Re: Dangerous questions (Was: META: Neanderthal attitudes)

J. R. Molloy (
Mon, 27 Sep 1999 18:17:40 -0700

David Ludkin wrote,
>As persons of scientific bent, how shall we regard such questions? Do we
>consider the misuse that research into questions like these may lead to?
>If any of the above is true, what uses of this information is legitimate?

I consider it a misuse of science to resist research in some areas while not in others, especially when that resistance derives from political reasons. The idea that valid research can be misused calls into question policies based on these very ideas. After all, who gets to decide what constitutes misuse of research, other than whatever ideology reigns (whether fascist, totalitarian, socialist, Republican or Stalinist). I think the best use of the results of valid research (no matter into what Dangerous questions it has delved) relates to gaining a more accurate picture or model of reality, which may then come in handy for making policy decisions. To reverse this process so that science serves politics perverts the scientific method into a weapon of demagogy, ideology, or theology as the case may apply.

>And what percentage of Americans truly understand that statistically valid
>say nothing about how an individual should be treated?

Although such results say nothing about how an individual should be treated, they may say something about how to treat groups. For example, if research shows that (to take as an example something which requires not much research, for the purposes of discussion, due to the dearth of real research for politically correct reasons) African pygmies don't do well at basketball, that would tend to argue against spending millions to promote basketball among pygmies. Likewise, if research shows, a la _Zen and the Brain, Toward an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness_, (but not necessarily in agreement with any of the findings of that book) that female brains do not experience Samadhi (or Satori, if you're Japanese) and that only some male brains do so, that would tend to argue against spending millions to promote zendos for females.

--J. R.