Down the Memory Hole

Yesterday, we talked about overt thought-crime in England. Today for something different we will speak of the suppression of scientific research, for political reasons in the United States.

Joy Pullman wrote an article earlier this week, in The Federalist, outlining the difficulties encountered by an author who published a paper highlighting that men are both more intelligent and less intelligent than women. In other words: different. It’s a fascinating subject, reaching back to an unresolved question that Darwin himself raised. Here’s some of it.

study exploring Darwinian reasons there are both more highly intelligent and intelligence-deficient men than women was actively suppressed by professors at prestigious universities, all for merely discussing the reality that the sexes are different, says the study’s coauthor. A journal editor and professor at Smith College told him it was repressed because several academics worried about the “very real possibility that the right-wing media may pick this up and hype it internationally.”

That has to be about the most stupid possible reason not to publish in the history of knowledge – the wrong people might read it. It can only make sense if one believes that one’s political opponents are more intelligent than one is. The truth is the truth, it does not need political support – but lies do.

And so what has happened? Right (and not-so-right) wing media have picked up not only the article but its attempted suppression and are hyping it internationally. As it should be.

After the study had been yanked from acceptance at MI [Mathematical Intelligencer], an editor at the New York Journal of Mathematics offered to review it for publication. It was accepted there, and published online. Just three days later, however, the study was deleted from its online location after a University of Chicago senior math professor and her husband launched another round of complaints, and a different study was swapped into its place at the same link. It’s like the study was never there.

Hill writes at Quillette of his discussion with a NYJM editor about the deletion:

I pointed out that if the deletion were permanent, it would leave me in an impossible position. I would not be able to republish anywhere else because I would be unable to sign a copyright form declaring that it had not already been published elsewhere. Steinberger replied later that day. Half his board, he explained unhappily, had told him that unless he pulled the article, they would all resign and ‘harass the journal’ he had founded 25 years earlier ‘until it died.’ Faced with the loss of his own scientific legacy, he had capitulated.

The earlier journal editor who had also encouraged and conveyed the acceptance of the paper, then wrote back to say it had been subsequently un-accepted, told Hill “she had received no criticisms on scientific grounds and that her decision to rescind was entirely about the reaction she feared our paper would elicit. By way of further explanation, [Marjorie] Senechal even compared our paper to the Confederate statues that had recently been removed from the courthouse lawn in Lexington, Kentucky.”

You really should read the whole thing. It’s both fascinating and terrifying.

But this particular study, while useful, is unlikely to cost lives, even if it is memory-holed but what of others? Joy continues:

As Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, writes in a preface to an NAS study about modern science’s irreproducibility crisis, “the inability of science to discern truth properly and its politicization go hand in hand.”

The NAS study from April notes that hard-science researchers believed they could insulate themselves from the corruption of identity politics that is now endemic to academia. By now that has been well disproved. It is becoming increasingly common for even hard science research to be aborted in utero. I just wrote last week about how Ivy League Brown University took a study about transgender children off its website and chastised the author rather than the memory-hole contingent.

That one being memory-holed will very likely cost lives, and mental health, given the appalling suicide rate among trans-genders.

[…] Back to the NAS [National Associaciation of Scholars] study:

Findings from experimental work or observational studies turn out, time and again, to be irreproducible. The high rates of irreproducibility are an ongoing scandal that rightly has upset a large portion of the scientific community. Estimates of what percentage of published articles present irreproducible results vary by discipline. Randall and Welser cite various studies, some of them truly alarming. A 2012 study, for example, aimed at reproducing the results of 53 landmark studies in hematology [blood medicine] and oncology [cancer treatment], but succeeded in replicating only six (11 percent) of those studies [emphasis added].

If bad results are not scrutinized early, they can infect their entire subject matter with dangerous falsehoods. Here’s an example also from the NAS study.

In March 2017 a graduate student named Tim van der Zee calculated that critics had already made serious, unrebutted allegations about the reliability of 45 of [a certain researcher’s] publications. Collectively, these publications spanned twenty years of research, had appeared in twenty-five different journals and eight books, and—most troubling of all—had been cited more than 4,000 times. Wansink’s badly flawed research tainted the far larger body of scientific publications that had relied on the accuracy of his results.

In hematology, deep in the heart of medicine, and cancer treatment, the studies are unreliable. Doesn’t bode well for our healthcare, does it?

Joy ends with this:

This set of interlinked phenomena create a dangerous feedback loop where fraud begets fraud, and people — and civic institutions, perhaps even ultimately societies — die. The answer to corruption is not more corruption, of course. It is integrity. If our nation’s leaders and institutions will not provide it, then it is time for a new generation of leaders and institutions to prepare to be worthy to take their places. That means me, it means you, it means us, and now.

That’s a good summary, to which I have little to add, at least that is printable.


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5 Responses to Down the Memory Hole

  1. the unit says:

    It’s all about political agenda consensus building for domination by any means.
    And like you, that’s about all I can say that’s printable as well.

    Liked by 2 people

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