Just in case anyone has missed it, the pair of duelling essays in the latest issue of Nature is well worth a read. The topic is whether there is any justification for scientific exploration of associations between gender or race and intelligence; Stephen Ceci and Wendy M. Williams from Cornell argue the affirmative, while Steven Rose takes up the opposing case.
The debate continues as a lively discussion on Nature Network, which contains many thoughtful comments from both sides.
I find it pretty hard to stomach the notion that any field of scientific enquiry should be completely off the table, even an area as contentious and politically charged as this one – in fact especially in such an area, since nowhere are solid facts needed as desperately as in a debate driven largely by ideals and emotions. Thus while Rose makes some fair points about the difficulties of defining both race and intelligence, I find his overall argument less than compelling.
In fact this sentence from Rose’s final paragraph is downright worrying:
In a society in which racism and sexism were absent, the questions of
whether whites or men are more or less intelligent than blacks or women
would not merely be meaningless — they would not even be asked.
This borders on defining anyone who even thinks about group differences in cognition as a bigot. Poisoning the well in this fashion is a highly effective strategy for shutting down debate on a particular topic – but this is a terrible strategy for a scientist to adopt.