…between somewhat-sane “progressive” thought and the patently irrational, unscientific, batshit-crazy “woke” social-justice lunatics!
Please read this full long-form piece, “Can Progressives Be Convinced that Genetics Matters?“, published in an intensely left-biased media source (New Yorker). It addresses one liberal behavioral geneticist at UT, Paige Harden, on short sabbatical in Montana (who clearly is drumming up publicity for her new book, natch), and the “woke” attack mob still farther to her radical left.
That story is entertaining and revealing to read, and so is the phenomenon on other fronts as well, such as the battle between the social-justice radicals and the New Atheists over the science, logic and reason (even as a Christian, I’m also a scientist, and I agree with the New Atheists when they fight the woke cult on that!). The “SJWs” also have been going after radical feminists who refuse to yield to their redefinition demands regarding “transgender” rubbish, and what it means to be a woman (I sympathize with the “woman is a woman” feminists there, because of biology). See, I can agree with some liberals on some things! And to deny scientific truths and impugn science when it doesn’t conform to your social agenda is…unscientific.
Genetic differences and roles in ability and behavior are real, and deeply documented scientifically, but the anti-science faction of “woke” radicals to her left wants nothing to do with acknowledging such, and has given her hell over it. The New Yorker writer’s innate leftist bias is evident in tone, and it seemed the writer was diminishing this scientist’s standing slightly by referring to her physical attractiveness (yeah, I certainly agree she is, but that’s immaterial to the substance of the issue, and should be left to the reader and not the author to note). Still, especially for a piece from that outlet, I found the story remarkably evenhanded and balanced.
Conservative writer and author Robert Bidinotto did as well, in his commentary on Facebook, which he made open publicly and which I reproduce here (again, read the New Yorker piece first). His response is between the ellipses here:
ONE INTRAMURAL BATTLE ON THE LEFT is over two kinds of determinism: biological or environmental? Here’s an interesting article on the latest genetic research about the contribution genes might play in various personality traits and success in life. But precisely because such research may lead to conclusions that many leftists don’t want to reach, this particular genetic researcher, Kathryn Paige Harden, is under fire from the left — even though she, too, is a devout leftist.
Reading this long piece, I was struck by how leftists within the psychological research community — whether environmental or biological in their theoretical orientation — *want* their research to ratify their *political* values and agenda, and are eager to attack any research that doesn’t. Theirs isn’t a scientific search for truth; it’s ideological confirmation bias masquerading as science.
I was also struck that *all* sides in their debate were determinists of one sort or another. They all view individuals as playthings of forces beyond their control, whether biological or environmental. Their only argument is over *which* forces, circumstances, and influences “cause” people to be what they are and do what they do. The one principle absent from this entire discussion is *human volition* — free will. The idea that individuals might have any *choice* in how their lives turn out is never mentioned.
This is the root of the left’s view of individuals as helpless “victims,” powerless pawns of circumstance — not as active agents in shaping the outcomes in their own lives. And that view, in turn, is what leads them to regard an all-powerful, paternalistic government as the necessary “moral” agent to help victims overcome circumstances and have equal outcomes. However, these folks never bother to ask themselves: Without free will and choice, how can we determine what is or isn’t right or wrong? Why is equality moral, and inequality immoral? How can we choose the moral path if we aren’t free to choose in the first place? And how do *we*, the researchers, manage to freely reach such conclusions, then act on them, if our biology or environment compels us to think and act as we do?
In the absence of volition and choice, their determinism logically implies that they aren’t cognitively free to decide why their claims are *true*, to prove why their political prescriptions are *good*, or to choose the actions they say are *moral.* Without free will, none of that is possible. In fact, leftist determinists *can’t claim to *know* what they’re talking about,* since knowledge depends on the freedom to think in order to reach valid conclusions. So, my response to their claims is: “There, there, now…I know you just can’t help believing and saying all that crazy stuff you claim to believe.”
Bidinotto’s commentary is very reasonable as far as it goes, though he overlooks the “overrated bootstrapping on the right” part discussed in the article. But I agree with him that both sides of that debate long have overemphasized determinism (whether genetic or environmental) at the expense of free will and conscious, rational decision-making.
We might be predisposed to a choice, but aren’t inexorably bound to make that choice. We’re not preprogrammed robots, and conscious decision-making does exist. Sure, poor kids statistically are predisposed by environment to “succeed” less economically, and vice versa for rich kids. Poor kids who do, and rich kids who don’t, are seen as aberrations, and irrelevant exceptions too few in number to matter. But are they (we)? Is there something they (we) can tell us about how much effort and will matter within and despite your genetic or social circumstances?
We don’t put enough effort into studying the “exceptions”.
Sure, bootstrapping fails if the capability isn’t there genetically. To wit, there’s no way in hell I ever did, could, or will play basketball like Michael Jordan, play piano like Van Cliburn, fluently speak 5+ languages like Melania Trump, shoot rifles like Chris Kyle, nor perform theoretical astrophysics like Stephen Hawking, regardless of effort. Regardless of effort! [Cue Eastwood’s famous movie line about how a man must know his limitations.]
So…where the nature determiners and nurture determinists have it wrong — yes, the both of them — is that one can bootstrap toward the limits of one’s innate capabilities, and that bootstrapping absolutely does matter inside those natural genetic constraints.
It’s how a poor inner-city kid in dirty, roach- and rat-infested rental duplexes can become a multiply formally published atmospheric scientist, which quite obviously the kid was genetically capable of doing, or he wouldn’t have. I’m that kid.
Opportunity, luck, whatever you want to call it, lands on everybody in some form. But not everybody chooses to accept “lucky” opportunities and make the most of it. That I have seen, over and over and over. A few of the very smartest kids I knew, rich or poor economically to start, ended up in poverty, prison, or dead.
Within our inherited and often unknown limitations, I firmly believe effort, work, determination, bootstrapping, whatever you want to call it, absolutely matters. Why? I’ve lived it. I can’t fiddle like Charlie Daniels did, or bench-press 700 pounds like Larry Allen did, but I damn well am capable of doing severe-storms meteorology like Roger Edwards, however much or little that’s worth.
How do we nurture the nature of more people like that, like me? Paige’s research could be used to great benefit that way, if the woke left in particular that gives her so much unscientific, unjustified crap would step out of their dogmatic determinism (or better yet, just step aside and let the adults handle this).