The “Great Awokening”—the Maoist Cultural Revolution we are living through—is impacting academia heavily [The Great Awokening and the Second American Revolution, by Eric Kaufmann, Quillette, June 22, 2020]. We’ve seen the closing of the London Conference on Intelligence in 2018 and the firing of researcher Noah Carl by Cambridge University partly for attending the London Conference on Intelligence. But also in 2018, a mathematics journal retracted and then deleted all evidence of a study that drew allegedly sexist conclusions (it supported the thesis that male intelligence has greater variability). I said at the time that Political Correctness was finally invading hard science and that this would lead to a new, anti-rational Dark Age. Since then, evidence is mounting that the Great Awokening is indeed leading to a Great Retraction which—exactly as Mao urged—puts politics in command.
This Cultural Revolution, taken to new extremes of insanity in the aftermath the death of the violent criminal George Floyd, has always been Orwellian—the Multiculturalist Party knows best (especially with regard to scientific research); language must be constantly policed and changed; and, as with “Silence is Violence” the usual meaning of words is turned on its head.
Orwell’s eerily prescient novel Nineteen Eighty-Four also gave us the concept of the “Memory Hole.” Party functionaries would rewrite history as it suited the Party and cast information that did not suit them into the darkness by making it no longer part of the official record.
The fear of mobbing experienced by the more cowardly scientists—reliant for the livelihoods on institutions that are in the grip of Black Lives Matter Fanatics—has led to some to put their own research down the Memory Hole. Research is even being forcibly retracted by academic journals—in one case of particularly disgraceful case, the research of two scientists who are now dead and therefore cannot sue.
Just recently, the publisher Springer Nature retracted a paper “Poverty and Culture” by Lawrence Mead of New York University, from the journal Society [Society, 2020]. Mead’s crime: simply arguing that black culture differs from white culture and this may be a contributory factor to greater black poverty in the U.S. This provoked the Woke mob and publisher caved, overturned the careful peer review system in the process [Springer Nature retracts paper that hundreds called “overtly racist,” Retraction Watch, August 6, 2020].
An even more disturbing case occurred back in June. American psychologist Cory Jane Clark is an assistant professor of psychology at Durham University, in the northeast of England. She is also “Director Academic Engagement” at the Heterodox Academy, which claims to promote “diverse viewpoints” and be “open inquiry are critical to research & learning.” She has even published an article demonstrating that “Liberals” are more biased, and resistant to evidence that questions their biases, than non-Liberals [Equalitarianism: A source of liberal bias, By Bo Winegard et al., SSRN, 2018].
But Woke pressure is now so strong on academics that even those who have previously been inclined to question its dogmas are feeling the need to conform.
Consequently, Clark tweeted, that she and her colleagues had decided to withdraw one of their scientific studies. They wrote:
Over the past weeks, we have heard considerable concern and scrutiny over our recent article on religion, violence, and IQ in Psychological Science. In particular, papers by Karis et al. (2015; pointed out by Fearon and Eisner) and by Dickins et al. (2017; pointed out by Sear) have prompted us to spend much of the last week digging deeper into the research behind our measures—a level of vetting we should have done before submitting the paper. As a result, we no longer have confidence in our findings. Because of imputation for many countries, the homicide data have limitations that call our conclusions into question. The IQ data, however, have much more serious issues. The persistence of these highly questionable data sources in the psychological literature has convinced us that research with certain kinds of flaws should be pulled from the record as its existence steers us further from the truth rather than closer to it. We now believe our paper falls into that category and are retracting it immediately
On this basis, the authors have retracted the study “Declines in Religiosity Predicted Increases in Violent Crime—But Not Among Countries with Relatively High Average IQ” [by Cory Clark et al., Psychological Science, 2020]. And they also appear to be withdrawing from the entire discussion of group differences in IQ.
The study had found that religiosity seems to suppress violent behavior in low-IQ societies to a greater extent than it does in high IQ societies. This actually makes a great deal of sense: Intelligence is associated with empathy and impulse control, meaning that intelligent people are less criminal. (This is discussed in Arthur Jensen’s 1998 book The g Factor.) Religiousness also tends to preach moral behavior. But in a more intelligent society, it will be less necessary because intelligence will do that job for it.
According to a report on the website Retraction Watch, which tends to gloat over some of the retractions it reports, the authors were clearly under intense pressure from ideological academics over this study and, seemingly to avoid any further fuss, retracted it. They did so despite the fact that—as they imply—the criticisms of it were nothing more than the normal “limitations” inherent in a study which uses the best available data, such as that some of the sources could be questioned or had low levels of reliability.
Peer review is meant to be the scientific Gold Standard. But now, increasingly, if something passes peer review it is “science”—unless it offends against Leftist orthodoxy. Then it must also pass “post-publication review,” a test of whether the authors and journal have sufficient courage to stand up to the fanatical, anti-science bullies who call themselves in “Liberals” and, in some cases, “scientists.”
And Clark and her colleagues are not the only case of this memory-holing. At around the same time, Elsevier withdrew an eight year-old study by J. Philippe Rushton (1943-2012) and Donald Templer (1938-2016) entitled “Do pigmentation and the melanocortin system modulate aggression and sexuality in humans as they do in other animals?,” which had been published in the psychology journal Personality and Individual Differences in 2012.
The Rushton-Templer study had been a “review article” which had merely hypothesized that as aggression was linked to darker pigmentation in individuals then this might be the case when comparing sub-species, such as different sub-species of human. It had passed peer review in the usual way.
But in November 2019 this study was criticized, by, it seems, an anonymous SJW keyboard warrior called Evopsychgoogle who faulted it because of
…misrepresentation of research on pleiotropy, misrepresentation of the authors’ sources, cherry-picked citations which misrepresent the state of the literature, and no disclosure of the authors’ conflict-of-interest. Far from being a simple hypothesis, this article is a source of misinformation, which is being weaponized by White supremacists. [A critique of Rushton and Templer’s 2012 paper, Medium.com, November 19, 2019]
The SJW also criticized the paper for citing a much-criticized study, also published in Personality and Individual Differences, by Richard Lynn on race differences in psychopathic personality (that has not been withdrawn) [Racial and ethnic differences in psychopathic personality, 2002] and studies by Hans Eysenck.
Usually, science deals with these problems—with the exception of the allegation of a conflict of interest—via other scientists writing a critique of the study. The claim that a study is being “weaponized” by outside groups would be irrelevant to its scientific validity.
In addition, retracting a study is a very serious issue. It implies that you may be incompetent. Thus scientists tend to avoid doing it.
Nevertheless, Rushton’s study was withdrawn and the journal’s editor, one Donald Saklofske [Email him], a former colleague of Rushton’s at the University of Western Ontario, implied that the journal was looking into papers it had published by Hans Eysenck (1916-1997), one of the founders of the journal. But Eysenck’s papers have not been yet withdrawn, perhaps because Eysenck was such a huge figure in psychology and has so many supporters even now [Elsevier journal to retract 2012 paper widely derided as racist, Retraction Watch, June 17, 2020].
So Personality and Individual Differences journal can appease the Woke Mob, with no consequences, by withdrawing, on spurious grounds, studies by dead men that are unpopular with this Woke mob. It can, in so doing, “Memory Hole” perfectly acceptable scientific research, which would not be withdrawn if it reached opposite, Politically Correct conclusions even with the same limitations.
And now the anti-science mob has helped to get two other papers withdrawn and has a third in its sights.
The first showed that endometriosis correlates with attractiveness. The authors have requested a retraction because a student wrote to them saying that the paper might cause a Woke backlash. The second presented measured criticisms of Affirmative Action. This was widely condemned on Twitter and voluntarily withdrawn. The third argues that fat people are dishonest compared to thin people. The mob have not yet successfully pressured the authors into withdrawing this piece of (empirically accurate) “fat shaming” [A retraction and a retraction request as Twitter users call out sexism, fat-shaming, and racism,Retraction Watch, August 6, 2020].
These cases illustrate an important lesson. Science involves the fearless pursuit of truth. But too many professional scientists appear to be in it for the money and prestige. Such scientists can, therefore, be prone to cowardice when faced with anti-science bullies.
This can only undermine science at universities, deter those who excel in science from going into academia, and contribute the decline of the university.
As I said two years ago, we are entering a new Dark Age.