META: Neanderthal attitudes

Chris Fedeli (
Wed, 1 Sep 1999 23:07:08 -0400

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:

>And maybe we should even create a set
>of "easily-abused" topics like gender
>differentials, in which posting on the subject
>makes you liable to summary judgement of
>scientific illiteracy, resulting in one warning
>followed by unsubscription.

"Easily abused" is a good way of putting it. Research into sex differences is essential for a complete understanding of how we evolved, so it's not bad science. But we don't want to be flip about discussing it either.

Personal experience - not too long ago I had the chance to give a presentation on transhumanist themes to some of my classmates. The seminar was called "Critical Thought Seminar: Race, Gender and the Law", so as you could imagine it was packed with hardcore lefties. I tried to find a way to talk about biology and genetic engineering that wouldn't get me scortched, so I took a tortured, roundabout approach that would probably get laughs from most people here.

I wound up getting a reasonably positive response, and I get the feeling that a big part of that was just the way I presented the ideas. I know that talk of biology or genetics as it relates to social policy is still considered blashphemy in most lefty circles, so I was deliberately solicitious, sending the message "hey, you guys have serious concerns with this stuff and I can sympathize with that." Just showing that much concern for the sensitivity of the topic was enough to convince the room that my intentions were not evil and that they could hear me out.

I know many other people here have a lot more experience presenting transhumanism than I do so I'll shut up. But Kathryn's observation about the effect that these discussions can have in alienating women is right on, and it's at least something to think about.

Chris Fedeli