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

Politics & Policy

Making Sense of the Iran Chaos

One would prefer that correct decisions be made according to careful, deliberate plan. But a correct decision made impulsively, through a troubling process, is still nonetheless correct, and so it is with Donald Trump’s decision to refrain from military action against Iran. The proposed strike would represent a ... Read More

In Defense of Coleman Hughes

Picture the scene: A young man walks into a congressional hearing to offer witness testimony. His grandfather was barbarically brutalized by people who are now long dead. The nation in which he resides built its wealth of his grandfather’s brutalization. The question: Should his fellow citizens pay the young ... Read More

College Leaders Should Learn from Oberlin

Thanks to their social-justice warrior mindset, the leaders of Oberlin College have caused an Ohio jury to hit it with $44 million in compensatory and punitive damages in a case where the school couldn't resist the urge to side with its “woke” students against a local business. College leaders should learn ... Read More

Joe and the Segs

Joe Biden has stepped in it, good and deep. Biden, if he has any hope of ever being elected president, will be dependent on residual goodwill among African Americans from his time as Barack Obama’s loyal and deferential vice president — so deferential, in fact, that he stood aside for Herself in 2016 even ... Read More
Film & TV

Toy Story 4: A National Anthem

The Toy Story franchise is the closest thing we have to an undisputed national anthem, a popular belief that celebrates what we think we all stand for — cooperation, ingenuity, and simple values, such as perpetual hope. This fact of our infantile, desensitized culture became apparent back in 2010 when I took a ... Read More