Imagine beginning a new project with a team, a group of clones, an individual and multiple copies of themselves. Upon first evaluation, this may seem ideal. No arguing or disagreement, simply like minded humans working fluently at the task at hand. And though this may be true to an extent, there are of course issues with the given scenario. An absence of unique thought and perspective would undoubtedly make for a closed minded group. A narrow versioned task force would create a viscous cycle of isolated thought. But this issue is nothing to worry about, as its just hypothetical, until taking a step back and evaluating the field of science, both historically and presently. Now, being clones is of course a stretch, but the white male dominated fields are not far off, and the like minded individuals have for years been engaged in this closed minded field of work. The impact made over the course of history is impossible to surely evaluate, but it has undoubtedly changed the course of our lives, and there are specific points in history that reflect this. Diversity and the inclusion of minorities and women will provide the many different perspectives required to stray away from the narrow minded science, and allow for us to thrive in all concepts.
A scientific fixation on one goal sounds both beneficial and important, but that is surely not always the case. From wars to poverty, history proves this untrue through our actions and decisions, all of which stemming from scientific ego. Reflecting back on some extremely relevant historical topics, like the atomic bomb for instance, exemplifies this. The bombing of Nagasaki and more detrimentally, Hiroshima were cruel attacks given today’s hindsight. The effect of not just the explosion, but the lasting radiation had killed countless amounts of people. All of this was the result of a single task oriented field of science. Prior to the bombing, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to President Roosevelt explaining the power of an atomic bomb to imply the need to develop it first. In time, Roosevelt, “’took the matter serious enough to call for an all-out effort to build an atomic bomb…” (Cole, 2009). This all out effort exemplified greatest by the following, “Suddenly, top physicists began disappearing from posts at universities all over the country, only to reappear on a lonely mesa in New Mexico. A town of five thousand shot up virtually overnight” (Cole, 2009). So as a recap, a white male scientist wrote to the white male president, expressing his personal thoughts and effectively convincing the recipient. The result of this being the recruitment of all university professors, who were mostly white men, to drop what they were doing and work on this singular task which would inevitably make the US look great and powerful, but at the expense of many innocent lives. The like-mindedness of the US scientists inevitably resulted in one of the largest catastrophes in the history of the world. While the severity may not always be this large, this serves as an example of how the uni-perspective field can and does have negative effects on the way in which science is put to use. This is not only exemplified by the obvious instances where the field was male dominated, but also through instances in which different perspectives were introduced too.
Now, the racial and gender imbalances were and still are in existence, but this is not to say that there are no exceptions. Throughout history, there are instances in which great discoveries have been a direct result of the incorporation of different people, who provided a unique outlook and thus served important roles. Radioactivity is a term many have learned, and has more importantly aided in furthering developing science still today, and it’s discovery dates impressively back to 1898 thanks to two individuals. “Marie Curie and Pierre Curie were to be recognized for ‘the extraordinary services they have rendered by their joint researches on the radiation phenomena’. They had won the Nobel Prize” (Redniss, 2015). This was her first of two, but perhaps the most significant. It would be impossible to argue that radioactivity would have been discovered by either of the two on their own, but together, inputting two different and unique brains together, they were able to achieve one of the most revolutionizing scientific discoveries not just of their time, but all time. Here the couple benefitted from the multi-perspective approach, where one’s shortcomings are coupled by the others forte. This is how science should be ran, and if it were to be it is nearly impossible to argue that we would not be further along than we currently are.
With no intent of undermining their findings, this is just an example of a two person unit, and not a large task force with the eyes of the entire country, better yet world on it. But throughout the space race, this was the case. As exemplified by the film Hidden Figures, African American women helped to get the US into space. More specifically, the US was in a scientific show off competition with the rest of the world. The only problem being that we were actually getting shown up. That is, until Katherine joined the force. As an obvious oppressed woman, she was initially unable to help much, until her boss told her to, “Look beyond the numbers” (Melfi, 2017). This quote fueled Katherine to being amongst the most important individuals in helping the US get to space. It also summarizes the need for the incorporation of diverse individuals, as they aid in the process of thinking outside the box. Here, there was a need for new minds to quickly become capable to get to space, but broadly, there is a need for a surplus of discoveries and the diversity will help to make that happen. Overall, the examples of the allowance of women or minorities in science are few and far between, however, there may be many more examples that we are simply unaware of.
The incorporation of a woman or an African American has proven to not ensure proper recognition, and this continues to become more apparent as time progresses. Namoi Oreskes highlights this issue in her writing, Objectivity or Heroism? On the Invisibility of Women in Science. As the name suggests, women and their contributions are often hidden, downplaying their work as insignificant. Bruno Latour did just this to Elanor Lamson, stating that, “she was the person responsible for converting instrumental inscriptions into scientific information; Latour and others have emphasized how nontrivial this conversion can be”(Oreskes, 1996). But in the end her work was recognized for being difficult, still not to receive a promotion and raise until years later. Nevertheless, her work was necessary, she worked alone, and was underappreciated by her male counterparts. This is one of a few examples discussed by Oreskes, which is just a sample of the countless historical examples, where men degrade women in science in order to assume all credit. The power trip helps them to paint themselves as essentially the sole contributor in the eye of the public. The result of this isn’t just a personal attack, but rather this habit extends into much larger, systemic issues.
This issue relates very accurately to the concept of perspective. Misrepresentation, the inability to deliver credit when earned, and the buildup of almost entirely white male figures plays a large role, if not the only role, in the publics perspective of science. This is reflected through the lack of resolution over time, as women see the “norms” which reinforces the viscous cycle of underrepresentation. This is made evident by the fact that women only make up 28% of the STEM field, and when considering all college educated, employed adults, African Americans make up 7% of the STEM field, and Hispanics a lower 6%. The numbers make sense, think about what would influence a majority of individuals to pursue a career in which they perceive to not be for them? Now, systemic issues are tough to evaluate the source and solution of, but changing the publics conception of figures in science would surely have a lasting impact, and would thus be an ideal goal to make happen.
Obviously science is not and has never been an equally inclusive field, which has produced a closed minded clique of scientists. There are significant events in history that have resulted due to this, but the habits have never changed. The few instances where individuals other than white men were included yielded great results, however, most of which still lacked equal credit. Problems as such, either excluding or overlooking minorities in science, not only impacts the flow of new ideas, but it also diverts many of the oppressed from science and math pursuit. As the title suggests, this misrepresentation produces mistakes, and thus the issue is to be broadly understood, addressed, and solved.
1. Cole, K. C. (2009). Something Incredibly Wonderful
Happens: Frank Oppenheimer and the world he made up. Houghton Mifflin
2. Melfi, T. (2017, January 6). Hidden Figures [Biography, Drama, History]. Fox
2000 Pictures, Chernin Entertainment, Levantine Films.
3. Oreskes, N. (1996). Objectivity or Heroism? On the Invisibility of Women in
Science. Osiris, 11, 87–113.
4. Redniss, L. (2015). Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A
Tale of Love and Fallout. Harper Collins.