Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bigotry As A Controlling Disability by Anthony McCarthy

It’s often wondered at, how otherwise intelligent people can be just plain dense. I remember having a discussion about the Noble Prize stud farm, a sperm bank that in which the Noble Prize physicist William Shockley left a deposit in the late 1970s or early 80s. At the time it was reported that several great thinkers, so rewarded, were reported to have participated in this most risible of eugenics projects, though they chose anonymity. Anyone who thinks eugenics died with the Nazis should be chastened to find that any number of Nobels had that much faith in the pseudo-science that late in the game, encouraged by others with scientific and quasi-scientific credentials.*

During that, at times less than serious, discussion, the very serious fact that Schockley was infamous as a scientific racist was unavoidable. The man was a total nut case, believing that the inferiority of people with African ancestry was a fact of hard science. He was and is, hardly alone. I seem to remember hearing one of my science heroes on TV point out to his that Schockley and the rest of the geezers in the Nobel stable would likely produce inferior genetic material due to the accumulation of mutations at their advanced ages. Like the rest of his project, apparently that was a variable the Nobel Physicist and the other men of science neglected to consider.

The truth is, bigotry is not based in sound information or reason, it’s based in gossip, phony evidence promulgated for ulterior motives, in the heat of envy and resentment. When a person allows bigotry to take over a large part of their thinking, it makes the results just plain stupid. No matter what they might accomplish in their professional life where they are required by professional standards to delete their bigotry, when they take one step outside their narrow specialty, their intelligence and behavior, takes a dive to the bottom. I think that the thing to notice here, is that they are smarter when they are forced by professional standards to cut it than when they are free to vent it. .

So, I’m not impressed with the PhD’d bigots that abound these days. I don’t look at their degrees or what faculty they sit on or their publications. You have to look at what they say and what they use to back it up. When they spout dumb crap, that’s what they’re spouting. When their ignorant fans repeat it, the quality of it doesn’t improve. As with old line racism, it can have a damaging effect on the entire country and take an enormous amount of effort to overturn. Anyone who is a student of the literature of sexism and Jim Crow will know there were many degreed, highly positioned experts cited in the screeds that comprise it. Many texts supporting the subjugation of women and the oppression of minorities are authored by those with impeccable credentials and letters after their names. A lot of what I’m seeing even now, even with the entire, bloody history of the 19th and 20th centuries to have learned from, looks mighty like that crap.

* They never attracted the rarest of the lot, the doubly Nobeled Linus Pauling, who was quoted as having declined participating because he preferred doing it the “old fashioned way”. A graduate student in chemistry in the discussion said he’d heard that too.

UPDATE: “Don’t Just Sit There Takin’ Abuse, You Got to Put It To Use “ Carla Bley

The language police are on the case, here’s the rap sheet:

Offending words in bold

I. Bigotry As A Controlling Disability

Apparently pointing out that bigotry is an intellectual disability is forbidden. Or it would be if this wasn’t included in the standard definition of the word* . “2:b a nonlegal disqualification, restriction, or disadvantage. Clearly what was intended in its use. As in “ When arguing with Richard Lewontin about the Nobel Stud Farm, Shockley’s reasoning was disabled by his racism.”

II. It’s often wondered at, how otherwise intelligent people can be just plain dense.

2.a Marked by a stupid imperviousness to ideas or impressions: THICKHEADED. b. EXTREME < ~ ignorance >

I hope this is self explanatory, but that’s probably a faint hope. As in, "I hope you appreciate how hard it is for me to take this seriously."

III. When a person allows bigotry to take over a large part of their thinking, it makes the results just plain stupid.

Do I really need to go to the dictionary to defend my use of the word “stupid” here? Or is there anyone here who thinks that it’s too mean a word to use for the thinking that results from bigotry?

* Definitions from Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary: 8Th edition.