Although in the preface I made a specific point of saying I would not use a personal example of stupidity in this book, I have had the misfortune to run into a classic example of it as a result of the book. It illustrates the regrettable, corrupting impact on learning when intellectual ethics are sacrificed to protect a colleague who is wrong.JFW
This book was reviewed by Dr. Thomas O. Blank of the School of Family Studies and Center on Aging at the U. of Connecticut, Storrs. The review appeared in the Sept., 1993 issue of Contemporary Psychology, a journal of reviews sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA). It was very harsh, in some ways unprofessional and demonstrated Dr. Blank's inability to understand what he had read.
I availed myself of the opportunity to respond in the "Point/Counterpoint" format made available to aggrieved authors by the journal. This consisted of an exchange of statements between myself and Dr. Blank and appeared in the May, 1994 issue. In his last comment, to which I had no opportunity to reply in print, he alleged that my stated view "Normal human behavior is not necessarily adaptive" could be accessed elsewhere.
I received an advanced copy of this statement and twice challenged him in writing to document his claim but received not even the courtesy of a reply. In April, I wrote Dr. John Harvey, the editor of the journal, asking him to see to it that Dr. Blank document his claim or that an appropriate correction be published in a forthcoming issue. He was explicit in his refusal to do anything to resolve the matter.
I then turned to the APA and had a number of phone conversations and exchanged letters with Leslie Cameron, Director, APA Journals, in May and June regarding this matter, all to no effect. Dr. Gary VandenBos, Executive Director, Publications, called me in early June and we spoke for about an hour. He assured me Dr. Blank was correct in saying my ideas could be found elsewhere, but when challenged to document the claim, like everyone else, he failed to do so.
In late June, I wrote, Dr. Raymond Fowler, Chief Executive Officer, again to no effect. He claimed the APA was out of options at this point, because they could not force Dr. Blank to document his claim. I pointed out they could request him to do so or publish a correction on their own but received no reply to this suggestions. (A year later, in the summer of 1995, Deputy CEO L. Michael Honker went psychotic in claiming a source meant the exact opposite of what the author wrote. This was indeed a marvel of mental gymnastics performed in the guise of "Interpretation".)
In Aug., 1994, I commenced a likewise fruitless effort to get the University of Connecticut to hold Dr. Blank accountable. After a brief phone conversation with me, Dr. Steven Anderson, Dean of the School of Family Studies, prevailed upon him to send me a list of books (with no page numbers) in which he did not even try to document the claim he had made in print. He tried instead to document a substitute claimthat maladaptation was a central theme in the books listed. Maladaptation is in fact a common behavioral process, but that was not the issue in dispute, so I asked him once again to document his claim that my idea that normal behavior can be maladaptive could be accessed elsewhere. I received no reply.
Dr. Fred Marianski, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs, deftly avoided involvement by claiming the issue was not in his field of expertise so he would "Leave it to the professionals". His superior, Dr. Thomas Tye, Vice President and Provost for Academic Affairs, failed to return several phone calls. President Dr. Harry Hartley was properly insulated by staffer Carol Flynn, who thwarted my efforts to inform him of his dysfunctional faculty and administrators on the grounds that he has no control over academic affairs presumably in the same way the President of General Motors has nothing to do with making cars. At the conclusion of my one phone conversation with Dr. Richard Besdine, Director of The Traveler's Center on Aging, he assured me either he or Dr. Blank would get back to me: I have since heard from neither.
Likewise, the American Association for the Advancement of Science failed to hold either Dr. Blank or anyone else responsible in this matter. Rather than dealing with it as an error in the scientific literature, Dr. C. K. Gunsalus's Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility feigned psychosis and claimed they simply did not perceive the issue as I did. One way to advance science is by correcting errors in the literature: they just did not perceive an undocumentable claim as an error (and besides, overturning Darwinian psychology is too petty a matter to bother with). This was unprofessional in the extreme but rather common among people upset by intellectual integrity. Dr. Al Teich, Director, Directorate for Science and Policy Programs, would not return my calls.
Thus did the scientific establishment react to an error in the literature. Striking by its absence in all parties was any trace of intellectual integrity. Not one person would stand up for the truth. Not one was committed to helping people learn, know and understand. Not one insisted Dr. Blank document his erroneous claim that my ideas could be found elsewhere or publish a correction. He had made an error, so everyone circled the wagons to protect him. I have never known a case where so many well educated people have distinguished right from wrong and chosen to be wrong. That choice makes them a disgrace to science and humanity.
ADDENDUM UPDATEDHow nice it would be to add that in the two years since the last printing of this book, Dr. Blank's allegation that the idea that normal is not necessarily adaptive has been documented or his error corrected. Sad to say, neither case obtained. Rather, my experience has confirmed the cen tral idea of the book—that our social and political lives warp our intellec tual life, and there is no better example of this phenomenon than the in transigence with which the academic/scientific establishment stands by its error in this particular case. This is all the more remarkable because the institutions involved have rules which call for all parties to conduct them selves properly, but a basic problem is that they prefer to break rather than abide by or enforce their own rules for proper professional conduct.
The University of Connecticut has bylaws which require accuracy on the part of all faculty members at all times, but the fact that Dr. Blank has published misinformation is of no moment to anyone at that institution. Further, all members of the university community are required to foster intellectual honesty, but no one involved with this case has done anything that could possibly be construed as so doing. For example, in January, 1997, when I asked the new president, Philip Austin, to secure a proper reference for me from Dr. Blank, he replied he had no advice for me. In turn, I pointed I had not asked him for advice and repeated my request, to which he never responded.
So also were the dean of the Graduate School, Thomas Giolas, and Provost Mark Emmert absolutely adamant in their refusal to abide by much less enforce their own bylaws. The basic dodge was that since the APA has done nothing to remedy the situation, nothing is wrong. Aside from the obvious fact that this is passing the buck and a total abnegation of academic responsibility on the part of the school's chief administrators, this tactic is based on a major fallacy: it assumes the APA is a professional scientific organization dedicated to truth. Unfortunately, it isn't.
At the very best, the APA is a public relations outfit dedicated to pro moting the power, status, image, careers and incomes of its members. Just in the course of trying to get the matter at hand corrected, I have stumbled across a number of uncorrected errors published in APA journals dating back to 1970. In Robyn Dawes' published letter of resignation from the organization in 1988, he cited the lack of commitment on its part to the rational application of knowledge as a requirement and stated his view that the organization had failed miserably to assure a professional practice of psychology based on available scientific knowledge.
Such a flagrant indifference to knowledge is unfortunately common at the APA (which, in my lighter moments, I refer to as the American Psychotics Association because of the institution's callous disregard of reality). For example, Dr. Dawes referred to the organization's efforts to convince the public its members have a special expertise not only in the absence of any evidence for such expertise but indeed in the face of evidence that it does not exist. So, in my case, the fact that no one could document Dr. Blank's allegation meant nothing to anyone at the APA.
Typical of the mishandling of this case was the action of Dr. Norman Abeles when he chaired the APA publications and communications (P&C) board. In June, 1995, the board determined no further action (i.e., documentation) was required in the matter, but it based this decision on the mistaken belief that Dr. Blank had provided a reference. When I pointed this error out to him and asked him to reconsider and base the decision on the facts, he refused to do so and thence became president of the or ganization. In February and March, 1997, I repeatedly asked the new chair of the P&C board, Prof. Judith Worrell, to place this matter on its agenda but all to no effect: she just would not deal with the issue.
As for the AAAS, the story is essentially the same: the constitution requires the promotion of responsibility but no one will deign to anything in this case to hold those involved accountable to basic standards of science. Current president Jane Lubchenco passed up an opportunity in Aug ust, 1996, by side stepping the issue. In this regard, she was but typical of all parties contacted: none would deal with the problem, so by default, every decision by everyone favored the person who is wrong.
The basic problem really is that no one cares about the publication of misinformation in the scientific literature. Dr. Blank published an error, but so what? Those who are supposed to be exercising control over the quality of science are frankly indifferent to such breaches of intellectual ethics. (Indeed, in February, 1997, the APA's Office of Ethics, Dr. Stan ley Jones presiding, declined to investigate this case—leading one to con clude that the publication of an undocumentable statement is ethical.)
The bottom line is that science is not a self-correcting institution. Perhaps sometimes it is but not always and not necessarily. If I had to present one good example of institutional stupidity to the world, this would be as good as any. All these professors and PhD's with all their education evince not the slightest interest in much less even a minimal commitment to knowledge or truth. Not one! Not one would stand up and say, "There is something wrong here, let's fix it."
From this I conclude there is something very wrong with our educational system. Our best educated elite have absolutely no ethical qualms whatsoever in their professional field of expertise. The saddest commen tary I can make on the hope that science will save us is it cannot to the degree scientists refuse to deal with the reality of unethical conduct.