response to kanazawa in scientific american not convincing

scientific american invited a guest blogger to respond to kanazawa’s post about race and attractiveness (altho the views expressed are not necessarily those held by scientific american…).

the guest blog — The Data Are In Regarding Satoshi Kanazawa — written by someone named khadijah britton — almost ends (almost) with an important point that i actually stand behind:

“The intent behind a question can establish an immoral line of inquiry and instigate immoral research methods (see the Nazi doctors’ experiments). But a question itself is not evil. Scandalous, offensive and sometimes frightening questions are often at the root of important scientific inquiry. When supported by data significant enough to support them, these questions drive us toward the truth (see, e.g., ‘the Earth is round’)…. Kanazawa does not earn censure with the political incorrectness of his question…” [my emphasis.]

hear, hear! (*hbdchick applauds vigorously*)

but, britton is not really very convincing ’cause she continues … in the very same sentence:

“…but earns social and scientific irrelevance through the weakness of his research. This irrelevance earns Kanazawa a special place in hell in today’s link-driven media economy – one where no one will hear him scream.” [my emphases.]

wait. what?

how did all-of-a-sudden-like SOCIAL irrelevance enter into this discussion? and, in hell? that’s mighty emotional, now, isn’t it? i thought we were talking about SCIENCE. (yeah, i know, i know. humor me.) as in, you know, the scientific method? the search for TRUTH and FACTS and all that? i mean, wtf?

if you haven’t read the whole post you’re in for a treat!, you might be surprised at this apparent turn in her … reasoning? but, there were hints … LOTS of them … that this conclusion was coming. here’s some choice bits from earlier in the post (again, my emphases):

“As it turns out, Kanazawa is a REPEAT OFFENDER, with years of roundly criticized and heartily debunked PSEUDOSCIENCE-based SHOCK-JOCKERY under his belt. Despite this, he is STILL posting on the blog of a reputable mainstream publication, STILL teaching at a respected university and STILL serving on the editorial board of one of his discipline’s peer-reviewed research journals. Though, possibly not for long: this particular post’s RACIST [oh no! not that! the horror, the horror.] hypothesis offended many, unleashing SERIOUS RIGHTEOUS OUTRAGE across the internet: social media users raced to blog, tweet and even petition demanding that Psychology Today remove Kanazawa as a contributor to their Web site and magazine….

“I see a more central flaw with Kanazawa’s method beyond its CREEPINESS, reliance on unscientific conjecture or abuse of factor analysis….”

oh no! not creepiness! pass me my smelling salts — i’m think i’m going to faint. (echos of pc myers on galton.)

britton doesn’t like the add health research very much, either:

“I am DISTURBED by the fact that the Add Health study’s adult researchers even answered the question of how attractive they rated these youth. I am EVEN MORE DEEPLY DISTRUBED by the idea that we are to extrapolate a general theory of desirability from these adult interviewers’ subjective assessment of the children’s attractiveness….”

so much for a question, itself, not being evil. deeply disturbing, and especially waaaaaycist, questions apparently should NOT be asked. eveh. never mind evil ones. if they do get asked … get prepared for some SERIOUS RIGHTEOUS OUTRAGE.

but, khadijah britton, like many women (yes, including yours truly), is an emotional gal, so kanazawa’s conclusions offended her … deeply …

“I drafted this post after spending a couple of days sorting through my emotions on Kanazawa’s work. Seeing that the man clearly relishes his role as an agent provocateur, I knew I could not impact him or those who respond to his work from a place of emotion. He has made that much clear.

As I tweeted after reading Kanazawa’s post, ‘Imagine a little Black girl reading this filth. [Toni Morrison’s novel] The Bluest Eye is not history to her. It’s reality.’ I want to protect that little girl – and wish I could heal all the little girls that came before her and grew up into beautiful women like this one, made to feel ugly by a racist society. I stand in solidarity with Black women and hope you will heed this blog’s cry to stand stronger than ever in self-love.” [my emphases.]

preach it, khadijah!

*exasperated sigh*

look. it’s ok to respond emotionally to what happens in the world. emotions are a part of being human — prolly more so for most women than most men.

but you’ve GOT to leave your emotions at the door when evaluating science! even if you think it’s shoddy science. just SHOW that it’s shoddy (if it is) and leave it at that.

we’ve got to be open and honest here. (as honest as we possibly can.) otherwise, we’re never gonna understand the world (and, potentially, really help people).

previously: the offensive mr. kanazawa and silly refutations of kanazawa’s blog post

(note: comments do not require an email. or anger-management therapy.)