When a newspaper publishes an article about a recent scientific study concerning humans, it is almost expected that people with a political agenda will pick and choose parts of the article that support their view, and ignore those parts that invalidate it. The science writers may even intentionally and deliberately insert clarifications and disclaimers to make sure the article is inconsistent with a popular incorrect political view, but people with an agenda will ignore the clarifications and disclaimers because they don’t understand it, they reject nuances, or because they simply ignore information that does not fit into their worldview.
However, sometimes members of the public will also take into account the public’s tendency politicize controversial studies, and then accuse the study’s researchers of “knowing” that their study could be used to support a political agenda and conducting the study with the “intention” to stir up controversy and support said political agenda.
Of course, this is a complete misunderstanding of how scientific research works. Almost all scientific studies are not done to educate the general public; they are done to explore the unexplored territory in the field. The primary audience of a scientific paper is other scientists in the field. Only after the original paper endures years of debate and replications among the scientific community do the new findings make it into the canon of an undergraduate textbook. Most published studies do not make it into this canon, and are read by only a small circle of specialists.
In other words, many members of the public assume that scientific studies are conducted for them instead of for other scientists. Given this assumption, it is not too much of logical leap for them to suppose that the scientists conducted a particular controversial study with the nefarious intention to advance a political (e.g., right-wing) agenda.
One way to avoid the possibility of misinterpretation is to hide the results of scientific studies from the general public, but this is unethical, it keeps the general public scientifically illiterate, and it creates distrust when information is restricted to an elite few.
Another way to avoid misinterpretation is to somehow teach the general public that scientists are even more aloof and detached from practical concerns than they had initially assumed. Scientific studies are not conducted for the general public and taxpayer in mind, but for other scientists to discuss among themselves. The literature generated through government-funded scientific research does not benefit the public directly, but indirectly, after a collection of scientific studies finds a practical application in some indeterminate time in the future. However, this explanation is complex, requires an understanding of the sociology of science (which is another poorly understood topic), and may also generate public distrust.
Noticing a person’s skin colour is natural. You are not “color blind” when it comes to race.
An example is the politically controversial notion that humans process skin colour at a basic perceptual level, i.e., vision-enabled humans cannot be “color blind” when it comes to skin colour. There are many psychology and neuroscience studies that support this. However, since the general public assumes that noticing race makes you racist, such studies could be interpreted as suggesting that racism is innate and natural.
Again, hiding these studies on race perception from the general public is unethical, and telling the general public that the study was not intended to be read by the hoi polloi is offensive. White liberals may object to the study’s coverage because it could support the right-wing idea that racism is natural, so it is okay to be racist. However, by preventing this research from reaching the general public, white liberals would also be protecting the common, white-privileged, and white liberal idea that they can and should be racially “color blind”.
In other words, the idea that it is natural for humans to notice skin colour would be perceived as a “right wing” idea by a typical white liberal, but the same idea would be perceived as “left wing” by a typical anti-racist person of colour who is sick of white liberals preaching racial “color blindness” and assuming that the problem is race instead of racism. By suppressing or dismissing such studies that do not fit into the standard white liberal discourse, white liberals again ensure that they direct the liberal conversation about race, and define what is and is not a progressive racial idea.