Morality Researcher on Leave |

TBC Staff

[TBC: With no “Creator,” some have come up with the idea that “morality” develops naturally. The research to support this notion, however, turns out to be corrupt, or rather, immoral.]

Expert on Morality Is on Leave After Research Inquiry

By Nicholas Wade (New York Times online, Education, August 11, 2010)

Marc Hauser, a Harvard academic who gained prominence with the publication of a book on the origin of morality, has gone on leave after an investigation by the university into problems with his research.

Dr. Hauser, whose field is the comparison of human and animal minds, is the author of “Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong.”

A Harvard press officer, Jeff Neal, at first refused to confirm that Dr. Hauser was on leave or that Harvard had conducted any investigation. But a message on Dr. Hauser’s laboratory phone says he will be on leave until the fall of 2011, and at least two scientific journals are acknowledging problems in Dr. Hauser’s articles that were brought to light by an internal Harvard inquiry.

The journal Cognition published an article by Dr. Hauser and others in 2002 saying that tamarin monkeys could learn certain rules much as human infants do. The journal is about to run a retraction saying that an internal examination by Harvard “found that the data do not support the reported findings.”

“We therefore are retracting this article,” it continues. “MH accepts responsibility for the error.” The initials M.H. refer to Dr. Hauser.

Harvard’s silence about the nature of the problem in Dr. Hauser’s laboratory has stirred concern among other researchers who fear their field will be discredited unless the full facts are made known.

“I think that Harvard has to make public what they found,” said Herbert Terrace, a professor of psychology at Columbia University. “They say they have to protect Harvard and Hauser, but how about protecting the field?”

Dr. Hauser is one of Harvard’s most visible academics, being frequently quoted in articles about language, animals’ cognitive abilities and the biological basis of morality. He is widely regarded as a star in his field.

Dr. Hauser is a fluent and persuasive writer, and his undoing seems to have been his experiments, many of which depended on videotaping cotton-topped tamarin monkeys and noting their responses. It is easy for human observers to see the response they want and so to be fooled by the monkeys.

Dr. Terrace said there had been problems for some time with Dr. Hauser’s work.

“First there was arbitrary interpretation of the videotapes to suit the hypothesis,” he said. “The other was whether the data was real. There have been a number of papers using videotape, and all of them have to be reviewed to see if the data holds up.”