The crazy Frenchman Philippe Lemoine (twitter, blog: Nec Pluribus Impar) was kind enough to do a rough translation of the French article in Le Temps (the times). I read it before through Google translate, but French-English translations are not particularly good yet.
The article itself is amusing in the number of silly factual errors it has. The experts quoted are of course all cherry picked to give the same story the journalist wanted to write (or was solicited to write, she’s a freelancer). It’s a prime example of journalistic distortion as explained by Tim Groseclose’s distortion model.
- I of course never claimed to be a universal genius. My guess is that she got confused by polymath. Indeed, if one skims Wikipedia, one can get that impression.
- I didn’t say the Austrians were better, I said the Dutch. German speaking populations are generally not that good at English. Currently the top 3 list of one index is Dutch, Swedish, Danish. It varies randomly from year to year due to sampling error.
- I was and am interested in linguistics, but not that interested. I studied that major because it was both easy for me and convenient (no attendance requirements, take home exams) for getting the scholarship.
- I didn’t grow up in Sweden. I grew up close to Viborg, Denmark. I don’t even speak fluent Swedish, though I try when I get the chance!
- Not sure about 2010. My first study was published in late 2013 and was a quite simple job done in Excel. It is also not true that all my research is about race and IQ. I have published papers on construction of public domain IQ tests, scraping of online datasets, subnational inequality, the effects of cognitive training via early interventions etc.
- Emily Gorcenski’s name is misspelled. I don’t recall having any interaction with her. Googling the connection, she seems to be one of the early SJWs to get into the OKCupid incident in a blogpost archived here. Artir wrote a reply. Though I do appreciate the flattery in a big name newspaper, making me seem like some kind of super intelligent evil mastermind. Very danger, such scare!
- I was never prosecuted by Danish authorities. The Data Protection Agency (Datatilsynet) did write me a bunch of questions, which I refused to answer, citing their lack of jurisdiction. After a while, they closed the investigation.
- One doesn’t publish work on Google Scholar. It’s an index that crawls other sites. It indexes OpenPsych journals just as any other journals.
- While one can avoid peer review by self-publishing, OpenPsych journals are peer-reviewed in the usual fashion, with the added twist that the reviews are public.
In the laboratory of the “fake science”
Emil Kirkegaard is 27 and self-characterizes as « universal genius » and « independent researcher ». He doesn’t belong to any university nor is he pursuing any PhD. « No need, I am self-taught ». A few minutes of conversation with him are enough to realize his large but cold alertness. His sentences follow one another on the same tone, at the same speed, in a perfect English. « The Danes were the best in English for a long time, now it’s the Austrians or the Swedes », he seems to regret. Kirkegaard studied linguistics but wasn’t interested in it. « I studied that just so I could get a scholarship », he admits. At the same time, he trained himself in mathematics, statistics, programming. « There are excellent books and textbooks online. I have always been curious. When I was 8, my mother gave me an encyclopedia. I read the whole thing. She was a typographer, a job that doesn’t exist anymore », says the young man who grew up in Malmö. He won’t say what job his father was doing, only that he had « no qualification ».
The scientific version of the alt-right
Since 2010, Emil Kirkegaard uses his skills to analyze every data he finds online to prove scientifically an alleged genetic hierarchy between human beings. With the Westerners and the Asians at the top of the pyramid, Africans and Roma at the bottom. « He is the scientific version of the alt-right, this American far-right supremacist movement », explains Paul-Olivier Dehaye, mathematician and co-founder of Personaldata.io. Kirkegaard denies that he adheres to its theses. « I only try to understand the foundations of inequalities among humans, and I don’t think they only depend on their environment or education. »
Kirkegaard is the author of about 60 research articles, all on the same related issues: « Academic results of migrants in Danish primary schools are predictable based on their country of origin »; « Country of origin and social aid: stereotypes are valid in Denmark »; « Crime and country of origin in Germany », etc. In the same way as fake news website are presenting themselves as official, everything is done to give his research a respectable appearance. His articles are in depth, precise, documented, argued. « Kirkegaard is extremely intelligent and his mathematics are very advanced, explains Emily Gorcensky, mathematician and data scientist, who last year had warned the scientific community on the danger of the Dane’s methods. Except his way of proceeding is the opposite of a scientific approach: he twists numbers in every which way until he arrives at a result that confirms his bias, namely that Muslim immigrants are genetically less intelligent and commit more crime. »
Last year, Kirkegaard scraped the data of 70000 profiles on the dating website OkCupid to try to prove the correlation between intelligence and religious belief. In an almost total indifference — OkCupid had softly protested —, the Danish authorities are contemplating one year later to prosecute him after Paul-Olivier Dehaye warned them. « In psychology, researchers are regularly relying on groups of barely 40 people to detect trends, this is not enough. Dating website constitute a unique and incredible opportunity to study human behavior », he rejoices. I also have friends who scraped the data from thousands of Tinder profiles to develop face recognition softwares, everybody does that », argues the « independent researcher » to defend himself.
Kirkegaard also used the results of the IQ tests performed by the Danish military during military service to estimate the alleged difference of intelligence between European foreigners and non-European. He watches every possible online data in open access on migratory movements to establish a correlation between Islam and crime, Islam and intelligence, etc. « He represents the worst excesses of big data », warns Michael Zimmer, professor at the university of Wisconsin and specialist of data-ethics, in an article for the specialized magazine Wired.
War of information
The Dane publishes his work on Google Scholar, a platform supposed to be reserved to academics and allow the free circulation of knowledge. Asked by « Le Temps » about the presence of articles with such themes on its platform, Google replies that if there had been a problem its system would have detected it.
Kirkegaard also created 3 « scientific » journals: Open Psychology, Open Behavioral Genetics and Open Quantitative Sociology and Political Science. In the world of research to be published in a journal means the validation of one’s work by one’s peers. Creating one’s own journal allows one to avoid this circuit. « Emil Kirkegaard gives himself the appearance of respectability, but it’s nothing of the sort. After the fake news, the fake science », continues Paul-Olivier Dehaye. « A war of information is going on. Numerous self-styled scientific publications are being created right now, in order to defend a specific ideological goal, adds Petter Bae Brandtzaeg, researcher at the SINTEF in Norway, and specialist of the fake news. This started with climate-skeptics and today it continues with supremacists. The world of science is going through the same crisis of confidence as the world of the media, and researchers are accused of being biased or too left-wing. Some are therefore trying to create an anti-establishment space.
Thus Kirkegaard’s studies continue to live their life on « reinformation » websites, or far-right propaganda. Last week, the French far-right website Breizh-info thus published an interview of the young man by presenting him as a great specialist of human intelligence. Even worse, his studies are circulating on social networks, where nothing distinguish them in appearance from serious scientific studies, and end up being cited on teenagers’s Youtube channels.
« I don’t publish in traditional journals because I am interested in non-politically correct topics, that normal people dare not study », explains on his part Kirkegaard who denies being racist. « I used to be a member of the pirate part », he argues. « A political interpretation can be made of all scientific works, I for one just prove facts. Science is not here to please people. I am not saying « migrants are less intelligent, let’s forbid them from coming to Denmark. We could just as well pay them a special allocation as compensation », he notes, on the same tone.
Biotech and eugenics
Kirkegaard is highly regarded by Richard Lynn, a British psychologist who defines himself as a eugenicist. Emil Kirkegaard published 3 articles in his journal, ManKind Quaterly. Lynn is less careful than his disciple. « Only Marine Le Pen and Hungary have understood that the migrants coming from Africa and the Middle-East have a limited intelligence, he claims to « Le Temps ». Except for a few, they won’t be able to integrate in Europe and will turn to crime. » In his books, Lynn is advocating the forced sterilization of certain groups of individuals deemed harmful, the continuing payment of unemployment allocation in exchange of a vasectomy, or the use of contraceptive implants on all the 12-year-old girls until we know if they are authorized to have children depending on their genetic capital.
Kirkegaard for his part refuses to reveal what is his IQ. « I don’t want to brag. My intelligence is a gift. What matters is what I do with it, how I exploit it. » Beside his research work, Kirkegaard thus intends to exploit his intelligence to the maximum and is working on a « still confidential » project in the field of biotech. That is to say the set of modifications of the living to improve its performances. Fake science, real danger.