May 22, 2008

Forbidden Knowledge?

?Are there truths that should be suppressed? Is there such a thing as knowledge that ought to be forbidden for the greater good of the whole??

?Yes? is the answer given by blogger and Dallas Morning News editorialist Rod Dreher, who?s picked up on our extended discussion about genetics, IQ, and the inequality taboo. (Some highlights can be found here, here, here, and here but there?re many more).

My question is: forbidden by whom

No culture in human history, save that of the post-1960s West, has had any problem whatsoever with the thought that there are innate, heritable differences in extended families and groups. Dreher is thus giving a quasi-religious cast to a prohibition on thought born in the age of secular PC liberalism. 

To support the idea that there is actually knowledge that deserves to be suppressed, Dreher offers the example of Unit 731, ?the Imperial Japanese army’s medical experiment unit, that did unspeakable things to prisoners of war in the name of improving biological warfare capabilities.? Dreher asks, ?Should the US have acquired the knowledge those Japanese war criminal scientists obtained from their gruesome tortures??

I agree that this is a very difficult matter, but the analogy is entirely false. I?ve yet to hear of a case of someone being murdered while taking an IQ test or while participating in any recent genetic study. And as I expressed earlier, I?m hardly convinced that advances in the study of genetics inherently, inevitably lead to genocide. Hitler committed his terrible acts before the discovery of the Double-Helix, and Trofim Lysenko killed millions by instituting his fanatically anti-Medelian (and proto-PC?) theory of ?environmentally acquired characteristics.? There?s simply no casual relationship between scientific advances and state-sponsored murder. Period. 

Takimag is a magazine for politics and culture, although I have been consciously trying to open up conversations about science here because the subject is so obviously important. Still, if conservatives simply don?t want to talk about genes because, well, there are better things to talk about (like music, history, literature, and philosophy etc.) then that?s perfectly fine with me. What does bother me, however, is when conservatives hear the phrase ?genetic differences? and start running for cover??we shouldn?t talk about that! It leads to evil! It should be surpressed!? This is not any kind of conservative movement I want to be a part of. 

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