The Corner

Science & Tech

Academic Journal Editor’s Fear: ‘The Right-Wing Media May Pick This Up’

For an insider’s account of how politicized academia has become, I strongly recommend Professor Ted Hill’s new essay in Quillette. The problems started for him when he coauthored a paper on greater male variability in physical and mental traits. As he put it, “There are significantly more men than women . . . among Nobel laureates, music composers, and chess champions — and also among homeless people, suicide victims, and federal prison inmates.” Hill’s paper, written with Penn State mathematics professor Sergei Tabachnikov, offered an evolutionary model under which males would develop more variability because females are more selective.

Now, as far as group differences go, greater male variability is the wine cooler of evolutionary research. It should not be hard to swallow even for the uninitiated. The theory does not even posit a difference in mean ability between men and women — just a difference in spread. If that’s a taboo topic, then we better close down genetics labs before they come up with something really troubling.

Nevertheless, as soon as Hill and Tabachnikov’s paper was accepted for publication, Penn State professors — some with the word diversity in their job titles — began a campaign against it. “Potentially sexist.” “Bad and harmful.” “Detrimental to the advancement of women in science.” They even pressured the National Science Foundation into requesting that its support for Tabochnikov not be acknowledged in the paper. Professor Hill continues the narrative:

At least, we thought, the paper was still on track to be published.

But, that same day, the Mathematical Intelligencer’s editor-in-chief Marjorie Senechal notified us that, with “deep regret,” she was rescinding her previous acceptance of our paper. “Several colleagues,” she wrote, 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.” For the second time in a single day I was left flabbergasted. Working mathematicians are usually thrilled if even five people in the world read our latest article. Now some progressive faction was worried that a fairly straightforward logical argument about male variability might encourage the conservative press to actually read and cite a science paper?

In my 40 years of publishing research papers I had never heard of the rejection of an already-accepted paper. And so I emailed Professor Senechal. She replied that she had received no criticisms on scientific grounds and that her decision to rescind was entirely about the reaction she feared our paper would elicit. [emphasis added]

Read the whole thing, as they say, because there is much more than I can summarize in a blog post. And the next time the media report that The Science™ falls squarely on the Left’s side of some controversial issue, remember Professor Hill’s story.

Jason Richwine is a public-policy analyst and a contributor to National Review Online.

Most Popular

The Trail Leading Back to the Wuhan Labs

It is understandable that many would be wary of the notion that the origin of the coronavirus could be discovered by some documentary filmmaker who used to live in China. Matthew Tye, who creates YouTube videos, contends he has identified the source of the coronavirus — and a great deal of the information that ... Read More

The Trail Leading Back to the Wuhan Labs

It is understandable that many would be wary of the notion that the origin of the coronavirus could be discovered by some documentary filmmaker who used to live in China. Matthew Tye, who creates YouTube videos, contends he has identified the source of the coronavirus — and a great deal of the information that ... Read More
World

How to Make China Pay

One of the big questions facing the international community today is how to hold China legally and politically accountable for all its dishonesty and harm to people around the world. According to reports, U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed to the White House that China has deliberately understated the ... Read More
World

How to Make China Pay

One of the big questions facing the international community today is how to hold China legally and politically accountable for all its dishonesty and harm to people around the world. According to reports, U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed to the White House that China has deliberately understated the ... Read More
World

All Signs Point to China

Just one big story today: collecting and sorting through what we know about the coronavirus's origins, and what makes sense and what doesn’t in the theory that it originated from someone eating bats or pangolins from the Huanan Seafood Market. What We Know and What We Don’t Know about the Source of ... Read More
World

All Signs Point to China

Just one big story today: collecting and sorting through what we know about the coronavirus's origins, and what makes sense and what doesn’t in the theory that it originated from someone eating bats or pangolins from the Huanan Seafood Market. What We Know and What We Don’t Know about the Source of ... Read More