Biochemical Soul Musings on Nature, Science, Evolution, Biology, and Education

10Oct/08Off

Knowledge of Evolution Cures One Man’s Racism

In his book, “The God Delusion”, Richard Dawkins spent a good deal of time talking about how understanding Natural Selection and Evolution in general serves as a “consciousness raiser” lending insights and changes to worldview that end up extending to deeper understanding of fields and ideas outside of biology.

Dawkin’s primary example was that once one understands how the illusion of design can arise from such simple a process as that of natural selection, one easily begins to view cosmology and the origins of the universe in a different light as well, no longer feeling compelled to call forth a designer to explain it all.

In a beautiful and inspirational post over at Earthman’s Notebook, Hank Fox recounts how evolution raised his own consciousness not toward a deeper cosmology, but out of racism and bigotry. He details how he was born and raised fully immersed in the culture of racism. As such he was himself a racist. However, he eventually found evolution, which slowly and surely forced him out of his racist ideas. The change was natural and noncontrived, brought about solely by the paradigm-shifting worldview that natural selection gave him.

I think this serves as a wonderful example of the profound intellectual changes that can come about through simple understanding. I highly recommend you read his post.

(Hat tip to monado at Science Notes)

Recent related post dealing with racism: John Derbyshire Claims Barack Obama Will Kill Science

8Oct/08Off

John Derbyshire Claims Barack Obama Will Kill Science

Trust me - there is a good scientific reason for being racist

"Trust me - there is a good scientific reason for being racist"

In an incoherent leap of bad logic, John Derbyshire over at the National Review (I know – why did I even bother reading it?) has come to the conclusion that an Obama Administration will kill science (his article title: “Will Obama Kill Science?”).

However, upon reading his incredibly ridiculous argument, it becomes clear that he only thinks Obama will kill one aspect of science: the science that he believes will eventually, inevitably prove that some races are better and smarter than others.

Why does he think this? It’s not clear. His only real argument is that Obama once wrote a piece for NPR in which he criticized someone for wanting to package racism in science.

Basically, his argument is: “Barack Obama is black. So Obama is anti-racist. Therefore, any science dealing with the nature of human variation will be outlawed by an Obama administration.”

He also does some rambling on Barack’s “cultural Marxist” upbringings, and some anecdotes about researchers not being funded when they want to study differences between races. One of the funny aspects of the article is that the initial paragraphs only hint at the actual subject of the article. He hints at future biological discoveries with

“metaphysical implications more disturbing than were those of quantum mechanics... “The conceptual revolution among human-sciences researchers has in fact already taken place. This is not widely understood because (a) news outlets are very reluctant to report it, (b) powerful political forces have an interest in suppressing it, and (c) researchers prefer getting on quietly with their work to having their windows broken by mobs of angry protestors.”

One can only think, “Wait. What is he talking about?” He certainly dares not explicitly state what his entire article is about. Then he says,

“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…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.”

Oh, I see. I think he’s hinting that race is real and determined by genetics and that genetic differences in race will show that some are “better” than others.”

“That dam now has more cracks than the surface of Europa and water is spraying out all over. The only thing that could stop a complete collapse would be the power of government …”

In other words, “Oh, we’re so close…our racism is almost supported by science! Only the government can stop it now!” I particularly like his use of the phrase "human-science enthusiasts" which seems to be a euphemism for "people with a vested interest in proving physical and mental inequalities between races." He rambles some more and then ends with,

“We are about to find out whether our traditional devotion to free speech and free enquiry can survive real, incontrovertible results from the human sciences; and in particular, in the event of an Obama victory, whether that devotion can survive under a left-liberal administration headed by a cultural Marxist — an administration much more interested in shoring up the soft totalitarianism of “diversity” and “multiculturalism” than in permitting the discovery of true facts about human nature.”

He finishes still without ever having acknowledged the actual subject the entire article alludes to. However, he clearly means to state that the “human-sciences” will soon show real differences in race at the genetic level and he strongly hints that this will show differences in actual equality and intelligence.

What a douchebag! It is also quite clear that he knows next to nothing about molecular biology, population genetics, or genomics.

Read it for a laugh.

Update (10/8, 2PM): Welcome Pharyngulites (or whatever the correct term for Pharyngula lovers is). PZ Myers over at Pharyngula has now linked to my post and he has his own, much more eloquent take on this piece, and a good batch of comments following it.

Update 2 (10/8, 6PM): Michael White at Adaptive Complexity has picked up on this issue and has some very good comments as well, linking the issue back to James Watson's infamous remarks on race and intelligence. Go check it out.