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"Can HBD Trump PC?" Steve Sailer's Address To the H.L. Mencken Club
Peter Brimelow writes: The 3rd annual meeting of Paul Gottfried and Richard Spencer's H.L. Mencken Club just concluded in Baltimore. I addressed the first, in 2008, and spoke again this year. But unfortunately VDARE.COM readers will just have to wait for the transcript because I'm not as well as well-organized as Steve Sailer, who this year addressed the subject "Can HBD Trump PC?" and actually wrote his speech in advance.
The incredibly energetic Spencer tells me that videos and speeches will soon be posted on his Alternative Right website. We'll link.
I'm glad to be back addressing the H.L. Mencken Club.
Richard Spencer has asked me to speak on the topic "Can HBD Trump PC?" So let me begin by explaining what those acronyms mean.
PC stands for "Political Correctness". HBD is short for "Human Biodiversity".
In an intellectually healthy world, of course, the study of "human biodiversity" wouldn't be imperiled by the reign of Political Correctness. Instead, HBD would be recognized as a necessary complement to the study of human cultural diversity. To a student of the social world, human biodiversity and human cultural diversity ought to be complementary tools, like a straight right and a left jab are to a boxer, or like words and numbers are to a thinker.
In 21st Century America, however, noticing reality is often, by unfortunate necessity, a political act. As George Orwell pointed out, "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle".
Should HBD be a field of study … or a political movement … or both?
Let's consider the term "Political Correctness" first. This is an old New Left phrase. I first recall hearing it about 30 years ago in an interview with Joe Strummer of The Clash, in which the punk rock star lamented how stultifying the demands of Political Correctness were even for a lifelong leftist like himself. (Despite Joe's Old Left proletarian façade, Strummer's father, a British diplomat and secret agent, had been a close friend of Kim Philby.)
We're often told that Political Correctness is a trivial matter of using the latest name for minority groups, but I always do that. That's less Political Correctness than politeness.
No, PC is vastly more far-reaching. It enervates American intellectual discourse on many levels.
"Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments …, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity."
What Orwell got wrong, though, is that inculcating crimestop doesn't require an army of men watching you from your TV.
Instead, you watch your TV—and learn from it what kind of thoughts raise your status and what kind lower your status.
It's a system of Status Climbing through Stupidity.
Every so often, a celebrity is fired to encourage the others: NPR dumped Juan Williams this week for admitting that passengers in Muslim garb on airplanes make him nervous. Earlier this month blowhard Rick Sanchez was sacked by CNN for responding sarcastically to his interviewer's suggestion that Jews are an oppressed minority in the media. (As one wag commented, Sanchez got fired for the first story he ever got right.)
In 2007, America's leading man of science, James D. Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, was forced to resign for admitting he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours-–whereas all the testing says not really".
In Hans Christian Andersen's 1837 story The Emperor's New Clothes, two conmen claim their fabric has "the wonderful quality of being invisible to any man who was unfit for his office or unpardonably stupid".
The tale's famous ending, however, is naïve. As anthropologists Robin Fox and Lionel Tiger point out, just because one little brat exclaims, "The emperor has no clothes!" the mob isn't going to suddenly concede the truth. Instead, they are going to get very angry at this unpardonably stupid child who, clearly, is unfit for his office of street urchin.
The costs of PC are sprawling. All truths are interconnected, so the unmentionability of certain facts, what Joe Guzzardi memorably dubbed "hatefacts", are like a black hole, sucking in enlightenment from across vast spaces.
The Bolsheviks used to talk about he who says A must say B. We live in an intellectual world where he who says A is under immediate suspicion of believing B, which would of course imply C, from which D could be inferred. So nobody better mention A.
For instance, the impact of Political Correctness on education-think is showcased in the Occam's Razor title of Bob Weissberg's book Bad Students, Not Bad Schools. Political Correctness so impoverishes our conceptual vocabulary that we lack a public way of even discussing the existence of bad students.
Or consider how George W. Bush unleashed subprime lenders. He signaled to federal regulators at his October 15, 2002 White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership that old-fashioned mortgage regulations requiring a down payment were discriminatory because minorities were less often able to come up with the cash. So, let Countrywide run wild.
Now, what about "human biodiversity"?
I came up with that phrase around 1996 and immediately plugged the term into an early Internet search engine. I found that anthropologist Jonathan Marks had beaten me to it, with his 1995 book "Human Biodiversity".
So this phrase was ready to be invented in the 1990s, almost certainly due to the efforts of the great entomologist Edward O. Wilson to popularize the neologism "biodiversity"—a contraction of "biological" and "diversity". Wilson, the author of Sociobiology, liked the word "biodiversity" because it embodied both his favorite field of study—the rich variety of insect life—and his favorite political cause: conserving the rainforests where so many insect species live.
Wilson likes to say that every boy goes through a bug phase, but he never outgrew his. Personally, when it comes to bugs, my feelings are more like those of biologist J.B.S. Haldane, who complained of the Creator's "inordinate fondness for beetles". In contrast, rather than having a bug phase, I've always been interested in why humans vary in size, age, sex, clothes, athletic ability, accents, looks, descent, wealth, sense of humor, personality, religion, intelligence, and so forth.
It's hard not to be interested in the subject of human diversity.
What's "controversial" today is thinking systematically, rigorously, and honestly about the causes of human diversity.
These causes can largely be lumped into biological diversity and cultural diversity. Those two are roughly similar to the famous conceptual duality of nature and nurture devised by Francis Galton in the 19th Century.
Let's examine one "hatestat" from the study of human diversity. Back in 1996, we saw the fourth consecutive Olympics in which all eight finalists in the men's 100 meter sprint, the race that determines the World's Fastest Man, were of primarily black African descent: 32 out of 32 finalists.
Occam's Razor suggested that cultural diversity couldn't explain a discrepancy that large: this isn't polo or yachting, it's running, something almost every child on earth tries. The simplest explanation for this extraordinary statistic is hereditary advantages in sprinting ability.
(Cultural diversity, however, could help explain other oddities from the history of sprinting, such as why East German women used to win all the time: the long German history of sophistication with performance enhancing chemicals.)
The study of human biodiversity tends to uncover relatively stable predictions about the future, which are thus of broad interest in improving our scientific understanding of the human race. For instance, in the subsequent Olympics of 2000, 2004, and 2008, all the finalists were black, so we're now up to 56 out of 56.
In the social sciences, you seldom see a statistic like 56 out of 56.
You can therefore use that finding to engage in what the philosopher of science Karl Popper called falsification. With one number, we can falsify quite a bit of the conventional wisdom about humanity.
Race doesn't exist? Well, properly understood, with a racial group being defined as a partly inbred extended family, then race seems to exist in the 100-meter dash, all right.
There hasn't been enough time for human races to evolve different tendencies? Well, Henry Harpending, who speaks next, is the expert on fast evolution. But I can at least say that there evidently has been enough time when it comes to running fast
I'm often asked: Why are you so obsessed with human biodiversity? Well, human biodiversity is my market niche. When I started writing in the 1990s, this was an obviously underexploited topic that would allow me to quickly make some contribution to helping explain how the world works.
I'm also asked: "Why can't you just notice how everybody is the same?"
Okay, let's try that.
Everybody has one head. Everybody breathes air. Everybody … well this list is getting kind of boring fast.
There's a reason for that: because knowledge consists of similarity and difference, of contrast. You can turn information into a binary digital stream of 1s and 0s, but you can't turn it into all 1s. That way lies non-knowledge.
My moral motto is that of Faber College, the fictional setting for the movie Animal House: "Knowledge is good". I suspect that truth is better for us on the whole than lies, ignorance, wishful thinking or spin.
Another question: Who would win in a fight: Human biodiversity or human cultural diversity?
Look, they are not Batman and Superman struggling for superhero dominance. They are, or ought to be, complementary tools for improving our understanding, just as numbers and words are. There will be different answers for different specific situations.
What are the political implications of noticing human biodiversity?
That's up to you. Consider the Olympic 100 meter dash again. The reality of biodiversity between the sexes—the fact that women would never win in open competition—is why women get their own 100-meter race. On that precedent, we could have separate races for separate races. Or we could have affirmative action, with whites and Asians getting a head start?
Or we could we just let the best man win?
Whatever your opinion is, at least it's now an informed opinion. The political implications of not noticing human biodiversity is that we get lousier policies than we need to.
Everybody is entitled to propose their own policies. But they aren't entitled to their own realities.
Can HBD trump PC by getting the facts out? A young friend of mine who was a grad student in genomics used to call me up a few times per year to alert me of a new study coming out that would, in his words, "shatter Political Correctness". I admired his youthful optimism, although I didn't share it.
Sure enough, each new study would come out in an academic journal. Moreover, Nicholas Wade, the New York Times' genetics reporter, would give it a lucid write up in the NYT explaining how it subverts conventional wisdom about the unimportance of race and heredity.
Was Political Correctness shattered? Nah. It just got smugger, angrier, and more bigoted—as James Watson found out.
So the answer to the title question "Can HBD Trump PC?" is: don't get your hopes up. A more realistic political goal for HBD is mere survival as a field of study.
In conclusion, is Human Biodiversity a political movement or a field of study?
AAt present, it has to be both. It has to struggle politically to not be exterminated as a subject for intellectual inquiry.
HBD's goal as a political movement is to someday not have to be a political movement—to help liberate the American mind enough that it will just be an ordinary way to help us understand how the world works.
[Steve ler (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA'S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA'S "STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE", is available here.]