from the NSF’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, Charles Barber: “Collecting these data will help the NSF and other agencies to analyse employers’ policies and procedures for addressing unintended barriers to employment, advancement and inclusion.” The magazine then quotes Mr. Barber: “This gives us an opportunity to create more opportunities and broaden participation to yield equitable outcomes for the LGBTQIA+ community and others.”

Does that mean quotas? If so, how would one even go about determining the “correct” proportion of “queer” or “genderqueer” scientists? The percentage of the population that espouses these labels is so small that any data the NSF gathers will be statistically useless. Australia’s National Medical and Health Research Council recently announced plans to award half of its research grants for researchers at the midcareer and senior level to women and “nonbinary” applicants. That sounds like a loophole: Men could get special treatment by declaring themselves nonbinary.

If the NSF is going to ask doctoral candidates about sexual orientation or gender identification, why not ask them about other private matters, such as religion or politics? Those would likely yield demographically skewed results as well. Atheists and Jews are surely overrepresented among scientists; conservatives and evangelical Christians underrepresented. I wonder what the DEI officers would make of that.

By pandering to the loudest new minorities so that DEI bureaucrats can expand their definitions of inclusion, the NSF is erecting yet another barrier to scientific collegiality and integrity.

Mr. Krauss, a theoretical physicist, is president of the Origins Project Foundation and author of “The Edge of Knowledge: Unsolved Mysteries of the Cosmos.”

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