A postdoctoral researcher in England who was awarded a fellowship at a prestigious British university is being targeted as a racist by hundreds of academics after defending an idea: that individual differences in IQ could possibly be genetically influenced.
Noah Carl, 28, a postdoctoral researcher of social sciences at Nuffield College, was given a Toby Jackman Newton Trust Research Fellowship at St. Edmund’s College at the University of Cambridge. As Quillette notes, that precipitated roughly three hundred academics globally to denounce him in an open letter, writing:
A careful consideration of Carl’s published work and public stance on various issues, particularly on the claimed relationship between ‘race’, ‘criminality’ and ‘genetic intelligence’, leads us to conclude that his work is ethically suspect and methodologically flawed. These publications, drawing on the discredited ‘race sciences’, seem nothing more than an expression of opinion on various social matters. As members of the academic community committed to defending the highest standards of ethical and methodological integrity in research and teaching, we are shocked that a body of work that includes vital errors in data analysis and interpretation appears to have been taken seriously for appointment to such a competitive research fellowship.
We are deeply concerned that racist pseudoscience is being legitimised through association with the University of Cambridge.
Quillette writes in an op-ed:
Drawing on disparate fields of research in psychology, psychometrics and sociology, Dr. Carl’s papers have been peer reviewed and published in journals such as Intelligence, Personality & Individual Differences, The American Sociologist, Comparative Sociology, European Union Politics, and The British Journal of Sociology. His papers have been cited 235 times since 2013.
Quillette asks rhetorically, “Which of these, or any of Dr. Carl’s other papers, contain ‘vital errors in data-analysis’? We’re not told … These are trumped up charges, brought against Dr Carl because he dissents from the prevailing orthodoxy about a controversial field of academic research. He hasn’t even waded into these dangerous waters himself—he has just defended the right of academics to do so. But that alone is enough for a group of his colleagues to attempt to ruin him.”
Quillette opines that the crime committed by the young researcher appears to be that he has defended intelligence researchers who have conjectured about race, genes and IQ and defended the idea of debating their interaction, as well as having spoken at the London Conference of Intelligence in 2017, although he did not refer to race, genes or IQ at that conference.
Quillette points out that one of the signatories to the letter, Professor David Graeber, whom Quilette describes as “the anthropologist and left-wing political activist,” tweeted that Carl was “very creepy ‘race scientist.’” When he was queried as to what parts of Carl’s research he found “methodologically flawed,” he said:
That’s easy. The concepts “race” “genetic intelligence” and “criminality” are all concepts with at best questionable scientific validity, so any study that assumes all 3 as unproblematic is so wildly methodologically flawed that one can only assume a racist motive in the author.
But Quillette counters that Graeber did not mention any research paper by Carl that included these concepts, and Quilette could not find any use by Carl of the term “genetic intelligence.” Quillette writes:
The implication of Professor Graeber’s response, as well as the letter, is that Dr. Carl has linked average differences in intelligence between races to genetic differences, when, in fact, he has stated that a genetic contribution to racial gaps in IQ has not been conclusively demonstrated. Perhaps Professor Graeber is confusing references in Dr. Carl’s work to the fact that individual differences in IQ are genetically influenced (although not genetically determined) with claims about group differences being genetically influenced? The second would be controversial, but the first is one of the most robust, oft replicated findings in all of psychology.