Got caught, yet again, in a debate about using Nazi data last night

Submitted by squirrels in Science (edited )

And the thing that surprised me (that shouldn't at this point) was how desperately people cling to the idea of using psuedoscientific concentration camp studies steeped in racial typology that can't possibly be validated via re-testing. They'll argue for using the "data" until the point of anger. Talk about not "wasting" it so that people wouldn't "die for nothing."

  1. They absolutely died for nothing anyway. Stop trying to find a silver lining or justification for systematically slaughtering people.

  2. Just because the fascists were meticulous fascists doesn't mean the study wasn't garbage.

  3. If you study the subject via other means today, then what value is a study from the 1940s on emaciated, dying people? There are a lot of variables that make the concentration camp studies garbage and pointless to use.

Obviously, beyond the thought experiment is more complicated if we expand to include data from experiments on soldiers, overall research conducted by the Nazis, Operation Paperclip, etc. Yes, some researchers still have to question using Nazi era research itself, such as their research on tobacco use, but what gets to me is running into people who think that fascists were somehow behind all of modern medical and industrial technology. The concentration camp experiments were generally useless on a global scale, much like how the Japanese vivisection experiments were ultimately pointless.

I am just damn tired of this "classic ethical dilemma" surrounding concentration camps coming up. It's a toxic myth.

Edit: Thanks for letting me rant. It wears down on me sometimes to keep running into reactionary bullshit when talking about the sciences, and I have very few outlets.



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Tequila_Wolf wrote

I hadn't thought about this stuff before; thanks for taking the time to write it up!


tapeworm wrote

Are you in academia?


squirrels OP wrote

Yes, but I should have specified that this time the debate was with people outside of research (it was a bar game night of all things). Although, just the other week I almost got into it with other researchers, so it still happens.


WhereIsMyFreeStuff wrote

What Mengele and others did at the camps had nothing to do with scientific medical research, it was just sadistic human experimentation and torture.


squirrels OP wrote (edited )

Thank you. Exactly. Even the twin experiments were horribly designed (if you can even call them designed, considering the methodology was literally just torture one and see what happens) and were only carried out to satisfy Mengele's morbid obsessions. Nothing good came of any of it, and I am sick and tired of popular culture trying to posit whether or not looking into "Nazi data" would cure cancer or something (as one bar patron asked me - bullshit. Why the hell does anyone think that what they "collected" was of any importance beyond evidence of depravity?!).


zer0crash wrote (edited )

Principles outweigh Data imho.

Sounds like you're "in the weeds" , arguing over the usefulness of "Research Data" from literal Nazis.