At Undark, Michael Schulson asks,
Why are ostensibly respectable, peer-reviewed journals now publishing discussions of what has long been dismissed as bigoted psychological research?
IN THE 20 years since the publication of his best-known book, “The Culture of Critique,” Kevin MacDonald, an emeritus professor of psychology at California State University, Long Beach, has complained that his work receives scant attention from academics — though there are reasons for the silence. The book, after all, has much in common with centuries-old anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and, using the language of evolutionary psychology, MacDonald infamously argues that many Jews oppose the values of Western civilization in order to pursue insular group interests.
Since the book’s publication in 1998, MacDonald has openly aligned himself with white nationalists, including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and testified on behalf of the Holocaust denier David Irving. More recently, MacDonald’s work has become popular among the ascendant alt-right. The Daily Stormer, a white nationalist blog, sometimes refers to him affectionately as “K-Mac.”
With a few exceptions, though, mainstream evolutionary psychologists have long ignored MacDonald’s work — that is, until this year. In March, the journal Human Nature published a pointed but respectful rebuttal of the theories postulated in “The Culture of Critique.” Then, in early June, a full-throated defense of MacDonald’s work appeared in Evolutionary Psychological Science, a mainstream, peer-reviewed journal published by Springer Nature.
That paper, titled “Jewish Group Evolutionary Strategy Is the Most Plausible Hypothesis,” largely repeats MacDonald’s arguments. It claims that Jews have evolved to pursue strategies that “promote Jewish interests in the West,” and that Jews may be biologically wired to be more ethnocentric than other peopleMore.
Dr. Schulson, yes, it’s a terrible thing. But first, evolutionary psychology has always been a pseudoscience. Most pseudoscience is not nasty. But when a pseudoscience is respectable (after all, Darwin’s name is often invoked by evolutionary psychologists), it is a more desirable target for nasties.
Second, Big Science today is having a hard time fighting off the progressives, who have become increasingly ati-semitic. What do you make of the advice to scientists assailed by pussyhats and others to just shout louder? Surely the message is, you are on your own!
Racism has infected even the classification systems of human evolutionary studies but — as we know well at Uncommon Descent — it is very hard to get and keep a serious discussion of that fact going.
Anyway, in planning a strategy, the thing to keep in mind is that it isn’t the disreputable pseudoscience you need to watch. It’s the respectable pseudoscience, the one defended in Springer publications.
See also: “The evolutionary psychologist knows why you vote — and shop, and tip at restaurants”
Nature advises scientists concerned about March for Science’s “special interests”: Shout louder.
Do racial assumptions prevent recognizing Homo erectus as fully human?