|Style over substance|
“”The great idiot of social science...
Satoshi Kanazawa is an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics and exactly the kind of researcher who makes evolutionary psychology look bad. So say thirty-five leading evolutionary psychologists, at least. His chief weapons are causalation, p-value fishing, bad data analysis, bigotry, and surprise. Psychology Today decided to throw standards out the window and gave him a blog, which was ironically named The Scientific Fundamentalist. It later got pulled from the site after he posted some racist drivel dressed up in pseudoscientific language.
Much of Kanazawa's work revolves around his so-called "Savanna principle," which applies the Savanna hypothesis to evolutionary psychology. The basic idea here is that early Homo sapiens became dominant through adapting to the environment of the African Savanna, thus, our minds and brains are adapted to that environment. However, Kanazawa's explanation of the anthropology behind the Savanna hypothesis is sketchy, especially when it comes to his hypotheses about intelligence. He also fails to take into account that biological adaptation has not stopped since humans began to spread throughout the globe. He attempts to build on the seminal work of Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, who describe how various aspects of the mind are adapted to earlier environments, but instead just massively overstates their conclusions and takes it to ridiculous extremes. The Savanna, then, becomes something he can shoehorn much of his research into.
Stand back, this is science!
Asians aren't creative
One of his earlier "brilliant" ideas was an attempt to demonstrate that Asian culture inhibited creativity. Besides the fact that this is flawed from the start because it lumps all Asian cultures together, two of his measures were the number of each region's Nobel prizes awarded and the height of its skyscrapers. Besides failing to pass the smell test, as Geoffrey Miller points out, these criteria would predict that the US would have never overtaken Europe in terms of science or wealth if one looks at the same statistics from circa one hundred years ago. Kanazawa must have fallen asleep through the unit on construct validity during his research methods course.
Evolution makes you hot
In the mid-2000s, Kanazawa published a number of papers looking at birth rates and compared them to ratings of beauty and the occupation of the subjects. He found that subjects that were ranked more beautiful had more children and that various occupations tended to have different birth rates for boys and girls. This is where Columbia statistician Andrew Gelman came in and reviewed his work, finding that the statistical models Kanazawa used overstated the effects he found. Never one to be modest or conservative in his conclusions, Kanazawa continued shoehorning some blatherskite about women evolving to be more beautiful into his findings. This eventually led Gelman to dub him the "Fenimore Cooper of sociobiology." Gelman also uses his work as an example of bad statistics in teaching undergraduate courses.
African people are just stupid
Kanazawa then went completely off the rails and published some studies that read like The Bell Curve with even less tip-toeing around the racism. Why is Africa a third-world shithole? Because Africans are genetically predisposed to stupidity! All he did was take some comparisons of IQ, wealth, and health data, shoehorn in some Savanna principle, and declare Africans to be genetically inferior. That's not reminiscent of anything, nothing at all. Besides the dubiousness of using IQ in this way, Kanazawa, of course, selectively ignores research showing the cause-and-effect to be the opposite way around. Another study he conducted on cross-country differences in intelligence used a model that assumed a flat earth.
Atheists and liberals are smarter
This time around, Kanazawa attempted to demonstrate the intellectual superiority of atheists and liberals. Besides all of the other dubious methodology, one of the studies in the pair he published didn't even use an IQ test — he simply extrapolated "intelligence" from a verbal test. And this all goes back to our Savanna ancestors, of course!
Black girls are ugly (or, blog whitewashing)
For some reason, Kanazawa didn't cause a full-blown shitstorm until a post he made to his blog in May of 2011 in which he claimed that black women were "objectively" less beautiful than those of other races. Besides the fact that "black" is not a strict category and that he didn't take into account any social confounding factors, the supposed "objective" measure was a 1-5 Likert scale with some factor analysis tomfoolery thrown in. Psychology Today decided this was over the line even for Kanazawa and scrubbed the post.
Kanazawa used his blog to whine about the "PC police" and he indulged in some rather amusing (read: deranged) flights of fancy on its pages, including Ann Coulter as president turning the Middle East into a glass crater, killing "all the feminists and hippies and liberals" (even though they're supposedly smarter, but whatevs, right?), and how much happier people would be if women stayed in the damn kitchen.
So long, Satoshi
In the wake of his latest blogging incident, over 120,000 students of the University of London Union Senate subsequently unanimously voted to condemn his research. In June of 2011, Psychology Today canned Kanazawa for good in reaction to the "black women are ugly" post. In September, LSE suspended Kanazawa from publishing any material in non-peer reviewed journals for a year and he issued an apology stating that the post was "flawed."
- The internet is the repository of all human garbage. It's the worst place in the world.—Quoting Tina Fey on the internet.
- As an aside, Mr. Lal was trained in mechanical engineering and currently works as a software engineer. He does not have any background in psychology, let alone evolutionary psychology, and has not taken any biology class since high school. (But then again, neither have I.)—On his education.
- Here's a little thought experiment. Imagine that, on September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers came down, the President of the United States was not George W. Bush, but Ann Coulter. What would have happened then? On September 12, President Coulter would have ordered the US military forces to drop 35 nuclear bombs throughout the Middle East, killing all of our actual and potential enemy combatants, and their wives and children. On September 13, the war would have been over and won, without a single American life lost. Yes, we need a woman in the White House, but not the one who’s running.—On foreign policy.
- Men do everything they do in order to get laid.—On civilization.
- His homepage at LSE, which has free access to a number of his papers
- His defunct blog (much of the material still seems to be intact)
- Satoshi Kanazawa and the Freefall of Evolutionary Psychology, Science 2.0
- Career Advising Day, Three-Toed Sloth blog
- Crazy Kanazawa, Ionian Enchantment
- Kanazawa's Bad Science Does Not Represent Evolutionary Psychology, further commentary on the original statement in Evolutionary Psychology with 68 total signatories
- Controversy Grows over Study Claiming Liberals and Atheists Are Smarter, Alternet
- His CV at the LSE lists his position as "Reader in Management" in the Managerial Economics and Strategy Group in the Department of Management.
- Satoshi Kanazawa Does Not Speak for All of Evolutionary Psychology, Scott Barry Kaufman
- The Savanna hypothesis, intelligence and religion, Genealogy of Religion
- Black Women are Objectively Less Attractive, Skepchick
- Miller, Geoffrey. Asian Creativity: A Response to Satoshi Kanazawa. Evolutionary Psychology 2006. 4: 129-137. Full text
- Problems in a study of girl and boy births, leading to a point about the virtues of collaboration, Andrew Gelman
- Andrew Gelman and David Weakliem. Of Beauty, Sex and Power. Reprint from American Scientist. Full text
- Gelman's Letter to the editor of the Journal of Theoretical Biology
- The Fenimore Cooper of Sociobiology, Gelman
- See the Flynn effect
- Africa is filled with people too dumb to live according to LSE, PZ Myers
- Is Low IQ the Cause of Income Inequality? The Mouse Trap
- Kevin Denny. On a Dubious Theory of Cross-Country Differences in Intelligence. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 7(2009)4, 1–6. Full text
- Stop patting yourselves on the back over this stupidity, PZ Myers
- Is atheism linked to intelligence?, IBCSR
- Are Liberals More Intelligent Than Conservatives? Another Broken Study Says It Is So, The Iron Shrink
- A number of criticisms link to caches of the original post: PZ Myers, Lindsay Beyerstein Part I, Part II, Scott Barry Kaufman, Retraction Watch
- Jezebel's collection of Kanazawa's greatest hits
- LSE academic's claim 'black women less attractive' triggers race row, The Guardian
- Psychologist Fired For "Why Black Women Are Unattractive" Study., News One
- Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa — findings of internal review and disciplinary hearing, LSE News and Media
- LSE Scholar Admits Race Analysis Was "Flawed", Times of Higher Education
- Tina Fey on the internet, Satoshi Kanazawa
- Are Women Always More Selective in Mate Choice Than Men? A Postscript, Satoshi Kanazawa
- Why We Are Losing This War, Satoshi Kanazawa
- Men Do Everything They Do In Order to Get Laid Pt. III, Satoshi Kanazawa