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

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