Thursday, November 29, 2007

Why, sweet Jebus, why?

A post on race and IQ titled Ugly questions.
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Dear Jebus,
If you exist, and love me, you'll make a bus plow into the side of the building before I can proceed with reading this.

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Fuck you, too, Jebus.
I am clearly not qualified to deliver a final opinion on the actual merits of the race/IQ debate. But I think that our social reaction to it is disturbing. And I do mean "our". I'm as creeped out as any latte-sipping liberal when people start arguing that blacks have genetically lower IQs than whites do. But hysterical revulsion is not the correct response to what is basically an empirical question.

In part, this is a justified reaction to the fact that so many of the people advancing these theories in public are clearly racists who have seized on a theory that validates their priors. But only in part. After all, the fact that any discussion of the possibility is greeted with hysterical revulsion guarantees that only two types of people will take the "pro" side in public: fearless iconoclasts who do not care what anyone thinks of them; and racists.
Lest we forget, Megan thinks blacks are lazy, not stupid. Damned bigoted racialists.
But being a liberal, Megan wants to know about the genetic differences between races, obviously.
If there is a difference, and that difference is genetic, I assume, in my classical liberal way, that we are better off knowing than not knowing. But my sense is that it is currently not possible to examine the question in any rigorous way right now, because almost no one will touch the subject with a ten foot pole.

And yet, the question matters. We gauge the success of our social policy by looking at macro results under the assumption that everyone (in aggregate) starts off with the same basic genetic endowment. If this is not in fact true, that would alter how we should look at that data.
Whenever I hear the phrase "classic liberal" in a non-academic setting I think of Reagan's Presidential campaign in '80, and I interpret it to mean "I am full of shit in what I'm about to say". Megan has not succeeded in challenging my instinct on this. As for the claim no one will touch the subject of genetic differences between races, I just don't know where to begin. How dare geneticists not focus on the differences between members of largely artificially constructed categories instead of scientifically valid work? The nerve.
To be sure, I am not clear on how one entirely overcomes the deep entwinement of society, environment, and genes in this case. I was recently talking to a friend who was mourning the way he watched the girls get dumber as they hit puberty, lose their interest in math and science, in a way that seemed much less likely to be the result of estrogen on their math receptors than the result of social conditioning about what men should find attractive in women.

Nonetheless, I'm pretty sure we could be doing better than we are now, except that people on all sides are terrified of finding any answer that doesn't confirm what they already believe.
Such as proof that blacks are just plain old lazy, in large part because of inner city schools and governmental aid programs for the poor.
That closing paragraph really annoys me. Megan is basically talking about something she clearly doesn't know a goddamn thing about, and taking the Bell Curve enthusiasts' claims that science is afraid to engage their claims on face value. It reminds me of a time when a born again friend of my parents tried to lecture my then gf on the lack of evidence for evolution and science's fear of admitting it. My then gf was a molecular biology major and quite possibly the most gifted intellect I've ever known personally. The amount of ignorance required to lecture others for not being more ignorant always irks me. I guess it's not Megan's fault so much as those damned inner city private schools, tho. She can't help herself.

1 comment:

rickm said...

I love how she takes the fact that only nutjobs are doing this research as evidence that this type of research is being stifled.