Challenging the Myth of Scientific Neutrality

The Dual Nature of Science

“Science for the People engages with what ecologist Richard Levins called the dual nature of science. That is science as ‘an episode in the growth of human knowledge in general, and as the class-, gender-, and culture-bound product of Euro-North American capitalism in particular.’ Levins noted that two common reactions to the intersection of science and politics, scientism (the ideology that science is always correct and just) and antiscience, fail to grasp this dual nature.”


The Dual Nature of Science essay was written by Conor Dempsey with illustrations by Matteo Farinella, both SftP NYC chapter members.

The pamphlet with the full essay and an overview of SftP’s working groups can be accessed here.


The March for Science – System Overhaul

Millions have mobilized under the banner of the March for Science to counter science denial and support publicly funded science. On April 14th, 2018, the second annual March for Science drew out modest crowds in New York city, consisting of many individuals who typically would not self identify as direct action-oriented activists, but found themselves galvanized by the uptick in the dismissal and discrediting of science in politics.

While the March for Science cause seeks to push for the systematic inclusion of science in policy, activists with Science for the People (SftP) NYC recognize that such an effort is not an inherently neutral counter to the inequitable impacts of its exclusion.

As science gains widespread recognition as being inextricably linked to both the social and political, it is imperative to examine why its dismissal is propagated, how it is misused, and who is missing from the discourse around its applications. Thus SftP NYC formed the System Overhaul contingent to engage with the March for Science.

In the morning leading up to the march, SftP NYC participated in the teach-ins at Washington Square Park, with a presentation and discussion titled Neutrality, Transparency & the (Ab)use of Science. This presentation focused on how science can be used for competing interests, is influenced by social and political factors, and how purported neutrality often serves to hide the interests and funding behind certain research and initiatives.

“Scientific discovery is often enshrined as the brilliant accomplishment of objective inquiry by isolated individuals. In fact, scientific discovery is a social process in which the work of countless contributors and many disciplines–all under the influence of their historically determined circumstances, be they academic, corporate, private or public–culminate in breakthroughs by standing on the foundation of generations of earlier accomplishments. The myth of the neutral and independent scientist obfuscates this truth and facilitates the abuse of science throughout our society.”

After the teach-in, activists with SftP NYC kept the radical critique of science going while distributing The Dual Nature of Science pamphlets to march attendees. Interest for the Race, Gender, & Science panel was also drummed up with those who were receptive to further dialogue regarding the misapplications of science and its role in widening social inequalities.

Just as the march began to step off, SftP NYC was joined by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, a radical protest marching band, who agreed to bolster the system overhaul contingent, making it one of the most robust and dynamic contingents in participation.

Race, Gender, & Science – Panel Discussion

On the evening of April 14th, 2018, following the second annual March for Science, the SftP NYC chapter hosted a panel titled Race, Gender, & Science in the loft of one of the largest independent & radical publishers, Verso Books.

The panel featured representatives from Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), NYC for Abortion Rights (NYCFAR) and SftP NYC with opening remarks from Clifford Conner, author of A People’s History of Science. Built out of the day’s rally and march, the event was organized to critique the myth of scientific neutrality, providing testimony and analysis of science for the benefit of the 1%, at the expense of society’s oppressed.

Both of the organizations SftP NYC collaborated with to realize this panel discussion engaged in campaigns that serve as clear examples of the misuse and abuse of science, and the pervasiveness of institutionalizing its oppressive results.

Months prior, BYP100 called for the removal of a statue memorializing J. Marion Sims, an exploitative physician lauded as the “Father of Gynecology”, who mastered his craft on enslaved black women without consent or anesthesia, as reported by the Washington Post.

NYCFAR continuously advocates for women to have the right to bodily autonomy. Just between 2011 and 2014, state legislatures enacted 231 abortion restrictions, compromising the accessibility of maintaining reproductive health for many as reported by The Nation.

The audio recording of the panel can be accessed here. Read the transcript of Clifford Conner’s opening remarks here.


Left Forum – Panel: The Dual Nature of Science