A Review of Jason Richwine’s Thesis by Someone Who Actually Read It

Anthropology Now has a review out by Elizabeth Chin who actually read Jason Richwine’s PhD Thesis on genetics and i.q. from Harvard’s Kennedy School.  The review is framed as the feedback Richwine should have received from one of his three committee members, but did not.  Chin raises many of the same issues that Michael Scroggins and I have been raising here on Ethnography.com about the nature of race and genetics.  From Chin’s writing, I think that it is pretty clear that we share with her a pretty mainstream view within in the social sciences.  I am still surprised though at the big epistemological gulf that persists between the social sciences, and some geneticists/biologists who write about behavior.  Fro this perspective, Chin is particularly prescient in pointing out the broad literature about race and i.q. that Richwine apparently ignores.

On a more general level, I firmly agree with Chin that the Dissertation Committee Members were remiss in reviewing Richwine’s dissertation at the proposal, review, and signing off stages.  Something seems to me to be quite wrong at the Kennedy School—was the dissertation even read by the faculty members?

And as a Post-script. Inside Higher Education weighed in on the Genetics and IQ blogging that is going on recently, and commented on here.  In particular, they ask some serious questions about the work of Steve Hsu, and his study to investigate the genetics of people who are do well on the SAT exams, and/or get PhDs from particular universities in the natural sciences, math, or some kinds of engineering.  There is a positive reference to Michael Scroggins’ blog in the body of the article.  For snark, you have to go to the follow-up comments!

11 thoughts on “A Review of Jason Richwine’s Thesis by Someone Who Actually Read It

  1. dad

    look at that, all of the “facts” just happen to perfectly agree with the AAA/liberal worldview! isn’t that convenient:)

  2. Tony

    @dad. Yes, but your critique works both ways. One of Elizabeth Chin’s main critiques of Richwine is that he fails to cite the social scientific literature (except for Gould) that does not align with his own pre-existing “conservative” world view.

    Richwine wrote the PhD, though, not Chin. It seems to me that a comprehensive review of literature critical to your thesis is fundamental to a PhD dissertation, and that Richwine’s committee members should have held him to this standard. Fundamental to Chin’s article as a reviewer of Richwine’s thesis is to read the dissertation–a standard that neither Michael or I have met. This is admittedly a lower standard–but then she is not being granted a PhD for her review, either.

    Can you point me to a “conservative” review of Richwine’s dissertation which also confronts the social scientific literature in the way that Chin does?

  3. dad

    I don’t know if there is one but all it would probably say is that, genetically speaking, hispanics are more of an ethnic group than a race so his sample might not be homogenous enough. Just a guess tho

  4. Michael Scroggins

    I read the part of his dissertation in which he formulates the categories he uses in his analysis; it is just a few pages long.

    Dad is essentially correct. Richwine’s categories are far too broad to do what he claims to be doing. Broad enough to render his work meaningless.

    The quantitative machinery he develops works as claimed, but what he puts into his sausage grinder is absolute junk. He is just like Hsu in this way.

    Garbage in, garbage out.

  5. Tony

    Here is Jason Richwine’s response: to his critics.

    http://www.politico.com/story/2013/08/opinion-jason-richwine-95353_Page2.html

    I don’t think he reads Ethnography.com very carefully!

  6. How People Misunderstood Jason Richwine’s Dissertation: Explaining Racial Incompatibility is Different From Denigration
    http://thethinktankguideforsmarterliving.blogspot.sg/2014/04/how-people-misunderstood-jason.html

    The definition of the word “racism” is the following:

    “1. the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.”

    To judge whether or not people are racists, one has to judge their intention to denigrate others and not simply by judging their actions and behaviour alone, because racism is based on a person’s intention to denigrate others, racism cannot be determined simply by judging the words they wrote in a dissertation.

    Jason Richwine’s dissertation was to explain whether or not certain groups of people would be compatible or incompatible for American society and its economy.

    Being analytical about different races’ compatibility to living in American society does not make the person a racist that is obsessed with denigrating other races of people.

    Jason was perceiving the incompatibility/compatibility of different races for living in American society in his dissertation, no one except him can know whether or not he had any intention to denigrate those races.

    For people to simply assume that Jason had the intention to denigrate those races without evidence(of his true intentions) is simply being unfair, over-assuming, immature and perhaps blame-shifting as well.

  7. Tony

    Your definition of “racism” focuses on individual belief and “intention,” and strikes me as being something as a straw man. “Compatibility” is also a relative term, rooted in “belief”.

    I don’t think most sociologists or anthropologists today would agree with your definition regarding “intentions” today–racism also refers to social structures which create groups relative to each other on the basis of arbitrary physical characteristics which are defined socially. There is plenty of evidence in the United States and other countries that racism is persistent on such basis. Why otherwise would you have the resegregation of American schools since 1980? It sounds like Jason Richwine has not dealt with this much–he is cherry picking his “definitions.”

    As for your statement

    Being analytical about different races’ compatibility to living in American society does not make the person a racist that is obsessed with denigrating other races of people.

    I would disagree that such a statement is not “racist.” It assumes a monolithic concept of “compatibility” with American society that corresponds to the pre-existing dominant paradigm. Anyone who does not fit into that paradigms is therefore “different” and therefore incompatible. There may be a better word for this than “racist,” but it seems to me a good place to start.

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