What an odd argument…October 22, 2007 — Deacon Duncan
Yes, I’ve already responded to Anthony Horvath’s response regarding racism. But there was something in his argument that’s been bugging me, something that didn’t quite make sense to me. Yet he seems to think that it has a significant bearing on his claim not to be a racist.
Now, I did struggle to discern where I agreed with Watson on a genetic basis for racism. I don’t see where I spoke to that at all. Allow me to go on the record. That genetics can affect intelligence I think is obvious. I have trouble believing that Herr Professor has not heard of Downs Syndrome. He is a professor, after all. That means he’s smart. Right? But just in case, here is a refresher of this genetic ailment that impacts cognizance. That genetics may influence intelligence I think is, if you will pardon the pun, a no-brainer.
He goes on to insinuate some kind of link between evolution and a variety of nasty things, so clearly he’s thinking there’s some kind of connection between genetics, evolution, and racism. But what could that connection be?
Intelligence is a hard quantity to define, let alone measure in any meaningful way. But let’s assume for the sake of argument that it does vary from individual to individual, and that this variation is due at least in part to genetic influences. (Developmental factors also play a huge role.) So you can arguably tie intelligence to evolution as a factor that might be subject to natural selection to some degree. But what does that have to do with race?
Call me naive, but it took me until just this morning to realize that this does constitute a valid argument IF you make the blatantly racist assumption that white people are smarter than black people. As soon as you make that racist assumption, however, you’ve already tainted your thinking with racism. Darwin, intelligence, and genetics have nothing at all to do with it. The racism is in the assumption that some races are more intelligent than others.
Is that what Horvath is doing? Let’s look at how he continues his argument.
I think that what is going on here is that even secular humanists are aware that when Darwinism is logically employed and talk begins of biologic inferiority, the gulags, extermination camps, forced sterilization, and syphilis projects are, historically speaking, not far off. The moral depravity of these types of operations is discernible even to relativists, so in my view, I think that makes them hyper-sensitive to even making observations about genetic differences.
But the fact that I would acknowledge such realities does not mean that I am promoting racism.
Now, as I mentioned before, evolutionary theory makes no such moral value judgments as declaring one race to be “biologically inferior” to another, so Horvath is simply slandering evolution here. But look at his argument. He says that “relativists” (presumably the same as “Darwinists”) are “hyper-sensitive to even making observations about genetic differences.” In context, it sounds like he’s alluding to genetic differences in intelligence, and he is the one “acknowledging” them, while denying that they promote racism.
Does this mean what it sounds like it means? Is he saying that Watson is correct about Africans being less intelligent, and that their putative “biological inferiority” is a genuine “reality”? If that’s not what he means, then it’s hard to see why he thinks anyone would accuse him of racism for making this argument. Nor does this line of reasoning make much sense in the context of his attempt to link evolution with racism. What do individual differences in intelligence have to do with race?
Hopefully, Horvath has just argued himself into a corner, and does not really believe the ridiculous notion that intelligence is somehow dependent on skin color. You have to wonder, though. All racists believe themselves to be non-racists. It’s not that they’re prejudiced, you see, they’re just acknowledging the reality of other races’ inferiority. It’s the other races’ fault for being inferior, not their fault for simply reporting the fact. It’s just the way things are–to the racist. And never mind the fact that this kind of thinking is complete hogwash.
That’s the way racists think, and it does sound suspiciously like Horvath’s argument. Let’s hope that’s just an unfortunate coincidence, and that Horvath will be among the first to stand up and declare that intelligence is not tied to race in any way (thus leaving racists with no grounds to appeal to evolution for support).