Thursday, August 29, 2002
A response to Phil Shropshire Ok. This is long, but I think it's important. It's a response to Shropshire's lengthy critique. Phil's basic point is that we reveal our bias by focusing too strongly on the problems of blacks and the successes of Asians. I will grant that my focus has been a bit one-track for the last week or so, but I don't think that the charge of bias holds, as I detail in the rebuttal. Anyway, let's begin. Philip's comments are italicized and indented:
I just wanted to make two overall points here. First, I want to offer a rare defense of Glenn Reynolds. Keep in mind that not everybody who writes for Gene Expression is quite as obsessed as Godless. There are four writers and only two of them veer toward the New Genetic Fascism. (To give an example: Godless really thinks there were no downsides in the film Gattaca. Didn't see that Gore Vidal character as heroic in some way...)
In fact, Reynolds has taken the side of articulate science writers Charles Murtaugh (whose politics I don't always agree with, but he does oppose Godless which makes him a kind of enemy of my enemy is my friend sort of ally) and Paul Orwin--both impressive by the way--against Godless on the racial stuff.
I like Charles and Paul and respect their work, but - again - readers can judge for themselves whether Paul and Charles scored any points in our debates. At the beginning their knee-jerk reaction was to tar me as a hateful racist. Paul tried to dismiss me as a hatemonger with a wave of the hand, and Charles tried to start a campaign to blacklist me. But they quickly backed off from those positions in the course of our discussion. At the very least, they both now agree that the questions I raise are matters of legitimate scientific dispute. They are no longer questioning my character for the sin of posing the questions in the first place. Judge for yourself: Debate with Paul on IQ and race: PO1 GC2 PO3 GC4 PO5 GC6 Debate with Charles on McWhorter, IQ and race: GC0 CM1 GC2 CM3 CM4 GC5 GC6 GC7
In other words, just because he links to a site doesn't mean that he endorses all of it's views....
I can't speak for Glenn. I think he would disagree with me on genetics, but that's his prerogative. However, he is staunchly pro-genetic engineering , like Virginia Postrel, HappyFunPundit, Tech Central, Brink Lindsay, and many others. The libertarian blogosphere made their positions very clear in their opposition to Francis Fukuyama's hardline stance against genetic engineering. Philip, I think you would do well to understand that many people understand the difference between genetic engineering and eugenics. A good starting place is here. Razib goes into more detail here, but there is one point of importance: If I'm wrong about race and IQ, then these experiments will show that I'm wrong. If we decide to pursue genetic engineering, we will get answers to my questions along the way .
...Now, as far as Godless, yes there is a kind of racist element to his writings. You can tell that he's immersed in the Bell Curve stuff. For example, you can make the argument that there are poor black people, and perhaps they don't test well. But Godless and sometimes his less offensive more palatable cohort Razib, usually start their every sentence with something like this (At Gene Expression as we speak by the way...): -crime (Does racial profiling work?) -education (Is black academic performance due to white racism?) -corporate policy (Is the EEOC unfair?) -foreign policy (Will aid to africa work?) Notice the minority that he (or she? Black, white, Indian Brahmin who knows...) targets. He also targets the entirety of Africa, not unlike targeting Europe--no big diff between those Swedes and Spaniards--by the way. And he does it daily. He could target Indian untouchables or the Chinese rural poor or the poorest demographic group in the United States: the Vietnamese, who have double the poverty rate of American blacks. But no mention of these other low achievers. No daily suggestion that they could use a genetic boost intellectually....The other thing that gives ol' Godless away is that Asians and Indians--groups that never get the raw end of his Bell Curve schtick and that we think Razib and Godless belong too--are always written about with praise and honor.
We've criticized many other groups in the past, including our own: see here and here for Republicans (gasp!), here and here for Chinese, here and here for Hispanics, here, here and here for European whites, here for Nazis, here and here for white nationalists, and here and here for Indians. That's not an exhaustive list - trawl through our archives and you'll find more. A lot of our posts cover black/white differences in the US simply because there's a lot more data on it than on any other racial topic. It's the "particle in a 1D box", the E. coli , and the linear system of race relations all rolled into one. If we try to talk about any other genetic differences, the discussion will always eventually wind its way back to a check of the first corollary of the fundamental axiom of equality: are the differences between blacks and whites partly genetic? Try it sometime with your friends, and tell me what happens. Now, that said, I can understand that my posts seem harsh. For the most part, I try to keep the discussion clinical, and that's offputting to some. Furthermore, as an ENTJ, I'm not really the most sensitive of people. (Yes, yes, understatement of the year, thanks.) I know that the things I talk about are unpleasant, but if I don't talk about them pretty much no one will (save for the few on the HBG blogroll). For the record, I'm sorry if I hurt anyone's feelings. However, I won't allow truth to be a casualty to feelings. If I say something inaccurate, I make a point of publicly retracting it and publishing a correction. Please catch me in the comments section if I forget to do this. I can be argued with, and if you feel that I'm wrong, please tell me why.
Actually, if you were evil like Godless and you hated a different ethnic group, you could talk about world rates of poverty, here, and you could in fact conclude that the majority of the world's poor are in fact Asians (in fact they led by large margins and they didn't even include China...). In fact, if I became Godless' blog adversary and became the equally evil Athiest Imperialist (Get my card from the Society of Twisted Evil Bloggers and so forth...) I could argue that Asians and Indians need a genetic boost (not forcefully of course because I'm no fascist but how long can the world sustain their infinite drag I'd ask with a fake innocence, in my condescending Dr. Evil pinkie extended to cheek kind of way...), their mediocrity speaks for itself.
Philip makes a good point - we should consider India and China more frequently, though (as I said above) we have criticized them pretty harshly in the past. Presenting Africa's woes in isolation does skew the picture, so we (or at least I) will make a conscious effort to throw my net a bit wider. In my defense, I think that the post that garnered the most attention was my first post on the economic situation of Africa in two months, though there have been several posts on AIDS in the interim. The most recent analysis indicates that poverty rates are highest in Africa. They are also very high in India and in China. It's my opinion that India will never catch China, because India lacks the human capital to do so. India's highly multimodal genetic structure means that it has a cognitive elite who can program, do mathematics, and design nuclear bombs, but the vast majority of the country is composed of low IQ groups who cannot compete without massive quotas and set-asides. No intervention short of genetic engineering can ameliorate this situation. India may well become a developed nation, but its development will be highly uneven. Look for it to be the most radical expression of Murray and Herrnstein's cognitive elite scenario. Forget about gated communities - think about gated cities .
I think my most receptive audience would be people who hate Asians and Indians.
Ah, and therein lies the rub. How to discuss a group's positive traits without implying that those outside that group aren't deserving of accolades? How to discuss a group's negative traits without implying that no member of the group is worthy? Surely there are those who would derive succour from an incessant litany of other's failings. Schadenfreude is an all too human trait. Though my disavowal may seem unbelievable, I am not among this group. I take no pleasure in pointing these things out, but my passion for the truth matters more than the opprobrium of society. My own interest in human biodiversity, and the subsequent crystallization of my thoughts was sparked by my joint interests in human evolution and engineering, not because of hatred.
Godless might say to Athiest Imperialist that "Ahhh but yes," as he sits in a wheelchair and strokes his white cat wondering how to kill that infernal Mr. Bond: "I'm using science..."But you know what," as my mythical strawman destroyer Athiest Imperialist might say, "It's exactly like your science: reductionist and stupid."
I give short shrift to those who baselessly insult reductionism. Usually in such situations several different things are conflated: 1) Simplifying the problem by neglecting unimportant factors 2) Simplifying the problem by consciously neglecting important factors 3) Simplifying the problem by unconsciously neglecting important factors The first is acceptable and desirable. The second is less desirable but used when the situation is too complicated to analyze otherwise. The third means that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem. The differences between these three methods are less clear when analyzing data sets than when building devices. When doing analysis, it's not always clear what's important and what's not. When doing synthesis, you had better damn well know what's important, or your device won't work. In this sense engineering is the crucial test of theory. If I'm correct, we'll be able to genetically engineer humans using the methods outlined in my blog. If I'm incorrect, we'll do these manipulations and nothing will happen. In other words: If my reductionism is flawed, genetic engineering will fail. But those who fear Gattaca - like Philip - fear reductionism because they know it will succeed.
I mean, let's step out of the Godless Capitalist/Athiest Imperialist Bizarro World for a sec. What are other rationales for deep and systemic poverty in China and India?...what kind or reductionist scientific moron would ignore factors like class or religious influence or educational opportunity or racial and class and sexual hostility or dumb government policy or the multinational love of continuously impoverished Third Worlders or any of a thousand factors that specifically or cumultively would be more interesting variables to look at when determining the great truths like crime and poverty? A reductionist moron scientist like Godless Capitalist, that's who.
Phil - you may be right that such terms might be more interesting to look at. They would certainly be politically safer. But I'm interested in why we have crime and poverty. Human capital is part of the story; so is the political system. Both capitalism and a sufficiently smart fraction are required for modernization. If either is lacking, then penury and deprivation will be the order of the day. Is it "reductionism" to postulate these two factors as most important, and all else as secondary? If so, I'm gladly guilty as charged. Now, if you feel that this reduction is invalid, show me a counterexample in which prosperity and modernization are accomplished without these two prerequisites, or else the converse: in which a high-IQ capitalist society degenerates into anarchy. I'm not denying that problems exist all over the globe. But my interest isn't in sympathizing with the natives. I look for causes and answers, and then I look for solutions. Indians - like Africans - should be allowed to participate in the genetic engineering revolution. The Chinese won't need to be "allowed" - they're just going to go for it.
So, no. I reject your science Godless and the terrible terrible way that you go about selling it. I happen to be pro technology but you have no idea how much you setback these promising areas of research by your every poorly disguised utterance of statistic backed hatred. Yours is a sick legacy inhabited by other such science luminaries as William Shockley and Joseph Mengele and William Pierce (rocket scientist).
Look, Phil, your side has its share of notorious liars: Lysenko (a villain comparable to Mengele), Gould, and Lewontin prime among them. Lysenko's name is already mud, and Gould's name is following fast behind him. Lewontin has some actual science to his credit, but his memory too will be consigned to the dustbin of ideologically motivated scientists. Furthermore, these "scientists" are far more representative of your views than Mengele is of mine. He did experiments on innocent humans and considered Jews and blacks little more than animals. I've said it a million times, but it's worth saying again: I'm against coercion. Identifying a problem doesn't mean posing a violent solution or dehumanizing the people in trouble. If you say someone is poor, does that make them a bad person ? No, of course not. If I say someone is a bit slow, does that make them a bad person ? No! There is no moral judgment here, no assignment of fault for something that's not their fault. Do you understand my position now?
How appropriate that you should hide your true name.
I could face real consequences if anyone were to find out who I am. It is an academic death sentence to question the fundamental axiom of egalitarianism - that there are no significant biological differences between races and sexes. If you don't believe me, check out the fates of Jensen, Brand, Rushton, Wilson, Murray, Bannister, Entine and many others who had the temerity to state the obvious - that there are real and significant differences between the races and sexes. I would welcome the day when I could speak my mind without fearing retaliation. However, I want to get tenure, and there is no way that I could survive the process if I was on the record as having said "the mean IQ of blacks is less than the mean IQ of whites, which is in turn less than the mean IQ of Asians". Regardless of the quality of my science, I would be hung out to dry and possibly subject to physical violence. My academic career would be over. Murtaugh feels that signing one's name to a blog forces accountability for one's statements, and to some extent I agree. But there is a difference between people who claim anonymity to make trouble and people who claim anonymity to avoid trouble. In the former category I would place spammers, trolls, and internet vandals. In the latter I would put holders of unpopular opinions. I don't think I'm deluding myself about the backlash that I would face if those in charge of my academic destiny could trace my name to my opinions. In this case anonymity is protection against character assassination.
To paraphrase Djerassi, the inventor of the pill: "The outrage of the "anti-racists" was understandable because the internet promises to decentralize the provision of opinion to a person's laptop, which can neither be bombed nor picketed."