Sunday, October 26, 2014

Corruption In The Social Sciences

Charles Murray, reflecting after 20 years on the reception accorded to the book he co-wrote about intelligence:

'I’m also thinking of all the other social scientists who have come up to me over the years and told me what a wonderful book “The Bell Curve” is. But they never said it publicly. So corruption is one thing that ails the social sciences. Cowardice is another.'

I've never read the whole book. I've read chunks of it at the library. As he says in this interview, the book doesn't take a strong position on the nature/nurture debate. But he clearly expects that some part of what's going on is biological inheritance. And saying that there's anything on the nature side at all, is hazardous.

I'm not really a big fan of the man. He says: "None of us has earned our IQ." This is said by way of rolling around to justifying redistribution.

None of us has earned our eye color, either. It's not the sort of thing you earn. It's more like a gift. And here's the thing about gifts. You may not have earned them, but once you receive them, you do rightly own them.

What talents you have, do not hide them.
Even if others deride them.


Charlie McDanger said...

I gather from scattered reading that Randians abhor determinism due to this sort of normative outcome. I would think you could accept determinism and still see the value in incentivizing good behavior.

Also, the various forms and euphemisms of "they're born idiots, thus don't stand a chance" that you hear from the political left--I'd say are an impressive mix of defeatist/elitist/hypocritical.

JohnJEnright said...

I agree that you can be a determinist and believe in incentivizing good behavior. You can be a determinist and be a political libertarian. I've known such people.

Determinism comes in a lot of varieties, but often determinists will say that choice is an illusion, not really something that matters to human life. I think that's what freaks Randians out, because they think it's really important that their choices be left open.

I should add that a lot of philosophers are compatibilists, some of whom believe that determinism is true but that choice is real and effective. This is the sort of determinism least likely to freak anyone out, including Randians.

You're right about the "they're born idiots" elitism. You see a lot of it on the left in the "cognitive elite" clan.