James Watson's Critics Use Most Discredited Word In The English Language: "Discredited"
January 29, 2019, 10:53 AM
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[Adapted from the latest Radio Derb, now available exclusively on VDARE.com.]

I am going to register my vote for the most discredited word in the English language. My vote is for the word "discredited."

I think the word "discredited" is totally discredited. When I am reading something in a general-interest newspaper, magazine, or internet article about the human sciences, when I come to the word "discredited" I stop reading. If it is indeed a newspaper or magazine I'm reading, I throw it across the room, while inside my head a big red neon sign flashes the words THEY'RE LYING! THEY'RE LYING! …

Case in point: last week's issue of The Economist. In the Science and Technology section they had an article about James Watson's recent re-defenstration by Cold Spring Harbor Lab. Quote from that:

Dr Watson's views about race and intelligence seem to stem from his keen interest in The Bell Curve, a book published in 1994 by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, that, among other things, argued African-Americans were less intelligent than white Americans and genetic differences between ethnicities played a role in the difference. Modern genetic research has largely discredited these ideas.

[James Watson: A pioneering biologist is reprimanded for unscientific, offensive views, January 17th 2019]

Modern genetic research has of course done no such thing. The last 25 years of that research has not dispositively either confirmed or refuted the hypothesis that race differences in intelligence have a genetic component; but on balance I think a fair-minded observer would have to say that it's tilted the probabilities somewhat over towards Watson's side of the argument.

Except of course that there is no argument; only pointing and sputtering, and scientists scurrying for cover in terror of having their careers destroyed as Watson's has been; and purportedly serious magazines telling us that some hypothesis or other has been "discredited."

Someone who actually understands scientific method should explain to the Art History majors who run The Economist that a hypothesis can be validated or invalidated. Neither thing has yet happened to the hypothesis of race differences in intelligence being genetic.

You may observe that "discredited" is a near-synonym for "invalidated"; so when a hypothesis has been invalidated you could fairly say it has been discredited. But since, I repeat, that thing has not happened yet to the hypothesis under discussion, it has not been discredited.

If the researches of the past 25 years have discredited anything, they have pretty thoroughly discredited the notion that individual genetic differences have nothing whatever to do with intelligence, personality, or behavior. Race differences still need work—we just don't understand enough at this point—but Watson's hypothesis is an entirely reasonable one.

https://www.ebi.ac.uk/sites/ebi.ac.uk/files/styles/medium/public/person/image/birney_ewan_web_2015.jpgA bit further down the article we meet one of those scientists scurrying for cover. This is 46-year-old Brit Ewan Birney, (right) a real genomicist of some stature—a member of the Royal Society, who actually studied under James Watson at Cold Spring Harbor in his younger days. Now, well into middle age, he is comfortably ensconced in a senior administrative position at the European Molecular Biology Lab in England.

The Economist managed to grab Dr. Birney by the coat-tails just before he scurried to safety in his burrow. They pulled him out and asked for an opinion on the Watson business. Trembling with fear at the very name of Watson, Dr. Birney[Email him] did not disappoint. Quote from The Economist:

Genetics … cannot be the main reason for any observed differences, says Ewan Birney … because self-identification of ethnicity does not easily map onto genetic ancestry. "African-Americans have a substantial amount of European genetic ancestry—you should in fact call them 'African-European-Americans'," observes Dr Birney.

On the first point there, about self-identified race mapping into the genome, I refer you to my piece on Charles Murray that went up at VDARE.com on January 24th, where I noted a 2005 study out of Stanford University Medical Center finding that in a sample "consisting of 3,636 people who all identified themselves as either white, African-American, East Asian or Hispanic … only five individuals had DNA that matched an ethnic group different than the box they checked at the beginning of the study. That's an error rate of 0.14 percent." [Racial groupings match genetic profiles, Stanford study finds, January 27, 2005]

(And I pause to frown at The Economist using "ethnicity" when they mean "race," which is a different thing, as I have explained very patiently elsewhere.)

On the second point, that black Americans are now so much mixed in with whites that "genetics cannot be the main reason for any observed differences"; even a person ignorant of science is bound to find himself thinking along the following lines, imaginary quote:

There are lots of observed statistical differences between self-identifying American blacks and whites: differences of skin color, duh; also of height, weight, hair texture, earwax texture, cranial capacity, bone structure, hormone levels, age of maturation, disease susceptibility, athleticism, ability to taste phenylthiocarbamide and a thousand other well-documented traits.

So … how come that "substantial amount of European genetic ancestry" hasn't purged out those differences, Dr Birney?

Dr Birney? … Hello, Dr Birney? … Where did he go?

This is the kind of innumerate gibberish that even distinguished and knowledgeable scientists descend to when faced with the prospect of being Watsoned.

I repeat: A hypothesis, like the one James Watson voiced, may be either validated or invalidated. A hypothesis to which neither thing has yet happened cannot be said to have been "discredited."

What can be said to have been discredited is a magazine that substitutes Cultural Marxist talking points for serious scientific commentary.

 

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