Science is a mathematical and results based discipline. Methodical and analytical, the expectation is that science ought to be free of bias and undue influences, unlike other disciplines. However, like any other discipline conducted by humans various factors somehow manage to influence Science. The influencing factors include racial bias and politics that provide the primary focus and subject of this paper. Racial bias is simply the attitudes, especially the negative attitudes that people may have regarding a certain race. Politics, on the other hand, in this paper applies to its broad interpretation of the practice of influencing people whether on an individual level or otherwise alongside the narrow meaning of governance.
Politics influence on science will be determined by the respective country. The effect is especially important when one accounts for research projects. A country’s political leanings will affect the scientific research that is encouraged or even allowed. Some research such as Stem cell research and the strict regulation of some aspects of research in genetics by some countries. An example of this would be in United States during the Bush administration when stem cell research was heavily restricted due to the politics of the government that was in power. Some countries have completely banned fields of research such as genetic engineering.
The other aspect where politics influence science is the funding of research. A state will fund research that aligns with its political agenda than one that is against its policies. A demonstration of this would be the Manhattan Project that led to nuclear fusion. United States was at war and as such was willing to dedicate resources to the discovery of fusion and the consequent nuclear weapons. The question of the content of research is arguably a political decision rather than a scientific decision. In addition, to the country’s political leanings the inter-university and departmental politics also affect the research. Funding in any situation is never infinite and with the competition for the limited funding a researcher will more often choose a study that both department heads, and administrators of the institutions are likely to support. In addition, securing the funding in itself is a political process; the football coaches in Universities get more money than their contemporaries in the sciences such as biology and physics. The reason behind this is that some fields are more politically affluent than other disciplines.
Racial bias in Science is primarily evident in the opportunities that are availed to different races on access to science subjects and disciplines. Access to opportunities across different races has come a long way from the segregated education era. However, discrepancies in access and the quality of education across different are still present. The focus of this paper regarding the discrepancies shall be limited to the science subjects and opportunities. The access to advanced mathematical and science courses for the minority Black and Hispanic high school students is at 57 percent and 67 percent respectively. The scores are in stark contrast to the White high school students who attend schools that have the full range of the math and science subjects. The subjects here include; Algebra I and II, Biology, Geometry, Calculus, Chemistry, and Physics.
The effect of this is that the students who are exposed to the advanced courses are more likely to advance in related disciplines on a tertiary level as compared to the students without the access. The career paths of the students are, therefore, radically different. A student who had a greater access to the advanced mathematics and science courses coupled with the proper facilities allow the students to pursue scientific careers as opposed the students without the access.
Racial bias also plays a major role in determining the opportunities that are availed to people. Though subtle racial bias has been proven to determine how an individual regards another individual. Also called implicit bias, the bias operates at a subconscious level and is fueled by attitudes and stereotypes. A study conducted across universities discovered that professors and lecturers in general are more likely to agree to mentor students with a “white-sounding” name as compared with a “black-sounding” name. All the other factors such as grades and age were held constants with the same results. Implicit bias has been the subject of intense study especially under the light of current racial tensions. Despite the fact that the discrimination is rarely deliberate or even on a conscious level the effect on science is the same. It disfavors some people while favoring others on their race.
Both racial bias and political alignment have also been demonstrated to affect the objectivity of scientists in interpreting data. Humorously, it is pointed out that people hear whatever they wish to hear and see whatever they wish to see. However, it is more accurate that scientists and everybody in general are more likely to interpret the data to fit their expected results. In a study by Yale University, study subjects demonstrated that even the individuals with a high aptitude for mathematics, they were more likely to misinterpret the data in it contradicted their political beliefs.
In conclusion, racial bias and politics affect science in the present day world. While in some instances regulation of science is necessary the effects of the political institutions must be regulated and monitored to ensure that they are not obstacles to scientific improvement. Racial bias however must be eliminated from scientific fields completely to ensure fair representation of all groups.
Brooks, Lecia. "Putting Implicit Racial Bias to the Test." Huffington Post 14 October 2014: 23. Online.
Carter, Snead O. "The Pedagogical Significance of the Bush Stem Cell Policy: A Window into Bioethical Regulation in the United States." Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics (2013): 20. Online.
Koppaka, Saisneha. "Political Beliefs Affect Objectivity." 24 September 2013. Yale Daily News. Online. 29 December 2014.
Smith, Adam. "Making an impact: when science and politics collide." The Guardian 1 June 2012: 8. Online.
US Department of Education. "Expansive Survey of America's Public Schools Reveals Troubling Racial Disparities." 2014 March 2014. US Department of Education. Online. 29 December 2014. <http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/expansive-survey-americas-public-schools-reveals-troubling-racial-disparities>.