STS Seminar: Aaron Panofsky, UCLA
Citizen Scientific Racism From Dissident Professionals to Public Participation
This talk presents preliminary research from a study about white nationalists and their efforts to appropriate genetics research for their own ideological and identity projects. Using historical sources and online data and interpretive methods, I show that ideas from genetics have been prominent in public pronouncements and in online discussions among white nationalists. For example, they discuss genetic ancestry tests to demonstrate pure European white ancestry, population genetics to prove the biological reality of race, genetic anthropology to argue for the preservation of white biodiversity,and behavior genetics to claim the intellectual and behavioral superiority of whites. Through the 20th century there was a cadre of professional scientists eager to promulgate racist interpretations of genetics research, but facing effective scientific and ethical opposition by other researchers, their ranks and authority greatly attenuated in the 21st. White nationalists have relied on these scientists for scientific racist ideas, but with their decline, white nationalists have crafted themselves into a loose citizen science movement. I show that their activities include gathering and promulgating the claims of academic scientific racists, reinterpreting ostensibly non racist genetics in racist ways, and using publicly available statistics and data to generate novel racist analyses, and exploiting the affordances of open science to mimic the institutional form of disciplinary science. This movements bid for authority is based on their claim that they represent the true spirit of scientific objectivity and a willingness to pursue data and arguments that have been suppressed by the academy, which has been overcome by politically correctness.
Aaron Panofsky is Associate Professor at UCLAs Department of Public Policy and Institute for Society and Genetics. Author of the award-winning book Misbehaving Science Controversy and the Development of Behavior Genetics his wide ranging research interests include the history and politics of behavior genetics, public participation in science, how scientific fields deal with controversies, the politics of economic expertise, and political appropriations of genetics by white nationalists.