When a topic is politically contentious, and there is some risk to our reputation or career from endorsing a view, we may hang back and fail to either form a belief on that topic or publicly proclaim our allegiance to that belief.Let me share with you an example I know from roughly a half century ago at UC Berkeley. A friend who died recently was a psychology doctoral student there employed doing research the express aim of which was to demonstrate that various racial groups have essentially equal distributions of intelligence or IQ.
The logic of collective action is that when the costs of expressing a belief are borne by the individual, but the benefits are shared among all members of an epistemic community, it is perfectly rational to fail to reveal our beliefs about that topic, no matter how justified they might be.
The case for deferring to scientific consensus on politically contentious topics is much weaker. This is true because what scientists publicly say may differ from what they privately believe. (snip) Some of the research that bears on a topic might not get done due to the fact that those who authorize or accept funding for it might incur reputational costs for working on a topic that is likely to produce results that most people don’t want to believe.
It was hoped to show that differences found heretofore were the result of cultural or linguistic differences. The researchers had a measure which appeared to be pre-linguistic and culture-free; they examined hundreds of preschoolers from all major racial groups in daycare in the Bay Area.
Sadly, their data showed exactly the same politically incorrect significant differences normally found with regular IQ tests taken by adults. Their disappointing study findings were never submitted for publication.
The data set was thrown away because socially desirable results were not produced. Wasting several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars was deemed preferable to being tarred with a "racist" label. The commitment of scientists to truth is somewhat less than total, it turns out.