Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Great Idiot of Social Science Goes Too Far

Satoshi Kanazawa, author of a very contentious blog in Psychology Today recently wrote (and quickly deleted) a very racist post. However, you can't really delete anything on the internet. It's right here. Some things you should know about Satoshi Kanazawa: there is currently a campaign for his dismissal from the University of London as a professor of economics, when you search his name in google, google suggests 'Satoshi Kanazawa Idiot' (his nickname in the title of this blog post, given to him by evolutionary biologist P.Z. Meyers, has stuck), he thinks Ann Coulter, if she were president, would have handled 9/11 and its aftermath better than anybody else he could think of, he has an interest in prostitutes.
What is so discouraging about this man's existence is that he does everything he does in the name of science. He claims that he knows everything and that he can predict events before they happen, not because he is a genius or because he's special in any way, but because he's an evolutionary psychologist. An evolutionary psychologist. To me, that's just a fancy title for an anthropologist who can charge you by the hour to talk to him. This man is dangerous.
He's dangerous because he's willing to generalize people in unthinkable ways. Furthermore Kanazawa is guilty of something that has been a growing trend with the increasing popularity in reality TV and the internet: he creates inflammatory material with the specific intent of getting a reaction and gaining sympathy or popularity or whatever satisfaction racists get from being racist. I was made aware of this piece by CNN's LZ Granderson so it was obviously very widely syndicated. Content is constantly sacrificed for clicks. That is most profitable, presumably. Kanazawa is a professor of economics after all.
Psychology Today had been overwhelmed with responses, and many of their writers took offense to Kanazawa lowering the publication's credibility, he was denounced by Daniel R. Hawes and Nathan A. Heflick with the consensus conclusion being: Kanazawa's research was not objective at all, making it quite racist.

Psychology Today issued this statement last week:
“Last week, a blog post about race and appearance by Satoshi Kanazawa was published–and promptly removed–from this site. We deeply apologize for the pain and offense that this post caused. Psychology Today’s mission is to inform the public, not to provide a platform for inflammatory and offensive material. Psychology Today does not tolerate racism or prejudice of any sort. The post was not approved by Psychology Today, but we take full responsibility for its publication on our site. We have taken measures to ensure that such an incident does not occur again. Again, we are deeply sorry for the hurt that this post caused.”

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