Now some 21st century scientists got together and did something radical: they remeasured the skulls that Morton used. It turns out his measurements were accurate, and Gould's were not. In fact, nearly every specific claim Gould makes about Morton is incorrect. The few incorrect measurements on Morton's part tended to go the other way, imputing greater volume to African skulls. Their research was published in an open-access journal and you can read it in its entirety here. If you want something a bit more colorful, I strongly suggest the righteous indignation of John Hawks. There you will find such tidbits as "Gould made up the whole thing. It was an utter fabulation. It is disgraceful that later authors have cited this idea as fact." "Gould fudged his own numbers!"
Anyway, you can see why I find this outrageous. Gould used the well-documented work of a long-dead man to make an argument that unconscious bias is widespread in science. He posed as a concerned critic, but thereby cast doubt on the validity of the scientific enterprise. He picked volume measurement and tabulation of averages as his target, making it seem as if the simplest and most objective observations -- the Junior High-level science methods -- were themselves subject to all-encompassing cultural biases. His paper and book are very widely read and cited by people who will never examine the primary evidence. ...
This stuff really ticks me off. I don't think that Gould's errors can be written off as "unconscious bias". Reading back over his 1978 article, I cannot believe that Science published it.
One thing that irritates me (that Hawks doesn't mention) is the imputation of racism to Morton. An article in the New York Times about the new measurements counters this.
Dr. Gould, who died in 2002, based his attack on the premise that Morton believed that brain size was correlated with intelligence. But there is no evidence that Morton believed this or was trying to prove it, said Jason E. Lewis, the leader of the Pennsylvania team. Rather, Morton was measuring his skulls to study human variation, as part of his inquiry into whether God had created the human races separately (a lively issue before Darwin decreed that everyone belonged to the same species).
Via Ann Althouse. Now I think Gould's overriding point -- that scientists are just as prone to bias as us lesser mortals, and that this can find ways into their experiments -- is valid. The fact that Gould illustrated this in a way he did not intend just makes the point much more humorous; in much the same way as when Carl Sagan uncritically repeated an urban legend in order to show how people are gullible. I would argue that Gould's implication that bias is widespread in science is exaggerated. Part of science's glory, after all, is its self-correcting nature. But that doesn't make it infallible.
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