Janet Kourany: Should Some Knowledge Be Forbidden: The Case of Cognitive Differences Research

Professor Janet Kourany (University of Notre Dame) speaks at a workshop “Ignorance and Under-representation”, at the University of Edinburgh, 10th March 2015.

Abstract: The right to freedom of scientific research is recognized all over the world. So is the right to equality, including both gender and racial equality. What do we do, then, when these two well-established rights conflict? In this paper I take up the case of cognitive differences research—in particular, research focused on gender- or race-linked differences in intelligence, particularly biologically-based differences in intelligence. The case is controversial: sharply different views have been expressed regarding which of the two rights has been given precedence in the current scene and which of the two should be given precedence. Some have even suggested that there is no real conflict here between the two rights. I briefly consider these alternatives and then offer three precedents for resolving the conflict.