#425: Prof. Anna Krylov – When Ideology Hurts Scientific Discourse

In Podcasts by Danny Lennon4 Comments

Guest Information


Prof. Anna Krylov

Prof. Anna Krylov is a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Southern California (USC), working in the field of theoretical and computational quantum chemistry. She has a M.Sc. in Chemistry from Moscow State University (1990) and a PhD from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel (1996).

Krylov is active in the promotion of gender equality in STEM fields, especially in theoretical chemistry. She created the web directory 'Women in Theoretical and Computational Chemistry, Material Science, and Biochemistry'. She has delivered several talks on gender equality in STEM.

In June 2021 she published a paper, "The Peril of Politicizing Science," has received over 75,000 views (as of February 2022) and is the all-time highest-ranked article in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters (impact factor of 6.5).

In this episode we discuss:

  1. Does ideology intrude into scientific institutions, and thus affect the ability to have open, objective scientific discourse?
  2. Growing up “survival required strict adherence to the party line and enthusiastic displays of ideologically proper behavior.”
  3. When genetics was considered “bourgeois pseudo-science”
  4. Can ideology be justified based on what is the “greater good”?
  5. Lower-case social justice vs. Social Justice capitalized
  6. How perferformatice activism impedes actual left-wing policy promotion
  7. “Today, censorship is often imposed, not from the top (the authorities) but from the bottom (the mob) in the form of social ostracism and bullying. Social media provides the vehicle and influences the discourse. Substantive and scholarly discussion on complex issues requires discipline and effort. Twitter, where anyone can spontaneously hurl 25 words into cyberspace, has no room for depth or nuance.”
  8. Self-censorship by academics
  9. The dangers of far-right individuals and groups


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  1. This was an excellent and extremely important podcast ! Professor Krylov’s information was based on experience, professional background and included relevant examples.
    My question is for Danny – relevant to this very topic today. In this podcast you talked about “real dangers of far right individuals and far right groups and a lot of the time I generally see that as even more problematic with the right, the main example right now being navigating information around covid, around vaccines, etc has been a complete mess in large part due to utter disinformation coming predominantly from far right circles”.
    It would have been more relevant if actual examples of “disinformation” along with the evidence supporting why this is “disinformation”, and that these are known far right sources. Otherwise, this hampers the exchange of knowledge and advancements these discussions could accomplish.
    When questioned in comments, Professor Krylov clearly stated some examples of why she did not focus on attacks from the right
    1) the data base from the organization Foundation for Individual Rights in Education dedicated to protecting academics from harassments and attacks on free speech documented that the majority of attacks (400 documented cases) came from
    the Left.
    2) The attacks from the right focus on specific disciplines eg climate, stem cells. Whereas the attacks from the extreme left is on the foundation of science – eg there is no such thing as objective truths, the identity of the person who does science is important, etc.
    I agree with Professor Krylov that it is important that people are allowed to speak and that an open debate allowed without being “cancelled” when they are not conforming to the current “narrative” or group think.
    Thank you Danny and Professor Krylov for this presentation.

    1. Author

      Hi Dr. Roberts,

      Thanks so much for listening to the podcast and taking the time to share your thoughts. I’m so glad you see this as an important discussion.

      My point was one that Dr. Krylov has acknowledged in her writing already; essentially as she put it: “conservatives have long sought to inject their beliefs into science—from creationism, to climate change, to stem-cell research, to COVID policy.”

      In terms of examples of disinformation, I didn’t want to sidetrack our discussion by getting into COVID-related issues, but vaccine information would be one area where there has clearly been a split in narratives (particularly in the US) based on political ideology. Not solely on political identity, I must add. But it’s a big factor in the US. Statistics of vaccine uptake rate by state for example, at least shows this trend.

      Of course, to be clear, anti-vaxx messaging is not something relegated to only right-wing sources. And similarly, many right-wing organizations, media centers and individuals are pro-vaccine. But it is clear that the far-right in particular, pushes anti-vaxx propaganda, often as a means to support other conspiratorial beliefs.

      So all I was referring to was that on the extreme far-right, you get very dangerous anti-science sentiment. Something which I suspect we would agree on?

  2. Hi Danny,
    Thanks for the quality and diversity of material you present in your podcast; it’s an indispensable resource.

    As far as this episode goes, I’d like to point out that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is hardly a disinterested arbiter in investigating threats to academic science. As you mentioned in this show, none of us are free of biases, but it’s good to know where those biases lean–especially if they lean heavily. Here’s a link that looks at FIRE’s activities and their funders.


    I’d also like to suggest checking out Michael Hobbes’s work to get a different perspective. Mr. Hobbes is formerly cohost of the “You’re Wrong About” podcast and current cohost of “Maintenance Phase”. He also produces writings and videos on his own.

    Thanks again for all the work you do on behalf of the understanding of science and health.

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