Re: [xmca] Disgrace: How a giant of science was brought low | Focus | The Observer

From: Paul Dillon <phd_crit_think who-is-at yahoo.com>
Date: Sun Oct 21 2007 - 04:58:39 PDT

Eric,
   
  Let me take a shot a your questions:
   
  1) How would you define the dividing line between politics and science (‚€œthis
is politics, not science‚€)?
   
  It really isn't a question of a dividing line between science and politics. What is at issue is the extension of expertise of one domain into another, in this case from the science of genetics into the domain of human capabilities when in fact there is no basis for that extension. As such the problem is the ideological consequences of using stature in one domain . . . you mention "ad hominem" arguments, in fact his statements about genes an d intelligence are something of an inversion, his statements have ideological valence in the world of politics and as such it is necessary to oppose him on political grounds. His scientifc contributions are not the foundation for his assertions. It's pure politics all the way. Nazis were really big on genetics too.
  
2) How would you define free speech? You are criticizing scholars "trying to
sell us the idea that opposing these remarks is an attack on free speech (in a
similar manner the neoconservatives think that criticism of the government is
unpatriotic)." It seems to me that these are incommensurable cases: the latter
having actively tried to reduce free speech, the former having tried to extend
it.
   
  This is simply a red-herring. Think about social responsibility. Why is it a big deal that Bill Clinton got a blow job in the oval office? Because his social role has corresponding responsibilities. Similarly, Watson's opinions have major social consequences. If he believe Africans are less intellgient, that's fine, just as long as he doesn't try to use his scientific stature to legitimate that position. It's simple racism and ignores 500 years of European agression againstand exploitation of the African peoples. Perhaps he should address the genetic bases of European violence just to be consistent.
   
   
  3) Do we need ‚€œclosets‚€ (‚€œhe just went out of the closet as regards his
political views‚€)? Are rigorous moral taboos desirable among scientists?
   
  I don't see how the outrage against Watson interferes with his pursuit of genetic research. It is rather against his unfounded assertions concerning genetics and intellgienve. Has he even bothered to distinguish Bantu, Nilotic, and other allele concentrations among African populations. After all Egyptians are Africans, right?
   
  4) You consider ‚€œa mob reaction‚€ as ‚€œthe adequate response to prejudice.‚€ Since
every human being possesses prejudices to some extent and of some kind, it
could be interesting to know what and whose prejudices deserve (or do not
deserve) ‚€œa mob reaction.‚€
   
  What is this "mob" stuff? Isn't "mob mentality" based on an absence of discourse. Apparently Watson is doing all he can to downplay the statements he made which indicates that he doesn't really have any ground to stand on. There's no pope here, no catholic church that can burn him at the stake, all he's got to lose are his pretensions to pontificate on matters in which his opinion is just the same as any man on the street, he can still do his genetic research, right? Do you recognize the possibility of legitimate collective outrage at his pretensions?

5) Are you advocating the view that there is only one, monolithic Truth (‚€œWe
are not talking here about a guy that is defending a scientific truth, such as
Galileo, Coppernicus, Bruno or many other real heroes‚€)?
   
  No question of monolithic truths. It has to do with someone who has presented personal opinions as based on the highest level of science, the contemporary equivalent of the papal truth, tiara and all. That's where the beef is. If anything, Watson is attempting to establish the very limited field of genetics (important primarily because it makes good business, but fortunately many peoples throughout the world are saying NO to genetically modified everything) into the monolithic basis of all things human. Turn the light around!!!.
   
  6) Guilt by association: Should we stop reading Vygotsky due to the fact that
the Marxist ideology he to some extent advocated or supported gave rise to one
of the most brutal regimes in recorded history (‚€œwe are talking about a guy
that is lending his scientific credentials to a way of thinking that supported
appartheid and many other abhorrent policies in the US and elsewhere")?
   
  This is a non-sequitur. Vygotsky's theories never supported any brutal regime. And one would be hard pressed to find anything in Marx's writings that legitimated the brutal regimes (e.g. Stalin, Pol Pot) either, just as it's hard to find anything in the Gospels of Jesus that could possily legitimate the much greater, much more brutal destruction of native American civilizations in South and Central Americal In fact the misuse of Marxist theory in various historical peeriods is comparable to Watson's misuse of genetic theory.
   
  Paul

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Received on Sun Oct 21 05:03 PDT 2007

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