Satoshi Kanazawa

The Scientific Fundamentalist

“It’s Only “Good Science” If the Message Is Politically Correct”

There is nothing a priori in science

Posted Dec 19, 2010

My friend and fellow evolutionary psychologist Robert Kurzban has a blog at Evolutionary Psychology.

In a recent post, Rob comments on a Guardian article about sex differences.  In the article, Madeleine Bunting reviews the recent work of Elizabeth Spelke, Rebecca Jordan-Young, and Deborah Cameron, and concludes that there are no innate sex differences in human cognition and behavior.

The first thing I would say to Rob is not to waste his valuable time reading the Guardian.  As I explain in earlier posts, by the American standards, all British newspapers are tabloids which routinely make things up and report them as facts, because they interpret “freedom of the press” to mean that they can write and publish anything they want entirely unconstrained by the truth.  And the Guardian is by far the worst offender in this regard.  You cannot believe anything you read in the Guardian, or any other British newspaper.  It’s best to ignore them all.

Nevertheless, I like Rob’s post on this because of its title:  “It’s only “good science” if the message is politically correct.”  This perfectly captures the reaction to both evolutionary psychology and intelligence research from scientists and civilians alike.  Any study that demonstrates that there are innate sex or race differences is a priori “bad science.”  Any study that demonstrates that there are no innate sex or race differences is a priori “good science.”  They feel they do not need to read and examine the actual study; they feel they can evaluate the quality of the study from its conclusions.  I was vaguely aware of this in my own experiences, but had never thought to express it as succinctly and elegantly as Rob did.

There is nothing a priori in science.  Science does not have foregone conclusions.  Scientists must be open to any conclusion supported by logic and evidence.  Once again, there is no place for politics (or anything else) in science, only logic and evidence.  The quality of science – the distinction between “good science” and “bad science” – does not depend on its conclusions but on the logic and evidence supporting them.  No scientific conclusions can be good or bad, sexist, racist, offensive, reactionary, or dangerous; they can only be true or false.  No other adjectives apply.

At any rate, I am sure that readers of the Scientific Fundamentalist blog would also enjoy reading Rob’s blog at Evolutionary Psychology (which is quite imaginatively titled “The Evolutionary Psychology Blog”).  I would therefore encourage all of my readers to check out Rob’s blog here.


P.S.  There’s great news for PT readers!  Rob has just joined us as a new PT blogger!  So now he has two blogs, and I feel vastly inferior because I only have one!  Anyway, his PT blog is called Mind Design, and  you can check it out here.

More Posts