As allegedly independent agents within the consensus reality, one of the things each of us has to do in our lives is to discover, as far as possible, the grounds for believing what we are asked to believe. Theories of human nature are inherently controversial because they are socially constructed. This includes allegedly scientific theories of human nature. Whenever you see something presented under the rubric of human nature: science, technology, and life - question it ruthlessly.
No amount of special pleading on behalf of the alleged moral and ethical neutrality of genomic science should be allowed to obscure the fact that the conceptual and material deliverables of scientific research are not value-free. Yet, we have recently been beset by precisely such special pleadings within two dominant organs of the mainstream media which have each sought to make the case that the long-standing theories of genetic determinism of IQ is in fact a useful, helpful, and value-free research domain. Nothing could be further from the truth. Racists in America, the UK, and Germany have believed in and pursued these value-laden and heavily politically charged notions for well over a century, long prior to the advent of the scientific realization that there was even such a thing as a "genome".
The story of eugenic pseudo-science is one of manifold superstitions and cruelties and measures and meanings invented, fostered, and propagated for no other reason than to provide an excuse for the exercise of social and political power that would otherwise be completely morally and ethically inexcusable. Those who govern employ a variety of methods to control the contents of the consensus. Much of that content is engineered to provoke fear and to foster ignorance between groups because a divided and fearful populace is a more readily controlled and manipulated populace. Often as not, what induces human groups to fear and destroy one another is the prevalence of false ideas about human nature.
Last friday, I wrote that the NY Times and Slate.com have each published a series of articles drawing from the blogs of ill-informed people who do not warrant respectful attention in the case of the Times, and in the case of Slate - a conservative commentator draws from both racist blogs and a hardcore racist pseudo-scientist backed by strategic capital going back to the Nazi era. Slate and the New York Times are supposed to know better. Because I know that they know better - this leads me to one inescapable conclusion. Decision makers at these two media giants have decided for whatever reason to editorially back the reintroduction of racist pseudo-science into the public and political discourse.
I was not aware at the time I wrote this opinion that Slate is a property of the Washington Post. Now knowing this fact, I find the assertion that elements of the Establishment are injecting eugenic themes back into the public discourse even more compelling. If I can find an instance where the Wall Street Journal is also involved with the eugenic revival, I'll consider it a media Establishment trifecta. What brings me back to this topic is William Saletan's pathetic mea culpa published in yesterday's Slate.
Many of you have criticized parts of the genetic argument as I related them. Others have pointed to alternative theories I truncated or left out. But the thing that has upset me most concerns a co-author of one of the articles I cited. In researching this subject, I focused on published data and relied on peer review and rebuttals to expose any relevant issue. As a result, I missed something I could have picked up from a simple glance at Wikipedia.Oh Hells to the Gnaw - Saletan categorically must not be given a pass for his "dog ate my homework excuse" of sloppy fact checking! This was not merely an instance of sloppy fact checking, rather, it was a demonstration of the willful deceit which would have people to believe that research into the genetic determination of IQ is value-free, morally and ethically neutral, scientific research for the common good. What an audacious and ahistorical crock of conservative nonsense. Such nonsense trading on the collective amnesia and historical ignorance of the public demonstrates the free and easy interlocks between conservative and racist politics and serves as a tour de force illustration of the extent to which the latter ideology perniciously infects and pervades the political and scientific expressions of the former. Only a month earlier, writing in defense of James Watson, Saletan drew the following conclusion;
For the past five years, J. Philippe Rushton has been president of the Pioneer Fund, an organization dedicated to "the scientific study of heredity and human differences." During this time, the fund has awarded at least $70,000 to the New Century Foundation. To get a flavor of what New Century stands for, check out its publications on crime ("Everyone knows that blacks are dangerous") and heresyAmerican Renaissance, which preaches segregation. Rushton routinely speaks at its conferences. ("Unless whites shake off the teachings of racial orthodoxy they will cease to be a distinct people"). New Century publishes a magazine called
I was negligent in failing to research and report this. I'm sorry. I owe you better than that.
Well, if he wants to paper over his bruised ego, that's his business. But racism, genetics, culture, black America, and the future of Africa are too important to be papered over.
It's clear from Watson's revisionism, reticence, and retirement that he wants to make his hypothesis go away. But wanting it isn't enough. That's not science. It's politics.