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The Mismeasurements of Stephen Jay Gould

Stephen Jay Gould, the famous 20th century paleontologist, published his most celebrated work, The Mismeasure of Man, in 1981. Gould’s thesis is that throughout the history of science, prejudiced scientists studying human beings allowed their social beliefs to color their data collection and analysis. Gould believed that this confirmation bias was particularly powerful when a scientists’ beliefs were socially important to them.

The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould (1981)

Gould believed this bias was rampant in particular scholarly fields, and the most prominent target for his criticism in The Mismeasure of Man was the study of intelligence, especially IQ testing and the genetics of mental ability. And his analysis was not kind. Gould believed that there was a direct connection between the discredited study of skull measurements and the dawn of intelligence testing in the following generation. “But the IQ…relies upon assumptions…as unsupportable as those underpinning the old hierarchies of skull sizes proposed by nineteenth-century participants.” (Gould, The Mismeasure of Man, p. 210)

It may be surprising to readers to learn that I—a psychologist who researches human intelligence—agree with Gould’s principal thesis. Scientists’ pre-conceived notions about the things they study do guide their data collection and analysis. These beliefs guide scientists in choosing variables to measure, theories to test, statistical methods to employ, and more. This connection between beliefs and methods is a strong one. After all, if you believe that the universe is made of cheese, you’re going to build a cosmic cheese whiz detector.

And though I wish Gould had not targeted my field, The Mismeasure of Man provides a great deal of evidence that scientists’ pre-existing beliefs color their judgment—but not in the way he intended. Rather, the book is a perfect example of the sin it purports to expose in others. Gould’s Marxist political beliefs made him attack intelligence research because he saw it as a threat to his egalitarian social goals. Ironically, it was this allegiance to ideology over data that made Gould himself a classic examplar of a biased scientist.

Gould’s Politics

Gould openly admitted that he had strong social beliefs that colored his scientific views. In the introductory pages of the revised version of The Mismeasure of Man, Gould recounted his laudable efforts to fight discrimination and segregation in the 1950s and 1960s, both in the U.S. and the U.K. He explicitly made the connection between his political and social beliefs and his subject matter:

My original reasons for writing The Mismeasure of Man mixed the personal with the professional. I confess, first of all, to strong feelings on this particular issue. I grew up in a family with a tradition of participation in campaigns for social justice, and I was active, as a student, in the civil rights movement at a time of great excitement and success in the early 1960s. (p. 36)

He also admits that these beliefs are deep-seated and an emotionally important part of his life:

My father became a leftist, along with so many other idealists, during upheavals of the depression, the Spanish Civil War, and the growth of nazism and fascism. He remained politically active . . . and politically committed. I shall always be gratified to the point of tears that, although he never saw The Mismeasure of Man in final form, he lived just long enough to read the galley proofs and know . . . that his scholar son had not forgotten his roots. (p. 39)

Gould’s Trap for Himself

If Gould’s thesis is true for all scientists, and he sometimes wrote as if it is, then there is an obvious problem for him: he would be subject to the same biases, and his conclusions, like those of the scholars targeted in The Mismeasure of Man, would be inherently flawed—including his claim that all scientific analysis is biased. To prevent his thesis undermining itself, Gould performed an intellectual sleight of hand and redefined a critical idea. “Objectivity must be operationally defined as fair treatment of data, not absence of preference,” he wrote. (p.36) In this way, Gould used one of the rhetorical strategies of postmodernists: to redefine terms so that they do not have their everyday meaning, but rather a preferred meaning so that they do not threaten the person’s cherished conclusion.

By redefining “objectivity” so that he was allowed to still have preferences and biases while maintaining the patina of scientific respectability, Gould attempted to inoculate himself against the inherently contradictory position that he was in. This rhetorical strategy allowed him to separate preference from objectivity and claim that—somehow—he was capable of analyzing data “objectively” without undermining his conclusions. Gould was very much like the Marxist or postmodernist who believes that invisible power structures control every aspect of life—but who must somehow show that the postmodernist is special in her ability to escape the influence of these structures just long enough to see and resist them, thanks to their extraordinary intellectual courage and perspicacity.

In reality, Gould’s pious protestations of objectivity disguised a deceptive analysis of the scholarly record regarding intelligence research. What is astounding is how many people overlooked the contradictions of Gould’s position and accepted the analysis of intelligence research provided by a politically motivated snail expert.

Mismeasure’s Critics

Many scholars have criticized The Mismeasure of Man periodically throughout its 38-year history. For example, James T. Sanders stated that Gould’s attempt to link his argument to anti-racism was a ploy to smear intelligence scholars and Gould’s enemies as evil people. Arthur Jensen argued in 1982 that Gould misrepresented Jensen’s ideas and often demolished strawmen that no intelligence scholar believes, including the boogeyman of “biological determinism.” John Carroll showed that Gould understood neither the purpose nor interpretation of factor analysis (a statistical procedure often used to evaluate data from psychological tests) and that Gould’s attacks on factor analysis do nothing to alter the importance of intelligence tests, nor the mass of evidence—impossible to dispute—that they predict real-life outcomes.

Most criticism of The Mismeasure of Man was confined to the recherché world of psychologists who study intelligence. However, a new debate opened up in 2011 when a team of anthropologists argued that Gould’s analysis of the data on cranium measurements from 19th century scientist Samuel George Morton was flawed. Gould cast Morton as a racist who fudged his data to match his beliefs about white racial superiority because of a supposed larger skull capacity. Instead, the anthropologists argued, it was Gould who manipulated the data to support his biases.

This ignited a series of follow-up articles in the scholarly literature by authors taking a variety of positions regarding Morton’s data and Gould’s interpretations. Weisberg believed that the re-analysis was flawed and Gould was mostly correct. Kaplan and his colleagues claimed that Morton’s interpretations were flawed, but that Gould was incorrect in believing that he could discern Morton’s actions and motivations. Finally, Mitchell believed that Morton’s data were accurate and that the interpretations were colored by the racism of the era, but the claim that Morton subtly manipulated the data was a fiction created by Gould.

Though still unresolved, the debate shows that a critical analysis of specific sections of The Mismeasure of Man is warranted. After writing an article about Lewis Terman, an important developer of early intelligence tests, I decided that a 23-page section of The Mismeasure of Man would be a valuable section of the book to analyze. This section is Gould’s description and analysis of the Army Beta test, one of the tests that Terman helped create. The Army Beta was used in World War I to screen illiterate recruits for military service.

Having read some of the primary scholarly work about the Army Beta, I knew that some of Gould’s claims were inaccurate. However, I was unprepared for the level of pervasive deception that I encountered when I carefully checked Gould’s claims against the historical record. Moreover, I discovered overwhelming evidence that any pretense of Gould being “objective”—even if defined as “fair treatment of data”—is a farce. In The Mismeasure of Man, Gould elevates his biases to the status of uncontestable facts and to great lengths to hide the truth from his readers.

Army Beta examinees during World War I. The other three images are of examiners giving instructions and demonstrating how to complete the test. Source: Yerkes, 1921.

A Case Study in Gouldian Deception

The distortions of the scholarly record regarding the Army Beta range from the relatively benign to deliberate falsehoods. It would be impractical to catalog them all here, so I encourage interested readers to read my full analysis. What makes the analysis important is not the Army Beta itself—the test has not been used in research or practice for decades. Rather, Gould’s discussion of the Army Beta is emblematic of the way he distorted evidence, ignored data that contradicted his opinions, drew unwarranted conclusions, and even lied to his readers.

One of Gould’s favorite techniques for misleading his readers was exaggerating the importance of any unfavorable information about intelligence testing. For example, Gould emphasizes that testing conditions were sometimes far from ideal. Compared to the orderly testing programs that 21st century students experience, the administration of the Army Beta (and its companion test for literate men, the Army Alpha) was disorganized and unsatisfactory. The army testing program was underfunded, and the speed at which it started meant that available facilities were often not large enough to accommodate all examinees. Additionally, there was often a shortage of qualified examining officers. None of this is in dispute.

Gould seized on this information to portray the conditions as “…something of a shambles, if not a disgrace” (p.231) and claimed they invalidated the test results for many men. Gould’s supporting evidence is a single quote from “the chief tester at one camp” in which the officer complained that testing rooms were too overcrowded for some men to hear and understand the instructions. However, Gould cherry picked this quote (which was not from the chief tester at all) and ignored 13 favorable comments from officers at the same camp and the unanimously favorable opinions of the commanding officers at every camp.

The technique of building a negative conclusion on the basis of the slightest unfavorable data is epitomized in Gould’s analysis of the Army Beta instructions, which he called “Draconian” and “diabolical.” He also wrote that “…most of the men must have ended up either utterly confused or scared shitless.” (p.235) However, his support for this claim is a single secondary source that states some men struggled with producing written responses to the test questions. For Gould, “struggling” is the same as being “scared shitless.”

Gould consistently ignored evidence that contradicted his claim that early intelligence test creators gathered meaningless data using garbage tests. He neglected to mention that the test’s creators explicitly permitted administrators to give instructions and commands in foreign languages because this would threaten his belief that the Army Beta was particularly unfair to immigrants. (Italian and Russian, which were the two most common languages for immigrants in the U.S. at the time, were specifically mentioned by the test’s authors as being acceptable.) Gould also did not tell his readers about the strong evidence that Army Beta test scores predicted military job performance, a topic of several chapters in the only primary source that Gould consulted.

Gould also outright lied in several passages in The Mismeasure of Man. Among the falsehoods were:

  • The army test creators had a “…poor opinion of what Beta recruits might understand by virtue of their stupidity.” (p.236)
  • The claim that “vast numbers of men” earned zero scores on the Army Beta. (p.247)
  • His statement that extremely low-scoring men had their scores “adjusted” so that they would receive a negative number for a score and that these men were “too stupid to do any items,” and were “dullards.” (p.246)
  • It was “ludicrous to believe that [the Army] Beta measured any internal state deserving the label intelligence.” (p.240)

None of these statements is supported by the historical record. Indeed, in every case there is strong evidence to indicate the opposite is true.

Gould’s analysis of the Army Beta is not central to his book’s thesis, and if it were removed from future editions his main arguments would stand. But the tactics he used to impugn the creators of the Army Beta are used in every chapter to malign intelligence research. Throughout the book, Gould showed no compunction about exaggerating facts that support his beliefs, omitting important contradicting information, and lying to his readers.

All this shows that, far from a “fair treatment of data,” Gould’s analysis was guided entirely by his preconceived notions about intelligence research, which he saw as socially dangerous and irredeemably flawed. Inadvertently, Gould proved his own thesis correct: sometimes scientists are guided more by their beliefs than any data.

It is likely that Gould thought that his “rhetorical strategies,” if I can call them that (which have been outlined in more detail elsewhere), were justified because of his high-minded politics. In this way, he was not unlike the pious religious fanatic who believes that inventing stories of miracles is acceptable if it strengthens the faith of others and adds more believers to the flock. Instead of “lying for God,” though, Gould was lying for social justice.

For those who share Gould’s political and social views, there are better strategies for promoting an egalitarian agenda than linking it to dubious claims about scientific research. For example, people who worry that the new field of genomics could revive eugenics and fear for its impact on the most vulnerable members of our society could work to strengthen human rights legislation and ensure that any genetic advances are available to all segments of society, not just the wealthy. People who worry about the links between intelligence markers, such as IQ test scores, and life outcomes could support policies and technology that make society more accommodating for people with lower intelligence. For instance, state bureaucracies could make it simpler for people to navigate the red tape if they want to claim benefits or get access to affordable housing.

One final note: though I see Gould as the ultimate example of bias in the history of intelligence research, I am not exempt from my own biases. This is why in my article about Gould’s discussion of the Army Beta in The Mismeasure of Man my coauthors and I are completely transparent. We invite readers to check our interpretation of the primary sources (heavily referenced throughout the article) we relied upon to research the Army Beta. We also administered the test to a modern sample to examine whether it functioned like other intelligence tests, and we pre-registered our hypotheses and expectations and uploaded our data to a public repository. We believe that minimizing bias is best accomplished through transparency in data collection and analysis, rather than spurious claims of “objectivity” or intellectual courage.

Russell T. Warne is an associate professor of psychology at Utah Valley University. He conducts research on advanced academic programs, human intelligence, and methodology. Follow him at @russwarne.


  1. Marc Domash says

    Gould recounted his laudable efforts to fight discrimination and desegregation in the 1950s and 1960s

    You mean “fight discrimination and segregation”, I presume.

  2. CCZ says

    Confidence is not inspired when the first sentence, “Stephen Jay Gould, the famous 20th century paleontologist, publish[sic] his most celebrated work, The Mismeasure of Man, in 1981,” has such an obvious error.

    • Andrew Lyons says

      Confidence is not inspired at any stage by this unscholarly article. Instead of specific analysis of specific errors by Gould we are given a series of slurs,
      descriptors such as Marxist and *postmodernist” that are intended as insults.
      Gould read Marx but wasn’t a Marxist. He was a Darwinian who challenged Marxist orthodoxy. He was a strong critic of outmoded ideas of racial classification based on pre-Darwinian folk categories. Taxonomies based on criteria such as skin colour, cranial capacity and length of limbs, were developed before Darwin and Mendel and the understanding of DNA.
      Morton presented a hierarchy of supposed races based on lean cranial capacity and purported brain size on the assumption that differences of this nature reflected differences in mean intelligence and cultural achievement.
      He got into a bit of a pickle when civilized Mesoamericans turned out to have rather small crania. Gould could have decided not to repeat Morton’s measurements, because all he needed to do was cast doubt on the very identity of the groups that Morton had constituted as well as on simplistic correlations of brain size and intelligence. What he did demonstrate is that the particular way Morton chose to measure skulls could not produce accurate results. Morton’s work was continued by his disciples, G. R. Gliddon and Josiah Clark Nott, who described their œuvre as ”niggerology”.
      I am an anthropologist not a psychologist, but my limited acquaintance with the history of psychology tells me that there is a good case for arguing that intelligence is in fact several discrete abilities rather than one single th8ng,
      and that the notion of G is very disputable. Then there are further disputes as to the heritability of different intelligences (obviously they are to some degree heritable). Last of all, there is no doubt that intelligence tests do test performance, but the relationship between performance, culture and the genetic code is something that seems to defy assessment. One doesn’t need to add pre-scientific race classifications to the mix.
      The author of this article relies on a few, tenuous critiques of Gould’s analysis of the Army Beta Tests and a hurried summary of a couple of articles critiquing
      Gould’s re-analysis of Morton’s data. He does not tell his readers what Morton was about or about the theories of polygenesis that were based on his work.
      If the editors of Quillette wish to avoid the accusation that they are producers of right-wing agitprop (and that accusation is not wholly fair), they should review their submissions more carefully before accepting material like this

      • Andrew Lyons says

        I meant “mean” cranial capacity, not “lean”.

      • Stephen says

        Well said, Andrew. To call Stephen Jay Gould a Marxist is an outrageous slander. I took his class “Thinking About Thinking” at Harvard in the early 1990s and can assure you that Gould was not a Marxist. Indeed, I recall him expressly criticizing Marx for his abuse and misunderstanding of Darwin’s Origin of Species.

        • Peter Schaeffer says

          Stephen, It turns out that Gould’s Marxism is not so simple. He stated “he learned his Marxism at his daddy’s knee”. When he died in 2002, a long list of Marxist publications wrote eulogies claiming Gould as one of their own. Presumably they had a reason for doing so.

          Quote from “Monthly Review” (a Marxist publication)

          “More to the point, however, by insisting on his adherence to a Marxist viewpoint, he took the opportunity offered to him by his immense fame and legitimacy as a public intellectual to make a broad public think again about the validity of a Marxist analysis”.

        • gda says

          Gould was indeed a Marxist, as well as a liar.

          Just because he may have criticized Marx on Darwin in your class in the early 1990’s hardly is definitive, or even indicative, of him NOT being a Marxist.

          You really must refrain from using a single incident in your life to extrapolate wildly (and inaccurately) on Gould’s political ideology. It’s hard to believe that you actually could do that having being to Harvard, since your IQ must be sufficiently high enough to enable you to do better. I can only presume that your ideology has overridden your intelligence, and prevented you from realizing your egregious error.

        • Bocşe Robert says

          Cristopher Hitchens, in his memoir Hitch22 talks about SJG as a fellow marxist.

      • Peter Schaeffer says

        AL, It turns out that Gould’s Marxism is not so simple. He stated “he learned his Marxism at his daddy’s knee”. When he died in 2002, a long list of Marxist publications wrote eulogies claiming Gould as one of their own. Presumably they had a reason for doing so.

        Quote from “Monthly Review” (a Marxist publication)

        “More to the point, however, by insisting on his adherence to a Marxist viewpoint, he took the opportunity offered to him by his immense fame and legitimacy as a public intellectual to make a broad public think again about the validity of a Marxist analysis”.

      • Paul says

        Exactly. I went back and even checked some of the critiques Wrane makes about Gould’s take on the Army Beta. So far it’s been spurious. For example, Wrane admits that the tests were taken under shitty circumstances but he wants to say Gould cherry picked examples of officers speaking negatively about the conditions. He says Gould leaves out positive comments by some officers. Ironically, what Wrane left out was that Gould pointed to a poll given by the Secretary of war to over 100 officers. Almost all of the replies were negative. Despite this, without citing evidence, Wrane says that the officers had nearly unanimous favorable opinions. Another example is where Wrane claimed Gould lied about saying “vast amounts of men” earned 0 scores on the Beta. I went back and check this and Gould actually was just quoting the psychologist who designed the tests, who was wondering why so many people got a 0 score on certain sections of the test.

      • AlexR says

        There are photos of Gould in his office at Harvard with a framed picture of Marx hanging on the wall behind him. He described himself as a Marxist. In a brilliant essay, he showed the debt that Darwin owed to Adam Smith, but concluded that, although Smith’s views on competition were applicable to the natural world, they had no relevance to the economy, which was dominated by capitalists exploiting workers. The claim that Gould was anti-Marxist shows little knowledge of the man or his ideas.

    • Turd Ferguson says

      People have forgotten just how vicious Gould and Lewontin were to sociobiologist like Trivers and EO Wilson. They would constantly misrepresent their findings and resort to ad hominem attacks when they couldn’t discredit their research.Gould may have been a decent scholar but when it came to certain things his politics overshadowed his commitment to science and truth.

      • @T F
        That’s my recollection, as well.

        Gould also led the reaction against Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein’s “The Bell Curve.” Gould simply covered his eyes, put his fingers in his ears and yelled “racist.” In fact, Gould might have invented this particular tactic as I don’t remember it being used so freely before “The Bell Curve” was published.

      • Dan Flehmen says

        I was a beginning grad student in behavioral ecology at a major research university in 1975, the year that Wilson’s Sociobiology came out, and it was the subject of my first seminar class. We followed the debate closely, and I am still appalled at the viciousness and dishonesty of Gould and Lewontin in their personal attacks on Trivers and Wilson, who were in the same department at Harvard. They were also wrong in just about every criticism of the science presented in that massive compendium, Their histrionics, dishonesty, and personal animus foreshadowed the behavior of today’s progressive millennials when confronted with a fact or opinion that does not align precisely with their own.

  3. doug deeper says

    Excellent article exposing Gould, one of the true masters of the distortion of social science to fit leftist ideology. Today the academy is so filled with the progeny of academics such as Gould that it is a wonder that the author, Prof Warne at Utah Valley U., is able to retain his job. He certainly must be applauded for his courage and wisdom.
    Today it is roundly assumed on campus that only a leftist can be objective. Thus the legitimacy of the academy rests on the hopefully strong shoulders of the few academics such as Prof Warne who actually remain true to the mission of seeking truth.

    • Jack B. Nimble says

      @doug deeper

      Gould and his colleagues Lewontin and Kamin have been accused several times of building their academic reputations on the ashes of other scientists’ reputations. I heard Kamin give a seminar on IQ around 1982 where he trashed the work of people like A. Jensen, and another scientist in the audience made that comment to me privately after Kamin’s talk was over.

      And in 2009 Joe Cain published a book chapter with the shocking title: “Ritual Patricide: Why Stephen Jay Gould Assassinated George Gaylord Simpson”

      Snippet: ‘….This chapter focuses on Stephen Jay Gould’s attack on George Gaylord Simpson, who was considered in the 1960s as paleontology’s principal innovator in macroevolutionary theory. It highlights Gould’s efforts to deny Simpson any relevance to contemporary developments and suggests that this “ritual patricide Radical” was central to Gould’s efforts at establishing a new disciplinary identity for his favored brand of macroevolutionary paleobiology…..’

      Disclaimer: GG Simpson was one of my intellectual heroes when I was an undergraduate, but I’m not a paleontologist and can’t arbitrate the dispute between Gould and Simpson.

      Ultimately, though, the flaws in Gould’s work don’t–by themselves–prove that IQ test results can be taken at face value, any more than the fabrications and scientific misconduct of Cyril Burt prove that the field of IQ research is fatally flawed.

      And the issue of bias? Gould, Lewontin and Kamin deserve credit for being transparent about their motivations. Many contributors to this site would do well to follow their examples.

      • Alistair says

        Ah, Jack.

        After enough posts from you, I’m now willing to bet you’re a Marxist too, aren’t you?

        Yes or No?

        • K. Dershem says

          @Alistair, how is that relevant to the points Jack has raised?

          • Alistair says

            It wasn’t relevant at all to the points. I just want to know if my guess is right.

            Judging by the very well written but evasive response, it was entirely right. He is a Marxist

            I thereby increase confidence in my judgement by a small amount. I additionally note with moderate confidence:

            1, Jack feels he needs to hide the fact, for some reason.
            2. Jack is aware of Genetic Fallacy; he is at fairly well trained in both rhetoric and argument, with emphasis on dissimilation.
            3. Jack is quite intelligent, with an IQ around the +2 sigma range,

            I make no further inferences.

          • Charlie says

            If one is a communist or Nazi all aspects of life are pollical.

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          Are you the same ‘Alistair’ who wrote on October 8, 2018:

          ‘………I like Jack and all his predictable, motivated reasoning in defence of his tribe. It’s nice to see his vile and disingenuous arguments in their fullest and most powerful presentation, just so we can be sure that we’re not missing anything of value in them……’

          If so, then I should warn you that flattery will get you nowhere!

          Look, your interest in knowing whether or not a commenter is a Marxist shows that you are wallowing in the genetic fallacy, which has nothing to do with genetics:

          “………The genetic fallacy (also known as the fallacy of origins or fallacy of virtue) is a fallacy of irrelevance that is based solely on someone’s or something’s history, origin, or source rather than its current meaning or context. This overlooks any difference to be found in the present situation, typically transferring the positive or negative esteem from the earlier context. In other words, a fact is ignored in favor of attacking its source. ……..”

          Almost every comment thread on Quillette has at least one instance of this fallacy, usually to the effect that a cited source or person has a ‘left-wing bias’ and so can be ignored rather than analyzed or rebutted.

          On the question of bias, I wouldn’t believe or trust a person who said they were completely without bias, anymore than I would believe or trust a person who said they were completely without sin. Bias is just part of the human condition, but fortunately science has, over the centuries, developed ways to cope with bias, including double-blind testing, peer review, transparency of methods and replication.

          • S. Cheung says

            Well said, Mr. Nimble. I’m always amazed at, and amused by, the people who cast aspersions like “bias”…on the comments section…of an op-ed style website. “ad hominem” seems to undersell it. For one, everybody has bias, and any two-bit fool who throws out “left wing bias” without declaring their own “right wing bias” is a pre-cerebrate mind that hasn’t yet developed the capacity for self-awareness. Two, you don’t arrive here without a boat-load of inherent biases about media, culture, the education environment, politics, and world affairs, cuz sites like this already select for those who find CNN vs Fox to be rather wanting.
            Of course, when Dr. Gould published, there was no internet, click-bait, or Patreon. But really, he was doing the analog version of it. Back then, if you had an idea that you wanted to spread to the masses, and/or monetize, you put out books. And hope people bought them. The very nature of writing a book meant that you were pushing an idea, to the exclusion of others. If he was prepared for his ideas to be challenged, he would’ve published as a scientific study or paper instead. THe peer review process is not flawless…after all, your paper gets filtered by other people who bring with them their own inherent biases (and Peter Baghossian’s thought experiment shows that in spades). I wonder if, down the road, we will be moving towards AI or machine review, because if you want to rid science of bias, you might need to remove the human element to the barrier to publication.

          • Alistair says

            Oh, yes, I am the same Alistair

            I answered your question. How about you answer mine?

          • Jack B. Nimble says


            “Oh, yes, I am the same Alistair……”

            Somehow my reply to this landed at the bottom of the thread.

      • There is actually various reasons to suspect that Burt is mostly innocent. Have you read e.g. these?

        Rushton, J.P. (2002). “New Evidence on Sir Cyril Burt: His 1964 Speech to the Association of Educational Psychologists” (PDF). Intelligence. 30 (6): 555–567. doi:10.1016/s0160-2896(02)00094-6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 October 2006.

        Tredoux, G. (2015). Defrauding Cyril Burt: A reanalysis of the social mobility data. Intelligence, 49, 32-43.

        • Jack B. Nimble says


          Paywall!!! Here’s the abstract for Rushton’s article. Note that even a cheerleader like Rushton didn’t think that the historical record exonerated Burt.


          After reviewing the debate that raged over Cyril Burt’s [Br. J. Psychol. 57 (1966) 137] finding of a correlation of .771 for IQ scores in 53 pairs of monozygotic twins raised apart, this paper provides the transcript of a previously unpublished speech by Burt given on May 2, 1964, at the age of 81, on the occasion of his appointment as Patron to the Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP). Burt’s speech is of special interest because it occurred just prior to the publication of a paper later alleged to be built on fraudulent data. Kamin [The Science and Politics of IQ (1974). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum] declared Burt’s correlation of .771 to be implausibly high and implausibly invariant from that reported in his 1943 work. Hearnshaw [Cyril Burt: Psychologist (1979). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press] concluded that Burt had made up his data, and the Sunday Times (1976) even alleged that Burt had conjured his research assistants up out of thin air. Then, independent books by Joynson [The Burt Affair (1989). London: Routledge] and by Fletcher [Science, Ideology and The Media: The Cyril Burt Scandal (1991). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction] vindicated Burt (the “missing” research assistants were found and the twin data had not been “cooked”). More recently, Mackintosh [Cyril Burt: Fraud or Framed? (1995). Oxford: Oxford University Press] reiterated Hearnshaw’s allegations of fraud, including the claim that Burt did not have access to new data after his retirement in 1950. However, as Fletcher pointed out, Burt was openly requesting educational psychologists to help him locate additional pairs of twins raised apart. Moreover, in the 1964 talk presented here, which allows Burt to speak for himself, Burt describes his wide access to the schools, teachers, and social workers of the London County Council from 1913 onwards and states how, half a century later, analyses were still going on. He describes the “potted history” of educational psychology in Britain, his 1913 appointment as psychologist for the London County Council, and some of his findings as Britain’s first educational psychologist. With the whole panoply of his intellectual life on display and no quotes taken out of context, Burt’s talk may incline some readers to take him at his word and to dismiss the accusations against him as “not proven.”
          Source –

    • TarsTarkas says

      I wouldn’t consider his exposure of Cyril Burt’s fraud, the distortions and outright lies of the 1820 US census regarding the number and percentage sane and insane blacks in free and slave states, the total eugenicist BS involving the intelligence testing of Great War Army recruits, and numerous other horrible distortions of ‘science’ he wrote about to be about pushing a leftist ideology. He should be rightly censured and excoriated for his attempts to force E O Wilson and others out of Harvard based on personal animus and ideology, but overall I think he was a much more positive influence on the perception of science than the opposite. A lot of the animosity towards him was based more on envy rather than ideology, because he was popular and articulate.

      • Jack B. Nimble says


        If ‘personal animus’ were grounds for censure, few academics would be safe! Rivalry, jealousy and envy are facts of life, at least for the scientists I have known. Think McCain vs. Trump, but with lab coats.

    • Peter Schaeffer says

      Gould was a fairly serious fraud. He went to some pains to discredit the work of Goddard (an early IQ test pioneer). He claimed (dishonestly) that Goddard asserted that Jews had low IQs. In real life, Goddard did test a population of Jewish mental defectives and they did indeed have low IQs.

      However, Goddard knew perfectly well that Jews have high average IQs. Here is what Goddard really thought about Jews.

      In 1927, he supervised a Masters thesis entitled The Intelligence of Jews compared with Non-Jews, which was published by Ohio State University Press. In his introduction, Goddard said that it proved that Jews are more intelligent than Gentiles and his conclusion was substantiated by the constant persecution of the Jews, for we are seldom jealous of our inferiors.

    • Peter Schaeffer says

      Gould is well known to have faked his “scientific” studies and lie about other people’s work? It is well established that he lied about Morton’s work. See “Scientists Measure the Accuracy of a Racism Claim” in the New York Times. He also lied about Jewish IQs and the role of IQ testing in the 1920s. He claimed that Professor Goddard (falsely) proved that immigrants had low IQs and this claim was used to promote immigration restrictions.

      The truth is utterly different. In 1927, he (Goddard) supervised a Masters thesis entitled The Intelligence of Jews compared with Non-Jews, which was published by Ohio State University Press. In his introduction, Goddard said that it “proved that Jews are more intelligent than Gentiles and his conclusion was substantiated by the constant persecution of the Jews, for we are seldom jealous of our inferiors”.

      A few notable articles about Gould

      “Study Debunks Stephen Jay Gould’s Claim of Racism on Morton Skulls” (NYT)
      “Study: Stephen Jay Gould, Crusader Against Scientific Bias, Was Guilty of It” (Discover)
      “Fraud in the Imputation of Fraud” (Trivers in Psychology Today)
      “Beware of Stephen J. Gould” (LESSWRONG)

      It should be said that pro-Gould articles can be found. See below.

      “Defending Stephen Jay Gould’s Crusade against Biological Determinism” (Scientific American blog).

      Of course, the author (John Hogan) happens to be an advocate of banning scientific research that might not be PC.

      The accuracy of 19th century crainiometry can indeed be challenged. However, lots of modern studies have been done with brain imaging equipment (MRIs) and the like. Suffice it to say, that modern studies have served to dig a deeper hole for Gould.

      The critique of Lewontin is based on his claim that “race does not exist because you can’t racially classify people based on blood type”. That’s true. Blood type will not suffice (Duffy comes somewhat close). However, this statement has been shot completely full of holes. Indeed, the term “Lewontin’s Fallacy” has been coined for how wrong he was.

      It is also true that many of the claims of evolutionary psychology are untestable. They are also irrelevant to scientific accuracy of the PC fantasy. We can empirically measure differences between people without relying evolutionary psychology. The empirical data is hard and real and very non-PC.

  4. Great essay. Well reasoned and important.
    The problem is that the religious analogy is all too apt. The Gould adherents won’t change their minds because of mere reason and logic.

    Editors: Please correct typos as noted in readers comments. This diminishes quality of Quillette.

  5. A C Harper says

    A sexist, a racist, and an elitist walk into a laboratory… and the social justice warrior stays outside to compose a ‘noble lie’ about their findings.

  6. E. Olson says

    This interesting article reminds me of so many recent Quillette articles in that they address how much academic “research” seems to be directed at proving things that are observably not true. Gould’s work is a very good example, because an analogy to his premise is that we should not believe our eyes when we see who wins a 100 meter race and judge that person the fastest because we are biased. Anyone who has ever been in a classroom or workplace will have noticed that some people learn new things much more quickly than others, can handle more difficult concepts more easily than others, and yet we have “researchers” such as Gould who seek to show that any such observed differences are due to discrimination, racism, sexism or any other cause that can be blamed on society rather than innate differences between individuals.

    Similarly, gender research is focused on proving that men and women are interchangeable and that all observed differences in outcome are due to patriarchy and sexism rather than innate differences in mental and physical characteristics. Yet anyone who has been around young children can see clear differences between girls and boys in their behavior and interests, which only become bigger during puberty.

    Then there are climate scientists who focus on proving that any measured climate change is caused by man’s activities rather than natural variations or even measurement error. Yet they seem to ignore the observed temperature lull of the past 20 years that all their models say shouldn’t have happened, and we are expected to drastically change our behaviors because their models predict disaster in the next 100 years. Other “scientists” focus on demonstrating the environmental and cost benefits of renewable energy as a solution to climate change, and yet seem to ignore the observable higher prices of renewable generated electricity in every country that has invested in them, and the lack of measurable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

    Science is supposed to be about attempting to understand and explain what we see around us, and theory is proven with accurate predictions. IQ and gender differences have been remarkably accurate in predicting life outcomes, while climate models and renewable energy cost models have been remarkably inaccurate in predicting temperatures or costs, and yet much “scientific” effort continues to focus on proving the opposite of what is observed.

      • K. Dershem says

        The last three years have demonstrated abundantly clearly that there is no change in the long term trends since 1998. A prediction from 1997 merely continuing the linear trends would significantly under-predict the last two years.

        The difference isn’t yet sufficient to state that the trends are accelerating, but that might not be too far off. Does this mean that people can’t analyse interannual or interdecadal variations? Of course not, but it should serve as a reminder that short-term variations should not be conflated with long term trends. One is not predictive of the other.

      • Jay Salhi says

        @K Dershem

        From the Forbes article, “According to our estimate, a doubling of the CO2 content in the atmosphere has the effect of raising the temperature of the atmosphere (whose relative humidity is fixed) by about 2°C.”

        2 degrees Celsius is more in line with what skeptics claim, they tend to argue 2 degrees or less. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (and its earlier reports) puts the range at 1.5 degrees to 4.5 degrees. So it is within the range but at the lower end of the range. 3 degrees is often taken as the consensus.

        Where did the range come from? According to an article by Richard Kerr published in Science Magazine August 13, 2004 titled Three Degrees of Consensus: “On the first day of deliberations, Manabe told the committee that his model warmed 2°C when CO2 was doubled. The next day Hansen said his model had recently gotten 4°C for a doubling. According to Manabe, Charney chose 0.5°C as a not-unreasonable margin of error, subtracted it from Manabe’s number, and added it to Hansen’s. Thus was born the 1.5°C-to-4.5°C range of likely climate sensitivity that has appeared in every greenhouse assessment since, including the three by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). More than one researcher at the workshop called Charney’s now-enshrined range and its attached best estimate of 3°C so much hand waving.”

        • K. Dershem says

          @Jay, do you actually think that estimates of warming are based on a single conversation?

          • Jay Salhi says

            @ K Dershem

            “do you actually think that estimates of warming are based on a single conversation?”

            I provided Kerr’s account of the original origin of the range. Has Kerr’s account been disputed? The general thrust of your posts on topics relating to climate science seems to be that you believe climate scientists are borderline omniscient and agree on nearly everything. The tendency of some prominent scientists like James Hanson to make predictions that later prove to be far from the mark, should give us pause. What do they know and how do they know it?

            The range is very wide so the actual number probably is within the range. The IPCC has reports concluding 4.5 is unlikely but cannot completely be ruled out.

            What isn’t in dispute is that most of the models run hot based on available data. Your own link (Forbes article) says that doubling CO2 will result in 2 degrees warming (and the author used ball park figures and rounding up to get to two degrees).

            Press reports and activists predictions almost always assume a much higher figure than two degrees, usually 3 degrees or more. So there is a disconnect between the science and the presentation of the science in the press. Activist sites like Skeptical Science represent the worst of this tendency. Scare people to death and aggressively attack anyone who questions any aspect of the narrative.

      • E. Olson says

        K – thanks for the links, but they use surface temperature that have all been doctored up to show warming to fit the models. Here is the real story with satellites temperatures and climate model predictions. Temps have declined the last 2 years to eliminate 60% of the supposed rise of the past 50+ years, and none of the models predict a decline. You are out of your element because you are biased to believe biased climate scientists paid to predict disaster.

      • David Pittelli says

        Which claim is demonstrably false? Your Forbes link merely states the 1967 claim that doubling CO2 should raise temperatures by about 2 °C. The 1967 model takes no account of changes in atmospheric humidity, and it does not explain any recent “lull” in temperature.

      • Anonymous says

        Since you like to quote Forbes magazine in order to bolster your man-made global warming catastrophist narrative – here is a nice Forbes article for you :

        “Global warming alarmists and their allies in the liberal media have been caught doctoring the results of a widely cited paper asserting there is a 97-percent scientific consensus regarding human-caused global warming.

        After taking a closer look at the paper, investigative journalists report the authors’ claims of a 97-pecent consensus relied on the authors misclassifying the papers of some of the world’s most prominent global warming skeptics.

        At the same time, the authors deliberately presented a meaningless survey question so they could twist the responses to fit their own preconceived global warming alarmism.”

        • E. Olson says

          Anonymous – you bring up an important point that K. Dershem seems to constantly forget about science. Skepticism is MOST needed against dominant viewpoints held by so-called scholars and scientists, and any “scientific” viewpoint that is defended primarily by references to scientific consensus is even more worthy of skepticism. The 97% canard has been debunked so many times and in so many ways, and yet I still hear politicians, celebrities, and climate scientists constantly using the figure to support “planet saving” policies that will require the dismantling of democracy, capitalism, and energy markets.

          In the same way, it was absolutely appropriate for Gould to be skeptical of IQ tests and research, but sadly his skepticism wasn’t built on a desire to find the truth, but instead support his visions of a Leftist blank slate utopia.

          • K. Dershem says

            The science can and should be evaluated independently of proposals for responding to the problem. It’s irrational to withhold assent once the evidence in favor of a theory (evolution, germ theory, plate tectonics, AGW) is overwhelming. The “debunking” of the consensus has itself been decisively debunked. Once again, you’re confusing genuine skepticism with denialism. Scientists are professional skeptics, and that holds true of climate scientists — denialism is based on the deeply implausible assumption that they’re engaged in a massive conspiracy which is motivated by either hatred of capitalism or personal gain. It seems far more likely (to me, at least) that fossil fuel companies which stand to lose hundreds of billions of dollars in profits if the economy is decarbonized have waged a successful propaganda campaign. Fortunately, a growing number of conservatives in the U.S. are rethinking their commitment to denialism.

          • E. Olson says

            K – it is very easy to find evidence that AGW theory has major holes in it, as my links and several other comments show. The models by and large have not proven predictive over the past 20-30 years (and are almost always too hot), there are MAJOR problems with how surface temperature readings are taken and “homogenized”, satellite data does not go back very far but shows much less warming than the models predict, and there is ample historic evidence that the earth has gone through major periods of climate change with no inputs from man. The climate science community has also been far from transparent in allowing outsiders to view the intricacies of their models and data, and there is strong evidence from the Climategate scandal of a concerted effort to thwart the peer review process to keep dissenting findings from being published. If these are insufficient reasons to be highly skeptical, then you must also believe in the tooth fairy, Big Foot, and Superman.

      • Bitwonk says

        The code for that model has been lost. It cannot be studied or evaluated. Given its age it was probably quite naive. You can claim the result, as you do, but it can’t be tested, and it’s not science.

        We can model a shock absorber quite well. We still cannot accurately model vortex ring state, where a helicopter blade descends through its own turbulent downwash. But I’m sure modeling the climate of the earth is much easier. /sarc

    • K. Dershem says

      Surface air temperatures have increased by approximately 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the early 20th century. On this timescale, the hiatuses look like short ledges along a graph of global average surface air temperature with an otherwise steep upward slope.

      “You can’t just look at short periods of time,” Loeb said. “You have to look at the record over a long period of time to see the pattern. There will be natural fluctuations at shorter time scales, but we really shouldn’t conclude that that’s a change and global warming is going away.”

      Even as surface air temperatures are currently holding relatively steady, Loeb believes there’s still another issue to take into consideration.

      “Observations are showing us the planet is still taking up heat, but it is just showing up in a different place,” he said.

      That different place is the ocean.

      In other words, as humans and nature continue to apply pressure to the Earth’s climate through increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, temperatures are still rising. But as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation briefly tames temperatures at the planet’s surface, the oceans are where the real heating is happening.

      “If you add extra heat to the Earth system, approximately 93 percent of that extra heat ends up stored in the ocean, and the ocean is very deep,” Loeb said. “When we look at air temperature, we are just looking at the surface. There’s a whole deep ocean where heat can be stored.”

      • Jay Salhi says

        “You can’t just look at short periods of time,”

        I don’t think anyone disagrees with that. What is a long period of time? 50 years? 100 years? 1,000 years?

      • Alistair says

        K. Dershem,

        I think it’s fair to tell you, that nothing makes me a sceptic / luke-warmist as much as the statistical and modelling and data handling and hypothesis-testing incompetence of the AGW brigade. Every time you open your mouth you make it worse, not better.

        Your latest attempt is a classic; you think I don’t read this stuff already and know its faults inside and out? You tell me nothing I don’t already know and reveal considerable limitations in your own technical capacity in the process. You’re just nowhere near as good at modelling this complex system as you think you are.

        Now, a more moderate, caveated warmist would be persuasive (many of them are). But your general lack of epistemic humility and abuse of moderate sceptics? That’s been a real turn-off (heuristic). You’re just another Stephen Jay Gould on a crusade.

        • K. Dershem says

          @Alistair, I’m not a climate scientist; are you? I think it’s rational to accept the consensus of a well-established scientific field in the absence of compelling reasons to reject it. It’s rich for you to accuse me of lacking epistemic humility when you apparently believe you can understand scientific data and models better than the thousands of experts who have dedicated their lives to studying the issue.

          • K. Dershem says

            Nicholas, it looks like you don’t have enough time on your hands — what’s the point of commenting if you don’t have anything constructive to contribute to the conversation?

          • Alistair says

            Nice argument from authority, Dershem,

            I’ll see you and raise.

            I’m a senior systems engineer with a specialism in complex modelling and statistics. Plus a side order in economics, operations research and cognitive biases. I am competent to comment on large areas of “climate science” insofar as it pertains to modelling, statistics, and general hypothesis formation and testing.

            And a lot of the “climate science” conclusions are plain unsound. Not just “slightly unsound”, totally unsound. From the 97% Cooke paper through model back-casting to the “adjustment” of the historical data; there are repeated gross errors of data treatment, model selection and validation, statistics, and logic. All conducted to a tune of pervasive confirmation bias.

            A lot of your “climate scientists” (to be fair – mostly the activist ones) simply aren’t competent in the fields above. Sorry to disabuse your faith in authorities; you’re obviously incompetent too, judging by your posts here, or you might have been able to spot the some of the howlers rather than promote them so carelessly.

          • Jay Salhi says

            @K. Dershem

            What is the consensus?

            Greenhouse Effect? Yes, there is a consensus.

            AGW. There is a consensus that CO2 has a warming effect. But how much? That’s where opinions differ about climate sensitivity. The IPCC provides a range of 1.5 to 4.5 degrees C for a doubling of CO2. There is a huge difference between 1.5 and 4.5. Skeptics argue it is on the lower end of the range and you equate that with denialism.

            Extreme weather events? Now we’re getting outside the range of consensus and into hypothesis and we’ve already seen numerous false alarm predictions that did not turn out to be remotely accurate.

      • Chad Jessup says

        K Dershem – Loeb’s statement, “If you add extra heat to the Earth system, approximately 93 percent of that extra heat ends up stored in the ocean…” is spectacularly moronic, and I am surprised that he would submit such a claim.

        There is no heat being added to the Earth system, as the only main source of heat is from the sun, and insolation has remained constant for centuries. Furthermore, the increased downward dwelling infrared radiation (from the extra CO2) can only transfer energy to the top ONE MILLIMETER of the ocean, where it is quickly departs into the atmosphere.

        It should be well known by Loeb that the ocean below the 2000 meter mark is cooling, so established science laws (thermodynamics) indicate that the increasing temperatures of the layer from the 2000 meter area and above are receiving the heat being relinquished from below, simple elementary physics which require no outlandish claims.

        Those computer models you referenced to support your CAGW claim cannot accurately hind-cast temperatures, which as far as computer models go, render them invalid and thus useless.

    • Nicolas says

      E. Olson really has too much time on their hands.

      • E. Olson says

        Nicolas – apparently you also have too much time on your hands, because you apparently read and respond to most of my posts with such clever retorts.

      • Victoria says


        “E. Olson really has too much time on their hands.”

        Without taking any position on Olsen’s claims, their comments are clearly arguments made in good faith and with an attempt to back them with evidence.

        Ironically your petty, personal remark is reminenscent of how Gould operated.

        • Ray Andrews says


          Thanks. Well it went back and forth three or four times before things got nasty, and that’s very good statistically. A non-climatologist like myself has some trouble deciding who to believe since almost everyone seems to put their agenda before their science. The Warmists seem to have the overwhelming case tho, and the Deniers mostly seem to be politically motivated. OTOH we must always beware bandwagons and AGW is a bandwagon if ever there was one. The Warmists have their agenda too, and the Deniers — tho just as bad — sniff that agenda out quite accurately — they don’t want to surrender complete control of the economy to AOC, for example. As for me, I believe what I see, and in my lifetime the sea level here has gone up 5 inches. And the climate is noticeably warmer. And it is a hard fact of physics that CO2 is a greenhouse gas so …. I come down on the side of the Warmists while listening carefully to the Deniers too.

          • K. Dershem says

            @Ray, the science itself doesn’t dictate any specific response. It can and should be evaluated in isolation from different proposals about how to respond to the problem. Unfortunately, one of the major political parties in the U.S. denies (or badly distorts) the science itself, so it’s difficult to have a constructive conversation about possible solutions. The GOP is the only well-established party in the developed world that takes a denialist position — one of many ways in which our country is an embarrassing outlier. Climate change has become an issue in the culture war that which divides along predictable partisan lines. Al Gore is partly to blame for this, but I think the influence of fossil-fuel-funded think tanks and P.R. firms is the deeper cause. They followed the same strategy as tobacco companies, casting doubt on the science in order to obstruct action.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @K. Dershem

            Moderate and reasonable as always.

            “They followed the same strategy as tobacco companies, casting doubt on the science in order to obstruct action.”

            It would seem so. It can be hard to be sure, but one can detect that someone is not trying to enlighten you, but to baffle, confuse, distract, disarm. One can pretend that one does not know that cigarettes cause cancer for decades, as they did. And as you say, follow the money. If I find that Big Coal is funding some ‘study’, IMHO it is immediately to be discounted. At the same time, I remain wary and skeptical.

            What I’d like to see is a debate between the big guns of both positions. With the rule that the first person to tell a proven lie gets feed to the sharks. Remembering too that one might have honest critiques of current science without necessarily being a heretic. It is inevitable that some datum somewhere does not fit some model or other, these things are constantly tweeked, I understand. But the first person to burn a lump of coal contributed to global warming, it is absurd to say otherwise. The magnitude is debatable, but it has to be there.

          • K. Dershem says

            “Remembering too that one might have honest critiques of current science without necessarily being a heretic.” I completely agree, but many critics of climate change seem to think that climate scientists are engaged in groupthink. That’s not the case. There are vigorous debates within the field, just as there are serious disagreements among evolutionary biologists (e.g., between Gould and Dawkins). However, the broader paradigm has been well established at this point. Reading successive IPCC reports, you can see how the level of confidence that humans are primarily responsible for warming gradually increased as the evidence became stronger and stronger. I think it’s very strange that non-experts in the field assume that they can see glaringly obvious objections to AGW which have somehow been missed by generations of scientists. The only possible explanation is that the latter are engaged in a massive conspiracy, which seems (to me, at least) absurd on its face.

  7. dirk says

    There is science and science. The possibility to have non-subjective outcomes in the natural sciences has lured also the humanities (and biology also in a sense) towards this direction and claims. Even Marx thought that his philosophy was as much science as that of the physicists. And what about historians?? But I would say, forget about that claim, look at the climate and environmental dispute, what scientists say and judge, is it pure science? Biblical studies, sociology, psycho analysis (the word only, analysis, sounds good, but?). Sometimes I lean towards: keep science for chemistry and physics only, but the last time I lean towards: wherever professionals are busy in a systematic, learned, peer supported and profound way, with whatever subject, we may call it all science. Meaning: subjectivity is just often also within the realms of science.

    • David of Kirkland says

      There certainly is limited science in psychology and psychiatry. I mean, they even “vote” to determine what’s in the DSM.

  8. Anonymous says

    This is a great piece. I have read and read the Gould book for years, simply accepting his arguments without considering whether Gould himself had a political axe to grind.

    Once you see that – yes indeed he does – it gives impetus to challenge and scrutinize his claims and some of his poorly supported conclusions.

    I enjoy the intellectual challenge here – it is only through the dialectic that we have any hope of arriving at the truth behind these difficult subjects.

    Too bad that Gould is no longer around – a live debate between this piece’s author and himself would be something I would want to see.

    • C Young says

      See his acrimonious debates with Dawkins and Dennett.

    • K. Dershem says

      I agree that Gould was intellectually dishonest in his arguments about IQ, but it’s worth remembering that he was an exceptionally talented writer who made important contributions to evolutionary theory (punctuated equilibrium). Plus, he had a great cameo on The Simpsons, back when that show was still great.

      • Bristow says

        I wondered when someone would mention punctuated equilibrium. A fancy name for a nothing theory. I don’t think any evolutionist previously proposed that evolution happened at a constant rate..

        • Dan Flehmen says

          Not a nothing theory if you know anything about the development of thinking about evolution and natural selection.

          It was assumed from the time of Darwin that evolution was slow and steady, an inexorable journey to the pinnacle – Man. Even after that quasireligious conceit was discarded, slow and steady was the dogma. Niles Eldridge and Gould published their paper in 1972, on marine snails if I remember correctly, showing long periods of stasis followed by rapid change, followed by stasis again. It suddenly became obvious that a species is unlikely to change dramatically as long as conditions are stable, but that an environmental perturbation would drive natural selection in new directions in response to new conditions.

          Like many things, it only become obvious after someone pointed it out.

  9. Craig Willms says

    I think the thrust of the article is clearly that scientists bring their biases to their research, since scientists are human this makes much sense. Therefore, even after so-called peer review (by scientists with their own biases) we simply can’t take what they claim as gospel. Science is never settled.

    I just watched a fascinating series of Youtube video’s on the science behind the cholesterol myths out of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s that have directly and indirectly led to obesity epidemic. Later studies out of the University of MN where the seminal studies were created directly contradicted the earlier findings but were never released in deference to the fame of the original researcher Ancel Keys. That’s bias of a different sort, but it happens all the time.

    The grand daddy of all the gospel like worship of settled science is of course Einstein. As some of his conclusions are not born out by modern observation and modern tools his disciples have simple created fantasies (dark this and dark that) out of whole cloth to prop up the mathematical gravity-based control of the universe. Today billions of dollars are mis-spent chasing these fantasies.

    Science is skepticism, this should be at the forefront, especially when billions of dollars and cultural upheaval are in the balance.

    • As BS Physics graduate doing non-research based applied physics work, I’ve always found dark matter/energy to be a sort of deus ex machina; we’ve just inserted god into our physics. I don’t see much skepticism in the pop science media about it.

      Care to elaborate on why you seem to agree with me on that and where you are getting your skepticism?

      • Craig Willms says

        Been researching plasma universe and electric universe theories on the make up and control of the cosmos and find the theories fascinating and compelling as alternatives to the Standard Model. The Standard Model is unquestioned when they literally create untestable, unobservable, unfalsifiable and unprovable elements to fill the holes when their findings run afoul of what is observed by modern methods. I’m not a scientist or cosmologist – but I detect a bunch of hocus pocus and circling the wagons around 100+ year old mathematics.

        Just like parts of Newtonian physics were pushed aside by Einstein, some of EInsteinian physics will have to succumb to modern findings.

        • Never heard of either PU or EU, but the internet seems to think you are a bunch of flat earthers. 😉

          I wouldn’t say Einstein pushed Newton aside, he just stepped up the approximation one degree (even in physics, we rely on models that cannont incorporate a 100% representation of reality, just like in economics or any other field). I suspect dark matter will be explained/debunked/reimagined via someone adding a higher degree of approximation to Einstein just as he did to Newton. I’d be surprised if we got there by a complete reimagining of current physics, but who knows.

          • Craig Willms says

            GL Be open minded – the analogy is pure projectionism – the ones claiming that PU/EU are flat earthers refuse to admit powerful electrical forces exist in space. Again when the electric connection between the Earth and the Sun is demonstrated they make up another term that is as meaningless as dark matter – magnetic flux ropes??? It’s not called electromagnetism for nothing…

        • Craig Willms says


          That’s interesting, it’s not the first time it has been compared like that. Plasma is known as the 4th state of matter and fills the cosmos. It is essentially atomically unaffiliated electrons and ions and it could easily be both the ‘ether and this so-called missing dark matter.

    • Jim Gorman says

      I don’t remember where I read it, but Einstein himself didn’t think his “theories” were the end game. He fully expected future scientists would revise and refine them. Heck he tried and failed to come up with a unified theory. Doesn’t mean someone, someday won’t succeed or even prove that there isn’t such a thing!

      We simply don’t have the knowledge or intellect at this time to know everything in the universe so be skeptical about everything that can’t be measured and turned into equations.

      I once read a story about a black hole with an infinite gravity well is also a “gravity spike” in another dimension. If we could ever build something to survive in a black hole gravity well, we would emerge in another dimension and immediately assume the speed of light away from the singularity of the gravity spike. Who knows? It’s a theory, so what. Could it be true? How should you or I know? I just know I am skeptical and should be from Missouri the “show me” state.

      By the way, E Olsen has it perfectly correct.

    • Sydney says

      “Science is skepticism…,” which is why current, modern vaccine orthodoxy should be opened up for critique, discussion, and review.

      Vaccines are the billion-dollar bread-and-butter product of global pharmaceutical giants. Vaccines guarantee revenue, no matter economic ups and downs. As a result, complete censorship of any real discussion about it – not by laypeople but by interested and critical-minded PhDs and MDs – is in the best interest of the pharma industry (which controls the hysterical media narrative on the subject).

      Vaccines of the time of Pasteur are not vaccines of 2019. The world of microbiology of Pasteur’s day is not microbiology of 2019. It’s in our interest to openly discuss vaccines and disease. Too bad we can’t, though, since vaccines are – for some reason – the final taboo in terms of open information and debate.

      Something is very fishy when an “outbreak” of measles or chicken pox makes major news headlines for weeks. Something is very fishy when anyone questioning vaccine orthodoxy, vaccine ingredients, vaccine production, and vaccine schedules is publicly vilified, insulted, and censored.

      Are vaccines really perfect products beyond reproach, examination, discussion, and criticism? Are they the one single science topic that exists beyond any requirement to open and inspect it? Wow, that’s quite the perfect science!

      Makes ‘hot topics’ like IQ, gender, and others look icy by comparison.

  10. Sex Wars: How Hormones Drive Gender, Race, & Culture Conflicts

    This research presented in this book reveals how sex hormones regulate the sexual organization of human societies. They compel mankind to form cultures based either on family values led by strong, independent men or a feminist, communist social structure. Testosterone levels motivate man to grow and seek independence and masculine virtues or else to bow down in subordination to social controls and big government paternalism. It is a dominance hormone that elevates mankind to command nature, but its decline can bring him down into a state of impotence and despair, even to self-destruction.

  11. Marshall Mason says

    Ah, I remember reading The Mismeasure of Man. I already believed its premise before reading it, and I was excited to see a prominent biologist destroy “IQ pseudoscience.” This was before I caught on to the motivated reasoning tactics of social justice. The book starts with his bragging about his political bonafides, which seemed suspicious for a book about science. I was concerned by his blatant political biases, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt when he promised to nonetheless treat the data fairly.

    What followed felt more like a social justice rant than a serious book about science. Of course, there was science, and I have no doubt a lot of it was true, but it was framed in such outraged terms that I felt dubious of everything he said. If he was he right, then why not let the data speak for itself? Instead, it seemed he wanted to use accusations of racism to prevent the reader from looking into this dangerous subject any further. It got so bad that I didn’t finish reading it. It cast serious doubt on my assumptions that IQ was pseudoscience, and I decided I should look into IQ some more. Gould had the opposite of his intended effect!

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Marshall Mason

      One of my tried and tested rules is that anyone who starts off an argument with a political statement, and with vilification of the motives of his opponents is almost always lying. Thus I disbelieved Gould before even reading him beyond these opening comments.

  12. dirk says

    Fields that once were left completely to the scientists and professionals (their words were the law and final): agriculture (organic or not), medicine (vaccinations or not), climate, bioindustry, food and diets, maybe more. These times we have left now behind us, definitively. It has become a mess now, in all fields, everywhere. Every arshole knows best now (for his own singular situation of course, but that’s enough, more than that even).

    • Jim Gorman says

      The basic problem is that in the past, enough data and experimental procedures were presented to allow replication. Now a days most science can’t be replicated. Why? Because people collect minimal or biased data and then torture it with statistics until it confesses what they want!

      They don’t want to provide anyone the ability to independently replicate and prove the study was correct. It’s just “believe me” I did it right. Why, you ask? So they can continue to receive grants (read money) and no one can refute them. It’s “copyrighted” material even though it is publicly funded through your and mine taxes.

      • Jack B. Nimble says

        @Jim G

        I have to disagree with your points. Now that online data depositories exist, scientists are encouraged or even required [by granting agencies] to make their data available permanently. And there are even depositories for computer programs and apps, so other interested investigators can use them in the future.

        BTW, I mentioned above Leon Kamin’s criticisms of A.R. Jensen’s work on IQ. One of Kamin’s criticisms was that he had asked Jensen for a copy of the raw data and was refused. Since Jensen’s work was grant-funded, his data should have been in the public domain.

        The copyright issue is another matter, which may be solved by the open-access movement. In any case, that is a problem with scientific journals, not investigators.

  13. Skepticus Prime says

    Perhaps the author’s experience with the Army is different than mine, but I find Gould’s description much more in line with my experience, which was in peacetime. I have a hard time fathoming the author’s position that the tests were given, or taken, in anything approaching a professional manner.I’m also intrigued by how ‘performance’ in the WW I army was measurable.

    • E. Olson says

      SP – non-professional administration of IQ tests might lead to inaccurate IQ scores, but would still differentiate the smart from the dim. Smart people can learn and perform mental tasks relatively well in almost any environment (i.e. crowded, noisy, poor instructions), while the performance of low IQ people is much more detrimentally effected, which is why IQ tests are always timed events to create some stress related variance in results. Thus a person with an “ideal condition” IQ of 130 might be scored 120 in a noisy crowded room, while a person with an “ideal condition” IQ of 90 might score 70 in bad conditions, and thus the military still would know who goes to officer school and who goes “over the top” during the next frontal charge of the machine gun nest.

      • ccscientist says

        I am pretty smart and can work in an airplane, in a cafe, anywhere. As Olson suggests.

      • Skepticus Prime says

        I strongly disagree. It’s not all the scores will just be ten points lower. It’s that the tests are administered in such a random and chaotic manner that no useful information comes of it. If they are pushing people through tests administered by an assortment of sergeants, most of whom think it is a BS waste of their time, many of whom have strong biases to begin with, and are most concerned with getting their recruits out of there to the next training station, then at best, you might be able to compare scores within one specific instance of the test.
        I witnessed tests like this given and it played out exactly that way. Some Sergeants were confused by how long the test was supposed to be, so some groups in the same platoon got half the time others were given.Some Sergeants had help given to certain privates, while others were purposely sabotaged.
        In WW 2, I know of two classmates at MIT who were shipped down to Fort Jackson. They both got sick, like almost everyone does when they arrive at Basic. One recovered enough to do well on a test like this and was sent to work on the Manhatten Project. The other was still sick and got shipped off to fight and die in the Pacific.
        As I said, this was all in peacetime. I can’t imagine that it was done any better in the rush to gear up for WW I. From, what my grandfather related, it was much worse.

    • Read “The Bell Curve.” In a nutshell, when you have to conscript a large army and quickly fill a number of position that demand the ability to read, understand and apply highly technical and unfamiliar instructions, IQ tests are the tool that works.

      I don’t know what army you were in but in the conscript army the US fielded between 1965-72 you could be very sure that your IQ scores closely matched those of the other people in your company.

  14. This article just seems mean-spirited to me. It seems to argue a point and then tell us that it didn’t really matter to Gould’s main thesis in his book. While it admits up-front that Gould attacked the author’s field and ended it with a claim of complete transparency, after reading this I came away with the feeling that it is still an unfair hit piece.

    There are statements throughout this post on which I base this impression. For example, most of us have “egalitarian social goals” but Gould’s are based on “Marxist political beliefs”.

    Scientists’ bias towards their motivation is really quite obvious, as both Gould and the author of this post acknowledge. How could it be otherwise? Without motivation, there would be no work to talk about. With motivation, a scientist has goals. The scientific method is really just a framework to force objectivity to win out against this bias. However, this post seems to demonize Gould for this very bias even though Gould goes out of his way to acknowledges it.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      So it goes around here. The moment you see the word “Marxist” (which is in every article, however pointless and irrelevant the association may be) you may as well stop reading right there if you’re interested in intellectual honesty. It’s a bit of a shame because this place has promise, occasionally.

      • As you are a known pseudo intellectual, the fact you are arrogant enough to think you are qualified to judge whether this place has promise is greatly amusing to me.

      • dirk says

        You’re right here Nakatomi, also noticed quite often here, only, I read just further then, as if not seen it at all. I think it’s just something post traumatic (remember, 75% of commenters here are old left). I don’t take it evil so much. I wonder how Marx was seen by Ayn Rand (her family lost all possessions and homeland by actions of those Marxists). BTW, Marx himself fiercely rejected the idea, of some admiror, of being the first Marxist!

      • They probably mean Marxist-Leninist. Marx is always worth reading. You really cannot get beyond the “great men, great ideas and great deeds” kind of historical analysis without using Marx’s insights on the underlying economic and social class structure.

        You can’t tell the people’s story without Marx.

  15. Chad says

    Gould was right to attack the whole IQ testing industry. It is not just that the science is suspect — many disciplines, for example, have tried to use factor analysis, and the results have usually failed to produce lasting knowledge (just ask urban geographers). An even greater problem arises from the way people use the science.

    For example, once you tell people that blacks, on average, score lower on intelligence and aptitude tests than whites and Asians, nearly everybody, from university professors to city street cleaners, starts behaving as if every single individual black person is less intelligent than every single white or Asian person. The so-called ecological fallacy takes hold. If people cannot handle information without grossly misusing it, why give them the information.

    • E. Olson says

      Chad – Instead of knowing that lower black IQ is likely the most important single reason for their lower socio-economic progress, is it better that blacks and white elites continue to falsely and collectively blame white people for being racist? Is telling black people they are victims of racism the most effective way of motivating them to maximize their potential? Does society or blacks benefit from affirmative action and racial quotas that push cognitively unqualified people into positions where they are almost certain to fail and/or be deemed inferior even when they would have qualified under normal standards?

      I don’t see how any reasonable person could answer anything but NO to every question. Even if you disagree, it is highly unlikely that banning IQ would make any difference, because a reasonably observant person can easily see whether someone is smart or dim without knowing their IQ, and widespread stereotypes of black cognitive deficiencies vastly pre-date the development of IQ tests.

      • Chad says

        Actually, most white people (and most Asians) are racist. They constantly underestimate blacks, fail to evaluate them objectively, judge them more harshly than other races, etc., precisely for the reasons I’ve indicated.

        So the disparities between blacks and other races are greater than they should be. For every black person who is given a position for which he or she is cognitively unsuited, there are dozens of blacks who are ignored because they are unfairly presumed to be inferior and incompetent.

        • Ray Andrews says


          Everyone is racist. Blacks are more racist than most people and whites are the only race — really this is Western-Christian culture not race, but — that is ashamed to be racist. Only whitey wishes he were less successful than he is. Only whitey honestly wishes that everyone was equal. He wishes it so strongly that he pretends that it is so and blames himself for everyone else’s failures. He designs his society around the equality myth but alas, reality keeps intruding. It isn’t working.

          • Chad says

            As usual, you are grossly exaggerating. What makes you think white Americans (or Europeans for that matter) are ashamed to be racist? To the contrary. Most white people have spent nearly all of their recorded history congratulating themselves on their racial superiority, and reminding themselves, and others, of the inferiority of lesser races.

            You are woefully uninformed if you don’t know why the boasting has been tempered in the last 50 years. It happened because racism was a powerful weapon wielded by the Soviet Union, China and India against the West. In the 1950s and 1960s, Western elites began to fear they would lose to the forces of Communism if they did not abandon their racist ideology, which had also been compromised by Nazism and the Holocaust. The continuing rise of Asia has made multiculturalism a no-brainer for many elites in the West.

            The idea that “only whitey wants to be less successful” is a total misreading of history.

          • Ray Andrews says


            “What makes you think white Americans (or Europeans for that matter) are ashamed to be racist?”

            You answer your own question:

            “Western elites began to fear they would lose to the forces of Communism if they did not abandon their racist ideology”

            I’ll not comment on your logic any further, except to say that I’ve added your post to my collection of examples of fallacies in action. In this case ‘self-contradiction’.

    • Alistair says


      I see….we should ban truth because we distrust it’s practical implications.

      Presumably the knowledge will be allowed to people who can handle it responsibly?

      And you and your political friends get to decide who that is?

      Yeah. Sure.

      • Nakatomi Plaza says

        Amazing how people around here are cool spreading information that can’t possibly hurt them. Black people are naturally dumb? Sure. Nothing wrong with spreading truth. White males benefit disproportionately due to their race and status? NO! That’s a damned lie, and I don’t care what the evidence says!

        • Peter Schaeffer says

          “As Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade and a colleague demonstrated in their 2009 book, No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal, if selective colleges eliminated racial preferences in admissions, “Asian students would fill nearly four out of every five places in the admitted class not taken by African-American and Hispanic students.” Black students, they found, receive preferences worth 450 points (out of 1600) on the SAT compared to Asian-American applicants, but Asians must also score 140 points higher than white applicants to have equal chances of admission.”

          • Chad says

            So what?

            Are you saying blacks must pay income and sales taxes so that newly arrived Asians can be subsidized at the best universities because they have higher test scores? You seem eager to give Asians seats at the universities. Should blacks allow themselves to be exploited so other races can advance themselves?

            Since when are university seats decided just by test scores? Look at the history of the university. Test scores are just one factor considered and it has always been so. Test scores predict classroom performance but not necessarily career success. In fact, most 87 lb weaklings with high test scores never achieve leadership roles in their professions. The link between test scores and technological innovation has never been properly or comprehensively studied, but a lot of people simply assume that the highest classroom performers go on to become the best lawyers, surgeons, engineers, etc. Not so.

      • dirk says

        Here, I fear another symptom of whites and their western culture has to be considered: their hypocrisy. In their hearts, they know/feel they are superior (just look a little bit around in the world, technology, law and political systems, economy, art, etc, even in China, almost whatever is copied from them) but they will never and to nobody ever admit this. Why not?? Nice subject for an essay, for about 1000 ones. But even these ones will never be written. Simply not done (except maybe by some crazy idiot)

    • Ray Andrews says


      “If people cannot handle information without grossly misusing it, why give them the information.”

      Because the alternative is to let politicians decide what information we can handle and what we can’t, and, in cases where we can’t handle it, to substitute lies that they think will engineer us into behaving as they want us too. What could possilby go worng with that do you think?

    • K. Dershem says

      It’s well-established that blacks are (on average) less intelligent than whites, as indicated by scores on IQ tests. There’s also good evidence that IQ scores correlate with academic achievement and other forms of success. In my view, the only real question is how much of the disparity can be attributed to environmental factors (prenatal conditions, early exposure to toxins, poverty, poor parenting, chronic stress, substandard education, dysfunctional subcultures, etc.) and how much — if any — can be attributed to genetic differences that correlate with racial categories. This is a very difficult question to answer, and I agree with Sam Harris (as expressed in his podcast with Charles Murray) that it may not be worth asking. Average differences should have no bearing on how we treat individuals, and it’s not clear to me what the policy implications would be. (Personally, I’m opposed to race-based affirmative action on both pragmatic and principled grounds, so I think race-based quotas should be eliminated regardless.)

      • Jim Gorman says

        K Dershem –> “Average differences should have no bearing on how we treat individuals.” You hit the nail on the head.

        George Carlin said it best, “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that”

      • Ray Andrews says

        @K. Dershem

        “and it’s not clear to me what the policy implications would be”

        They would and should be the scrapping of institutionalized victimhood. Unfortunately this is now so entrenched that getting rid of it would be like declaring Albanian the official language. The whole of the leftist political machine now runs on victimhood. Of course there are individuals who disagree, but the institutions are ‘gone’ and will need to be retaken by force, even if not by physical force. But the righties want to destroy the left, so it can’t be up to them. It’s classical lefties and centrists (who understand the need for the left) who must do it. Can they possibly get it done?

        • K. Dershem says

          I’m not optimistic. Witness the absurd attacks on Beto for being too white, too male, and insufficiently socialist. The GOP has already been taken over by extremists; the Democrats seem to be following suit.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @K. Dershem

            It doesn’t look good, does it? As late as the fall of the USSR I remember having this feeling that progress would be impossible to stop. Now I feel that the decline and fall of the West is unavoidable. Unless the still sane silent majority can somehow be galvanized into action and somehow be focused into one political movement. Not likely. The GOP seems to be beyond hope. The Dems … well there is Yang, let’s see how he does. I can’t see Bernie grovelling for forgiveness for being too Jewish. Anyway Canada isn’t so polarized, we’ll be around for a while yet, muddling along like we do.

          • Jay Salhi says

            Is this the same Beto who recently apologized for his white privilege after a joke about his wife raising the kids backfired? No one should be judged on their race or gender but Beto has been an enthusiastic participant in the identity politics insanity.

    • ALAN WHITE says

      Chad. Only ignorant people act the way you describe. And the IQ charts are necessary to show how wrong they are…

  16. ccscientist says

    When writing a book, as Gould did, one can evade peer review. The idea that it is ok to distort if you cause is noble is always a temptation and dangerous.
    One of the purposes of good statistics is to prevent one from being tripped up by bias. The replication crisis shows that this safeguard is in danger. I continue to see small sample sizes, using data with known flaws, saying an R2 of .4 means something, etc. Sad. Activists resist good statistics because they can’t tell the story they want to tell.

    • E. Olson says

      Sure he didn’t have to deal with the potential stumbling blocks of peer reviews, but have you considered just how difficult it was for him to find a Left leaning book publisher/editor who would want to take a chance on a book debunking intelligence research?

      As for small explained variance, its even worse when you consider the small sample was likely carefully recruited to have a positive orientation towards the desired study outcome, and stimuli /survey questions were optimized to move responses in the direction of the desired study outcome.

  17. tyler kent says

    What exactly is “laudable” about Gould’s efforts to fight discrimination? What’s wrong with free choice, and why should people not be allowed to exercise it?

    • E. Olson says

      Tyler – incompetence and lack of ability should never be used to block anyone’s rise to positions of authority and leadership.

  18. James Smith says

    I.Q. and intelligence research in general have provided the most robustly conclusive data in the field of psychological research, as the author states.
    Gould was an egregiously unreliable scientific opiner. His ideology clearly distorted his conclusions on so many levels.
    Thanks for the corrective. May the rest of us keep it up.

  19. luysii says

    Hoisting Steven J. Gould by his own petard

    Steven Jay Gould’s essays in Natural History Magazine were as close to matters scientific my late father, an attorney, ever came. He loved them. People of that generation were cowed by science, thinking it beyond them.

    Naturally, I’ve read a bit more, following the controversies about punctuated equilibria, the actual unit of natural selection etc. etc. as they appeared in the pages of Nature over the years. In particular, I found Gould’s book “The Mismeasure of Man” intriguing (and quite convincing) It concerns one Samuel Morton, who measured cranial capacities of various ethnic groups in the early 1800s. He found that Europeans have bigger brains than everyone else. Gould accused Morton of (consciously or unconsciously) manipulating the data to come up with the conclusions he desired.

    In particular, Gould accused him of grouping the data by arbitrarily amalgamating Native American populations, while breaking down the Europeans into subgroups.

    Well, guess what? An anthropologist [ PLoS Biol. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001071;2011 ] went back to Penn (where the skulls in question reside), and remeasured some 300 of them, blinding themselves to their ethnic origins as they did. Morton’s measurements were correct. They also had the temerity to actually look at Morton’s papers. They found that, contrary to Gould, Morton did report average cranial capacities for subgroups of both populations, sometimes on the same page or on pages near to figures that Gould quotes, and therefore must have seen. Even worse (see Nature vol. 474 p. 419 ’11 ) they claim that “Gould misidentified the Native American samples, falsely inflating the average he calculated for that population”. Gould had claimed that Morton’s averages were incorrect.

    Certainly we all see what we want to see. It happens all the time in medicine. Patients want to get better. Docs want them to get better. It’s a plucky patient who will have the guts to say “No, I’m not better” when a doc asks them “You’re feeling better aren’t you”. Of course, this is the wrong way to ask. There is an art to taking a history and asking questions in such a way as to not get the answers you want (just the opposite of the cross examination skills of the lawyer).

    Why would Gould do this? Well, he hated racism, and wanted to discredit what he saw as a scientific basis for it. Coming of age after the horrors of World War II, he had particular reason to do so. After the war all sorts of distinguished biologists took an ad in the Times saying that there was no scientific basis for the concept of race. Now with single nucleotide polymorphisms and linkage disequilibrium we’re not so sure. All sorts of papers presently appear in reputable journals describing just how much European admixture is present in the genomes of various ethnic groups.

    Moreover Gould was a man of the left. Morton was far from his only intellectual battle (which he, in effect, had won until now). His and Lewontin’s treatment of E. O. Wilson and sociobiology was particularly appalling. They regarded it as recrudescent social Darwinism. The idea that humanity was not infinitely malleable and that they couldn’t be reshaped in thought and action by their environment, struck at their hopes that changing the system could end all social evil. See

    I did try reading Gould’s “The Structure of Evolutionary Theory” and got through about 80 of its 1400+ pages or so before giving up. It was rather Rabelaisian, frankly incomprehensible and in serious need of an editor. Only after I saw him lecture in person at an affair my brother had set up at a fancy Washington Club (Cosmos) did I see why. I’m not sure what he was talking about, but he appeared agitated and disorganized. A neurologist friend and I sat together and spent the lecture trying to decide if he was manic and off his meds or actually psychotic. Gradually the hall emptied as he continued to emote.

    How much of his work will remain standing after the re-examinations likely to ensue after this, is anyone’s guess.

    • The great EO Wilson, mentioned earlier here, has said often that being challenged by distinguished thinkers who disagreed with him improved his work.

      Gould, by contrast, cast all challengers as racists and dared them to disagree, which made his work sacrosanct in his own milieu.

      There are tantalizing reasons to question the whole G apparatus. One is that Caribbean blacks and Africans run circles around African Americans in schools and the professions. Another is that the right tails are the same on every quantitative or qualitative distribution, which requires all comers to be evaluated individually. A third is that there is no way to measure the effect of discipline (effort, whatever) on results achieved by every individual. It’s a big world, and we’re all — all — different.

      Gould considered none of this, so certain was he that he knew it all and that his mission was to demolish any broader considerations.

  20. Tersitus says

    Bad science isn’t science until it leads to better.

  21. El Uro says

    Let me say in all frankness – I have always been sure and sure now that the global warming, caused by man, is a false statement

  22. Jack B. Nimble says


    I’m amused that you have such an urgent need to know whether or not I’m a Marxist.

    But a tease is always more interesting than a simple reveal, don’t you think?

    As you can tell from my comment earlier today, I don’t take this thread, or the whole of Quillette, entirely seriously. So why do I comment at all?

    Partly it is because I enjoy spotting factual errors and logical fallacies, the way that some people enjoy spotting trains or birds. And these comment threads are such a treasure trove of errors and fallacies! For example, your focus on labeling me a Marxist illustrates another one, the naming fallacy:

    ‘……Too often in science we operate under the principle that “to name it is to tame it”, or so we think. One of the easiest mistakes, even among working scientists, is to believe that labeling something has somehow or another added to an explanation or understanding of it. Worse than that we use it all the time when we are teaching, leading students to believe that a phenomenon that is named is a phenomenon that is known, and that to know the name is to know the phenomenon. It’s what I, and others, have called the nominal fallacy….. the error of believing that the label carries explanatory information………’

    The naming fallacy crops up a lot outside science. For example, in medicine, saying that person A has disease Z is no substitute for a list of symptoms, since some diseases manifest differently in different people.

    PS- When you said dissimilation I think you meant dissimulation. And I’ve never taken a course in rhetoric.

    • X. Citoyen says

      Yeah, Jack the fallacy expert who can’t even avoid self-contradiction. You wrote first:

      Gould, Lewontin and Kamin deserve credit for being transparent about their motivations. Many contributors to this site would do well to follow their examples.

      Alistair responded:

      I’m now willing to bet you’re a Marxist too, aren’t you?

      Then you retort:

      Look, your interest in knowing whether or not a commenter is a Marxist shows that you are wallowing in the genetic fallacy

      So, after asserting that being transparent about your biases is a virtue and that contributors to this site should be more transparent, you turn around and accuse Alistair of the genetic fallacy for asking about your motivations. You demand other people adhere to standards. Your virtue, meanwhile, puts you beyond good and evil!

      • Jack B. Nimble says

        @X. Citoyen

        Ummmm…. I mentioned some of my motivations, which you probably didn’t notice in your rush to post a reply:

        “….I enjoy spotting factual errors and logical fallacies…..”

        As far as politics go, I’ve mentioned in previous comment threads that I am a man of the left. But I don’t understand the obsession on this site with slapping political labels on people. Isn’t sorting people into political categories just another form of identity politics? The lack of self-awareness of some commenters on this site is truly staggering.

        The idea that, by slapping a label like ‘Marxist’ on a person, you have somehow gained access to their innermost thoughts and motivations is idiotic. That’s one reason why I’m pushing back hard against @Alistair.

        Another reason is that @Alistair has already accused me of dissimilation…….. err… dissimulation, which implies that I hide my true ideological bias behind a fog of rhetoric*. So even if I said I wasn’t a Marxist, @Alistair has already set the table for accusing me of lying. As Admiral Ackbar might say, “IT’S A TRAP!!!”

        *Dissimulation–concealment of one’s thoughts, feelings, or character; pretense.
        synonyms–pretense, dissembling, misrepresentation, deceit, dishonesty, duplicity, lying…
        [from Google]

  23. Tommy says

    Gould’s main problem as a public intellectual was that he liked to think of himself–and present himself as–an avuncular anti-racist. Every point he made tied back to how America treated black people. I stopped trusting the guy’s work after that; every article was the same (unless he was talking about baseball, a body of work that truly is a thought crime).

    Gould, as a public intellectual, was ideology first, intellectual scientist second.

  24. X. Citoyen says

    You might have missed one of Gould’s evasions. I suspect he set up the chapter to attack the Army Beta of WWI to avoid bringing up the military testing used when he wrote in 1981. After all, if IQ was such a shambles, why not point to contemporary testing? The answer is obvious: A military the size of the U.S. Army could not then and cannot now have an efficient selection system without IQ testing. I’ve read estimates of the cost of getting rid of testing for occupations like pilot—the increase in cost would make a tax-and-spend liberal sick.

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  26. markbul says

    Damn – I just read the paper this article is based on two days ago. I was a fan of Gould’s pop sci books back in the day, including The Mismeasure of Man. Now, I understand what a deeply flawed person he was.

  27. Mike Pink says

    One of the problems I have with calling Gould a Marxist, is that Karl Marx was an economist, and Gould is not an economist. So I think labeling someone a Marxist who is not an economist is not correct.

  28. Mike Pink says

    There is a long established practice of confusing what is misleadingly called “Cultural Marxism” with socialism and Marxist economics. The two are most definitely not the same.

  29. Mike Pink says

    Socialist politics has nothing – really nothing – to do with Marx. Politicians like Lenin or Mao have claimed that their policies are Marxist, but that is a baseless assertion, since Marx never commented on Communism… We can find in his writings no statements about how Communism will be designed politically. Rather, Marx analyzed capitalism.

    After giving up hope for a proletarian revolution in the face of the failed European revolutions of 1848, Marx was a scientist in the second phase of his life. He then analyzed capitalism. He hoped that, because of the major contradictions in the system, capitalism would ultimately abolish itself.

  30. He was a thuggish fraud who in one of his talks directed a vulgar slur at me, a layman who had sent him a critical letter.

  31. Realworldman says

    Read almost every book the man published. While he was an excellent writer his content was often not so much.. It was easy to glean his biases while reading his work. What I find more offensive than his obvious overcompensation for what he perceived as racially motivated science, was his concept of “non-overlapping magisteria”. This transparent surrender to religious indoctrination is anathema to his profession and a falsity to be used by evangelicals for their purposes. Religion purports to know the very reality under which humans live, down to the very end of days. That is an obvious overlap with the scientific method. Science then corrects religious nonsense about reality by contradicting the very history and foundations of religious narratives. That is an overlap. They are non-overlapping only in the sense that science is factual and religion is fiction.

    • ALAN WHITE says

      The explanation becomes clear once you understand Marxism is a religion.

  32. ALAN WHITE says

    The inability of psychologists to reach some consensus about the validity and significance of IQ tests after all these decades is a scandal that will eventually discredit the profession. Either reach some consensus, explain why you cannot, or close shop until you can get your act together. Then admit that you are not doing real science. Just politics by other means.

    • dirk says

      The problem started where that IQ as a tool in judgment of abilities and capacity was extended to areas for which it was not meant at all in the beginning: in an army , university or enterprise where you want to put every INDIVIDUAL on the right place, you start with the difference and variability as a natural fact or challenge. But what where you are using it to make distinctions between races or populations (I guess this only began much later)? Lewontin knew what to do, there is no such as a thing as race! That’s a way out, though not one where everybody will immediately agree, neither scientists, nor citizens at large.

  33. Rod McLaughlin says

    I wonder if the author is aware of professor Kevin MacDonald’s dissection of Gould’s work in chapter two of his “Culture of Critique”. Subsequent investigations have vindicated MacDonald, but he doesn’t get much credit, because he claims that Gould’s falsehoods are motivated as much by ethnocentrism as by socialist politics.

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