Culture Wars on Campus: Satoshi Kanazawa

The Story:

Satoshi Kanazawa is an invited guest this year at Northwestern University, in Chicago. With the title “visiting scholar” he gets an office and is without teaching duties. Many of the University’s students want him disinvited, kicked out, because they are offended by “evolutionary psychology,” both in itself and in the flamboyant way in which Kanazawa has presented it.   

Background:

Evolutionary psychology is a body of scholarship that presumes that much human behavior can be understood not on the basis of each generation’s conditioning of the next but on the ground of the fitness imperatives that would have operated upon our distant ancestors, surviving, reproducing, and dying as hunter-gatherers.

Kanazawa has argued that many sex roles, and perceived racial differences, can be understood through invocation of this “Savannah principle.” He has been sufficiently outspoken and careless in making this point that other evolutionary psychologists have concluded that it is important to distance themselves from him. They say that he throws into undeserved discredit the “high-quality, nuanced, culturally sensitive evolutionary research” going on in the peer reviewed articles of their field.   

The Thing to Know:

Officials of Northwestern University has thus far resisted pressure to expel Kanazawa from their premises. Provost Jonathan Holloway has said for example that Kanazawa’s “personally held views, no matter how odious, cannot be a reason to undermine the vital principle of intellectual freedom that all academic institutions serve to protect.”

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