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The Scientist tries to come to grips with the Mortarboard Mob problem

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What’s hot? What’s not?/Niklas Bildhauer, Wikimedia

We outlined the story of how a mortarboard mob hounded out of the journals a paper by a respected mathematician that had passed peer review for fear of “repercussions” (= the hell they themselves would go out and raise). The paper was about “greater variability in various traits among males than females of many species, including humans.” That is, more men than women win the Field’s Medal and more men than women sit on Death Row. That is something everyone everywhere has noticed but the social justice gestapo makes it difficult to discuss intelligently, as in this instance.

Anyway, from The Scientist, we learn,

For the scientific community, the double retraction has highlighted issues with the editorial process, and how politics and controversy can get in the way. “It is a great pity that the article was not published in The Mathematical Intelligencer together with a rebuttal,” writes Tim Gowers, a mathematician at the University of Cambridge in the UK, in an email to The Scientist. “This would have led to a useful debate that was not mixed up with issues about publication ethics.”

The major flaw in the paper, according to Mark Kirkpatrick, a mathematical geneticist at the University of Texas at Austin who has published models of the evolution of mating preferences and selected traits, is that the rules of inheritance are not taken into account. “The paper’s conclusions are simply wrong,” he says. “The genes of the successful individuals in a population are transmitted to the offspring and [Hill’s] model does not have any equation that links up the genes of one generation with the genes of the next generation.” Anna Azvolinsky, “A Twice-Retracted Paper on Sex Differences Ignites Debate” at The Scientist

Well, obviously, if the peer reviewers didn’t see that as a problem, Kirkpatrick should have had the opportunity to raise it in a rebuttal paper. But such an approach assumes that the suppressors of the paper could have tolerated an honest discussion.

Fortunately, the paper has garnered enough notice now that anyone who is interested in the area can find out about it and read what it says.  Too bad The Scientist couldn’t just publish it.

Azvolinsky appears to have almost grasped the fact that critics of the paper don’t care what’s true. They haven’t the inner moral worth to address the possibility that the evidence might not support something they passionately believe. So they move to just shut down the publication of research that feels threatening to them.

The noteworthy part is that people in the field always think that someone else will be attacked, not them. And they are right, for sure. So long as they never publish anything that goes against the Mob. Welcome to the world of social justice science.

See also: Mortarboard mob “disappears” respected mathematician. (His findings were mathematically correct but did not suit a social science agenda.)

AAAS to introduce a new policy for expelling members. (Let’s see where that goes.)


Which side will atheists choose in the war on science? They need to re-evaluate their alliance with progressivism, which is doing science no favours.

7 Replies to “The Scientist tries to come to grips with the Mortarboard Mob problem

  1. 1
    random.dent says:

    I’m a little worried about the activity around here lately. When Telic Thoughts went down it was very sad. I hope that doesn’t happen here.

  2. 2
    News says:

    random.dent, you have been getting approx four posts a day for a while. But yes, I wish the other authors would post more too.

  3. 3
    random.dent says:

    Sorry I wasn’t more clear. I was more referring to the comments. They seem to have lost a lot of steam lately. I wonder if the commenters here are hanging out more on some other ID blog nobody told me about.

  4. 4 says:


    If feasible, a mobile-friendly website would be great as would be email notifications and the possibility to contribute original essays.

  5. 5
    Seversky says:

    I would say that Brian Leiter’s comment sums up my position

    What’s clearly improper is for journals to accept and even publish papers, and then retract them after the editorial process or publication process is complete, unless there are issues of academic fraud.

  6. 6
    polistra says:

    “They haven’t the inner moral worth to address the possibility that the evidence might not support something they passionately believe.”

    No, the problem isn’t lack of morality or “moral relativity”. The problem with SJWs is an extremely strict and WRONG moral code. We need LESS moral judgments and MORE cold cynical objectivity.

    The result of hard objectivity WILL agree with Natural Law morality, because Natural Law is based on long experimental observations of objective human reality.

  7. 7
    News says:

    Seversky and Leiter are right. But when people are governed by PC, ethically correct standards end up betraying them.

    For one thing, when pious lies become a habit, people can’t take refuge in fact-based thinking. They can’t say “Hill may be quite wrong but he did his math right so we will publish his paper even if many are upset. Let those people post an adequate response then.” There would be too many previously suppressed bodies of information for them to risk such honesty in only one case.

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