The So-What War

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Tyler Cowen reviews Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance, and a commenter asks if he’s going to learn anything from the book if he already reads Steve Sailer. Yes and no, Handle explains:

1. You are not going to learn any new Science

2. You are going to learn what happens in your society when a distinguished and relatively prominent Science journalist publishes a prominent book in which he shows a bit of courage and gets as close as possible to promoting an unorthodox and taboo truth without risking utter ostracization.

3. You will learn who cannot risk publically aligning with that position in order to maintain their position and current and future influence. And you will learn the techniques they must employ in order to walk the narrow path between sacrificing their integrity promoting the erroneous orthodoxy itself, and supporting the accurate contrarian position. Don’t hold anything against Prof. Cowen, he’s doing good work, but sometimes he writes a post the purpose of which is not to be a reflection of his genuine understanding or position, but, essentially, to allow Sailer to write in the comments section and do the actual updating of priors. Asking why people successfully avoid the subject and remain respectable by constantly talking about the Flynn Effect just might be relevant to this lesson.

Learning the topology of PC and influence in your society, and observing the consequences, is in fact very important. Reading the book itself will tell you whether the negative reviews are giving Wade a fair shake or not, and if they’re not, that’s revealing, and the answer to ‘why not’ is extremely enlightening. And also depressing. Learning how to achieve success in life by walking the line, not sacrificing your integrity, but leveraging your popularity, esteem, and status to occasionally promote truth-tellers, is also a very valuable thing to learn.

Another thing to learn is the answer to the question of, “What the point of Wade’s book if it has to be so mellow?”

The point is to very gently walk up to the question of the origin of disparities between human population groups (don’t get hung up on the semantics of ‘race’, just concentrate on genetic relatedness). Right now, the PC-orthodox theory of the origin those disparities is 100% discrimination, oppression, privilege, historical legacy, etc. The orthodoxy says that all human population groups are neurologically uniform in the distribution of various cognitive talents and abilities. That argues for both the necessity and moral imperative of even extremely obnoxious government interventions in countless circumstances involving personnel selection and redistribution of resources.

If, on the other hand, a large fraction of that disparity is fairly attributable to genetics instead of social injustice, then bigotry and discrimination is not a good explanation for the disparity, and thus the government crusade against discriminating employers and coercive disparate impact policies are unjustified. Also, if the ‘test score gap’ cannot be closed by any reasonable government policy, then we should stop slandering decent educators doing the best they can with the materials they have as ‘bad teachers’ who fill ‘bad schools’.

Indeed, if those who are influential and persuasive over the elites in the political class who craft policy could adopt even a 50/50 nature-nurture model of the origin population group disparity, then the implication is a complete upheaval and revolution in government policy, the positive benefits of which cannot be overstated.

As an opening salvo in that ‘So What?’ war, Wade’s cautious eggshell-walking, and Prof. Cowen’s snippy review, are unfortunate deviations from the ideal due the oppressive ideological environment, but they are nevertheless to be commended.

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