You knew it would happen: In the Wall Street Journal, Eric Felten uses Marc Hauser and MonkeyGate to attack evolutionary psychology.
Evolutionary psychologists tell elaborate stories explaining modern life based on the conditions and circumstances of our prehistoric ancestors—even though we know very little about those factors. “Often, the fact that their story seems to make sense is the only evidence they offer,” Mr. Ryan wrote. “For them, it may be enough, but it isn’t enough if you’re aspiring to be taken seriously as a science.”
That’s where Mr. Hauser’s work comes in…..
I’m far from an expert on evolutionary psychology, but from what I’ve learned of it over the past week or so—watching monkeys watching themselves, etc.—Felten seems to have a point, albeit slightly infused with anti-liberal ideology.
On the other hand, The Economist says,
One corner-cutting researcher does not impugn a whole field. Clive Wynne, editor of Behavioural Processes, which published an “obsessively” immaculate paper by Dr Hauser three days before the Globe’s revelations, says he is struck by how meticulous recent research in his discipline has been.
Well, having the embarrassment of publishing Hauser’s most recent paper—which, since it was surely written during the three-year period in which Harvard was investigating Hauser, would be “immaculate”—he would say that.
Meanwhile, writing to the Globe, a BU psychology prof seconds my point that taxpayers should be pissed.
According to his online academic resume, Hauser has received millions of dollars in government grants just since 2001 as chief scientific investigator, and millions more with several of his colleagues in the Harvard psychology department — including the department chairwoman, who was quoted as saying how sad this all was and “how bad for Marc.’’
It is also sad for the taxpayers who spent all those millions on Hauser’s so-called research. I want my money back.
That letter, by the way, was a response to the Globe’s earlier article, in which psychology department chair Susan Carey expressed her sympathy over how difficult this must be for Hauser.
“Everybody is in shock,’’ Carey said. “Everybody is incredibly sad. Everybody feels terribly bad for Marc.”
Such fuzzy-headedness is the kind of lax attitude in which fraud can take root.
Many people seem to like Hauser—his Harvard peers, essentially, and students in his classes. I’m sure he’s a likable guy; he has a warm face. But this is the, um, mark of a con man—he has an attractive personality, people like him, and so are more inclined to trust him. But niceness and integrity are not the same thing. And sometimes the most honest people are the most unpleasant.
Anyway, his graduate students and researchers seem to have had a different experience of Hauser. Remember that email he wrote when they questioned his results?
I’m getting pissed here….
Here’s Carey again:
“The process has gone very, very badly wrong for Harvard, for Marc, for science, for everything,’’ Carey said. “We need to figure out if there is a better way to police ourselves on this issue. You have to be really, really, really careful because you can ruin somebody’s life and career.’’
Carey, who seems to care more about Hauser than about all the damage he has done, has her priorities misplaced. I appreciate that there’s a line she has to walk; you don’t want to look like you’re throwing the guy under the bus. But as a leader in her field, she should be more concerned with scientific integrity than with circling the wagons.
Besides….how exactly has the process gone “very badly wrong…for Marc”?
He seems to have gotten off rather lightly—a year’s suspension, that we know of, but he’s still teaching at the Extension School, which is weird—while the details of his misconduct (or, as Hauser puts it, “mistakes”) remain a closely guarded secret.
While Carey laments how difficult this must have been for Marc Hauser, she says not a word about the graduate students and researchers who put their careers on the line (I’m getting pissed here…) to do the right thing.
Not exactly an incentive for them to do it again, is she?