Tag Archives: political correctness

William Lane Craig

The idea that a developing fetus is part of the woman’s body is so biologically ignorant that I would call it medieval, except that would be to insult the medievals! The fetus is not like an appendix or a gall bladder. From the moment of its conception and implantation in the wall of the mother’s uterus, the fetus is never a part of her body, but is a biologically distinct and complete living being which is, in effect, “hooked up” to the mother as a life-support system. To say a fetus is part of a woman’s body is like saying that a person on life support is part of the iron lung or the intravenous equipment. Having an abortion is not like having an appendectomy. It is killing a separate human being, and to try to justify that on the grounds that a woman can do what she wants with her own body is just politically correct ignorance.

William Lane Craig, Hard Questions, Real Answers, Wheaton, 2003, pp. 118-119

Paul Graham

If you believe everything you’re supposed to now, how can you be sure you wouldn’t also have believed everything you were supposed to if you had grown up among the plantation owners of the pre-Civil War South, or in Germany in the 1930s—or among the Mongols in 1200, for that matter? Odds are you would have.

Back in the era of terms like “well-adjusted,” the idea seemed to be that there was something wrong with you if you thought things you didn’t dare say out loud. This seems backward. Almost certainly, there is something wrong with you if you don’t think things you don’t dare say out loud.

Paul Graham, ‘What You Can’t Say’, January, 2004

Roy Baumeister & Brad Bushman

A passion to make the world a better place is a fine reason to study social psychology. Sometimes, however, researchers let their ideals or their political beliefs cloud their judgment, such as in how they interpret their research findings. Social psychology can only be a science if it puts the pursuit of truth above all other goals. When researchers focus on a topic that is politically charged, such as race relations or whether divorce is bad for children, it is important to be extra careful in making sure that all views (perhaps especially disagreeable ones, or ones that go against established prejudices) are considered and that the conclusions from research are truly warranted.

Roy Baumeister & Brad Bushman, Social Psychology and Human Nature, Belmont, 2008, p. 13

Matt Ridley

Men and women have different bodies. The differences are the direct result of evolution. Women’s bodies evolved to suit the demands of bearing and rearing children and of gathering plant food. Men’s bodies evolved to suit the demands of rising in a male hierarchy, fighting over women, and providing meat to a family.

Men and women have different minds. The differences are the direct result of evolution. Women’s minds evolved to suit the demands of bearing and rearing children and of gathering plant food. Men’s minds evolved to suit the demands of rising in a male hierarchy, fighting over women, and providing meat to a family.

The first paragraph is banal; the second inflammatory.

Matt Ridley, The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature, New York, 1993, pp. 247-248

Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams

Consider two recent high-profile cases. In 2005, Harvard’s then-president Lawrence Summers suggested gender differences in intrinsic ability as one cause of the dearth of women in the top tier of science, rather than espousing the popular view that women’s under-representation results from biased hiring, discriminatory tenure practices and negative stereotypes. Summers’s insinuation of biologically-based sex differences in cognitive ability was radioactive, setting off debates on campuses and outpourings of editorials. Despite apologizing for reckless language — which his supporters felt research supported — he later resigned.

James Watson is the most illustrious scholar to have his career ended for reckless language. Watson’s downfall was his assertion that “all our social policies are based on the fact that [African] intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really”. Although he hoped everybody was equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true”. Watson instantly plunged from A-list Nobelist to outcast, and was suspended from his chancellorship of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Watson later clarified in a statement that he does not believe Africans to be genetically inferior, but this had little impact on the controversy.

Watson’s first assertion could be read as scientifically supported: black Africans’ IQ scores are lower than those of white Europeans. But Watson’s use of ‘intelligence’ was interpreted as meaning ‘intrinsic cognitive ability’, ignoring how unfamiliarity with testing format, low quality of schooling, or poor health might depress IQ scores. There have been analyses showing average national IQs for sub-Saharan Africa to be approximately 30 points lower than average IQs for predominantly white European nations, and drawing a racial conclusion from those results. A refutation of these analyses would provide an opportunity to advance understanding. Sadly, although these analyses can be refuted, as we and others have done, most of those who scorned Watson never knew they existed.

Attacks on Watson and Summers extinguished discussion by making moral attributions about their presumed character flaws rather than debating facts. But character attacks lead to a one-party science that squelches divergent views.

Some scientists hold more ‘acceptable’ views, ourselves included. We think racial and gender differences in IQ are not innate but instead reflect environmental challenges. Although we endorse this view, plenty of scholars remain unpersuaded. Whereas our ‘politically correct’ work garners us praise, speaking invitations and book contracts, challengers are demeaned, ostracized and occasionally threatened with tenure revocation.

Stephen Ceci and Wendy M. Williams, ‘Should scientists study race and IQ? YES: The scientific truth must be pursued’, Nature, vol. 457, no. 7231 (February 12, 2009), pp. 788-789