Vacuity of ID: Dembski Channeling Colbert?

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On Red State Rabble, Pat Hayes shows the vacuity of Dembski’s ‘arguments’. Dembski had blogged on his Uncommon Descent website a quote from Darwin’s Descent of Man. What follows is Pat Hayes fisking Dembski’s comments.

Dembski Wrote:
Darwin Wrote:

The reckless, degraded, and often vicious members of society, tend to increase at a quicker rate than the provident and generally virtuous members. Or as Mr. Greg puts the case: “The careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman multiplies like rabbits: the frugal, foreseeing, self-respecting, ambitious Scot, stern in his morality, spiritual in his faith, sagacious and disciplined in his intelligence, passes his best years in struggle and in celibacy, marries late, and leaves few behind him. Given a land originally peopled by a thousand Saxons and a thousand Celts—and in a dozen generations five-sixths of the population would be Celts, but five-sixths of the property, of the power, of the intellect, would belong to the one-sixth of Saxons that remained. In the eternal ‘struggle for existence,’ it would be the inferior and less favoured race that had prevailed—and prevailed by virtue not of its good qualities but of its faults.”

Sounds pretty damning, doesn’t it? But is it?

Pat Hayes Wrote:

Before we decide, let’s do what Dembski and his readers didn’t. Let’s read the passage in context. Here’s a link to the Project Gutenburg online text of Descent of Man.

As you can see, the first sentence cited by Dembski (The reckless, degraded…) is Darwin summarizing the views of Greg and Galton. The rest of the paragraph is Darwin quoting Greg.

Does Darwin do this because he agrees with Greg and Galton? No. He cites their arguments in order to refute them. They argue that if evolution were true, the Irish would “multiply like rabbits” and the good frugal Scots would, by their habit of marrying late, become extinct. In effect, Greg and Galton are making a powerful argument against evolution in man.

Darwin goes on in succeeding paragraphs to offer a number of arguments against this line of thinking – which after all, challenges the validity of his theory of evolution.

Nothing in the paragraph, not one word, reflects what Darwin believed.

So perhaps Dembski was trying to be funny but so far his best attempt at ‘humor’ has been ‘farting sounds’. So perhaps Dembski did not really read Descent of Man carefully enough and was just quote-mining it?

Pat Hays ends with some helpful reminders for Dembski

So, here’s our advice to Dembski. To be funny like Colbert, we have to know you’re not serious. In this case, your history of quote mining works against the notion that you expected us to get the joke. We’re left believing that you’re just cynical, and that’s a bad thing in a theologian.

Stick to the fart noises, it’s what you know.

Dembski once remarked that “Theology is where my ultimate passion is and I think that is where I can uniquely contribute”. I have to agree theology is probably the only remaining area where Dembski could attempt to have a unique contribution.

59 Comments

On UCD, we find the following comment. Any takers as to how long the comment will be allowed?

Jose

03/23/2007

12:19 pm

Those aren’t Darwin’s words. The extract in question is Darwin quoting someone else for the purposes of refuting him.

Perhaps this is an honest mistake personaly I don’t know how you could have made it. It seems to me that you’re deliberately misleading your readers.

… and Newton was an alchemist, therefore all his works should be burned.

If I ever get a moment, I want to go through the Uncommon Descent archives for the last couple of years and analyze and categorize Dembski’s blog entries. I’m not sure, but I’m fairly sure the results would look something like this:

Whinings about how ID is persecuted: 25% Vague references to ID across the Internet: 30% Anti-evolution screeds: 45% Blog entries on new ID research: 0% Blog entries on Dembski’s new ideas and hypotheses on ID: 0%

As a theologian, I’d just as soon, Dembski not contribute to theology either!!!

Timcol Wrote:

If I ever get a moment, I want to go through the Uncommon Descent archives for the last couple of years and analyze and categorize Dembski’s blog entries. I’m not sure, but I’m fairly sure the results would look something like this:

Whinings about how ID is persecuted: 25% Vague references to ID across the Internet: 30% Anti-evolution screeds: 45% Blog entries on new ID research: 0% Blog entries on Dembski’s new ideas and hypotheses on ID: 0%

IOW, 100% BS

Darwin’s view on race seem awful by today’s standards, but how did they compare to others of his time? Was he any more or less racist? Without any comments on how Darwin’s views fit in with the views others of his time any discussion is useless. Take Lincoln for example. His views of African Americans were incredibly racist by today’s standards, but when viewed in context with his time and compared to others, his views seem progressive.

And really, what the heck does this have to do with evolution? Hitler help create Volkswagen, does that mean very dirty hippy that drives a VW beetle supports genocide? Obviously, the answer is no. Can any one on the ID side of things explain to me how exactly the personal views of Darwin can effect the change in the frequency of genotypes in the population, the fossil record, homologies, or any of the numerous other lines of edivence that supports evolution?

I originally wrote this on Red State Rabble.

I was surprised by this seemingly blatant misrepresentation of Darwin’s work. But after repeatedly reading the original passage I’m going to have to politely disagree with this fisking of Dembski.

Darwin was not trying to outright contradict Greg and Galton, he was advocating a weaker version of their theory. At the next paragraph, Darwin begins his analysis: “There are, however, some checks to this downward tendency…”

But shortly, Darwin gives his conclusion of the matter:

“If the various checks specified in the two last paragraphs, and perhaps others as yet unknown, do not prevent the reckless, the vicious and otherwise inferior members of society from increasing at a quicker rate than the better class of men, the nation will retrograde, as has too often occurred in the history of the world…”

While Dembski was less than careful in contextualizing the quote, I think it is rather you who has misrepresented Darwin’s position by claiming that he was arguing against Greg and Galton, rather than arguing for a less absolute form of it.

I was surprised by this seemingly blatant misrepresentation of Darwin’s work. But after repeatedly reading the original passage I’m going to have to politely disagree with this fisking of Dembski. Darwin was not trying to outright contradict Greg and Galton, he was advocating a weaker version of their theory.

I don’t see how attributing the words of someone Darwin was quoting to Darwin himself can be understood as both honest and competent. How much do you get paid for defending Dembski?

I don’t see how attributing the words of someone Darwin was quoting to Darwin himself can be understood as both honest and competent. How much do you get paid for defending Dembski?

This is a simplistic view of how we write. We quote other people for a purpose: 1) to agree with them, 2) to refute them, or 3) to refine their ideas. Your claim here is #2, that Darwin was explicitly rejecting Greg and Galtin, which, if you read the next two paragraphs following the quote, seems to be true.

But move onto the third paragraph following–which I already quoted, but include here again for clarity:

If the various checks specified in the two last paragraphs, and perhaps others as yet unknown, do not prevent the reckless, the vicious and otherwise inferior members of society from increasing at a quicker rate than the better class of men, the nation will retrograde, as has too often occurred in the history of the world…

Here you find evidence for option #3. In Darwin’s own words, he agrees with Greg and Garmin but only up to a certain point.

Did you go read the original passage that Darwin wrote? I did, and I read many paragraphs before and after it to make sure that I understood the full context. If Dembski would like to pay me for doing that, I’d be delighted! I could use the money.

Though, I should add, maybe I wasn’t hard enough on Dembski. He did attribute the quote to Darwin, which he shouldn’t have. But the main point I’ve been trying to make is that Darwin was not rejecting the view, but rather accepting a less severe version of it.

So, as I see it:

Dembski is at fault for not explaining that Darwin was quoting other work and did not fully agree with it.

PvM and Hayes are at fault for claiming that Darwin rejected the quote in its entirety.

motthew’s quote from Darwin “If the various checks specified in the two last paragraphs, and perhaps others as yet unknown, do not prevent the reckless, the vicious and otherwise inferior members.. “ fails to grasp the rhetorical nature of Darwin’s question.

This is the problem with ripping quotes out of context. The point of “Descent of Man” is that human beings are a product of evolution. They share a common ancestry with all other plants and animals on earth. One of the key purposes of his book is to demonstrate that natural selection is capable of producing in people a moral sense.

If, on the other hand, evolution produces more people with a degraded sense of empathy for their peers, if natural selection chooses people whose moral sense has been eroded, this is a powerful argument – as Darwin clearly recognized – against evolution. That’s why he takes the trouble to refute it.

It could legitimately be argued that Darwin gives too much credit to evolution in these passages while paying insufficient attention to culture – the issues of class, education, status, etc. – but we shouldn’t expect Darwin to have understood and solved all the problems of the world.

His accomplishments, I think, are sufficient to insure his place in history.

The tearing down of Darwin is an all too common tactic of the radical right. How often do they tell us that opponents of the war are traitors. That those who defend civil liberties support terrorism. That those who want an accounting of the money spent on war betray our soldiers.

None of this has anything to do with history. It’s all a smear campaign designed to keep the credulous in thrall.

The only problem this time is that Dembski did it in such a clumsy manner and he got caught.

Pat Hayes wrote:

motthew’s quote from Darwin “If the various checks specified in the two last paragraphs, and perhaps others as yet unknown, do not prevent the reckless, the vicious and otherwise inferior members.. “ fails to grasp the rhetorical nature of Darwin’s question.

Rhetoric is truly remarkable thing. Anyone can use it. You left off the end of the quote I provided, and that omission made a big difference in how the sentence is to be read (I think this might be called quote mining? But I’m not sure). That sentence ends thus:

…do not prevent the reckless, the vicious and otherwise inferior members of society from increasing at a quicker rate than the better class of men, the nation will retrograde, as has too often occurred in the history of the world…

(emphasis mine)

What’s that? Darwin not only is arguing about theories, he exemplifies his point by making reference to things that he says actually happened. Darwin ceases his theorizing with the end of that sentence and clearly states that at times the brutes (brutes being my word chosen word, here) do overrun the more refined of society, and his tone recommends that those who are brutish are a less than ideal outcome of the give and take of evolution.

Where do I err? Darwin, I’m quite aware, believed that morals came from evolution, and that the overall progression of evolution is that of improvement. But that does not mean he disagreed that evolution could take “two steps back” as well as “one step forward”, and that the products of “two steps back” could coexist with the products of “one step forward.”

You cannot claim that because a man believed X that his words at times cannot be used to against him to defend not-X, which is often what the whole quote-mining issue comes down to. This would invalidate a lot of what happens in modern courtrooms.

Pat Hayes — They’re not the radical right, they are the radical wrong! :-)

I realized that it might sound like I’m arguing for something I’m not. I’ve already said I think Dembski should have been more careful with the passage he posted, but I still think the point he meant to make is legitimate.

Dembski’s point was not that Darwin accidentally negated his theory by saying that moral and social decay was the necessary result of evolution. Dembski’s point was instead that Darwin believed that in the give and take of evolution, less desirable people would at times become dominant. Darwin did not fully agree with Greg and Galton, but he did say that their thesis was valid in some instances. And in that discussion, Darwin betrayed implicitly that he deemed some groups of people to be more worthy of his good opinion than others.

Further, I don’t think Dembski was trying to smear Darwin, necessary, so much as to lament that evolution could easily lead to this type of thinking. Whether Darwin was good man or not, I don’t really care. In my opinion it doesn’t to a thing one way or the other to the validity of evolution.

I think I’ll leave this discussion there. Thanks for the fun!

Motthew wrote: “Further, I don’t think Dembski was trying to smear Darwin, necessary, so much as to lament that evolution could easily lead to this type of thinking. Whether Darwin was good man or not, I don’t really care. In my opinion it doesn’t to a thing one way or the other to the validity of evolution.”

At the end of the post we are discussing, Dembski wrote: “What a great mind, indeed. What a wonderful human being. What a marvelous vision of the human family.”

I think it is crystal clear that Dembski wishes to denigrate Darwin; if this wasn’t enough evidence, just look at any number of other blog entries, where Dembski routinely smears Darwin; indeed, the very blog entry before this was about Dembski lamenting the depiction of Darwin on the British 10-pound note (as if this is any of his business anyway). No, instead of making a strong case for the science of ID, Dembski instead expends his energy on this kind of nonsense. As I posted above, when was the last time Dembski wrote an original thought about ID? Anyone? I guess he’s too busy wringing his hands over matters with the Templeton foundation and whatnot to actually have any original ideas anymore.

Dr. Dembski, since we know you read this, care to comment? When can we expect the next piece of evidence for ID? Any more examples of IC you want to share? Or how about illuminating us about current ID research? (and sorry, vestigial running boards on automobiles does not constitute scientific evidence of ID).

At AtBC, ‘hooligans’ points us to Dembski’s incredible reply:

4

William Dembski

03/24/2007

5:07 pm

motthew: I was well aware of the context. But if I make the context clear, PvM and his fellows will find something else to attack. Better to give them what appears a minor slip-up, let them attack that, and then show how they’re acting in bad faith because they have ignored the gist.

Believe it or not, it really helps that the other side thinks we’re such morons.

http://www.uncommondescent.com/darw[…]mb/#comments

Is there a word in English that specifically means “the way you look like an idiot when you pretend your mistake was on purpose”?

Is there a word in English that specifically means “the way you look like an idiot when you pretend your mistake was on purpose”?

I think the verb is to Urkle. As in, “I meant to do that!”

Dembski Wrote:

motthew: I was well aware of the context. But if I make the context clear, PvM and his fellows will find something else to attack. Better to give them what appears a minor slip-up, let them attack that, and then show how they’re acting in bad faith because they have ignored the gist.

The power we hold over Dembski is amazing, we can actually control what he says and writes. But I wonder who really is ‘acting in bad faith’ here (no (theology) pun intended).

O’Leary does not do much better in her apologetics

Apparently, one of the Thumbsmen has claimed that Bill Dembski overstated/misstated (or whatever) Darwin’s contempt for the feckless* Irish, with their endless stream of brats (combined, of course, with his approval of the thrifty and allegedly cautiously procreative Scot).

The problem is the quote provided by Dembski and the context provided. Especially, how Dembski concludes based on this ‘quote’ that What a great mind, indeed. What a wonderful human being. What a marvelous vision of the human family. If Dembski wants to argue that Darwin acted in accordance with what was socially accepted, then fine. Seems to me that Dembski jumped the gun, failed to carefully read the context. Quote mining is what I believe that is called. Of course, Dembski can attempt to diminish the extent of his faux pas by arguing that he provided the quote knowing about the context. I am not sure what is better (or should I say worse?)

Strangely enough, it seems that Dembski’s comment has miraculously disappeared, hence we can conclude ‘design’.

I think it is crystal clear that Dembski wishes to denigrate Darwin

I must actually say I was wrong on this point (a rarity on an evolution or ID site, maybe I’ll start a trend where people aren’t afraid to admit they’re wrong about some things–maybe not). Dembski did follow up the quote with sarcastic remarks about the greatness of Darwin. I guess I lost sight of this as the conversation progressed and I got lost in the thread of thought we had created.

Both camps tend to pick on subgroups and individuals of the opposing side in order to smear the whole. I think it’s a wrongheaded tactic. Apparently you at Panda’s Thumb do, too; so I guess you’d never write up posts about things like Kent Hovind’s tax offenses, which have nothing to do with the merits or problems of ID, now would you?

In response to the tu-quoque defense by Motthew

Apparently you at Panda’s Thumb do, too; so I guess you’d never write up posts about things like Kent Hovind’s tax offenses, which have nothing to do with the merits or problems of ID, now would you?

I present you

The Panda’s Thumb is the virtual pub of the University of Ediacara. The patrons gather to discuss evolutionary theory, critique the claims of the antievolution movement, defend the integrity of both science and science education, and share good conversation.

I thought that Darwin was something of a racist, but not as bad as most of his contemporaries. Keep in mind, however, that he was an avowed abolitionist, and was repulsed at the cruelty that slaves in South America endured. Furthermore, The Baptist church in the USA split over the issue of slavery, with the Southern Baptist side, (Dr Dembski’s own denomination) going FOR SLAVERY. It wasn’t that long ago that the South was full of Southern Baptist racists. I even heard the n-word used in a sermon once. I’m not trying to trash the Southern Baptist church. (I know some wonderful Southern Baptists.) I just want to keep everything in context.

In response to the tu-quoque defense by Motthew

True! Tu-quoque through and through. Perhaps I was being too subtle. I thought my comment was dripping with obvious irony. By picking out a specific post written by Nick Matzke in order to vilify Panda’s Thumb, I was knowingly committing the same offense that I was holding against Dembski and certain people here. It was a totally tongue-in-cheek statement, meant to display the uselessness of such tactics.

I wasn’t intending to defend Dembski, in fact I’d just finished saying that I thought he was using a wrongheaded tactic.

Does that “good conversation” clause give you a free pass to say anything you want, though? You can talk about anybody any way you want, and when confronted about it, say, “It has nothing to do with the arguments for our position. We’re just having a good time!” Way too convenient, if you ask me.

Suppose UD adds the same “good conversation” clause to their statement of purpose. Then any time they talk about the questionable ethics/morals of an evolutionist, you would, by the logic of your defense, not be allowed to complain that they were using diversionary tactics in their arguments, because they could ostensibly be having a good conversation amongst themselves.

Does that “good conversation” clause give you a free pass to say anything you want, though? You can talk about anybody any way you want, and when confronted about it, say, “It has nothing to do with the arguments for our position. We’re just having a good time!” Way too convenient, if you ask me.

Suppose UD adds the same “good conversation” clause to their statement of purpose. Then any time they talk about the questionable ethics/morals of an evolutionist, you would, by the logic of your defense, not be allowed to complain that they were using diversionary tactics in their arguments, because they could ostensibly be having a good conversation amongst themselves.

You were asking what Hovind had to do with ID

Apparently you at Panda’s Thumb do, too; so I guess you’d never write up posts about things like Kent Hovind’s tax offenses, which have nothing to do with the merits or problems of ID, now would you?

I merely pointed out that PT is not obsessed with ID, although I have to admit, it’s the more fun reincarnation of creationism. Certainly with people like Davescot, O’Leary, Dembski and lets not forget our pal Sal.

You were asking what Hovind had to do with ID

In a moment of stupidity I used the term ID instead of anti-evolution. I thought that in your response you were emphasizing “good conversation” rather than “anti-evolution.”

And so my point was lost because I misspoke. What I meant was that Kent Hovind’s tax offenses have nothing to do with any anti-evolution arguments whatsoever, so devoting a post to it was nothing more than ad-hominem. If you’re going to hold this sort of thing against UD then you should also hold it against yourselves, and further I should hold it against myself if I do it.

As an aside:

This internet posting is exhausting. I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t have remained a silent observer! It’s unnerving leaving something you’ve said undefended or unclarified. I need to learn to comment and let it go so I don’t spend half my day in a argument that almost seems silly at the end.

This internet posting is exhausting. I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t have remained a silent observer! It’s unnerving leaving something you’ve said undefended or unclarified. I need to learn to comment and let it go so I don’t spend half my day in a argument that almost seems silly at the end.

You’re doing fine. We all make mistakes, some actually learn from it, most don’t. Good to see you have the sense of humor and self knowledge to survive. No pun intended.

Here’s evidence that racism was ‘normal’ in Darwin’s day. The Origin was published in 1859. According to dictionary.com, the word ‘racism’ did not appear in the English language until 1865-1870. To have a name, a concept needs to be compared to its opposite. Apparently, until that time, nobody had even conceived that an alternative viewpoint existed. Kind of like a fish might have no word for ‘water’.

Here’s my interpretation of the IDists’ “Darwin was racist, so evolution should be discarded” slant: It’s desperation.

1) It’s a tacit admission that they cannot actually refute the theory. So they have to discredit it.

2) They consistently state that “Darwinism is a religion” and that “Darwin is our God.” (an aside here: this position tells us a lot about the ID mentality. They do not seem to understand that there are other ways to derive a worldview that do not rely on Faith (capital F), deities and statements from authority. A seriously blinkered worldview. And a classic case of ‘projection’, but on a massive scale.)

Therefore, they have had to resort to cheap tricks (lies) to ATTEMPT to undermine our “faith” (note the lowercase f) by attacking this person who they believe we revere, hoping that in doing so, they will cause us to reject the man’s ideas. It’s a pathetic non-sequitur.

Perhaps they expect us to rise up in righteous anger and declare a (what? crusade? jihad? no, let’s say) “selective sweep” against non-believers. Our reasoned response seems to confuse them no end. I have to laugh.

I have a question about this: Why not attack the science of Statistics, declaring it invalid because its founders, R.A. Fisher and K. Pearson were explicit racists?

What confuses me is that all my life I’ve understood the Scots to be Celts also. Why are they referred to as Saxons in the quote?

Actually there is a good mix there of Celts, Anglosaxons and even Vikings.

I think this thread requires a few clarifying points with regard to Ireland and Scotland.

First of all, the terms “Irish” and “Scottish” are referants to political geography. The term “Celtic” actually refers, strictly, to a group of related Indo-European languages, which itself has at least two major subgroups. These languages, now mainly spoken only in regions of Northwestern Europe (to name a few for example, without intention of exhaustiveness, and with apologies to those not mentioned, Brittainy, Wales, Cornwall, Scotland, and Ireland). In most cases, a second language such as English or French is also near-universal.

However, various stereotyped cultural traits have long been said to be associated with people whose ancestors were mainly Celtic, and this is typically claimed to be a source of pride, rather than irritation, to modern people who self-identify as being largely descended from Celtic-speaking mediaeval ancestors.

In very recent times only, a second stereotype of parsimony and extreme industriousness has been applied to those who self-identify as Scottish, although emigrants are largely responsible for this stereotype, and the older “Celtic” stereotypes of the sort exploited in the movie “Braveheart” are still applied as well. The widespread adoption of Protestantism in Scotland may have provoked the new stereotype, although some of the famous North American industrialists of Scottish descent were from the Catholic far north. (To speak of Scotland as a place of “sobriety” would be so at odds with demographic data and easily observed behavior as to be ludicrous.)

The stereotypes applied to various types of “Celts” are hardly unique, are often contradictory, and are routinely applied to other “ethnic” groups.

Furthermore, “Scot” was in fact, essentially, an ancient term for Irish. Well into the middle ages, the use of nicknames like “Scotus” create ambiguity as to whether the named person was from Ireland or Scotland.

Celts (Scots) from Ireland migrated to Scotland, mainly, apparently, in “late antiquity”. The people known to history as “Picts” (a Latin name, not what they called themselves) were already there; whether their language was also Celtic is a source of controversy. The Pictish language was gradually replaced by the “Gaelic” language which arrived from Ireland, which itself has been gradually replaced by English. The people killed by the “real life MacBeth” in the tenth century were a Pictish royal family, and some believe that this event contributed to the gradual loss of prestige of the Pictish language (although the incident was often condemned even by contemporaries).

Anglo-Saxon, Viking, and Norman (“French Viking”) invaders contributed extensively to the ancestry and culture of Scotland and Ireland as well. There is a strong folk belief that survivors from the destroyed Spanish Armada of the late sixteenth century settled extensively in certain parts of Ireland, also.

Furthermore, Ireland has often had a stronger economy than Scotland (extremely so today, and also in the eighteenth century), and there has actually been extensive emigration FROM Scotland TO Ireland at various modern times. Ireland and Scotland are economically heterogenous, as well, with both containing traditionally “rich” and traditionally “poor” areas.

The region of the UK and Ireland had extremely well-developed neolithic cultures that long pre-dated the arrival of Celtic-language peoples. Among other things, these cultures built Stonehenge and similar monuments. All modern evidence suggests that these earlier people contributed heavily to the genetic ancestry of modern inhabitants of the UK/Ireland region.

Except for specific genetic data, all of this was extremely well-known in Darwin’s time, and Darwin would probably have been aware of the sillyness of implying that people from Scotland and people from Ireland are “genetically” different.

It’s impossible to read Darwin’s mind, nor is it all relevant whether he was “nice” or “nasty” from a scientific point of view.

We can note what the public record shows - he opposed slavery, opposed extreme racism, and was thus a relatively “liberal” Victorian. All available evidence seems to point to a “nice”, “loving”, “thoughtful”, “loyal”, “conscientious”, character for Darwin. It’s nice to known this, but life evolves no matter what Darwin was like, and would if he had never been born.

Newton was mainly “nasty”, Einstein was mainly “nice”, but the behavior of photons is not affected by their perceived characters.

Again context is important. For instance the footnote in which Darwin praises Galton states

*(2) For Mr. Wallace, see Anthropological Review, as before cited. Mr. Galton in Macmillan’s Magazine, Aug., 1865, p. 318; also his great work, Hereditary Genius, 1870.

Galton is called the father of eugenics because he was the first one to define the word, however care should be taken when comparing the victorian views of Galton with the Eugenic movement of the 20th century.

Galton defined his new word this way: “Eugenics is the study of agencies under social control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations, whether physically or mentally.”

For instance there is a difference between the positive eugenics of Galton and the negative eugenics of the 20th century

Francis Galton was the Honorary President of the Eugenics Society for several years, and he spoke hopefully about persuading people with desirable genes to marry and have large families. Galton’s successor at the helm of the Eugenics Society was Major Leonard Darwin (1850-1943), a son of Charles Darwin. Leonard Darwin, who ran the Eugenics Society until 1928, made the transition from positive to negative eugenics, and promoted plans for lowering the birthrate of the unfit.

Built into the idea of natural selection is a competition between the strong and the weak, between the fit and the unfit. The eugenicists believed that this mechanism was thwarted in the human race by charity, by people and churches who fed the poor and the weak so that they survived and thrived and reproduced.

To be effective, artificial selection had to consider two different questions. (1) How do you ensure that the strong and fit have more children? This is called positive eugenics. (2) How do you ensure that the weak and unfit have fewer children? This is called negative eugenics.

again the devil seems to be in the details.

In addition, one can download the book “Hereditary Genius” from the internet and as far as I can tell, the term eugenics does not appear in the book.

In the 1860s Galton set out to examine the extent to which genius is hereditary. This research led in 1869 to the publication of Hereditary Genius, the aim of which was “to show…that a man’s natural abilities are derived by inheritance, under exactly the same limitations as are the form and physical features of the whole organic world.”[4]

http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Galton/wozniak.htm

UncommonlyDenyse:

Apparently, one of the Thumbsmen has claimed that Bill Dembski overstated/misstated (or whatever) Darwin’s contempt for the feckless* Irish, with their endless stream of brats (combined, of course, with his approval of the thrifty and allegedly cautiously procreative Scot).

(Using Dembski’s character assassination trick) here, Denyse O’Leary mentions Darwin’s alleged dislike of the Irish - who she describes as “feckless” and “producing a stream of brats” - and she does her bit to perpetuate the myth of the tight-fisted Scot. She goes on to argue that Darwin must have been a racist because he was, in her words, a “British Toff”. She only been associated with ID for a short time and already she’s a complete racist.

(smiley)

It’s funny – I brought up this issue on ATBC. Many people use Darwinism to prop up the more dangerous forms of eugenics, because there really is a dysgenic tendency in compassionate civilisations that have a high standard of living. Like it or not, intelligent, emotionally stable people are the very ones who are reluctant to have kids because they recognise ahead of time the awesome responsibility that parenthood entails. They exercise prudence and concentrate their resources into fewer children, and many avoid raising children all together. The Chipper Jones types, on the other hand, just sling their genes out there and see what happens (and I like Chipper). That could be one reason for the difference in Jewish and Gentile intelligence (assuming that part of the differences are genetic, of course – this hasn’t been proven yet). Jewish culture values (valued?) intelligence, and the smarter set within them had more children relative to the overall population.

I don’t see how attributing the words of someone Darwin was quoting to Darwin himself

Do people really have this much trouble parsing when they don’t like the implications? Dembski presented Darwin’s words verbatim; the material Darwin wrote himself are not quoted; the material Darwin quoted is quoted.

Darwin wrote (emphasis added): “ the fact that the very poor and reckless, who are often degraded by vice, almost invariably marry early, whilst the careful and frugal, who are generally otherwise virtuous, marry late in life, so that they may be able to support themselves and their children in comfort. Those who marry early produce within a given period not only a greater number of generations, but, as shewn by Dr. Duncan … they produce many more children. The children, moreover, that are borne by mothers during the prime of life are heavier and larger, and therefore probably more vigorous, than those born at other periods. Thus the reckless, degraded, and often vicious members of society, tend to increase at a quicker rate than the provident and generally virtuous members. Or as Mr. Greg puts the case: …”

Those are all his own words. He then goes on to write “There are, however, some checks to this downward tendency.” He wouldn’t write that if he didn’t accept such a “downward tendency” generally. It really isn’t that hard to understand what Darwin writes here if one is honest and doesn’t treat Darwin like a god. The problem here isn’t that Dembski misattributes something to Darwin – he doesn’t. The problem is that he treats Darwin’s views here as if they mattered.

Oh, and I should have kept reading, because Darwin’s subsequent words make the case even better:

If the various checks specified in the two last paragraphs, and perhaps others as yet unknown, do not prevent the reckless, the vicious and otherwise inferior members of society from increasing at a quicker rate than the better class of men, the nation will retrograde, as has too often occurred in the history of the world. We must remember that progress is no invariable rule.

That is Darwin, in his own words, stating his own beliefs. So kindly leave the immense intellectual dishonesty to the other side.

It’s impossible to read Darwin’s mind, nor is it all relevant whether he was “nice” or “nasty” from a scientific point of view. We can note what the public record shows - he opposed slavery, opposed extreme racism, and was thus a relatively “liberal” Victorian. All available evidence seems to point to a “nice”, “loving”, “thoughtful”, “loyal”, “conscientious”, character for Darwin. It’s nice to known this, but life evolves no matter what Darwin was like, and would if he had never been born.

Newton was mainly “nasty”, Einstein was mainly “nice”, but the behavior of photons is not affected by their perceived characters.

Yes, exactly.

Pat Hayes Wrote:

Is this what Darwin really believed? Is it true that Darwin’s theory of evolution, as the comments to Dembski’s post attest, is the basis for racism, eugenics, and the Nazi’s?

It’s hard to get things more wrong. Yes, this is what Darwin believed, as Hmott/motthew points out, and as is clearly evident by reading what he wrote. But what he wrote here, both the quote from Mr. Greg that he offers sympathetically and his own words, are not “the theory of evolution”, the theory of evolution in no way depends on Greg’s characterizations of Irishmen and Scots, and none of this, whether Darwin believed it or not, has the slightest thing to do with whether the theory of evolution is the basis for racism, eugenics, and the Nazi’s. And even if it did, that would have no bearing on whether theory of evolution is correct. You manage to commit every consequentialist fallacy in the book, and buy right into Dembski’s reasoning. Darwin did share, to some degree, the cultural biases of his age, and it’s foolish to deny it when it is right there in black and white, but that he did does not lend any support to “intelligent design” or to the fight against “scientific materialism” or to any of the other drivel that Dembski et. al. spout.

It’s also useful, in understanding Darwin’s position, to go all the way to the top of the section. Emphasis added:

NATURAL SELECTION AS AFFECTING CIVILISED NATIONS.

I have hitherto only considered the advancement of man from a semi-human condition to that of the modern savage. But some remarks on the action of natural selection on civilised nations may be worth adding. This subject has been ably discussed by Mr. W.R. Greg (9. ‘Fraser’s Magazine,’ Sept. 1868, p. 353. This article seems to have struck many persons, and has given rise to two remarkable essays and a rejoinder in the ‘Spectator,’ Oct. 3rd and 17th, 1868. It has also been discussed in the ‘Quarterly Journal of Science,’ 1869, p. 152, and by Mr. Lawson Tait in the ‘Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medical Science,’ Feb. 1869, and by Mr. E. Ray Lankester in his ‘Comparative Longevity,’ 1870, p. 128. Similar views appeared previously in the ‘Australasian,’ July 13, 1867. I have borrowed ideas from several of these writers.), and previously by Mr. Wallace and Mr. Galton. (10. For Mr. Wallace, see ‘Anthropological Review,’ as before cited. Mr. Galton in ‘Macmillan’s Magazine,’ Aug. 1865, p. 318; also his great work, ‘Hereditary Genius,’ 1870.) Most of my remarks are taken from these three authors. With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil. We must therefore bear the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely that the weaker and inferior members of society do not marry so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage, though this is more to be hoped for than expected.

The claim that Darwin cited the arguments of Greg and Galton “in order to refute them” is plainly wrong.

Timcol said: If I ever get a moment, I want to go through the Uncommon Descent archives for the last couple of years and analyze and categorize Dembski’s blog entries. I’m not sure, but I’m fairly sure the results would look something like this:

Whinings about how ID is persecuted: 25% Vague references to ID across the Internet: 30% Anti-evolution screeds: 45% Blog entries on new ID research: 0% Blog entries on Dembski’s new ideas and hypotheses on ID: 0%

Well, I got bored and curious and did a quick look at the last 25 articles, and here’s how I’d categorize them:

Post hoc analysis (favorable to ID of course) of other people’s work that isn’t about ID: 16%

Pity party about how picked on they are: 8%

Slander (mostly Darwin): 28%

Political issues associated with ID: 32%

Conspiracy theorizing: 12%

Comedy (and I’m elevating it with that label): 4%

New ID research or new ideas and hypotheses on ID: 0%

Of course this sample size is very limited, and I too would like to see a year’s worth. What really stood out to me was how everything is second hand. They don’t do their own experiments, they talk about what others are doing. They also have this amazing presumption that their understanding of work is superior to that of the people that did it. They really do have the mindset of a fundamentalist Christian, or your typical conspiracy theorist: they do no work, make no predictions, but happily rationalize every fact that crosses their path as something they would have predicted had they bothered. It’s the ultimate in pseudoknowledge, which of course gives them a false sense of superiority to those who have bothered.

Oh my goodness, look what slipped in at the end of the thread.

Ghost of Paley Wrote…

“It’s funny — I brought up this issue on ATBC. Many people use Darwinism to prop up the more dangerous forms of eugenics, because there really is a dysgenic tendency in compassionate civilisations that have a high standard of living. Like it or not, intelligent, emotionally stable people are the very ones who are reluctant to have kids because they recognise ahead of time the awesome responsibility that parenthood entails. They exercise prudence and concentrate their resources into fewer children, and many avoid raising children all together. The Chipper Jones types, on the other hand, just sling their genes out there and see what happens (and I like Chipper).”

There are two assertions offered without evidence here. First of all, the assumption that “intelligent, emotionally stable, prudent” people on average have fewer children. No doubt GOP (funny how those initials worked out) is generalizing from the evidence that in rich countries, people with more money have fewer children, on average (with many exceptions). He’s assuming that if they have more money and education, they must have more “intelligence”, be more “emotionally stable”, and be more “prudent”. He’s also assuming that these ill-defined and nebulous traits are predominantly “genetic”. (Of course, well-defined full-blown mental illnesses tend to have a genetic component, but that’s hardly reason to suggest that well-off people are more “emotionally stable” than less well-off people.)

I prefer evidence to ‘sounds right’ arguments. Let’s look at the evidence. There are plenty of places on earth where childhood mortality is high, life is tough, people with genetic disorders just die, and everybody has lots of kids to make sure that some surive. Have you got any evidence that richer nations are producing children who are measurably less intelligent or emotionally stable than children in countries where ‘compassion’ is an option? Didn’t think so. How about evidence that our own society produced more intelligent, more emotionally stable children, on average, before we became richer and “more compassionate”? Didn’t think so.

Of course, it doesn’t matter anyway. The theory of evolution describes part of nature, like the rest of science. It doesn’t tell us how we “should” live. It can help explain why human brains experience compassion, but it cannot inform moral arguments as to whether or not we should behave compassionately.

“That could be one reason for the difference in Jewish and Gentile intelligence (assuming that part of the differences are genetic, of course — this hasn’t been proven yet).”

Get your stereotypes right! It’s Ashkenazi Jewish people who tend, as a group, to have high scores on the “verbal” portion of some standard IQ tests, and some other standardized tests, and who have a higher educational level overall than the average in the US. Perhaps you didn’t read your Charles Murray book carefully enough. There are plenty of Jewish people in the world of other cultural origins.

I don’t see much reason to declare this highly specific cluster of cultural traits as “intelligence”, a poorly defined term at best.

It’s certainly conceivable that these specific traits, despite the fact that they are obviously things which can be strongly influenced by environment, could be impacted by genetic factors as well, and even conceivable, although perhaps less likely, that this could partly explain why Ashkenazi Jewish people seperate, on average only, from other Europeans, on these specific traits. (At a very gross level, they are obviously impacted by such genetic factors as whether or not a person has trisomy 21, and the like.) It would be a poor use of resources to bother to pursue this question, in my mind.

“Jewish culture values (valued?) intelligence, and the smarter set within them had more children relative to the overall population.”

This, on the other hand, is pure ‘sounds right to me’ nonsense. You haven’t got a shred of evidence to support this. Do you seriously imply, with a straight face, that Ashkenazi Jewish culture discourages “less intelligent” people from having as many children as they wish, or urges people perceived as “intelligent” to “reproduce” more than others? There’s no evidence in the historical record of any such tendency. It is perhaps ironic, given the history of Jewish people in Europe, that this implication was made.

I’d like to clarify my earlier post for Harold, since he seems to have misinterpreted it. I often have trouble expressing my point clearly, so that’s a very easy thing to do. My apologies.

1) I am not comparing the average intelligence of the populations among rich and poor nations. What I am doing is explaining the demographic trends when a poor nation becomes rich. For example, the standard of living has risen pretty dramatically in all Western nations since the industrial revolution, so obviously these changes are cultural and not genetic.

2) There is a clear correlation between intelligence, mental stability, and SES within countries. It’s not perfect, but it’s strong enough to make broad generalisations. Notice these trends are true for all ethnic groups, so once again the point is to compare chronological trends within, and not between, groups.

3) What then about the (Askenazi) Jews? What I was trying to say is that there are humane methods of reducing dysgenic trends. One way is to promote intelligence as a cultural value and encourage intelligent people to reproduce. To my knowledge, the (Ashkenazi) Jews have done this as successfully as any group. Since the IQ differences between (Ashkenazi) Jews and the average white Gentile is half a standard deviation, there is evidence that their cultural emphases have paid off if these IQ differences are partly genetic.

4)

Harold Wrote:

I don’t see much reason to declare this highly specific cluster of cultural traits as “intelligence”, a poorly defined term at best.

This flies in the face of a mountain of psychometric research. IQ correlates very well with many quality-of-life indices. The only question is what role (if any) genes play in between-group differences. The differences themselves are not controversial.

Ghost of Murray -

Sorry if I seem hostile, but you are building up to the argument that people should be severely discriminated against based on your opinion or their intelligence. And I am hostile to that. I realize that you may simply be well-meaning but misguided, but in the interest of third parties, I must treat your suggestions as they deserve to be treated.

Fortunately, I have some good news for you, at the end of this post.

“This flies in the face of a mountain of psychometric research. IQ correlates very well with many quality-of-life indices. The only question is what role (if any) genes play in between-group differences. The differences themselves are not controversial.”

This was in response to my suggestion that a limited range of test score related data should be stated specifically as what it is, and not given the vague label ‘intelligence’. You define ‘intelligence’ as what is measured by one of several ‘IQ tests’, I don’t. Like most people who are ‘intelligent’ enough to think about the issue in a sophisticated way, I believe that an ‘IQ test’ measures an ‘IQ score’.

IQ testing is not without merit. In some clinical circumstances, it can be valuable. It certainly reflects a set of cognitive skills that are meaningfully associated with other, more useful tasks. Of course, high scores imply that the skills are intact, whereas low scores have many possible explanations, such as malingering, distraction, cultural bias, etc, and are of less value except when clinically consistent. But despite the value of IQ tests in the right circumstances, it is silly to assume that “intelligence” is captured by single test.

“There is a clear correlation between intelligence, mental stability, and SES within countries. It’s not perfect, but it’s strong enough to make broad generalisations. Notice these trends are true for all ethnic groups, so once again the oint is to compare chronological trends within, and not between, groupp”

There is a correlation between IQ scores and income, up to a certain threshold. One simpleton way to explain this is to suggest that having a “high IQ” makes people earn more money. Certainly, some cultural or even genetic traits may meaningfully associate both with having a higher IQ score and making more money, but there is surely a great deal more to the picture than this.

The above fact - IQ correlation with income (as well as with scores on other tests that are highly similar in construction to IQ tests) - is in itself completely bland and innocuous. But we both know that it is associated with arguments for discrimination.

For the record, even if you could convince me that some “ethnic groups” are “less intelligent” (as, incidentally, you plainly assert by describing Ashkenazi Jews as “more intelligent”, since there can be no “more” without “less”), I would still oppose ethnic discrimination against individuals or communities with every fiber in my being.

By a coincidence, I also scornfully deny that there is any serious evidence to suggest that some socially defined ethnic groups are “genetically more intelligent than others”, observed IQ score distributions notwithstanding.

“What then about the (Askenazi) Jews? What I was trying to say is that there are humane methods of reducing dysgenic trends. One way is to promote intelligence as a cultural value and encourage intelligent people to reproduce. To my knowledge, the (Ashkenazi) Jews have done this as successfully as any group. Since the IQ differences between (Ashkenazi) Jews and the average white Gentile is half a standard deviation, there is evidence that their cultural emphases have paid off if these IQ differences are partly genetic.”

First of all, you’re suggesting that peoples’ human rights be abrogated, so that those whom you consider, for whatever reason (IQ score apparently) to be “more intelligent” be encouraged to breed! (And by extension, that the less fortunate whom you perceive as “less intelligent” not be so encouraged!).

To add insult to injury, you have the flaming nerve to accuse people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent of practicing this vile policy! I’m not very knowledgeable of the Talmud, but I can assure you that there is virtually certain NOT to be any suggestion therein that people be restricted from having exactly the number of children they choose.

I have some good news for you. You have nothing to worry about. There is not a shred of real, measurable evidence that such policies as improving public health and reducing childhood mortality, alleviating extreme suffering with social programs, and universal education are in any way “dysgenic”, which is, incidentally, not a term used by real scientists.

Moderators, it may be appropriate to ban this individual. Although I believe that you should err strongly in the direction of free idea exchange, even at the occasional expensive of civility, what we have here is someone who not only advocates social policy under which “the more intelligent” are encouraged to “reproduce more”, but claims that “the Jews” are an example of this policy in action! These types of ideas have plenty of venues elsewhere on the internet.

Motthew wrote:

“I must actually say I was wrong on this point (a rarity on an evolution or ID site, maybe I’ll start a trend where people aren’t afraid to admit they’re wrong about some things—maybe not).”

One of the most striking differences between the supporters of science and the ID/Creationist folks is that the supporters of science very often admit it when they are wrong. The ID/Creationist folks hardly ever admit error. This is one of the basic differences between the intellectual honesty and integrity of the two groups. It is also one of the major reasons I gave up on creationism — I considered hypocrisy to be against my religion and honesty to be a part of it.

Harold –

Once again, you misinterpret me.

I am not saying that the less intelligent people should be discouraged from having children, only that the more intelligent people should be encouraged to have more children than they currently do. I don’t see how one leads to the other – it’s like saying that unattractive people are discouraged from parenthood because our culture celebrates physical beauty.

So how many children are enough? Well, reproducing at the replacement rate would be a good goal. You do realise the social good that flows from highly intelligent people, don’t you? Scientific advances alone make the smart set worth having around, and this is something that benefits everyone regardless of intellect.

This is why I held up the Jews as an example worth following. Clearly, Jewish culture doesn’t punish the less gifted. It does, however, revere the intellect and this is something worth emulating.

I have some good news for you. You have nothing to worry about. There is not a shred of real, measurable evidence that such policies as improving public health and reducing childhood mortality, alleviating extreme suffering with social programs, and universal education are in any way “dysgenic”, which is, incidentally, not a term used by real scientists.

Societies should try to make life better for everyone; no one disputes this. But every rose has its thorns, and this flower is no exception. An increase in wealth leads to a decline in fertility rates, and this effect is pronounced among the well-educated (who tend to be brighter than average). Since intelligence is highly heritable within groups, fewer intelligent children = a net decline in average IQ for the next generation. Clearly, this is not good for anyone.

Recognising the problem is the first step towards addressing it. And if moral people duck this issue, that creates a niche for the immoral to spread their poison.

In my opinion Dembski wasn’t trying to be funny and actually read Descent of Man qutie well thank you. I’m sure he knew the quote was out of context, but didn’t care. As long as it can be used to turn the ignorant and lazy against Darwin the man, the ends justify the means. This high moral character so many of Darwin’s detractors evince has done nearly as much as the scientific evidence to persuade me of the correctness of evolution.

Ghost of Paley -

You seem to be an unusually civil Murray-ite, so I’m going to register my strong disagreement with some points one more time and leave it at that.

1) I understand that you’re suggesting that the “more intelligent” be “encouraged” to have more children, rather than a flat-out restriction on whomever you judge “less intelligent”. As a practical matter, this must necessarily involve judging who is “more intelligent” and selectively providing them with some sort of “encouragement” to have children, which is not provided to others. This is not compatible with a society that respects equal human rights. Furthermore I doubt your ability to correctly identify who is and who isn’t “intelligent”.

2) Two things correlate with fertility rate - childhood mortality and affluence. First, where childhood mortality is high, people have many children, often but not always resulting in a paradoxical “overshoot” and a high population growth rate in areas of high childhood mortality.

Second, even in affluent societies where childhood mortality is low, less affluent people have slightly higher fertility (however, this trend is weak compared to the former).

Some racists believe that people who live in poor areas with high childhood mortality, or poorer people in affluent societies, are “genetically inferior”, and thus obsess that the “proportion” of “inferior” people in the world’s population is rising.

I’ve already noted one obvious argument against this - there isn’t a shred of evidence that humans as a group are trending to be “less intelligent” (in fact your own precious IQ scores have been rising over time all over the world - yes the mean is always set to 100 but the absolute scores are rising - not that I think that means much). Another painfully obvious argument is that this is a gross oversimplification. There are so many historical, geographical, and social factors involved in determining who is less affluent, that it is outright dull to blame it on “genetics”.

It is usually a deeply insulting thing to refer to someone as “genetically less intelligent”, there is almost never any good reason to do so (with the possible exception of counselling the caretakers of a person with trisomy 21 or the like), and to do so with inadequate evidence, and indeed, without even a clear idea of what you mean by “intelligence” beyond IQ test scores, is immoral by my personal code of ethics. If you do this, and your message implies that you may (albeit while seeming to be a nicer person than others who do so), I would urge you to stop.

Ironically, we know very well how to make people have fewer children - reduce childhood mortality, and make people more affluent. It is a paradox that Murray-ite racists are typically against strong social programs, strong public schools, foreign aid that concentrates on public health and education, and truly equal opportunities. In reality, if their goal is to lower the fertility rate of those who are now poor, these are the very things that they should be supporting. (Naturally, I support these things too, but for totally different reasons.)

3) Lastly, I wish you would refrain from stereotyping Ashkenazi Jewish culture in what seems to me to be an inaccurate way. Ashkenazi Jewish people are diverse, and strongly influenced by the culture that surrounds them - Jewish people in France are French, Jewish people in the US are American. I’m sure they tend, on average, to “value intelligence”, but that could be said of almost any people on earth. Your conjecture was more that just this, you implied that Ashkenazi Jewish people have some cultural mechanism of, in essence, encouraging “more intelligent” people to have more children than “less intelligent” people. I continue to heartily deny that any such policy is characteristic of Ashkenazi Jewish culture.

First, I want to thank the threadstarter for permitting a civil discussion about a potentially nasty issue, and Harold for his excellent comments.

Second, despite my respect for the authors of The Bell Curve, I disagree with several of the book’s claims, and I have spotted several examples of biased or incomplete scholarship in the text. So I am not an uncritical advocate of Herrnstein and Murray’s ideas. Nevertheless, they do a good job in summarising much of the psychometric literature and this aspect often gets overlooked by the book’s critics.

Let me comment on Harold’s last post:

1) I understand that you’re suggesting that the “more intelligent” be “encouraged” to have more children, rather than a flat-out restriction on whomever you judge “less intelligent”. As a practical matter, this must necessarily involve judging who is “more intelligent” and selectively providing them with some sort of “encouragement” to have children, which is not provided to others. This is not compatible with a society that respects equal human rights. Furthermore I doubt your ability to correctly identify who is and who isn’t “intelligent”.

If what Harold is suggesting is true, then we should see highly intellectual groups discriminate against their less gifted members. I offered the Ashkenazi Jews as a counterexample. Harold notes that this group is fragmented across different nationalities, and this diversity makes it hard to generalise about Jewish culture (see point 3). He also claims there is no mechanism within Jewish culture that encourages a higher fertility rate among the intelligent. He then brings up the Flynn effect, which is the observation that absolute IQ scores are steadily increasing across different societies (although the rates vary in each country), necessitating a renorming in IQ tests. This observation, according to Harold, renders my hypothesis problematic. He finally observes that “intelligence” is notoriously hard to define, which makes it difficult to target very smart people. So how can my idea, even if true, be put into practice?

I will respond to these claims tonight (I promise). Please let me know if I have distorted your position, Harold. Thank you.

Ghost of Paley is not only a troll.

He’s a self-confessed troll, now trolling in a “new” nice persona.

I suppose that’s no reason not to engage with him.

But history suggests the effort will be ultimately futile. Not because he’s not wrong, but because he’ll proceed to be tediously, tendentiously, intractably wrong, for as long as you’re willing to deal with him.

Bleh.

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OK, I promised, so here’s a brief outline of what I find wrong with Harold’s position:

1) Ashkenazi Jewish culture might not be monolithic, but most of these subcultures share several values:

a) a devotion to a highly intellectual rabbinical tradition (the gemara). This enriches and prepares the mind for secular scholarship;

b) a long-standing emphasis on certain professions caused by historical and widespread restrictions of land ownership due to Christian anti-Semitism;

c) a distinct historical and religious identity.

These are not the only things, but time is limited and I’m tired!

2) The Flynn effect is both baffling and well-documented, but it hasn’t eliminated gaps within or even between groups. Most notoriously, substantial IQ gaps still exist among different ethnicities, some of which have hardly narrowed over the last century. Genes may or may not be a contributing factor, but the Flynn effect is not enough to explain these discrepancies.

3) “Intelligence” might be hard to define in a global sense, but certain analytical skills can be scientifically classified, and these classifications can lead to fruitful predictions. Some statistical analyses suggest an underlying “g” that seems to correlate with brain shape and social success.

I’ll try to pick it up tomorrow.

One way is to promote intelligence as a cultural value and encourage intelligent people to reproduce. To my knowledge, the (Ashkenazi) Jews have done this as successfully as any group.

That knowledge is apparently nil; there is no evidence that Ashkenazi Jews have ever differentially encouraged intelligent people to reproduce. How would this even work? Is there some formula passed around among Ashkenazi Jews that relates the number of children they should have to their IQ scores? I’m pretty sure that my highly intelligent parents, in having only two children, were not violating some “cultural emphasis”.

Since the IQ differences between (Ashkenazi) Jews and the average white Gentile is half a standard deviation, there is evidence that their cultural emphases have paid off if these IQ differences are partly genetic.

Your knowledge of what evidence is also is apparently nil, since you confuse it with a circular argument (a tautology): if the IQ differences were genetic, that would be “evidence” that cultural emphases that would pay off iff differences in intelligence were genetic did pay off. No, it wouldn’t be evidence, it would be a logical deduction. Logical deductions are independent of facts about the world – such facts as that there is no such “cultural emphasis” and that the IQ differences between Ashkenazi Jews and the average while Gentile are almost certainly primarily cultural – which is not surprising, because there is a cultural emphasis among Ashkenazi Jews on education, especially the sorts of “3 R’s” education that is strongly correlated with higher IQ scores.

OK, I promised, so here’s a brief outline of what I find wrong with Harold’s position:

That’s not an outline of anything, it’s a list of things that, AFAICS, don’t contradict anything Harold has written. Why don’t you come back when you actually manage to string two thoughts together in enough of a logical form to even resemble a rebuttal.

“Intelligence” might be hard to define in a global sense, but certain analytical skills can be scientifically classified, and these classifications can lead to fruitful predictions.

So, from your atrocious analytical skills we can predict what, exactly?

Here is some evidence that might be of interest to GoP (if he were interested in evidence that doesn’t support his prejudices). This chart is particularly fun:

 
                 High IQ/grades,    Low IQ/grades,
Country          Dominant class     Discriminated class
---------------------------------------------------------- 
Australia          Whites             Aborigines
Belgium            French             Flemish
Czechoslovakia     Slovaks            Gypsies
Great Britain      English            Irish, Scottish
India              Nontribals         Tribal people
                   High caste         Low caste
Israel             Jews               Arabs
                   Western Jews       Eastern Jews
                   Brahmin            Harijan
Japan              Non-Burakumin      Burakumin
                   Japanese origin    Korean origin
New Zealand        Whites             Maoris
Northern Ireland   Protestants        Catholics
South Africa       English            Afrikaaners (Dutch)
United States      Whites             Blacks
                   Whites             Latinos
                   Whites             American Indians

Good discussion. I went and read the passages in question. No doubt there is some Colbertishness in Dembski’s use of the script. I don’t see anything shocking about that seeing as Dembski’s group is founded on that notion.

What intrigues me is how intelligent men of science (which many of these IDer’s are) can be so confused about the difference between faith and science. I’m trying to give these (IMHO semilunatic) IDer’s the benefit of a doubt here, but it’s nearly impossible when their entire raison d’être is tearing down bedrock principle and replacing it with spit.

I’ve popped in and out of this website/subject for years now. I’ve yet to see ID offer anything scientific that would merit the investment of my intellect any more than a website promoting perpetual motion or free energy.

Enjoy.

Ah yes, Popper’s Ghost brings up John Ogbu’s research. His theory that minority IQs are depressed by “caste” system discrimination is an interesting one, and it is one of the counter hypotheses that is not addressed in The Bell Curve. Ogbu’s work was foremost in my mind when I complained about Herrnstein and Murray’s scholarship, and I agree that his research provides counterevidence against the hereditarian hypothesis. My opinion is that neither side has proven its case yet, and the best strategy is agnosticism.

I don’t have time to add to last night’s post, but let me start with an interesting observation: Jews account for 18% of Nobel Prize Laureates, despite the fact that they’re less than 1% of the world’s total and 2% of America’s population (American Jews are disproportionately represented among Jewish recipients). If this is not caused by Jewish culture, then what are the alternative explanations? Genes? A sinister conspiracy? A form of Swedish Affirmative Action? And yet I plucked this number almost at random. By almost any measure, Jewish intellectual achievements dwarf other groups. For example, compare Jewish literacy rates to the literacy rates of almost any host country throughout history. The centrality of the gemara to Judaism (and Judaism to the collective Jewish identity) suggests a possible cultural link, although both the existence and direction of causation remain uncertain.

In addition, the existence of the Flynn effect does not falsify any possible dysgenic effect because it has happened too rapidly to indicate a genetic change. I suspect that better nutrition and compulsory education have allowed people to reach their genetic potential. That doesn’t mean that the potential has increased.

I will discuss possible mechanisms behind Jewish eugenics later.

popper's ghost Wrote:

That knowledge is apparently nil; there is no evidence that Ashkenazi Jews have ever differentially encouraged intelligent people to reproduce. How would this even work? Is there some formula passed around among Ashkenazi Jews that relates the number of children they should have to their IQ scores? I’m pretty sure that my highly intelligent parents, in having only two children, were not violating some “cultural emphasis”.

I’m talking about a more subtle interplay between culture and circumstance than what you’re suggesting. Here’s a paper that traces a possible selective landscape for high intelligence among the Ashkenaziim:

From the abstract:

This paper elaborates the hypothesis that the unique demography and sociology of Ashkenazim in medieval Europe selected for intelligence. Ashkenazi literacy, economic specialization, and closure to inward gene flow led to a social environment in which there was high fitness payoff to intelligence, specifically verbal and mathematical intelligence but not spatial ability. As with any regime of strong directional selection on a quantitative trait, genetic variants that were otherwise fitness reducing rose in frequency. In particular we propose that the well-known clusters of Ashkenazi genetic diseases, the sphingolipid cluster and the DNA repair cluster in particular, increase intelligence in heterozygotes. Other Ashkenazi disorders are known to increase intelligence. Although these disorders have been attributed to a bottleneck in Ashkenazi history and consequent genetic drift, there is no evidence of any bottleneck. Gene frequencies at a large number of autosomal loci show that if there was a bottleneck then subsequent gene flow from Europeans must have been very large, obliterating the effects of any bottleneck. The clustering of the disorders in only a few pathways and the presence at elevated frequency of more than one deleterious allele at many of them could not have been produced by drift. Instead these are signatures of strong and recent natural selection.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on March 24, 2007 1:03 PM.

New ID textbook on the way: ‘Explore Evolution’ was the previous entry in this blog.

Vacuity of ID: Luskin, Miller, Dembski… Huh? is the next entry in this blog.

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