Well-sourced

In his attack blog (covered in the page supra), Oliver D. Smith wrote:

Emil O. W. Kirkegaard is a far-right/neo-Nazi child rape apologist who made news headlines in January 2018 about his paedophilia apologism and links to white supremacists and eugenicists:

And then he listed ten sources. What I notice is that none of the headlines mention Kirkegaard by name. They are all about someone or something else, and only two of the headlines mention him. These stories all appeared within two days. They obviously copy from each other. And where did the information come from about what an alleged Nazi allegedly argues? It came from this RationalWiki article written by … Oliver D. Smith. Smith has claimed that I have abused Google to attack critics. He is a hypocrite, accusing me (and others) of doing what he has done for years.

I wrote the above and the rest of this study before I noticed that Smith actually bragged about creating the media flap:

The person who wrote those RationalWiki articles sent a tip-off to some newspapers. The story now has national coverage.[[User:SkepticDave|SkepticDave]] ([[User talk:SkepticDave|talk]]) 23:07, 11 January 2018 (UTC)

(SkepticDave is an obvious AngloPyramidologist sock, i.e., Oliver Smith — or possibly his brother Darryl.)

Smith just demonstrated how lies on a site that appears to be encyclopedic can create, then, news stories in sloppy media, that then are used to strengthen the original claims (as all those stories then were cited on RationalWiki). I will here look at each story on the claim Smith makes, but first some background:

Hereditarianism

Kirkegaard would be, perhaps, a speaker on hereditarian views on intelligence or related research, the Wikipedia article has this:

Hereditarianism is the doctrine or school of thought that heredity plays a significant role in determining human nature and character traits, such as intelligence and personality. Hereditarians believe in the power of genetics to explain human character traits and solve human social and political problems. Hereditarians adopt the view that an understanding of human evolution can extend the understanding of human nature.

The statement is unsourced, however, I’m going to assume that a hereditarian would agree with the definition. The article goes on:

Theories opposed to hereditarianism include behaviorismsocial determinism and environmental determinism.[citation needed] This disagreement and controversy is part of the nature versus nurture debate. But both are based on the assumption that genes and environment have large independent effects. The dominant view outside psychology among biologists and geneticists is that both of these are gross oversimplifications and that the behavioral/psychological phenotype for human beings is determined by a function of genes and environment which cannot be decomposed into a sum of functions of the two independently. And this especially because human behavior is uniquely plastic compared to that of other animals.

Hereditarianism has major political implications.

Pastore [1949] has claimed that hereditarians were more likely to be conservative,[4] that they view social and economic inequality as a natural result of variation in talent and character. Consequently, they explain class and race differences as the result of partly genetic group differences. Pastore contrasted this with the claim that behaviorists were more likely to be liberals or leftists, that they believe economic disadvantage and structural problems in the social order were to blame for group differences.[4]

The political implications become incendiary when the claim is made of a correlation between race and intelligence. The problem is amplified if “race” is assumed to be a biological reality, which might be one definition of “racialism,” which should be distinguished from “racism,” though obviously racism is racialist.

All this becomes a chaotic mess when implications which may be taken from scientific findings are judged based on the imagined — or real — political consequences. If some fact is shown by scientific research that would lead to a “wrong” policy decision, then the research must be wrong and is to be attacked. That is reasoning from consequences, a major logical error. As well, if research is supported by or funded by or liked by Bad People, with the Wrong Political Views, the research and the researcher are Bad. Guilt by association.

Kirkegaard on pedophiles

I cover this in a comment on an email from Oliver Smith, here. The short of it. Kirkegaard made some socially clumsy statements, but did not intent to legitimate child rape or child sexual abuse. Rather he “thought out loud” about how a moral pedophile might deal with the “problem” of being a pedophile, writing things that were just plain silly and useless. Many have done that, but it usually isn’t picked up and broadcast six years later, in what is a totally irrelevant context, like the UCL conference. A speaker at a conference, many years ago, said something dumb? This is relevant news? Only in the world of “fake news” (and counter-fake news, which is really the same) which seeks for the sensational and salacious, regardless of relevance. The UCL Conference organizers would not be responsible for knowing what Kirkegaard wrote many years before, only his recent activity. The tragedy of this is that “mainstream media” repeated accusations from RationalWiki, which then cites those repetitions and highly biased analysis — not mentioning where the newspapers got the information, which is obvious. RationalWiki. So Oliver Smith created a media nightmare and then cites it as proof that the nightmare is true. Nice trick. Not.

Exposed: London’s eugenics conference and its neo-Nazi links

A eugenics conference held annually at University College London by an honorary professor, the London Conference on Intelligence, is dominated by a secretive group of white supremacists with neo-Nazi links, London Student can exclusively reveal.
First of all, was it a “eugenics conference,” and what is “eugenics?” Wikipedia: Eugenics. The concept has come to refer to attempts or study of techniques for “improving” human genetics, which could range from what was done in the past (such as selective sterilization of people deemed to be carrying “defective heritable characteristics”) to genetic engineering, including selective abortion. I.e., aborting a child because it is shown to be carrying some gene for a genetic disorder, would be a form of eugenics. Eugenics, as a field, has a bad name particularly because of concepts and applications in Nazi Germany, where the idea was heavily mixed with concepts of “racial purity.”
Racialism is hereditarian, with a concept of the reality of races as genetic in nature. It’s rather obvious that the characteristics used to identify people racially can have a genetic component.  Is this story factual? The official name of the Conference has been the London Conference on Intelligence. Not “Eugenics.”
The article states that the Conference has its own Youtube channel, but that is gone. No details were given. It is unclear what was the importance of mentioning this.
The co-op article is a massive exercise in guilt by association. If a “link” can be found, that shows “domination.” What we have is a list of persons who have participated in the Conference. I would expect, by the way, that racists would be attracted to hereditarianism, but that does not make hereditarianism racist. There is obviously a genetic component to intelligence; what is the difference, otherwise, between a mouse and a human in intelligence? The issue as to racialism would be the extent of genetic differences between the populations called “races” — which can be very poorly defined — and, for the Conference, how they relate to measures of intelligence, intelligence itself being, often, poorly defined. That mouse is pretty smart, when it comes to being a mouse!
So the “speakers and attendees” named, and then the “links” to “neo-Nazis”:
  • Professor James Thompson, who allegedly “doesn’t understand genetics.” Evidence. Another professor said so. Maybe it’s true and maybe it isn’t!
  • “a self-taught geneticist who argues in favour of child rape,” Which would be Emil Kirkegaard, and what he wrote six years ago and did not promote or repeat, even if he did do what was stated, and … this has zero to do with “neo-Nazi” or hereditarianism, it’s simply mud to toss.
  • multiple white supremacists, not named. Out of how many? and a conference and its organizers is to be judge by those who are interested and attend? Invited speakers, yes, but sometimes anyone is allowed to present a paper, generally based on an abstract presented. A conference will not do deep research to rule out some “neo-Nazi link.” They may not look at presenter qualifications at all, it depends.
  • ex-board member of the Office for Students Toby Young.
  • Richard Lynn (Wikipedia article). A link is given to a web site about Lynn: https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/richard-lynn That is the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is highly political. In 2016, Lynn spoke on “Sex differences in intelligence.” If Lynn is smart, he would be talking about how much smarter than men, women are. Seriously, I have two immediate reactions: comparing intelligence between woman and men is extremely difficult, what one can do is to compare measures only. and there are hosts of stereotypes to deal with. Men have trouble understanding cooking and taking care of babies, right? And especially men have trouble understanding women, famously. Does Lynn give a decent speech, raising questions worth considering, or was this uninterrupted racist or sexist propaganda? To know, one would probably have to be there! This hit piece is simply hitting on stereotypes about racism and sexism, knee-jerk expectations. The Wikipedia article provides much more balance. I’d be amazed at a Conference on Intelligence that did not include Lynn. Yes, his views might be highly controversial, and he might take positions on social issues that I might find offensive, but the man does have academic qualifications. I’m starting to smell academic censorship, rejection of research because it offends political correctness (which is more or less what Kirkegaard has been claiming). The existence of that kind of bias does not mean that the research is sound, but a free academy will not be reasoning from consequences. Data is data. Intepretation of data is distinct from that, and interpretation is often quite biased. According to the Wikipedia article on Lynn, he sits on the board of the journal Intelligence, published by Elsevier. He is also 87 years old. Someone is surprised that he attends and speaks at a conference on intelligence?
  • four of the six members of the UISR’s Academic Advisory Council. The Ulster Institute for Social Research, on the face, is an academic institution. The members are titled “professors,” Edward Miller, Helmuth Nyborg, Donald Templer, Andrei Grigoriev, James Thompson, Gerhard Meisenberg. James Thompson, of course, was the Conference sponsor at UCL, so he’s been mentioned twice. I will list these separately:
  • Edward M. Miller, “is an American economist. He is a professor whose writings on race and intelligence have sparked debates on academic freedom. Indeed, and it is still happening. Academic freedom must include the right to be wrong. When ideas must be “correct” in order to be considered and discussed, we have a new orthodoxy that can and will crush real progress. Miller is my age, a born about four months after me.
  • Helmuth Nyborg is a Danish psychologist and author. He is former professor of developmental psychology at Aarhus UniversityDenmark and Olympic canoeist. His main research topic is the connection between hormones and intelligence. Among other things, he has worked on increasing the intelligence of girls with Turner’s syndrome by giving them estrogen. His research was censured for political reasons[1] by the administration of Aarhus University in 2007, forcing his retirement. He was later cleared by the governmental Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD).[1] From my point of view, with any particular measure  of intelligence, there may be differences between  populations (i.e., “races” or ethnic groups) and between genders. The implications for policies are quite unclear, because there are other issues, and individual difference may be (I’ll simply say are) far larger than the population differences. Nyborg is 81.
  • Donald Templer died in 2016. He was 68 years old and was also quite controversial. Racists will believe in racialism and hereditarianism, and will show interest in these topics, but that does not make them “racist.” As well, political views can become highly biased, but if a researcher does good science, the bias can be separated from it; it will show up in how data is interpreted. If a researcher actually falsifies data, they would be rejected by all scientists. It’s rare.
  • Andrei Gigoriev: co-authored with Richard Lynn A_study_of_the_intelligence_of_Kazakhs_Russians_and_Uzbeks_in_Kazakhstan, published in Intelligence (2014)

Reading the paper, the immediate question I looked to find is how “intelligence” was measured. I find the research itself interesting, but quite inadequately explored. The paper talks about “intelligence” and does actually consider measures of intelligence, and … this is a general problem with “intelligence”: The test was a test designed in Great Britain and was administered in Russian, so higher performance for Russians could simply be related to familiarity with that language. Could there be a racialist or cultural bias here? Yes, my opinion. However, part of a solution would be to repeat the study with a similar test in Uzbek. The paper also suggests another problem: cultural emphasis on certain kinds of thinking and de-emphasis on other kinds. That is, the definition of “intelligence” may incorporate cultural bias. And the paper then goes into what I would call “racist or racialist speculation.” I would fault the reviewers at Intelligence for not insisting on skeptical analysis (i.e., the authors could have suggested further research to clear up ambiguities, but they did not.) (I could rip this paper to shreds, my opinion, but … academic freedom can handle this, and should.

  • James Thompson was the organizer of the UCL conference. He appears to be a recognized academic, see this paper, published by Oxford University Press in the Journal of Biosocial Science. From his Twitter feed, some quotes (All from January 15):

 If you want to combat racism and sexism you need the benchmark of open discussion of racial and sexual differences.

An unpopular idea may be traduced, misrepresented and suppressed and yet be wrong.

We should examine the ideas we cherish with as much ferocity as those we find repellent.

(See Spearman’s hypothesis, which is highly relevant, and G-loading. To my mind, the difference between hereditarian positions and those which consider other factors more important (such as environment, including cultural environment, social expectations, etc.) is one of degree, not absolute. I have been diagnosed with ADHD, and it was not marginal. There are theories that ADHD (which does run in families) is a genetic variant that favors hunter-gatherer survival, whereas “normies” are adapted for settled communities, originally agricultural. Nomadic peoples (like the Kazakhs) would probably fit more on the hunter-gatherer side. All human cultures need intelligence, but the form of intelligence would vary. But how large is the genetic component? The racist aspect of this research shows up in assumptions about what is “better.” It is generally assumed that “higher intelligence” is good, but what is the definition of “good”? It can be highly biased, culturally. The Gigoriev study cites some  specific question differences. It seems the authors cannot see the trees for the forest. A question designed to test the operation of logic included words that would be cultural triggers for Kazakhs, causing them to respond from a cultural position rather than from pure logic. These kinds of differences were then interpreted as an “inability to reason logically.” But all people when triggered into well-established patterns of thought do not apply abstract logic. The test, as designed, apparently, would create a process bias. It is not that a Kazakh could not understand “All A is not B. Given an example of A, is it B?” Different people, on average, and culturally, might have strong reactions to A or B, thus shifting answers. It would only need to shift the answers from some to warp the results. The paper is confused about racialism vs. culturalism.)

The Wikipedia article on Mankind Quarterly covers critique (quite prominently, by the way, a sign of biased editing there.) Generally, controversy should be kept out of the lede, and placing four links to what is obviously political criticism in the lede is not balanced. The Journal itself is clearly a scientific journal, publishing articles in a field with high controversy. For the latest issue, I picked a paper to look at.

“The Relationship between the “Smart Fraction”, SES, and Education: The Sudan Case.” From the abstract, this is neither hereditarian nor racialist. There is a paper by Emil Kirkegaard, ‘Employment Rates for 11 Country of Origin Groups in Scandinavia.” This was the only paper that I noticed as possibly being “politically edgy.” However, such data is needed for public policy review. Without reading the paper itself, I could expect that Kirkegaard might have expressed an anti-immigration position. Whether or not this would discredit the actual research is another issue.

For Kirkegaard: the article has “Kirkegaard’s reputation as a scientific advocate for neo-Nazism was increased last April when he appeared on Tara McCarthy’s ‘Reality Calls’ to discuss “the future of eugenics.” … and then evidence is shown that Tara McCarthy is Very Bad. This is guilt by association. Kirkegaard’s actual views were not described (and Kirkegaard has denied being a “neo-Nazi.” HIs general views on hereditarianism and intelligence — and eugenics — would make him a person of interest to certain racists and white supremacists, but that does not make him one of them. Further, even if he has politically offensive views, that does not discredit his scientific work. The London Student article is attacking an entire field, the study of intelligence and in particular, the origin of differences in measures of intelligence. Hereditarians consider genetics important, but the more mainstream view (and my view) is now that, among human beings (with very similar genetic coding, and aside from specific genetic disorders), other factors are far more important, and that survival pressure optimized for “general intelligence” in all major populations. However, I will argue strongly for the right of hereditatians and racialists to perform and present research, academically. If offensive racist (not merely racialist) views are presented, or, related, pernicious sexist views, not merely a study of sexual differences), then an academic institution may decide to exclude such work. The hysterical London Student article does not consider the real issues, but has merely fleshed out — a little — what came from the RationalWiki article by Oliver D. Smith, who has acknowledged, through his sock SkepticDave, that he fomented the whole flap by email.

Then the article mentions another Conference speaker as having been interviewed by McCarthy: Adam Perkins. Here is a cogent critique of Perkin’s work. “Cogent” means thoughtful and, to some extent, balanced, not knee-jerk, not that I necessarily agree. (But I probably would if I studied the book, which I’m not doing). The political significance is considered, and it is politics that dominate here. Not science. The book title is sensationalist: The Welfare Trait: How State Benefits Affect Personality. I have no doubt that this would appeal to conservatives and, as well, to certain neo-Nazis.

I conclude that the London Student article was sensationalist, focused on easy allegations, not distinguishing between the academic study of intelligence and heredity (by no means a resolved scientific controversy) and “neo-Nazi.”

this was a straightforward news report, reporting an investigation, not conclusions.

This is on the face repeating Oliver D. Smith’s attacks and arguments. It’s pure guilt by association.

Kirkegaard is not a “Nazi.” The article is conclusory, making exaggerated claims, such as “The London Conference on Intelligence (LCI) is a secretive, invitation-only event where they appear to discuss only the most bigoted of topics.”

Topics are not bigoted, unless they are, by their nature, conclusory on bigotry. I.e., “Why are Blacks of such Low Intelligence” would be racist and conclusory (i.e., incorporated racist assumption).” So far, I haven’t seen topics like that. So this is a hit piece, and we know that Oliver D. Smith contacted media to promote these ideas. They fell for it. They quote Kirkegaard (not mentioning that it was years ago):

He has also advocated a “frank discussion of paedophilia related issues.”

Obviously a pedophile because any non-pedophile would not want any discussion of such issues, they are unthinkable to any normal person. See Harris Mirkin. (Seriously, I’m a parent and pedophile hysteria does not protect children, it probably has the opposite effect.)

Top London university launches probe into conference that included speakers with controversial views on race and gender

Yes, they did that. There is some level of incorporated conclusion in the headline. Certainly there are allegations of “controversial views.” But these topics are not generally well-understood. So, looking at details, first in the subheads:

University College London said it was probing a potential breach of policy

Yes, that’s clear. The exact nature of the breach is not clear, not to me, yet.

One professor said the London Conference on Intelligence was ‘pseudoscience’

What did this mean? The source was the London Student. This was a media feeding frenzy. I will later look for follow-up. “Intelligence” is a very hot topic, with strong views being common, and politically fraught.

Some speakers claim certain countries have higher IQs than others, it is alleged

This is shocking, perhaps, until one knows what “IQ” actually is. Intelligence Quotient is measured by performance on standardized tests. Given a set of tests, I don’t think it is controversial: differing populations may have differing average scores on such tests. As a silly point: Countries do not have IQ, people do. Or perhaps robots. Siri is pretty smart! Good, perhaps, the word “alleged” is put in there. But the claim is not controversial! Except that some people will come unglued if one says it.

Public policy formation should not be knee-jerk from shallow interpretations of data. The public policy implications of the measured differences in IQ are a quite different topic than the raw data. There are many issues to be example, which will not be examined while there is shouting about “Racism!” Though with countries, it would be Nationalism, right? Which may or may not be racist.

By Eleanor Harding Education Correspondent For The Daily Mail

PUBLISHED: 20:41 EST, 10 January 2018 | UPDATED: 21:01 EST, 10 January 2018

The annual conference, which was first held in 2014, is alleged to have included speakers who have written about people in some countries having on average a higher IQ than those in others.

Again, that is not controversial, once we know what IQ is. It is performance on a standardized test. So, then, it becomes a matter of interest, scientifically (and with public policy implications). Why? Answers to that are not necessarily simple, and would, scientifically, require testing. Or it would be pseudoscience.

It was hosted by an honorary UCL senior lecturer, Professor James Thompson, who taught psychology for 32 years and for the last decade has worked as a consultant psychologist.

Yes. So, surprising that a conference on intelligence is hosted by a psychologist?

Another speaker at the LCI has been Emil Kirkegaard, who gave a talk in 2015 about how far ‘genomic race’ is associated with cognitive ability.

Well, “how far” is actually an open scientific question. It’s difficult to study. Kirkegaard used the term “genomic race.” What is that. Is it different from “race”? How? Here is a blog post by Kirkegaard.

The post shows some problems. First of all, genomic race is race measured by genetic markers, rather than “SIRE” or “self reported race/ethnicity.” Kirkegaard emphasizes the need for strong evidence because “environmentalists are very stubborn.” He is betraying a strong bias, his research is attempting to prove something, which classically leads to poor research. However, that does not make his results wrong, only that the results must be interpreted with caution, because he may then select data to publish that has been selected for value in creating desired conclusions, He is clearly a hereditarian (opposed to “environmentalism”) and a racialist. That is, he believes that the genetic influence on intelligence is strong — which is not a mainstream position now — and that “race” is a biological reality — also a widely rejected view. In my opinion, the statement “race is a biological reality” is neither true nor false, it is confuses interpretation with fact. But the interpretation that race is not a reality (other than as a social construct) is now dominant (and I have expressed that view many times.) We will see a comment on this:

Writer and geneticist Adam Rutherford told the London Student that, based on the titles and abstracts at the LCI, some of the views presented by speakers were a ‘pseudoscientific front for bog-standard, old-school racism’.

“Bog-standard” appears to be British for “ordinary.” I don’t agree. Racism, to confront the core, is a manifestation of what may be a human instinct, to mistrust strangers, people who are different. That made some level of sense for first reactions under “tribal conditions.” It becomes dangerous and pernicious under more modern conditions. But that kind of reaction will occur, it’s mediated by the amygdala, my opinion. So most “normal people” will be racist. Under modern conditions, such people are likely to deny it, since racism is Bad. (This has changed radically in my lifetime. When I was growing up in a white community, Manhattan Beach, California, racism was completely normal. That shifted, to the point that racism is suppressed. But people will still have those reactions, and to move beyond this, declaring the reactions Bad and Wrong will not shift this. Rather, racism is disappearing mostly because of increased exposure and familiarity, such that “black people” are now part of “our tribe.” The first step in defeating that “inner racism” is to acknowledge it, and the atmosphere of strong rejection makes that more difficult, not less difficult. Basically, blaming people is not a part of any skilled pedagogy or social transformation. 

This was not the comment of some careful academic. Basic on the Wikipedia article, Adam Rutherford, I’d expect a certain kind of bias, which is amply displayed here.

“Some views expressed” could refer to one or two speakers.

He added: ‘As soon as you begin to speak about black people and IQ you have a problem, because genetically-speaking “black people” aren’t one homogenous group.

Okay, who spoke about “black people”? Remember, he did not attend the conference and did not read the papers. Here is the list of speakers for the 2016 Conference: It includes a paper that I’d expect might have something like that, by Kirkegaard and Fuerst. http://www.dcscience.net/London-conference-of-Intelligence-2016.pdf#14

‘Any two people of recent African descent are likely to be more genetically distinct from each other than either of them is to anyone else in the world.’

Yes, I understand that is correct. But there is an obvious error here. That fact (i.e., genetic diversity, which can be measured) does not negate the possibility of a genetic influence on intelligence, and the variations in intelligence studied by researchers in the field are not confined to genetic differences. To determine these effects, as well as their causes, research is needed, and especially careful research. But if the field is rejected as intrinsically racist, which is the appearance here, that research will not be done, or if done, may not be reported and criticized.

The London Conference on Intelligence included talks by controversial speakers including white supremacists, child rape advocates, and those with extreme views on race and gender.

This article depends heavily on the London Student article. With “child rape advocates” (how many?) it shows its the origin with, directly or indirectly. Oliver D. Smith. It is full of the same non sequiturs. 

The use of the hyperbolic plural is a tipoff to the yellow journalistic agenda.

Was it a “eugenics” conference? Notice that this is an incorporated assumption in the headline. The 2016 conference document cited above is headed with a photograph of Edward Thorndike, and a saying from him:

Selective breeding can alter man’s capacity to learn, to keep sane, to cherish justice or to be happy. There is no more certain and economical a way to improve man’s environment as to improve his nature.

“Selective breeding” is actually natural and normal. (But Thorndike may have had something more “scientific” in mind.). There is nothing offensive about the statement, though I might disagree with the weight that he put on it. There is nothing ‘racist’ about this comment. If he was a racist — I don’t know, but many were in his day — the comment appears independent of that, he was not talking about “race purity,” which is, actually, genetically dangerous. Diversity is important for the maintenance of healthy populations.

Richard Lynn has an obvious interest in eugenics. He wrote Eugenics: A Reassessment. However, I see no indication that the Conference is fairly called a “eugenics conference.” It was about intelligence and population studies of measures of intelligence. It was accurately named. I saw not one paper in the list that was about eugenics (which in modern times would refer most strongly to genetic engineering. The study of intelligence could have an impact on that. Can genes for “intelligence” be found? Again, how would we know? Genetic engineering will bring many ethical issues — and it’s already happening. It is common to do fetal genetic testing to detect Down syndrome, and to then selectively abort. However, eugenics would probably be focused on increasing desirable characteristics.

 

Is it a “eugenics probe”? Or is it a reaction to a massive flap about alleged racism? Is a topic to be banned because someone interested in the topic, and who writes academic papers on it, has expressed, at some time or other, allegedly abhorrent views?  From a comment by a  UCL spokesperson:

“Our records indicate the university was not informed in advance about the speakers and content of the conference series, as it should have been for the event to be allowed to go ahead. The conferences were booked and paid for as an external event and without our officials being told of the details. They were therefore not approved or endorsed by UCL.

It would be radically contrary to academic freedom for the university to assert control over speakers and content. From the topics of the 2016 conference, I would expect a normal university response to allow a next conference, if they even took that much interest. The conference organizer was apparently a trusted faculty member, and that would be the extent of it.

I would not expect specific conference speakers and content to be approved in advance by the university. That is quite contrary to actual practice, which is that a conference is planned, often very long in advance, the venue secured for the general topic, and then, once a location is secure, the speakers and papers to be delivered are chosen. 

“We have suspended approval for any further conferences of this nature by the honorary lecturer and speakers pending our investigation into the case. As part of that investigation, we will be speaking to the honorary lecturer and seeking an explanation.”

As a temporary measure pending investigation, this makes sense. Oliver D. Smith, who triggered this flap by private email to the media, probably linking to the RationalWiki article that he wrote, crowed on RationalWiki that he got the conference “shut down.” That has not happened yet. There is a temporary suspension pending investigation and whether or not it affects this year’s conference is unclear. If it stays up in the air, unresolved, Conference organizers may simply move the Conference elsewhere. This was a small conference and does not need to be held at a University. I’d suggest a hotel in Hawaii. Cheaper in China, I’m sure.

The university stressed it was “committed to free speech but also to combatting racism and sexism in all forms”.

We will see how committed they are to free speech.

University College London has launched an urgent investigation into how a senior academic was able to secretly host conferences on eugenics and intelligence with notorious speakers including white supremacists.

The London Conference on Intelligence was said to have been run secretly for at least three years by James Thompson, an honorary senior lecturer at the university, including contributions from a researcher who has previously advocated child rape.

Oliver Smith successfully framed the conversation. The conference was on intelligence, yes. Were any speakers “white supremacists?” That’s quite unclear. Oliver Smith has made this claim about some. The speakers were well-known academics in the field. “Notorious”? Who? This was an appalling piece by the Guardian, polemic, not sober reporting. The “child rape” accusation was false, and the comments he made — which were not advocacy, clearly — were many years before, as a young blogger.

Any actual journalism here? Okay:

UCL said it had no knowledge of the conference, an invitation-only circle of 24 attendees, which could have led to a breach of the government’s Prevent regulations on campus extremism.

This conference was not “extremist.” It was, in some respects, fringe or controversial research.  The actual Prevent document is about terrorism.

Russia Television. Shabby yellow journalism, repeating the Smith claims. Much commentary was about Toby Young, for having “attended” the conference. Young is a highly opininated journalist and has made comments relating to eugenics. The Wikipedia article is, by the way, afflicted with Oliver Smith fake news, my sense is that it violates biography policy, with recentism and focus on a splash of claims in media. (The claims actually contradict sources, but … newspapers like the Guardian are “reliable source.” Nevertheless, it’s up to editors to consider balance. It’s obvious that a series of media sources copied each other having copied RationalWiki. And there was an Oliver Smith sock (tagged as Anglo Pyramidologist) who edited that. (“Rebecca Bird.”)

The quality is a little higher, in a dismal field:

One of Britain’s most liberal universities has learnt that it has played host to a conference for controversial academics and experts for three years without knowing it.

More accurately, the University spokesperson has claimed, to repeat:

Our records indicate the university was not informed in advance about the speakers and content of the conference series, as it should have been for the event to be allowed to go ahead. The conferences were booked and paid for as an external event and without our officials being told of the details. They were therefore not approved or endorsed by UCL.

This kind of statement can be quite misleading. “Records indicate” shows that someone didn’t find something in the records, but information may have been provided that was not recorded. “Booked and paid for as an external event” is possible. Who can do that and under what rules? What information, if any, was actually provided? This was, however, arguably “secretive” — from what Toby Young has written, there was a realization that the content could be controversial — but not “secret.” There was ample information about the conference, in public view. I would not expect the University to be informed of conference details, particularly speakers. Rather, what would seem more likely would be that the general conference subject would be revealed. Speakers would not necessarily be known until not long before the conference, and it would not be the job of the University to vet speakers. The Time more accurately describes the topic of the conference than any of the other sources:

University College London has been the venue for the London Conference on Intelligence, a secretive, invitation-only event on “empirical studies of intelligence, personality and behaviour”.

Given the apparent function of the conference, I would not be surprised for it to be “invitation-only.” That does not, in itself, make it “secretive” or “secret.” Just in the last few days, there was a conference for cold fusion researchers at MIT that was “invitation-only.” This is done where the desire is to create a collaborative working environment, among people already familiar with the research.

It has been held at the university every year since 2015 without the authorities being notified, in a breach of its own rules. This year’s conference, scheduled for May, has been suspended while UCL investigates.

The Times is stating that the rules have been breached, but has not provided evidence or a source for that, other than the vague comments of the University spokesperson. The inquiry is into whether or not rules were breached. Who, exactly was responsible for notifying exactly whom? Is there a form for booking a conference. Did it contain the required information. My guess would be, it did, and that the idea of rules violation is CYA from some University officials. But I certainly don’t know.

The conferences have hosted speakers presenting work that claims racial mixing has a negative effect on population “quality”, and that “skin brightness” is a factor in global development.

So, with a rather diverse group of speakers, and many papers over the years, one finds a few studies that sound weird. I could go over all the lists of papers, but I’m not doing that now.

I have seen “skin brightness” used as a measure of “color.” It is a crude marker for certain populations. (Skin brightness can be objectively measured. Skin brightness might be a factor in global development because of endemic racism. How would one know? It’s obvious that there is an attitude of certain topics being forbidden, to be condemned, which is more or less what Kirkegaard has claimed. “Population quality” is vague, but in the few papers I have read, these terms are defined and may not be at all what a reader of a newspaper would assume.  

I find this fascinating: as media picked up the stories, each new report tended to focus on the facts or claims of the prior reports. There is little sign of investigation de novo. So facts or claims that would be, in an unbiased report, considered marginal or irrelevant, not to be covered, are covered, and there is a bias in this toward what is sensational or scandalous.

Standard, ancient problem of media bias, not necessarily a bias toward a political position, but toward scandal and the like. The most obvious example here is the often mentioned alleged advocacy of child rape, that wasn’t. This had nothing to do with the conference (the ostensible topic of the stories) and was simple ad hominem attack and claim of guilt by association.

For a very different (and still very political) view, http://www.vdare.com/articles/then-they-came-for-the-london-conference-on-intelligence

A modest proposal: perhaps there is a gene for racism. (From what I’ve described above, this is not absolutely preposterous. Fear of the “other” may be instinctive and not simply conditioned, it probably has some genetic basis. So, how about the possibility of a genetic test for racism, and there could be fetal tests for it, and then selective abortion to diminish the obviously damaging propensity for racism in the population. Readers should be aware of the history of “a modest proposal.”

My hope here is that UCL makes a sane decision that does protect academic  freedom. If there are aspects of the Conference that are gratuitously offensive — I have not seen that yet — then they may sanely place restrictions. In this field, some of the researchers will hold unconventional views. That’s critical for the scientific process. What would truly concern me would be data falsification, and nothing like that has been alleged.