Darwin’s Dangerous Clan

These are the some of the most wonderfully dangerous men in academia, reactionaries all, even if they don’t know it. (Although I suspect Daniel Dennett does; he was a member of the HBD discussion group.) The only person missing from this picture is Satoshi Kanazawa . . .

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The accompanying dialogue is worth reading, in full, multiple times: “Blood is Their Argument.” (I can’t help thinking about the look on the face of the average feminist, Marxist, or post-colonial theorist who reads that headline.) Comment to come . . .

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19 responses

  1. A.

    Pinker was on the list.

    June 7, 2013 at 4:00 am

    • Handle

      Then you really misunderstand Pinker.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:52 am

      • I do, or A does? I think I’m missing part of the conversation here . . .

        June 7, 2013 at 3:01 pm

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  3. Let A := Person is Reactionary and B := Person believes in HBD

    P(B|A) is very nearly 1

    P(A|B) > P(A) but still not very high

    Practically every person alive on earth prior to 1930 believed in HBD, the vast majority still do. That didn’t and doesn’t make them reactionaries. Dawkins, in fact, is the ones who was quite famously pwned by the fanciful myths of the enemies of reaction.

    My thesis is that, in a manner precisely like the medieval universities, dissenting views are well tolerated and openly discussed in the innermost circles of the Cathedral, but never see the light of day in the “Sunday homilies” of the “ordinary priests” of the Cathedral. What Richwine could easily get away with, even be rewarded for within the 3 meter thick lead-lined walls of Harvard, was absolutely too radioactive to handle in the Cathedral’s potemkin village known as Heritage Foundation.

    Now there is little doubt that after two or three hundred years, this toleration within medieval scholasticism eventually led to the reformation. So perhaps there is yet hope. But there is also the possibility that the Cathedral learns from the errors (in this case broad-minded toleration) of those it’s conquered.

    June 7, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    • Practically every person alive on earth prior to 1930 believed in HBD, the vast majority still do. That didn’t and doesn’t make them reactionaries.

      I’d say it makes them reactionaries in certain areas. A major tenet of Left egalitarianism is universal egalitarianism, and you simply cannot be an egalitarian if you believe HBD. So, at least at a philosophical level, to accept HBD is to be a Cathedral heretic and, by default, a reactionary (if even a hesitant one).

      But the conversation these men have attacks an even more central tenet of Left egalitarianism: the myth of the Noble Savage. I wrote before about how this myth girds some of the more vile aspects of contemporary Leftism: white guilt, redistribution programs, etc. Hence why people like Chagnon are counter-attacked so viciously. And hence why I think that anyone who attacks that myth so publicly and academically is, by default, a neoreactionary.

      June 7, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      • anonymous

        I accept HBD, but am basically a “liberal”, if an extremely heterodox one. While I certainly don’t accept that all individuals or groups have equal potential, I consider to be to my advantage to live in a society with social safety net, government regulations against market failure (especially externalities), etc. That doesn’t make me an egalitarian, but a person who has made a rational risk assessment about future class mobility (namely that I will never be rich enough to completely insulate myself from the threat of poverty). I suppose the extent to which one desires any form of political or economic redistribution can be a function of one’s level of optimism or pessimism about one’s future.

        Aside from its support for PC ideology, I don’t really have any issue with the way a country like Canada is run. I even like diversity, provided that it’s not of the low IQ or barbaric variety.

        For such reasons, I have a hard time labeling myself as “reactionary”. My “meta”-approach to politics is of course not progressive, but rather ruthlessly Realist or Machiavellian. I desire the social system that benefits me personally, and that just happens to be a form of cosmopolitan liberalism wherein the permanence of hierarchy and human nature are fully recognized. However, just because hierarchy is permanent, that doesn’t mean that the middle or lower orders can’t make a collective attempt to improve their relative position. The result won’t be equality, but improved security is still nice.

        June 9, 2013 at 6:32 am

    • Also, as Occam’s Razor points out, Dawkins has grown a pair lately. And he has never been a proponent of affirmative action.

      June 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    • Vladimir

      My thesis is that, in a manner precisely like the medieval universities, dissenting views are well tolerated and openly discussed in the innermost circles of the Cathedral…

      That’s highly unlikely. At most, they are tolerated in the form of oblique hints, which must be delivered in a context where the speaker is assuring the audience of his perfect ideological orthodoxy. That is, the speaker must give firm assurance that even if he comes across ideologically problematic findings, he will not use them to undermine the orthodoxy, but rather spin and bend them until they can fit comfortably into the orthodox ideological framework. (And if the findings are so problematic that this is impossible, the topic will be absolute taboo.)

      This is why it’s futile to expect that people like Dennett, Pinker, or Dawkins would ever state publicly that their views have any content or implications that seriously contradict mainstream leftism. (And in fact, I’m pretty sure that their personal views are just bland orthodoxy, mixed with the mistaken belief that this orthodoxy doesn’t really need such extreme thought policing to maintain itself in power, so it should relax a little bit.) It’s also why conservative institutions like Heritage, which can’t credibly give the above-described signal, must be only more eager than elite academia in their internal though-policing.

      It is true that if you are an insider at an elite institution and you start writing papers that argue for some shockingly heretical ideas in an impeccable scholarly form, you will be permitted to publish them in reputable journals, as long as they are well written and argued. People like Jensen and Rushton did this. However, as soon as this results in any public controversy — and for the most charged topics, like HBD, it inevitably will — your institution will do everything in its power to fire you, and if you are tenured, to make your life miserable to the point where only very strong characters would be unwilling to quit. Needless to say, as soon you have touched such topics, you will be completely cut off from all venues of influence on government and public opinion that elite scholars normally have, so even if you manage to keep your position and continue publishing, you will be just an easily ignored distraction.

      Moreover, in recent decades the enforcement of ideological conformity has become much more effective. A generation ago it was still possible for serious dissenters to get tenure working on inoffensive topics and then start speaking their mind protected by full job security. Nowadays, however, it would be practically impossible for anyone to reach tenure in any field with even the remotest ideological significance, unless he’s either a sincere belief in the orthodoxy, or a cynic who only feigns such belief but would also never invite trouble and ostracism. So as the old tenured dissenters are dying out (and they are all seem to be well over 60 at this point), I don’t think we’ll see any replacement for them in the future. There is simply no reasonable hope that the official intellectual institutions will become anything but ever more intolerant and dogmatic in the foreseeable future.

      June 8, 2013 at 7:55 pm

      • Well I’m glad I never gave my thesis the dignity of its own post. Certainly Vladimir has all the evidence on his side. So dangerous ideas can only be permitted in proven non-dangerous people in non-dangerous contexts… Tho’ that still allows more diversity within the reactor core of Harvard than at Heritage.

        If institutions cannot be turned, and cannot be penetrated, then new ones will have to be built. A few have already been started… but they’re not ready to start manufacturing consent at anything near the required industrial levels.

        June 8, 2013 at 8:07 pm

      • This is why it’s futile to expect that people like Dennett, Pinker, or Dawkins would ever state publicly that their views have any content or implications that seriously contradict mainstream leftism. (And in fact, I’m pretty sure that their personal views are just bland orthodoxy, mixed with the mistaken belief that this orthodoxy doesn’t really need such extreme thought policing to maintain itself in power, so it should relax a little bit.)

        But isn’t the entire linked dialogue a public contradiction of mainstream Leftism, or, at least, certain elements of it?

        You may very well be correct that these men see no connection between their academic work and social policy (or, if they do see connections, they refuse to entertain them). In interviews, I’ve heard Pinker say that statistical averages shouldn’t over-determine how you deal with people in individual circumstances, but I’ve never heard him address larger policy issues one way or the other. But they’re academics; the most we can hope for is reaction at an academic level.

        You are right, though, Vladimir, that even if we agree that the men above slant toward reaction at a purely academic level, they are aging, and aside from a Geoffrey Miller here or there, I don’t see them being replaced. Elite, tenured appointments are much, much more carefully policed than they were in the past.

        June 8, 2013 at 10:57 pm

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  5. Vladimir

    Scharlach,

    But isn’t the entire linked dialogue a public contradiction of mainstream Leftism, or, at least, certain elements of it?

    In my opinion, it’s better seen as a dialogue within the Overton window of mainstream leftism. To me it looks like a dispute where on one side we have leftists who want to stick to the traditional hardline attitude of uncompromising ideological warfare and thought policing under the “no enemies to the left, no friends to the right” principle, while on the other side are more relaxed leftists who believe that this is an unnecessary overreaction. The latter have basically drunk their own kool-aid and behave, to some degree, as if their side really has nothing to fear from unfettered science and free debate, being enlightened and reality-based and all that. The former, of course, know better.

    June 9, 2013 at 4:17 am

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  8. Chevalier de Johnstone

    Having previously been accused of not understanding that the Cathedral is religious (because I used the term “secular” to describe it) I would say that some of you are now forgetting that the Cathedral is religious. Yes HBD and evolutionary biology and psychology are widely accepted in university academia. There really isn’t much debate any more in any of the natural or human sciences. The general acceptance of HBD does not by one iota change the social or political opinions of anyone.

    It is a vast mistake of the younger generation to think that anyone associated with 60’s-era feminism, racial equality, or any other sort of sociopolitical equality in any way believed or believes that people are “created equal”. And these are the people who now control the Cathedral. It is not a rational consequence of a belief in human equality that prompts such people to behave the way they do, but an irrational consequence of a non-theistic religious belief.s

    HBD is at heart a dead-end for reactionism, because it is fundamentally progressive: at core a continuation of the progressive belief in scientistic individualism which defines a human being by his material genesis and not by his cultural and communal heritage. The fact that many progressives publicly disagree with HBD does not make it any less progressive: progressives disagree about a lot of things. Progressives argue about scientific fact all the time, but agree in principle that some basis of scientific fact can explain everything about the human condition and the universe in which we live. While I won’t go so far as to say you must believe in supernatural higher power, if you share this basic belief that human science is the answer to everything you are not a reactionary. This is not a rejection of science but a recognition that there are also some truths that are unscientific.

    June 11, 2013 at 4:11 am

    • Not sure I’d say HBD is “fundamentally progressive”, but it is at least historically orthogonal to it. To the extent the progressivism is a secular religion (which is to say, in its entirety), it is no more dependent upon science, I think, than any other religion. It will “use” it when it suits its purposes, and deny it when it doesn’t. When progressivism makes empirical claims, it is good and proper to counter those claims with empiricism. But I agree, that alone won’t bring down The Cathedral… any more than theories of common descent brought down the Catholic Church.

      June 12, 2013 at 2:18 pm

  9. Greying Wanderer

    “and you simply cannot be an egalitarian if you believe HBD”

    Disagree. Egalitarianism was originally about individuals being equal before God or the Law. It’s a moral engine. It’s the false data of the blank slate that makes the moral engine insane.

    June 11, 2013 at 6:26 am

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