Readers of popular magazine Psychology Today were in for a grim surprise when they stumbled across the latest post by London School of Economics' evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa, titled “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?”
The article, based on data from a separate study on subjective ratings of physical attractiveness, made the following points (among others):
It is very interesting to note that, even though black women are objectively less physically attractive than other women, black women (and men) subjectively consider themselves to be far more physically attractive than others… Nor can the race difference in intelligence [...] account for the race difference in physical attractiveness among women.
The reaction to the piece was widespread outrage. Academics questioned the dubious method by which Kanazawa drew his conclusions from the data: PZ Myers, Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota, noted that the article "looks at such shaky subjective evaluations ... without even considering the biases of these self-appointed judges". And the blogosphere was even more aghast: The Root commented that the post "struck us as so outrageous that we almost thought it was a hoax of some sort".
Psychology Today ended up pulling the post from its website altogether, reported Adweek. (It is still available here.) But the controversy is far from over. Kanazawa has been known for presenting controversial theories in the past, but this time he may have gone too far. Guardian reports that students at LSE are calling for his dismissal. The University of London Union Senate, which represents more than 120,000 students, voted unanimously for Kanazawa to lose his job.
LSE sought to distance itself from Kanazawa's article, while still maintaining the importance of academic freedom. As it said in a statement:
The views expressed by this academic are his own and do not in any way represent those of the LSE as an institution. The important principle of academic freedom means that authors have the right to publish their views – but it also means the freedom to disagree.
Nonetheless, LSE students remain deeply offended. Amena Amer, the incoming LSE students' union education officer, told Guardian:
We support free speech and academic freedom, but Kanazawa's research fuels hate against ethnic and religious minorities promoted by neo-Nazi groups. Not only does he use the LSE's credentials to legitimize his "research" but this jeopardizes the academic credibility of the LSE.
In response, LSE is conducting an investigation. Strict rules protect the academic freedom of professors, so by no means are consequences for Kanazawa guaranteed. The university will look at the data Kanazawa analyzed and the quality of his work before deciding if it can take punitive action.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.