Richard C. Lewontin

There is hardly a chapter in the main body of The Richness of Life that does not repay a careful reading. Of all the essays in it the one that is most important to the public understanding of science is “Measuring Heads: Paul Broca and the Heyday of Craniology,” for it deals with an issue that is so discomfiting for scientists that they avoid it when they can. Despite the myth of detached objectivity that scientists propagate, their motivations are as messy as everyone else’s. In particular, they have political, social, and personal concerns that may influence what they do, how they do it, and what they say about it. Putting aside deliberate fraud, of which we have an embarrassment of examples, the gathering of data, their statistical representation, and their interpretation offer many opportunities for unconscious bias toward conclusions that we already “knew” to be true.
‘The Triumph of Stephen Jay Gould’ in The New York Review of Books, Volume 55, Number 2 · February 14, 2008.


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