Saturday, March 11, 2017

Scientific American: John Horgan and Noam Chomsky: Some Politically Incorrect Scientific Research Should Be Banned

   Jesus Christ this is chilling.
   Horgan's proposed ban on research into race and IQ is alarming enough.
   But worse than that, to my mind, is his agreement with Chomsky's radically anti-scientific claims: that:
...discovery of a correlation between some of these qualities is of no scientific interest and of no social significance, except to racists, sexists and the like. Those who argue that there is a correlation between race and IQ and those who deny this claim are contributing to racism and other disorders, because what they are saying is based on the assumption that the answer to the question makes a difference; it does not, except to racists, sexists and the like."

   In my opinion this is no less reprehensible than something from the Klan or the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Declaring such questions to be "of no scientific interest" is just madness. They are of significant scientific interest. We may not like the answers...but if you think that matters, then you don't have the scientific attitude. And it's utter horseshit to say that only racists and sexists would be interested to know the answer to questions like the one at issue. Are only sexists interested in the question "are men generally stronger than women?" What kind of nonsense is that? Oh, and do note: if you find yourself interested in denying any of the relevant correlations, then, according to Chomsky, you're a bigot too! Only indifference to the facts--aka incuriosity--is politically correct.
   That paragraph is nuts even by Chomsky's standards. And that's saying something.
   I find this topic as unpleasant as anyone. But it's anti-scientific to declare the questions of no scientific interest, anti-scientific to declare anyone who denies (or affirms!) that to be a bigot, and anti-scientific to propose a ban on researching them.
   There's also this from Horgan:
Scientists and pundits who insist on recycling racial theories of intelligence portray themselves as courageous defenders of scientific truth. I see them not as heroes but as bullies, picking on those who are already getting a raw deal in our society. It's time to put these destructive theories to rest once and for all.
    Now, Horgan links to this piece by William Saletan. In which there's not an ounce of racism or bullying. Saletan states the facts about race and IQ, so far as we know them. Horgan covers his ears and shrieks "racism!" Which of these two people has the scientific attitude?
   Saletan also writes:
You can try to reconcile evidence of racial differences with a more sophisticated understanding of equality and opportunity. Or you can fight the evidence and hope it doesn't break your faith.
And that's exactly right in my view. If you think that moral and political equality require that everyone have the same IQ, then your liberalism is dead in the water--and not worth saving anyway. However: the big mistake is to think that that question should be part of the scientific discussion. I shouldn't.


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