Thursday, October 29, 2015

Bill Nye Gets Race Wrong

tl;dr: Wouldn't it be nice if race were made up?
   The dog analogy is a good one, and I've used it for quite awhile now. However it points to just about the opposite conclusion BNtSG wants it to. Human races are, indeed, like dog breeds in some important ways. For one thing: they're both divisions below the level of species. For another: they're both real, and for another they're both biological. Indeed, breed a German Shepherd and a poodle and you still get a dog; breed a Caucasian and an Asian and you still get a human. (a) No one doubts those things; (b) neither is relevant. What's relevant is this: human races, like dog breeds, are real clusters of individuals with different phenotypic traits. It's easy to distinguish purebred German Shepherds from purebred poodles. I know nothing of dog breeding, and I can do it every time. So can you. Similarly, you and I can both distinguish, say, someone with nothing but Swedish ancestry from someone with nothing but Japanese ancestry. Every time. Martians would be able to do so, too. The differences between the groups are clear, observable, and physical.
   Yes, there are borderline cases. That's the way real biological kinds work. There are intermediate cases between the sexes, but the sexes are real. There are intermediate cases between lions and tigers, but that distinction is real as well. If you can make true generalizations and predictions based on a certain kind, then it's likely to be real. And we can, of course, make true generalizations and predictions based on both dog breeds and human races. For example, we can predict what the offspring of two German Shepherds or two Caucasians will look like. We can also make true predictions about rates of medical problems such different groups will face.
   Nominalism about races is simply no more true than nominalism about dog breeds. Both dog breeds and human races are real kinds--though, biologically speaking, neither is very important. Sub specie aeternitatis, neither way of grouping things matters much. I'm not sure why that simple, true point isn't enough for leftish types... But for whatever reason, it isn't, and they're very committed to upping the ante from not important to not real.
   Only some very, very bad philosophy--of a kind that tends to rule the roost in places like anthropology--conjoined with some extremely powerful wishful thinking, political groupthink, intellectual dishonesty, and dogmatism sustains "social constructionism" about race. "Social constructionism" about basically anything is almost certain to be deeply confused... Combine it with the soft Lysenkoism common on the left, and you really do get a mess.
   And really, that's the biggest problem here: the intrusion of politics into science. This confusion about race would be bad enough if it were merely propped up by nominalism, the post-post-modern mishmash, and the other philosophical dead-ends that pervade so many of the humanities and social sciences. But it isn't. It's driven by liberal and leftist politics... And the combination of bad philosophy with political fervor...shudder...  Not good. Not very good. Very not good indeed...

   So...wouldn't it be nice if race were made up?
   I don't know... It'd certainly be more convenient...though it would make the world a less interesting place...and that's not nothing...
   But I'm not even sure racists would care much about these arguments and conclusions...even if they were valid and true...
   Since the arguments are patently invalid, however, and their conclusions false, there's no need to spend too many wetware compute cycles wistfully fretting about the counterfactual.
   Also, I'm sorry to see that Bill Nye has succumbed to...whatever it is... I don't think it has a name... Happens when you get popular, and everybody loves you and wants to hear what you have to say about everything... So you talk about more and more things that you understand less and less, shooting more and more from the hip...until you start saying dumb things. Easy to understand how it happens...still unfortunate.


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