Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Academia Decides to Join the Clan

M. Blowhard linked to "feministx," a deeply conflicted young lady (and college student) who's mulling over (among many things) "Human Biodiversity" (aka "HBD", aka "evo-bio") which is the identity-politics code term for, well, a bastard cousin of eugenics, meaning that there is not a movement to improve humans through selective breeding (and killing), but a perceived need to acknowledge that there might be significant enough racial differences that impact human behavior and thus should impact subsequent considerations regarding policy, education, and what have you.

Or, in a nutshell, act as though some racial and ethnic stereotypes are real. Formalize it.

I think most of us - at least folks who value pragmatism - do employ stereotypes a little bit, but I think we do it on a contingency basis, ready to abandon preconceived notions at the slightest reason to do so. A supposed propensity towards something does not equate to that behavior eventually presenting itself; we're complex beings, and our race is (or gender is, or ____ is) merely a component of what might determine our actions or reactions.

However, I think "formalizing" Human Biodiversity as a subject in academia will essentially institutionalize racism and ethnic tension (not to mention sexism).

I have worked jobs covering the gamut, and I have seen NO DIFFERENCE in ability or performance when it comes to race or gender. This includes 5 foot tall, tiny women tossing 60 lb. pieces of luggage into an aircraft's baggage compartment that's 7 feet off the ground.

(Well, I have seen a difference as far as male/female social politics go. Men employ different social politics than women do, and vice versa. But, for the purposes of this post, it's immaterial.)

I also think the folks who are forwarding "Human Biodiversity" as a field of study will dash against the rocks of studies like this where test scores were influenced by how the participants were predisposed to the test. Short version: two groups of Asian women of predetermined equal intelligence were give a math test, but one group was told beforehand that women typically didn't do well on math tests, so try hard, while the other group was told that Asians were better at math than other races. The group who were told they were "just girls" did worse than the group who were told they were braniac Asians.

Another reference to that study notes interesting information regarding a similar study about white guys who golf.

Pretty much sets the Human Biodiversity shite on its ear, methinks.

I also think Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel dropkicks evo-bio through the goalposts of bullshit.

Seems human advantage is directly tied to ecosystem advantages AND a culture's predisposition to other cultures. For instance, Diamond asks why China didn't "conquer the world" but western Europe did; the short answer: Chinese thought they were the height of human accomplishment and culture, so why go hang out with the stinky, slack-jawed idiots that comprise the rest of the world? Ironically, they WERE the height at the time global conquest began, but that very fact and their self-knowledge of it allowed pretty much two whole continents to be overtaken by (stinky) Europeans.

So, the success of various groups of humans is not comparable to the wrens of Galapagos having specialized beaks that allow them to dominate a part of the ecosystem. It's more like, "Hey, these plants here grow really easily. Too bad I don't have more land on which to plant them. There's a whole bunch of new land somewhere? Cool. Sign me up."

About the only (anecdotal) evidence I've ever seen that possibly supports evo-bio was on a recent repackaged "America's Funniest Home Videos" show that featured "the best scares." To a one, anyone of European descent just took a couple steps or just fell the heck over when startled. However, every single person of African descent ran like hell and got completely out of the room/house/dangerous place (or punched the assailant so hard, "danger" was averted). The dearth of Asian representation on that particularly-themed show might speak to some innate stoicism or unflappability. (And, yes, I am kidding about this being some sort of evidence for evo-bio bs.)

No comments: