Monday, May 5, 2008

Saletan's revenge

In response to the finding on racial differences in responses to heart medication at the nytimes he writes in his weekly column in Slate.

Or maybe not as caustic as I was hoping. Check it out here .

Honestly, I have no idea what he is trying to get across in this article. I'm guessing he's just trying to cover his ass for what he said, but NOT recant what he said. Basically, he wants to say "Yeah I guess there may be racial gaps in IQ or whatever, but why the hell are you looking at race to begin with?"

Even if hereditary inequality among racial averages is a truth, it's less true, more unjust, and more pernicious than framing the same difference in nonracial terms. "The truth," as I accepted and framed it, was itself half-formed. It was, in that sense, a half-truth. And it flunked the practical test I had assigned it: To the extent that a social problem is genetic, you can't ultimately solve it by understanding it in racial terms.

Ok, sure I guess looking at genetics is more important than race. But even in his original column, he said that we should look at people as individuals, not as members of a race. Nothing new here.

In a similar way, policy prescriptions based on race are social malpractice. Not because you can't find patterns on tests, but because any biological theory that starts with observed racial patterns has to end with genetic differences that cross racial lines. Race is the stone age of genetics. If you're a researcher looking for effects of heredity on medical or educational outcomes, race is the closest thing you presently have to genetic information about most people. And as a proxy measure, it sucks.

Ok sure. But what most HBD people believe is that genetic testing will further confirm race differences in intelligence.

We're going to find many more genetic and trait differences among populations. You can't meaningfully denounce every such finding or theory as racist. Racism has to mean something else. I think it should mean looking and settling for racial analysis when some other combination of categories—economics, culture, genetics—more accurately fits the data. It's easy to group people by race and compare averages. But it's pernicious.

I think this is the ultimate of pussy cop outs. Basically, you're setting up 'race realists' as straw men that look at only race when they analyze public policy. We don't do that. We only look at race when ALL OTHER sociological explanations have been exhausted.

Hello? Have you looked at the hand wringing in the economic development literature surrounding hell in Africa? How many people have mentioned race? Have you ever heard Jeffrey Sachs mention genetics?

On the left, it raises the question of whether any policy, including affirmative action, should be based on race. I don't know where those questions will lead. But I'm pretty sure drawing this line is the right first step.

This is by far the most important passage of his article. Sure, we shouldn't look at every single social issue (education, income, crime) through race.


if there are racial disparities in any of these fields, Saletan should say that we can't attribute it to racism. What he says is that we should stop worrying about racial disparities in anything in the first place.

All right, for people on planet earth and not on planet think tank, it's pretty hard to ignore race disparities in anything. And self gene theory will imply that we'll look out for our own. So, Saletan again fails to come up with a grand sociological theory to deal with race differences in intelligence. Until people are willing to read Animal Liberation, Saletan:


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