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A researcher who was mentioned in the effort to remove Harvard's Claudine Gay is connected to individuals who support eugenics.
Science

A researcher who was mentioned in the effort to remove Harvard’s Claudine Gay is connected to individuals who support eugenics.

A data analyst, supported by right-wing activist Christopher Rufo, the Manhattan Institute think tank, and other conservative groups, has been recognized as an expert in criticizing former Harvard president Claudine Gay. This individual has co-authored multiple papers with a group of scholars who have faced widespread criticism for their beliefs in eugenics and scientific racism.

In an interview published on Friday in his newsletter and on the City Journal website of the Manhattan Institute, Rufo characterized Jonatan Pallesen as a Danish data scientist who has brought up new concerns about the use – and possible misuse – of data in Claudine Gay’s PhD thesis.

He did not tell readers that a paper featuring Pallesen’s own statistical work in collaboration with the eugenicist researchers has been subject to scathing expert criticism for its faulty methods, and characterized as white nationalism by another academic critic.

The recent disclosures once more bring up concerns regarding Rufo’s willingness to associate with extremists while pursuing his political agendas, as he is a significant ally of Ron DeSantis and a prominent culture warrior in the Republican party.

The Guardian reached out to Rufo via email to inquire about his frequent showcasing of extreme individuals on his platform. They also contacted both Rufo and the Manhattan Institute’s communications office to inquire if they had screened Pallesen before featuring him in the interview. However, no response was received from either party.

During his interview with Rufo, Pallesen is described as an “outsider” who is willing to criticize Harvard from outside of its campus. This group also includes Rufo and Chris Brunet, a blogger on Substack. Pallesen goes on to claim that there are “very basic” mistakes in Claudine Gay’s PhD dissertation and a subsequent paper, specifically regarding her assertion that the election of Black representatives leads to a decrease in white voter turnout.

Later, Rufo inquired about the absence of academic critique towards Gay’s work and what it reveals about the overall state of academia. Pallesen responded that studies that support “woke” beliefs are more likely to be readily accepted.

Neither he nor Rufo brought up the criticisms of Pallesen’s statistical reasoning, despite the fact that he collaborated with three authors whose work has been compared to discredited eugenicist racial science, after publishing a paper together.

The 2019 research paper discusses the impact of polygenic scores on the educational and cognitive abilities of Ashkenazi Jews compared to Catholics and Lutherans. It suggests that genetics play a significant role in the high cognitive abilities observed in this group. The authors also propose that a combination of cultural and genetic factors may contribute to the unique characteristics of the Jewish population, such as their high cognitive abilities.

The paper was founded on an analysis of data that is openly accessible from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, a long-standing survey of the American population.

Emil Kirkegaard, Michael Woodley, and Curtis S Dunkel were co-authors of Pallesen.

Academics from various universities such as Stanford, Georgetown, and the University of Wisconsin responded directly to the paper’s demolition. They expressed concern that using polygenic scores to compare different racial or ethnic groups has been cautioned against by researchers for some time now. Upon examining the data presented in Pallesen’s paper, they found it to be yet another example of why this caution should be heeded.

The lead author of the paper criticizing Pallesen’s paper is Jeremy Freese, a professor of sociology at Stanford. Freese was also part of a team that integrated genetic data into the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study – the same data the original paper draws on.

During a phone call, Freese expressed that the paper appeared to confuse correlation with causation, and that the topic warranted more thorough consideration.

Freese stated: “The issue we identified was easily noticeable without extensive investigation.”

Aaron Panofsky serves as both the director and a professor at UCLA’s Institute for Society and Genetics. He is also a co-author of the research article entitled “How White Nationalists Utilize Genetics,” which features a study conducted by Pallesen and others on the exploitation of genetic information by proponents of scientific racism.

Panofsky stated that the paper’s assertions regarding the innate intelligence of Jews align with a common belief held by white supremacists. This belief perpetuates a larger storyline about Jewish conspiracies and the notion that Jews are secretly manipulating global issues.

The paper written by Pallesen frequently references Kevin MacDonald, a former psychology professor whose publications promote anti-Semitic beliefs. He argues that Jews have a “group evolutionary strategy” that accounts for their economic and cultural achievements, and that anti-Semitism is a rational response to this theory.

A man looks into a camera

Panofsky stated that out of the four authors, only one has a background in psychology while the others do not have relevant degrees. However, Pallesen has degrees in biology and statistical genomics, indicating that he should have a better understanding of the subject matter.

Pallesen’s colleagues on this and other publications have varying backgrounds and not all have received formal training in social science. Additionally, some of them have gained notoriety for advocating for a resurgence of scientific racism.

Emil OW Kirkegaard, a Danish author, holds a degree in linguistics rather than biology or genetics. He identifies as a eugenicist and openly endorses “race science”. Kirkegaard is a senior member at the Ulster Institute for Social Research (UISR), led by Richard Lynn, who has been designated as a white nationalist by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

As per the WhoIs records, Kirkegaard was listed as the owner of the website for UISR’s journal, Mankind Quarterly, from 2017 until February 2023. After this time, the WhoIs information was made anonymous. Mankind Quarterly, which received funding from the white nationalist Pioneer Fund like UISR, is widely considered to be a significant contributor to the resurgence of scientific racism.

Kirkegaard is the founder of OpenPsych network, whose journals have been described as “pseudo-scientific vehicles for scientific racism”.

Michael Woodley, who holds a doctorate in ecology, previously listed an academic affiliation when his paper was released. However, he is no longer able to do so. Woodley, originally from Britain, gained widespread recognition when a paper he wrote proposing that humans could be categorized into different subspecies was referenced in the manifesto of a mass shooter responsible for killing 10 Black individuals outside a supermarket in Buffalo, New York in May 2022.

Following the discovery of a connection between Woodley’s research and a mass shooting, a large number of scholars have signed a request for the removal of Woodley’s academic affiliation at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium. The organizer of the petition informed the New York Times about Woodley’s track record of promoting racist and white supremacist ideologies.

During that period, Woodley stated that he was associated with the Unz Foundation, a organization funded by Ron Unz, a software entrepreneur from California who also runs the Unz Review website. In 2018, the Anti-Defamation League called attention to the “racist and anti-Semitic” material on the Unz Review, citing Unz’s denial of the Holocaust, endorsement of the belief that Jews drink the blood of non-Jews, and claims that Jews control the media, harbor hatred towards non-Jews, and worship Satan.

Curtis S Dunkel, the co-author, is a psychologist who was previously associated with Western Illinois University (WIU) for the paper. However, he is now listed as an independent researcher on recent publications and the ResearchGate website. The Guardian reached out to WIU for clarification and a spokesperson stated that Dunkel is no longer employed at the university. They also mentioned that they are unable to provide information on the reason for his departure.

Dunkel, Kirkegaard, and Woodley were speakers at the 2016 London Conference on Intelligence (LCI), according to leaked schedules. Dunkel’s presentation was titled “The Impact of Sex Differences in Brain Size on General Intelligence,” and the summary indicates that Dunkel asserted that women have a slightly lower intelligence level than men, with an average difference of 4 IQ points.

The LCI conference was conducted in private at University College London (UCL) from 2014 to 2017. When the conference’s existence and extremist content came to light in 2018 through a UK magazine and the UCL student newspaper, London Student, it caused a controversy in mainstream media. UCL distanced itself from the conference.

A white stone building with pillars and a dome.

According to a report from The London Student, 82% of identified LCI attendees have contributed to Mankind Quarterly, a journal known for promoting scientific racism.

Pallesen has collaborated on numerous publications with Woodley, Kirkegaard, and other authors whose work has been featured in Mankind Quarterly or presented at LCI. These co-authors, including Heiner Rindermann and Noah Carl, have faced controversy stemming from their research endeavors.

Inquired about the intentions of this network in promoting scientific racism, Panofsky, a professor at UCLA, confirmed: “Definitely. There has been a persistent effort within this movement, with a small group of scientists actively collaborating to sustain it.”

The speaker mentioned a shift in the generation and stated that Kirkegaard is a key figure in a group that aims to revive this movement and align it with far-right ideologies.

The Guardian emailed Pallesen at the email provided on his CV with questions about criticisms made of his statistical work, the extremist entanglements of his collaborators, and how he would characterize his own political beliefs.

He replied by essentially rejecting the paper he referred to as “the Jewish paper”, stating: “I only assisted with a portion of the data analysis. I did not create the methodology, co-author the paper, or agree with its findings.”

He stated: “I concur with the critique that the paper’s methods and conclusions are flawed. I have contacted the journal and requested for my name to be removed from the paper.”

Pallesen stated that he does not hold white nationalist or scientific racist beliefs, nor does he consider himself to be any type of racist. He identified himself as someone who is interested in good science.

When questioned about his decision to be listed as an author on a paper he did not support, Pallesen cited a statement from ChatGPT, an AI chat program: “In the realm of scientific publishing, being listed as a co-author should be determined by one’s contribution to the research rather than complete alignment with the paper’s ultimate findings.”

Pallesen did not answer questions about posts on his X account, however, which raise doubts about his disavowals of racism and scientific racism.

In the past few months, his opinions have included statements such as “It is morally wrong for non-Western individuals to migrate to Northern European countries,” “The criminal behavior of Black men has decreased, but it is still significantly higher compared to that of white men,” and “Even unauthorized immigrants can witness the negative impact of immigration on Danish society.”

In addition to being interviewed by Rufo and City Journal, Pallesen has been referred to as an expert by media sources like the Daily Caller and the Daily Mail.

Rufo is widely acknowledged for his efforts in causing Gay to step down from her position.

Source: theguardian.com