Science is not always “self-correcting” : fact–value conflation and the study of intelligence


Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Some prominent scientists and philosophers have stated openly that moral and political considerations should influence whether we accept or promulgate scientific theories. This widespread view has significantly influenced the development, and public perception, of intelligence research. Theories related to group differences in intelligence are often rejected a priori on explicitly moral grounds. Thus the idea, frequently expressed by commentators on science, that science is “self-correcting”—that hypotheses are simply abandoned when they are undermined by empirical evidence—may not be correct in all contexts. In this paper, documentation spanning from the early 1970s to the present is collected, which reveals the influence of scientists’ moral and political commitments on the study of intelligence. It is suggested that misrepresenting findings in science to achieve desirable social goals will ultimately harm both science and society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-492
Number of pages16
JournalFoundations of Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016


  • Epistemology
  • Fact–value distinction
  • Intelligence research
  • Science and morality


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