PC persecution

June 9, 2011

The statement condemning the "bad science" of Satoshi Kanazawa, evolutionary psychologist and reader in the Institute of Management at the London School of Economics, is patently disingenuous ("Damage limitation: evolutionary psychologists turn on controversial peer", 2 June). The 68 signatories say that they support academic freedom and that "politically sensitive topics should not be taboo in science". Yet in practice, whenever a political scientist addresses a controversial topic such as racial differences in physical attractiveness, their methodology is invariably found wanting.

If Kanazawa is so manifestly incompetent, how did he persuade the LSE to appoint him in the first place? American Psychologist, the prestigious peer-reviewed journal that published his article "Evolutionary psychology and intelligence research" (2010), also failed to detect the "poor quality" of his work.

What really concerns Kanazawa's "colleagues" (including the aforementioned phalanx of signatories) is not his methodology, but his attempt to integrate evolutionary and differential psychology. The latter discipline includes, of course, the disputatious subject of racial differences.

Evolutionary research, according to the authors of the statement, should remain "culturally sensitive" (ie, so anodyne that nobody could object to it). In a public lecture at the LSE earlier this year, Simon Baron-Cohen reported that women on average are more empathic than men and nobody demurred. Yet this claim is no more "culturally sensitive" than Kanazawa's comments on race and beauty (subsequently redacted) in Psychology Today.

Whether Kanazawa is right or wrong on the question of racial differences in physical attractiveness, he should not be persecuted for pursuing his vocation.

Leslie Jones, Deputy editor, Quarterly Review

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Worried man wiping forehead
Two academics explain how to beat some of the typical anxieties associated with a doctoral degree
A group of flamingos and a Marabou stork

A right-wing philosopher in Texas tells John Gill how a minority of students can shut down debates and intimidate lecturers – and why he backs Trump

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy