Who promotes "scientific" racism?
September 26, 2019 3:12 AM   Subscribe

In March, Evolutionary Psychological Science, a Springer Nature journal, published an article arguing that "Jewish ideologies" such as multiculturalism, Marxism and left-wing political movements promote Jewish group interests by weakening the sense of nationalism, religiosity and ethnocentrism among whites. How could this happen in a seemingly respectable publication? Simon Whitten decided to find out (threadreader) who's behind this. Spoiler: it's Nazis all the way down.
posted by hat_eater (34 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
The transforming of an anonymous 19th-century pornographic tract into a survey of penis sizes by means of “meta-analysis” is the cherry on this particular shit sundae.
posted by acb at 3:16 AM on September 26 [19 favorites]


You know what - if the anthropocene epoch takes a few more of these guys in to oblivion, I may be better able to cope with the idea that global population is going to reduce by three-quarters
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 3:52 AM on September 26 [2 favorites]


The board of the journal and Springer itself should be on the hook for this - who reviewed the article? Was it reviewed or was there some "mistake" or work-around? Who has oversight of the reviewers? In theory, at least, you don't just send whatever bit of racist babble you produce to a journal along with your publication fee. The Nazis are a disturbing piece, but equally disturbing is the crooked or morally idiotic climate at the journal. Nominally serious scholars had to see and approve this piece, unless the journal itself is staffed by Nazis.

Other thoughts: Publish or perish leads to a proliferation of journals, at least some of which are bad/mediocre/nonsense. The subsidiaries of Nature are not all on Nature's level. Concentration of wealth means that racists and evil people can set up foundations and fund junk sciences, create phony scholarly infrastructures, create a graft economy for racists, etc. In a better society there would be more constraints on foundations and, god knows, less pressure to publish.
posted by Frowner at 4:22 AM on September 26 [35 favorites]


As a deeply lapsed Jew, let me just say that weakening the sense of nationalism, religiosity and ethnocentrism isn’t necessarily a goal of Judaism per se, more of a general by product of promoting being better than the absolute baseline shitty human society allows you to be.

If, as a by product of hoping people will be better than their ugliest, most base urges, those things (which, holy hell? Who honestly thinks those are laudable?!) fall by the wayside, well, fuckin L’shahna tova everyone!
posted by Ghidorah at 4:27 AM on September 26 [43 favorites]


Evolutionary Psychological

Well, there's your problem
posted by jklaiho at 4:48 AM on September 26 [48 favorites]


How is it that evolutionary psychology, a completely discredited field whose few worthwhile ideas have been rolled into other disciplines, still lives on as a zombie field?

Also I find it darkely hilarious that one of the replies on twitter was "why is Sam Harris on the board?" I can guess why.
posted by Yowser at 4:52 AM on September 26 [23 favorites]


The board of the journal and Springer itself should be on the hook for this - who reviewed the article?

I think we (myself included, sort of) put too much faith in academic peer review to catch bad faith science, honestly. Remember how vaccine hysteria started? Do you have any idea how often fake data and flubbed statistics make it through top journals? HINT: It's often.

This sort of thing only comes to the surface when someone else pieces it together.
posted by Young Kullervo at 4:56 AM on September 26 [11 favorites]


The journal is only 5 years old and the editorial board is not particularly stacked with faculty from prestigious institutions.
posted by fraxil at 4:58 AM on September 26


As Whitten points out, this has going on since at least WW2, not just the last five years.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:00 AM on September 26 [3 favorites]


multiculturalism, Marxism and left-wing political movements promote Jewish group interests by weakening the sense of nationalism, religiosity and ethnocentrism among whites

Typically for racist drivel, the whole idea depends on the fallacy that your own context is the universe, and everyone else is just living in it. The same phenomenon could just as easily be described as anti-Semitism among ethnocentric whites arising as a reaction to increased multiculturalism in their environment.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 5:07 AM on September 26 [10 favorites]


Yet another thing evo-psych shares in common with phrenology.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:23 AM on September 26 [4 favorites]


Twenty plus years ago as a UWO psych graduate student I frequently had Phil Rushton sitting next to me in the computer lab (apparently his Pioneer Fund money wasn't enough for him to get his own computer in his office?). This was during the peak of his infamy.

I never saw anyone talk to him in the two years I was there. He wasn't allowed to teach and I don't think he was allowed to have graduate students.

He also wore sweater vests pretty much every day.

How is it that evolutionary psychology, a completely discredited field whose few worthwhile ideas have been rolled into other disciplines, still lives on as a zombie field?

Racist funding like the twitter thread points out. It was the original wingnut welfare. The real question now, post-epstein, is why do the universities still process funding from known notoriously racist organizations?
posted by srboisvert at 5:27 AM on September 26 [16 favorites]


You know what - if the anthropocene epoch takes a few more of these guys in to oblivion, I may be better able to cope with the idea that global population is going to reduce by three-quarters

Unfortunately, it also comes at the cost of harming billions of people of color so...I think they'd also be okay with this horrendous idea?
posted by Ouverture at 5:48 AM on September 26 [2 favorites]


The real question now, post-epstein, is why do the universities still process funding from known notoriously racist organizations?

Even ostensibly liberal people with no financial stakes in these battles will stridently defend publications like Quillette in the name of "free speech" or "keeping minds open to alternative viewpoints." It's not hard to see the more conservative business side of academia keeping the financial spigots open for other Nazis.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:02 AM on September 26 [10 favorites]


Whoever it was that was assigned to run the stake through the heart of evo-psych - you had one job to do. One.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 6:02 AM on September 26 [11 favorites]


weakening the sense of nationalism, religiosity and ethnocentrism isn’t necessarily a goal of Judaism per se

Yeah, Judaism is vast and contains multitudes. To say categorically that it is a goal of Judaism to undermine religiosity and ethnocentrism is startlingly ignorant. Have these guys met their friendly neighborhood Hasidim?
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 6:09 AM on September 26 [6 favorites]


Yeah, Judaism is vast and contains multitudes. To say categorically that it is a goal of Judaism to undermine religiosity and ethnocentrism is startlingly ignorant. Have these guys met their friendly neighborhood Hasidim?

Or tried talked to any secular Jew that has ever expressed even the slightest hesitation about supporting an explicitly ethnonationalist state that panders to an ultra-religious minority.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:25 AM on September 26 [1 favorite]


why do the universities still process funding from known notoriously racist organizations?

Perhaps review the thinking of that practical philosopher of economics: Willie Sutton
posted by sammyo at 6:25 AM on September 26 [2 favorites]


Springer and Nature should be ashamed of themselves.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:10 AM on September 26 [8 favorites]


I vacillated on adding the "capitalism" tag, and now I feel I should have addedd it, because its universal explanatory power is not an artefact but its essential quality.
posted by hat_eater at 7:21 AM on September 26 [5 favorites]


Yowser: Also I find it darkely hilarious that one of the replies on twitter was "why is Sam Harris on the board?" I can guess why.

Ahaha, I scrolled through the list of "board members," saw Sam Harris' name, and thought, "Well, well, why am I not surprised?" This is what we get when we have Sugar Daddy Science - it's wingnut welfare by another name and arrayed in "scientific" garb.

I'm reminded of a 90's era book I read for a class and still have on my bookshelf because it seems relevant to these times: Evil Sisters by Bram Dijkstra. Anti-Semitism and rank misogyny wrapped up in a "scientific" package is nothing new; in fact the paper referenced in TFA reads exactly like early twentieth-century pseudo-science.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:36 AM on September 26 [9 favorites]


Yeah, Judaism is vast and contains multitudes. To say categorically that it is a goal of Judaism to undermine religiosity and ethnocentrism is startlingly ignorant. Have these guys met their friendly neighborhood Hasidim?

Or tried talked to any secular Jew that has ever expressed even the slightest hesitation about supporting an explicitly ethnonationalist state that panders to an ultra-religious minority.


The argument is that these "Jewish ideologies" weaken the sense of nationalism, religiosity and ethnocentrism among whites. Whites here doesn't include Jews
posted by atomicstone at 7:43 AM on September 26 [2 favorites]


Racicsm? In the "field" of evolutionary psychology?

I'm shocked, SHOCKED to find there's gambling going on in here!
posted by panama joe at 7:45 AM on September 26 [11 favorites]


The argument is that these "Jewish ideologies" weaken the sense of nationalism, religiosity and ethnocentrism among whites. Whites here doesn't include Jews

And, of course, the implication that, were it not for these nefarious Judaeobolsheviks, the natural state of whiteness would be a unified Volk, bound together by religion and traditionalism and rejecting alien influences. I'm sure I've seen that sort of thing before somewhere...
posted by acb at 7:51 AM on September 26 [12 favorites]


And, of course, the implication that, were it not for these nefarious Judaeobolsheviks

Somewhat ironically, a lot of the accusations of nefarious Judaeobolshevism comes from the Jewish mainstream these days. For example, here's the president of the World Jewish Congress:
Secular and Reform Jews in the Diaspora must show greater solidarity to Israel than to left-wing ideas. Believe me, socialism won't save you from anti-Semitism, but Israel will.
And don't even get me started on the current spate of white supremacy within American Judaism.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:30 AM on September 26 [6 favorites]


I can't help but notice that Nathan Cofnas, although acknowledged by Dutton for "helpful comments" (presumably in his capacity as a reviewer or action editor?) has published a brief communication that appears alongside the offending article in the March issue entitled "Is Kevin MacDonald’s Theory of Judaism “Plausible”? A Response to Dutton (2018)." So it appears that the editorial staff of the journal recognized that Dutton's argument was inflammatory but were persuaded that Dutton had followed the form of a legitimate article well enough that they couldn't reject it on those merits. You see this sort of thing all the time in journals when someone says something that is controversial to the status quo of that subfield (e.g. "Group selection is a real thing you guys" v. "No it isn't"; or "The replication crisis augurs poorly for the existing literature" v. "Everything is fine actually").

So it seems to me that the real problem here is that academic spheres tend to permit or deny platforms to people on the basis of their adoption of a particular form; if you go through the proper motions and make arguments in an acceptable style, then to deny your ideas a platform amounts to the censorship of ideas, which academics are very nervous about doing. This approach has *some* insulation against fascism's chameleonic nature (because if you cite sources that are self-contradictory, or contradict yourself, you are violating the style rules), but evidently there is still non-trivial vulnerability that can be exploited, especially in low-impact journals whose oversight might be a bit more slapdash.

This is not to say that the editorial board of this journal shouldn't be deeply embarrassed by this development. The decision to publish Cofnas' rebuttal is the same sort of cowardice that compels CNN to invite climate deniers to push their bad & fringe ideas in the name of "balance." But it does point to academia's ongoing vulnerability to harmful ideas that are dressed up with just the right fig leaves.
posted by belarius at 10:52 AM on September 26 [3 favorites]


Other thoughts: Publish or perish leads to a proliferation of journals, at least some of which are bad/mediocre/nonsense. The subsidiaries of Nature are not all on Nature's level. Concentration of wealth means that racists and evil people can set up foundations and fund junk sciences, create phony scholarly infrastructures, create a graft economy for racists, etc. In a better society there would be more constraints on foundations and, god knows, less pressure to publish.

The pressure to publish is always to publish good stuff, not crap. If that were true we would see more crap coming from top universities where the incentive to publish is higher. Don't blame incentives to publish, blame deans who can count but can't read.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:22 AM on September 26 [2 favorites]


I think we ... put too much faith in academic peer review to catch bad faith science

It's a minimum, but it's inconsistent and not a very high bar. When starting out, I spend a number of years doing a few reviews of a few hundred papers, including reworking their conclusions from their source data. I put the number of papers with serious methodological errors, like can't get to conclusions from observations, at something like 25%, with another 25% making interpretations that didn't stand statistical evaluation. And we weren't being that harsh in terms of criteria. This was basic agreement within error bar, naive p-value sorts of evaluations. Maybe half, often fewer, were worth the paper they were printed on. Papers ranged in publication dates from the 1970s to the 2000s.
posted by bonehead at 11:26 AM on September 26 [3 favorites]


Anyone who comes at me spouting off about the "Sokal Hoax" is going to get this article right up their ass.
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:00 PM on September 26 [5 favorites]


How is it that evolutionary psychology, a completely discredited field whose few worthwhile ideas have been rolled into other disciplines, still lives on as a zombie field?

I'm not any kind of psychologist and what little I know of evolutionary psychology tends to turn me off rather emphatically. But I am a little confused with this position. Because when I google around a bit, I don't exactly find evidence of this complete discrediting. Indeed, I wish I did.

Could someone please point me to some stuff that covers this discrediting in layman's terms?
posted by philip-random at 3:37 PM on September 26


Rushton was one of those professors who churn out a decade or two of unremarkable but mainstream research, get tenure, then immediately pivot to promoting their own crackpot ideas, abusing their status for credibility with the public and as a shield against censure.

Gee whiz, this sounds familiar...
posted by klanawa at 3:41 PM on September 26 [4 favorites]


Could someone please point me to some stuff that covers this discrediting in layman's terms?


How Valid Is Evolutionary Psychology? | Psychology Today

The problems with evolutionary psychology

Four Fallacies of Pop Evolutionary Psychology

Cave Thinkers: How evolutionary psychology gets evolution wrong

Criticism_of_evolutionary_psychology

That's a quick start. I could find something more comprehensive, but it's late and I'm sleepy.
posted by happyroach at 11:42 PM on September 26 [12 favorites]


For a completely different version of evo psych there's Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, whose feminist evo psych has a similar premise (explaining our instincts in terms of the ability to successfully raise children) and completely different methods: looking at actual mothering behaviors in nature and human history.

The version of "motherhood" and "maternal instinct" you learned in primary school is more sentimentality and wishful thinking than reality. And she connects these attitudes to Victorian social propaganda, and shows how this sentimental bias has warped science, especially her own field.

She even gives a feminist analysis of how she's been dismissed and mistreated in her field, it's a refreshing read. The fact that we somehow thought about "evolutionary success" in a way that marginalized the behaviors of mothers is kind of telling...
posted by idiopath at 4:20 AM on September 27 [10 favorites]


And here I'd thought that all Evo Psych had time for was crafting misogynistic just-so stories as fodder for parody on We Hunted the Mammoth. Turns out they're evil hacks for racism, too.

Just looking at Sarah Hrdy's cv, I already trust her more than any Evo Psych authors I've encountered. Probably because she comes at it with a PhD in anthropology, with a fair amount of work in primatology. Evo Anthro, in its current form, has a lot more credibility than Evo Psych. I'm excited to read her stuff, as an antidote to self-declared reddit Evo Psych experts, who always seem to look at human selection pressures as if natural selection and sexual selection only acted on men.
posted by mabelstreet at 9:19 AM on October 22


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