Friday, August 13, 2004


Looks like Tatu Vanhanen is not going to be accused of inciting racial hatred after all. Thanks god for small favors.

What bothers me about the attempt to accuse him is how it relates to the scientific process in general. The man was obviously not screaming "kill the black people!" in the streets - he was expressing the results of his research, his theory, which he of course believes is right. Which brings us to the question: if his theory, god forbid, is right, do we want to forbid saying the truth because it insults an ethnic group? And if we are trying to punish him precisely because he is, in fact, wrong, does it mean that making mistakes in science is punishable by law, at least when these mistakes are insulting to as ethnic group or race? I thought that scientific research normally involves a lot of people being wrong a lot of the time.

OTOH: this is an example where the claim is not likely to incite violence. Saying "Blacks are stupid", "Jews are ugly" or "Norwegians fart all the time", although is not likely to please said groups, is also not likely to incite violence against them. What if the claim were "most Russians living in Finland have spied on Finland for Russia during the Winter War" and it were uttered right after the Winter War? And what if it were the truth? Would the turth have to be suppressed in order to avoid the violence? I don't know.

Another disturbing thing: some things are just too hot to touch, even for scientific community. IQ, as some people say, does not matter in any way and is totally unimportant, and therefore everybody who is studying it is a menace to society. IQ has absolutely no hereditary component, say some, and any correlation between smart parents and smart children is purely accidental. The thought that there might be variations in intelligence between ethnic groups is outright heretical, especially when expressed as "group A has lower IQ than our society's average", as opposed to the also politically incorrect, but much less so "group B has higher IQ than our society's average".

Vanhanen's research might be of low quality; hard to say since I have not read the book, but if this article is true, his method of data collection is, to put it mildly, rather unfortunate. What bothers me, however, is that if somebody did perfectly good research and came up with the same or similar results, it would not piss people off any less, in fact probably more. And no matter how good or well-proven the theory would be, the scientific community and the rest of society would not accept it - we are just too uncomfortable with the idea. In fact I am rather uncomfortable with the idea, though obviously not to the point of wanting to punish the researcher.

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