Meritocracy tends to confuse a very practical sense of merit with a more abstract and moral one. An individual may deserve a high-paying job or admission to a selective college because they are productive or qualified. However, in a moral sense, individuals do not merit the skills and abilities they are born with, nor do they merit the environments they were born into that allowed them to develop those skills.
STEM often (at the undergraduate level) teaches a certain type of thinking, which is a very effective and practical way to solve problems. STEM fields seek answers, while the humanities focus first on training students to ask the correct questions, and to take an extremely broad view of any problem. A lot of damage has been done by narrow, practical solutions. The technology we have is an engineering marvel, and the economic abundance we possess is a tribute to the efficiency of solving practical problems. And yet for all our abundance we still have massive poverty and environmental degradation, as well as a society that is becoming increasingly polarized, distrustful, and distant.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has some excellent reflections on the ethics of meritocracy in his baccalaureate address to Princeton:
We have been taught that meritocratic institutions and societies are fair.
There are some things that should not be considered from an objective viewpoint. Human beings can never be fully objective, but for many topics of scientific inquiry it is helpful to be as objective as humanly possible.
Eventually I realised that actions that are individually non-coercive can add up to stable patterns of behaviour that are systematically or structurally coercive, depriving some individuals of their rightful liberty. In fact, rights-violating structures or patterns of behaviour are excellent examples of Hayekian spontaneous orders