Considering the Evidence Movement Through a Black Feminist Lens

Ian David Moss
8 min readJul 10, 2020

The evidence-based (or if you prefer, evidence-informed/data-driven) decision-making movement is riding some rough seas these days. With the rise of populist leaders like Donald Trump and Jair Balsonaro, we are seeing a new crop of digital-age politicians around the world who view information not as a resource to be cultivated for the public good, but as a weapon to be exploited for their own gain. News organizations, universities, and other mainstream institutions have had their hands full in recent years defending reality-based discourse from parties attempting to construct alternative narratives, and social media platforms have expended enormous resources fighting an avalanche of false information on their servers. Even the public health arena is not immune, as the current coronavirus pandemic has polarized opinions on everything from mask-wearing to drug treatments to school reopening timelines. Rarely has there been a time when the pursuit of objective, unbiased truth mattered more, it would seem.

And yet at the same time, as I’ve followed social justice conversations over the past decade, I’ve witnessed challenges to the notion of objectivity itself with increasing frequency— specifically, the idea that “objectivity” as a concept is racially coded and therefore has no place in anti-racist work, which to be clear is work that I would hope we all aspire to. In the past couple of years, these challenges have progressed beyond the realm of slogans and found a home in the Equitable Evaluation Initiative as well as a voice among a number of colleagues of mine in the program evaluation world whom I greatly respect.

I wanted to better understand what it means to embrace “multiple truths” and “alternative ways of knowing,” especially when set against the siege scientists are facing from the populist right on topics ranging from climate change to immigration to the benefits of staying at home. A common rallying cry among Obama-era Democrats has been “everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.” And yet if we reject objectivity outright, aren’t we conceding that everyone is entitled to just that?

This is a sprawling topic that I’ve only begun to explore, and I intend to continue writing about it in the coming months and years as I learn more…

Ian David Moss

Smarter decisions for a better world