Twenty-eight year-old social scientist Noah Carl was fired by St Edmund’s College in of Cambridge, after a mob of students and professors protested the conservative scholar’s work.

Carl had just won a coveted Toby Jackman Newton Trust Research Fellowship, but was shamed into hiding after a petition circulated that set out to ruin his life:

Quillette has the story:

Three hundred academics from around the world, many of them professors, have signed an open letter denouncing Dr Carl and demanding that the University of Cambridge “immediately conduct an investigation into the appointment process” on the grounds that his work is “ethically suspect” and “methodologically flawed.” The letter states: “we are shocked that a body of work that includes vital errors in data analysis and interpretation appears to have been taken seriously.” Yet the letter contains no evidence of any academic misconduct. It does not include a single reference to any of Dr Carl’s papers, let alone any papers that are “ethically suspect” or “methodologically flawed.”

What “methodological flaws” are they talking about?  They don’t bother to mention.  We’re just supposed to take their anger as evidence of truth. This reaction seems a little over-the-top concerning a man got an award based on peer-reviewed research. Dr Carl’s research have appeared in journals like Intelligence, Personality & Individual Differences, The American Sociologist, Comparative Sociology, European Union Politics, and The British Journal of Sociology. He’s no sloppy scholar.

But Dr. Carl wrote about how intelligence affected beliefs and attitudes.  The piece that is most often cited paper is his 2014 paper called Verbal Intelligence is correlated with socially and economically liberal beliefs.  But, he also has written,  Leave and Remain voters’ knowledge of the EU after the referendum of 2016 and Cognitive Ability and Political Beliefs in the United States.

Which of his papers do his critics deem to be problematic? The online petition criticizing this man’s work doesn’t specify.  They simply allege that his work is flawed, and — absent any evidence or citation — people sign the petition.  Hundreds, in fact.

Quillette explains that the controversy surrounds Carl because he is a conservative:

So why all the fuss? Dr Carl’s crime is that he has defended intelligence researchers who’ve written about the taboo topics of race, genes and IQ and argued that stifling debate in these areas is likely to cause more harm than allowing them to be freely discussed by academics. It appears to be this, and the fact that he spoke at the London Conference of Intelligence in 2017 alongside some of these researchers (although he did not himself speak about race, genes or IQ at that conference), that is the basis for the accusation, made in the letter, that he is guilty of “pseudoscientific racism.”

Wow.  Those are big words.  Big accusations.  Looks like the real problem people have with him is that he doesn’t believe British universities have enough diversity of political opinion. According to Dr. Carl, a lack of diversity leads to academics being ostracized for having different opinions.

And then, as if on cue…  he was fired.

Quilletteexplains why this is very bad precedent.

The norms of academia—which have been built up and preserved by institutions such as Cambridge for centuries—demand that academics engage with each other in a scholarly manner. That is, if one academic has a problem with the methods or conclusions of another’s research, he or she should address those concerns within journals, according to established procedures, which other scholars can then read and respond to, including the academic whose research is being challenged.

Today, due to the hyper-specialisation of academic fields, most academics will not be able to judge the quality of scholarship that is published in journals outside their field. That’s why when research is peer-reviewed it is done by experts in the specific field in which the research was carried out, not by a random selection of university professors. Just as a professor of English will not be able to judge a study conducted within chemical engineering, a chemical engineer will not be able to assess a scholarly essay on Shakespeare’s sonnets.

But the people who were critiquing Carl were not experts in the various fields in which he wrote.  They were activists and malcontents who simply didn’t want to hear about a conservative’s research.

One of the people who signed the petition is left wing political activist Professor David Graeber.  He described Dr. Carl on Twitter as a “very creepy ‘race scientist’.”

Wow his academic language is impressive, no?  So, why all the vitriol?  

Graeber responded, “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.”

Talk about a flawed methodology, professor Graeber.  You could’ve simplified your complaint and just denounced the fact that he describes himself as a conservative.  We got the message loud and clear.

The academic mob is one of the meanest, I’m convinced, because their bigotry is camouflaged by big words and condescension.  In the meantime, Dr. Carl has been advised not to talk to the media and is unable to defend his reputation from these horrible attacks.

These modern day witch hunts have to end, they should be denounced. Apparently, inclusion, tolerance, open academic inquiry, and intellectual curiosity are all dead at St Edmund’s College.

Image Credit: Wikimedia

Hat Tip: Quillette

About The Author

Mark Meckler

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at MarkMeckler.com, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.