META: Neanderthal attitudes

Matt Gingell (
Sat, 4 Sep 1999 03:42:20 -0400

From: Robert J. Bradbury <>

> [snip]
>... if society is always going
>to "balance" the playing field, so that my natural genetic "advantages"
>(whatever they may be) do not give one a demonstrable advantage, then
>what is the point of trying to succeed at all. My general observation
>would be that this is the situation that has occured in countries
>where everyone works "equally" hard and drives "equal" benefits --
>i.e. the cream sinks to the bottom.
>It is a *very* difficult situation to separate the historic
>advantages from the genetic advantages from the desire
>advantages. But if the response of a society is to "level" these
>so genetic/desire advantages are deemed equal to the correction
>of historic "disadvantages", then you have a recipe for diminishing
>the progess of the society.

A few years ago there was some football announcer – I don’t remember the details, but maybe someone else does – who lost his job for suggesting that American blacks were inherently better athletes than whites because, back in the day, they’d been bred for strength by slave owners. At the time there was a terrific uproar, with people coming down on one of two sides: Either the guy was a horrific racist and ought to be banished from polite society, or that the guy had a point, not necessarily correct but not necessarily racist, and that the objectors were a bunch of over-sensitive twerps trying to quash free scientific inquiry.

It makes me cringe to think about it, and my fingers tremble as I type the words, but maybe there’s something to it. So what though? It isn’t just a scientific point, and I really hope most of you are uncomfortable with the suggestion. I should be conjuring up images of skinhead pamphlets with hideous big-nosed-Jew caricatures on the cover and Nazi scientists measuring heads with calipers. That doesn’t rule out the fact though that there may very well be some lingering gene pool consequences to hundreds of years of slavery.

But you can’t separate science from its social consequences. How big a step is it from ‘Blacks are better athletes’ to ‘Blacks are less intelligent: When we captured slaves, we obviously only brought back the ones who didn’t get away – the least fit/clever. When we bought slaves from local tribes, we were a lucrative and easy way of getting rid of the least productive, most troublesome members of the community.’ Now this should really make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, but there are people who’ll say ‘Hey, it’s just science – it ’s objective reality. I’m not a racist, Blacks are just dumb.’ That gets turned into social policy – we pay less attention to crime and poverty in black communities, and put the money where it can do some good: clever, college bound, suburban white-boys.

Don’t rely on the scientific community to debunk this sort of stuff either – the Nazi’s backed themselves up with plenty of ‘evidence’ and peer-reviewed each other with precise, mutual-masturbatory glee. And here at home, it was only recently that homosexuality was dropped from the DSM.

When I said that I hoped Robert gets flamed, I was only half kidding. I don’t necessarily disagree with anything that he’s said, and I certainly don’t mean to associate him with any of the positions I’ve brought up. At the same time, I hope this sort of discussion makes people very uncomfortable. These are dangerous issues and there’s much more too it than just the science. Good science gets mapped onto political philosophy with horrible consequences, and very reasonable arguments are used to advance very unreasonable agendas.