Academics hit back to defend Cambridge don accused of publishing ‘racist pseudoscience’

Dr Noah Carl’s writings linking IQ and genetics prompted 586 academics to sign a letter to the prestigious institution, saying his work was ‘ethically suspect’ and ‘methodologically flawed’

Academics have launched a counter-petition to defend a controversial Cambridge don who was sacked after being accused of publishing ‘racist pseudoscience’ in an escalating row over freedom of speech.

Social scientist Noah Carl had his fellowship withdrawn from St Edmund’s College last week, on the grounds that he allegedly collaborated with people who hold ‘extremist views’. 

His writings linking IQ and genetics prompted 586 academics to sign a letter to the prestigious institution, saying his work was ‘ethically suspect’ and ‘methodologically flawed.’  

But now, 606 academics have signed an open letter in support of the recently sacked 28-year-old in online magazine Quillette.

Penned by Editor-in-Chief Claire Lehmann, she said: ‘We live at a time where academic freedom is under threat from ideologues and activists of all persuasions.

‘The latest threat comes from St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, where administrators appear to have capitulated to a mob of activists (students and academics) who mounted a campaign to have a young scholar fired for ‘problematic’ research.’

She went on to say the magazine ‘steadfastly supports the foundational principles of open inquiry and free-thought’ and that ‘academic freedom is buckling under political pressure.’

Underneath the letter are signatories from academics supporting Dr Carl, from prestigious institutions such as Stanford, Harvard, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. 

Dr Carl (pictured above) had been speaking in Oxford last week at an event discussing free speech

Dr Carl (pictured above) had been speaking in Oxford last week at an event discussing free speech

It comes after Dr Carl, defended his stance last week and classed himself as a ‘victim’ after stating that studies he had uncovered from the 1960s and 2015 had a number of adverse effects on campus.

Setting out evidence on over-representation of left-wing views in British academia he said: ‘Four studies found that in 1960 about a third of academics supported Conservatives and 45 per cent Labour. By 2015, 11 per cent supported the Conservatives and about 70 per cent Labour.

‘There is denial and mischaracterisation of research believed to threaten certain left-wing sacred values.

How Dr Noah Carl, 28, has been criticised for ‘racist’ views – but is a big free speech backer

Dr Noah Gilpin Carl was born in 1990 in Cambridge and was a research fellow at St Edumund’s College in the city.

He has a BA in human sciences, an MSc in sociology and a DPhil in sociology from Oxford.

For his doctorate, he looked at how cognitive ability and socio-political beliefs can be related. He also focuses on social identity and immigration.

But he has faced criticism for his views on how opposition to immigration can be based on ‘rational beliefs’.

Critics say his work has been used by far-Right outlets to aid xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

His research has been backed by various far right US media groups, including Info Wars, which is headed by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

However, Dr Carl is a passionate free speech advocate and has previously stated that ‘stifling of debate around taboo topics can itself do active harm’.

He also writes for The UK in a Changing Europe, a Brexit research website funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

In pictures on his Facebook profile, Dr Carl is seen practising yoga in stone circles with his nephew. 

‘I would argue I’ve been a victim of that myself, and many other people in controversial fields such as IQ research and other fields where some content appears to threaten left-wing values.’

Prior to his talk on free speech in Oxford, he posted a blog defending his work, where he said that exploring a possible link between genes and intelligence was ‘a perfectly defensible scientific position’.

He said: ‘It may turn out that genes make zero contribution, or it may turn out that they make a contribution greater than zero. Deciding in advance that they make zero contribution is not science. It is proof by assertion.’

Mr Carl had been one of several speakers at the event last week who had been threatened with ‘no platforming’, lost jobs, or had invitations revoked due to views on issues ranging from free speech, race and gender, The Times reported.

In 2016 Among he wrote a paper in which he claimed that ‘the higher the percentage of Muslims in the population, the greater the share of citizens susceptible to Islamist radicalisation’. 

The event had been organised by 64-year-old Nigel Biggar, the regius professor or moral and pastoral theology at Oxford.

He highlighted he wanted to generate a ‘counter spiral’ to the dominance of ‘cultural left extremism’ which he said had been determining views across the campus.

It comes one month after Cambridge rescinded its offer of a visiting fellowship to the so-called ‘professor against political correctness’ Jordan Peterson, after he was pictured next to a man wearing a t-shirt which had ‘I’m a proud Islamophobe’, printed on it.

In February, a meeting had been held by the International Youth and Students for Social Equality, group at Cambridge to ‘oppose the promotion of eugenics and pseudo-science’ at the university.

What has Noah Carl written about Brexit, immigration and Muslims in recent years?

‘It cannot simply be taken for granted that, when in doubt, stifling debate around taboo topics is the ethical thing to do. (This study) makes three main claims: first, that equating particular scientific statements with racism effectively holds our morals hostage to the facts; second, that the ‘blank slate’ view of human nature also has pernicious moral implications; and third, that there are clear examples of where stifling debate has done material harm to both individuals and societal institutions.’

Evolutionary Psychological Science, December 2018

‘Examining the relationship between the presence of Muslims and the incidence of Islamist terrorism is now a lively area of scholarly research… Of course, it goes without saying that only a small minority of Muslims are terrorists, and not all terrorist are Muslims.’

Medium, September 2018

‘Remain voters overestimate the importance that Leave voters attach to both regaining control over EU immigration and teaching British politicians a lesson. 52 per cent of Remain voters rank ‘Leavers wanted the UK to regain control over EU immigration’ first, whereas only 39 per cent of Leave voters rank ‘to regain control over EU immigration’ first. And 12 per cent of Remain voters rank ‘Leavers wanted to teach British politicians a lesson’ first, whereas only 3 per cent of Leave voters rank ‘to teach British politicians a lesson’ first.’

London School of Economics blog, May 2018

‘Britain’s vote to leave the EU is decidedly not without precedent. The country has left the mainland of Europe on precisely three prior occasions, each time carefully weighing up the costs and benefits before doing so. In the Brexit of spring 1940, Britain politely declined to participate in a German-led effort toward European political union. In King Henry’s Brexit of 1534, the country sought to regain competitiveness by unshackling itself from the yoke of papal regulation. And in the original Brexit of 10,000–6,500 BC, the country prudently chose to increase border security, while at the same time putting its long-suffering fishermen back to work.’

Medium, March 2018

‘The magnitude of inward migratory flows increased during the 20th century, and did so dramatically from the 1990s onwards. Between 1900 and 1950, the foreign-born fraction of the population rose, but never exceeded 5%. By the early 1990s, it was well above 5%. In 2011, it was around 13%. And today, it is probably above 15%. Thus, contemporary levels of immigration into Britain are historically unprecedented. Britain had arguably assumed its nationhood by at least the late 19th century. At this point in time, the make up of the British population was largely as it had been more than 1000 years earlier. There is therefore little justification for saying that Britain is an ‘immigrant nation’.’

Medium, March 2017

‘The present study shows that, in the UK, net opposition to immigrants of different nationalities correlates strongly with the log of immigrant arrests rates and with the log of their arrest rates for violent crime. This is particularly noteworthy given that Britons reportedly think that an immigrant’s criminal history should be one of the most important characteristics when considering whether he or she should be allowed into the country.’

Open Quantitative Sociology & Political Science, November 2016

‘It seems plausible that the higher the percentage of Muslims in the population, the greater the share of citizens susceptible to Islamist radicalisation, and therefore the larger the fraction of the population that the security services should need to monitor. For example, ISIS has been actively attempting to radicalise young Muslims living in Western countries by disseminating Jihadist propaganda through social media. Regarding the latter, it stands to reason that Islamist terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda and ISIS might selectively target countries that have intervened militarily in Muslim countries particularly those in the Middle East, where the most sacred Islamic holy sites are located.’

Open Quantitative Sociology & Political Science, June 2016

‘The fact that the correlation between verbal intelligence and economically liberal beliefs persists after controlling for characteristics like race, education and income suggests it cannot simply be attributed to selfishness on the parts of people with higher verbal intelligence. In particular, it contradicts the hypothesis that such people only have economically liberal beliefs because they believe they have personally benefitted from economically liberal policies. On the other hand, if conditional on current income, verbal intelligence is correlated with a tendency to believe one’s future income will be higher under economically liberal policies, the correlation between verbal intelligence and economically liberal beliefs could be explained by selfishness, at least in part.’

Intelligence, March 2014

Full open letter: ‘No place for racist pseudoscience at Cambridge’

 This letter was signed by 586 academics accusing Dr Carl of ‘racist pseudoscience’

We write to express our dismay at the appointment of Noah Carl to the Toby Jackman Newton Trust Research Fellowship at St Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge. A careful consideration of Carl’s published work and public stance on various issues, particularly on the claimed relationship between ‘race’, ‘criminality’ and ‘genetic intelligence’, leads us to conclude that his work is ethically suspect and methodologically flawed.

These publications, drawing on the discredited ‘race sciences’, seem nothing more than an expression of opinion on various social matters. As members of the academic community committed to defending the highest standards of ethical and methodological integrity in research and teaching, we are shocked that a body of work that includes vital errors in data analysis and interpretation appears to have been taken seriously for appointment to such a competitive research fellowship.

We are deeply concerned that racist pseudoscience is being legitimised through association with the University of Cambridge. This fellowship was awarded to Carl despite his attendance at, and public defence of, the discredited ‘London Conference on Intelligence’, where racist and pseudoscientific work has been regularly presented. Carl’s work has already been used by extremist and far-right media outlets with the aim of stoking xenophobic anti-immigrant rhetoric. In a context where the far-right is on the rise across the world, this kind of pseudoscientific racism runs the serious risk of being used to justify policies that directly harm vulnerable populations.

We are also concerned that the appointment process for this fellowship was not carried out with the degree of academic rigour, diligence and respect for principles of equality and diversity that we would expect from a constituent college of the University of Cambridge.

We call on St Edmund’s College, the University of Cambridge, and the Newton Trust to issue a public statement dissociating themselves from research that seeks to establish correlations between race, genes, intelligence and criminality in order to explain one by the other.

We also call on the University of Cambridge to immediately conduct an investigation into the appointment process that led to the award of this fellowship. Such an investigation, which should be independent of St Edmund’s college, must involve recognised experts across relevant disciplines, and include a thorough review of the appointee’s body of academic work.