Kevin MacDonald: The Myth of Pure Science

Kevin MacDonald: The brouhaha over climate change science has prompted an op-ed in the LA Times  “Climate change e-mail scandal underscores myth of pure science.”  It’s interesting to substitute race science rather than climate science when pondering their comments. Some quotes:

The East Anglia controversy serves as a reminder that when the politics are divisive and the science is sufficiently complex, the boundary between the two may become indiscernible.

Race science is also complex — complex enough for obfuscation by politically motivated parties. It’s not like the double helix structure of DNA where someone who doubts it can be safely relegated to the Flat Earth Society.

Yet both parties have agreed, although tacitly, on one thing: Science is the appropriate arbiter of the political debate, and policy decisions should be determined by objective scientific assessments of future risks. This seductive idea gives politicians something to hide behind when faced with divisive decisions. If “pure” science dictates our actions, then there is no need to acknowledge the role that political interests and social values play in deciding how society should address climate change.

Politicians (and academics and journalists) often hide behind the idea that science has absolutely proved that IQ is not a valid measure or that race differences in academic success are due to White racism, etc.  No need to mention the political commitments of the people who have produced this “knowledge” — people like S. J. Gould, Richard Lewontin, Steven Rose, and Leon Kamin.

In practice, science is competitive, backbiting, venal, imperfect and, indeed, political. Science, in other words, is replete with the same human failings that mark all other social activities.

For sure. I think pretty much every scientist starts out thinking science is way purer than it is. By the end of their career, they are less idealistic. In my case, it came as a result of writing The Culture of Critique. A more recent example of my disillusion is evolutionary psychology.

What is the solution? Let politics do its job; indeed, demand it. … Better to recognize that decision-makers, depending on their political beliefs, will weigh the evidence and risks of climate change differently when evaluating policy options. Voters should evaluate the decisions on that basis, rather than on the false notion that science is dictating the choices.

The problem with this is that it’s no solution at all. We are supposed to simply accept the fact that race science is politicized and that politicians are politicized in what they say about race science. Then somehow the voters are supposed to wade through all this when they decide how to vote on issues such as anti-affirmative action ballot initiatives.

But voters are completely unqualified for evaluating any of the evidence. And in any case, surely voters’ politics will affect their choices in the same way politics  influences everyone else’s choices. 

Of course, the media will weigh in heavily and predictably to convince voters against race realism because we all know they are politicized. The media will be effective because when it comes to race science, the realists are completely marginalized. So in the end, clueless voters who read the New York Times or watch Fox News will end up making these decisions. 

I think that Jewish intellectuals have always known about the politicization of truth. And if truth is politicized, all that’s left is to try to establish consensus and delegitimize everything else –forcibly if need be. This is from Ch. 6 of The Culture of Critique:

A fundamental aspect of Jewish intellectual history has been the realization that there is really no demonstrable difference between truth and consensus. Within traditional Jewish religious discourse, “truth” was the prerogative of a privileged interpretive elite that in traditional societies consisted of the scholarly class within the Jewish community. Within this community, “truth” and “reality” were nothing more (and were undoubtedly perceived as nothing more) than consensus within a sufficiently large portion of the interpretive community.

People who dissent from the manufactured consensus are simply marginalized from polite society. So the closest we can come to truth in race science is consensus and the consensus simply reflects the politics of the people with more power.

I think a lot of race scientists have had an idealistic conception of science. Until we change the people who have the power, especially in the media, there is no chance for their ideas to become mainstream.

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