Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Friday, November 23, 2007

All the Bright Brave Technoscientific Racists

Roughly once a year or so the Intrawebs light up with a joyless spectacle of heated hurtful give and take initiated by some white asshole who wants to claim, perhaps "reluctantly," that The Big Science Shows According to His Big Science Brain that Black People Are Dumb, and that he is really, like, brave for saying this.

This year, it would appear that the bright brave white racist asshole festivities are arriving just in time for the Holidays, which is especially nice.

Thank you James Watson, thank you, Will Saletan. A Holiday season without white racism is like a day without getting shit flung endlessly in your face.

Not that this will matter to any of the bright brave technoscientific racists in question, but let's review a couple of elementary propositions.

People can be taught to perform well on tests, and so the tests that are used to support claims that there is some substantial inherent measurable "intelligence" that, say, black people have less of in the aggregate than white people do is always just wrong. The bright brave racist conclusions simply cannot follow from the evidence of such tests.

Also, the people to whom equal recourse to the law and equal opportunity under the law applies do not exist in aggregates in the first place but as socially embedded individuals. What geneticists mean when they refer to a "population" is simply a different thing than what "race" means when it is discussed in public places in racist America. This sort of pesky difference that makes a difference matters enormously when bright brave technoscientific racist abstractions actually get deployed by intellectuals and applied on the streets where people live.

People who do not grasp these basic notions aren't very bright when it comes to this topic (whatever accolades they have managed to accumulate otherwise from the Mensa Keepers of the Phrenology Flame Subcommittee or what have you). Indeed, it seems to me some asshole reductionist could easily propose that failure to grasp these basic notions and take them into due consideration when proposing clever but stupid white racist asshole arguments itself constitutes failure on a test that could just as well be said to measure substantial inherent intelligence quite as much as the ones these failures like to quote. But, then, it's not as if asshole reductionists on the question of "human intelligence" are really likely to discern evidence that asshole reductionism itself is evidence of a deficiency in that department, now, is it?

For the rest of us who fail to see the allure of asshole reductionism in these matters it remains only to say that asshole reductionists, especially in their white racist asshole variations, aren't really so bright actually for being asshole reductionists and aren't really so brave actually for being asshole reductionists and there really is no reason actually for anybody, let alone people of the democratic left who know already that racism is evil, stupid, and wrong, to pretend otherwise.

Something about technoscientific questions makes even otherwise reliable people of the democratic left lose their minds, their standards, and their basic decency. It's a problem.

Here is the proper response to Bright Brave Technoscientific Racists:
Certain ideas do not deserve to be “debated” by civilized people. The idea that black people are inherently stupid and that we should stop investing in early-childhood education for poor black kids is assuredly one of them. Civilized people shouldn’t respond to this idea by saying “I am told by people whom I admire that Charles Murray is a reputable scientist.” Civilized people should respond by saying, “UP YOURS ASSHOLE!!” Because anything less than that simply gives these people far too much credibility.

For more on Saletan, and especially on his use of an enormously problematic paper by J. Phillippe Rushton and Arthur Jensen see Daniel Koffler's No, Blacks Are Not Dumber Than Whites.


AnneC said...

But, then, it's not as if asshole reductionists on the question of "human intelligence" are really likely to discern evidence that asshole reductionism itself is evidence of a deficiency in that department, now, is it?

This particular "blind spot" is probably one of the scariest things I've recently encountered. Because asshole reductionism doesn't generally prevent a person from coming into a position of relative power or wealth, asshole reductionists are apt to see this as "proof" of their own "intelligence".

This is exactly the thing that strikes me as an example of people twisting scientific (even if barely so) methods and terminology to the service of elite, incumbent interests, all while singing the praises of the neutrality and reasonableness of the statements being put forth.

remterbacysi'ox said...

I just read this.

(title is "Why I am not a white nationalist")

"Say hello to the very courageous William Saletan. Mr. Saletan, following Amy Harmon, believes there is indeed a leopard. The leopard's name is human cognitive biodiversity. While the evidence for human cognitive biodiversity is indeed debatable, what's not debatable is that it is debatable. Since it's also the case that everyone who is not a white nationalist has spent the last 50 years informing us that it is not debatable, we have our leopard one way or another."

(you might want to read the first post on the blog and the "How Dawkins got pwned" posts to understand what positions the poster takes)