Thursday, October 23, 2003


A reader writes

I read with interest your paper on Indian farmers and IQ. This took me back to my own PhD (done at a major Australian university) on malnutrition among kids in Papua New Guinea in the mid 1980s. I spent 18 months in the bush.

One of my more interesting observations after this period of time was that kids with dumb parents tended to be more malnourished than kids with intelligent parents. My three thesis supervisors were horrified when I proposed to write about it. As I had not used any psychometric tools to test my idea, I was able to be convinced that I should let it drop. Their motivations however, were driven more out of political correctness than anything else.

I subsequently presented a short paper at a conference on a different aspect of my research. I discussed what villagers were doing with their cash cropping money. No-one had ever done a whole-of-village study at that time in PNG. I found that nearly half of all money was spent on alcohol.

I was treated like a leper by old New Guinea academic hands and development studies academics because I had broken a taboo -- it was not appropriate to talk about these kinds of social problems in polite academic circles -- the only true turf was the anti-Western cum Marxist explanation for nutritional and economic inequality. Needless to say, I got my PhD then quickly abandoned any hope of a career in academia. There is no place there for people who are not seriously Left-wing.


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