Here is an email correspondence I’ve been having with an unnamed public intellectual who is skeptical of the durability of the culturist explanations for human inequality, and who believes that the pegging of human rights discourses to dubious assumptions is an extremely dangerous thing.
I am of the fledgling intellectual breed of people trying to compatibilize liberal humanism and mulicultural with the looming unavoidability of ‘human biodiversity’ – meaningful biological variation in traits related to temperament, cognition, et c, which exist between human populations. Anyway, I tend to invoke you and some of your remarks during my conversational pitches to other people.
My request: If you ever make the bold move of giving this extremely pressing topic proper treatment in a book, would you please consider adding me to your email list of people to do the feedback/editing/research gruntwork?
Al [aka HAarlem VEnison]
No plans to write about human biodiversity, for many reasons. It’s still a third rail, killing anyone who touches it. Now’s not a propitious time, given the encouragement that this research will provide to some of the most repugnant political forces in our country today. And the science is neither settled nor, in my view, particularly important – unlike gender and individual differences, racial differences are a minor factor in human evolution, and we can do a lot of interesting science without going there.
To say that it’s not important and that there’s more interesting science elsewhere suggests to me that you’re worried that going after this fruit will get you blasted off the pillar with a water cannon.
You are absolutely right that the causality in question is mind-bogglingly complex, and prone to bias. This cannot be overstated. This is why greater emphasis should be placed on the /uncertainty/ of such causality. The post-war consensus on race and racism has long since eroded into one which has crowded toward the equal-and-opposite of pre-war (e.g.: Nazi) conceptions of race and its behavioral correlates. The middle path – uncertainty – is what is sorely missing today.
And, yes, I agree that this problem should be subsumed into the problem of individual differences, and of general ‘lookist’ discrimination.
Yes, there are repugnant political forces afoot, but is it really wise to explain what is happening in terms of a moral melodrama? And is really fair to withhold cognitive empathy from the pariahs of our post-racial society? Whites – at least those not benefitting from nor insulated from the mission creep of the war on racism – are sick of being scapegoated (and penalized) as the collective ether which prevents the leveling of interracial disparities. The diverse movement called the ‘alt-right’ is just the tip of the iceberg. I believe that it would be a grave error not to parse their legitimate from their illegitimate grievances.
As is etched in my memory, you tweeted a few months ago about the need to compatibilize liberal humanism, with scientific findings which, at first glance, seem to deflate our programs of human rights, liberal humanism, et c. The egalitarian hypothesis may well reveal itself to be the Ptolemaism of our era, and it is critical that preparations be made for a gentle landing lest everything come crashing down. This is the propitious time.
Anyway, again, please copy down my email in case you ever do decide to write such a book, which you could publish during the next political lull. You are one of the few people I am aware of today who are capable of writing such a book and getting it into the minds of the people. It might allow humanity to begin working toward its collective goals smarter rather than harder, and might bring all of us back onto the same page – something all the more glaringly obvious as we observe the early stages of a civilization wobbling on its axis.
Sincerely and with highest respect,
Thanks, Al, for the additional comments. We agree on the overall agenda, but there’s much wisdom in the saying that you have to pick your battles, and establishing whether there is genetic basis for the black-white difference is, in my view, the wrong battle to pick at this time. As Herrnstein and Murry noted in The Bell Curve (more than noted: they wrote that they would put the point in neon if they could), nothing in social policy hinges on the answer to that question.
Thanks, too, for the offer to help.
I understand your point.
Thank you for your thoughtful responses,
Sorry to jump in again, but I feel the need to clarify that, here, neither of us are proposing positive policies informed by HBD. Rather, we’re talking about the dialing back of positive policies (which seem to be ramping up without any end game) that are informed by the culturist hypothesis and its ad hoc assumptions. Thus, there is no talk here of trying to undo the righteous, noble and necessary mantle of the earlier antiracist movement, nor of jumping to any conclusions.
Now, an unsent email to a curious journalist who is trying to understand the Alt-Right perspective, and the root cause of their grievances:
This might be read as an expansion of this previous post of mine.
I am heavily influenced by the philosophy of science, epistemology, and cognitive science when I go about dissecting the root origins of the dogma of racial sameness. I believe that herein lies the heart of the growing conflict between whites who do not benefit from the war on racism and the ‘rainbow coalition’ of whites who do benefit from antiracism – or are somehow insulated from it – and the various protected classes (black people, etc) who either benefit from it, or else have grown dependent on it or psychologically enslaved by it. Basically, the entire conflict pivots on the question of whether the disparities in life outcomes between human populations are caused by innate hereditary variation between populations, or else caused by environmental factors, such as a pervasive climate of racism. If the former is more true than the latter, then a great many of the alt-right’s grievances would be VERY legitimate. Of course, the causality here is mind-bogglingly complex, and dogged by our emotions and biases.
You see, regardless of which persons or peoples are better at apprehending the full landscape of reality, ALL of us are mentally finite. Thus, the reality that we perceive is filtered by evolutionary constraints – IE, we see things which are likely to aid us in survival, and which gels with the rest of our ideas about how the world works.
Perhaps the primary filter is in what direction we choose to direct our gaze. I would argue that, in the cosmopolitan, multicultural Western world of 2017, this compels all but the pariahs, lunatics, and misfits of our society to look at how all people – more specifically, /all races/ are the same. Anybody who has even an iota of hope of being socially and economically in harmony with society will avoid at all costs seeing signs of racial differences. This is why there is an acute dearth of scientific research regarding racial differences. Rather, if anything, scientists and laymen alike look specifically for non-biological explanations for interracial disparities.
This fact that we must all choose where to fix our gazes is where ‘confirmation bias’ comes from, and it is exacerbated by the echo chambers of the internet, which in turn have begun spiraling out of control due to Google algorithms, as well as the rampant censorship and de-platforming of all voices on social media deemed to be in league with the ‘alt-right’.
If you have studied the philosophy of science, you will know that choosing one theory as superior to another is easier said than done. Occam’s razor, or Popper’s criterion of falsifiability, are two of the most popular means of going with one theory rather than another, such as Einstein’s relativity over the theory of ether, or the heliocentric model over the Ptolemaic geocentric model. Ultimately, though this is a matter of whether you believe that ultimate reality will forever elude us, the most we can ever hope for is to pick the theory which appears ‘less wrong’ or mor useful than the other.
In the case of the popular antiracist theory which says that “biological differences between human populations are negligible or non-existent”, it imputes an all-pervading, ether-like “implicit bias”, as well as a smorgasbord of environmental effects, historical effects, etc as being the root causes of interracial disparities.
The problem with this is that this ether of implicit bias, while absolutely existing, is apparently impervious to our titanic efforts of social engineering. It simply won’t go away. Worse, it seems to infect everybody, including the most bleeding-heart antiracist activists, white and black alike. In short, if racial prejudice is illusory, it is an illusion everybody holds in common – it is our consensus reality. As I mention in a forthcoming YouTube video, this seemingly insuperable dilemma is contained within a more ground-level dilemma that many are already aware of: If whites are the ones leading efforts to stomp out racial biases – and they are – then it will only continue to disempower black people and relegate them client status within society, forever beholden to Big Diversity and Big Antiracism. This will perpetuate many of the core biases from which blacks suffer.
The hegemonic theory of racial sameness places an impossibly high burden of proof on any biological explanation of interracial disparities – which makes it impossible, a priori, for a race-realist to win an argument in the public sphere in the first place. It has excuses (‘ad hoc apologetics’, to use jargon) for discrediting the plethora of evidence – coming from right before our eyes or else an ever-growing wealth of scientific studies which accidentally, tangentially suggest that, well, race is not skin-deep, and it does correlate meaningfully with a wealth of genetically-encoded traits which strongly influence temperament, game-theoretic orientation, egoism, cognitive capacity, abstract intelligence, etc. The difference between the plethora of evidence for the biological theory (“racial differentness”) and that for the culturist theory (“racial sameness”) is that the former falls on the laps of scientists even when they’re struggling not to find it, and that the latter is evidence that we deliberately go looking for, or even confabulate, and which we curatively place on the table which polite society dines at, and which the rest of us are all expected to aspire toward. For any piece of accidental evidence we come across for racial differentness – which forms a remarkably coherent whole – we go out looking for ad hoc hypotheses as to why that evidence is illusory. This is not how scientific truth is apprehended.
Back to my central thesis that each of our own realities are determined by where we send our gaze, I would like to emphasize that, while the ‘racial differentness’ theory has superior explanatory power, there is nevertheless indeed much wisdom in focusing equally on the commonality which exists between human populations, and of refraining from draw conclusions. This is why, for my currently shelved website, legitgriev.wordpress.com, I have struck upon the image of the glass which is both half-full and half-empty. Agnosticism regarding the origins of racial disparities is the middle path. All public policies which presuppose one truth over the other must end. Thus, the war on racism – at least its dystopic recent developments – must end.