Once upon a time, a young geneticist was applying for a position at the University of New Mexico. I believe he said something about the Ashkenazi hereditary diseases. Someone on the faculty, known to be susceptible to crimethink, asked him if he thought that the sphingolipid diseases (Tay-Sachs, Gaucher disease, etc) might have something to do with selection for intelligence. Don’t know how he ever got that notion.
The young visitor said that he couldn’t afford to think about that. He was just starting his career, and he couldn’t afford to touch anything politically sensitive. He said, maybe people like Harpending, with tenure and all that, could afford to think about it, but not him.
They didn’t give him an offer. That could well have happened because they weren’t that excited about his work, or were more excited about someone else’s work, or maybe the money evaporated – but it seems to me that although some degree of cowardice is of course required, nobody feels comfortable hearing someone loudly and publicly proclaim his utter wormhood. We all love Big Brother, but you should really get a room.
Mind you, if he thought the idea was obviously wrong, he could have said so, and said why. I don’t think that would have gotten him into any trouble. But that didn’t happen.
Is there pressure – strong pressure – to avoid certain topics and conclusions in human biology? Sure. Another young researcher wanted to do a genetic study of students to see if those same Ashkenazi sphingolipid mutations boosted IQ. And his advisor said, sure, if you want to become an unemployable pariah and get me in trouble. That young researcher reaction was ” fuck ’em all – let’s try it anyway!”. I like him. But it didn’t pan out, logistically.
A certain person we will not name, famous for the discovery of the double helix, once said “Harpending must really have balls of steel, in order to take a genetic look at Jewish intelligence.” Why should it take balls of steel? And, for that matter, why are balls of steel so rare in academia? Do they undergo a procedure?
Isn’t there equivalent political pressure in an opposite direction? No, not any.
People in human genetics generally know that ‘the race/IQ issue is toxic to anyone who touches it’. They can’t risk being involved. This is easier if their research interests lie elsewhere, true for many people. Some think that there probably is a genetic component of population differences in IQ, but simple say nothing in public. I know some people like this.
Is this toxicity the reason for some of the silly things we hear out of these people? Part of the reason. I don’t think it’s anything like the complete explanation.