by Massimo Pigliucci
It is a rare case where I find myself sympathetic to quotes from both Steven Pinker and a Pope. And yet, reading and thinking about eugenics can cause this sort of strange happening, and more.
Here is Pinker, from an interview with Steve Sailer  about The Blank Slate, criticizing what he called “the conventional wisdom among left-leaning academics” and their obsession with Nazi-inspired eugenics:
“The 20th century suffered ‘two’ ideologies that led to genocides. The other one, Marxism, had no use for race, didn’t believe in genes and denied that human nature was a meaningful concept. Clearly, it’s not an emphasis on genes or evolution that is dangerous. It’s the desire to remake humanity by coercive means (eugenics or social engineering) and the belief that humanity advances through a struggle in which superior groups (race or classes) triumph over inferior ones.”
Fair enough. And here is…
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History has been very kind to Abraham Lincoln, often referencing him as “Honest Abe” and “The Great Emancipator”. This may due in part to stories of his early life, the struggles he endured and the heights to which he climbed politically.
One must wonder just how accurate these gushing descriptions are of the actual Lincoln, though.
The truth, as is so frequently the case, is far more complicated, and indeed darker than the saintly narrative inherited by America.
It’s no secret that the academic “achievement” gap has been a go-to meme for educators, policymakers and the public-at-large for years. It’s been used as a scapegoat for the lack of diversity not only in higher education, but in a wide swathe of industries as well. For black Americans particularly, the gap has been seen as a sort of tacit cultural indictment. But are black people, or more specifically black parents at fault for not properly preparing their children to be educated in the American school system? Researchers Keith Robinson and Angel L. Harris say the evidence suggests other factors are at play.
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Whether the conversation focuses on positive gains or negative impacts, race is a constant hot-button issue in America. Some believe that we’ve entered a period of “post-racial” awareness. Put simply, a lot of folks want to believe that structural/systemic racism is no longer an inhibitor to success in the States. Those uber-optimists may be right, to some extent, but as a recent article in the Atlantic finds, we’ve still got quite a journey, particularly in terms of equal education.
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In a recent interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” Neal deGrasse Tyson–astrophysicist, internet icon, heir to Carl Sagan as The Great Public Scientist– made an interesting point when asked to comment on his position as a scientist who happens to be black. Any listener could tell that he was annoyed that race was even brought up; like any self-respecting scientist (and unlike so many humanities academics, ZING!), Tyson wanted to talk about the soundness of his work, not his racial or ethnic identity. However, when pressed on the race issue, he opened up, speaking of when he was a teenager who was both obsessed with astronomy and a talented wrestler, and encountering many teachers encouraging him to pursue wrestling rather than science.
This sort of low-level racial stereotyping is both common, and unsurprising. Our white-dominated society has long had fewer problems with successful black entertainers (musicians, actors, athletes, from…
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I attended a very interesting keynote speech tonight at UMKC. Edward James Olmos spoke about Cesar Chavez, civil disobedience, and the plight of the Latino, but the most fascinating thing he said all night was this: “They invented race to make it easier for us to kill each other.” Boy did he hit the nail on the head.
As ambiguous a word as “they” is, we all know that it is a technical term for any powers that be. And “they” had a very good reason for wanting “us”, another technical term for anyone who is not in the powers that be category, to kill each other. It was the only way they could convince us that they were a necessary entity to begin with. This is a very Hobbesian approach to the problem of proving legitimate rule by consent. This problem and Hobbesian approach still exist today in our…
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The city was fairly diverse in the 1960s, yet there were underlying tensions between different ethnic groups and their particular sympathies towards Detroit’s black population. In this map the Detroit Geographic and Expedition Institute (DGEI) mapped out those various relationships based on Census data.