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Defending my Scientific Critiques of No Wedding No Womb

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Okay, I’ve been catching some flack about my No Wedding No Womb (NWNW) criticism.  I expected that.  However, I am surprised about how personal people have gotten.   I shouldn’t be, but I am.  Far fewer people know me – personally via online or in real life – compared to the number of people who have come across and read my blog. As a result some people have made some conclusions about what kind of person I must be — a disingenuous vehement who is intentionally trying to undermine the campaign and personally attacking the presumed leader, Christelyn Karazin. This despite the fact, that none of my remarks were in anyway personal to her nor suggested that NWNW was a waste of time or energy. But just to set the record straight about who I am…

I shoot from the hip. I shoot straight. I’m quick. I admit I step on toes; but I am rarely rude or mean and often conciliatory.  I don’t pick on people. I don’t launch insults and I never assume a person’s motives are negative or deliberate without strong evidence.  My wit is esoteric, sarcastic, often snarky, so I can come off as aloof, sometimes condescending.  I’m loud. I’m a blurter. I’m also empathetic. I can insert myself in the shoes of most anyone and see their points of view.  It makes me sensitive and slow to judge.  But I’m no puff. I am and can be unapologetically irreverent when comes to most  anything orthodox, especially as it pertains to old-school-thinking African-American institutions or philosophies.  I have an assertive, sometimes aggressive need to defend people, especially the overlooked, the voiceless, the minority, the under-privileged, the alternative who are often dismissed and treated as unspecial or unworthy simply because they are different.

I defend them or these ideas because I have this very strong sense of fairness and justice. It’s a passion. Some might think it a calling.  It’s not just an emotional reaction, but a spiritual compulsion. Since this whole No Wedding No Womb Kerfuffle (primarily on Twitter) people have assumed all kinds of things about me as a person and as a scientist.  Never mind the personal insults or negative assumptions of my intentions. It’s when I read comments like this (from African-American audiences), my heart breaks…

Scientific American needs to stick to scientific issues and stay the heck out of societal and moral issues. I am sick of these so called “scientific” magazines that entertain articles that do nothing to address issues of black folks but are happy to publish something that criticizes, think “Psychology Today” with that bull about Black women being less physically attractive1. ~ Excerpt from a comment of No Wedding No Womb Supporter on the Christelyn Karakin’s Point-for-Point Rebuttal: Scientific American Criticism of No Wedding No Womb

To answer the question that so many people have asked regarding my critiques of NWNW presentation, “ So why does she care so much? Why does she spend time addressing this?”

Because I am sick and tired of the injustice, inequality, and overall state-of-being of the most vulnerable people, and this most definitely includes Black people in the United States. Like the proponents of NWNW, I also care about the alarming social ills and risks of Black Children who grow up in dysfunctional or disenfranchised families.  However, to recommend that science has no place in this or ANY social or moral issue is threat that could very well harm us all.  Our nation, and Black folks in particular, have suffered immensely from not considering (or even appreciating) the complete and scientific information before making many an important decision.  This reaction frightens me because it signals a rejection of science in education and disconnects our community further from science as opposed to identifying what I think is The Rightful Place of Science in Our Society and in the African-American Community.

I see these [particular] reactions as a way to shut out access to diverse and non-majority opinions altogether. It’s a way to communicate to masses (of Black people in this case) that there is a particular platform and that other ideas which may be contrary in any way (even if you declare agreement) will not be tolerated, and you will be castigated.  But deeper than that, it subversively communicates that intellectualism is unappreciated.  These reactions communicate to people that science is not a valuable endeavor, that it has nothing important to offer to our lives and that it should not attempt to try.  As if science can’t be personal; it is only abstract or that the people who do it don’t care about real people or real problems.  Such sentiments decry “Don’t listen to scientists – or only listen to scientists who agree with us”.

I wrote my first post because I believe that having a space for people to amicably discuss the alternative matters. Because asking people to consider the how and why of something is equally important as proposing and getting something done.  Science offers society the tools to consider information and make decisions about personal and collective actions. Science cultivates critical thinking skills that helps us discern fact from fiction, helps us understand the difference between cause and effect vs. correlation. It helps us discern different shades of gray.  Science equips individuals with the capacity to avert manipulation, distractions, and builds in them the confidence to own their decisions and actions.

My motivations to respond to NWNW wasn’t about whether or not I agree with Black Marriage or frequency of out of wedlock births, specifically. It was about doing what I feel called to do – Share Science, and all that I think science can do for people to promote justice, fairness, equality, and prosperous healthy adults, children, and families.

The snipes and insults are new to me. (Is this how PZ Myers feels?) I normally blog about non-controversial issues, like fun family-friendly activities that subtly introduce science to kids and adults or the hidden evolutionary biology concepts hidden in rap lyrics.  Why? Because my goal is to [comfortably] bring science to the under-served, particularly African-Americans, who are still likely to score lower on standarized science and math exams, who are less likely to major in science, math, and engineering in college, who are still grossly under-represented in graduate programs and careers related to science, technology and math, AND who are still the first to suffer from injustice and inequity of our social systems.

As far as science media doing nothing to address pertaining to Black folk it is patently untrue and exactly WHY I was invited to join the Scientific American Network.  My target audience is primarily people of color.  I write about and/or reference science related issues that are designed to enhance my readers lives.  My blog is a gateway for my readers to access science news and information that is rarely reported in the African-American media I don’t blog for fellow scientists. I blog for Sunday school teachers, Scout leaders, Science teachers, after-school program directors, and Momma and ‘nem – both single parents and happily married soccer moms!  So, more than anything, I’m disappointed that the very chance I had to reach a large African-American audience and engage them in science philosophy, I missed the mark.  More folks were apt to treat me like a heretic and didn’t seem to catch any of what I was saying.

Am I gun-shy about rocking the boat and coming out hard to fellow African-American Influencers, even one’s I consider allies? I can see why so many scientists retreat to the Ivory Tower and never want to come out/down and interact with the masses.  But to avoid sharing science would be to not live in my purpose; and I truly believe it is my God-given purpose in this life.  To which I am obligated to respond and consider adjusting the voice or frame I use to mount critiques. As I think on it more, what’s the point in all of this online outreach if people are too busy emotionally reacting and never hear the point I am making.  After all, my mother’s sage advice is it’s not what I say, but how I say it.  I know; but as a blurter it’s very, very hard for me.

But, we’ll see.
DNLee,
a work in progress

1: I responded the “Psychology Today” bull about Black women being less physically attractive, here on Scientific American Blog Network with this post: Why Kanazawa is wrong, and it’s not just because he dissed Black Women.

DNLee About the Author: DNLee is a biologist and she studies animal behavior, mammalogy, and ecology . She uses social media, informal experiential science experiences, and draws from hip hop culture to share science with general audiences, particularly under-served groups. Follow on Twitter @DNLee5.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. gmperkins 6:11 pm 10/1/2011

    The movement seems to mainly be promoted/pushed by emotional factors. Therefore, questioning this movement, in any way, will have some believing that you are questioning their feelings/emotions/beliefs. IMO, no need for you to apologize/clarify. Someday, way in the future, I hope the closed minded of the world with start apologizing for their stubbornly combative reactions to any viewpoint that is not their own.

    Link to this

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