Feminist Philosophers

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“LSE scholar admits race analysis was ‘flawed’.” September 18, 2011

Filed under: academia,race — annejjacobson @ 7:34 pm

Kanazawa’s disgraceful pseudo-scientific claims about the relative attrativeness of black women has brought LSE into disrepute, an official letter from the institution notes. LSE is restricting his teaching and publication abilities for one year. In his letter, Kanasawa says he deeply regrets the unintended consequences of his blog post.

Is this enough? Was the post merely bad science?

The BBC says:

Dr Mikhail Lyubansky, a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois, said the posting failed to consider possible “anti-black bias” in the perceptions of the respondents and interviewers.
“Without this kind of methodological analysis, Kanazawa’s entire premise – that there is such a thing as a single objective standard of attractiveness – is fatally (and tragically) flawed,” he wrote.

Not all bad science is morally corrupt, but this instance seems at least close to that.

 

8 Responses to ““LSE scholar admits race analysis was ‘flawed’.””

  1. Nemo Says:

    In the earlier thread (or one of them) we had on the Kanazawa research, I offered a reading of Kanazawa’s thesis (the one I suspected he intended) under which (1) he was not actually positing an objective aesthetic standard and (2) racial bias in the perceptions of the raters was actually irrelevant to the thesis. Under that reading, Lyubansky’s critique above would be inapposite. I’m not surprised this has happened, though.

  2. annejjacobson Says:

    Nemo, I remember disagreeing with your charitable reading, though I can’t remember if I said so.

  3. Nemo Says:

    Me neither. Did you disagree that it was a coherent reading, or just that it might plausibly have been the intended one?

    I didn’t think it was particularly charitable, but that if someone writes something susceptible to more than one meaning, and one of those meanings avoids flaws in reasoning that should be obvious even to the average layperson, more often than not (in my experience) that’s the meaning that was intended. Not always, but that’s the way to bet if one doesn’t have much other specific evidence to go on.

  4. annejjacobson Says:

    Nemo, I wondered after I put that comment up about the sense of “charitable” I meant. I may have meant simply the quasi-Davidsonian sense in “principle of charity,” which is roughly what you describe. I think, though, that I actually didn’t think he came out as all that coherent when one read his words carefully on your interpretation. So I probably was thinking in terms of something like “undeservedly rational-sounding.”

    I’ll check back and see if I said anything, but I’d just as soon not revisit the issue, since I think objecting to your point took a lot of thought!

  5. Sherri Irvin Says:

    In case people who missed the earlier controversy want to go back and judge for themselves, screen shots of the original blog post can be found here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/why-black-women-are-less-physically-attractive-tha

    The post was originally titled “Why Are African-American Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” It was changed by editors before the screen shots were made.

  6. Nemo Says:

    And here are the Feminist Philosophers threads in which the meaning of Kanazawa’s thesis was debated:

    http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/er/

    http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/against-kanazawa/

  7. Restructure! Says:

    Reading Kanazawa charitably would be reasonable, if you didn’t know the other types of things he’s written:

    Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature

    Why most suicide bombers are Muslim, beautiful people have more daughters, humans are naturally polygamous, sexual harassment isn’t sexist, and blonds are more attractive.

    There is a whole collection of these types of evolutionary psychology articles by Kanazawa at Psychology Today.

  8. Nemo Says:

    That older article reads like a teaser for Miller & Kanazawa’s 2007 book. One thing I note about it is that what they’re actually asserting tends to turn out to be a bit more subtle and modest than what the subheader might lead one to expect, and turns on fairly specific senses of certain terms. In other words, it has some of the same traits that I think facilitated the misinterpretation of the 2010 article.


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