Don’t let violence stifle science

OhOn May 14, an anxious teenager shot dead 10 blacks in Buffalo, New York, in a racist murder. Commentators have resorted, as we do when in shock, to familiar arguments. Some blamed institutional racism, some gun laws, some online radicalization. A handful blamed scientists.

“Scientists need to recognize that their research can be armed,” wrote Janet D. Stemwedel, a philosopher of science at San Jose State University. Scientific American. “They need to think carefully not only about how their findings can be misinterpreted or misused, but also about the meaning of even doing research on the differences between racial groups.

The shooter had published an online statement full of links to white supremacy sites and “great replacement” conspiracies, as well as some scientific journals. As Stemwedel writes, “There is no reason to believe, based on his screed, that the Buffalo shooter understood or even read the scientific papers.” But that did not stop the calls for deplatform.

IN Everyday beast Last week, Dan Samorodnitsky called for an end to the publication of congenital traits: “The time to simply discuss whether there are significant genetic differences between people is long gone. Such studies support an unjust social order, suggesting that more capable people rise to the top. Worse, “research like this comes in violent thought, both through the end of a gun and through the flow of a pen.”

There are some obvious shortcomings in this line of reasoning. First, if we forbid writing this could, maybe misinterpreted, we would censor almost any serious literature. Both books of the Bible have been used to justify violence and genocide, as has the Qur’an. Should they be banned because some people interpret them? How about the works of Karl Marx, whose doctrine inspired 100 million murders, making it the deadliest fictional ideology? Should the communist corps be held accountable for every crime committed on its behalf?

On the other hand, there is a huge disproportion in the work. Critics don’t just want to stop talking about innate group differences – they want to suppress any discussion about heredity that leads to much of the medical research.

But the biggest problem is the idea that in the age of the Internet, you can get away with what Plato calls a “noble lie,” a lie that the wise make on the masses for their own good. The noble lie in this case is that, with the exception of some obvious superficial differences, human populations are essentially the same and the different results boil down to social conditioning or structural discrimination.

In fact, there is ample evidence that male and female individuals differ in ways that are innate and consistent across cultures, and that perceived differences in ethnicity correspond very closely to genetic differences. Charles Murray, whose 1994 book The bell curve Samorodnitsky accuses of legitimizing public discussion of group differences, gathering evidence in a thoroughly comprehensive and expert manner in his work in 2020, Human diversity.

What he finds is hardly revolutionary. On average, men tend to be more focused on things and systems, women on people and relationships. Evolutionary selection pressures have not stopped, and local populations differ in aggregate traits, such as different types of inherited immunity to certain diseases. Perhaps because Murray’s work is so detailed and measured, it has gone largely unnoticed.

Denying all this evidence is not just useless. It is actively harmful because it weakens ethical arguments against discrimination. As Friedrich Hayek put it in 1960:

“To base the thesis of equal treatment of national or racial minorities on the claim that they are no different from other men is to implicitly recognize that de facto inequality would justify unequal treatment; and the proof that some differences actually exist is not long in coming. ”

Since the 1960s, this evidence has indeed emerged.

The real objection to discrimination is that it is morally wrong, not unscientific. In other words, what is undesirable is to assign averages to each person’s group instead of acknowledging that he or she exists at all. It is wrong to say, “You don’t have to study math because you’re a girl.” It is not wrong to say, “In general, more men than students will choose mathematics.”

Once again, we see the essentially anti-Enlightenment nature of identity politics. If research can lead to uncomfortable conclusions or even conclusions to which someone somewhere may react badly, then the scientific method itself must be abandoned. So we continue our retreat from modernity.

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