November 4, 2007

This Sublunary Realm versus the Mountains of the Moon

In my new VDARE.com column, I answer a Hispanic reader's challenge of my defense of James Watson, then consider a recurrent detrimental tendency in the history of thought:

The near-universal hypocrisy in what Americans do in private versus what they say in public about schooling is not an isolated example. Instead, it reflects the currently widespread assumption that there should be two completely divorced realms of thought:

- In the lower sphere of private life, we figure out how to make mundane decisions like where we'll buy a house using all the information and intuition available to us, such as our awareness of racial differences in academic performance and crime rates.

- In the higher sphere of public discourse, however, where public policy is discussed, much of this useful knowledge is simply off-limits. As Larry Summers, then the president of Harvard, discovered, there is much in the human sciences of which we are never supposed to speak.

This bifurcated mental model is strikingly similar to the dysfunctional conceptual map Renaissance natural philosophers, such as Galileo, inherited from the Ancient Greeks. According to Aristotle's still-dominant cosmology, there was a fundamental divide between the grubby "sublunary sphere" where we humans dwelled, and the higher celestial realm -- where, by definition, perfection reigned.

The sun and the planets revolved around the Earth embedded in crystalline spheres, the circle being the most ideal of all shapes. To make the observed data fit the presumption of circularity, the Alexandrine astronomer Ptolemy elaborated a baffling system of "epicycles," with smaller spheres embedded within larger spheres.

The Ptolemaic system is strangely reminiscent of the various Rube Goldbergian explanations popular today to explain away the racial test score gap. One example: Claude Steele's theory of "Stereotype Threat." Steele hypothesizes that stereotypes make minorities so scared of scoring badly on tests that their discomfort makes them score exactly as badly as the stereotype predicted they would! It's almost as unfalsifiable a theory as Ptolemy's was for 1500 years.

In the conventional wisdom of 1600, the moon, like all heavenly bodies, had to be a perfect sphere. It just had to be, even though it looks imperfect to your lying eyes:

"The dark spots on the moon that been visible to man throughout the ages were explained away as parts of the moon that absorbed and emitted light differently than other parts -- the surface itself was perfectly smooth."

When Galileo pointed his new telescope at the moon in 1609, however, he observed changing shadows that could only be cast by mountains. He announced:

"The Moon certainly does not possess a smooth and polished surface, but one rough and uneven, and just like the face of the Earth itself, is everywhere full of vast protuberances, deep chasms, and sinuosities."

This, and much other new evidence discovered with his telescope, caused Galileo to doubt that the celestial and sublunary spheres were fundamentally different. Adopting the heliocentric theory of the solar system, Galileo began to develop a theory of mechanics (one eventually brought to near-perfection by Newton) that, unlike Aristotle's, would work for both the heavens and the earth. [More]

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

I imagine that your Hispanic reader's problem is that Hispanic is not a racial category, containing as it does many people with large amounts of Caucasian admixture and some who are completely Caucasian.

Bill said...

Well, that is a very sophisticated argument on behalf of Watson, but I could have made a simpler one.

I have seen a number of people on this blog and VDare questioning why we should even bring up the racial difference in IQ. "What good does it do," they ask, "why even mention it?"

In grade school I was taught, over and over, that the one and only reason blacks have consistently failed to achive social parity with whites is the inherent evil of white Americans. If there is no difference between blacks and whites, then that is a reasonable explanation, and my children should bear eternal guilt for being white, and the Tim Wises, Noel Ignatievs, and Susan Sontags of the world are then justified in vilifying my children on the basis of their race.

However, if it turns out that it isn't all white people's fault; if there is actually a qualitative difference between African and European psychology that leads to different societal outcomes, then Ignatiev et al are frauds and my children are freed from racial guilt.

This is what it comes down to for most Americans. Those who demand that we shut down debate on this issue simply want to maintain ideological dominance on a racial basis over an innocent people.

mnuez said...

Yes, Bill. But as I just got through noticing after a few hours on some recent comment threads here, it may not be whites faults that blacks underachieve when compared to whites but it's ALWAYS Jews' fault when whites underachieve when compared with whites. Simply, fuckin, amazing...

Anyhow, that's just some leftover anger at the pseudo-intellectual judenhass-fest going on on some of the other comment threads here. It's still worth mentioning it here because it's DIRECTLY relevant to the assertion that you just made - one that practically every reader here agrees with but so many are able to suspend their Reason to when dealing with Jews.

As for the post above, I just want to remind everyone that it's just a quote from Steve's longer V-Dare article and I encourage everyone to read through it from the start rather than reading only the above quote. As with so many other of Steve's articles it's an excellent piece. I'm not certain that I'd agree with all of his conclusions (I recall quite a few wondering comments in a recent post here regarding the repeated claim of a possible connection between Galileo's travails and subsequent Italian science for example {though Milton's quote adds some heft}) but, again, it's a trove of information, analysis, evidence and arguments and is well worth an hour of research and consideration.

Cheers,

mnuez
www.mnuez.blogspot.com

KissTheGoat said...

Well but Steve, you dodge the question of what good it would do those Hispanics and others who are below white + asian average (which is most of them)? I'd like to believe that admitting racial differences would lance the tensions and lead us to focus on / put it in perspective of, the larger truth, of all of our individual limitations - after all, don't we all have to accept that we're not the smartest, best, in something? And that we're going to die, a much uglier truth? (But, I guess religious people don't face that.) But to continue - that we'd become mature and human about it all. And I think some of that would happen. But it would be ugly for a while, perhaps even forever, with some human forces (our preference for our own kind - and now we'd have an accepted, official reason) acting to keep the ugliness going. So I'm not surprised that we have the public / private split, and officially ignore it, like we do farts in professional settings.

And that might work - we could wait until The Future arrives and we can implant chips and natural-born IQ doesn't matter anymore because an 'IQ deficit' will be as curable as everything else.

Or, maybe, we'll be forced by genetics to deal with it before then. It could be like grief - denial at first, while underneath we're finding a way to cope with it, and then suddenly everyone thinks it's no big deal anymore.

My guess though is that it'll be the 2nd scenario, with a long slow mixture of ugliness and acceptance.

Lofius said...

Look, we already have a large section of the population with below average IQs and with a history of underachievement. They're called women.

Martin said...

Mr. Sailer's correspondent posed the question: "Assuming that Sailer is correct … what good is it going to do to non-whites?"

From my point of view, this is the wrong question. The right question is: what harm is it doing to whites? I am primarily interested in my own group (for one reason, because it includes me and mine). So as regards the denial of a truth - what's in it for me.

Not a lot. If institutional racism is the only explanation for the relative poor showing of other groups, than I and my relatives and my culture, get permanently saddled with the job of sin-eater. I get to subsidize my own disenfranchisement, and pave the way for my own replacement by some alien other.

No thanks.

Ian Lewis said...

KissTheGoat, I couldn't agree more. I am Steve's biggest fan, and I think his latest VDare work was great, but I still think that he has not answered the question that is: "What good will the truth about IQ differences do for Blacks and Hispanics?"

Maybe there is a good and happy answer. But, so far, I have not seen it.

I think that the current PC status quo that relies on lies and distortions may possibly be better for the Hispanic and Black under-class. I wouldnt bet my life on it, but it would not surprise me.

Bertrand Russell said...

To Kiss the Goat, you might want to go back and read Steve's old series on how to help the people on the left side of the bell curve. It has some good points. I hope it is still in the archives.

Doug said...

it may not be whites faults that blacks underachieve when compared to whites but it's ALWAYS Jews' fault when whites underachieve when compared with whites

Huh?

Hal K said...

When there are differing levels of economic success between different racial groups, the socially acceptable response is to blame racism, which is unfair to those who are being blamed. This is one problem with pretending that there are no aggregate racial differences in intelligence.

Also, if we open up the country to immigration from other countries where IQs tend to be lower then this will likely have an adverse effect on the future economic prospects of our country as a whole.

David said...

kissthegoat writes:

what good it would do those Hispanics and others who are below white + asian average (which is most of them)

Being honest does one good. Put negatively: being a crook is not a good life. Considered quite apart from the undesirability of one's own moral corruption, including the fact of there being "no honor among thieves" (use your imagination), a society of thieves is significantly unliveable. There is finally the question of parasite v. host. The parasites die under the principle of unlimited expansion of parasitism.

That's my serious answer. Here is a hopefully entertaining analogy. You work for a law firm where the partner's "slow" brother is made partner through pull. Instead of preparing briefs, he doodles on the walls in crayons of various hues. Instead of arguing cases, he dawdles in the men's room, pulling down briefs. The board decides to fire him, or demote him to a position he can handle. Someone stands up in his defense, saying: "But that would hurt his feelings!" What is the ethical course of action?

mercer said...

"pseudo-intellectual judenhass-fest"

Well if being asked and answering a few pointed questions is a hate-fest, I just have to wonder how poor Steve Sailer feels. Pretty good I'd guess seeing how he provided an intelligent answer to an intelligent question.

Would some self pitying anecdotes and gratuitous smears have helped his case? Perhaps an accusation or two? Maybe he could have rounded his piece out with some insults? Compare and contrast with some of mnuez's replies and see which is more convincing.

stencil said...

mnuez said...

Simply, f***in, amazing...

thread profanity is the calling card of a leftist. if you had any respect for the webmaster you would refrain. it is telling that numerous right wingers can post here for months on end without resorting to the f-word.

leftwing = juvenile

Jack said...

Well but Steve, you dodge the question of what good it would do those Hispanics and others who are below white + asian average (which is most of them)?

Utterly irrelevant question. We don't pursue truth to help some narrowly defined identity group. We pursue truth for its own sake and to give the lie to public policies based on willful ignorance. Whether scientific truth does any particular identity group "good" is irrelevant.

If the original questioner really was as intelligent and educated as he claimed he was, he'd know this. But the profound anti-intellectualism of identity politics tends to make people stupid. Very, very stupid.

tggp said...

Bravo Steve. I have to say, that was one of your best efforts.

Hal said...

Look, we already have a large section of the population with below average IQs and with a history of underachievement. They're called women.

Actually men and women have the same average IQs, it is just that men tend to be over-represented at the both ends of the IQ range.

Evil Neocon said...

As I've pointed out, over and over again, culture matters. Culture matters because it forms the part of natural selection and sexual selection that influence evolution most highly. Indeed you could argue that the most dominant form of environmental pressures on human evolution is culture.

That is, if you accept that evolution applies to human beings, and reject they hypothesis that unlike every other living creature, human beings are magically no longer subject to evolution.

Europe before the Romans/Greeks: nothing. An intellectual and social backwater. Western Europe after, before the early Medieval Period: the same, a dull backwater where nothing was achieved.

Obviously something happened to jump start Western Europeans into massive social gains in intellectual and social achievement. Example: Chinese had gunpowder AND firearms first, as well as printing and paper money and nothing with them. The Japanese actively refused firearms. Persians and Arabs got firearms before Europeans did through trading with China. YET Europeans pushed and innovated constantly with firearms?

Did Europeans have some unknown genetic advantage? If they did why didn't they innovate before or after the Romans?

Just as likely IMHO is the rapid evolution of Europeans through radical change in culture to change natural and sexual selection.

The implication being that if people wish to replicate European's success they should copy that culture which guided European evolution. If Cochrane and Harpending are right, the human genome is VERY flexible and astonishing things can happen very rapidly.

The other implication here is that meddling around with what works in culture as far as success in pushing human evolution towards more accomplishment (and it may be that cooperativeness as much as intelligence is a key attribute for societal success) is not cost free: that liberal and feminist attempts to undo Western Society can bring it down rapidly to West African levels through radical changes in natural and sexual selection. Given the dominance of culture on human environments.

James Kabala said...

Stencil: I don't know; what about the infamous Jupiter? (Although his worldview would be better described as incoherent than genuinely right-wing.) I have seen right-wingers use profanity elsewhere on the web as well. I am conservative myself and dislike profanity, but since Steve approved the comment I don't know if it's our business to get the vapors on his behalf.

Anonymous said...

In scientifc terms, IQ testing is very much a trivial matter. For IQ and race enthusiasts, IQ testing matters because of the presumed policy consequences of IQ testing. This has nothing to do with deep scientific questions.

James Watson hasn't given one deep scientic reason why IQ testing research was a worth while scientific pursuit.

The case against immigration does not require discussion about racial differences in intelligence.

White Americans should oppose immigration because immigration will make White Americans a racial minority in America. It is for this reason that asian legal immigration is as much of a problem as hispanic illegal immigration.

Why shouldn't a kid who has a deep interest in technology and science be given a access to an enriched academic environment regardless of his or her IQ score dspite his or her IQ score. This is where the real evil of IQ testing and tracking reveals itself. No kid should should be told they are a dummy-even if the word dummy is disguised in pseudo -science language.

One last point, White Americans will do just fine without any "high-IQ" asian legal immigrants entering the nation.

Anonymous said...

Culture and training have to matter, just not in some obvious and easily copied fashion.

As Lynn has noted, Asian American outperformance on the SAT Math and similar tests is so high that no reasonable estimate of Asian IQ could possibly explain the systematically high scores of the poorest 20% of the Asian-AM population. (Which itself underestimates the East Asian advantages since Pacific Islanders and Southeast Asians do worse than Chinese or Koreans).

Similarly, blacks in college do WORSE than predicted by their test scores. This speaks to a cultural pathology, beyond mere IQ deficits.

If we could only figure out a way to get blacks and hispanics to even slightly outperform their measured IQs the potential benefits for both racial harmony and lowered crime would be quite great [Also not forgetting Steve's suggestions to improve nutrition of the poorest here and in Africa.]

Anonymous said...

Mnuez, you made the absurd claim that Jews in positions of power discriminate against fellow Jews and in favor of inferior Goyim. Nothing else you say can be taken seriously.

Bill said...

Europe before the Romans/Greeks: nothing. An intellectual and social backwater. Western Europe after, before the early Medieval Period: the same, a dull backwater where nothing was achieved.

-Evil Neocon


Not exactly. Although civilization did not develop in Europe before the Greeks and Romans, there was still considerable technological development.

The wheel, domestication of horses (and arguably cattle), mounted warfare, and ironsmithing (North Caucasus) developed in Europe. The bronze-age megalithic structures are nothing to sneer at either. Sometimes I am confused by constant references to "Eurocentrism" when in fact the opposite is true.

Obviously something happened to jump start Western Europeans into massive social gains in intellectual and social achievement. Example: Chinese had gunpowder AND firearms first, as well as printing and paper money and nothing with them. The Japanese actively refused firearms. Persians and Arabs got firearms before Europeans did through trading with China. YET Europeans pushed and innovated constantly with firearms?

-Evil Neocon


The Japanese didn't really reject firearms. In fact, after obtaining matchlocks from the Portuguese, they used them to rampage through Korea in the late 16th century, and developed sophisticated techniques for their use in warfare. One could say that the gun united Japan, and then once that had been accomplished civilians were disarmed. However, the state never gave up its guns.

Here's a quote from Hideyoshi, the man who unified Japan with gun-toting peasant armies that slaughtered his samurai rivals' cavalry charges, then confiscated all weapons from commoners:

The possession of unnecessary implements makes difficult the collection of taxes and tends to foment uprisings...

Hideyoshi told the peasants that he was going to melt down all their guns and swords to make a big statue of Buddha, but instead he made a statue of himself.

SFG said...

One thing nobody's mentioned and that I think is deeply conservative (in that it favors tradition over rational rules derived from first principles) is the social utility of hypocrisy. We don't actually want to crack down on adultery because that would involve an excessively intrusive state. (Do you want the sort of government surveillance we'd need to send people to jail for cheating?) But we don't want to encourage it either, because it has negative side effects. So we tolerate it legally but condemn it morally.
Same with greed; most healthy societies discourage it morally because it has negative outcomes if taken to excess, but allow it legally because we need business to survive. Hypocrisy can sometimes be an effective way of controlling a behavior you don't want to ban.

KissTheGoat said...

jack:

Yes, truth is its own good (at least, usually enough to be an article of faith), and usually leads to better places, or at least to /bigger/ places where we have more choice. Everyone who investigates or cares already knows the differences are real; the question is, whether to bust it wide open /now/; we don't know what the consequences would be. I just happened to have listened recently to a podcast about modern slavery; the group of the author being interviewed had a success, they got the king of a small country to declare all slavery illegal. The news got out by radio and the slavers dumped all the dependent people into the roads and countryside at once, which was a disaster for them. So just because the blow you're striking is a pure one, it doesn't guarantee that the outcome will also be the best all around, or couldn't stand a bit of consideration / engineering as to consequence.

Anonymous said...

What good is it going to do non-whites?

Well, for one, my best friend is Mexican with probably a 125 IQ, real wit and unique talent, and an excellent fashion-sense, he gets laid constantly...it's sick. I've never seen anything like it, and his prominent Mexican name never hurt. He's like one of those innately-brilliant hot girls that are never compelled to excel, since their 18-32 window was blighted by the real "human-interest" content, where you'd rather be instead of all this boring crap.

"The system's not fair," I say. "Your [personal brand has] systemic problems..." he argues.

W. Bacon said...

This is one of your better ones, Steve. Most people won't notice this, but I will...cause I'm smaaaart;)

Dutch Boy said...

Galileo based his heliocentric theory partially on aesthetic grounds rather than purely on observations. In addition, the Ptolemaic system is actually less complicated than Kepler's construct. There is a good discussion of the subject (for the open-minded!) in the book "Galileo Was Wrong" by Robert Sungenis.

Svigor said...

Similarly, blacks in college do WORSE than predicted by their test scores. This speaks to a cultural pathology, beyond mere IQ deficits.

Why is this always the assumption? IQ is not the sum of mental capacity. Time horizons, aggressiveness, conscientiousness, etc., are all very important too.

James Kabala said...

Anonymous 3:58: I think he was trying to say the opposite and accusing others of thinking that way.

Eric Kessler said...

In your article, you seem to suggest that Aristotle is somewhat at fault for the bifurcated thinking that people today have on the subject. But there was no such bifurcation in Aristotle's ethics. Aristotle's division of the world into sublunary and superlunary spheres applied to the physical world only, not to ethics, and was based on his observations.

Also, Ptolemy's system was not Rube Goldbergian, it was an elegant system that used a series of circles to approximate an ellipse and differed significantly from Aristotle's. Both Copernicus and Gallileo agreed with Ptolemy's system, not Aristotle's, except that they placed the sun in the center. It was Kepler who finally put Ptolemy's systemn to rest.

Finally, note that neither Aristotle nor Ptolemy ever attempted to supress any truths. The reactionaries who tried to preserve the old systems were not "Aristotelians"; they were merely reactionaries.