Science Is Not Always “Self-Correcting”
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.
KeywordsEpistemology 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.
- Aristotle. (1998). Politics (C. D. C. Reeve, Trans.). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.Google Scholar
- Barnes, J. (2001). Early greek philosophy (2nd ed.). London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
- [Bible, Hebrew] Tanach. (1996). (2nd ed., Scherman, N., Ed.) New York: Mesorah.Google Scholar
- Block, N. J., & Dworkin, G. (1974). IQ, heritability and inequality, part 2. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 4(1), 40–99.Google Scholar
- Block, N. J., & Dworkin, G. (Eds.). (1976). The IQ controversy: Critical readings. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
- Chomsky, N. (1976). The fallacy of Richard Herrnstein’s IQ. In N. J. Block & G. Dworkin (Eds.), The IQ controversy: Critical readings (pp. 285–298). New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
- Chomsky, N. (1988). Language and problems of knowledge: The Managua lectures. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Dennett, D. C. (2003). Freedom evolves. New York: Viking.Google Scholar
- Dennett, D. C. (2006a). Breaking the spell: Religion as a natural phenomenon. New York: Viking.Google Scholar
- Dennett, D. C. (2006b). Edge: The reality club. An edge discussion of BEYOND BELIEF: Science, religion, reason and survival. Edge. Retrieved from http://www.edge.org/discourse/bb.html#dennett.
- Diamond, J. (1997). Guns, germs, and steel: The fates of human societies. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
- Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Gardner, H. (2001). The ethical responsibilities of professionals. The good project: Ideas and tools for a good life. Retrieved from http://thegoodproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/GoodWork2.pdf.
- Gardner, H. (2006). Multiple intelligences: New horizons in theory and practice. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Gardner, H. (2009). Intelligence: It’s not just IQ. New York: Rockefeller University. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cP4CBpLNEyE&feature=related.
- Gardner, H., Feldman, D. H., & Krechevsky, M. (Eds.). (1998). Project spectrum: Early learning activities. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
- Gottfredson, L. S. (2005). Suppressing intelligence research: Hurting those we intend to help. In R. H. Wright & N. A. Cummings (Eds.), Destructive trends in mental health: The well-intentioned path to harm (pp. 155–186). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Gould, S. J. (1981). The mismeasure of man. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
- Gould, S. J. (1994). Curveball. The New Yorker, pp. 139–148.Google Scholar
- Gould, S. J. (1996). The mismeasure of man (Rev ed.). New York: Norton.Google Scholar
- Hacker, A. (1992). Two nations: Black and white, separate, hostile, unequal. New York: Scribner.Google Scholar
- Herrnstein, R. J., & Murray, C. (1994). The bell curve: Intelligence and class structure in American life. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
- Hunt, E. (2011). Human intelligence. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Jensen, A. R. (1980). Bias in mental testing. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
- Jensen, A. R. (1998). The g factor: The science of mental ability. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
- Kamin, L. J. (1974). The science and politics of I.Q. Potomac, MD: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Kaufman, J. C., Kaufman, S. B., & Plucker, J. A. (2013). Contemporary theories of intelligence. In D. Reisberg (Ed.), The oxford handbook of cognitive psychology (pp. 811–822). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Kitcher, P. (1985). Vaulting ambition: Sociobiology and the quest for human nature. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Krauss, L. M. (2012). A universe from nothing: Why there is something rather than nothing. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
- Krebs, J. (2010). We might err, but science is self-correcting (p. 19). London: The Times 19.Google Scholar
- Lane, C. (1994). The tainted sources of ‘The bell curve’. The New York Review of Books, 41, 14–19.Google Scholar
- Lewontin, R. C. (1974). The genetic basis of evolutionary change. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
- Lewontin, R. C. (2000). The triple helix: Gene, organism, and environment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Longino, H. E. (1990). Science as social knowledge: Values and objectivity in scientific inquiry. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Luzzatto, M. C. (1998). [Derech Hashem] The way of God (6th ed., A. Kaplan, Trans.). Jerusalem: Feldheim. (Original work published 1735).Google Scholar
- Lynn, R. (2006). Race differences in intelligence: An evolutionary analysis. Augusta, GA: Washington Summit.Google Scholar
- Mackintosh, N. J. (2011). IQ and human intelligence (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- [Majjhima Nikāya] The middle length discourses of the Buddha: A new translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. (1995). (Bhikkhu Bodhi, Trans., Bhikkhu Nanamoli, Ed.). Boston: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar
- [Manusmirti] The laws of Manu. (1986). (F. M. Müller, Trans.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
- Montagu, A. (1997). Man’s most dangerous myth: The fallacy of race (6th ed.). Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
- Plato. (1997a). Apology (G. M. A. Grube, Trans.). In J. M. Cooper (Ed.), Plato: Complete works (pp. 17–36). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.Google Scholar
- Plato. (1997b). Euthyphro (G. M. A. Grube, Trans.). In J. M. Cooper (Ed.), Plato: Complete works (pp. 1–16). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.Google Scholar
- Puma, M., Bell, S., Cook, R., Heid, C., Broene, P., Jenkins, F., et al. (2012). Third grade follow-up to the head start impact study final report (OPRE Report #2012-45). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/head_start_report.pdf.
- Rushton, J. P. (1995). Race, evolution, and behavior: A life history perspective. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.Google Scholar
- Snyderman, M., & Rothman, S. (1988). The IQ controversy, the media and public policy. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.Google Scholar
- Spearman, C. (1904). “General intelligence,” objectively determined and measured. The American Journal of Psychology, 15(2), 201–292. doi: 10.2307/1412107.
- Spearman, C. (1927). The abilities of man: Their nature and measurement. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
- Talmud Bavli. Megillah. (2001). New York: Mesorah.Google Scholar
- Turkheimer, E. (2007). The theory of innate differences. Cato Unbound. Retrieved from http://www.cato-unbound.org/2007/11/21/eric-turkheimer/race-iq.
- Wade, N. (2011). Scientists measure the accuracy of a racism claim. New York: The New York Times. D4.Google Scholar