Stephen Jay Gould: Next to Judas Iscariot, Brutus, and Cassius in the Devil’s Mouth at the Center of Hell

In a reissue of The Mismeasure of Man in 1996 Stephen Jay Gould wrote, “May I end up next to Judas Iscariot, Brutus, and Cassius in the devil’s mouth at the center of hell if I ever fail to present my most honest assessment and best judgment of the evidence for empirical truth” (p. 39). So we definitely know where to find him.

We have known this for some time, but a recent study nicely nails it down (see “Study Debunks Stephen Jay Gould’s Claim of Racism on Morton Skulls,” NYTimes, June 14, 2011).  Samuel George Morton, who died in 1851, had measured skulls from around the world and found race differences in skull size. Gould claimed that he had remeasured Morton’s skulls and found that Morton had “unconsciously” falsified the measurements to fit his “racist” preconceptions that Africans had smaller brains. But now

physical anthropologists at the University of Pennsylvania, which owns Morton’s collection, have remeasured the skulls, and in an article that does little to burnish Dr. Gould’s reputation as a scholar, they conclude that almost every detail of his analysis is wrong.

Gould’s claim that Morton “unconsciously” made his measurements fit his preconceptions was always the stuff of intellectual chutzpah. Gould had no reason to believe that Morton had any preconceptions at all, and indeed the new study states that Morton had no interest in intelligence (IQ wasn’t even invented until the early 20th century) but simply wanted to study human variation in order to determine if God had created the races separately. In fact, only 2% of Morton’s measurements were inaccurate, and the inaccuracies actually went against the hypothesis of brain size differences. On the other hand, Gould never actually measured Morton’s skulls and his reanalysis of Morton’s data ignored some subgroups and made errors of calculation. Most damningly,

Dr.[Jason E.]  Lewis, the lead author, said that on checking the references for some of Dr. Gould’s accusations he found that Morton had not made the errors attributed to him. “Those elements of Gould’s work were surprising,” he said. “I can’t say if they were deliberate.”

I will hazard a wild guess that they were deliberate. As one of the authors, Ralph Holloway, notes,

I just didn’t trust Gould. … I had the feeling that his ideological stance was supreme. When the 1996 version of ‘The Mismeasure of Man’ came and he never even bothered to mention [an earlier study by a University of Pennsylvania undergraduate, John S. Michael] I just felt he was a charlatan.

In Chapter 2 of Culture of Critique (p. 34ff) I  mentioned Gould’s failure to cite Michael’s work along with several other obvious indications of scholarly fraud. The first duty of a scholar is to at least deal with the available data, but Gould completely ignored 25 years of research showing a moderate (~.40) correlation between brain size and IQ; he also ignored factor analytic research indicating IQ was much more than a statistical artifact, as Gould claimed. (Gould’s reissuing of Mismeasure was timed to combat the influence of The Bell Curve which had been published in 1994.)

Obviously, seeking the truth about IQ and brain size was never a goal for Gould. The chapter also details Gould’s Jewish identification, his concern for Jewish issues, and his roots in the Jewish-Marxist subculture that was such a major part of the mainstream Jewish community when Gould was growing up.

Sadly, for those of us who don’t believe in Hell, Gould will never be properly punished. His reputation as a brilliant intellectual will live on. A defender of Gould, philosopher Philip Kitcher, states “: “Steve doesn’t come out as a rogue but as someone who makes mistakes. If Steve were around he would probably defend himself with great ingenuity.” Kitcher obviously has very high standards for what constitutes a rogue. I have no doubt that Gould would defend himself with a deluge of showmanship (his public lectures were a three-ring circus of half truths and falsehoods uttered with a supreme sense of self-confidence). Nor do I doubt that his defense would be eagerly embraced by the intellectual left and the media for whom truth has always been irrelevant.

Finally, it’s noteworthy that the other major intellectual villain of Chapter 2 of Culture of Critique has also been exposed as producing false data. Franz Boas’s famous study purporting to show that skull shape changed as a result of immigration from Europe to America was a very effective propaganda weapon in the cause of the anti-racialists. Indeed, it was intended as propaganda. Based on their reanalysis of Boas’s data, physical anthropologists Corey Sparks and Richard Jantz do not accuse Boas of scientific fraud, but they do find (pdf) that his data do not show any significant environmental effects on cranial form as a result of immigration. They also claim that Boas may well have been motivated by a desire to end racialist views in anthropology:

While Boas never stated explicitly that he had based any conclusions on anything but the data themselves, it is obvious that he had a personal agenda in the displacement of the eugenics movement in the United States. In order to do this, any differences observed between European- and U.S.-born individuals will be used to its fullest extent to prove his point.

And yet, the intellectual left will continue to sleep comfortably, realizing that the record of scientific malfeasance (also apparent in the work of the Frankfurt School and psychoanalysis) will not threaten their hegemony in the academic world and the media. What we will not see are articles and op-eds in prestigious media highlighting research on race differences in brain size and the links between brain size and IQ.

It should come as no surprise that science has become politics—the theme, after all, of Culture of Critique. The intellectual, media and political elites are completely corrupt, their position maintained by power and propaganda, the high points rigorously policed to prevent non-orthodoxy. We live in a dark age.

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