Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Mismeasure of Science

Steve Sailer writes:
Stephen Jay Gould’s vastly influential 1981 book on IQ, The Mismeasure of Man, is an odd beast since it is heavily devoted to debunking dead and often forgotten old scientists. For example, a sizable chunk denounces Samuel George Morton, who died in 1851. Gould claimed to have reanalyzed Morton’s data on skull sizes and shown that Morton distorted his results to fit his biases. A new study of Morton’s old skulls by Jason E. Lewis, Ralph L. Holloway, et al, shows that Gould was projecting.

The Mismeasure of Science: Stephen Jay Gould versus Samuel George Morton on Skulls and Bias

Stephen Jay Gould, the prominent evolutionary biologist and science historian, argued that “unconscious manipulation of data may be a scientific norm” because “scientists are human beings rooted in cultural contexts, not automatons directed toward external truth” [1], a view now popular in social studies of science [2]-[4]. … Our analysis of Gould’s claims reveals that most of Gould’s criticisms are poorly supported or falsified.
The Mismeasure of Man That book made Gould's reputation as the preeminent spokesman for science in America. The book was widely praised as one of the great scientific books of the 20th century.

The book is idiotic from beginning to end. As you can see from the above Wikipedia page, it got scathing reviews from the experts, and Gould never even made any serious attempt to refute the criticism. It only convinced me that a charlatan could pass as a Harvard professor, and that the standards for scholarsphip in evolutionary biology are pathetically low.

There is more info on the Gene Expression blog.

Update: Nicholas Wade of the NY Times reports:
But now physical anthropologists at the University of Pennsylvania, which owns Morton’s collection, have remeasured the skulls, and in an article that does little to burnish Dr. Gould’s reputation as a scholar, they conclude that almost every detail of his analysis is wrong. ...

But when others suggested Dr. Gould had been refuted, Philip Kitcher, a philosopher of science at Columbia University, rode to his defense. ...

As for the new finding’s bearing on Dr. Gould’s reputation, Dr. Kitcher said: “Steve doesn’t come out as a rogue but as someone who makes mistakes. If Steve were around he would probably defend himself with great ingenuity.”
No, as the article explains, Gould was refuted in his lifetime, and he refused to address the refutation. Gould was ideologically aligned with the NY Times, and Wade probably had to look hard to find someone to partially defend Gould.

Update: Evolutionist Jerry Coyne writes:
I always thought that among Steve Gould’s “real” (non-essay-collection) books, The Mismeasure of Man was the best.  Yes, it was tendentious, written to show that scientists could be as biased and racist as anyone else, but it rang true. ...

There’s little doubt that Gould screwed up big-time here, and, since he’s dead we’ll never know his reasons. ...

I think his theory of punctuated equilibrium was pretty much bunk ...

And I found him an unpleasant and arrogant man, but of course a smart and engaging one, too. He could be quite rude to those he considered his intellectual inferiors, and that was pretty much everyone.
Gould was a Harvard Marxist evolutionist. What more needs to be known about his motives? They all use bad science to promote their ideological objectives.

It amazing how Coyne can still praise Gould's book. The book is bogus from beginning to end. This just shows that academic evolutionism is more ideology than science.

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