Roy Baumeister, Paul Bloom, Joshua D. Greene, Jonathan Haidt,
Sam Harris, Joshua Knobe, Elizabeth Phelps, David Pizarro
The Mayflower Inn
Tuesday July 20 – Thursday, July 22, 2010
Edge’s Morality show lineup, cleansed of Hauser.
Hm. Edge, the highly interesting and edgy science-meshes-with-culture outfit run by impressario and lit agent John Brockman, held a fascinating conference a couple months ago on morality. The event (to which I was invited as press but, to my regret, could not attend) featured an all-star lineup of researchers on morality. I’m familiar with the research of many of them, and it’s great stuff; the opening talk by Jonathan Haidt is a wonderful argument for the strength and value of this line of research. And I was particularly happy to see that the lineup included David Pizarro, whose wonderful work was till then going underrecognized.
Among the stars invited was Marc Hauser. Made sense at the time; this was a couple weeks before the scandal broke. Today I got a tweet that he’d “withdrawn” his contribution at the Edge conference. I went to the conference-event site to see how Edge had announced this withdrawal … and found he had all but disappeared. Hauser’s talk and photo had been removed. I scanned the page for his talk; gone. Finally I did a text search adn found a footnote to the introduction, in brackets, that said
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Marc Hauser, one of the nine participants at the conference, has withdrawn his contribution.]
No mention why, and there’s no link to the huge coverage. Other than this footnote, Marc Hauser was just gone. Other than the ed note, which is missable, the program page makes it look as if they never invited him.
I find this a problem. Edge exists to track the intersection of science and culture. Scientific misconduct, particularly if there are suggestions it might have been driven by the rewards of fame and media attention from places like Edge, is an extremely critical part of the intersection of science and culture. This isn’t the way to respond to it. Hauser was there because he told an ambitious story about his science; and he’s been found guilty of misconduct because he spun the story out a bit beyond his facts. (Or, if you want to be more charitable, in the interest of bolstering his story he claimed some findings he couldn’t show evidence for.) Though I have not viewed his talk at this event, I think the talk — his own description of where his work stood right before the wheels came off — is an important and perhaps vital part of the scientific, cultural, and historical record. Edge would be well to paste some information in about the scandal and note the reader/viewer should read or view accordingly. But it shouldn’t just erase the record. It should repost the thing with a note explaining the situation.