Pseudo-Science and Bias in the Academic Establishment
“I have a great respect for science generally and see it as the best method so far developed by humans to separate truth from fiction, at least when the core principles of scientific philosophy are actually followed. But the scientific establishment is still a human institution and therefore fallible. The community at times moves unacceptably far away from its core principles and this usually happens when research topics might have strong implications for an over-arching political ideology.”
This is an excerpt from Smart and SeXy by Roderick Kaine, published by Arktos in 2016.
Saying that the academic community has a large progressive bias is a very strong claim and such an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary evidence. So what is known about the “scientists” who publish “research” in politically charged areas? Diederick Stapel was previously a highly regarded and influential Dutch social psychologist who did a lot of work on stereotype threat until it came to light that he “routinely falsified data and made up entire experiments.” Another example of his politically biased work was a “scientific” article which sanctimoniously claimed to find that meat eaters were more selfish and less agreeable than vegans. Unfortunately, it is impossible to be surprised by outspoken priggishness from vegans and their sympathizers.
Thanks to this media attention, Stapel is now the most notorious charlatan in the field of social psychology, which is saying a lot for what appears to be a regularly fraudulent and pseudo-scientific discipline. Social Psychologists as a group do not make the data they collect available for outside review 2/3rds of the time. This stinginess with data is actually against the ethical rules established by social psychologists themselves and suggests that there are likely many more Stapels out there who simply haven’t been caught. A survey by the Harvard business school found that 70% of social psychologists admitted to cutting corners in reporting data, 30% reporting unexpected findings as if they were expected from the start, and 1% admitted to falsifying data.
Another meta-analysis of papers published in high-tier psychology journals found that 50% of papers surveyed contained at least one statistical error and 15% contained an error so severe that the conclusion drawn would have had to have been reversed.i, ii A meta-analysis which looked at whether or not positive results from stereotype threat studies could be replicated found that almost half could not, and that a further 25% were confounded by methodological issues.iii Methodological issues, especially in determining statistical validity, have even been used by one Social Psychologist to publish in a major, respected journal that he had proven the existence of psychic ability. His finding used standard statistical practices in psychology and resulted in heavy criticism by professional statisticians of both the specific paper and the psychology community generally.iv
This high publicity criticism led to a fair degree of soul searching among the psychological community and led some researchers to undertake the task of evaluating how widespread these problems are. One analysis reviewed articles from the last 100 years in the top 100 journals based on the impact factor; a measure of the level of influence a paper or journal has on the field. It found that in that time, for the highest impact journals, only 1% of all research findings in psychology had ever been replicated. Of that 1%, only 14% were in fact direct replications. The rest tested similar hypotheses under different conditions. However, successful replications themselves have to be received critically. Half of the 1% of replications had authors from the original study; this is troubling because the presence of the previous author greatly impacts the chance of positive replication and implies bias might be playing a role. 92% of replication studies with an author from the original paper confirm the original result, while only 65% of replications by independent researchers confirm the original finding.v
Problematic methodology isn’t the only issue in psychology. Ideological bias is rampant in the humanities generally, but especially in social psychology; both among individual researchers and among the journals publishing papers. Beyond the lack of objective critical evaluation of papers, the field itself is essentially an ideological and political echo-chamber that is considerably more left-wing politically than the general population. 80% of social psychologists identify as liberal, while only 3 out of 1000 identify as conservative. Contrast this with the general population which is 40% conservative and only 20% liberal; the remainder being moderate or apolitical. Looking through all social sciences, the ratio of liberals to conservatives varies from 8:1 to 30:1.vi Were these sorts of numbers occurring with an ideologically designated protected class, these same social psychologists would be the first to use it as incontrovertible proof of discrimination.vii, viii
Considering what is now known about the biological origins of cognition and intelligence (discussed in more detail in future sections), it is generally difficult to take claims of discrimination seriously when underrepresented groups also display relatively lower intelligence profiles. However, in this case there is no reason to think that conservatives as a group have an intellectual profile below the general population. Social conservatives tend to be a little lower in intelligence relative to liberals, but free-market conservatives (libertarians) tend to be smarter than liberals. Being very partisan, either liberal or conservative, tends to be associated with high IQ as well.ix Increased income levels, which are a proxy for IQ, also moves people right ideologically.x In other words, there is nothing that biologically determined intelligence can do to explain the lack of conservatives, and even moderates, in the humanities.xi
In a survey of social psychologists, it was found that conservative respondents feared negative consequences from revealing their political affiliation and that they were right to do so as liberal respondents expressed willingness to discriminate against conservatives in approving papers, grant proposals, and hiring decisions.xii The more liberal a social psychologist is or the more consequential the decision would be for the conservative, the more willing liberal social psychologists are to discriminate.
The willingness to discriminate against (or for) articles and proposals for ideological reasons has been empirically confirmed in several instances as well. In one study, reviewers were sent a manuscript which purported to show the mental health of a group of leftist political activists compared to a control group. Reviewers who were sent a version which showed that the activists had better mental health consistently felt that the paper was more publishable and even felt that the statistics were more adequate even though the data and statistics for each version were identical.xiii In another case, a research proposal which either wanted to study discrimination or reverse-discrimination (a euphemism for discrimination against whites) was sent to 150 review boards.xiv The proposal on discrimination was approved twice as often as the proposal on reverse-discrimination. In a third example, psychologists were sent papers which either concluded that affirmative action for blacks was beneficial or harmful and also papers which either concluded that homosexual relationships were equally or less healthy than heterosexual relationships. Liberal psychologists were much more likely to believe that articles with liberal conclusions were truer and had less author bias than articles with conservative conclusions. Relatively conservative psychologists viewed the results of articles virtually identically regardless of conclusion. In other words, researcher bias was extremely asymmetrical with liberal “scientists” being much more biased. When the authors of this study tried to get this finding published, they were unable to do so until they took out all reference to asymmetrical bias among liberals. Though the data was unchanged, the final version required detailed evaluation of the data to actually see the obvious and important conclusion.xv In college admissions, it was found that reviewers would attach greater value to whichever criteria (grades vs. test scores) that would allow them to pick the candidates which agreed with their partisan politics.xvi Lastly, controlling for research productivity and academic achievement, another study found that conservative researchers were working at lower quality institutions relative to equivalent liberal colleagues than would be expected. The irony that a group which commonly publishes on the asserted negative consequences of discrimination would prove to itself be extraordinarily discriminatory is stunning.
This ideological imbalance in the social sciences has not always been present, and the shift towards liberal dominance isn’t limited to the social sciences. Research suggests that the process of eliminating conservatives has been going on since approximately the 1960s, when there was much more political diversity. It seems that leftists who attained authority after the Cultural Revolution progressively used their influence within the academic bureaucracy to incrementally increase liberal hegemony in those fields.xvii This trend continues to this day, with approximately 10% of faculty identifying as conservative, but only 2% of graduate students and post-docs. As unreliable as the social sciences are today, we can probably expect it to be less reliable in the future; at least when politically “sensitive” topics are under scrutiny.xi
Moving in the controversial direction of studying gender differences in intelligence, no doubt, would thus be professionally untenable for a Psychologist even if they wanted to. The former president of Harvard, Lawrence Summers, was on the receiving end of a great deal of hatred for just suggesting the possibility that men and women might have innate aptitude differences even though such ideas are robustly supported empirically. The entire world revealed their spite for truth in its response to his honest inquiry, which ultimately forced him to resign from Harvard and later prevented him from being appointed chairmen of the Federal Reserve despite being the better candidate. Nancy Hopkins, a “biologist” who no doubt achieved her position through affirmative action rather than raw skill, notably allowed her emotions to overwhelm her during his talk and walked out. She bleated “I felt I was going to be sick. My heart was pounding and my breath was shallow.” Her excessive sentiments are notable as a female stereotype which in this case has the ring of truth. If she hadn’t walked out she “would have either blacked out or thrown up,”xviii she quaveringly mused. All this is strangely reminiscent of the emotional fainting trope in older movies. That she has the audacity to claim to be a biologist is astounding.
The Larry Summers case and its attendant negative Nancys demonstrates that while the social “sciences” have been the most afflicted by entryism conducted by leftist ideologues, other branches of science and academia are hardly immune. Biology is certainly one of the more difficult branches to do this in because it grapples with problems and finds evidence that intrinsically work against egalitarianism; one of the biggest sacred cows of the left. Biological variation, which must include individuals with less fitness, is an indispensable and indisputable part of the theory of natural selection. Yet, that does not prevent the political ideologues from trying to enter and suppress the application of the idea of natural selection and genetic variation to the human condition without some measure of success.
The most famous example is that of Lysenko; for whom the term Lysenkoism is coined and who headed agricultural genetics in the Soviet Union. Like others on the left, he believed that offspring could inherit characteristics acquired by their parents during their lifetime despite it being well known that this is not how reality actually functions. In reality, characteristics are determined by genetics from birth and are more or less randomly distributed. Traits increase in frequency as the better adapted produce more fit offspring more often. Little to no increased fitness arises outside of genetic influence, and that which does can’t be the object of natural selection or pass to future generations. Those who dared disagree with Lysenko in favor of reality were sent to gulags in Siberia. There is little doubt that if given the opportunity and power many modern leftists, like negative Nancy Hopkins, would engage in similar behavior. They certainly don’t hesitate to get competent and honest university presidents fired; which was an American version of being sent to Siberia.
Other American examples of Lysenkoism are fairly salient in biology as well. Recently, the University of Wisconsin-Madison created the first “feminist biology” Post-doctorate program.xix The idea that political feminism will somehow help find rather than completely distort and misconstrue biological truths is absurd. In Joseph Bottum’s book, An Anxious age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America he makes a quip that is equally applicable here. In it he says, “In any phrase the word social should be read as meaning basically not. Social scientist, for example, more or less equals not a scientist.” “Social Justice,” too, is more accurately read as “not justice.” This could be expanded to any profession which has the forename “feminist.” A “feminist” biologist or a “feminist” programmer is more accurately read as “not a biologist” or “not a programmer.”
In another example among many like that of Dr. Summers, Danish Professor Helmuth Nyborg was temporarily suspended from his position due to his publication of robustly demonstrated mean IQ differences between genders.xx A culturally Marxist kangaroo court reminiscent of Lysenko was convened and an attempt to fire him was made. Finding no justification for such an outrageous reprisal, the case was dropped. In a later paper, he explored the effect on the average IQ of Denmark given fertility differentials between native Danes and low IQ immigrants allowed in through mass immigration policies. This time the kangaroo court, populated by rival academics that passionately disliked him personally, was successful in ousting him.xxi, xxii An international team of scientists not subject to local Danish academic politics was convened by prominent publisher Elsevier to re-evaluate the case. They vindicated Dr. Nyborg of all the charges against him and he is proceeding with a lawsuit against the Danish University and committee for their corruption and dishonesty.
In the last example I will provide here, though there are plenty more (see Philipe Rushton, Hans Eysenck, Arthur Jensen, Cyril Burt, Raymond Cattell, Chris Brand, Thomas Bouchard, Bob Gordon, and Linda Gottfried) a researcher at the University of Texas published a paper which demonstrated that children of heterosexual couples do better than those of same sex couples.xxiii, xxiv The paper was notable compared to previous studies in that it had a larger population and it was nationally representative; both positive factors which made the paper more reliable than previous research. The paper provoked 201 “scholars” to sign a letter to the journal condemning them for publishing it. The former department chair whined that she was “furious” with her former colleague for publishing the article. Many “Colleagues” published bitter diatribes on internet forums and blogs that questioned the integrity of the author and the editors at the journal. In the paper describing the outrageous behavior of the self-proclaimed “scientific” community the author found:
The temptation . . . to advance a political agenda is too often indulged in sociology, especially by activist faculty in certain fields, like marriage, family, sex, and gender . . . Research programs that advance narrow agendas compatible with particular ideologies are privileged . . . the influence of progressive orthodoxy in sociology is evident in decisions made by graduate students, junior faculty, and even senior faculty about what, why, and how to research, publish, and teach . . . The result is predictable: Play it politically safe, avoid controversial questions, publish the right conclusions…
[Compared to conservative sociologists] Politically-correct sociologists enjoy certain privileges in a very politically conscious and liberal discipline. They can, for example, “paint caricature-like pictures based on the most extreme and irrational beliefs of those who differ from them ideologically without feeling any penalty for doing so,” and “can systematically misinterpret, misrepresent, or ignore research in such a manner as to sustain [their] political views and be confident that such misinterpretations . . . are unlikely to be recognized by [their] colleagues” [Social science researchers believe] “that social science should be an instrument for social change and thus should promote the ‘correct’ values and ideological positions”vi
With this sort of cultural climate, exploring gender differences, or even just acknowledging that such differences exist is extremely difficult for professional scientists to do today. The pattern of ideologically driven academics significantly undermines the ability of an objective outsider to trust the conclusions coming out of certain fields, especially when it is related to such a politically charged subject as gender (and race) differences in test scores. It is quite clear that the overwhelming majority of researchers working on this topic possess a politically desired outcome of these studies. The great potential for this systemic Lysenkoism to motivate the production of inaccurate results and interpretations contrary to reality can’t be overestimated. The objectivity of the field in concluding stereotype threat is a real and large effect phenomenon in particular is highly questionable.
Calling cynical skepticism of the social sciences “anti-intellectual,” a common criticism directed towards conservative thinkers, is only so in the sense that these “scientists” have misdefined the word “intellectual” to describe their political ideology and therefore themselves. It is quite conceivable that the modern attitudes described as “anti-science” attributed to conservatives are fundamentally merely a non-inevitable reaction to what can only be described as pseudo-science being published by leftist activists in academia; and stereotype threat is just one example of peer-reviewed pseudo-science.xi
Certainly in some cases there are conservatives that legitimately hold anti-scientific views, such as in the case of evolution generally. But when it comes to evolution of the human species specifically, many liberals are just as anti-scientific as the most hardcore creationist. The main difference is that the left, being dominant in state institutions and having ample government funding, has the power to enforce idealism contrary to reality while most conservatives do not have symmetric influence. This asymmetry in power makes leftist anti-reality beliefs of far greater concern and consequence than the equivalent conservative anti-reality beliefs.
For the average person, it isn’t so hard to notice some of the more egregious examples of leftist pseudo-science. Since most people do not have the time or energy to independently evaluate every pronouncement from every field coming out of the scientific community, it is more efficient (and natural) to use a quick short-hand, or stereotype, to extrapolate from a more narrow range of data for which they do have time and interest to look into. If their interest happens to be in an area replete with pseudo-science, and that’s likely because politically controversial areas are both the most likely to be interesting and to contain pseudo-science, then they have found themselves an extraordinary indicator of dishonesty which they then extrapolate from.
As a consequence of general distrust, society is more likely to develop unreasonable movements like that against vaccinations. It is not reasonable for the scientific community to expect the average person to evaluate every single scientific finding themselves. They have real lives that do not, and should not, have to deal with academic politics. Therefore, scientists need to do a better job rooting out bias, and especially liberal bias, in their fields so the public can actually trust what they say. If academics want to be trusted, they first must be trustworthy because trust, for institutions as much as individuals, must be earned.
I don’t mean to be misinterpreted when I point out these biases in scientific research. To their credit, the main people who have identified and raised alarm about the bias against non-liberals in academic papers have themselves been liberal social psychologists such as Jonathon Haidt. In fields that are outside of the social sciences or on the periphery, real bravery is often demonstrated in their defiance of orthodoxy. Perhaps my favorite treatment of Cultural Marxism came from a paper which starts by stating “putting aside political correctness” and then continues on to discuss multiple heretical topics and never references it again. Political correctness is mentioned only long enough to dismiss it as the irrational and fallacious sentiment that it is. This is a hopeful sign, but it must be noted that no serious efforts to actively alleviate the problem within the social sciences beyond talking about it have so far been undertaken.
I have a great respect for science generally and see it as the best method so far developed by humans to separate truth from fiction, at least when the core principles of scientific philosophy are actually followed. But the scientific establishment is still a human institution and therefore fallible. The community at times moves unacceptably far away from its core principles and this usually happens when research topics might have strong implications for an over-arching political ideology. The Lysenkoist effect of an overwhelmingly liberal character is just one problem. Another is that senior research scientists often spend as much or more time begging for money than they do actually trying to discover truth. Whether or not they actually get money is often dependent on how much they publish which creates an incentive to publish even if the research isn’t very good. Conforming to the political biases of other researchers thus constitutes a quick way to look better with lower quality research.
From the state of academia, it can be taken that the discrimination hypothesis has a great deal of influence on our current culture and the determination of public policy through the publication of questionable research. If the discrimination hypothesis is only partially true or largely wrong in the present, then social policies based on it are likely to be largely ineffectual and possibly harmful. Intelligence researcher Dr. Wendy Johnson has stated the importance of this possibility with reference to X linked intelligence succinctly,
Values create the emotionally charged climates pervading discussions of sex differences, making it difficult to evaluate scientific data objectively. Values are extremely important and appropriately form the basis of many actions and social contracts. But the laws of nature are not responsible to us or to our values and may not conform to them. It is important to understand the laws of nature as completely as possible within our circumstances in order to actualize our values as we intend. We can only develop coherent and realistic actions and social policies that will actualize our values if we understand the laws of nature as they exist.ii
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vi Redding. R. (2013) Politicized Science. Society. Vol 50(5), 439-446
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xvi Munro, G. D., Lasane, T. P. and Leary, S. P. (2010), Political Partisan Prejudice: Selective Distortion and Weighting of Evaluative Categories in College Admissions Applications. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40: 2434–2462. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2010.00665.x
xvii Rothman, S., Lichter, S. R., Nevitte, N. (2005) Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty. The Forum. Vol 3(1). Article 2.
xviii Harvard sex row and science. BBC News. Jan 18, 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/4183495.stm
xix Lallensack, R. (2014) UW to host first feminist biology post-doc program in the nation. The Badger Herald. http://badgerherald.com/news/2014/04/21/madison-host-first-feminist-biology-post-doc-program-nation-rl/#.VO5GIS6GN8H
xx Pinker, S. (2009 Letter from Steven Pinker to Aarhus University in defence of Prof. Nyborg, December 9, 2009. http://www.helmuthnyborg.dk/Letters-Of-Support/PinkerLetter.pdf
xxi Nyborg, H. (2013) Danish Government Tries to Censor Science it Doesn’t Like. American Renaissance, November 14, 2013 http://www.amren.com/news/2013/11/danish-government-tries-to-censor-science-it-doesnt-like/
xxii Thompsom, J., (2013) Helmuth Nyborg gets Watson’d. Psychological Comments. http://drjamesthompson.blogspot.com/2013/11/helmuth-nyborg-gets-watsond.html
xxiii Nyborg, H. (2003) “The Sociology of Psychometric and Bio-behavioral Sciences: A Case Study of Destructive Social Reductionism and Collective Fraud in 20th Century Academia.” The Scientific Study of General Intelligence: Tribute to Arthur R. Jensen.
xxiv Nyborg, H., The Greatest Collective Scientific Fraud of the 20th Century: The Demolition of Differential Psychology and Eugenics. The Mankind Quarterly. University of Aarhus (Retired, 2007)