A group of nearly 2,000 professional physicists and astrophysicists have signed a letter, drafted by members of the Equity & Inclusion in Physics & Astronomy Facebook group and addressed to the Supreme Court justices, repudiating the lines of questioning put forward by Justices Antonin Scalia and John Roberts which implied that affirmative action disadvantages black students by putting them in situations they are not equipped to handle, and that furthermore diversity has no role to play in the ostensibly objective world of science.

“One of the [legal] briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas,” Scalia said. “They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.” Roberts went on to ask, “What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?”

(Justice Scalia, incidentally, does not believe in the existence of genes.)

The letter, endorsed by a sizable contingent of the physics community, responds forcefully, objecting not only to the use of science as a “paper tiger” in the affirmative action debate but also to the premise that science departments are removed from broader social issues.

“A good scientist is one who does good science,” the letter reads. “We hope to push our community towards equity and inclusion so that the community of scientists more closely matches the makeup of humankind, because the process of scientific discovery is a human endeavor that benefits from removing prejudice against any race, ethnicity, or gender. Indeed, science relies heavily on consensus about acceptable results as well as future research directions, making diversity among scientists a crucial aspect of objective, bias-free science.”

“The implication that physics or ‘hard sciences’ are somehow divorced from the social realities of racism in our society is completely fallacious,” it continues. “The exclusion of people from physics solely on the basis of the color of their skin is an outrageous outcome that ought to be a top priority for rectification.”

“The rhetorical pretense that including everyone in physics class is somehow irrelevant to the practice of physics ignores the fact that we have learned and discovered all the amazing facts about the universe through working together in a community. The benefits of inclusivity and equity are the same for physics as they are for every other aspect of our world.”

Photo via AP Images. Contact the author of this post: brendan.oconnor@gawker.com.