Criticism of me and my research on SlateStarCodex’s subreddit

Most of it seems to be just rewritten stuff from RationalWiki’s collection of inaccuracies.

I repost my reply below here for prosperity, and also for those too lazy to read Reddit.


I’m Emil Kirkegaard, and it seems in order to make some general remarks as well as rebut some of the worse claims.

However, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the fact that Emil Kirkegaard posted here in the past few days. For context, Emil Kirkegaard is a complete unknown among most in genetics. The few that have heard of him consider him a complete laughingstock. He has no academic qualifications commensurate whatsoever with publishing behavioral genetics research and no association with any institutions of repute to booth.

I am an unknown among people in genetics, especially for unsurprising the reason that I don’t generally do much standard genetics research. In fact, I have published little research on behavioral genetics too, mainly for the reason that the datasets — twins etc. — needed to do this are heavily guarded and thus outside of my reach as an independent (at least, until recently). My published research is mainly in differential psychology and the intersection with sociology. A large number of people in this area evidently do know me given that they frequently have mutual interactions with me on Twitter as well as it conferences etc.

In general, it seems like a not too well thought out idea to criticize someone based on their lack of credentials in a community full of autodidacts. I’ve never seen anyone criticize Gwern for this or Scott for that matter. Scott is a doctor-psychiatrist, yet he writes interesting stuff on all kinds of topics such as psychology, behavioral genetics, philosophy and politics. I don’t know what Gwern’s formal background is, but it seems unlikely that he holds advanced degrees in every topic he writes about.

Most of his research is published in two non-peer reviewed “journals” that he edits.

OpenPsych journals do have peer review. In fact, they have open peer review meaning that literally anyone can see the review of any paper. For instance, look in the post-publication forum for the reviews of all published papers. I think this is a much better and certainly more transparent review than journals ordinarily practice. My status as editor has little impact on this system, since editors do not have rejection powers in these journals. Nor can they select reviewers at whim. Rather all in-house reviewers can review any paper they desire. The role of the editor is mainly to smooth things by asking reviewers whether they have time to review this or that submission.

This claim about no review seems to originate from RationalWiki, so it seems that OP just read that source and decided to re-write it for SSC subreddit.

Indeed, he is most famous for pulling a bunch of data from OKCupid, without the consent of the company or the people whose data he used, and throwing it online without anonymizing the data, in clear violation of every single ethical standard set by IRBs anywhere, which could reveal the identities of basically all of the people in the dataset.

Did you ever actually look at the data? It’s already anonymous because people use pseudonyms on OKCupid.

In general, this criticism makes no sense given that the information in the dataset is much less than what’s available on the website. If someone actually wanted to identify gays in Iran, they would go to the website and search for gays in Iran and locate all of them with photos etc. They wouldn’t download an incomplete version of the website with no photos to search. If one really wanted to make this argument, one should make it against OKCupid for making it possible to locate gays etc. in Islamic countries in the first place.

I don’t think scraping dating sites for research is unethical. Scraping websites for research purposes is fairly common, and indeed commonly taught in data science classes. A number of other people scraped this website before and published their datasets, where nothing happened.

A large number of academics wrote to me in private in support, offering among other things legal assistance if there came to be a court case.

His prior research basically looks at whether immigrants are disproportionately criminals with lower IQs and whether negative stereotypes about Muslims were true, using techniques nobody of repute in the field uses (which, unsurprisingly, ends up showing that Muslims and immigrants are criminals with low IQs).

The stereotype study used the exact same methods other studies into stereotype accuracy have used. I know this because I got them from Lee Jussim’s book (Jussim is the world’s top expert in this field). I also sent my paper to Jussim for comment and he was trilled about it. It doesn’t appear that it used bizarre methods to reach non-standard results. In fact, it basically found the same thing virtually every other study into stereotype accuracy have found: stereotypes about demographic groups are quite accurate. It is also the first such study to be pre-registered and use a large-ish nationally representative sample.

As for the immigrant performance studies, the main method used here is the Pearson correlation, perhaps the most widely used method in all of social science. The data are usually (always I think?) from official sources, so they are pretty hard to deny. In fact, I bought the Danish data directly from the Danish statistics agency. The original files are public on OSF, so anyone can verify their veracity.

Do note that not all immigrants groups are more criminal than the host population. Indeed, a consistent finding has been that East Asians are less criminal, often starkly so. This is totally in line with mainstream findings on the crime rates of East Asians in the USA, Canada etc. Muslim immigrants are generally found to do very poorly, something that has often been noted by others, but not systematically studied as far as I know.

Incorporating country of origin data into models is somewhat unusual, but mainstream research do this too. Here’s a 2017 study.

His post cherry picked data to show that race-mixing is bad for offspring. The only pushback he received was about how he probably doesn’t control for how many multi-racial children grow up in single parent households, which was not encouraging.

There was no cherry picking which several people can verify. The r/hapas subreddit has a list of “hard data” and I simply clicked their links, and discarded the ones that weren’t scientific reports (mostly press releases). This gave me a total of 2 studies I examined that were based on decent samples, and both of which I reported in my post. If you search scholar for citing articles, you will find that there are many such papers, so these two don’t seem to be outliers.

The criticism for not controlling for single-parenthood makes no sense at all. I did not do these studies. How would I control for X confounder? I can’t, I can only report what I found. Besides, controlling for such confounders is a sociologist fallacy.

You seem to be under the idea that my post was advocating the outbreeding depression hypothesis. Whereas in fact I considered it unlikely given the lack of effects for other mixed populations (e.g. African Americans) and the small amount of genetic variation between human populations compared to e.g. dogs that don’t show obvious outbreeding depression effects. My position is simply that these four hypotheses are worth investigating.

For what it’s worth, if the outbreeding depression hypothesis turns out to be mainly true, then no specific social policy follows. One might regard government meddling into the affairs of who mates with who as unacceptable, even if there are increased chances of some problems. The state does not generally prevent other people with bad genetics from mating either. Furthermore, if outbreeding depression is real, then it’s due to epistasis — gene by gene interaction. This means that if we can figure out which gene combinations cause this effect, one can screen embryos for bad combinations and avoid the problem. This is however only possible if one identifies the genetic causes, making it important to research the question. My personal stance is that the government should not apply coercive eugenics even if this effect turns out to be real.

Views All Time
Views All Time
431
Views Today
Views Today
6