Yet another weird SF fan


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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Monday, February 02, 2015

It's Not Your Fault…

Scott Alexander points out that biological determinism is regarded as “compassionate” in all fields but one:

The obvious pattern is that attributing outcomes to things like genes, biology, and accidents of birth is kind and sympathetic. Attributing them to who works harder and who’s “really trying” can stigmatize people who end up with bad outcomes and is generally viewed as Not A Nice Thing To Do.

And the weird thing, the thing I’ve never understood, is that intellectual achievement is the one domain that breaks this pattern.

It's quite simple. The compassionate outlook prefers to see faults outside the victim. Your effort is regarded as entirely inside you. Your genes are partly the real you and partly something the real you has to put up with. Social pressures are entirely outside you. When the debate is “genes vs. effort,” the self-congratulatory ones, I mean the compassionate ones will blame genes. When the debate is “genes vs. an oppressive Establishment,” the compassionate ones will blame the Establishment.

As far as I can tell, most of the people who blame the Establishment for low intellectual achievement are currently allied with allied with people who blame lack of effort (since both sides are opposed to genetic explanations) but if genetic explanations are ever discredited they will go after each other. (They're already starting to go after each other on topics such as affirmative action.)

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