Friday, November 23, 2007

SCIENCE VS. POLITICAL SCIENCE. Having read the William Saletan articles about how black people have lower IQs than white people, and having noted the gleeful agreement of rightwing honkeys that black people have lower IQs than white people, I can say this:

I expect that the march of science will continue to uncover many wonders of the human mind, toward the end of improving all our lives, which is of course what science is for. That will lead along some thorny paths. For example, it looked for a while as if embryonic stem cells were the best way to go in solving a number of medical problems. Now it seems science may have found a less controversial alternative.

This has led some political types to complain that because science did not get there fast enough, its practitioners were bent on the destruction of human life. Such judgments are not surprising, considering the source, because in politics, history is only a series of anecdotes to be exploited for propaganda purposes, whereas science supposes a continuum of educational events, sometimes called experiments, to be used as building blocks toward a better life. There is such a thing as pseudo-science, but the free exercise of the scientific method over time obliterates such fallacies. Politics is much less reliably self-correcting. In fact, many political actors are deeply invested in sustaining ancient errors if they think it will help them retain power.

The historical record leads me to suppose that as cognitive scientists continue their work, they will sometimes come up with findings that politicians can exploit, but they will also learn things that do us all of us a great deal of good. So the IQ debates are a good thing as science. As politics, they are more or less useless except as fodder for racist cranks.

Which can also be a good thing. I am sneakily pleased to see conservatives excited by the current state of play, and encourage them to sing out loudly about it. Let them tell the world that their favored candidates' positions on race show that they agree that black people are less intelligent than white people. Let them tell the world that affirmative action is useless because black people are genetically incapable of benefiting from it. Eventually they will get around to discussing the genetic inheritances of Barack Obama. What a forum that will be, with Andrew Sullivan and John Derbyshire explaining that the most attractive features of Obama's platform come from the white side of his brain!

We may get a new government out of it, and conservatives can use their leisure to play with calipers and brains of varying races. Win-win, as far as I can see.

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