Foundations of Science

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 477–492 | Cite as

Science Is Not Always “Self-Correcting”

Fact–Value Conflation and the Study of Intelligence
  • Nathan CofnasEmail author


Some prominent scientists and philosophers have stated openly that moral and political considerations should influence whether we accept or promulgate scientific theories. This widespread view has significantly influenced the development, and public perception, of intelligence research. Theories related to group differences in intelligence are often rejected a priori on explicitly moral grounds. Thus the idea, frequently expressed by commentators on science, that science is “self-correcting”—that hypotheses are simply abandoned when they are undermined by empirical evidence—may not be correct in all contexts. In this paper, documentation spanning from the early 1970s to the present is collected, which reveals the influence of scientists’ moral and political commitments on the study of intelligence. It is suggested that misrepresenting findings in science to achieve desirable social goals will ultimately harm both science and society.


Epistemology Fact–value distinction Intelligence research Science and morality 



Thanks to James Flynn, Satoshi Kanazawa, Gerhard Meisenberg, and Neven Sesardic for constructive comments on earlier drafts of this paper. My understanding of the issues addressed here has been influenced by conversations with Michael A. Woodley of Menie. This work was supported by a fellowship from the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyLingnan UniversityTuen MunHong Kong

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