Academic, self-labeled evolutionary psychologist, and member of the London School of Economics, Satoshi Kanazawa wrote a blog post on Psychology Today that asked, “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?”
Notice that this was put in the form of a question about a subject to which Kanazawa presumed all agreed. He was not asking if black women were less physically attractive, but why they were so.
The magazine pulled the original post after the inevitable firestorm of “outrage”, but it has been made available here.
Now, in his favor, and misunderstood by many who have commented on the fracas, Kanazawa did not claim that all black women were uglier than all non-black women. His statistical analysis implied that if you grab any black woman and any lined her up next to any non-black woman, then more people would rate the non-black woman as more attractive than the black woman.
Specifically, he did not claim that no person would find black women in these comparisons less attractive, just that most people would find these ladies uglier.
“Of course, it might even be true,” you are now saying to yourself, “But if so, it is entirely due to the curse of racism.” And you might be right, but Kanazawa anticipated your criticism and argued that culture was not the driving factor behind the rating differential.
Instead, black women were considered uglier because—wait for it—evolution made black women uglier. He said his evidence was not only “objective”, but it was hard-wired into our genes.
When you look at a black face and at a non-black face, and you find yourself preferring the non-black choice, this is because it is to your evolutionary advantage to do so. Somehow. Says Kanazawa, not I! So please, no hate mail.
Okay, Mr Kanazawa, why?
Africans have more mutations in their genomes than other races. And the mutation loads significantly decrease physical attractiveness (because physical attractiveness is a measure of genetic and developmental health)….
The only thing I can think of that might potentially explain the lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women is testosterone. Africans on average have higher levels of testosterone than other races, and testosterone, being an androgen (male hormone), affects the physical attractiveness…women with higher levels of testosterone also have more masculine features and are therefore less physically attractive. The race differences in the level of testosterone can therefore potentially explain why black women are less physically attractive than women of other races…
Ah, sweet testosterone! Is there no evil in which you are not complicit!
But this merely explains why the conclusion is what it is, it does not explain how he reached the conclusion itself. To do that, Kanazawa had to use a statistical model.
That is, he did not, as you might have expected, run out into the street and hold up photos of various women and ask people to say who is prettier. Instead, he looked at a database “on a nationally representative sample of adolescents in grades 7-12 who have been followed up to adulthood.” The United States only, you understand.
That database had over 8,000 different variables, some of which were subjective responses on attractiveness. Sort of: “At the end of each interview, the interviewer rates the physical attractiveness of the respondent objectively on the following five-point scale…The physical attractiveness of each Add Health respondent is measured three times by three different interviewers over seven years.” Wait!
The attractiveness of the kids, who turned into teens, was assessed by the data takers! The same small set of data takers, about whom we know very little, except that they were residents of these fine United States.
Well, these are still measures of attractiveness, no matter how silly. So did Kanazawa rely on them? Well, no. He used these, and other variables, to compute a “latent ‘physical attractiveness factor’ by a statistical procedure called factor analysis. Factor analysis has the added advantage of eliminating all random measurement errors that are inherent in any scientific measurement.”
The last statement is mathematically false. In no way can factor analysis “eliminate” error of any kind. Further, there is no reason in the world to use factor analysis on data like this. There isn’t the space here to explain, but factor analysis is a dangerous tool in the hands of the statistically naive, because it can be, and has been, used to “prove” anything.
Kanazawa’s analysis is absurd. But why he thought the attractiveness ratings of a handful of American survey takers was of any interest is the real story. There are already calls for firing Kanazawa. Student groups protest “We support free speech and academic freedom,” but not for thee, Kanazawa-san.
Due to the unique lunacy which accompanies nearly all thinking on racial matters, it is impossible to say how the story will end. But we may safely predict that it won’t go well for Mr Kanazawa.
He should have stuck to writing more papers like “Why beautiful people are more intelligent” (Intelligence, 32 (3). pp. 227-243.)—or to proving that the converse is true.