Satoshi Kanazawa Ousted from “Psychology Today” Blog Line-Up

Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa's London School of Economics (LSE) web page, from a screen grab; if the peers in his field are mightily upset, what does that say about the LSE leadership and management, academic freedom or not? (Courtesy: Dominica Times)

I’m on Color of Change‘s e-mail list, so this came as welcome news.  From the Color of Change site:

Psychology Today Agrees to remove Controversial Author Satoshi Kanazawa from Website; Implements New Policies to Prevent Inflammatory Content

Following last week’s apology, publication responds to over 75,000 ColorOfChange.org members on how it will prevent dehumanizing content in the future.

June 1, 2011

NEW YORK – Psychology Today, the publication that recently came under fire for allowing a dehumanizing article to be published on its website two weeks ago, today stated that controversial contributor Satoshi Kanazawa – the author of the article in question – is no longer contributing to the publication and that they are taking the necessary steps to prevent an incident like this from ever happening again.

According to an e-mail sent to ColorOfChange.org – the nation’s largest African-American online political organization who asked its members to flood the editorial offices of Psychology Today with phone calls, e-mails and Facebook and Twitter comments and demand clarification – Psychology Today is no longer allowing Kanazawa to contribute to the publication. “We are currently implementing measures to ensure more rigorous oversight of blogs prior to publication, including nights and weekends, when this was posted. The blogger in question is no longer contributing to the site,” said Kaja Perina, editor-in-chief of Psychology Today.

Two weeks ago, Psychology Today posted an article on their website from controversial contributor, Satoshi Kanazawa. The article – “Why Are African-American Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” – attempted to use pseudo-scientific evidence to explain why Kanazawa thought black women were less physically attractive than white women.

Over the past week, more than 75,000 ColorOfChange members called on Psychology Today via petition signatures, emails and various social media outlets to take responsibility for allowing this racist and dehumanizing post to be published on their website and explain how they will ensure something like this never happens again. Last week, the publication broke its silence and took an important first step towards accountability by apologizing for publishing the article, but failed to explicitly state the steps it would take to prevent incidents like this from happening again. After receiving hundreds of phone calls from ColorOfChange members last week, they finally made the clarification.

Psychology Today’s apology and explanation of the steps it will take to ensure that the publication will no longer be a vehicle for attacks against our community is a testament to the power of our membership and the commitments we have to hold media accountable for their content,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange.org. “Clearly Psychology Today isn’t the only media outlet that has given a platform to racist and dehumanizing content. We will continue to hold not just Psychology Today accountable, but all media that allow themselves to become vehicles for unfair attacks on our communities.

It wasn’t just Color of Change who had an online petition.  So did Change.org.  So did a few other black-oriented or progressive blogs whose signatories were just as outraged.

What’s even more satisfying is that his own peers are writing to the London School of Economics, and to other publications, criticizing his work and how his faulty conclusions and representations have reflected badly on their field. However, understand this: evolutionary psychology is a decidedly controversial discipline based on Darwinist studies. I no more support this bunch than Kanazawa himself, because in some sensitive cases, especially those involving race and gender, these guys are skating on rather thin ice.  The signatories on this petition, it seems, would rather that Kanazawa not be spotlighted as the mainstream or pop mouthpiece for their field because it appears that he consistently uses unwieldly or faulty sources and data to support his findings and that as a result, he has become too much of a lightning rod for controversy.

An international group of more than 60 academics has accused a controversial evolutionary psychologist of refusing to engage in scientific dialogue, highlighting long-standing criticism of his work in an attempt to protect their discipline from further attack.

The group, which consists of 68 scholars of evolution and human behaviour, wrote to Times Higher Education following the furore over a recent blog by Satoshi Kanazawa, a lecturer at the London School of Economics, in which he claimed that an analysis of data showed that black women were “far less attractive” than those of other races.

The academics and journal editors from countries including the US, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Holland, Italy and New Zealand claim that Dr Kanazawa – who is currently on sabbatical from his post as reader in management – has attracted a flood of criticism to the field of evolutionary psychology.

Defending the discipline, they say that “a large number of scientists who apply an evolutionary approach to human behaviour consider Dr Kanazawa’s work to be poor quality and have demonstrated this via their own academic critiques”.

The signatories say they have taken the “unusual step of making this statement to counteract the damage we believe he is doing to the perception of our discipline in the media and among the public”.

They go on to list 24 papers that have critiqued Dr Kanazawa’s work, which they say involve a total of 59 social and natural scientists. The critics have “expertise sufficient to critique his work both theoretically and methodologically, including statisticians and epidemiologists”, they write.

They add that 35 psychologists, including many evolutionary psychologists, recently contributed to a critique of Dr Kanazawa’s research that is shortly to be published in the peer-reviewed journal American Psychologist.

The statement, which has been posted on the website of the journal Evolutionary Psychology, says that Andrew Gelman, director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University, re-analysed data used by Dr Kanazawa in 2007 to suggest that “beautiful people have more daughters”. Professor Gelman concluded that his findings were not supported by the data, it says.

The statement goes on to say that “the peer-review process is not perfect” and claims that in some instances papers by Dr Kanazawa that had been rejected by one journal on scientific grounds subsequently appeared almost unaltered in another.

Despite the strength of their criticism, the signatories say they agree with the sentiments expressed by Dr Kanazawa in an opinion piece in THE in 2006, in which he said that “academic freedom must be paramount”

Yeah, I would say the peer review process would be faulty as well.  It means that some people may secretly support what Kanazawa is promoting, throwing away ethics as well as rigor including such provocative papers in their journals.  Some people need to tighten up–and check themselves.

As for Kanazawa’s insistence on academic freedom: yeah, jerk, but it’s your personal opinion embedded in these papers, personal opinion that is patently insupportable as fact or theory. I have no problem with people stating their personal opinion, and I will hear them out. However, when you are in the academy, such opinion pales with the logical truth and supportable findings. Instead, we have someone trying persuade others through papers, pronouncements and speeches that such opinion is logical or scientific fact, while refusing to see reason, submit to dialogue or examine proof that it is not. We have someone insinuating that it is others’ hard luck, left leanings (Red-bait when he didn’t have to go there) and prejudice that they just don’t want to understand or accept his research. Such posturing, baiting, slanted findings, and outright mis/disinformation casts a demonstrable shadow on the academy. It turns the academy not into the purveyor of dialogue and investigation, but the instigator and transmitter of pseudoscience and propaganda. I think Kanazawa flings down “academic freedom” as blackmail, to get jittery academics to take his side, when scientific, ethical and moral standards all demand his dismissal. I would hope that the LSE can see this blackmail coming a mile away and will not be so persuaded that this episode is yet another assault on academic freedom when it is not. It most certainly is not.

~ by blksista on June 2, 2011.

3 Responses to “Satoshi Kanazawa Ousted from “Psychology Today” Blog Line-Up”

  1. When I first read the article I knew there would be backlash from the public. I think it’s a good thing that people are held responsible for what they publish online.

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  2. This is such great news, and I’m so happy. Kanazawa and his racist diatribe was the main topic of discussion on “The View” Wednesday morning, June 1. Whoopi was furious and had some strong comments as well as Sherri. Now Naomi Campbell is fighting back on that Cadbury ad…the chocolate cookie with diamonds on it.

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    • Not sure what Naomi Campbell is up to, or why a chocolate cookie with diamonds would be racist in itself. Tell me…

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