Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Knee Jerks

I read recently that new research proves that different races have different DNA. Duh! So what’s new about that? We can accept that small DNA changes account for Europeans having pale skin, Asians sweating less or West Africans having resistance to certain diseases.

But to suggest, as the new research does, that there is a relationship between race and intelligence? That’s a serious no-no. That gets the knees jerking uncontrollably. That race is more than skin deep will undermine our egalitarian theory that all races are equal. Racial prejudice will be given license to flourish. The contents of this Pandora’s Box will destroy us all.

Geneticists are worried that talking about race will lead to their research funds being cut. Others are worried that a balanced discussion arguing that economic, social and educational differences are likely more important than genes will be drowned out by the squeals from knee jerkers who see genetics as a bogeyman that validates prejudice.

This is ridiculous. To protect ourselves from an honest investigation of the facts by screaming “no, no, no, no” until the talk dies down or by sticking our heads in the sand until the bad guys have gone away isn’t going to work. It’ll just delay knowing what we need to know.

And then, horror of horrors, what if we learn that some people, some groups, some races are in fact likely to be more intelligent than others? What if we learn that we’re not all equal? Could I survive if it were proven that it’s more likely black people can run faster than white people? Could you survive if there was genetic evidence that Jews are more likely than non-Jews to excel in certain undertakings? Or that Asians aren’t going to get as fat as Caucasians no matter what we eat? Etc. Etc.

You know something? We’re not colorblind. There are differences. We notice that “the other” is not the same as we are. We are inclined to hang out with our own kind. Whether we’re monkeys or fish or humans. That’s just the way it is. That’s not an excuse to behave badly toward others, but I find it empowering to tell it like it is rather than live our lives hoping it will be different.

So I say, “Right on, scientists.” Keep searching. Don’t be deterred. Let your path lead you where it wants to go. And let us know what you find.


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