Professor Lying Liar lying

A business professor, Eric Rasmusen, tweeted something offensive and stupid.

Eric Rasmusen tweeted a line from an article Nov. 7 titled “Are Women Destroying Academia? Probably,” which read, “Geniuses are overwhelmingly male because they combine outlier high IQ with moderately low agreeableness and moderately low conscientiousness.”

He can do that. Employment is not contingent on holding only good opinions and not being an asshole, so he’s not threatened with firing for it, although some people would like to. The university administration has made arrangements so students can avoid taking classes with him, which could eventually lead to trouble for him — if he has non-existent effectiveness as a teacher, that could end up as a dismissal. Not being able to do the job you’re hired for is grounds for being let go, and a conservative business professor ought to encourage that.

What annoys me, though, is his dishonest excuse. I don’t believe this at all:

Rasmusen has taught business economics and public policy in the Kelley School of Business since 1992. He said he shared the tweet because a quote in the article stood out to him.

“I don’t know the contents of the article,” Rasmusen said. “It was just the one part that I thought was interesting and worth keeping note of.”

Rasmusen said he was surprised his tweet received backlash.

“It seems strange to me because I didn’t say anything myself — I just quoted something,” he said.

Oh, he was just quoting someone else. He wasn’t expressing odious, ignorant ideas, he was just echoing an odious, ignorant idea, which makes it OK, because it means he has a handy scapegoat.


“To show students that they need not fear bias in grading, the university is condemning a dissident professor, requiring him to use blind grading, and allowing students to opt out of his class,” he said in the email. “This, it is claimed, will make students relaxed and feel able to express their political views without fear of retribution. Having seen the university crack down on the one outspoken conservative professor, students will feel more comfortable in expressing their views while at Indiana University — that is, they will know what to expect if they speak freely in the classes of the 999 liberal professors. Of course, IU is not discouraging bias, but encouraging it, even requiring it, as a condition of teaching. There are views you’re not supposed to express, even outside of class, and heaven help the student whose professor checks his twitter account before issuing grades.”

You don’t get to simultaneously claim that you are a dissident conservative martyr and that what you said was not your opinion and therefore innocuous. That’s not how any of this works.

Add to that fact that his other tweets and his blog apparently show that he really does believe women are inferior and should be subservient, and I don’t think that flashing the “quote” card is as effective a shield as he believes.


  1. says

    HOLY JESUS IN A HOTCAKE HOUSE! The man sounds like a sociopath who’s proud to be a sociopath and thinks everyone else would be better off if all men were sociopaths too.

  2. says

    Something tells me either he’s lying about the number of conservative professors at Indiana University, or he’s sufficiently right wing that he thinks anyone who isn’t as far right as he is counts as a liberal.

    FYI Indiana U. is the setting for David Willis’s webcomic Dumbing of Age. I’m sure it would appeal to some regulars here.

  3. DonDueed says

    timgueguen – it would be fun if DYW could work this prof into the comic. Maybe Joe could be in his class and get caught up in the controversy… good growth opportunity for his character.

  4. Wrath Panda says

    Aside from his comments that are obviously odious and should be cause for him to be closely monitored, I find the bit about being forced to use anonymised marking surprising. Is it not standard practice for all submissions to be anonymous anyway? It’s one of the more annoying aspects of my job, (yes, I’m one of those annoying programme administration types that keep getting in the way of all you academics having fun) in that we can’t get marks into the system ahead of time because all the papers are anonymous until they are released back to the students.

  5. OptimalCynic says

    They’re all about the evidence and the reals over feels, but…

    “Geniuses are overwhelmingly male because they combine outlier high IQ with moderately low agreeableness and moderately low conscientiousness.”

    There’s literally no evidence for that. There’s some vague handwaves at it that don’t stack up, and some “well if you ignore all the other factors that might contribute then sure, it’s that” but I could produce equally strong evidence for the moon being made of green cheese.

  6. microraptor says

    “Geniuses are overwhelmingly male because they combine outlier high IQ with moderately low agreeableness and moderately low conscientiousness.”

    What does that word salad even mean?

  7. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Microraptor: “What does that word salad even mean?”

    He’s combining the Larry Summers argument with a defense of men being assholes.

  8. Dago Red says

    While his opinion may be considered “conservative” by today’s standards, its only because the idea of treating (and thinking about) large swaths of society as equally capable has somehow lost any and all traction in the minds of many modern conservatives. But this has never truly been a liberal vs. conservative issue whatsoever (except in the minds of people who don’t understand civics)! Every modern democracy today includes (and often BEGINS) their declarations of state and law with ideals that connote this level of equal opportunity for its citizens. That’s because to deny this (as this professor clearly does) is antithetical to the very fabric of a fair and equitable democratic society. And why would a nation only give lip service to such a founding national ideal? Because stupid people in such societies — like this professor — constantly promote others to violate said principles under the false guise of “freedom (of speech, in this case)” But such opinions are no less damaging to society than those that call for the overthrow of the government, or desire to turn a democratic nation into a theocracy.

    So perhaps we shouldn’t take away his livelihood directly for being such an bigoted idiot, but can we at least demand academic institutions to require a remedial civics class for ass clown instructors that clearly show no understanding of what principles our modern democracies are founded upon (and, perhaps, if they refuse to take the classs, lock them up in jail for treason)?

  9. says

    What is it with this weird notion that you can’t be a genius and a nice person at the same time? If you can’t figure out how to avoid pissing other people off, how smart are you really?

  10. Marissa van Eck says


    To be fair, INT and WIS are separate dice in DnD :) So is CHA, if it comes to that.

    Where this guy goes wrong is assuming that genius-level intelligence by definition precludes social ability. There is something to that, in that it gets incredibly goddamn tiresome to deal with stupid people all day long, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put the effort in to be a decent person…

  11. PaulBC says

    It’s probably besides the point to attack this on substance, but…

    If there were any evidence for “moderately low agreeableness and moderately low conscientiousness” it seems likely to be explained by social conditioning. I am (according to 538’s personality quiz) fairly agreeable and not very conscientious (these are apparently real categories acknowledged by psychologists). But the reason I was able to get away with slacking my whole life is probably because I’m male. There is less of an expectation for me to be “conscientious” about my work as long as I deliver something of value eventually.

    As for IQ, gimme a break. I have met brilliant women in every field I’ve worked, including male-dominated tech fields. There was a study that suggested men go into math because they lack the verbal skills of women. (OK, here’s a related link. This is entirely believable. (Leaving aside whether the basis is biological or cultural.)

  12. DanDare says

    Dago Red #8
    Careful. Goverments procedurally treating all as equal does not mean that they are all, in fact, the same.
    There are measurable differences in capability between people.
    The profesor is making two errors:
    1 he thinks measurable differences should make a difference to how we treat people politically, dividing by superior and inferior classes.
    2 he thinks there is science that demonstrates a boundary between a superior and inferior grouping when his data and conclusions as to cause are both bullshit.

  13. bcwebb says

    The professor seems to unable to tell the difference between a genius and a sociopath. Takes one to know one, I guess.

    The geniuses I’ve known are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

    I’ve always thought business schools were the ultimate example of those who “can’t,” teach. But those who “can’t” always make awful teachers.

  14. says

    @6 microraptor

    It means that Professor Dude has completely swallowed the pop culture meme about ‘geniuses’ being highly intelligent misanthropic loners. It means, eg, he’s someone that would consider Rick Sanchez the epitome of ‘genius’, despite the whole show being about how fundamentally broken, unhappy, and BAD Rick is.

    In a technical sense he is referring to the OCEAN personality framework actually used in psychology – it stands for Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. See .

  15. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    A true genius would realize the peril of making broad generalizations about subgroups where the standard deviation swamps the difference in means between the groups.

    Then there is the absolute stupidity of trying to reduce a subject as complicated as “intelligence” to a single number.

  16. jrkrideau says

    @ 11 PaulBC
    these are apparently real categories acknowledged by psychologists)
    Indeed they are and, from what I have read, have some validity.

    This does not mean that 538’s personality quiz is an adequate/accurate measure of them. It may be or may not be. It would be nice to see their technical manual before putting any faith in the results.

    To be honest, any writers who, in their linked article can refer to ” Not even the Myers-Briggs” without a ritual spit on the floor, invite me to doubt their psychometric skills and knowledge of the area of personality theory.

  17. kome says

    The idea of the asshole genius (high IQ, low agreeableness, low conscientiousness) is almost entirely a Hollywood myth because it makes for interesting narrative. It’s disturbing to find it endorsed by anyone outside of the confines of an episode of House MD. In real life, the most genius people you’ll ever meet actually get along fairly well with most everyone else. Assholes who find themselves among the upper echelons of some arcane academic or technical field usually got their position not on their own merit, but by exploiting or abusing their subordinates (such as their graduate students) and claiming all the credit. It turns out, one of the principle characteristics needed to care about the truth and the facts so much that you doggedly pursue it is the capacity to care period, which necessarily generalizes to caring about other people because the truth is only important in a relational context.

  18. damien75 says

    The original author of the sentence “Geniuses are overwhelmingly male because they combine outlier high IQ with moderately low agreeableness and moderately low conscientiousness.” writes as though he has a working theory of genius. Does such a theory really exist ?

    Also : geniuses are exspected to have ” low conscientiousness” ? If that means what it seems to mean, it is very surprising. How is one going to achieve a major work without being conscientious ? They may have been exceptions, but it seems to me that Newton, Darwin, Einstein and Dirac were extremely conscientious, there are many ways to fail at producing one of the great theories these men devised, and yet, they managed to avoid them. With low conscientiousness ? I don’t buy it.

    I’ve seen above a a link to 538’s personality quiz and another one to the wikipedia page of the OCEAN model. I’m grateful to learn about them, but does that psychological theory work well enough to characterise geniuses ?

    Are they there yet ?

  19. damien75 says

    @kome #21

    “In real life, the most genius people you’ll ever meet actually get along fairly well with most everyone else.”

    Do you mean to say you meet a statistical number of geniuses in your real life ? The number of geniuses I have known well enough to tell whether or not they “get along fairly well with most everyone else” is not enough to draw statistcs from. Do you by any chance work in the Institute for Advanced Studies ?

  20. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    I’ve known a fair number of geniuses:
    Probably about a dozen or so Nobel laureates
    Lots of physicists and mathematicians
    A couple dozen real rocket scientists
    My wife and her parents and grandparents
    Various and sundry professors
    A couple of waitresses and dancers
    Some artists
    A delivery guy
    And so on.

    Geniuses are 3 sigma above the average or so–about 1 in 740.

    Oh, and while Einstein, Darwin and Dirac were good people, mostly, Newton was an asshole.

  21. damien75 says

    @a_ray_in_dilbert_space, #21

    “I’ve known a fair number of geniuses:
    Probably about a dozen or so Nobel laureates”

    Gee, you’re lucky !

    So…I’m on hot coals here : where they not conscientious ?

    “Geniuses are 3 sigma above the average or so–about 1 in 740.”

    Wait, is that an official definition ? I tend to recognise a genious through achievements that necessarily require exceptional abilities.

    “Oh, and while Einstein, Darwin and Dirac were good people, mostly, Newton was an asshole.”

    You’ll notice I didn’t say anything about “agreeableness”. While Dirac probably meant good, he was certainly not “agreeable”, at least not at the beginning of his adult life (he improved with time).

  22. ColeYote says

    Employment is not contingent on holding only good opinions and not being an asshole

    I mean, “not being an asshole” seems like a fair requirement to me.

  23. PaulBC says

    1 in 740 is a pretty low bar. Any moderately large high school has a good chance of graduating one this year. I also have no doubt that 1 in 740 people have extremely high intelligence and elite skills (more so that I do), but they are not in the same category as Marie Curie, or even luminaries known within a field but not to the general public like mathematician László Lovász. What is that category called?

  24. Zeppelin says


    Idunno, I would assume that most people who have the potential to be “geniuses” in some socially recognisable way never have the opportunity, occasion and/or education to develop their specific talent. So while I have no strong opinions on the “1 in 740” figure, I don’t find it implausible on its face.

  25. kome says

    I was making an assertion about the correlates of genius. I’m willing to stand by it however one wishes to define genius.
    It’s an assertion based on a simple logic: most people aren’t assholes most of the time. So, unless one is going to explicitly carve out a group of people who are defined in part by being an asshole (e.g., violent criminals), it stands to reason that propensity towards assholeishness is likely to be distributed roughly similarly no matter what other random subpopulation you wish to examine. Ergo, most geniuses aren’t assholes any more than non-geniuses are. Pending empirical evidence to the contrary, I’m pretty much treating that as the null hypothesis.

    As yet, I am unaware of any empirical data showing any sort of substantive relationship between genius, however defined, and a lower disposition towards agreeableness. Much less so for conscientiousness. Which, for whatever it’s worth, is an incredibly surprising assertion to make, as nearly all the empirical research I’m familiar with on intelligence, creativity, and expertise finds robust positive correlations with conscientiousness. I’m willing to go out on a limb that on the basis of the inclusion of “moderately low conscientiousness” in that quoted description of genius that the person defining genius in that way has simply, as Humpty Dumpty does in Through the Looking Glass, decided words mean only what they want it to mean. Looking at the original dumpster fire of writing that is the “Are women destroying academia” article, there isn’t an ounce of actual data behind any of its claims about the relationship between any sort of intellectual/creative capacity and any kind of personality trait. It’s just a bunch of logical fallacies flowing out from each other into an incoherent mess that revolves entirely around prioritizing the feelings of men who think women don’t belong getting an education.

  26. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    The three sigma criterion is the threshold MENSA sets. Most of the Nobel Laureates I’ve known were pretty cool. Leon Lederman was the head of Fermilab when I was there. He enjoyed interacting with us peons at the lab. Every year, they’d have a race around the accelerator ring–4 miles–and if you beat Leon, he’d buy you breakfast. He was late 60s at the time, so it was easy to beat him around the ring. One year, I forgot and showed up 10 minutes late and still got breakfast on Leon.

    Likewise the others were probably nicer than average. A few jerks in there, and a few very difficult sorts.
    As Mark Kac said of Feynman: “There are two kinds of geniuses: the ‘ordinary’ and the ‘magicians.’ an ordinary genius is a fellow whom you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they’ve done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians…”

  27. bcwebb says

    Thinking further, perhaps Rasmusen’s concept of a genius is a “business genius” meaning someone who became fabulously wealthy since many such men really were total assholes and cheated and abused society, the world, and their fellow humans to become rich. Rockefeller, for example, made Standard oil the most powerful company on earth not by innovative or efficient oil production but by bribing the railroads to collude with him to block his competitors oil from the market, allowing him to bankrupt them and buy them up below market value. Bill Gates formed a monopoly based on concepts he bought or stole from elsewhere and shipped a crappy but required component of computers. RCA stole the idea for television. Edison stole the patents for AC power after his preferred DC transmission proved a terrible idea. The railroad barons got that way on government subsidies and corruption. The Koch family killed buffalo and Indians and sold meat to both armies of the civil war and in the current generation sold climate denial and bought politicians. T J Watson of IBM sold the punch cards for Hiitler’s Jew-tracking census and was under investigation for stock manipulation until his company’s calculating machines became essential for predicting bomb trajectories in the Second World War.

    Genius like that is synonymous with sociopathy.

  28. PaulBC says

    Zeppelin@25 Well, yeah. I agree. Clearly it takes more than genes to be on some short list of people with notable accomplishments. Even in some ideal world in which we could all achieve our “full potential” we’d still be singling out an elite among the elite for special attention. And that would come down to unique influences and opportunities (which are just as beyond anyone’s control as genes). In some alternate history, I would lack the wherewithal to become an equivalent to Richard Feynman, but Richard Feynman himself might achieve moderate success rather than lasting renown.

    i’ve also known people who are obviously smarter than me (e.g. in terms of working memory and ability to grasp an abstraction fast) , but less successful in certain areas requiring intellect just because I had the drive they lacked in some particular instance. And I’m not all that successful. If women are underrepresented among acknowledged “geniuses” I would start by asking how much they are actively discouraged from following their individual dreams and expected to conform with normative standards. Society always hands out the most predictable rewards for high-functioning conformity. To the extent that there is room to be unorthodox, men are given a lot more discretion.

  29. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    Putting aside both the hilarious assumption that to be a genius means being a jerk (low scores in agreeableness and conscientiousness), that the academy is better off with geniuses (rather than having more people who may or may not be as brilliant but are harder working and more collegial), and that personality traits are fixed as a result of gender and there’s no socialization going on, all of which are specious to say the least, I also find it funny how the sexists are having to bend over backwards to ignore what their own methodology would say.

    The racists at least can point to black IQ seeming to be lower. It’s bull but the data seems to be there. But by now, the IQ literature (especially Flynn’s data) is unequivocal: women have higher average IQs and one of the highest IQs ever recorded, and so it seems quite clear that women are actually intrinsically smarter than men (by the bigots’ reasoning). I’ve seen racists and sexists endlessly squirm out of this one, including trying to claim that Flynn made up the data and impugning Flynn’s (sterling) credentials. And women also have higher rates of educational achievement. And even the sexists have to whine about a supposed war on boys (isn’t it funny how, when women or racial minorities underperform, it’s their fault, but when boys underperform there’s a war on them, Christina?).

    So they have to cherry-pick around the obvious conclusion that, if we take IQ seriously (and even if we take emotional intelligence seriously) more women should be in the academy and also more women should be running things, and men should be underrepresented. The mental gymnastics required to do this are hilarious to me. It would be much funnier if the shrieks of mediocre people weren’t going to keep equal opportunity down for some time longer.

  30. Ichthyic says

    “In real life, the most genius people you’ll ever meet actually get along fairly well with most everyone else. ”


    you clearly do not have any acquaintances that are actual geniuses.

    I do. half of them are complete assholes.

    I still go to them for advice, because while being an asshole while telling you why you are wrong… they are almost always right.