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Sunday, September 19, 2004
The selective gene

Laban Tall makes a good point about the selectiveness of liberals when it comes to many aspects of genetics and evolution:

I'm bored rigid by the types (people who read Peter's comment threads will know who I mean) who witter on about IQ differences between races - interesting but so what? Makes little difference at the individual level.

But I despise the people (alas, mostly on the cultural left and the usual suspects) who switch between total denial of genetic influence ('there is no such thing as race') and total subservience ('people are gay because of their genes') - depending on whether or not it fits with the line they're pushing.

It reminds me of a post made recently on the excellent Butterflies and Wheels about the egalitarian aversion to any meaningful concept of measurable intelligence, which leads to ever more ridiculous claims about what constitutes intelligence.

Multiple intelligences. Why has the idea always made me want to laugh? ... It's so easy to think of more of those alternative intelligences. Watching tv intelligence, eating intelligence, using the potty intelligence.

The purpose of this sort of muddying the water is precisely to enable policy-makers to ignore the fact that some are more talented and able in certain ways than others. Measurable intelligence makes that difficult, so by claiming that all sorts of other factors count as intelligence, the idea becomes too subjective to be meaningful.

Certainly I've never heard or read anyone claim that the results of IQ tests are all that matter. Obviously diligence, commitment and lateral thinking can make a huge difference. But the mere fact that it is important to be able to work even when bored, to keep in good physical shape, to know to kiss better your child's grazed knee ... does not mean that these are forms of intelligence. This unwillingness to allow for any important concept to go by without including in it all the other things one values is a sign of deep political immaturity, like the left-wing insistence on including in the definition of 'liberty' all sorts of material rights and claims on others. It shows an inability to recognise that the real world consists of trade-offs of competing priorities rather than painless solutions derived from one all-embracing value. I'm not sorry that genetics refuses to co-operate with such reasoning.

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