William Saletan of Slate has lost his mind


William Saletan, who is usually such a skilled chronicler of things sciencey that I hadn’t realized he’d gotten his start as a politico, has finally let his white-bread conservative roots gnaw through whatever veneer of gentility he’d been cultivating up to this point:

Created Equal
Why write about this topic? Why hurt people’s feelings? Why gratify bigots?

Because truth matters. Because the truth isn’t as bad as our ignorant, half-formed fears and suspicions about it. And because you can’t solve a problem till you understand it.

Two days ago, I said we could fight the evidence of racial differences in IQ, or we could accept it. Yesterday, I outlined the difficulty of fighting it. What happens if we accept it? Can we still believe in equality?

Here’s the problem with writing about race and pulling your material from the often excellent but occasionally totally off-base blogs that discuss race, or even acclaimed psychologist Arthur Jensen (whom some consider the world authority on IQ and race, but who, unfortunately, has done such ill-advised things as giving interviews to American Renaissance, an explicitly white-supremacist publication):

There simply isn’t enough data to say whether the persistent gap in IQ between races is — or even, to what extent — “genetic.”

There are a dozen complications here — and I’m not even talking about the tired old debate about whether or not intelligence can be measured by a single factor, g.

But Saletan simply isn’t qualified to address these complexities. Or even, despite his attempts to be fair, to know what they might be in the first place.

It’s tempting to chalk up all the strife, the division, the self-segregation, the crime, the poverty — the whole lot of it — to genetic differences.

Except there simply isn’t enough research on the subject.

I don’t expect that’s going to stop an impending wave of neo-eugenics to follow on the mountains of genetic data that will come pouring out of the various efforts to sequence as many human genomes as possible.

4 thoughts on “William Saletan of Slate has lost his mind

  1. chris, if punditry was contingent upon specialized training in an area they couldn’t talk about public policy, period. so much of it hinges upon economics, for example, which is a very technical subject.

  2. I suppose I should give Saletan credit for bringing this out into the open — but what I object to is his explicit endorsement of the ‘hereditarian’ perspective above all else… this line of research is enough of a poisoned well that serious inquiry into the subject has yet to commence on a scale that would be required to make statements as definitive as Saletans. (He didn’t exactly note that most of what he discussed is speculation, or at least didn’t emphasize that.)

    It would have been enough for him to point out, as Nick Wade has, that humans have continued to evolve over the past tens of thousands of years… but as for the rest, I’d say the jury’s still out. Too bad the readers of Slate had to be introduced to the debate in this way.

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