John Derbyshire, over at National Review Online details the left’s problem with human sciences in his informative article, Will Obama Kill Science?
While the left loves to regale us with tales of the Scopes monkey trial (while omitting the detail that the high-school biology textbook that got the trial going in the first place recommended eugenic strerilization for lesser breeds – ‘nothing to see here folks, move along...’), they are increasingly wary of all the stuff coming out of genetics, genomics, demographics, psychometrics, physcial anthropology and neuroscience. As Derbyshire details:
“E.O. Wilson was having a jug of ice water dumped over his head at an AAAS symposium by people shouting “Racist Wilson you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!” (1978)”, “Art Jensen looked set fair to be kicked out of the AAAS altogether following agitation by Margaret Mead et al. because of his 1969 paper on group differences in I.Q.”
The problem is that all the stuff about human nature that the left believes in is being disproven. Take the nature/nurture debate:
“Most people still think of human-science controversies in terms of nature/nurture. As a matter of real scientific dispute, that is all long gone. Nature/nurture arguments were at the heart of the sociobiology wars that roiled the human sciences through the last third of the 20th century. (The 2000 book Defenders of Truth, by the Finnish sociologist of science Ullica Segerstråle gives a full — and so far as I can judge, very fair — account.) The dust of battle has pretty much settled now, in science departments if not in the popular press, and nature is the clear victor. Name any universal characteristic of human nature, including cognitive and personality characteristics. Of all the observed variation in that characteristic, about half is caused by genetic differences. You may say that is only a half victory; but it is a complete shattering of the nurturist absolutism that ruled in the human sciences 40 years ago, and that is still the approved dogma in polite society, including polite political society, today.”
And that’s not even getting into any IQ controversies. Lots of data there if you care to look. Unfortunately, not a lot of politically correct conclusions can be based on it. So once again, move along folks, nothing to see...
Take this citation from the National Post that Derbyshire quotes:
“A group of U. S. professors launched a campaign this week protesting plans by a prominent political science organization to hold its annual conference in Toronto next year, claiming that Canada’s restrictions on certain forms of speech puts controversial academics at risk of being prosecuted … Bradley Watson, professor of American and Western political thought at Pennsylvania’s St. Vincent College, said he will present a petition calling for the American Political Science Association (APSA) to re-evaluate its selection of Toronto for its 2009 conference at this year’s annual meeting … His protest has garnered support from dozens of professors across the United States, including prominent scholars such as Princeton University legal philosopher Robert P. George and Harvard University’s Harvey Mansfield … [P]rofessors signing the petition are concerned that recent human rights commission investigations into Maclean’s and Western Standard magazines over articles concerning Islam, and the conviction of pastor Stephen Boisson, who was ordered by Alberta’s human rights tribunal in May to cease publicizing criticisms of homosexuality, suggest that professors risk being chilled from discussing important academic subjects, or ending up in legal trouble …”
It sounds like if you are in the life sciences, you are living in interesting times.