Monday, May 04, 2015

Academics still do not want Gould criticism

The late Stephen Jay Gould was famous for writing The Mismeasure of Man, a book that is widely regarded as garbage by experts in the field, but widely praised by academic leftists who liked his ideology.

Evolutionist/philosophers Joshua Banta, Jonathan Kaplan, and Massimo Pigliucci write a summary of a paper they published:
Why would the popular media be interested in a story about a historical argument surrounding measurement techniques and statistical summaries of human skull volumes? ...

Gould was, and remains, a divisive figure. His strong opposition to “genetic determinism” led to some very public fights with other science popularizers, such as Richard Dawkins and E.O. Wilson, whose work he viewed as encouraging na├»ve views of the relationship between genes and development. Gould’s longstanding commitment to anti-racism came together with his concern about simple-minded genetic explanations offered by “hereditarianism,” ...

In one of his popular books, The Mismeasure of Man, Gould set his sights on Samuel G. Morton, a 19th century American physician who catalogued and reported the cranial volumes of human skulls he collected ...

Lewis et al. claimed that Gould was wrong, and that Morton was correct. ... members of the White Supremacist website StormFront immediately trumpeted Lewis et al.’s results as proving that Gould was a fraud, and took them to be broadly supportive of their explicitly racist agenda [6]. And it is worth remembering that Nicholas Wade, as the science editor for the New York Times, was, at least in part, responsible for the unusual degree of attention that Lewis’ paper received ... Speculating that Wade publicized Lewis et al.’s paper to support his racist program seems, on the whole, not entirely unreasonable. ...

it isn’t at all clear what question Morton was trying to answer, if any, ...

Some historians have argued that, again, while Morton had many racist beliefs, his work on skulls was just an attempt to gather data with no particular purpose. Indeed, during the same time he was producing his big Catalog of Skulls, he was also publishing detailed descriptions of fossilized crocodile skulls, of all things! And even his Catalog of Skulls contains a surprising number of descriptions of nonhuman (birds, reptile, fishes, other mammal) skulls. ...

The basic conclusion at which we arrive regarding Lewis and colleagues versus Gould is “a pox on both your houses!” Morton’s data is simply not useful for anything, and talking about “races” as people perceived them at some point in history is not scientifically relevant.

What is troubling is that the Lewis and colleague’s paper passed through peer review in such a high-profile journal and picked up so much popular media attention, leaving many people with the erroneous impression that there is evidence suggesting that individuals of different “races” really do differ in their skull sizes, and that this then tells us anything of any interest at all. That Lewis and his colleagues work, surely unwittingly, gives cover to racists is even more unfortunate.
These philosophers are to call people racists, but they don't like criticism of their anti-science views. They deleted my comment from Scientia Salon, so I am posting it here:
It is amazing how much leftists will rush to the defense of dishonest work by a fellow leftist/Marxist. Here the defense of Gould consists mainly of race-baiting innuendo and claims that Morton, who died in 1851, might have had some opinions that are not proved by his data.

For a recent discussion on how Gould was a notorious academic fraud, see Trivers on Gould.

If Morton's samples were not the best, the scientific approach would be to get better data. The anti-science approach of Banta-Kaplan-Pigliucci is to launch race-baiting ideological attacks. Gould had no longstanding commitment to anti-racism. He just used racist name-calling to substitute for scientific analysis.

The popular media was interested in this story because the world's best known and credentialed evolutionist wrote a book that sold millions of copies and became required reading at hundreds of universities, and it was almost entirely bogus in its content. It was fake science being propped up by leftist politics.

These philosophers are typical of leftist academic Marxist biases and tactics. They attack perfectly legitimate scientific work on the grounds of supposed bad motives. Next they denigrate with guilt-by-association. That is, they suggest that something must be wrong with the science if it is quoted on a web site with a racist following. They argue that certain data should be ignored, and that certain subject should not be talked about. Finally they attempt censorship, by arguing that aa legitimate scientific paper should not have been published.

Nobody is going to endorse racist views based on skull measurements by a physician who died in 1851. But Gould used misrepresentations of those measurements to become America's most famous scientist, and he needs to be exposed until professors quit defending him.

They pretend to be anti-racist, but they are the opposite. The Marxist view requires an oppressor class and a victim class, and they have to stir up racial animosity to achieve their political goals. So they create racial divisions and call everyone else racists.

Ron Unz recently wrote:
In corrupt societies, bad deeds frequently go rewarded, and in the years that followed, Gould, a notorious academic fraud, was provided the platform of some of America’s most prestigious media outlets—The New York Review of Books and Natural History magazine to promote his scientific opinions, many of which were incorrect, nonsensical, or dishonest; his books, such as The Mismeasure of Man, became widely assigned texts in college courses, thereby serving to misinform entire generations of students. And by an amusing irony of fate, the noisy attacks on mainstream evolutionary theory by this self-proclaimed Marxist eventually caused him to become a leading inspiration for ignorant religious Creationists, who gleefully used his arguments in their long but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to expel Darwinism from our public schools during the 1980s and 1990s.
This was in an introduction to comments by Robert Trivers, a highly respected evolutionary biologist:
Many of us theoretical biologists who knew Stephen personally thought he was something of an intellectual fraud precisely because he had a talent for coining terms that promised more than they could deliver, while claiming exactly the opposite. One example was the notion of “punctuated equilibria”—which simply asserted that rates of (morphological) evolution were not constant, but varied over time, often with periods of long stasis interspersed with periods of rapid change. All of this was well known from the time of Darwin. The classic example were bats. They apparently evolved very quickly from small non-flying mammals (in perhaps less than 20 million years) but then stayed relatively unchanged once they reached the bat phenotype we are all familiar with today (about 50 million years ago). Nothing very surprising here, intermediate forms were apt to be neither very good classic mammals, nor good flying ones either, so natural selection pushed them rapidly through the relevant evolutionary space.

But Steve wanted to turn this into something grander, a justification for replacing natural selection (favoring individual reproductive success) with something called species selection. Since one could easily imagine that there was rapid turnover of species during periods of intense selection and morphological change, one might expect species selection to be more intense, while during the rest of the equilibrium stabilizing selection would rule throughout. But rate of species turnover has nothing to do with the traits within species—only with the relative frequency of species showing these traits. As would prove usual, Steve missed the larger interesting science by embracing a self-serving fantasy. Species selection today is a small but interesting topic in evolutionary theory, not some grand principle emerging from paleontological patterns.

Recently something brand new has emerged about Steve that is astonishing. In his own empirical work attacking others for biased data analysis in the service of political ideology—it is he who is guilty of the same bias in service of political ideology. What is worse—and more shocking—is that Steve’s errors are very extensive and the bias very serious. A careful reanalysis of one case shows that his target is unblemished while his own attack is biased in all the ways Gould attributes to his victim. His most celebrated book (The Mismeasure of Man) starts with a takedown of Samuel George Morton. Morton was a scientist in the early 19 th Century who devoted himself to measuring the human cranium, especially the volume of the inside, a rough estimate of the size of the enclosed brain. He did so meticulously by pouring first seeds and then ball bearings into skulls until they were full and then pouring them out and measuring their volume in a graduated cylinder. He was a pure empiricist. He knew brain size was an important variable but very little about the details (indeed, we do not know much more today). He thought his data would bear on whether we were one species or several, but in any case he was busy creating a vast trove of true and useful facts.
Millions of college kids today are taught that Morton was an evil racist, just because he collected skull measurements.

Update: Massimo Pigliucci argues:
“people tend to hold political and policy views that are in their self-interests, whether they realize it or not.”

Seriously? I would think that my self-interest is much better served by supporting race and gender inequality, since I’m an older white male, than equality. Go figure. ... Ah, so this ought to confirm my suspicion that most Republicans, including those in high offices, have low cognitive ability. The nonsense truly never stops.
No, a white male professor is acting in his self-interest when he recites a leftist cultural Marxist orthodoxy about how there is no such thing as race, and similar nonsense. As you can see, Gould was forgiven for being wrong on a lot of issues because he was supposedly politically anti-racist. These professors can tell themselves that their ability to be anti-racist in the face of their own privileged background proves that they have higher cognitive ability, and those who do not subscribe to these leftist beliefs must be stupid.

The truth is more nearly the opposite. It does not take any intelligence to have kindergarten morality and go around calling everyone else a racist. I have more comments here.

Update: Scientia Salon approved this comment:
Curious debate. On one side, we have folks who deny objective science, who defend Marxism, who brag about being anti-racist while calling scientists and reporters racist, and who oppose saying anything that might encourage the anonymous posters on Stormfront. If presented with data or quotes to refute what they say, they brag how they are smarter and have a superior understanding.

Gould’s book is an embarrassment to modern science. Defending it is like defending Soviet Lysenkoism. It is just bad science that is promoted for leftist ideological or self-interest reasons. And yes, it is in the self-interest of white male soft-subject professors who make a career out of denouncing racism and pseudoscience.
For examples of one of them making a career out of denouncing racism, see Ignorance, Lies, and Ways of Being Racist or Realism, Antirealism, and Conventionalism about Race. This is race-baiting, not anti-racism. He seeks out "some evidence of racist intent" in order to brand people as racists. I do not know whether he is a Marxist, but he sure acts like one.

Update: Update: A comment asks:
Schlafly, what is your purpose?

C. Van Carter’s purpose is obvious – heighten suspicion of those those with greater melanin in their skin. This achieves what? – besides greater antagonism and social repression of those you don’t like.
Comments are closed, so I answer here.

A better scientific understanding of humanity is a worthwhile goal in itself. It is bizarre to me that it is acceptable to study varieties of fruit flies but not human beings.

Studies about human nature are especially interesting because they tell something about who we are. Humans are similar to chimps in some ways, and different in others. There are similarities and differences between the sexes, and between ethnic groups, and within groups. Information about heredity tells us something about nature v nurture.

Similarities and differences between men and women have enormous practical utility. So does information about traits being innate or immutable.

Marxists and fellow travelers hate this, because they see it as interfering with their goal of a classless egalitarian society. So they want to suppress the scientific knowledge and call everyone else racist.

Whenever they see diversity or inequality, it translates to Marxist-speak as "social oppression" because they frame everything as one class oppressing another. They claim to be against antagonism but they actually encourage it because they want a revolution from the oppressed classes.

So yes, I also have a purpose of exposing the hypocritical leftist truth-denying professors who promote Marxist nonsense. We would all be living like Cuba if they had their way.

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