activism/science/BellCurve

Lisa Rogers EQDOMAIN.EQWQ.LROGERS at email.state.ut.us
Thu Sep 14 16:50:36 MDT 1995


------------------- GOULD follows --------------------
>>> Scott Marshall <Scott at rednet.org>  7/5/95, 08:33pm >>>
[Scott asked Lisa about SJGould]
This is prompted because I went to hear him speak at the University of Illinois in
Chicago last year about the Bell Curve and it's implications. And while I thought
he made some interesting points for argument, I was shocked at what I took to be
a very elitist and arrogant attitude on his part. For example when some students
made the point that it was all well and good to tear up the racist and unscientific
stuff of the book, they wanted to know what should be done to more activily fight
the propagation of the bullshit. IE: why wasn't more being done to boycott (not
censor) the book and it's backers and demonstartions against their ideas etc. Gould
got on his high horse and basically refused to answer or even acknowledge these
kinds of questions - he seemed to imply that the abstract knowledge of the con
arguments was refuation enough. He bragged about how he had really given
Murray hell on TV, but wasn't the least bit interested in organized action to
counter the Bell Curve.


Lisa Rogers says: Well, here I am, a scientist and not ashamed of it, and thinking
myself an activist, even a bit revolutionary [have I told the story of the fight to
illegalize marital rape in Utah?], but I have not really got an answer to "what
should be done" either.

Like most scientists, I presume, I was not trained in boycotts and demonstrations
as parts of normal business within science.  Within that realm, a thorough, logical,
evidential destruction of an argument is exactly a sufficient measure of success in
debunking a pseudoscientific piece of crap.  [Of course it's not foolproof or
anything, puh-leeze don't anybody bother lecturing me on the socially created,
human, nature of scientists and the impossibility of objectivity, I know, I know.]

It might even be an indication of the partially successful working of the science
system that none of the bell curve bullshit was published in journals.  Reviewers
and editors would have to be embarrassingly stupid to let it in, _because it is not
[good or even reasonable] science_.  (I'm not sure if the book was self-published
or if some publisher took the chance that it would sell enough...)  Anybody can
publish a book!

So, here's your chance to educate a scientist - what do you think should be done?
What exactly is it that we should target, the publisher? the shops that sell it?  And
on which basis - that it is factually wrong, logically hopeless with unwarranted
conclusions, that it is harmful to humans if anybody gives it credence, that some
may invoke it to "support" their already racist views, or d) all three?  What do
you see as the "propagation of the bullshit"?  What do you think has been the
impact or effect of the Bell bull upon society, politics, etc?


When it first came out, I saw it all over TV in every political talk/interview show,
and I was disappointed to find that nearly none of the talk was about the lack of
credibility/validity evident in the work itself.  Nobody was checking the references
and finding how the original data was actually transformed in several ways in
order to generate allegedly comparable "standardized test scores" from some so-called non-verbal test administered to non-literate black children in South Africa
40 years ago, and so on.
They went on about the possible social and political implications of the
conclusions, without challenging the basis for the conclusions.  I find this
troubling because it leaves the author free to say, "Well I can't tailor my work to
generate 'politically correct' conclusions".  The tiny number of self-styled scientists
making a living off this kind of crap just love to wave the flag of "academic
freedom".

This makes me sick, partly because I want "academic freedom" to defend ME!!
I don't want to tailor my work to find fathers and husbands the 'turning point of
humanness' if the evidence points another direction.  I don't want to twist up
Darwinian theory because somebody thinks that it's competition isn't compatible
with the possibility of socialism.  I want to know how evolution _really_ works,
and I think socialism will have to live with it, whatever it is.  But I also want to
be a socially responsible citizen.

Sometimes this seems to present a dilemma.
What do you think?

Lisa R



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