Feinberg professor pens book on scientist-activist tension

Shane McKeon, Assistant Campus Editor

A Northwestern professor has authored a book about scientists’ findings that have been protested by activists who found them politically objectionable, the University announced Wednesday.

Alice Dreger, a bioethics professor in the Feinberg School of Medicine, focused on the impact scientist-versus-activist tensions are having on democracy in “Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science.”

The book, for example, includes one case study that describes a scientist that faced protest by LGBT and animal rights activists by researching “gay sheep.”

Dreger, who has advocated for the rights of medical research subjects and patients, said these protests of scientists harm the social justice movements the activists are parts of.

“These threats to scientists ultimately amount to threats to democracy,” Dreger said in a news release. “Good activism requires good data — sustainable justice depends on knowing reality. In this way, these activists are ultimately undermining themselves.”

Dreger said in the release that activism matters but scientifically-tested evidence is crucial for a cause to be just.

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