Marc Hauser, Harvard evolutionary psychologist who resigned under a cloud, was found guilty of scientific misconduct and admitted to some of it.
Nature News reported: “Former Harvard University psychologist Marc Hauser has admitted to making ‘mistakes’ in his research that led to findings of research misconduct announced today by the US Office of Research Integrity, which polices research funded by the National Institutes of Health.”
Hauser’s confession is reported by the Boston Globe. He admitted some mistakes, but stood by most of his work: “I am saddened that this investigation has caused some to question all of my work, rather than the few papers and unpublished studies in question.”
The Harvard Magazine, though, printed a substantial list of misconduct investigators found, including fabricating data and falsely describing results. Hauser resigned last year when the investigation began. The magazine says, “he had planned to return to Harvard after his leave, but resigned following a psychology department faculty vote against having him resume teaching duties.” An update states that Harvard instigated the investigation and agrees with the US Office findings. (See note following our 12/24/2010 entry for first indications of misconduct.)
The magazine stated, “Hauser studied the evolution of language and cognition, in research involving monkeys and humans.”
In a column today in Nature unrelated to the Hauser investigation, Jim Woodgett of Mount Sinai Hospital wrote that scientists must be open about their mistakes. “The scientific community must be diligent in highlighting abuses, develop greater transparency and accessibility for its work, police research more effectively and exemplify laudable behaviour,” he warned. “This includes encouraging more open debate about misconduct and malpractice, exposing our dirty laundry and welcoming external examination.”
Update 9/11/2012: Nature News reported that there are questions about whether Hauser intentionally committed misconduct. Outsiders cannot know due to privacy rules of the investigation. According to reporter Eugenie Samuel Reich, projects tainted by the misconduct were funded by the NIH up to $790,000. Now that Hauser is gone from Harvard, he has turned his attention to education, working with a company that develops computer games to teach students cognitive skills and self-control. “This work is deeply satisfying and I look forward to making new contributions to human welfare, education and the role of scientific knowledge in understanding human nature,” he said.
Update 9/13/2012: Science Magazine 14 September gave a balanced report on the Hauser investigation, presenting views of accusers and defenders, as well as specifics on the alleged instances of misconduct. Apparently whistleblowers from his own lab tipped off Harvard’s investigation, which was followed up and confirmed by the ORI at NIH. Some of his colleagues call him solely responsible and are bothered by his refusal to accept responsibility: “It is sad that Hauser still will not admit to the charges that have been found against him when he does appear to nonetheless accept that the evidence exists and is legitimate,” Gerry Altmann wrote in an e-mail to Science. Some of his lab workers are now disgruntled that their work has been tainted by their association with him. Science noted that his “provocative work” garnered “media attention” and that the publication of his book Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong, “he had moved into the rarified sphere of the public intellectual.” Some colleagues in the evolutionary psychology community, nevertheless, are standing by him and downplaying the seriousness of the misconduct, some of which was not published. As part of the discipline, any research Hauser does with funding from the Public Health Service must be supervised, and he is barred from peer reviewing others’ work, for 3 years.
Marc Hauser’s “research” was often reported in these pages. In 9/21/2005, we saw him referring to human capabilities as “the chimpanzee mind.” 5/29/2006, we found him joining the Darwin Centurions against the I.D. Visigoths. In 10/27/2006 and 11/06/2006, we saw his fellow Darwinists adoring his new book Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong (by natural selection). In the 2/22/2008 entry, we saw him engaging in “paleofantasy,” trying to rescue Darwin from the huge cognitive gulf between chimpanzees and human children. In 4/07/2009, we saw him divining into “the evolution of dogs and the evolution of humans.” In 7/06/2009, we saw him attributing animals’ ability to count to evolution. In 2/08/2010, just months before he was caught, we saw him trying to evolutionize religion to a point that even appalled Nature reporter Phillip Ball.
This is the guy, you might remember, who taught his toddler to adore Charles Darwin: “When my youngest daughter was about three years old, I pulled a cheap trick on her, teaching her that whenever I asked ‘Who’s the man?’, she should reply ‘Darwin!’ She does this quite well now,” he said (see 7/03/2007 entry). Let’s hope his new work with students on Cape Cod does not involve this kind of Darwin brainwashing. Is this the person you want teaching your kid self-control?
So while we don’t rejoice over anyone’s downfall, we are not surprised. Actually, we think Hauser should have been rewarded. Remember, he wrote a book about how “nature” (a.k.a. natural selection) produced our “moral minds,” our “sense of right and wrong.” It’s not really right or wrong, he said; it’s just a “sense” of it that the aimless, purposeless, amoral process of selection produced in us. Natural selection allows room for cheaters in its schemes for how morality evolved. Cheaters are not doing wrong; they’re just participants in the game (3/25/2010). Harvard needs cheaters like Marc Hauser to keep their evolutionary game going. It gives the “punishers” something to do (1/13/2010). Hauser actually played a vital role, therefore, at Harvard, and illustrated how evolutionary game theory was supposed to work (11/16/2009). Remember the evolutionist who said, “it becomes advantageous for some individuals to cheat, and vice versa, which allows co-existence between cheaters and cooperators to arise”? (4/07/2009).
Yes! Reward Marc Hauser. He illustrated the morality of “the chimpanzee mind” in real-world experiments. The joke was on Harvard, not him. He really showed his daughter that Darwin is The Man. He is a consistent Darwinian. Should Harvard punish a faithful devotee of Darwin? Should the U.S. Office of Research Integrity punish someone who revealed that integrity is a farce, an illusion, a relic of natural selection? (7/23/2010) Reward the cheater! Reward all the Darwinian cheaters. We like that, because it will hasten the implosion of the Darwin totalitarian regime.