Not acting responsibly

August 22, 1997

SO Chris Brand feels that his "academic freedom" has been curtailed (THES, August 15). Does this mean his "freedom" to attempt to give racism a veneer of academic respectability, or his "freedom" to announce that paedophilia is OK for intelligent children and that we are all being "hysterical" in disagreeing with him?

It is an elementary philosophical point which should not need restating, but apparently does: with "freedom" comes responsibility. As an academic, Mr Brand has responsibility to his university, his subject, his students and finally to society at large. He appears to have abdicated responsibility to all four, having given Edinburgh University and the wider discipline of psychology publicity that I am certain both could well do without, and having vilified his students for their "political correctness" (thankfully he resisted the urge to throw around the "trendy lefty" epithet).

However, it is the abdication of responsibility to society at large which is the most worrying here. The cultural flaws in IQ tests are many and manifest and do not need repeating here. He presumes on the basis of these flawed psychometric devices to dismiss large sections of the human race as less intelligent?

Even were this true, which I sincerely doubt, whom would this knowledge serve other than the far right, who think that Hitler was a misunderstood political giant and that ethnic cleansing is a good idea? Clearly Mr Brand is one of those whose conception of ethics is that they are "the county next to Sussex".

Andrew Marks Department of Sociology University of Liverpool

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