Politically motivated retraction of benign national intelligence study by Clark et al (2020)

Original version:

Andrew Gelman has a write-up from his perspective with woke title:

As he notes:

I don’t know what will happen next. The above-linked Retraction Watch article quotes the former editor of the journal as saying that the current editor “is working on how best to respond to criticisms” of that paper. I’m not sure why they need to respond, now that the paper has been retracted.

It’s pretty clear that all this fuss is about the article’s political content, not its data problems.

Here’s an interesting question: what if the journal article had the same inflammatory political content and the same breathtaking leaps of logic, but no data problems? What would Psychological Science do then? I’m not sure.

For example, suppose the four authors of that paper had put together some statistics on racial differences in standardized tests in the U.S. and then run some state-level analysis interacting with religiosity and ethnic composition? With U.S. data there aren’t such data problems as with the cross-national IQ data.

They could’ve supplemented this with some experiments on undergraduates and on Mechanical Turk participants, finding some differences—you can always find some differences—and then spun some story about how religion is needed to keep the masses under control. They could’ve still taken that bold stand against criminal justice reform and unrestricted sociosexuality.

I guess that such an article could’ve been accepted by the journal, for the same reasons they accepted the original paper. If so, then any retraction would not have been able to use the low quality of the international data as an excuse: they would’ve had to face up to the problems of story time. And that would be tough, given that the APS has gone all-in on story time (“We stand ready to add our voice and expertise to bring about positive change”) when coming from the left, if not the right.

Gelman’s honesty here is a nice touch. The historical pattern seems to be that the stronger the data the hereditarians bring forward, the more extreme the hostility. Arthur Jensen (who we discussed only yesterday) is a testament to this behavior: he simply would not stop publishing or talking about the topic, no matter if woke activists sent bomb threats, slashed his tires, forced his family to move to a secret address, disrupted his lectures time and time again. As one eminent researcher (Ian Deary) noted on this work in a special issue dedicated to his work: Persistent, Conservative Reductionism. In the same issue, another eminent researcher: Intensive, Detailed, Exhaustive.

This affair just reinforces the usual fact: there are double standards. If you say something the woke don’t like, your evidence better be 1000% perfect. Any deviation from their standard of perfection means you have evil motivations, even if you profess publicly otherwise, even if you have 10 black friends to vouch for you. Everybody knows that sub-Saharan African data are not good. Not for IQ, not for anything else. These countries are often missing entirely from published datasets or country rankings since the data quality is so bad. But no one cares too much about this, unless you break the taboo, then the system activates the immune response and you get this pattern.

My advice to authors is simply submit the piece to another journal, no changes needed. Mankind Quarterly is probably happy to take it.