hard science

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 21, 2007

Unrelated stories from unrelated sources from which a single moral can be drawn: in the first, William Saletan in Slate tip-toes around the explosive issue of heredity vs. environment in accounting for the racial disparity in measured intelligence.

The current favorite alternative to a genetic explanation is that black kids grow up in a less intellectually supportive culture. This is a testament to how far the race discussion has shifted to the right. Twenty years ago, conservatives were blaming culture, while liberals blamed racism and poverty. Now liberals are blaming culture because the emerging alternative, genetics, is even more repellent.

Note the giveaway terms "favorite alternative" and "even more repellent." The subject purports to be science, but the language is the language of desire.

Now let's switch to the Sydney Morning Herald, reporting on the findings of a social psychologist:

Laurie Rudman of Rutgers University had found in earlier research that negative stereotypes of feminists -- that they're unattractive, man-hating lesbians, in a nutshell -- cause young adults to distance themselves from the "F-word" and tone down their demands for equality.

A majority of college-age respondents agreed with such statements as "Most men would probably not want to date a feminist" and "Romance depends, in part, on men being allowed to be in charge."

This was alarming to Rudman, who is old enough to remember the heyday of the women's rights movement in the 1970s. Continued efforts to achieve gender equality could be seriously hurt, she reasoned, if women (and men) think it comes at the expense of love.

So, with the help of graduate student Julie Phelan, she set about trying to determine if there was any truth to the notion that feminists are more likely than traditional women to have crummy relationships.

"This was alarming to Rudman" -- who styles herself a scientist, remember -- so "she set about trying to determine if there was any truth to the notion" that distressed her. Any guesses as to what startling conclusion her dispassionate, objective, reproducible, and peer-reviewed research came up with? No fair peeking.

The moral? A huge amount of the stuff that's fed to us as the "findings" of science -- especially, but not exclusively, social science -- is simply personal desire in search of facts that flatter and support it, and nothing more substantial. Perhaps most of us are already skeptical about any scientific claims that come to us via the mass media, but it's rare that journalists are so candid in explaining how researchers deal themselves the aces face-up.

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  • Posted by: - Dec. 04, 2009 1:19 PM ET USA

    Then there's the issue of climate change. How about: In the warm midwinter Balmy winds a threat, Earth was soft with rainfall, Water very wet; Rain had fallen, rain on rain, Rain on mud, In the warm midwinter, A second Flood.

  • Posted by: sparch - Dec. 01, 2009 10:11 AM ET USA

    And to further cap, the accounts written in the new testament are not historical accounts anyway. The carols give us examples of what we, as men can aspire too. Not to unlike Christ himself

  • Posted by: Christopher_Johnson - Nov. 30, 2009 9:45 PM ET USA

    Must be something around in England. This bishop wants to abolish saying "Merry Christmas" http://themcj.com/?p=8174

  • Posted by: - Nov. 30, 2009 4:14 PM ET USA

    "faithless"?!? They were the ones who came to see Him - doesn't that make them the "faithful", by definition?!?