Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Monday, March 06, 2006

Right Creationists vs. Left Creationists

John Derbyshire is crticizing Right Creationists and Left Creationists:

[NB: For those not familiar with the jargon:

A Left Creationist is a person who believes that with the emergence of modern man 50 or 100,000 years ago, Nature's creation--flash image of a 19th-century English gent with a long white beard--attained perfection, and that human beings have not undergone the slightest evolutionary change since, MOST CERTAINLY NOT by different geographical populations changing in different ways.

A Right Creationist** is a person who believes that with the emergence of modern man 50 or 100,000 years ago, God's creation--flash image of an Old Testament deity with a long white beard--attained perfection, and that we have undergone no biological change since, only improvements in our moral understanding and better hopes of a happy afterlife.

Both the LC and RC positions are threatened by (a) a growing pile of evidence that human evolution has been chugging merrily along this past 50,000 years, and (b) that we shall soon be able to lend a hand, changing innate human nature in ways both desirable and not. These are the things that need our attention, and that we ought to be talking about. LCs and RCs, however, prefer to busy themselves with organizing cavalry charges against the oncoming Panzers.

** At any rate, of the Old Earth variety--there is also a Young Earth species of Right Creationists, who believe the Genesis account of creation to be literally true, and so have no truck with time spans of 50,000 years, or with the "emergence" of anything at all.]

There are three problems with the above. First, there have been several attempts at applying biological lessons to human behavior and those attempts have been failures. Mathusian predictions have been a persistent failure and eugenics programs have mainly kept out people who we can now recognize would have been assets. Second, there is no more reason to go from “evolution happens” to “we must make evolution happen” than there is a reason to go from “things fall down” to “we must make things fall down.” Third, if “we shall soon be able to lend a hand, changing innate human nature in ways both desirable and not” becomes a matter of public policy, it will be subject to same dangers as any other instance of picking winners. In particular, a policy of picking winners gives researchers an incentive to fudge data in a way that makes their associates look like winners.

I have earlier blogged about this problem. I have recently come across another example. Rich Lynn (author of IQ and the Wealth of Nations) has a couple of tables showing the average IQ of Israelis as an implausible 94 or an even more implausible 90. (The latter figure has been quoted by the Usual Suspects.)

If want genetic research to go forward safely, maybe we should try agreeing now that it must never be made the basis of public policy.

I suspect that Left Creationists will be unwilling to cooperate with Right Creationists anyway … until Intelligent Design gets renamed Culturally-Biased Meaningless Design.


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