Tuesday, October 16, 2007 41 Comments

Some quick meta-comments

As always I'm happy to see the active and fascinating discussion on Dawkins part 3, but I would like to remind commenters to keep it civil.

A good rule of thumb is that there are no evil people reading UR. Evil does exist, but the evil have better things to do with their evil-hours. So if you disagree with someone, either she is sincere but misguided, or you are. Since it is almost never possible to convince someone that she is sincere but misguided, in general the only parties to impress with this wisdom are third. I find that if I keep a rubber band around my wrist and snap it every time I start to forget this, it helps restrain some of my more appalling rhetorical excesses.

While its signal-to-noise ratio was not perhaps the highest, the whole thread was quite interesting. I expected much more Universalist fundamentalism. I didn't expect some of the criticisms I did get.

Perhaps the most unexpected response was summed up by Victor's reaction:
Perhaps it's just the social circles I move in. I majored in computer science and math, I am an officer at a technology corporation, and never had much to do with the PoMos and the social studies/litcrit crowds. Or perhaps it's just our personal disagreements about what constitutes an extreme self-caricaturing 'liberal'. However, I am very serious here -- this guy I spoke of was the first such type I had met in my entire life. Until I met him, I was vaguely theoretically aware that such people might possibly exist, but it was the same way we are aware of cannibalism -- sure, it happens, but it's not something you ever expect to run across.
I have a fairly similar background to Victor's - with the major exception that I didn't grow up in the Soviet Union - and I see no reason at all to think he's being disingenuous.

Until my faith in democracy started to waver, I didn't have a sense of how weird it is that ordinary people (or even very smart ones, such as Victor) are expected to construct, in their copious spare time, an accurate perspective of what the world's great problems are, and how best to fix them. Of course hardly anyone does any such thing. Instead there are sundry official organs which present us with these problems - global warming, or terrorism, or poverty, or whatever - and we then use our inner lights to compute optimal solutions.

So Victor is probably aware, in a distant sort of way, that anyone in the US in 2007 can be expelled from any educational institution, or fired from any job, for saying what Professor Huxley said in 1871. Or that in many countries in Europe, one could even be prosecuted for it. Especially if one refuses to recant.

And perhaps he has even read Vaclav Havel on the post-totalitarian system, and he knows (how could he not know?) that this is exactly how late Communism managed dissent:
Let us now imagine that one day something in our greengrocer snaps and he stops putting up the slogans merely to ingratiate himself. He stops voting in elections he knows are a farce. He begins to say what he really thinks at political meetings. And he even finds the strength in himself to express solidarity with those whom his conscience commands him to support. In this revolt the greengrocer steps out of living within the lie. He rejects the ritual and breaks the rules of the game. He discovers once more his suppressed identity and dignity. He gives his freedom a concrete significance. His revolt is an attempt to live within the truth. . . .

The bill is not long in coming. He will be relieved of his post as manager of the shop and transferred to the warehouse. His pay will be reduced. His hopes for a holiday in Bulgaria will evaporate. His children's access to higher education will be threatened. His superiors will harass him and his fellow workers will wonder about him. Most of those who apply these sanctions, however, will not do so from any authentic inner conviction but simply under pressure from conditions, the same conditions that once pressured the greengrocer to display the official slogans. They will persecute the greengrocer either because it is expected of them, or to demonstrate their loyalty, or simply as part of the general panorama, to which belongs an awareness that this is how situations of this sort are dealt with, that this, in fact, is how things are always done, particularly if one is not to become suspect oneself.
But to Victor, who actually experienced late Communism personally, I suspect the differences are more obvious than the similarities. The pattern is not obvious. Why would it be obvious? There is no newspaper shouting it from the mountaintops. There is no TV station broadcasting it. All you have is a few fringe, wacko blogs - such as UR.

And perhaps it is not even a pattern at all, just a false analogy. There is no "scientific" way to interpret history. We neohominids and/or our "inner lights" are all on our own.

Also, a couple of points about Huxley's quote.

First: in our Universalist era, it's a little difficult for us to understand what anyone might mean by "the highest places in the hierarchy of civilization will assuredly not be within the reach of our dusky cousins."

Huxley was not talking about individuals here (note his qualification of the "average negro"). He was expressing Social Darwinist views about the conflict between racial nations. (Universalists interpret the word nation as an entirely political or at most geographic term, but its root is the Latin natus, meaning of course birth.) If we could pull Huxley into 2007, a list of successful individuals with some sub-Saharan African descent would not convince him of anything. He would want to see national success stories from the "dusky peoples." Of which there are - for whatever reason - none at all.

(I should also point out that, in 2007, there is no good non-ironic use for the English word "dusky" - except perhaps to rhyme with other archaisms, such as "bosky." We have at least made progress in some departments.)

Second: fraternism versus afraternism is a continuum in many ways. The most logically consistent fraternist interpretation - I myself believed this for many years - is the "strong blank slate" theory, that there is no neurological heritability at all, and a neohominid brain is just a lump of programmable neurons. Unfortunately, while this is nice in theory, it seems quite inconsistent with reality.

Once you acknowledge that - as JewishAtheist puts it - Britney Spears and Mozart were not interchangeable as babies - you have a logical problem, because either you believe that this structure of variation is identical across all neohominid subpopulations, or you believe that neohominid subpopulations vary in their genetic potential for economically significant tasks. The former belief is implausible to the point of miraculousness, and is certainly not supported by any credible body of evidence. The latter belief, at least by most people's definition of the word, makes you a "racist," and expressing it will get you expelled, fired, prosecuted, etc.

So when JA points out that:
The lower black SAT average acceptance rates mean that a larger fraction of the lower scoring white/jewish/asian applicants get rejected from the same school. There's certainly a case to be made that this is unfair and possibly unconstitutional. There is NOT a case to be made that this causes very significant harm to whites/jews/asians, especially when pretty much everybody who should go to college can go to a decent college somewhere these days.
I totally agree. That some jewish kid has to go to Haverford instead of Harvard may be an injustice - for some values of the word "justice" - but, on a historical scale, it barely tips the needle. In theory this is nontrivial morbidity (it is certainly an injustice by Universalist standards). But it ain't much to write home about.

For example, much more serious disabilities were applied to Jews in the US before World War II. And while most of us wouldn't regard this as good, American anti-Semitism is not exactly up there with the sack of Samarkand as one of history's great atrocities.

Again: history is not a set of facts but an interpretation of patterns. If you don't see the pattern, you won't see the problem. I'll talk more about this on Thursday.

41 Comments:

Blogger Victor said...

You know, I actually lived through the whole communist suppression wash. Well, kinda. As a 14-year-old Komsomol member, I wrote an essay denouncing Soviet economy and international policy. I got threatened with the repercussions for that, I got put through the whole denunciation wringer at my school, etc.; which was a large part of why I left.

You know what? Having experienced both first-hand, I see no significant similarity between USSR and USA, between soviet communism and 'unitarian fundamentalism'. There's no 'there' there.

The critical difference of course is in the substance of both the views being socially discriminated against, and in the nature of discrimination. To ignore the substantive subject of the case is vacuous, because then any society will find something beyond the pale, whether it's an appreciation of the free market, or racism, or a taste for the roasted flesh of innocent little girls, etc.

In fact, I strongly suggest you imagine a society which would find no expression worthy of social censure (use the 'roasted little girl-meat' example if you can't think of something more appropriate).

If you can imagine such a society, composed of actual real people, I would be really interested in hearing about it; and if you can't, then it should be patently obvious that the superficial similarities in the treatment suffered by a dissident in USSR and a racist in USA in fact say nothing about the relative similarities of those two societies, because any such comparison would be based on ignoring the substance of the expression being censured.

October 16, 2007 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Well, I have also experienced first-hand both the USA and the late USSR. And several other places, too.
Unlike Victor, I do find many similarities between the two, both in form and in substance.

But then again, in huge, diverse societies one can find all sorts of things and generalizing from a small number of data points is always a risky business.

Victor, would it be possible to read that essay? I'm honestly curious what could possibly get you in trouble halfway into Glasnost. In my experience, one could get away with pretty much anything in Leningrad at that time (1988).

October 16, 2007 at 1:12 PM  
Blogger Victor said...

My mother has kept it, in a single hand-written copy; so no, you can't read it, as there is no electronic version available. Sorry.

There's nothing particularly exceptional there. I advocated for a market-oriented social democracy (with Sweden as an example), denounced death penalty, Afghanistan war, and other stuff. it was actually as essay about Dostoyevsky's philosophy, but I riffed it from there.

In addition to me being put through the Komsomol excoriation process, we had a teacher who came by that position under very peculiar circumstances. We all suspected her of being a KGB informant, and it so happened that she had seized my essay in front of the whole class, proffered it up, and proclaimed that she will hold it until they come back.

It was 1987 or 88 in Kyiv, it wasn't clear yet that the reforms would last...

October 16, 2007 at 1:23 PM  
Anonymous George Weinberg said...

Victor, you make a valid point, but cannibalism has been reviled since prehistoric times, but attitudes towards racism have changed quite quickly and drastically, and it's not completely clear why. Even if we rule out the possibility of meaningful genetic differences between groups, 100 years ago it would've been perfectly respectable to maintain that one ought to favor one's co-ethnics over others simply because they are one's co-ethnics. The change requires some sort of explanation. Why wasn't racism obviously evil obvious 100, 200, 300 years ago?

BTW, there was a futuristic Simpson's episode in which a character points out that Soylent Green is made of people, and another replies "Duh, everyone knows that, they advertise it" and sure enough, on the box of Soylent Green it says, "Now with more girls!" Such casual cannibalism is so obviously absurd it's safe to joke about.

October 16, 2007 at 1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would a tenured professor be fired for advocating cannibalism? He would probably just become an object of derision. Most civil servants of that persuasion would also probably keep their jobs unless they became disruptive to the workplace because of continuing workplace advocacy. It would take more than one Imus or Jimmy-the-Greek-like "gaffe" for serious action to be taken.Since there isn't a visible pro-cannibalism movement in the US (and never has been) it is hard to predict how private employers might react to the effusions of Cannibal-Americans. We can safely predict, however, that advocacy of gender-based cannibalism could be construed as creating a "hostile workplace environment".

But maybe it's not cannibalism per se that would be so ojectionable, but talk of the consumption of children.

October 16, 2007 at 1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

100 years ago it would've been perfectly respectable to maintain that one ought to favor one's co-ethnics over others simply because they are one's co-ethnics

It's still respectable if you're non-white. Isn't that what the Naacp and the National Council of La Raza are all about? Oh yeah, and the Congressional Black Caucus is closed to white congressmen even if they have substantail numbers of black constituents.

October 16, 2007 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger drank said...

either you believe that this structure of variation is identical across all neohominid subpopulations, or you believe that neohominid subpopulations vary in their genetic potential for economically significant tasks.

It seems to me that the sophisticated Universalist answer to this dilemma is to take the stance that Pinker and others empiricists hold. Basically, to be up front that your commitment to equality comes from ethics, not empiricism, and that you will continue to hold it no matter what the facts of the matter.

For example, here is Pinker discussing sexism. I think we can assume his views on race to be similar:
But it is crucial to distinguish the moral proposition that people should not be discriminated against on account of their sex — which I take to be the core of feminism — and the empirical claim that males and females are biologically indistinguishable. They are not the same thing. Indeed, distinguishing them is essential to protecting the core of feminism. Anyone who takes an honest interest in science has to be prepared for the facts on a given issue to come out either way. And that makes it essential that we not hold the ideals of feminism hostage to the latest findings from the lab or field.

Will these kind of ideas become the core of M.43? I find Pinker's stance to be a more honest creature than M.42, as the religious aspects that Mencius has discussed are on display for all to see. It also seems fully aware that biology and cognitive science are likely to demolish the assumptions of M.42 in the near future, so it's in a hurry to get them off this shakey empirical foundation. On the other hand, as Mencius has said elsewhere, it would be much easier to exclude a stance like Pinker's from public education than one that wraps itself in a cloak of science.

October 16, 2007 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

OK Mencius. It seems to me that we are finally beginning to understand one another. My take is fairly similar to Victors. However, I can easily imagine that if I had accepted strong-blank-slateism during my youth I might believe that more people honestly accept that position than I in fact do believe is the case. My guess is that your indoctrination was exceptionally intense, creating your exceptionally intense backlash.

October 16, 2007 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

In short, you were toeing the official party line, Victor.

I'm pretty sure that your suffering had very little to do to the actual content of your essay and the views expressed in it. Personal animosity, jealousy, plain old idiocy, under-cover ethnic tensions and many other things might have resulted in what happened to you. But in 1988, it was by no means typical. The stuff that you wrote about was the daily bread and butter of Soviet media of the time. Universalism, by that time, has already become official state ideology of the USSR.

P.S. For those of UR readers who do not read Russian: in 1988 the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan was halfway complete, the law allowing private enterprise has been passed, death penalty was gradually phased out -- and all this was official, declared CPSU policy.

October 16, 2007 at 3:11 PM  
Blogger Victor said...

daniel,

Did you notice that your cites are from a year or two after the time I mentioned?..

Whatever the 'official party line' was, everyone around me certainly didn't seem to have gotten the memo.

October 16, 2007 at 8:35 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

You can get away with saying a hell of a lot in the United States. Peter Sotos is no Solzhenitsyn. To expect that others will think well of you irregardless of the things you say is silly though.

Here is Max Stirner on the difference between the coercive power of the State and social sanction:

"The State cannot give up the claim that its laws and ordinances are sacred. At this the individual ranks as the unholy (barbarian, natural man, "egoist") over against the State, exactly as he was once regarded by the Church; before the individual the State takes on the nimbus of a saint. Thus it issues a law against dueling. Two men who are both at one in this, that they are willing to stake their life for a cause (no matter what), are not to be allowed this, because the State will not have it: it imposes a penalty on it. Where is the liberty of self-determination then? It is at once quite another situation if, as e. g. in North America, society determines to let the duelists bear certain evil consequences of their act, e. g. withdrawal of the credit hitherto enjoyed. To refuse credit is everybody's affair, and, if a society wants to withdraw it for this or that reason, the man who is hit cannot therefore complain of encroachment on his liberty: the society is simply availing itself of its own liberty. That is no penalty for sin, no penalty for a crime. The duel is no crime there, but only an act against which the society adopts counter-measures, resolves on a defense. The State, on the contrary, stamps the duel as a crime, i.e. as an injury to its sacred law: it makes it a criminal case. The society leaves it to the individual's decision whether he will draw upon himself evil consequences and inconveniences by his mode of action, and hereby recognizes his free decision; the State behaves in exactly the reverse way, denying all right to the individual's decision and, instead, ascribing the sole right to its own decision, the law of the State, so that he who transgresses the State's commandment is looked upon as if he were acting against God's commandment -- a view which likewise was once maintained by the Church."

Are David Duke and Louis Farrakhan not free to walk the streets? Can I not say to the New York Times "You may say what you like and I shall do what I like"?

In all seriousness, I'd like to note that I don't see anything especially wrong/disgusting about cannibalism. If a person is already dead, it seems a waste just to let it rot. If people are too digusted to eat a corpse, we can feed it to less picky animals. The brains should probably be left alone to avoid dangerous prions though.

October 16, 2007 at 10:50 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

It seems like you're pulling a switcheroo, Mr. Moldbug. You came to reveal the memeplex of Universalism. You focused first on fraternism, the idea that all people are created with identical potential. Indeed this would be a significant false belief with morbidity. However, from my Britney Spears and Mozart example, it's clear that essentially nobody holds that belief. So now you are switching to the potentially false belief that all races, on average, have identical potential.

That there are many people who believe this is itself uncertain -- I'd bet that a supermajority of Americans believe that blacks on average have more potential for being, e.g., better dancers and jumpers, that Jews and Asians are smarter than average, etc. It absolutely is still taboo to say these things in public -- in that we are in agreement -- but from the grand religion of universalism, we have now narrowed your claim only to the idea that certain topics are taboo in America. As Victor pointed out, though, certain topics are taboo in every society.

Comparing a taboo against talking about racial differences -- which itself replaced a much more corrosive norm of serious racism -- to, e.g., the belief (not just public statements, but actual belief) that a man called Jesus was the son of God died for our sins and came back from the dead and wants us to oppose birth control and gay marriage... Well, you get the idea. You're comparing apples to oranges.

October 17, 2007 at 8:27 AM  
Blogger Victor said...

BTW, apropos of nothing, I wanted to bring this up. I think Mencius might find this interesting.

I am half Ukrainian, and I have been following the Ukrainian election very closely. This also brought up the interesting structure of Ukrainian government. It's a mixed presidential/parliamentary democracy. Unlike most european parliamentary democracies, Ukraine has a real separation of powers; but it's not between legislative and executive branches, as we have in American presidential system.

In Ukraine, the separation of powers is essentially between policy and security. The Parliament controls legislation, and appoints most of the executive branch (the Cabinet of Ministers); but the President controls all the security forces -- police, military, special forces, etc.

I do not know if other states have a similar separation of powers. Ukraine is the only one I am aware of, though I haven't studied the topic in depth. However, I thought this might be interesting in light of Mencius' interest in separating information from security.

October 17, 2007 at 9:08 AM  
Blogger Byrne Hobart said...

Victor

That's an interesting datum about the Ukraine. It sounds like it might not be very balanced, though: if the President controls funding for those parts of the government, he can basically launch a coup (by making military membership more remunerative, and deposing parliament). But if he can't control funding, it sounds like the legislature has a veto over anything they don't like, making him just another executive.

October 17, 2007 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

As it so happens, James Watson has just provided an excellent illustration to this thread.

Professor Watson makes exactly the same point:

There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so.

Don't miss the end of the article, where the author suggests (through the usual journalistic device of quoting someone who suggests) that Professor Watson should be prosecuted. Which probably won't happen. But woe to anyone who says the same and didn't discover DNA...

(Hat tip: GNXP.)

October 17, 2007 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

Victor as usual hits precisely the nub of the problem. It's really remarkable how, when you actually discuss things with intelligent people who are actually interested in reasonable discussion, you can make actual progress.

First, I find the euphemism of 'social' discrimination disturbing. In both USSR and USA, is not 'society' that was or is suppressing views it found distasteful. It was and is the State. If any such thing as 'society' exists, it is generally pretty good at adjusting itself to the State's desires.

Second, note the use to which this analogy is being put: it is comparing a purely cultural trope to one that in all Western countries is in some way backed by the power of law.

If you advocated cannibalism in your place of work, people would find you weird and your career would suffer. Much the same would happen if you advocated white nationalism - at least in 2007. But, in the former case, you would be shunned voluntarily. In the latter, failure to denounce is itself grounds for denunciation. Both A and AB include A, but this is no grounds for ignoring B.

Third, I find the analogy of cannibalism and afraternism misleading, for a reason that you yourself brought up earlier: Hume's is-ought dichotomy.

The judgment that cannibalism is unethical is not rationally justifiable. Therefore, even if the State were to suppress all talk of cannibalism - to consider it unethical not just to roast little girls, but even to recommend or hint at recommending the roasting of little girls - it would at least be remaining on its reservation in a sense, because it is impossible to imagine a system of law which does not make some ethical assumptions.

However, when the State suppresses such as Professor Watson for his daring little venture into blasphemy, it is condemning him for - what? For daring to doubt a proposition that is supported by no evidence whatsoever.

Moreover, Professor Watson is not just doubting a proposition that the State has chosen to endorse for some random reason of its own. He is doubting a proposition that is an essential element of the State's legitimacy.

First, because of the basic connection between fraternism and democracy. And second, because the postwar Western democracies are completely committed to the specific proposition that Professor Watson disputes - as is demonstrated by their immigration policies.

So I submit that it's at least a plausible proposition that the Western political system in its present form can no more survive Professor Watson's ideas, should they ever achieve mass acceptance, than the Eastern system could survive the 14-year-old Victor's ideas - when they did achieve mass acceptance.

And this is why I worry. I like my beer cold, my women hot, and my governments stable. Call me crazy.

Of course this is different from what happened in the USSR. It is different in every possible detail. The more familiar with the details you are - I am not so foolish as to argue about the Komsomol with a former Komsomol member! - the harder, perhaps, it is to see the pattern. If you grew up in a redwood tree, it may be less rather than more obvious that a birch tree is also a tree.

October 17, 2007 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

However, when the State suppresses such as Professor Watson for his daring little venture into blasphemy, it is condemning him for - what? For daring to doubt a proposition that is supported by no evidence whatsoever.

I'm sorry, how is the State suppressing Dr. Watson?

October 17, 2007 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

JA,

As it happens, I am 33 and of at least partly Jewish descent. However, I have some difficulty with the notion that I "came to reveal" anything! Perhaps I need to spend a few nights in the desert.

You are very right to say that I should have taxonomized the variants of fraternism more precisely in my original post. I do so somewhat sketchily above. It could probably use a post of its own.

Nonetheless, the fact that there are big horses and small horses does not invalidate the concept of "horse." The fact that there are El Caminos does not invalidate the concept of "truck."

The fact is that (a) the idea of universal human equality is in the Bible, that (b) it is a general sentiment which most today would approve, and that (c) it is quite unparsimonious to suggest that (b) has nothing to do with (a).

As for the effects of this, they are apparently not obvious. I promise I will clarify. But note that since this is a belief about reality, it is already one step closer to demonstrating morbidity than the God delusion.

I strongly disagree with your assertion that most people believe in human biodiversity, even though no one is allowed to mention it. See the reaction to Professor Watson, above. I am not sure most who share your general perspective are as curious and open-minded as you. In fact, I'm not sure most who share any perspective are so.

For example, a related question is how many Westerners in the 13th century were atheists, given the impossibility of disseminating atheistic opinions. A few, I suspect. Probably more than most of us think. But not many.

Moreover, if you remember the old brain-teaser of the blue-eyed men on the island, the social effect of an unacknowledged belief is very different from the effect of an unacknowledged one. As you'll recall, all the blue-eyed men eventually committed suicide. Again, as a big believer in stable government, I fear rather than welcome a change in this situation.

October 17, 2007 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

By threatening to prosecute him under "racial hatred laws," for instance?

And, more generally, by creating a climate in which anyone who defends Professor Watson is suspect himself, and anyone who attacks him has a fine opportunity to bloviate righteously in the public eye.

Professor Watson himself is not successfully suppressed - no. He is too famous for that. He probably won't be prosecuted, either. As you may recall, Andrei Sakharov had an opportunity to dissent for exactly the same reason, and used it in much the same way. If you want to see successful suppression, try Chris Brand.

Again, one can try to explain this social situation without reference to present political reality. But such an effort strikes me as inherently unparsimonious.

October 17, 2007 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

The fact is that (a) the idea of universal human equality is in the Bible, that (b) it is a general sentiment which most today would approve, and that (c) it is quite unparsimonious to suggest that (b) has nothing to do with (a).

(a) No, it's not. Adam was created in the image of God (or the gods, if we're going to be precise) but nowhere does it say anything remotely like "all babies have identical potential" and certainly not "all peoples are identical." Indeed, every people that was known at the time of the Bible's authorship was given a mythical ancestor who represented the stereotypes of that people. What do you think is going on in the Ishmael-Isaac and Esau-Jacob narratives?

(b) Again, you're muddling the difference between "all men are created (morally) equal" and "all men are created (identically) equal." Nobody believes Mozart and Britney Spears were interchangeable at birth. Those you call Universalists believe that both should be equal under the law. There's a huge difference which you give lip service to but continue to substantively ignore.

(c) Of course there is some connection between the general moral sentiments in Western culture and those found in Christianity. However, you have the causation backwards. Christianity was, for centuries, not compatible with modern Western morality. Women were not the equals of men, blacks were not the equals of whites, Jews were not the equals of Christians, and heathens were certainly not the equals of Christians. The rise of "all men are created equal" as a moral statement came not from Christianity but to Christianity, and it was Christianity that came out changed.

I strongly disagree with your assertion that most people believe in human biodiversity, even though no one is allowed to mention it.

Really? You think that if we could somehow guarantee honesty in a poll, a poll of representative Americans would find that they believe the statement "black people have no genetic advantage w/r/t jumping and sprinting" is true? I don't. Too bad this is pretty hard to test, although I would say that the popularity of the movie White Men Can't Jump wasn't due to its superior film-making.

By threatening to prosecute him under "racial hatred laws," for instance?

I'll admit I was thinking of the U.S. government when we were talking about "the State." Does the UK really prosecute people for making statements like Watson's? (As opposed to, for example, racial intimidation like cross burning or incitements to racial violence?)

October 17, 2007 at 11:21 AM  
Blogger drank said...

From the article:

The newly formed Equality and Human Rights Commission, successor to the Commission for Racial Equality, said it was studying Dr Watson's remarks " in full".

and

Anti-racism campaigners called for Dr Watson's remarks to be looked at in the context of racial hatred laws. A spokesman for the 1990 Trust, a black human rights group, said: "It is astonishing that a man of such distinction should make comments that seem to perpetuate racism in this way. It amounts to fuelling bigotry and we would like it to be looked at for grounds of legal complaint."

So, yes, it would appear that the UK government can prosecute people for comments like Dr. Watson made.

October 17, 2007 at 12:23 PM  
Anonymous PA said...

The UK government prosecutes many such cases.

Recently there was a case of a school-girl who was prosecuted for asking her teacher to put her in a science class study group with English-speaking students.

There was also a case a few weeks ago of a 10 (or so) year-old boy who threw a grape at a Gyspy woman for taunting him, and said "go back to your country." She beat him severly in retaliation, and now faces charges of assult and battery. The boy faces criminal charges of incitement to hatred.

I've heard of many such cases via blogs (with original links to The Telegraph or other mainstream media).

My speculation: it's not the kids the ultra-Universalist UK government is sending the message to. It's to their parents, terrifying them by throwing criminal charges at their ten-year-old children. It's a "Watch It!" message to an entire demographic of Kulaks who are reluctant to submit to some of the finer points of Fraternalism, in UR's language, delivered with a proper dose of state-sponsored humiliation.

Like others here, I've lived under Communism, during the 70s, though not in USSR-proper. And I agree with Theodore Dalrymple, who famously writes:

"Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to."

October 17, 2007 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

JA,

I urge you again to consider the history of the English Dissenters, especially the Diggers or True Levellers.

I believe you'll find it very difficult to ignore the links between the Dissenters, Puritans, Nonconformists or whatever you call them, and Exeter Hall, or between the latter and Universalism - or whatever you want to call what we all grew up believing. (For example, Levy and Peart's essay certainly assumes a Universalist reader.)

Specifically, human equality in a racial sense is an obvious extension of the Levellers' anti-aristocratic egalitarianism, as well described by the old ballad line:

When Adam delved and Eve span,
Who was then a gentleman?


I also recommend James Stephen's Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (1873, online at OLL). The book is a good demonstration of how traditional high-Anglican Victorians, of Stephen's ilk, had to work to defend themselves against the rising Nonconformist tide. At the end of the book (the context is interesting, check it out) Stephen writes:

As a matter of historical fact, no really considerable body of men either is, ever has been, or ever has professed to be Christian in the sense of taking the philanthropic passages of the four Gospels as the sole, exclusive, and complete guide of their lives. If they did, they would in sober earnest turn the world upside down. They would be a set of passionate Communists, breaking down every approved maxim of conduct and every human institution. In one word, if Christianity really is what much of the language which we often hear used implies, it is false and mischievous. Nothing can be more monstrous than a sweeping condemnation of mankind for not conforming their conduct to an ideal which they do not really acknowledge. When, for instance, we are told that it is dreadful to think that a nation pretending to believe the Sermon on the Mount should employ so many millions sterling per annum on military expenditure, the answer is that no sane nation ever did or ever will pretend to believe the Sermon on the Mount in any sense which is inconsistent with the maintenance to the very utmost by force of arms of the national independence, honour, and interest. If the Sermon on the Mount really means to forbid this, it ought to be disregarded.

Interpreting the Bible is neither your specialty nor mine. As for whether the Old Testament is consistent with the New, or whether the philanthropic passages of the Gospels actually represent "true Christianity," I will take a raincheck. Suffice it to say that they have influenced many.

October 17, 2007 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

pa,

Thanks - I dimly remembered that Dalrymple quote, and now I can Google it (the source is here).

The exercise of power over the mass mind is indeed essential. Not just because it humiliates and demoralizes, but because it demonstrates the strength and stability of the State, in a way that no number of gun-toting thugs can achieve.

On the other hand, guns are a lot more reliable. The mind-control state has a certain fragility.

October 17, 2007 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

JA,

Also, I suspect that many people, even if they would accept some human biodiversity in "physical" traits, draw the line at the neck. Jason Malloy of GNXP has called this the "Gould Delusion."

Of course this has no basis in reason. It is rooted in humanist dualism. But dualism is a very natural way to think, and besides the whole subject is so distasteful that it doesn't have to withstand very much scrutiny.

John Derbyshire does a good job of unraveling the mental versus physical issue. (The whole essay is great.)

October 17, 2007 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 17, 2007 at 2:19 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Victor,

"Whatever the 'official party line' was, everyone around me certainly didn't seem to have gotten the memo"

This is not the first time you mistake "everyone around you" with "everyone". You know, there was much more to the USSR than Kiev (and I suspect that there was also much more to Kiev than "everyone around you").

Earlier, you wrote that practically nobody believed communist crap (with which I would also take exception -- there are people still believing it quite sincerely, even in Kiev), but everyone acted like they did.

I think that your description fits a large number of intellectuals and other people (typically those of not obviously useful occupations, the Winstons of this world) who thus satisfied their thirst for power and influence. And this is, in my opinion, exactly what MM is talking about: while there are true believers in Universalism, there are also those, who do not believe its dogmas, but would immediately bite anyone who dared to question them openly. And that this is an inherent feature of Universalism, similarly to its cousin, Communism.

As for 1988, I remember that year very well, thank you. In Lvov, I was refused service at the local equivalent of RadioShack for speaking Russian. Ukrainian nationalism was already white-hot at that time in the wild west of the Ukraine.

Ever since, economic refugees and capital has been fleeing Ukraine in all directions. Even to places like Belarus (its positive net migration is almost entirely due to folks from the Ukraine). People are all worked up over politics and as a result the economy is going down the drain (I know, I know, it's all Russia's fault).

You know, I am also half Hungarian and I even happen to live in Hungary at the moment. However, I stopped following Hungarian politics when I left Hungary 8 years ago and didn't bother to bring myself up to speed with it, when I returned. It's funny that you feel the need to keep up with Ukrainian politics and even take it seriously to the point of analyzing its unique structure of "separation of power".

As far as I can tell from living next door to the Ukraine, it's an ugly mess of informal power structures (defined by tribal, business, international and other ties) where the codified body of law (including, of course, the constitution) has very little bearing on the observable reality. It's almost as close as you can get in Europe to MM's worst nightmares.

October 17, 2007 at 2:24 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Everyone believes in human biodiversity. Everyone knows that individuals differ in their abilities, intellectual and otherwise. That is not the least bit controversial, except maybe in Lake Woebegon where all the children are above average.

What people disagree on, for good reason, is how various characteristics are linked to race. If universalists have gone too far in trying to pretend such linkages don't exist, they have a rather good excuse, which is they are reacting to many centuries of corroisive racism.

That Derbyshire article was pretty good. One point that he didn't follow up on was that expressing racist sentiments can result in "catastrophic loss of status". Why is this? It's because, historically, the universalist value of race-blindness has been largely imposed by the upper classes on the lower classes. Affirmative action doesn't have much effect on the elites, it's the low-end whites who end up somewhat more disadvantaged than they were before. As a result, a white upset about affirmitive action is a reliable indication of lower-class status. Or conversely, affirming antiracist values or support for affirmative action is a good way for a white person to advertise that they personally aren't too worried about their social status being negatively impacted.

Whatever the dynamic, it's an extremely reliable indicator. I would venture to guess that holding, or at least expressing, racist sentiments is much more correllated to lowered IQ than black skin is.

October 17, 2007 at 7:39 PM  
Blogger Victor said...

daniel,

This is not the first time you mistake "everyone around you" with "everyone". You know, there was much more to the USSR than Kiev (and I suspect that there was also much more to Kiev than "everyone around you").

You are missing the point. I wasn't attacked by individuals -- I was attacked by a small piece of the local power structure. your assertion that I was peddling the new official canon, and got in trouble for purely personal reasons, is, frankly, ludicrous. if anything, the official power structure was very biased in my favor up that point -- I was bringing home victories at math and science competitions by the bucketfull, and this mattered to the school and district officials.

I think that your description fits a large number of intellectuals and other people (typically those of not obviously useful occupations, the Winstons of this world) who thus satisfied their thirst for power and influence. And this is, in my opinion, exactly what MM is talking about: while there are true believers in Universalism, there are also those, who do not believe its dogmas, but would immediately bite anyone who dared to question them openly. And that this is an inherent feature of Universalism, similarly to its cousin, Communism.

Would you care to support that contention, instead of merely asserting it?

As for 1988, I remember that year very well, thank you. In Lvov, I was refused service at the local equivalent of RadioShack for speaking Russian. Ukrainian nationalism was already white-hot at that time in the wild west of the Ukraine.

It had always been white-hot there. This is the area where Bandera's people kept on fighting the soviets until the mid-60ies. This is the area where a local idea of a good joke is erecting a statue of Bandera, with a hangman's noose in the outstretched hand, and fill that noose with a fresh russian body each day (it was an anecdote, it didn't really happen of course).

Ever since, economic refugees and capital has been fleeing Ukraine in all directions. Even to places like Belarus (its positive net migration is almost entirely due to folks from the Ukraine). People are all worked up over politics and as a result the economy is going down the drain (I know, I know, it's all Russia's fault).

Have you looked at Ukraine's growth stats? Its GDP growth beats Russia, despite Russia's abundant oil and gas supplies.

You know, I am also half Hungarian and I even happen to live in Hungary at the moment. However, I stopped following Hungarian politics when I left Hungary 8 years ago and didn't bother to bring myself up to speed with it, when I returned. It's funny that you feel the need to keep up with Ukrainian politics and even take it seriously to the point of analyzing its unique structure of "separation of power".

Why is it funny? I grew up there, my family still lives there, and i very much care about that country. In fact, I consider myself a Ukrainian nationalist.

It's almost as close as you can get in Europe to MM's worst nightmares.

Outside of the fact that I think you are very wrong in that regard, I find it interesting that you would bother to write on the topic. Why? A needle in my direction?.. Seems silly.

October 17, 2007 at 7:46 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Minitrue reports:
Watson in trouble

October 17, 2007 at 11:50 PM  
Blogger Victor said...

I don't recall if this was discussed here or not, but a study was made recently of whether old people are more racist, as suggested by the well-known stereotype.

Turns out that it's not so. They are no more racist than the younger ones; however, they say racist things in proportion to how much their frontal lobes had shrunk with age. Frontal lobes, among other things, are responsible for impulse control.

Which suggests that the 'racist' old people say what many others think quietly.

Watson is 79...

October 18, 2007 at 5:21 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

In "The New Science of Politics" Voegelin cites the Roundheads as the earliest example of the type of political gnosticism he is endeavouring to characterize, with its program of "immanentizing the eschaton." Mencius's genealogy of modern Universalism is thus corroborated by Voegelin.

The censoriousness of the "politically correct" is the lineal descendant of that Puritanism which banned bear baiting, as Lord Macaulay observed, less out of objection to the pain that was caused to the bear than to the pleasure that it gave the spectators. Similarly, concern about "racism" is really less about elevating and improving the lot of non-white peoples whose ancestors were, and who might themselves be, its victims, than it is about humbling and debasing whites, on the pretext that their ancestors may have been among the victimizers, and that they thereby enjoy some purported advantage.

October 18, 2007 at 10:30 AM  
Anonymous George Weinberg said...

but actual belief) that a man called Jesus was the son of God died for our sins and came back from the dead and wants us to oppose birth control and gay marriage... Well, you get the idea.

But of course Jesus never said anything about birth control or gay marriage. There's a major difference between an idea coming straight from scripture and coming from religious communities or institutions, and no important between an idea that comes from religious communities and institutions and one that comes from secular ones.

October 18, 2007 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Victor,

You are missing the point. I wasn't attacked by individuals -- I was attacked by a small piece of the local power structure.

Here, I guess, we have a fundamental difference in world view. I think, one is always attacked by individuals. "Power structures" can only provide incentives for actions, which are always carried out by individuals. I do not believe in collective responsibility in any form or shape.

Would you care to support that contention, instead of merely asserting it?

Sure. Which one in particular?

As for the rest, here are a few random comments:

Ukrainian nationalism in the wild west has always been present but I still felt a difference betwen glowing red-hot (as usual) and white-hot (when one is refused service for speaking the hated language).

No, I don't bother looking up GDP stats, because I don't see how they relate to reality. The observable reality is that in Budapest, in Warsaw, in St. Petersburg and in Moscow almost all construction projects are done by (voluntary) slave labor from the Ukraine. Trains to and from the Ukraine are packed with migrant laborers. Crops rot in the fields of Ukraine unharvested, because of labor shortages: harvesting pays much better (by a factor of 2 to 3) in the surrounding countries.

If people from the Ukraine prefer working illegally in Russia and Belarus, then Ukraine's economy must have gone down the drain; during the eighties, there was little difference (and it was probably in Ukraine's favor, especially compared to Belorussia).

The reason I write this is not because I want you to feel bad (I don't think you should, because the state of Ukraine's economy is not your responsibility in any way). I want to prevent other UR readers from wasting their time analyzing the legal framework of Ukraine's political system, as you suggested, because it does not matter in the slightest. Power structures in that country are mostly informal and the legal system is largely dysfunctional.

I have probably much stronger ties to Hungary than the ones you have to the Ukraine (for instance, I happen to live here, I own real estate and a business), yet I find no reason to keep up with politics. I know there's going to be trouble on October 23, which I will spend hiking in Slovakia. I don't think that sane people who have no direct stake in it (like owning business that might be nationalized or, conversely, hoping to reap pork barrel government contracts) should spend their time keeping up with party politics in any country.

October 19, 2007 at 4:30 AM  
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November 6, 2008 at 6:07 PM  
Blogger 信次 said...

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January 31, 2009 at 10:41 PM  
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February 12, 2009 at 2:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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March 2, 2009 at 9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! thanks a lot! ^^

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March 2, 2009 at 9:44 PM  
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March 6, 2009 at 8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 6, 2009 at 8:57 PM  

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