Watson’s racism: the skewed viewOctober 20, 2007 — Deacon Duncan
Anthony Horvath, writing in his own “Christian Apologetics Ministries” blog, has an inference or two that he’d like to draw from James Watson’s infamous and universally-denounced support for racism. In making his point, he gives us a good demonstration of skewing the facts to make a biased point, namely, that Watson proves you should never trust a scientist. He begins by “raising our awareness.”
In other places on my blog here I have tried to raise awareness of the fact that scientists are people just like the rest of us and there is no reason to believe that they are especially more logical or rational than anyone else… or more ethical.
Nor are they any less logical, rational, or ethical than other people, on average. This fact seems to have escaped Horvath’s notice, or at least it’s conspicuously absent from his discussion. From this inauspicious beginning, he goes on to try and spread Watson’s shame around so that it applies not only to all scientists, but to school boards as well.
Scientists can be very helpful in ascertaining actual facts but they are not in a special position to tell us what conclusions we ought to draw and which ones are moral.
A more clearer example than the situation in a Maine school district can’t be found. Here we had statistics showing that only about 5 students at the middle school were sexually active, and these five were 14-15 year olds. The conclusion by the school board: Because 5 15 year olds reported having sex, make birth control pills available to 500 students without parental knowledge or consent.
Is this ethical? Moral? Are sociologists in a position to make this judgment? What about school board officials?
Apparently, the answer is supposed to be no: the “ethical” answer would be 5 pregnant teens and/or aborted babies. But you can’t trust school boards to make that kind of ethical choice. They’re going to be listening to the “actual facts” that scientists “ascertain,” like the fact that a lot of sexually-active teens don’t feel comfortable discussing their sex lives with mom and dad, let alone asking them for contraceptives. So you see, school boards, like scientists, are not to be trusted, because they base their ethical decisions on actual facts instead of on traditional dogmas. But the blame, ultimately, belongs to the scientists, and especially “Darwinists.”
Kids are just going to do it like they see it on the Discovery channel, right? This is what happens when you get your ethics from Darwinists.
I think it is terribly ironic that Darwinists have been defending themselves from the charge that evolutionary theory does not provide a basis for racism and here we have Watson doing just that.
(See, the connection between these two sentences is that “scientists are bad.”) The irony here is not that Watson is both an evolutionist and a racist. Horvath himself pointed out at the beginning of his post that there’s no magical aura preventing scientists from falling prey to the same kinds of flaws and prejudices that afflict the rest of us. The irony is that scientists, pretty much without exception, have vocally and strongly denounced Watson as being wrong, whereas Horvath is agreeing with Watson’s assessment. So we have Watson and Horvath on one side saying that the scientific evidence justifies racism, and the vast majority of scientists (whom Horvath is trying to paint as morally unreliable) saying that it does not. That’s irony.
Nor is that the only point of agreement between Watson and Horvath.
And in conclusion, we might want to consider this quote from the article: “However, Dr Watson goes on to suggest that genes may account for many behavioural traits, including intelligence and even criminality. “The thought that some people are innately wicked disturbs me,” he says. “But science is not here to make us feel good.”
Of course, Watson doesn’t seem to have a clue here that if criminality can be genetic, he may have the gene himself. More to the point, he is so close to actual Christian teaching here: original sin.
Yep, that’s right. Watson’s universally-denounced, racist, and ignorant remarks are actually preaching the Gospel! Horvath is trying to have his cake and eat it too. Watson, at the same time, is both a reliable and trustworthy scientist whose authority lends credibility to the preaching of the Gospel, and he’s simultaneously a demonstration of how UNreliable and UNtrustworthy all scientists are, especially in the context of moral and ethical questions.
This is what Christians call “worldview.” Facts are important, not for what they tell us, but for what we can make them say. In Horvath’s case, the fact that Watson, as an individual, tried to use evolution to rationalize his own personal racism, is an opportunity to make all scientists the scapegoat for all the godlessness we see in the world around us. The fact that the world is so consistently godless, however, is a fact that ought to tell us something. Godlessness refers to the absence of God (just like hairlessness refers to the absence of hair), and the only one who can do anything about God’s absence is God.
It’s not the scientists’ fault that God fails to behave as though He loved us the way the Gospel claims. God’s behavior is God’s responsibility. But Horvath can’t blame God, so he needs scapegoats. His skewed view is the inevitable result of the conflict between what the Gospel says about God, and the way we see (or fail to see) God behaving in the real world.