Thursday, September 01, 2005

Digby on Lefty Morals, Bell Curve

Here are two posts from Digby, first one paraphrasing Peter Daou of Salon making an obvious yet very insightful observation:
.. the left views the war from a moral standpoint --- indeed, the left views our relationship with the world from a moral standpoint --- while the right sees both those things from a material standpoint.

The right (broadly speaking) can’t fathom why the left is driven into fits of rage over every Abu Ghraib, every Gitmo, every secret rendition, every breach of civil liberties, every shifting rationale for war, every soldier and civilian killed in that war, every Bush platitude in support of it, every attempt to squelch dissent.
He then weighs in on the whole Charles Murray / Bell Curve discussion with a prediction of looming clashes on the right:
But as I read some of the recent discussion of Intelligent Design, it struck me that we are seeing a clash of the psuedo-sciences coming on the right that could be very fun to watch.

You see, the racist Bell Curve people are ardent adherants of evolution; one of their primary wingnut funded institutions is called The Charles Darwin Research Institute.
I don't think there's going to be much of a clash on the right. Darwinist conservatives are in the minority and they keep very quiet. Besides, supporters of The Bell Curve probably fall into two categories: Racists and those who seek to understand the world better (count me in the second one). Many of the right-wing bloggers who defend The Bell Curve would also defend ID. The inherent contradictions are not important to them, they just want to fire up "liberals" like Digby and Atrios.

And by the way, calling all "Bell Curve people" racist is not a very (enlightenment) liberal thing to do. Even if the majority were racist such blanket statements does not serve the advancement of reason and truth. I understand that Digby and other "liberals" probably have some vivid memories of having to defend minorities against racist attacks but that is no excuse for argumentation-by-name-calling.

3 comments:

Leta said...

I have been following the ID/creationism debate quite closely. There have been a number of articles I’ve read that express how absurd it is to teach ID/creationism as a science, because it isn’t science, it’s clearly religion, no matter how much the discovery institute wants to dress it up. There have been a number of recent articles addressing this issue, but one of my favorites was published in July 2002 in Scientific American.

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=000D4FEC-7D5B-1D07-8E49809EC588EEDF

Also, if you haven’t seen the flying spaghetti monster, look it up in wikipedia.

Ever since your original post on the bell curve, I’ve been doing some research and thinking myself over that particular “debate.” In my opinion, there are parallels between ID/creationism and the bell curve. Pseudo-science and fancy-smancy math talk tend to confuse people. Intelligent design got its foothold by sounding scientific. They use terms like “irreducible complexity” that sound legitimate, but make no sense. Then they try to engage the scientific community (all of which believe in evolution) in “debate” when there is no debate. For the bell curve, there is perhaps more debate over the actual topic as compared to ID/creationism, but very few reputable scientists believe that the genetic component of our intelligence can be described by one single defined and measurable factor, as purported by the bell curve. There are also serious scientific flaws in the research used to develop the bell curve. I’ve now read a number of articles criticizing and defending the original bell curve text. The best I’ve read is by Stephen Jay Gould, a well-known paleontologist/evolutionary biologist who passed away a few years ago, who criticized many of the arguments laid out in the bell curve using sound scientific analysis. He summarizes with this near the end of the article:

"Like so many conservative ideologues who rail against the largely bogus ogre of suffocating political correctness, Herrnstein and Murray claim that they only want a hearing for unpopular views so that truth will out. And here, for once, I agree entirely. As a card–carrying First Amendment (near) absolutist, I applaud the publication of unpopular views that some people consider dangerous. I am delighted that The Bell Curve was written–so that its errors could be exposed, for Herrnstein and Murray are right to point out the difference between public and private agendas on race, and we must struggle to make an impact on the private agendas as well. But The Bell Curve is scarcely an academic treatise in social theory and population genetics. It is a manifesto of conservative ideology; the book's inadequate and biased treatment of data display its primary purpose—advocacy. The text evokes the dreary and scary drumbeat of claims associated with conservative think tanks: reduction or elimination of welfare, ending or sharply curtailing affirmative action in schools and workplaces, cutting back Head Start and other forms of preschool education, trimming programs for the slowest learners and applying those funds to the gifted. (I would love to see more attention paid to talented students, but not at this cruel price.)"

I recommend reading the entire article (it’s excellent): http://www.dartmouth.edu/~chance/course/topics/curveball.html

Both ID/creationism and the bell curve are dressed up to sound quite legitimate and well-meaning, even scientific and complicated, but both the discovery institute and Charles Murray have other motives that they don't fully disclose, one being the advocacy of religion, and the other being the advocacy of a white supremict/racist ideal.

Dan said...

"...supporters of The Bell Curve probably fall into two categories: Racists and those who seek to understand the world better (count me in the second one)."

Who, aside from those few in wacko racist groups, would identify themselves as members of the first category? No one. While some racists might align themselves with The Bell Curve as some kind of manifesto that bolsters their fervent beliefs, the vast majority of its supporters are those who have difficulty recognizing their own, more subtle racism before it allows them to accept the junk science.

The project is fundamentally racist and flawed. I know that referring to those involved as "racists" seems flippant, but I don't think he's talking about cross-burning types.

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