The War on Science

In an op-ed at the Washington Post this morning Charles Murray writes:

I’m confident that within a decade, the weight of the new scientific findings will force the left to abandon the equality premise. But if social policy cannot be built on the premise that group differences must be eliminated, what can it be built upon? It can be built upon the premise that used to be part of the warp and woof of American idealism: People must be treated as individuals. The success of social policy is to be measured not by equality of outcomes for groups, but by the freedom of individuals, acting upon their personal abilities, aspirations and values, to seek the kind of life that best suits them.

The second tendency of the new findings of biology will be to show that the New Man premise — which says that human beings are malleable through the right government interventions — is nonsense. Human nature tightly constrains what is politically or culturally possible. More than that, the new findings will confirm that human beings are pretty much the way that wise observers have thought for thousands of years.

Dr. Murray is clearly wrong. He is writing about bourgeois science but during the same decade I am quite certain that socialist science will prove incontrovertibly that treating people as individuals is futile (and, of course, unscientific) and that the right government policies will transform whatever millions of years of evolution have made of human beings into happy, productive, or, at least, docile members of society.

Sadly, Daniel Patrick Moynihan was wrong. Today we all have our own facts.

Something we should never lose track of of: science is a human activity and like every other human activity it will be dominated by political considerations.

4 comments… add one
  • Dave, I’m working on something which bears on this, and you might find it interesting:

    Roughly, I have begun to introduce the basis of a universal explanation for why it is that people get emotionally caught up in ideological positions, even when they diverge from reality.

  • The particular section you highlight makes a bit of sense but Murray’s piece overall is drivel.

    The stuff of life — the elemental events surrounding birth, death, raising children, fulfilling one’s personal potential, dealing with adversity, intimate relationships — occurs within just four institutions: family, community, vocation and faith. Seen in this light, the goal of social policy is to ensure that those institutions are robust and vital. The European model doesn’t do that. It enfeebles every single one of them.

    Oh? And the evidence that the “stuff of life” only exists within the named institutions? Let alone the evidence that the European model (a nonsense phrase given that it tosses Sweden and France, the UK and Portugal all into one basket) enfeebles those institutions? Not provided.

    A little news flash for Mr. Murray, a lot of the “stuff of life” plays out within the mind of a single individual, without reference to any institution.

    Murray’s piece contains the assumption that European governments have undercut institutions, the assertion that this has deeply affected the way individuals live their lives, and the assumption that nothing government can do will alter the individual. A bit of an internal contradiction there. If government can alter institutions, and those institutions form the warp and woof of life, and man cannot experience the stuff of life outside of those institutions, then governments can quite clearly do precisely what Mr. Murray claims they cannot.

    Murray is talking nonsense in pursuit of his ideological agenda, all the while claiming a deeper loyalty to facts.

  • I thought he was overgeneralizing enormously. So, for example, I think there’s probably as much difference between Sweden and Italy as there is between Sweden and the United States.

    My own view is that I’m satisfied for the Europeans to be European and the Americans American. It’s not so much that I think that one France is quite enough but that I think no Americas would be too few.

  • Dave:
    I agree I just moved back to the US after some time in Europe. I’m in the unusual position of not being geographically tethered by work or other connection to any state or country. I choose to live in the US.

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