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Racism and censorship

September 20th, 2005

Via Jack Strocchi, this story about the censorship by Deakin University of an article on the White Australia policy by racist academic Andrew Fraser, accepted for publication in its law review.

There’s a lot of background on this from Catallaxy, Mark Bahnisch and Rob Corr.

My view based on limited information: the refereeing process was highly dubious and, from what I’ve seen of Fraser, any journal with decent academic standards would reject his trash. However, that didn’t happen and the university authorities should not have engaged in ad hoc censorship.

Fraser appears to be right in claiming that an academic publication in good faith is protected under the Racial Hatred Act, so the university would have to find a reason the publication was not in good faith, for example, that normal academic standards were waived in the interests of attracting controversial publicity. This seems plausible, given the recent record of Deakin Law School, but the University hasn’t made such a claim.

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  1. September 26th, 2005 at 21:54 | #1

    jquiggin Says: September 22nd, 2005 at 4:51 pm

    The issues raised by the Deakin Law Review article are:

    (1) Should this piece have been accepted for publication in a law review based on normal academic standards
    (2) Should Deakin university have acted to investigate the operations of its Law Review
    (3) Should Deakin University have prohibited publication on the stated legal grounds

    My answers are No, Probably Yes and No.

    My answers to these questions would be the same. Although I would expect, on free speech grounds, the university to encourgage publication of the article, with any empirical substance accentuated and gratuitous ideological frills toned down.

    However I have a question for the good professor. He seems to be setting the bar on academic standards fairly high, which is all to the good.

    But since the end of WWII what has his brother academics and uni admins done to apply these rigourous standards to the kind of stuff coming out of trendy humanities faculties? I mean the torrent of ideological rubbish which early on used marxist theory to support Second World communism and more recently used cultural theory to support Third World nationalism? These theories are bunk and the practices they justified were evil.

    If one took the moral and intellectual standards that Pr Q applies to Deakin Law Review in the Fraser case and applied them to all Australian uni admins over the past half-century then one would have wound up shutting down more than half the Arts faculties in the country!

    So why the new found rush of academic purity? Is it because the malfeasor is an supporter of the, rather moth-eaten and politically inoperable, White Australia policy – a policy that few find morally acceptable, but that has no genocidal crimes to its name?

    I think the answer is obvious: political correctness.

  2. September 26th, 2005 at 23:17 | #2

    Neil Says: September 23rd, 2005 at 4:04 pm

    Depends on what you mean by “the Darwinian synthesis on human behavior�. The Darwinian synthesis is usually used to refer to the view that dominated evolutionary theory from around 1930-60 – the view propounded by people like Julian Huxley: natural seletion with a Mendelian mechanism.

    There were two phases in the modern Darwinian synthesis: the first phase where genes were used to explain micro-biological associations and the second phase where genes were used to explain macro-biological associations.

    In both cases, the micro-biological theory of genetics was married to natural historical (evolutionary) modes of explanation: phenotypic embodiments are constructed, and then selected, by the ecotypic environment with the consequent genotypic endowments being conserved.

    Wikipedia elaborates the second phase:

    The modern evolutionary synthesis continued to be developed and refined after the initial establishment in the 1930s and 1940s. The most notable paradigm shift was the so-called Williams revolution, after George C. Williams presented a gene-centric view of evolution in the 1960s. The synthesis as it exists now has extended the scope of the Darwinian idea of natural selection, specifically to include subsequent scientific discoveries and concepts unknown to Darwin such as DNA and genetics that allow rigorous, in many cases mathematical, analyses of phenomena such as kin selection, altruism, and speciation.

    Of course, natural selection can condition general psychology. It evolved the first brain, which was a pschological innovation alright. And sexual selection can condition particular physiologies. It evolved the “eye-catching” sub-special (familial, tribal, racial) characteristics, which are nothing if not physical.

    Fisher, Dobzhansky and Mayr’s used Mendel’s genetics to illustrate how natural selection adapts bodies to their environment. This explains how biological evolution has shaped diverse physiologies within an ecology.

    These micro-biologists explained how genes regulated the formation and association of the smaller biological units, such as cellular (cells) and modular (organs) associations.

    Hamilton, Williams & Dawkins used Mendel’s genetics to illustrate how sexual selection adapts minds to their environments. This explains how biological evolution has also shaped diverse psychologies within a society.

    These macro-biologists sought to explain how genes regulated the association of people into larger systems. They showed how various biological modules fitted in with each other to form nodes in sociological networks. This is the natural explanation of family values.

    The second phase of the Darwinian synthesis is of obvious relevance to the analysis of human bio-diversity within society. Especially under conditions of nationalization and globalization when members of formerly isolated tribes are called to somehow integrate into a nation state.

  3. September 27th, 2005 at 10:13 | #3


    The debate is not about whether natural selection has shaped our psychologies. It is about the number and specificity of the adaptations, and their resilience to environmental changes. Pinker misrepresents the first question: he takes it to be a debate between people who say that there is a single domain-general mental mechanism which underlies all human cognition at all levels, and those who claim that there are mental modules. Anyone who thinks that there the mind is entirely domain-general hasn’t read any neuropsychology (or psychology in the heuristics and biases tradition). It’s easy to show that there are many modules. But the swiss-army knife view of the mind doesn’t follow from the demonstration that the mind is somewhat modular: it doesn’t follow that all important aspects of human behavior can be explained in terms of adaptations. The second question concerns the shape of the norm of reaction yielded by what modules there: Pinker, et al. are committed to the claim that the norm of reaction is additive across accessible environments; I argue that a priori there is no reason to believe this, and that the empirical evidence supports the view that many modules have non-additive norms of reaction in actual human environments.

    Defending this claim requires a bit of game theory, and close attention to the arguments of these people. I don’t have space to provide the evidence here. The main point I want to make is that this is not a debate that pits Darwinians against social constructionists. It’s debate internal to Darwinian (I would prefer to say naturalistic) thought: the evidence is empirical, and all sides had better advance claims compatible with natural selection.

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