Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Charles Murray on what science will conclude about what we already know

If Charles Murray isn't careful, he may end up on our list of Modern Wise Men. The only thing keeping him off now is that he is a social scientist and social scientists are excluded from the list by the Modern Wise Man Bylaws ipso facto. But if he keeps saying things like this, we might just have to recategorize him as a social philosopher, in which case he could qualify.

Here he is prophesying in the Washington Post on what science will conclude about gender and the family in the near future. He basically argues that science will come to conclusions about the nature of men and women, and the nature of the family, that any rational person who isn't culturally brain dead should already know. But, hey, we're thankful for small things:

A tidal change in our scientific understanding of what makes humans tick is coming, and it will spill over into every crevice of political and cultural life. As Harvard's Edward O. Wilson argues in his book "Consilience," the social sciences are increasingly going to be shaped by the findings of science. It's already happening. Whether it's psychologists discovering how fetal testosterone affects sex differences in children's behavior or geneticists using haplotypes to differentiate the Dutch from the Italians, the hard sciences are encroaching on questions of race, class and gender that have been at the center of modern social science. And the tendency of the findings lets us predict with some confidence the broad outlines of what the future will bring.

Two premises about human beings are at the heart of the social democratic agenda: what I label "the equality premise" and "the New Man premise." The equality premise says that, in a fair society, different groups of people -- men and women, blacks and whites, straights and gays -- will naturally have the same distributions of outcomes in life -- the same mean income, the same mean educational attainment, the same proportions who become janitors and who become CEOs. When that doesn't happen, it is because of bad human behavior and an unfair society. Much of the Democratic Party's proposed domestic legislation assumes that this is true.

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.

The effects on the policy debate will be sweeping. Let me give you a specific example. For many years, I have been among those who argue that the growth in births to unmarried women has been a social catastrophe -- the single most important force behind the growth of the underclass. But while other scholars and I have been able to prove that other family structures have not worked as well as the traditional family, I cannot prove that alternatives could not work as well, and so the social democrats keep coming up with the next new program that will compensate for the absence of fathers.

Over the next few decades, advances in evolutionary psychology are going to be conjoined with advances in genetic understanding, and I predict that they will lead to a scientific consensus that goes something like this: There are genetic reasons why boys who grow up in neighborhoods without married fathers tend to reach adolescence unsocialized to norms of behavior that they will need to stay out of prison and hold jobs. We will still be able to acknowledge that many single women do a wonderful job of raising their children. But social democrats will have to acknowledge that the traditional family plays a special, indispensable role in human flourishing and that social policy must be based on that truth.



4 comments:

rick said...

Marty, There are two threads running here.

as Kathleen Parker writes, there is marked refusal to recognize the special needs of boys. This is evidenced by education programs that focus on the needs of women - a group that has no special educational needs. Heck, the whole system is geared toward their learning styles and needs.

Kathleen laments that this leaves men adrift. Nonsense. It is no accident that the vast majority of great achievements in art, architecture, law, and the sciences were accomplished by men. i expect that to continue regardless of how graduate degrees are distibuted among men and women. the boys will be fine unless. . .

the steady and forceful hand of men is written out of the family. this is the real tragedy of the era of the woman, which not only denigrates the choice of a traditional family, but which celebrates the independence of out of wed births. i confess. neither i nor my kids are independent. we would not be as happy, successful, or prosperous without the love and support of my (ex)lawyer wife. what woman has the freedom to say the same without facing the scorn of her "peers"? and what boy will be optimally prepared to be a husband to my daughter without being raised in an environment in which a belief in the traditional family is not held dear.

Lee said...

Charles Murray is ever the optimist. As the late James Burnham said, when reality and ideology clash, something has to give -- and usually it's reality. Murray can see more clearly than almost anyone that things are wrong, and how they're wrong. What he doesn't seem to know is why they're wrong. If wise men have understood human nature "for thousands of years", it seems odd that we dismiss this wisdom because much of it happens to be Biblical. But that's part of the ideology of the age, too -- if it's Christian, we must ignore or suppress it.

Good luck on seeing any of the change Murray predicted if we don't turn back to Christ.

An Irritating Truth said...

Dr. Charles Murray, the W. H. Brady Scholar of the American Enterprise Institute is an elitist whose prejudice knows no bounds.

In his fragmented and contradictory essay "Thank God America isn't like Europe - yet" Murray spends a generous amount of time and paper wanking intellectual.

His arguments can be divided into seven parts:

- The part where he generalizes that the people of Europe are bunch of Godless heathens. (Also that for unspecified economic reasons he wouldn’t want America to be like Europe).

- The parts where he insists that the role of government is to support the institutions of family and religion.


- The part where he uses his psychic powers to predict that future scientific discoveries will conform and rationalise his prejudices.

- The part where he justifies abolishing “the equality principle” and uses Social Darwinism to rationalize his argument.

- The part where he implies that a strong economy is dependent upon a dominant patriarchy, and brands women, Hispanics, African-Americans, poor-people, gays, lesbians, and de-facto couples as incapable, inept, and hell-bent on destroying the economy.

- And the part where he contradicts his own argument of governmental responsibility in fostering the integrity of family and religion by demanding people be treated as individuals.

I don't know where he got his argument from but you can be sure that none of it is based on fact.

If being exceptional means becoming the kind of country Dr. Murray envisions then all I can say is Thank God Europe isn't like America.

I have dedicated a series of posts to listing just how many ways I disagree with him.

To read more, visit An Irritating Truth at:

http://www.anirritatingtruth.blogspot.com

Lee said...

> - The part where he generalizes that the people of Europe are bunch of Godless heathens. (Also that for unspecified economic reasons he wouldn’t want America to be like Europe).

What's the matter with pointing out that Europe is in a post-Christian phase? It is, you know.

> - The part where he justifies abolishing “the equality principle” and uses Social Darwinism to rationalize his argument.

Speaking of unspecified reasons, what exactly do you mean when you say, "the equality principle"? Do you mean Murray is in favor of affirmative action? I never got that from his stuff.

> - The part where he implies that a strong economy is dependent upon a dominant patriarchy, and brands women, Hispanics, African-Americans, poor-people, gays, lesbians, and de-facto couples as incapable, inept, and hell-bent on destroying the economy.

I checked out your URL, and thanks for the enlightening discussion. I hadn't been aware that resenting someone's argument was itself an argument.

> - And the part where he contradicts his own argument of governmental responsibility in fostering the integrity of family and religion by demanding people be treated as individuals.

Hmmm. We are talking about the same article, right?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/20/AR2009032001779.html

I have read a good bit of Murray, and I wasn't aware that he based any of his cases on government "fostering" religion. He always struck me as somewhat secular.

> I don't know where he got his argument from but you can be sure that none of it is based on fact.

I don't need to read Murray to read a fact-free rant. I can just read your post here.

> If being exceptional means becoming the kind of country Dr. Murray envisions then all I can say is Thank God Europe isn't like America.

Well, say goodbye to it, because Europe will be Europistan in thirty years, and it will be more like Lebanon. Funny thing about these post-Christian Europeans: they aren't reproducing. If you think Jerry Falwell was annoying, you probably can't wait until you look up at the TV and see "The 72 Club", with an angry ayatollah glaring at the camera.