My post on Keith Windschuttle’s statements defending the White Australia policy drew an interesting response. No-one, as far I can see, was prepared to defend Windschuttle outright, but there was a sudden and startling outbreak of caution. Maybe Windschuttle had been misquoted. Maybe the interview gave a misleading picture of his book and we should all wait to read it. Maybe the term “White Australia policy” was never used officially. Maybe the dictation test was administered so as to admit educated Indians. Maybe my links were inaccurate.
All of this is very uncharacteristic of the blogosphere. The nature of blogging lends itself to summary judgements based on limited evidence, not waiting for years until all the evidence is in. You read the papers, make a judgement and (at least among the better class of bloggers) if you turn out to be wrong, you admit it with good grace. Why has the response in this case been so different ?
I think it’s because of the R-word racism. There is only one real instance of political correctness in Australia today and that is that you are never, ever allowed to call anyone a racist. It’s OK to say that Adolf Hitler was a racist, and that apartheid was racist, but the idea that any actual Australian could be a racist is utterly taboo. Even I can’t resist the Zeitgeist on this one. In my post, I called Windschuttle “a consistent apologist for racism, happy to use racist arguments in support of his cause”.
It’s obvious why this taboo has emerged. Racism is an evil, bloodstained ideology and no one wants to admit association with it. Hence, almost no-one is silly enough to come out with a clear-cut statement like “white people are inherently superior to black people, and should be able to use them as they see fit”.
In this respect, racism is very similar to Communism. But while few people were willing to endorse Soviet Communism openly, particularly after the purges and the exposures of Kruschchev’s secret speech, there were plenty who were always willing to make excuses for the communists along the lines of “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs” and so on. With his characteristic turn of phrase, Lenin called people of this type “fellow travellers” to their faces and “useful idiots” behind their backs.
Since his (still unexplained) swing from far left to far right about a decade ago, Windschuttle has consistently sought to excuse racist actions by whites (or, more precisely, British whites) by the usual range of strategies including denial of the facts, quibbling about irrelevant details, denunciation of witnesses and attacks on the victims as subhumans responsible for their own demise. But, in politically correct Australia, that’s not enough reason to call him a racist. So, I’ll just call him a fellow-traveller.
fn1. There’s an obvious model for this kind of thing in the recent historical literature, but I’ll leave the identification as an exercise for readers.
In case people have forgotten Windschuttle’s track record on matters of this kind let’s look at a couple of examples of blatant inconsistency, invariably operating to put whites who might be accused of racism in a good light, and blacks in a bad one. In his book on Tasmania, Windschuttle denies that Aborigines resisting white occupation could be viewed as displaying humanity or compassion on the basis of claims (for which he had almost zero evidence) that they had no words for these concepts. On the other hand, in claiming that the Aborigines were responsible for their own extinction, he accuses them of prostituting their women, a concept that is meaningless in a society without money or formal concepts of trade (leaving aside the well-documented and widespread incidence of rape).
In the interview promoting his new book on White Australia, Windschuttle supports the view, often stated by apologists for the policy, that it was the product of economic incentives. By contrast, in this New Criterion piece on the history of the British Empire, Windschuttle defends the view that the British abolition of slavery was due to moral revulsion rather than economic motives. In other words, when the British (taken here to include white Australians) do the right thing, this is evidence of the moral superiority of British/Christian civilisation. When they do the wrong thing, it’s a “rational and, in a number of ways, progressive, product” of economic circumstances.
If you want to confirm all this, I have a long essay here or you can search the site for chapter and verse.
197 thoughts on “The R-word”
“- even the back and forth has been robust but civilised.”
Don’t you mean the online-enabled interlocutory paradigm has been retro-contentious
but remained within acceptable social constructionist parameters for discourse?
More b&f coming up I’m afraid. And this may test ppls patience. Hey, but with the 150 up we can afford a few free-flowing scoring shots, what. I could post on my own blog I suppose but one does need a grandstand to posture & preen in front of so here goes nothing. (Stage directions a guide only.)
Stage left, enter Jack Strocchi, furrowed brow, pipe dangling, shirt-tails hanging, encyclopaedia lying flung open on floor.
Sotto voce rising to mid-fury and all to tune of Ol’ Man River.
The multi-culti separatists,
under the guise
policy of neo-tribalism
and ethno-political racketeering
that, unchecked, will lead to Balkanisation of this nation.
When are the progressives going to stop worrying away
at the retro-nativist motes
that occasionally float into
the proto-tribalist beam
forever juts out
Jack sinks into armchair and stares into mid-distance. Lights up – chorus line on stage – PC crowd pleaser as follows:
The gist of the above is that upper middle-class (ie Doctor’s Wife-like)
objections to the white-washing of the White Australia Policy is a
hubristic latte chatter.
The real problem is the damage multiculturalism and PC have done to the
indigenous population and threaten to do wider society by encouraging
ethnic division. This doesn’t stand up. When asked to evidence the ethnic
turmoil caused by multi-C, Jack will raise the Theo Theophanous case as tho
his crime had something to do with multiculturalism. His name is certainly
‘multi-cultural’, his crime involved immigrants – but the actual story is
one of fraud, decpetion and abuse of privilege and power. A story that
could happen in any country and at any time.
Jack will also mention something that Al Grassby did once – but it’s so
long ago I can’t begin to summon the energy to investigate it or to believe it
will have the feared effect of the Balkanisation of Australia.
So we are left to imagine what things Jack really hates about proponents of
multi-culturalism. And of most other progressive liberal causes.
curtain and quick drink, reseated, new set but 20 years before, Hugh Jackman playing Jack.
Jack is arguing with an ideal type. We can all recognise her. She has long
hair, is slim waisted and has just appeared out of the brilliant sunshine into
the front bar at the Esplanade Hotel.
Slung over a brown shoulder an array of jute and silk still carries Air
India baggage tags as she has just alighted from a taxi direct from
Tullamarine. But it’s the tika on her forehead which immediately both grates and stirs
Her ethereal beauty which seems to have substantiated itself from the
swirling blue haze of the room is undeniable however, and we wish that we’d remembered
that she was coming back today as we would have chosen to drink elsewhere. Who needs
She is usually 26. She has never really worked, preferring self-exploration
and becoming “involved” in things. Her treachery and infidelity are proven by her solo
sojourn in the East. Her lithe corporeality is as unattainably remote as Everest.
These are her views, nearly all picked up since she turned 21.
N.B. All her views are caricatured as she is 26 and has not worked –
she is still in fact an adolescent. Nevertheless it is advised that these are her actual views.
(They will all dissolve over the next 14 years buried by her worries about the appropriate horses
doovers for tennis afternoons.)
Aesthetic – Men in suits are fascist, Latin men are romantic
Political – the personal, the local, the embracing
Cultural – Anglo is a living hell of repression and conformity and rape by institution and male power.
– Eastern is exotic, musical, thrilling, meaningful, communal, erotic, feminine.
So flowing from her lips and based on these views is a lot of ignorant and
contradictory waffle that can both amuse and enrage, depending upon from which angle the sunshine is
falling upon her hair.
Indians are so spiritual, she says, waving her henna stained hands.
Spotlight on Jack, still in armchair in stage corner.
I am heartily sick of listening to progressives engage in onanistic
bouts of self-congratulation about the holier-than-thouness of their anti-racism. I seem to recall a
certain Bronze Age prophet who warned against ostentatious displays of moral self-regard
Lights up main bar set:
Asian religion is so unconcerned with materialism, she frowns and relights her bidi.
Is why we are forced to export bucket loads of cash to said benighted
swamps to pay the aid-workers to jab their amoeba-ridden children, we want to fume.
It is in that conversation with that girl in 1988 that Jack’s political
view of an idealised progressive left is preserved in aspic. James Farrell was in fact nearly
right when he said that Jack was arguing with himself. As was Nabakov who observed that Jack wants to
win an argument on his own terms. Jack wants to win the argument he once (hell, too many times) had
with that soft, deluded girl/woman. Tragically he will never be able to. Now he takes revenge years
later – only now his argument which was once sweet reaons itself (but Moonchild, the caste
system is an instrument of oppression the likes of which we here have never known) has transmogrified
into a bitterly cold ice hard super-rational crusade that seeks to destroy any position that
contains the slightest echo of Moonchild’s idealistic cravings, hopeful ravings and deluded murumurings of
so long ago.
Yer even closer to the mark than you know, wbb.
I’d suggest bundling up the above with a one page synopsis and sending it off the Pratt Foundation’s New Australian Musical Funding project.
You could call it “My Brillant Careener”.
wbb at December 9, 2004 10:51 PM
wbb does not know me, or progessive women, very well if he thinks that my inability to win an ideological argument with that genre was the trigger of my current polemical discontent. Even I am a little more complicated than that.
Perhaps wbb is the one dealing with ideological and sociological caricatures? More likely he is just projecting.
In any case, I recall Melbourne girls de la temp had moved on from unreconstructed fist-shaking New Leftism to the more stylish mode of studied disdain for conventional ideology, punctuated by bouts of hormone-fuelled anarchism. At least they cared.
Generally I found it was easier change girlfriends than win arguments.
PS And when will wbb come out from behind the curtain, to reveal his persona? The games no fun when the heckler is forever a phantom at the comic opera.
Should have been Nessum Dorma rather than Ol’ Man River. Too much TV last night.
It would be honestly of no interest to anyone here if I came out. My name would mean nothing. Am strictly north of the yarra, and only ever had the slightest brush with higher learning.
I look forward to the definitive history of the late 80s leftie chick from Melbourne – this thread has taken an interesting turn…
Actually, I look forward more to Keith Windschuttle’s new book on how the personality traits of the typical late 80s Melbourne leftie chick have been maliciously distorted for polemical purposes by politically correct postmodernists.
it’s always about a woman at the end of the day, isn’t it?:-)
methinks Jack’s machismo protesteth too much
I wish more women would comment on blogs. It always ends in a macho pissing contest, and taking the piss is the one thing women do best.
Really, Jack? I thought it was stuff like pregnancy, breast-feeding etc., but maybe that’s just the bio-determinist intellectual baggage I’m carrying.
On the evolution of the 80s leftie chick, I believe it was Tom Wolfe who once said that young women have an unerring ability to gravitate to the points of greatest dynamism in any society. In the 1960s it was the peace movement, in the 1970s it was disco, the 1980s Wall Street and shoulder pads, in the 1990s the Green movement and now, judging from the recent Pandagate fiasco, it seems frighteningly likely that it may be the Young Libs. Shudder.
Very difficult to believe, Fyodor, that dynamism and the Young Liberals are compatible…
Who’d a thunk it? Where have all the young babes gone?
It’s certainly not the ALP juniors they’re joining. Lots of chubby aggressive young men with more ego than intellect. Oh…wait…that’s the Young Libs, too. I’m so confused by the yoof of today!
When I was in student politics in the late 80s, the coolest women were in the CPA… not exactly a hotbet of dynamism either! I remember one particular night in Melbourne….
For various reasons, I get to poke my nose into cutting edge R&D, and the new generation of scientists and researchers working in areas like nano and biotech, fluid dymanics, materials science, photonics, ICT, etc is very well represented by young and soigne women. These boffins are babes, and know it.(Or maybe I’m just getting older and uglier)
As one of ’em said to me at a big international conference in Melbourne recently, being a scientist these days is cool. The work is fascinating, there’s lotsa travel and the possibility of big money and media attention is floating all around.
Wow, so Elizabeth Shue as the Cambridge nuclear physicist “Dr Emma Russell” (who discovers the secret of cold fusion) in that appalling travesty of a film ‘The Saint’ wasn’t just a pipedream?
Or Rachel Weisz’ character in “Chain Reaction”.
Actually, Elizabeth Shue also played a scientist in Hollow Man [one degree of Kevin Bacon]. She must be Hollywood’s scientist-hottie of choice.
Yup, Mark and Fydor. Big science pulls the babes now.
You wanna pull them, starting hanging around conferences sounding like a venture capitalist.
“You wanna see my listed fund?”
Wasn’t “The Saint” appalling? And wasn’t Elizabeth Shue the dumbest scientific genius ever? And where the hell is this thread going?
Yer right John, we should get back to the topic at hand.
So which race/culture do you think produces the sexiest scientists?
No idea, John. But, Nabakov, that reminds me of a guy I knew at uni with a PhD in maths who went to a few state development department workshops and has taken to calling himself “CEO of a biotech startup”. Saw him in a city coffee shop with a young woman (scientist?) – must be the new way to meet women in the smart state…
Someone should study why long threads end in free association –
I do have some rational contributions yet to make. It’s just that I’ve been a bit too sandbagged and under the weather over the last few days.
I have also been advised that in Aussie-speak “under the weather” means drunk, which is not what it meant where I grew up at all.
Anyhow, I hope to have a bit more energy in a day or so.
“When I was in student politics in the late 80s, the coolest women were in the CPA.”
Certified Practicing Accountants?
Posted by: John Quiggin at December 10, 2004 03:22 PM
It seems to be evolving towards an indepth discussion of my personal follies and fables, a source of never-ending fascination for some of the anonymous posters to this blog.
[Nabokov, you dropped one clue to many back then and you are who I suspected you were. Dont worry, your secret is safe.]
If Pr Q were to, forgive the impertinence, get off his blog-ass and post my definitive, and monumental, reply to Fyodor’s probing questions then we would be back OT.
Jason – Communist Party of Australia…
Awaiting the Strocchi magnum opus on “why multi-culti is a New-Left war crime by which they attack Vital Centrism using ethnic minorities as cannon fodder” with dread.
I am a sci-tech groupie, at least in the pyschological sense, and part-time tech journo. So I have a personal and professional interest in the coolness of sci-tech.
Had lunch with one of the founders of AI, Pr John McCarthy, today. He is confident that human level robot intelligence will eventually evolve, although not sure whether it will be a top-down (logical) or bottom-up (neural net) thing. He says that the smartest people go into molecular biology ie decoding life.
Whilst not exactly a “babe” (he is a seventy seven year old, wheezing Bush voting geezer) he was fascintating to talk to about the profession and personalities of hi-level sch-tech. He had many stories about the glory days of sci-tech investment in the US, from 1945-65, when half of the congressman and all the executive were veterans and “very grateful for the A-bomb”.
He met or worked with, many of the “monster brains” (Feynyman’s term) in the fifties, von Neumann, Minsky, Nash, Simon. I always thought that the treatment of the Dr Strangelove characters was rather unfair. After all, the West prevailed in the Cold War and Communism was contained without nuclear war. At the cost of a mere $20 trillion.
Apparently von Neumann, although the inventor the electonic computer, was capable of making mistakes. Pr McC corrected him on “floating points”. Taking down von Neumann would do wonder for your ego.
Ahh, those were the days when sci-techhies were really respected.
No chance of it being top-down. That would require human intelligence playing god. We ain’t capable of it. Bottom-up, while to me still not a probability, is possible as at least it only requires us to unleash a force of nature. (Bit like we did with nuke fission.)
(If a big nuke epsiode ever wipes out half the race then the Dr Strangelove characterisation will be seen as kind and the Cold War, which was largely willed into existence by the West will be remembered as a piddling scene setter.)
wbb at December 10, 2004 11:56 PM shows that he can flub strategic theory as well as biological taxonomy by trotting out discredited New Left cliches:
THe larger, 100 megaton +, style of “big nukes” have been decommissioned by those rotten Cold Warriors – Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan – that wbb appears so eager to blame. Asteroids and other massive Near Earth Objects are the only ballistic agents with that kind of destructive power to destroy “half the race”. Or does wbb blame these dumb bombs on the existence of the US’s rotten Cold War M-I complex?
It is impertinent for a person with wbb’s underwhelming intellectual powers to despise those caricatured by Dr Strangelove eg Fenyman, Wohrsletter, Teller, von Neumann, von Braun, Kahn, Kissinger. The crew from Los Alamos/RAND/DARPA crew may or may not have been masters of the “M-I comlex”. What they were was smart (where does wbb think the phrase “rocket scientist” come from?) and on the right side of History.
Look at the score board. The Fail-Safe system they designed worked. The Bomb, the internet and the Apollo program all flowed from their efforts and enhanced the Wests strategic power.
New Left Revisionist Rubbish. The Cold War was not “willed into the existence” by FDR or Truman. It was caused by the existence of a hostile and aggressive regime (Stalin, remember him?), with a genocidal political record and totalitarian political powers:
refusing to comply with Potsdam agreement to allow elections in East Europe
racing to achieve regional strategic domination with Armegedonnish weapons
The Cold War was willed out “of existence” by superior social institution and sucessful political individuals in the West prevailing over inferior social insitututions and failed political individuals in the East:
Internally: Dictatorial communism was rejected by E European cultural and financial elites.
Externally: The Pentagon contained and competed the Kremlin to “peaceful capitulation”.
The Strangeloves did their job. The US technologically progressed whilst the USSR politically imploded and the West prevailed in the Cold War. There were no martial nuclear exchanges and Jackboots stopped grinding human faces for a while.
This meant that our generation could enjoy the benefits of military-competition (gadgets) without having to endure the costs (war). Whats not to like?
“Nabakov, you dropped one clue to many back then and you are who I suspected you were.”
Now you get it? I’ve been leaving a trail for you like Hansel and Gretel crumbling croissants on speed.
“THe larger, 100 megaton +, style of “big nukes” have been decommissioned…”
What makes you think their Mongos, Godzillas and Stalin’s Candles are no more. They still have the know-how and plans and the technology’s so much better these day.
“…Nixon and Reagan”
It’s a fucking weird world where those two actually look quite sane (actually I think the real hero of the cold war was Nancy’s astrologer) and forward thinking compared to the current Oval One.
“This meant that our generation could enjoy the benefits of military-competition (gadgets) without having to endure the costs (war).”
Millions and millions of people round the world over several generations, endured these costs for decades, and are only now getting their iPods and velcro-laced runners. I’m sure they’re now enjoying them.
But I suspect they’re also wondering if these trinkets could have come at a lower cost than napalming Great Aunty Dhem in Hue, dropping a JDAM on cousin Rojo’s barbie in Panama City or lobbing a 155mm shell into brother Omar’s card game in Fulljah.
And as the Russians flog off their archives to BBC researchers, German journos, American historians and Japanese ad agencies, it is becoming increasingly clear the Sov armed forces – from the tank armies equipped to fight the last war, to the ballistic subs that submerged more often than they surfaced, to the Bison and Bear bombers which painted a radar signature the size and average land speed of Orson Welles, to the Hinds knocked over by Pathans with Stingers, to their land-based rocket crews trading the launcher’s tires to get even more pissed – could barely handle Hungary and Chezko (and got an atomic wedgie in Afhanistan), let alone an overwhelmingly wealthy and very heavily armed NATO just looking to rumble with its relentless update of new toys (google “Century series USAF fighters” for just how fast the US was turning out cutting edge weaponry while Kruschev and co were saluting the same 20 bombers flying around in a circle as an endless parade over Red Square.
However some people did very well out of the whole arms race/MAD/total war scenarios. Since wwb didn’t actually mention the people you claimed he caricatured, I will.
What kind of career do you think Teller, Kahn (that’d be DJ RAND Hermie K I presume, author of one of the most ludicrious documents in human history, Kissinger, Brzezinski, Clark- and now Wolfovitz, Condie, Rummy, Cheney, etc – would have without perpetual war.
Also, can you point to one geopolitical prediction or estimate this shower has ever made which has ever turned out as expected.
(I excluded Feynman and von Neumann ‘cos they would have done great in any environment – from a nightclub to a Nobel bash. They didn’t need no stinkin’ cold war to light them up.)
However I miss Dr Strangelove. At least he had a width and depth of vision that this current crop of Weirdquickies wouldn’t recognise if it bit them on the aide.
“Nabakov” at December 11, 2004 07:44 AM launches a free-wheeling attack against everything:
The Strangelovian glory days of Doomsday Waepons, cobalt bombs and megahydrogen bombs are gone. It is just not practical to destroy the world using these weapons, the engineering requirements of scaling up the bombs are too great.
The whole trend amongst WMD service providers is towards nukes that are smaller, more accurate and customised for political clients to tailor strategy to technology. Small is beautiful, from I-Pod to B61-11 Bunker Busters.
I am more worried by micro-nukes than macro-nukes. A nuclear 911 would lead to civilisation anhilations not regime change. A plausible scenario is that jihadists will use a micro-nukes against Manhattan and Moscow, thereby tempting the USA and CIS to actively decommission their remaining Cold War arsenals over SW Asia. The oil spoils would then be available for divvying up between the Great Gamers.
The indifference registered by US constituencies to scientific reports of massive Iraqi civilian casualties is an indication of how easily this kind Carthaginian solution could go down.
The Cold War MAD strategy was developed for the Second World State conflicts between Anglo pluralist democracies and European one-party dictatorships eg Nazis/Bolshies. It was misapplied to the Third World Nation conflicts, between European empires and their former colonies, eg Viet Cong, which was won by the AK-47/RPG. (The First World Class conflicts, between capitalist free market firms and socialist command agencies, was amicably settled in favour of social democracy by old fashioned noblemen -Bismark, Keynes-Beveridge, Roosevelt – after a series of ruinous depressions.)
A strategy is not discredited when misapplied, no more than false arrests discredit the use of police forces. South Korea was a Kennanite move and certainly turned out ok.
The Red Army, between 1945-65, was the supreme military apparatus of the 20th C. Any force that conquered the better part of the Eurasian landmass (defeated Wermacht) was the first to militarise space and developed a Blue Water navy is force to be reckoned with.
Communist, USSR & PRC, Red Army weapons and tactics were effective aand used right the way round the world on all continents, and scored notable successes in the SE Asia (1975) and Arabia (1973). The SAMs & MIGS sure put the wind up the USAF over Hanoi. Later generation Soviet strategic weapons, such as SS-20, were extremely threatening.
The subsequent degeneration of Soviet institutional, industrial and ideological structures (1965-85) validates the Cold War containment strategy to a T. Kennan argued for diverting ideological competition from martial to social affairs. In the long run the emptiness of Communist social promises was exposed.
Futures trading for the maths wizards, merchant banking for the rest. ie more money, less power.
Nabokov has sneakily shifted the goalposts, since he has altered his aim from the first (Kennaninte Truman Democrats) generation of Cold Warriors to the second (Nitzian Nixon Republicans) generation. I am inclined to agree that Team B threat asessments were a shower of sh*t. But Reagan was more a Kennanite than a Nitzian.
The current crew inhabiting the Pentagon, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, are more mad than MAD. I think that they took the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon rather personally. One can only imagine what their response would be to a Bigger Hit.
[Commenters Note: This monumental “Reply to Fyodor” has been segmented into four easily digestible parts no longer than 200 words in length, with no more than five links per comment. Stop me before I rhetorically over-kill again.]
Fyodor at December 9, 2004 04:11 PM asks straight questions and will get straight answers:
Yes. Racial, differences within the human species are real and significant. This fact is contended – and then consented? – by wbb et al, who appears to be terminally confused or contradictory on this issue.
Individual biological differences exist, are heritable and can be statistically grouped into familial, racial and special classes, depending on the degree of inter-breeding. This what the standard Darwinian evolutionary theory of population differentiations would predict. In fact Darwin put it into the title of his mag op.
Sexual selection, through the simple fact of geographical proximity, implies a significant degree of endogamy between contiguous consanguines. Given biological heritability this invariably produces biologically distinct ethnic groups.
No. All non-Caucasian races will have something different, and possibly better, to offer than steak and two veg. The principle of diverse comparative advantages applies to both the natural and social economies. Vive la ethnic differences!
I refuse to be drawn into the argument of whether WAP was justified at the time and place of its enactment. The time-travelling uber-moralist game has always been a favoured indoor sport, guranteeing hours of harmless fun for parlour pinks. But it is essentially frivolous.
Political policies are regulated by prevailing moral sentiments, directed towards the notional civic interest. The right state of moral codes is always relative to normal survival, sexual and social requirements that are contingent on typical circumstances of time and place. Although the right direction of morality is always Absolutely the same: towards more extensive and intensive sympathy for other persons.
The WAP became objectionable, and less defensible, onpolitic and economic grounds. This became glaringly obvious as more liberal trends developed amongst our Asian neighbours.
AUS immigration policy is now, and should continue, to discriminate on individual, not racial, grounds. A good settlement policy should be non-racist and non-seperatist ie be both ethnicly cosmopolitan and socially integrative. It should aimed at getting the best persons into the nation, whether Black, White or Brindle.
Some quantitative immigration discrimination must occur, if only to constrain overall quantities (any Greenies for a billion immigrants?).
Qualitative discrimination should be on the basis of social utility: what physiological and psychological qualities does the applicant possess that the nation needs?
I do not argue with myself. I confess to writing idiosyncratically to others as a way of thinking things out for myself. This is in fact the opposite of solipsism, although admittedly eccentric.
Evolutionary theory (including pyscho-biology and socio-biology) is a vast and complicated topic which is obviously ideological dynamite. It has generated an enormous amount of nonsense from both the “Social Constructionist” Ideological Left and
“Intelligent Designer” Theological Right.
It has fallen to Darwinian Empirico-logical Centrists to to wade in, clean up the mess and cop flack from both sides for their troubles.
I have no patience with moral grandstanders or intellectual censors, although I welcome scientific and stylistic criticism.
Fyodor has some cheek, telling his cyber grand-mother how to suck citational eggs. I am quite religious about sourcing arguments.
Classification of biological taxa, at the supra-individual scale, is arbitrary. They are made for pragmatic utility, not intellectual veracity. That does not preclude making them. Science consists of identifying particular individuals and then generalising their class behaviour.
The fundamental evidence for sub-special bio-diversity must be genetic. The HGP indicates that the distribution of human genetic variation can be (roughly) classified according to conventional ethnic taxonomies. The NY Times distinguished science journalist, Nicholas Wade, reports the results of the HGP in colloquial terms:
There are observable physiological and psychological consequences flowing from the fact that there is genetic heritability in the ethnic distribution of metabolic traits and mental abilities. These range from the extra-ordinary respirative capacities of Tibetans to the extra-ordinary cognitive facility of (rigorously in-bred) Azkhenazi Jews.
Lewontin’s oft-cited claim, that there is more genetic diversity within, rather than between, races is true as far as it goes. But it was an artifice of his mode mathematical analysis and his choice of more randomly varying blood proteins for clinical analysis.
Other, bigger, guns have had a shot at measuring human genetic variation. Vincent Sarich, the discover of molecular clocking techniques, has measured variation between human populations and found them greater than that which occurs between some mammalian species:
I must admit that this news rocked even me. But it is what Darwinian theory would predict of a species composed of nepotistic little tribes that had wandered, in fits and starts, right around our variegated world from the moment of Exodus.
For all I know, the End of Ideological History maybe nigh. But there are still interesing times ahead. There is a hell of a lot of intellectual confusion, and ideological obfuscation, surrounding the biological causes and social consequences of ethnic differences. This needs to be addressed PDQ for two reasons:
The recent revival of Ethnological Pre-History, sect & race warfare, shows that candor about Biology and Sociology is still a political survival issue.
The beginning of Technological Post-History is not too far off. Candor about Biology and Technology is now a special survival issue.
Summarising so far:
(1) People from the different branches of the human family tend to have distinctive characteristics, due to their having more genes in common. The differences are significant.
The first observation is uncontroversial. The second takes the debate no further, since we are not told in what sense the differences are significant. I suspect that the forest-dwellers of Central Africa are at a disadvantage when it come to winning high-jump gold medals; on the other hand, they can keep flowers in their hair better than Finns. How such differences are important from the point of view of social policy is not disclosed.
(2) The WAP may have not have been a bad idea (at least not as bad as it would be now), presumably on the precautionary principle, because it reduced the risk of ethnic conflict.
The obvious thing to say about this, whether it’s true or not, is that no link is made with point (1). Even if ethnic differences point to caution in immigration policy, and even if there exist significant (in some sense) genetic differences, no reason is supplied here for concluding that the ethnic differences in question themselves have a genetic basis.
In which case, what the hell is this all about? I don’t expect an answer to this point, rather another introspective soliloquy and a new batch of jargon. But it’s worth pointing out that these putative answers to Fyodor’s querstions are, to this point, woeful.
James, no idea what all this stuff about evolutionary biology etc. is about. It seems to me that Fyodor had the best, and most elegant, argument on this page when he wrote:
Morality may be a relative concept, but racism isn’t. Either you discriminate on the basis of race or you don’t. The WAP did, so it’s racist.
James Farrell at December 11, 2004 02:13 PM continues his droll impersonation of Sgt Schulz on the subject of both evolutionary genetics on the one hand, and my take on ethno politics on the other.
Farrell seems impatient with my statement of the relationship between positive genetic science and normative immigration policy:
The obvious thing to say about Farrell is that he has real comprehension problems with plain English, never mind jargon. To redux from Strocchi’s politico-ethical book, do gene-based ethnic differences justify a race-biased policy in the “here and now” of 21st C AUS?:
To redux the Founding Father’s 19th C AUS politico-ethical book is, as I patiently explained, a mugs game. Political morality is relative to the norms prevailing within a given jurisdiction’s population BLAH X 3.
By the standards of the British Empire AUS was definitely on the conservative end of the racist spectrum, but not abnormally so – as any reader of Winston Churchill’s writings will gather.
Did knowledge of ethno-genetic differences have anything to do with the WAP in the “then and there” of 19th AUS? Clearly, the original White Australia policy was sold on the basis of folk prejudice, not formal science. So the Crick-Watson genetics had nothing to do with AUS’s racist politics.
Just as clearly, the majority of AUS’s foundational registered voters preferred WAP at the time. The middle classes, represented by Parkes, and working classes, represented by Watson, both opposed Chinese immigration on “trade union” grounds ie they feared smarter, and cheaper competition. National economics was subservient to Racial biologics.
All one can say about the morality of all this is that it was consistent with prevailing community standards, validated by accountable democratic institutions and amenable to progressive moral sympathies. Apart from declaring myself for a race-neutral and cosmopolitan settlement policy I have scratched myself from the competition to see who is the fairest world-historical morality play critic of all.
Farrell then contorts himself into a faux ignorant pose:
Farrell, finding it all too much, then throws his hands up in mock despair:
What part of the word “extraordinary” (ie significant) does the Great Ignorer not understand? Admittedly this is not monosyllabic baby talk. But it is not idiosyncratic jargon. So it should be clear enough for even to James “I-know-nothing!” Farrell to digest.
We are now only starting to identify and explain gene instantiation and expression. So the correlation of ethno-particular genes and significantly different ethno-typical aptitudes & attributes that is implied by Darwinism has a long way to go. If Farrell bothers to follow the links he might learn something.
He might find its worth bating his breath. Since the collapse of ideological feminism the papers, and vulgar “Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus”, publishing industry, are now are full of the molecular biology of gender differences. But naturally-selected genes for gender are far more likely to be subject to special conservation than the sexually-selected genes for racial differentation.
In the era of customised genetic medicine the biological reality of ethnic differences is going to be a big commercial and political issue. Ultimately every individual will have their own medicine, but on the way we shall resolve genetic identities and propensities at special, racial and familial scales. The trickle of molecular biologic analysis of the patterns of human bio-diversity is already turning into a flood.
Does our Bleeding Obviator consider matters of life and death not signficant to rate his notice. Or does Farrell propose that those scientists and clinicians currently concerned to understand and help people of colour continue to waste time and lives sifting through the “Social Constructionist” garbage that still overflows the Dustbin of Ideological History?
Perhaps we should all maintain a respectful silence whilst Farell’s ideology of ignorance receives a dignified internment.
I thought I’d better clear up these old confusions of Nabakov’s before I abandon this thread (it’s getting ever harder for me to load the page now it’s so long).
Me: ‘…You describe your friend as someone who “dresses well and is educated and senior in rank”, then you go on to describe how she was upset. But that, while nothing to do with her skin colour,…’
Nabakov: ‘Um.. Jill’s comment explicitly said it had everything to do with her race/skin colour.’
Yes – which is at odds with the idea that dressing well etc. had anything to do with her grief and pain. I was pointing out that those things merely made her articulate, they didn’t make her somebody especially deserving of consideration as though the more marginalised don’t matter. Marginalised aborigines deserve just as much consideration, even when inarticulate. However, our consideration should not be dictated bu spurious ideas of “racism”, even if our policies can conveniently make use of that. If we take racism itself as a wrong, we end up making other things seem OK because they aren’t that sort of wrong – and you end up with a lot of one off changes to the US constitution (say) because they aren’t
reflecting deeper systematic principle.
Me: “Oh, Katz, you might want to follow up the link on my home page to what the Constitutional Centenary Foundation did when I tried to expose certain sorts of republicans as racists by showing them for what they were.”
Nabakov: ‘I did and…huh? It seems to be an overly detailed, longwinded and poorly laid out account of a confused procedural bitchfight amongst a fringe group of constitutional activists.’
It looks as though you didn’t bother to look at the point of principle (I probably didn’t need to remind Katz of that, since he/she was addressing principles). I just used an example to illustrate the principle. It was that principle that matters here, that telling the truth and looking for it matter far more than merely categorising things according to whether they line up with your preferred categories. I confronted a bunch of reflexive PC republicans with a cognitive dissonance between republicanism and racism, and they couldn’t handle it – and showed they couldn’t. That shows that reflexive reaction according to association of ideas is not the way to handle the world.
But then, that’s just precisely the reason you couldn’t see that playing out – you only saw a familiar category, and tuned everything else out without realising that there ever was a point of principle involved.
Nabakov: ‘Not doubt what went down then is still fresh in your mind, but in the absence of context, or indeed relevance to this discussion, this means nothing to me, Vienna. Perhaps you could provide a quick 50 word precis explaining why it’s germane to this thread.’
No – you are on the one hand looking for brevity, which rules out deeper understanding, and on the other hand you are building in the requirement that the interplay then was relevant here (when it was the underlying principle of vicious failure of PC-dom that was being shown in a worked example).
Jack, the point about Private Schultz was not that he avoided hearing what he didn’t want to know (perhaps you’re thinking of emus or Manuel), but that he wasn’t good at keeping secrets. In this regard, you’ve got me nailed. If you decide to confide in someone about what happened between you and Cressida back in 1988, don’t pick me.
I think that we are all firmly agreed on:
1. There are lots of genetic differences between ethinic groups, some of them extraordinary – not least Tibetan lung capacity. A knowledge of these is proving indispensible in screening for and treating diseases, not to mention designing ventolin inhalers.
2. You don’t want a race-based immigration policy at the moment, but you baulk at making anachronistic moral judgements about our forefathers.
3. The architects of the WAP didn’t know much about DNA.
4. All or some post-modernists are idiots (we’ll give Derrida the benfit of the doubt for now).
So let’s detain ourselves no further with these matters.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but you do seem to be hinting that even if ethnic discimination is not a good idea now, it might be in principle. The thing is, if you’re not flirting with any such claim, or refusing to rule it out, I really don’t know what any of this debate is about. Hence my intemperate ‘what the hell…?’, for which I apologise…it was just my Irish genes talking.
Dear Granny Jack,
Please do remember to take your medicine when you get the vapours.
Now, the “significant, non-superficial biological differences between human ethnic groups” that you’ve come up with are that:
a) Tibetans breathe well at high altitude [not suprising];
b) Ashkenazi jews have “extra-ordinary cognitive facility” and are “rigorously in-bred” [unreferenced, unproven and rather offensive];
c) the Kalenjin tribe of Kenya produces good cross-country runners [not surpsising to watchers of the Olympics]; and
d) different ethnic groups come in different sizes [that would explain why Samoans are, generally, bigger than Pygmies]
These may seem significant to you, but they look superficial to me. Your assertion about Ashkenzi jews might be in a separate category (being extraordinarily clever is a significant difference), but is not referenced. As pointed out by James Farrell, these difference are hardly supportive of any form of race discrimination.
Given you usually are quite rigorous in sourcing your facts, I can only conclude from this, the best that you could produce, that there simply is little difference between ethnic groups, and you’ve been running yourself in a circle again.
P.S. a “Darwinian theory” would not predict that humanity had emerged from the “moment of Exodus”. Please don’t tell me you’re a Darwinian Creationist, as that would really cause me to lose my breakfast.
A copy of the following letter has recently come into my hands. It has some relevance to our topic, so I thought I’d share it…
Joint Taskforce for Mutual Understanding
I refer to your recent tender for a scientific assessment of the causes of social fragmentation in Sneetchville.
Our organisation already has a considerable stock of information on the Sneetch Question in the company databases. As we understand it, for some generations now, the star-bellied Sneetches have been mean to the Sneetches without stars. Examples include the failure of the former to greet the latter on the beaches, and their refusal to invite them to marshmallow roastings. It is widely appreciated that resentment on the part of non-star Sneetches, coupled with growing anxiety on the part of star-bellied Sneetches, underlies a rising incidence of star-status-related violence, especially among the younger Sneetches.
This letter explains in general terms why Strocchi Technologies is the appropriate agency to undertake the analysis you have chosen to commission.
As serious students, the Task Force members are no doubt cognisant that the difference between the two groups of Sneetches is a genetic one, and that the key to resolving your difficulties must therefore be sought at the frontiers of genetic research. Fortunately, our company is positioned firmly on that particular frontier and hence is well placed to assist you. We have, for example, recently completed a study of Twentieth Century genocides, in which we made no apology for emphasising genetic factors, such as the extraordinary knee flexion of the Turkish Kurds. Our genetic experience will also prove indispensable in ethnic profiling, since genetic traits are frequently concentrated in particular ethnic groups.
The Task Force’s problem is clearly two-fold. On the one hand, no real progress is possible until you identify the precise DNA segment responsible for the production of belly stars. On the other hand, an equally urgent priority is to establish the evolutionary basis of the star phenotype, that is, the environmental conditions that favoured members of the species who carried the star allele, giving rise to the star-bellied sub-species.
I will now volunteer a word or two of caution. In your search for expert advice you will be approached by numerous agencies who claim that genetics and evolutionary theory are not relevant to your particular terms of reference. But you must understand that, unlike yourselves, the proponents of the Irrelevance of Darwin Thesis (IDT) are not serious students. These impostors reject Darwin and they reject science, partly because they are victims of a humanities education that renders them incapable of understanding these fields, but mainly because it contradicts their post-modernist, multi-cultural ideology. This ideology is itself a cloak for their political agenda, which is to instate Andrew Theophanous as Prime Minister of Australia and ban the use of English as a medium of instruction in public schools.
Even if the above objectives are not achieved, this campaign of disinformation will have other dire consequences. Most lamentably, biomedical research will be stopped in its tracks, causing the deaths of hundreds of millions who could have been saved by genetic screening and gene-based therapies. Furthermore, the anti-scientific IDT is routinely deployed to obstruct the Government’s initiatives to combat terrorism. Unfortunately our organisation has already seen direct evidence of this: our ground breaking ethnic profiling techniques have just this week been rejected by the State Department, on the absurd grounds that insofar as terrorism has an ethnic dimension this is cultural rather than genetic. This example indicates the ferocious speed with which the post-modernist cancer is spreading. And again, untold millions of lives are at stake.
In the unlikely event that members of your Task Force are inclined to be seduced by the IDT, let me summarise once more the inescapable logic that refutes it: star-status discrimination occurs on the basis of a genetic difference, therefore only gene-based evolutionary science can unlock its causes.
With these initial thoughts and words of warning, I enclose full details and costing of our proposal. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Sylvester McJackass McBean, D.Phil (Syllogistic Logic)
Director, Ethnic Conflict Unit
Strocchi Technologies Inc.
Gran Payaso Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93117
That should have been the final word- but I can’t let it go unacknowledged. Nice one.
I’d like a response, please.
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