June 9, 2011

"The Mismeasure of Science"

Stephen Jay Gould's vastly influential 1981 book on IQ, The Mismeasure of Man, is an odd beast since it is heavily devoted to debunking dead and often forgotten old scientists. For example, a sizable chunk denounces Samuel George Morton, who died in 1851. Gould claimed to have reanalyzed Morton's data on skull sizes and shown that Morton distorted his results to fit his biases. 

A new study of Morton's old skulls by Jason E. Lewis, Ralph L. Holloway, et al, shows that Gould was projecting.
The Mismeasure of Science: Stephen Jay Gould versus Samuel George Morton on Skulls and Bias 
Stephen Jay Gould, the prominent evolutionary biologist and science historian, argued that “unconscious manipulation of data may be a scientific norm” because “scientists are human beings rooted in cultural contexts, not automatons directed toward external truth” [1], a view now popular in social studies of science [2]–[4]. In support of his argument Gould presented the case of Samuel George Morton, a 19th-century physician and physical anthropologist famous for his measurements of human skulls. Morton was considered the objectivist of his era, but Gould reanalyzed Morton's data and in his prize-winning book The Mismeasure of Man [5] argued that Morton skewed his data to fit his preconceptions about human variation. Morton is now viewed as a canonical example of scientific misconduct. But did Morton really fudge his data? Are studies of human variation inevitably biased, as per Gould, or are objective accounts attainable, as Morton attempted? We investigated these questions by remeasuring Morton's skulls and reexamining both Morton's and Gould's analyses. Our results resolve this historical controversy, demonstrating that Morton did not manipulate data to support his preconceptions, contra Gould. In fact, the Morton case provides an example of how the scientific method can shield results from cultural biases. 
... Our analysis of Gould's claims reveals that most of Gould's criticisms are poorly supported or falsified. 

68 comments:

Anonymous said...

So I take it Morton found black skulls thicker and with less cranial capacity than white or Asian? Gould couldn't stand that, just as most liberals can't stand the truth about IQ even though they send their kids to white private schools and cross the street when they see a group of black teens. Hmm, well why not say so, and carry the argument to its conclusion, instead of just chopping it off. Doesn't seem like Sailer, whose nobility is based on his courage to face unpopular truths.

Anonymous said...

Hm, Gould as "Whiskey" with a brain. It makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Our analysis of Gould's claims reveals that most of Gould's criticisms are poorly supported or falsified.

Honestly, does this surprise anyone here?

Bueller?

Anonymous said...

steve, your hubris is that u believe u can measure man, a very unromantic idea.

Anonymous said...

"Furthermore, studies have demonstrated that modern human variation is generally continuous, rather than discrete or “racial,” and that most variation in modern humans is within, rather than between, populations [11],[17]."

More PC bullshit.

Anonymous said...

So, white brain holds more mass than the East Asian brain. There goes the Big Asian brain theory.

Anonymous said...

Social science is too far gone for this study to make any difference, didn't a bunch of biological anthropologists reanalyze Franz Boas' work claiming that skull shape was largely determined by environment and completely refute it? Didn't Derek Freeman demolish Margaret Mead's research on the sexual practices of Samoans? The true believer social scientists just ignored it or claimed a non-existent refutation of these studies and nothing changed. Further proof that there isn't much science in social science.

Barb Ehrenreich said...

The banner ads on that website are hilarious. After many a grueling day of slaving over a hot microtome I've been prone to exclaim, "There's gotta be a better way!"

Anonymous said...

most variation in modern humans is within, rather than between, populations

They left out "with the exception of things such as skin color and IQ". Yeah, apart from things like those, most variation in modern humans is within, rather than between, populations.

TGGP said...

Derek Freeman's reputation has taken a hit lately. Paul Shankman's book is a frequent citation, and Freeman's mental history doesn't help his credibility. I personally haven't read any of the books in question.

Crawfurdmuir said...

Gould, like Lewontin, Kamin, and several other anti-hereditarians, is on record as an avowed Marxist. His positions are ideologically, not scientifically based. No one should be surprised.

Anonymous said...

"Furthermore, studies have demonstrated that . . . most variation in modern humans is within, rather than between, populations." I have seen similar statements before and wonder exactly what it means. Example: If I choose a person at random from group X and a person at random from group Y, could they be (on average) closer in height than two people chosen at random from the same group? I can see how the odds would be equal (same distribution of height in both groups) but not how the variation can be greater "within" than "between". Maybe someone can explain what I am misunderstanding.

Anonymous said...

"steve, your hubris is that u believe u can measure man, a very unromantic idea."

dood, u r a rtard.

agnostic said...

"didn't a bunch of biological anthropologists reanalyze Franz Boas' work claiming that skull shape was largely determined by environment and completely refute it?"

It was more than that. The context of the study was early 20th C. debates over immigration from Europe outside of the northwest. Would the skulls of the immmigrants' kids regress to the mean of their regional group, or would they assimilate toward the American norm once brought up here instead of some stinkhole back wherever their parents came from?

The re-analysis showed that skulls did not assimilate, but regressed to their home-population means.

SO that was a doubly toxic idea for Papa Franz -- no gigantic environmental effect on skull size and hence what's contained therein, and a blow against let-them-in assimilationists in the immigration debate.

dearieme said...

Don't Marxists believe that the point isn't to understand the world, but to change it? So sincere Marxists will lie to bring about change. Why anyone would incline to believe any "scholarship" written by a Marxist is beyond me.

some like it hot said...

What about people with pointy heads? What's wrong with them?

RKU said...

Well, it's seemed to me for years now that American society was being subjected to two conflicting exponentials. On the one hand, there's been an exponential rise in the power of technology and all the benefits it provides. On the other hand, there's been an exponential decline in most other things. At some point, one of these exponentials will clearly overwhelm and swamp the other, but it's difficult to say which.

I think a pretty large fraction of the decline exponential has been caused by the expanding tendency to follow the old USSR/Pravda way of doing things, otherwise known as "pretending makes it so." And the late, unlamented S.J. Gould has for decades been known to anyone who paid attention as a leading advocate of this approach within the scientific realm.

Don't know that Lysenkoism worked out that well in the original version of the USSR/Pravda system either...

Anonymous said...

It always amazes me that any old leather jacket wearing, Afro headed social studies academic from the Seventies onward believes he is an intellectual giant compared to say Francis Galton.
Gilbert Pinfold.

klog said...

"A new study of Morton's old skulls...shows that Gould was projecting."

In other news, the sun rose this morning.

Jim O said...

dearieme beat me to that point. You can't let the truth get in the way of the revolution.

RKU said...

An addendum. Gould's scientific fraud---other aspects of which I'd heard about a long time ago---was one of four or five separate things which several years ago suddenly combined in a blinding flash to illuminate certain very important elements of HBD. Elements of HBD which no one---whether PC liberal or hard-core WN---seems ever to have recognized, or at any rate discussed anywhere on the Internet.

Anonymous said...

i was in the american museum of natural history bookstore a couple of months ago - they had a whole section, prominently displayed, allotted for Gould and Mead. No madison grant publications in the store (i am surprised his name is still on some of the dioramas )

I have been going there since i was a kid - and when it was still nominally WASP it was quiet, dignified.. now it is loud, flashy and full of lies - like the evolution hall "there is no such thing as race, all people are equal" and there is a big merchandising kiosks and shops on every floor (when i was a kid there was a dinky little postcard shop in the basement)

Anonymous said...

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2487

J said...

I second dearieme: Marxist science is not science in the capitalist sense, but revolutionary - political - action designed to change reality. If you doubt it, ask Lysenko.

neil craig said...

Weird but independent confirmation needed.

Sideways said...

"Furthermore, studies have demonstrated that . . . most variation in modern humans is within, rather than between, populations." I have seen similar statements before and wonder exactly what it means.

It means that for 85% or so of genetic variation there is at least one person in various populations that has the different genes.

Imagine height was the result of just one gene that had many different forms in humans. There's a 5'2" gene, 5'3" gene, so on. You have different groups of people with different heights, but the tallest guy in the short population would be sort of tall in the tall one, and the shortest guy in the tall population would be pretty short in the short population.

They use this to try to cover up the fact that simple existence of genes in a population has nothing to do with frequency, which is what determines averages.

Anonymous said...

Steve, apologies for this OT thought, but it's interesting--Jay Nordlinger of NRO, in today's column on Weiner (http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/269307/excusing-weiner-c-jay-nordlinger) asks this:

"I have a question about Weiner — not so much a theory (though it might sound like that) as a question: Do you remember when he went stark-raving nuts on the floor of the House last summer? (If you can endure it, the video is here.) Some pictures we have seen cause me to ask: ’roid rage?"

Not an unlikely possibility considering 1) for such a skinny guy, the chest development is unusual and 2) uhhh, there's no way of saying this with good taste, so I'll just say it--I saw the naked penis pic, and I have to say, his nuts looked pretty small, something I thought I read happened to 'roid users.

Just wondering.

Anonymous said...

Derek Freeman's reputation has taken a hit lately. Paul Shankman's book is a frequent citation, and Freeman's mental history doesn't help his credibility. I personally haven't read any of the books in question

I saw Shankman's article on Freeman and Mead in Skeptic magazine, he just wrote in circles, no real refutation. I still really don't know what the article was about, I think he was claiming there was no real controversy or something along those lines. Ironically, all the rest of the articles in that issue regarding "Anthropology Wars" were all in the HBD camp or close to it. Really surprising considering how little criticism leftist scientists like Gould and Sagan came under during their lives from the editors of the magazine. I think the first article ( Shankman's was the third in the series ) was even pretty complimentary to Francis Galton if memory serves.

Anonymous said...

"Furthermore, studies have demonstrated that modern human variation is generally continuous, rather than discrete or “racial,” and that most variation in modern humans is within, rather than between, populations [11],[17]."

More PC bullshit.


The motivation for that statement is PC.

The statements are actually approximately factually correct.

They are also vastly over interpreted by most people who echo them.

1. Human variation is generally continuous.

This simply means that most traits show a geographical gradation, rather than sharp discontinuities. That's generally true, but geographic boundaries (e.g. the Sahara) also tend to introduce discontinuities and those geographical boundaries tend to occur at about the places where we'd draw lines separating races.

2. most variation in modern humans is within, rather than between, populations

This is not true of skin color, but it is true of IQ.

It's a statement about the fact that there's a lot of variation within populations, which is true.

It doesn't mean that the difference between populations are small or unimportant.

In the case of IQ, siblings differ on average by 12 IQ points, and siblings obviously come from the same population. But that 12 IQ point difference makes siblings very different, as the 15 IQ point B-W difference results in very different average outcomes by group.

Chuck said...

"Furthermore, studies have demonstrated that modern human variation is generally continuous, rather than discrete or “racial,” and that most variation in modern humans is within, rather than between, populations [11],[17]."

More PC bullshit"

No, it's true. Phenotypic differences tend to be clinal -- which just says that they're a function of selection due to common environmental factors (e.g. due to common climate).

As for "more variation within," this is the same with the HBD differences that everyone discusses. For example, in a oft cited study Jensen found that the Between race difference (of 12 points in that study) represented only 14% of the total variance (versus 26% between families, 39% within families, etc.). In short, there's no contradiction between "more variation within" and "group X has a mean IQ 1SD below group Y."

Svigor said...

scientists are human beings rooted in cultural contexts

I'd bet on the honesty of the cultural context of the 19th century, and the scientists in it, over the current, any day of the week.

At least in this context...

Anonymous said...

"Derek Freeman's reputation has taken a hit lately."

True, but common sense about human nature and sexuality tell us Mead was more a romanticist-ideologue than a real scientist. Her stuff is like watching THE NEW WORLD. All that 'bathing with the one you love' crap.

Anonymous said...

So, 'The Skulls of Elders of Racism' by Gould was a hoax?

Anonymous said...

Or maybe 'The Skulls of Elders of Aryan' is more like it.

Mismeasured Special Snowflake said...

Judging by the Wiki entry on The Mismeasure of Man, the journalist love this book but many scientist mock it.

Judging by Amazon, the majority (the non-scientific) love the book as much as they spread their hatred against those who negatively review the book (the scientific types).

Here is the rebuttal by Arthur Jensen to the book which singles him out for particular criticism.

Jack Aubrey said...

OT, but back to that botched diversity visa lottery you posted about on May 13.

I predicted in the first comment that the end result would be that both the winners of the botched lottery and the legit lottery would wind up coming, and it now appears like that may happen. So now it looks like we may well wind up getting a double dose of "diversity" this year. Does anyonme doubt that AG Holder will pretty much roll over and refuse to fight a suit whose winners skew heavily African?

read it said...

The scientist as useful idiot.

Science as object of adulation, not understanding.

Anonymous said...

An addendum. Gould's scientific fraud---other aspects of which I'd heard about a long time ago---was one of four or five separate things which several years ago suddenly combined in a blinding flash to illuminate certain very important elements of HBD. Elements of HBD which no one---whether PC liberal or hard-core WN---seems ever to have recognized, or at any rate discussed anywhere on the Internet.

Sounds interesting. What are you thinking here?

Anonymous said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/08/science/a-new-look-at-old-data-may-discredit-a-theory-on-race.html

^ They nailed Franz Boas about 10 years ago in that piece.

The lie has gotten around the world. The truth is slowly getting its boots on.

Gene Berman said...

Crawfurdmuir:

You are exactly right. It "boggles the mind" that Marxists and fellow-travellers ever expect any of their arguments or assertions to be taken seriously when their underlying philosophy regards prevarication and obfuscation (and much worse) entirely acceptable, even recommended, if the
cause is served thereby.

Just about thirty years ago, after my attention had been called to some passages from an introductory Economics textbook (used at Penn State, attended by my daughter), I called, located, and spoke with the author, then head of the economics dept. at another large state university. In response to my criticism of the passages, he said to me (as to a child): "Mr. berman, it's quite clear that you don't understand the difference between an economics professor and a marxian economics professor. The job of an economics professor is to teach economics. The job of a marxian economics professor is to produce Marxists."

I submit that, for a Marxist, that was an unusual display of honesty.

Chief Seattle said...

RKU wrote: I think a pretty large fraction of the decline exponential has been caused by the expanding tendency to follow the old USSR/Pravda way of doing things, otherwise known as "pretending makes it so."

"manipulation of expectations" has become the main way on thinking about macroeconomics. No longer is inflation related to the money supply increasing - instead it only happens when people have inflationary expectations. Likewise for economic growth - it doesn't happen because of new resources found, or by new technologies, it happens because of "consumer confidence".

The problem with this way of thinking is that it's sometimes effective in the short term. Lots of coaches tell their teams to think positive going into a game. But if the players stop practicing and relying on happy thought - the results are predictable.

Anonymous said...

"Steve, apologies for this OT thought, but it's interesting--Jay Nordlinger of NRO, in today's column on Weiner"

Speaking of Weiner, PC scientists also spread the lie that penis size differences among races are trivial. I suspect this was done to allay white male fears about black men, but I think most people know the truth by now, what with other standup comedy joke being 'big dick, small dick'.

Anonymous said...

So, Gould did for science what Wall Street 'scientists' did with finance.

And Brimelow who exposed the truth about lending practices was the Morton in this case. But many top economists ignored Brimelow's findings as 'racist' and purposely mismeasured the risks of New Finance and foisted it on the public as a panacea to all problems.
Ironically, this was done by people with pretty large craniums. It goes to show, no matter how smart you are, PC makes you stupid.
PC is like the penis. Penis made Weiner, a smart guy, act stupid. He was busy measuring his penis than his chances for succeeding in politics. And PC measured non-existent 'racism' in the banking industry and came up with 'scientific' numbers about that would miraculously lead to 'social justice'.

Uh, the hell with all this. Maybe we should just WAIT FOR SUPERMAN(and spiderman, iron man, x-men, etc). Or just find someone to bathe with.

mnl said...

Thanks Steve. A classic example of reflexive thinking on the part of Gould--of wrongly assuming one's own vantage point is bias-free and void of cultural influence as one points out the culture-influenced and biased distortions of another (Morton).

David said...

Crying out in pain as he kicked us.

David said...

>The problem with [wishing-makes-it-so] thinking is that it's sometimes effective in the short term. Lots of coaches tell their teams to think positive going into a game. But if the players stop practicing and relying on happy thought - the results are predictable.<

The scientific attitude is to be neither positive nor negative, but to suspend judgment while data are accumulated.

Fewer than 1% of homo sapiens are capable of this attitude. On that <1% all fundamental progress depends.

The remainders of humanity find even the statement (above) of the scientific attitude outrageous - impossible, dangerous, delusional, antisocial, dishonest, etc.

Social science largely ain't. It's a field for the flakes to whirl around in...and bury us deeper in cognitive winter.

Wandrin said...

"Doesn't seem like Sailer, whose nobility is based on his courage to face unpopular truths."

Nudge. Interesting book.

.
"The true believer social scientists just ignored it or claimed a non-existent refutation of these studies and nothing changed."

The true believers never believed it, only their students did. If the students stop believing one by one then eventually the wall of pretend belief will collapse like the Soviet Union.

.
"It goes to show, no matter how smart you are, PC makes you stupid."

If you see the liberal gene as a novelty engine and higher IQ people have a competitive advantage in a constantly changing environment then you could see PC as an evolutionary strategy for smart sociopaths.

.

gfs said...

"If you see the liberal gene as a novelty engine and higher IQ people have a competitive advantage in a constantly changing environment then you could see PC as an evolutionary strategy for smart sociopaths."

Yes, it makes them the gatekeepers. Beyond this I conflate it with what communist elites end up doing to maintain power. And when things really get cooking, bring in the smart psychopaths.

Norms would fare better playing at being too dumb to follow the PC rules. Don't let these jerks start pulling your strings in the first place. Of course, it'd never happen that you had wholesome, sensible, average IQ folk who resisted the manipulation, the agitprop and the outright lies.

Kiwiguy said...

USA Today reports on the Gould exposure:

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2011/06/stephen-jay-gould-mismeasured-skulls-in-racial-records-dispute/1

Kiwiguy said...

***An addendum. Gould's scientific fraud---other aspects of which I'd heard about a long time ago---was one of four or five separate things which several years ago suddenly combined in a blinding flash to illuminate certain very important elements of HBD. ***

@ RKU,

That races had been separated for a mere eyeblink? Too short a time for any differences to arise?

Wandrin said...

"Norms would fare better playing at being too dumb to follow the PC rules."

Spot on. Play dumb, that's what i always do, like the good soldier Svejk.

Anonymous said...

A classic example of reflexive thinking on the part of Gould--of wrongly assuming one's own vantage point is bias-free

I think you're giving entirely too much credit to Gould, who was a nasty, dishonest piece of work.

I do credit Gould's TMOM for opening my eyes to HBD, though. Back in high school I was inclined to side with Gould's position, though completely ignorant of the field, because that's what right-thinking people did. Then I read his book and was struck by how weak it was: full of evasions, calculated point-missing, slippery phrasing and arguments, and sanctimonious table-pounding. If this was supposed to be the knock-down argument against the other side, I decided I needed to learn a lot more about what that side was saying.

Irving Yates said...

Gould should have been a climatologist, he could get away with fudging there.

Udo said...

"I'd bet on the honesty of the cultural context of the 19th century, and the scientists in it, over the current, any day of the week."

-That depends- remember that psychoanalysis and all the nonsense of Freud started up in the 19th Century.

Gene Berman said...

Udo:

You've drifted.

The subject wasn't "nonsense" but (deliberate) dishonesty.

The past is full of both (just like the present) but, except for unconscious selection bias, they're essentially different roadblocks on any path to truth.

RKU said...

Kiwiguy: That races had been separated for a mere eyeblink? Too short a time for any differences to arise?>

Certainly not.

I'd actually like to try to publish my theory at some point, and since I'm too busy with other things right now, I'd rather not provide the details. Also, I'm not really sure it's correct, though I think it probably is.

Here's a clue. I really shouldn't have indicated that it's related to HBD issues, since it actually applies to all living organisms, though people and a handful of other species are the only ones in which it probably acts as a very large factor. And if I'm right it may account for the evolutionary origins of many, perhaps even most prominent human traits. It's also one of those ideas which, like Accelerationism, seems almost self-evidently true once you consider it.

Anyway, it's back to my real work for now...

Anonymous said...

Marxist science is not science in the capitalist sense, but revolutionary - political - action designed to change reality. If you doubt it, ask Lysenko.

And Marxist science will kill its opponents. If you doubt it, ask Academician Vavilov.

Anonymous said...

Marxist science is not science in the capitalist sense, but revolutionary - political - action designed to change reality. If you doubt it, ask Lysenko.

And Marxist science will kill its opponents. If you doubt it, ask Academician Vavilov.

ben tillman said...

Derek Freeman's reputation has taken a hit lately.

Well what about Maartin Orans's book, Not Even Wrong: Margaret Mead, Derek Freeman, and the Samoans?

It purports to be unique "because it is the only book on the Mead-Freeman controversy that makes use of Mead's field materials".

ben tillman said...

It means that for 85% or so of genetic variation there is at least one person in various populations that has the different genes.

No, that's not what Lewontin's statement means. What it means is that if you take all 7 billion people in the world and compare each to the other 6,999,999,999, then the sum of the genetic differences among the memmbers of the five or six or seven races (i.e., the sum of the differences determined when you compare each member of a race with every other member of the race) would be 5.67 times as great as the sum of the genetic differences determined by comparing each human in the world to every human who is not a member of his race.

That is ridiculous, of course, because there will be far more interracial comparisons than intraracial, and the differences reflected in interracial comparisons, on average, will be much greater than those reflected in intraracial comparisons.

That's what Lewontin said. If you want to say something else that may actually be true, great.

TGGP said...

So RKU, what's the HBD secret that's never been discussed before on the internet?

Kiwiguy said...

@ RKU,

Interesting, I hope you find time to write up & publish your thoughts at some point.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't Gould attract the attention that the guys who faked cold fusion did?

Still he starred in The Simpsons when he rushed up to the Simpsons house and Lisa expected him to have done work into disproving that they was an angel. He announced that the results were inconclusive and he was only rushing because he wanted to use the bathroom.

Anonymous said...

http://www.modernlibrary.com/top-100/100-best-nonfiction/

Mismeasure of Man is #24.

Anonymous said...

When the harsh outcomes of evolution are "refuted" by the endless charges of racism, it is certainly time for professional journalism to come in and excavate the actual facts. The accusations against the late Sir Cyril Burt, like this one made against Morton by Gould, were stalled and silenced by actual excavation of details. As far as journalism is concerned, this has a way of not happening, even in the prestigous publications where one would naively assume it would happen.
At the moment, facile accusations have been loosened against a London School of Economics academic, Satoshi Kanazawa. In this matter, if history be any guide, as details are brought forth, the story will get less and less attention from the media. However, to those few "cranks" determined to get it all together, what is excavated later on will have high probability of exoneration as against the initial voltage of accusations of racism, racism, racism. One would hope (in vain, it seems) that over time, competent journalists would have "internalized" the special built-in bias journalism seems to have in these topics of lack of equi-potentiality among evolved human groups. If these incidents--Burt, Morton/Gould, Rushton, Kanazawa-- are put in sequence on a spindle, they congeal into an overall theme that confronts journalism with a mirror to its face. It was in about 1981 that the late Richard J. Herrnstein in the ATLANTIC MONTHLY addressed brilliantly the problem of the Media and IQ (Jensenism). This was seminal to the research by Snyderman and Rothman, fully published in 1988. THREE DECADES downstream, it is as though reason and information have had no lasting effect whatsoever upon professional journalism.

Anonymous said...

This story should be investigated by:

http://www.stinkyjournalism.org/

Anonymous said...

I shocked, SHOCKED that S. J. Gould would do something so dishonest. He was such a nice man, too.

Finley MacDonald said...

I suspect that the reason people buy that Gould has been refuted by a group of Pennsylvania anthropolgists is because they tout the fact that they obtained measurements and then bicker over points that if Gould contested, were ancillary to his central arguments, which have not indeed been addressed by these scientists at all. In the dozen or so pages that Gould devotes to Morton's tables, he points out mostly that the sample was flawed and the data misinterpreted, and I don't see how you can read and not agree unless your mind is already made up. What the scientists present is a kind of straw man, and I don't know why people miss this.