Forbidden Knowledge

Forbidden Knowledge January 31, 2014

‘My dear, let us hope it is not true; but, if it is true, let us hope it will not become generally known.’

So spoke the apocryphal Bishop’s wife of Darwin’s theory. So also says Rod Drehr, in this somewhat baffling culture war editorial at The American Conservative.

Drehr gives us a kind of odd both-side-do-it argument in which Liberals as much as fundamentalists refuse to face the facts of science:

[…] liberals who love to put the Darwin fish on their cars and rail against fundagelicals who want to teach Creationism in public schools should be honest with themselves and admit that they don’t really want to teach Science and nothing but either. Their enthusiasm for just-the-facts science typically stops the moment science tramples upon one of their sacred principles.

There’s probably some truth in that. Drehr argues that there are certain scientific findings that liberals are not willing to accept and which could be harmful if taught in the schoolrooms. He endorses a kind of “forbidden knowledge” approach to harmful scientific conclusions, and above all a bit of humility in the fight against the anti-science side.

Most of Drehr piece could be read as an attack on the veneration of science and scientism, and in that regard it’s not totally off base. The problem is the that Drehr hangs the whole thing on a piece by Steve Sailer, a journalist with a business degree and a history of nativism and the usual “bell curve” racecraft. Sailer’s argument that blacks and Mexicans have lower IQs than whites is what Drehr considers to be the unpalatable conclusion of science:

Given the history of the 20th century, I flat-out don’t trust our species to handle the knowledge of human biodiversity without turning it into an ideology of dehumanization, racism, and at worst, genocide. Put another way, I am hostile to this kind of thing not because I believe it’s probably false, but because I believe a lot of it is probably true — and we have shown that we, by our natures, can’t handle this kind of truth.

But to call Sailer a fringe figure in science journalism would be doing a disservice to the fringe. AFAIK his credentials are non-existent. His racial conclusions have been panned by mainstream scientists for years. Why listen to him at all?

One of the things that keeps drawing me to Steve Sailer’s writing is that his beliefs on human biodiversity sometimes lead him to point out inconvenient truths about ideologies informing our common life.

The only way I can translate this: “Sailer tells me things that confirm my preconceptions but that every other scientist or science journalist is too politically correct to admit.”

This could have actually been an provocative and unsettling article. But Drehr’s Andrew-Sullivan-like credulity on the matter of racecraft undermines it.

It’s an interesting idea, thought. Can you think of any plausible scientific finding that you would want hushed up for the good of society?

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