Tarnished reputation

October 13, 1995

C. B. Goodhart's evident desire to rescue Cyril Burt's reputation (THES, Letters, September 22) may be commendable. But he should not do so by perpetuating the myth that the attack on Burt was led and orchestrated by politically correct liberals desperately anxious to dismiss his hereditarian views.

Neither Ann and Alan Clarke, who were among the first to suggest that some of his data might be fraudulent, nor Leslie Hearnshaw, whose biography convinced most people of Burt's guilt, could possibly be so described. Their accusations may be subject to debate, but they were based on serious evidence, not political prejudice. That charge could, with greater justice, be advanced against those who have sought to defend Burt without examining much of the evidence.

Having recently published a book which seeks to do just that, I can say that Dr Goodhart should not be so confident that Burt had been conclusively cleared of all the charges against him.

Dr Goodhart is correct when he says that more recent studies of separated identical twins have come up with very much the same results as Burt's. That is an important piece of scientific knowledge, but it does not really address the issue whether Burt fabricated any of his published results.


Department of experimental psychology University of Cambridge

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