Academic leftists and dangerous ideas

I ran across this critique of Kanazawa:

In fact, this is a contentious rather than a consensus claim. Some researchers within this paradigm have argued, using similar data, that apparent gains in scores on IQ tests in a wide range of nations over time are likely to have been influenced by educational and social developments (Flynn, 1987). Moreover, the extensive debates about ‘race’ and IQ and the relative influence of heredity and the environment are simply ignored here.

[Hereditarian thinkers, unlike environmental thinkers, are obliged to detail all possible alternative interpretations and present all possible contrary evidence because their hypotheses are dangerous.]

However, stepping outside the assumptions of the paradigm, such claims, in a scientific journal, can give succour to racists and those who are quite happy to blame the poor ‘for their lot’. As Steve Jones (Professor of Genetics at UCL) has observed ‘the genetical view is often taken as a chance to blame the victim; to excuse injustice because it is determined by nature’ (2000, p.114). It is worrying, therefore, that these claims are made in one of the Society’s own journals.

[Hereditarian hypotheses are dangerous because they can lead people to attribute the failings of others to nature and not to the racism and malfeasance of others.]

The reason we are writing to The Psychologist about this paper is that we were shocked that these deficiencies had not been picked up either by the British Journal of Health Psychology reviewers or the editorial team. As a result, the Society has lain its journals open to criticism. Some of us are old enough to remember the 1990 debacle when The Psychologist published a deeply offensive and methodologically and conceptually inadequate article about race by J. Philippe Rushton. At that time, The Psychologist overhauled its review process. In this case the Observer has already run a story in which Kanazawa’s article was accused of perpetuating racist stereotypes (‘Low IQs are Africa’s curse, says lecturer’, 5 November 2006).

[Hereditarian hypotheses are also dangerous because they attempt to explain patterns of behaviors, which can lead people to noticing these patterns and so lead to racism].

Variants of the above critique are astoundingly common. The circular logic:

1. Disparities are the result of racism
2. Stereotypes can bolster racism
3. Alternative theories of the cause of disparities can reinforce stereotypes and be used to justify racism
Ergo: Presenting alternative theories is dangerous if not inherently racist, especially given the ubiquity of racism in society as testified by the presence of disparities.

[Edit: KiwiGuy pointed me to a paradigmatic comment:

“I want to make one last comment in response to Yan Shen (#6) because they bring up a common misconception. Race isn’t a biologically meaningful category, but race and how we categorize people based on how they look and where they come from has profound social and cultural implications for people, including the kinds of systemic discrimination that can be addressed by affirmative action”]

Obviously, to the extent the alternatives theories are correct, disparities are not the result of racism and so the alternative theories will not lead to these disparities. But academic leftist can’t see this. The ideology of Ubiquitous Racism has too strong of a hold. They are unable to fathom that their first principle could be incorrect.

When discussing this issue, it’s necessary to point out this fallacy and make your contention clear: racism, discrimination, colonialism, and prejudice are not the causes (e.g of African economic underperformance).

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3 Responses to Academic leftists and dangerous ideas

  1. Kiwiguy says:

    A good example of this in the response to Yan Shen:

    “I want to make one last comment in response to Yan Shen (#6) because they bring up a common misconception. Race isn’t a biologically meaningful category, but race and how we categorize people based on how they look and where they come from has profound social and cultural implications for people, including the kinds of systemic discrimination that can be addressed by affirmative action.”

    http://scienceblogs.com/oscillator/2011/06/missing_the_point.php#c4115667

  2. Chuck says:

    “I want to make one last comment in response to Yan Shen (#6) because they bring up a common misconception. Race isn’t a biologically meaningful category, but race and how we categorize people based on how they look and where they come from has profound social and cultural implications for people, including the kinds of systemic discrimination that can be addressed by affirmative action”

    So it’s our job to dissect the argument, figure out its mechanics, and then, with that knowledge in hand, develop effective counters to it. Have you been watching me in action over at Straight Dope?

  3. Kiwiguy says:

    I post as Chen.

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