Thursday, October 31, 2002

Tell me what you want to say and I'll give you the stats to prove it

From Wired: "Nearly a century ago, Franz Boas, the man known as the founder of modern anthropology, launched a study of cranial measurements of 13,000 people and concluded that skull shapes are determined more by environment than by race. It was a powerfully influential finding, because at the time, skull size and shape were thought to be connected to intelligence. Now, though, a new analysis suggests the distinguished anthropologist got it wrong: Race or, more properly, ethnicity is a bigger determinant than environment."

Whether Boas deliberately distorted his findings is not clear. But researchers think he may have had preconceived ideas about what the data should show. But Jantz and Penn State graduate student Corey Sparks used a computer to re-crunch Boas' numbers. They reported that the data actually show that race had more influence than environment on skull dimensions. "Unfortunately, research design was deficient, and his findings were never critiqued in a systematic way until recently," Jantz and Sparks said in their paper. "We're not sure if it was wishful thinking on his part before he even started the whole thing, or whether he saw these very small differences and said that was enough to prove his point."

But American Anthropologist, the journal of the American Anthropological Association, which Boas helped found in 1902, plans to publish another study in March in which researchers led by Clarence C. Gravlee of the University of Michigan conclude, "Boas got it right."


Post a Comment

<< Home

CC Copyright 2001-2009 by Anne Galloway. Some rights reserved. Powered by Blogger and hosted by Dreamhost.