Unethical practices in STEM

“I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.” – Stephen Jay Gould

Victims of Unethical practices in STEM

  • Alice Ball – Her research resulted in an injection that would become the first effective treatment for Leprosy. It was used as the primary treatment for the disease across the globe for approximately 20 years, however she died due to a lab accident before she could publish her work, leading to the racist head of the university she worked at stealing her findings and claiming them as their own for almost a century
  • BBC article on racial bias in cancer – Results find that black women with breast cancer suffer from higher death rates and that research carried out mainly on white women can produce skewed data. 
  • Dr. Chien-Shing Wu – A team she lead received a Nobel Prize in Physics after discovering the weak interaction violated parity however Dr. Wu herself was denied the honour due to a mix of racism and sexism.  
  • HeLa Cells – Henrietta Lack’s biological material was stolen from her corpse by a racist researcher and would eventually start a multi-billion dollar industry.  Meanwhile she died of cancer and to this day her family remain too poor to afford proper medical care. 
  • Forbes article on race and how it relates to quality of health care in America – Article finds that POC are more likely to be living on lower incomes in America and that poorer people have less access to adequate medical care. 
  • Huffingtion Post article on Race and Healthcare – Article finds that in 2017 the socio-economical issues that disproportionately affect POC lead to widespread unequal medical treatment in America. 
  • Institute of medicine article on race and quality of healthcare – Landmark report showing that minority patients are less likely to receive the same quality of health care as white patients.
  • Racial Bias in pain assessment and quality of health care for people of colour [Download] – Study on the US National Institute of Health website which presents how black people are victims of the false beliefs about biological differences between black people and white people, and these views are associated with racial disparities in pain assessment and treatment recommendations.
  • Dr. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar – Was berated by his racist PhD supervisor (Arthur Eddingtion) due to being an Indian immigrant. Caused him to leave the Physics despite being correct in all his theories and contributing to contemporary understanding of at least 12 major topics within physics including: Stellar structure, stellar dynamics and white dwarfs, gravitational waves, quantum theory of the hydrogen anion, general relativity, radiative transfer, hydrodynamic and hydromagnetic stability.

A list of racist/otherwise problematic scientists

  • Arthur Eddington – A racist who berated Dr. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar in public for years plunging the field of Stellar Physics into a standstill for 60 years before Dr. Chandrasekhar’s work was recognised as correct.
  • Edwin Hubble – A racist who spent a majority of his time campaigning against letting any POC into higher education as he believed them to be akin to animals.
  • J. Marion Sims – A racist gynecologist who experimented on enslaved black women without anesthetic because he did not believe they could feel pain.
  • James Watson – Stole the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA from Rosalind Franklin and then used his position to be racist and claim that people of colour – especially black people – are genetically inferior to white people. 
  • William Schockley – Racist co-inventor of the transistor who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1956. He believed in eugenics and believed black people were reproducing faster than what he considered to be “intellectually superior” whites. His proposed “solutions” included replacing the welfare system with financial incentives for “genetically disadvantaged” individuals to allow themselves to be sterilized.
  • Carl Linnaeus – Swedish botanist who tried to use the nomenclature he created to classify humans by “variety,” ascribing inherently positive traits to lighter-skinned Europeans and negative traits to darker-skinned Africans and Asians, thereby laying a pseudoscientific foundation for racism that persists today.
  • Charles Darwin – While Darwin was a slavery abolishinist, this does not mean that he was not racist. After an encounter with POC who he deemed “savages” in Tierra del Fuego, Darwin exclaimed in his diary “one can hardly make oneself believe that they are fellow creatures”. 
  • Phillip Lenard – German physicist who won the Nobel Prize in 1905 for his work on cathode rays. He was a nationalist and a huge anti-Semite and a big supporter of Nazi ideology, and one of the architects of the anti-Semitic “Deutsche Physik” movement.
  • Johannes Stark – German physicist who won the Nobel Prize in 1919 for his work on the Doppler effect. He was also a proponent of “Deutsche Physik”, an anti-Semite and a supporter of Nazi ideology.
  • Albert Einstein – Made terrible remarks about East Asian people which he wrote about in his travel diaries. He notes how the “Chinese don’t sit on benches while eating but squat like Europeans do when they relieve themselves out in the leafy woods. All this occurs quietly and demurely. Even the children are spiritless and look obtuse.” There is also a lot of misogyny is his notes, directed at Chinese women: “I don’t understand what kind of fatal attraction Chinese women possess which enthrals the corresponding men to such an extent that they are incapable of defending themselves against the formidable blessing of offspring.”

Examples of unethical science experiments

  • Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments Beginning in 1932 the American Government would inject Syphilis into enslaved black people and leave it untreated to study how the disease spread throughout the body. This lead to (at best) the completely unwarranted suffering of thousands with the disease for years, and countless deaths.
  • TMT Observatory/all observatories built on Hawaiian peaks – Observatories built on Hawaii’s most sacred mountain range where gods and ancestors are believed to be buried by Hawaiian people. Currently the subject of a controversy regarding the building of the TMT (Thirty Metre Telescope) on the highest, most sacred peak which is rightfully resulting in a lot of backlash by protesters.
  • AI robots are increasingly being made more and more racist – AI use, especially when it comes to monitoring crime and illegal activity is biased against POC. “Last year, Lum and a co-author showed that PredPol, a program for police departments that predicts hotspots where future crime might occur, could potentially get stuck in a feedback loop of over-policing majority black and brown neighbourhoods. The program was “learning” from previous crime reports.”
  • AI predicting criminality from facial features – A paper published this year (2020) was titled “A Deep Neural Network Model to Predict Criminality Using Image Processing” and promised “no racial bias”, however this is ludicrous and essentially the exact description of the racist pseudo-science of phrenology.
  • US experimentation of bio-weapons on POC
    • The US experimentation with bio-weapons goes back to the distribution of cholera-infected blankets to American Indian tribes in the 1860s.
    • In 1900,US Army doctors in the Philippines infected five prisoners with the bubonic plague and 29 prisoners with Beriberi. At least four of the subjects died.
    • In 1906, Professor Richard Strong of Harvard University intentionally infected 24 Filipino prisoners with cholera, which had somehow become contaminated with plague. He did this without the consent of the patients, and without informing them of what he was doing. All of the subjects became sick and 13 died.
    • In 1915, a doctor working with government grants exposed 12 prisoners in Mississippi to pellagra, an incapacitating disease that attacks the central nervous system.