The New Know-Nothings: The Political Foes of the Scientific Study of Human Nature / Edition 1

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In recent years, political, religious, and other special-interest groups have waged war on behavioral and social research projects that threaten their interests and values. They have hounded researchers out of universities, cut off their funding through congressional and state legislative pressure, and harassed them with public demonstrations and picketing, all in the hope of forcing them to abandon their research. Formerly such unwanted involvement came from activists on the left. Now it comes from all across the political spectrum, as anti-science attitudes and techniques have diffused throughout society. In addition, conservative and religious forces lobby Congress and state legislatures against funding for major research projects of which they disapprove. This phenomenon represents a grave threat to both scientific freedom and the well-being of modern society.

Morton Hunt gives us the first serious overview of this threat to behavioral and social science research. He illustrates precisely how scientific research has been subjected to political attack. The New Know-Nothings illustrates this phenomenon using in-depth case histories and background discussions of the conflicting social forces involved. It considers the prevalence of each form of opposition of research has been subjected to political attack. The New Know-Nothings illustrates this phenomenon using in-depth case histories and background discussions of the conflicting social forces involved. It considers the prevalence of each form of opposition to research, using interviews with expert observers in the sciences and government. Hunt reviews the nature-nurture debate, biological contributions to gender differences, conservative opposition to sex research in the schools, the debate over the controlled drinking approach to alcoholism, animal rights versus scientists' rights to use animals in research, the controversy over day care, anthropological research needs versus the Native American repatriation of remains, and other cases. He argues that beyond the specific projects targeted, the most important thing threatened is the social valation of scientific freedom. The belief that it is permissible and laudable to obstruct research is neo-Luddite, obscurantist, and anti-intellectual.

This comprehensive, nonpartisan study is possibly the only book-length treatment of this important subject. It treats attacks on science from both the left and the right and is timely, lively, and accessible in style. It will be of interest to behavioral scientists and scientists in general, readers interested in the sciences and in social issues, and government policymakers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“There is a great deal of substance in Hunt’s book. . . . The bibliography is extensive and lists large, well-funded studies directed by prominent researchers. The cases cited fit into a historical and socially meaningful context that gives them particular power. . . . Scientists will find The New Know-Nothings engaging as they recognize all-too-familiar scenarios of research opposition. . . . Readers will charge through this book, as the author did in writing it, powered by an adrenalin rush, either agreeing vehemently or protesting with outrage. Then they will eagerly await a sequel: The New Know-It-Alls.”

—Jerilee Grandy, The Journal of Higher Education

“Morton Hunt, an author, social-science journalist and sometimes academic, argues that attacks on social scientists are intensifying. . . . [T]he book consists of detailed accounts of ideologically motivated assaults from all sides of the political spectrum on reputable researchers studying human nature.”

—Malcolm J. Sherman, American Scientist

“The book is about the politics of social and behavioral science research; and though it is directed at the general reader, it has important lessons to teach the sociologist.”

—J. Richard Udry, Contemporary Sociology

“This book addresses 'political interference in social science research' that, in the author’s view, has become 'increasingly and alarmingly common,' offering analysis of the causes and then documenting this phenomenon in a number of specific areas. Responding to excessive political correctness, the author asserts that those who protest and often successfully prevent research in the social sciences 'believe it is their right to prevent scientists from conducting any inquiry likely to yield knowledge that might challenge their cherished beliefs.' He acknowledges that scientific repression has long historical precedent and subscribes fully to informed consent and other methodological constraints, but he nevertheless argues that research freedom is paramount and has been seriously compromised by capitulation to activists at all points on the political spectrum. . . . Panels of scientists nad ethicists might prove recommendations for minimizing harm, but, he maintains, it is science, not censorship, that should revise science.”

American Journal of Public Health

“Morton Hunt’s latest book is an astonishing but impeccably researched description of modern-day attempts to halt scientific research. . . . He believes we are in a time of unprecedented interference in the scientific enterprise, in which any activist group with a bone to pick can protest, lobby, intimidate, and harass to the point where research is either not done at all or the researcher’s professional reputation is irreparably damaged. . . . Hunt’s book should be required reading for scientists of any specialty. We need to understand the increasingly politicized environment in which modern research takes place to better prepare our intellectual defense of what we do and more clearly articulate the benefits of research to our fellow citizens.”

—Barry Fagin, Knowledge, Technology, & Policy

“The impulse to pursue knowledge is a fundamental human trait; so is the impulse to suppress it. In today’s Information Age, efforts to suppress information continue unabated, according to Morton Hunt, author of The New Knew-Nothings. . . . Those who . . . read Hunt’s book will be rewarded by his insightful descriptions of highly complex and controversial subjects as well as by his enlightened and passionate defense of intellectual freedom.”

—Cynthia G. Wagner, The Futurist

“Hunt describes many dozens of attacks on the behavioral sciences, emanating from the Left, Right, and center of the political spectrum. . . . The attackers usually have ideological stakes. . . . Hunt presents one highly detailed example after another of ideologues making war against science, until the sheer volume make his case that science is under attack on many fronts.”

—Carl Grafton, Perspectives on Political Science

In recent years, political, religious, and other special-interest groups have waged war on behavioral and social research projects that threaten their interests and values. Hunt (sociology, State University of New York-Stony Brook) overviews this threat to behavioral and social science research, using in-depth case histories and background discussions of conflicting social forces involved. Looks into controversies in areas such as biological contributions to gender differences, the controlled drinking approach to alcoholism, and repatriation of Native American remains. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765804976
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/30/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 418
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Morton Hunt is adjunct professor of sociology at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. A specialist in the behavioral sciences, he is the author of many books including The Story of Psychology and How Science Takes Stock: The Story of Meta-Analysis.

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Table of Contents

1 A Clear and Present Danger 3
Pt. 1 Attacks from the Left
2 The Roots of Illiberal Liberalism 29
3 The IQ Wars 63
4 Anatomy Is Destiny 105
5 Unmapped Country: Genetic Influences on Behavior 145
Pt. 2 Attacks from the Right
6 Keeping Sex a Mystery 179
7 Just Say No 211
8 The War Against Social Science Research 237
Pt. 3 Attacks from Points in Between
9 The Assault on Memory Research 263
10 Harming Harm-Reduction Research 273
11 Unhand That Rat, You Rat! 293
12 A Miscellany of Assaults on Research 315
Epilogue: The Boundaries of Freedom of Research: Second Thoughts 341
Notes 353
Glossary of Acronyms 373
References Cited 375
Index 395
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