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Race Science

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"Race Science"

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A good observation from Henry Farrell:

As an aside – one of the most aggravating things about Saletan, Sullivan, Douthat etc’s embrace of the scientiness of race and IQ is that they seem to have convinced themselves that they are bold truthsayers fearlessly committed to challenging commonly accepted falsehoods etc etc etc.

Quite so. In particular, Saletan and my bloggy colleagues seem to have convinced themselves that there’s overwhelming opposition in public opinion to the view that whites are intrinsically smarter than blacks and also that there’s strong scientific consensus in favor of that hypothesis. As best I can tell, however, neither is true. The “black genes make you dumb” crowd is siding with widely-held popular prejudice against what most researchers believe.

Now, of course, that doesn’t mean the racialists are wrong. It’s entirely possible that the sort of views about black inferiority that were sufficiently widely and strongly held as to provide key ideological support for centuries of enslavement, imperial conquest, Jim Crow, etc. and had public support for desegregation in the low thirties and trending down as recently as 1978 are correct. Maybe the slave-owners, white supremacists, imperialists, etc. were right all along about the facts of the matter but simply drew the wrong normative conclusions. Maybe the scientific consensus over the past handful of decades is a mistake — an ideology-driven overreaction to an ethical backlash against white supremacists.

But if that’s your hypothesis, it should be seen as what it is, the hypothesis that a long-established widely-held popular prejudice is correct and the more recent expert consensus is mistaken. And of course one wonders why it is that Saletan is saying things like “I’ve been soaking my head in each side’s computations and arguments. They’re incredibly technical.” Is Saletan a technical expert in the relevant fields and therefore felt a need to adjudicate? No. So what’s the prurient interest in race science? And I say it’s a prurient interest precisely because Saletan doesn’t go on to draw any sweeping white supremacist conclusions.

Indeed, he concedes that there’s evidence of a trend toward a narrowing of the black-white IQ gap that may in the future close the gap to zero, he just offers the opinion — speaking as a non-technician whose decided to enter a debate he regards as highly technical — that it probably won’t. So he’s not entirely sure he’s right that blacks are genetically inferior, and he doesn’t think this fact has any clear implications for public policy or how we should interact with individuals we encounter in our daily lives, but he just thinks it’s really important to go on record with the view that blacks are inferior. Why? Given the source, the diagnosis of knee-jerk contrarianism run amok seems most appropriate but it’s pretty odd.

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