I'm sure you can think of some example of what the title describes. There was that Yale (or was it Princeton? I can't recall) President who was ousted after suggesting that differences in academic aptitude might be based in gender. Or, how about any research which suggests that global warming is non-existent, inconsequential, or not anthropogenic? What about that researcher who did studies on the brains of "gay" sheep?
I bring it up because of an article in the New York Times regarding Dr. Bailey, a Northwestern scientist who was nearly driven from his field for a book suggesting that transgendered people are driven by pyschological, not biological, imperatives.
You can get all the details yourself from the article. I find it an interesting if unsurprising look, yet again, about what goes wrong when politics and science cross paths. Some people are so committed to their pet theories and ideas that when someone even attempts to examine it, they're prone to acts of lunacy and derangement. It gets worse if the examination finds the pet theory to be in error.
Of course, sometimes it can go in another direction. Sometimes you can get "science" that is so blatantly political that you can't help but wonder what kind of mental gymnastics those researchers had to do to get the data to fit their conclusion. I recall, not too long ago, a study by some group in California purportedly showing that people become Republicans (or conservatives) because they suffered inferiority complexes as children, or something to that effect. I may have written about it at the time, but I just don't feel like dredging the archives for that now.
This is significant to me, because I'm currently taking a course on plant biotechnology, and my own career goals involve research of a similarly controversial nature. If politics is allowed to derail science in such a manner, then what hope do we have of conducting legitimate inquiry into the questions we have? We must be bold enough to ask those questions, regardless of consequence, and we must support our colleagues when they're challenged on political grounds. Where the science contradicts our ideas, as long as it is sound, we must be brave enough to change our thinking to correlate to reality, and not hope that reality will mold itself around our ideas.
Hat tip: Ace