Rejected (Twice!) for Political Reasons: Study on Gender and IQ

Many academic elites saw red — no 'scientific' publications were brave enough to publish it

The practice of quashing scientific inquiry is becoming more prevalent on college campuses in an aim to censor “offensive” research, even if it’s evidence-based.

Brown University, an Ivy League college in Providence, Rhode Island, recently pulled a critical study on rapid-onset gender dysphoria from its website to appease the trans community, at least in part.

Another case in point: Two academic journals accepted the same study on differences in intelligence between the sexes — a taboo subject in liberal academia — but then retracted it, as Campus Reform reported.

This raises alarm bells for those who value honest academic inquiry. “The effect on science is potentially devastating,” Alex Berezow, a writer for the American Council on Science and Health in Seattle, Washington, told LifeZette of research retractions. “The idea that research can be covered up simply because some people are uncomfortable with its findings is anathema to everything science is supposed to be about, such as open inquiry and free speech. If the research is wrong, show us how it’s wrong — don’t bury it.”

Here’s how this latest issue of academic censorship began: In “An Evolutionary Theory for the Variability Hypothesis,” mathematics professor Ted Hill of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, with Sergei Tabachnikov, a mathematics professor at Pennsylvania State University, offered a theory. It would allow scientists to apply to test the potential variability in IQ (intelligence quotient) between men and women.

Several scientists, including Charles Darwin, have argued that male IQ varies more from the mean than does female IQ. In other words, males would be more likely to have lower and higher IQs, while females would be more likely to have IQs closer to the mean.

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No big deal, right? Wrong.

After the study’s official acceptance in April 2017, the publication Mathematical Intelligencer scrapped the deal.

“Once we had written up our findings, Sergei and I decided to try for publication in the Mathematical Intelligencer, the ‘Viewpoint’ section, which specifically welcomes articles on contentious topics,” Hill wrote in Quillete last week, just now sharing the events that culminated in censorship.

“The Intelligencer’s editor-in-chief is Marjorie Wikler Senechal, professor emerita of mathematics and the history of science at Smith College,” he continued. “She liked our draft, and declared herself to be untroubled by the prospect of controversy.”

“I am happy to stir up controversy and few topics generate more than this one,” she said, according to Hill’s piece. “After the Middlebury fracas, in which none of the protesters had read the book they were protesting [libertarian author and social scientist Charles Murray’ campus visit to Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont was protested in 2017], we could make a real contribution here by insisting that all views be heard, and providing links to them.”

By September 2017, however, Senechal had soured on her offer to publish the study — politics had apparently gotten the best of her.

Senechal conveyed to him, according to Hill, that several colleagues had warned her that publication would provoke “extremely strong reactions,” and there existed a “very real possibility that the right-wing media may pick this up and hype it internationally.”

Coincidentally, this was about the same time that anxiety about gender parity was erupting in Silicon Valley, Hill noted in his article. Google engineer James Damore had suggested in a letter that several innate biological factors, including gender differences in variability, might help explain gender disparities in Silicon Valley high-tech jobs.

Meanwhile, a month later, in October 2017, a silver lining emerged for Hill. Igor Rivin, an editor at the online research publication New York Journal of Mathematics (NYJM) got in touch with Hill about publishing a revised draft of his study.

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“I duly submitted a new draft (this time as the sole author) and, after a very positive referee’s report [part of the academic review process] and a handful of supervised revisions, Steinberger [the editor-in-chief of NYJM] wrote to confirm publication on Nov. 6, 2017. Relieved that the ordeal was finally over, I forwarded the link to interested colleagues.”

Three days later, though, Hill’s study had vanished. Politics had derailed his efforts again.

“In my 40 years of publishing research papers, I had never heard of the rejection of an already accepted paper,” he said.

“Educators must practice what we preach and lead by example,” Hill noted in his piece. “In this way, we can help to foster intellectual curiosity and the discovery of fresh reasoning so compelling that it causes even the most skeptical to change their minds. But this necessarily requires us to reject censorship and open ourselves to the civil discussion of sensitive topics such as gender differences, and the variability hypothesis in particular.”

See more about IQ in the video below.

Elizabeth Economou is a former CNBC staff writer and adjunct professor. Follow her on Twitter.

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