Monday, February 17, 2020

Dawkins vs Molyneux on eugenics

On Sunday, Richard Dawkins posted this tweet that many expected to lead to his absolute, immediate, and hysterical cancellation:


Yes, Dawkins wrote that "eugenics works" which just doesn't mean that it's a right policy to introduce. Needless to say, as a sane and honest biologist, he has to write it: humans are just another species of mammals and breeding and similar things (including genetic engineering) surely work for the other mammals, so it must work for humans, too.



Surprisingly for many, the reaction was subdued. These days, it's apparently more heretical to say that "men and women differ" than to say "eugenics works"! ;-) Indeed, this paradoxical comparison is one of the reasons why we rightfully say that the contemporary leftists are very close to the old-fashioned fascists and Nazis.



Even more surprisingly, the most elaborate yet passionate criticism of Dawkins' assertion was prepared by the the Canadian rightwinger Stefan Molyneux:


Eugenics doesn't work, he said, because the results of eugenics or breeding are dictated by the "owner". Here it would be a government that would wants to create obedient smiling brain-dead people everywhere. The essence of this assertion is surely right: eugenics is a deliberate process, like breeding, so the intent of the "owner" of the process is decisive and the interests of the "owner" aren't necessarily aligned with the desire to have a very healthy, resilient, creative population.

But everything else that Molyneux said was unjustified. In particular, I really think that they just exchanged roles and Molyneux was outraged in a nearly identical way as the social justice warriors. He immediately created a picture assuming that eugenics has to be introduced by an evil, self-serving, probably totalitarian government. Well, the Nazi German government belonged to those categories.

But it really isn't true that eugenics may only be started by a totalitarian government. By definition of eugenics, it would be started by a government that is willing to break some basic human rights. But otherwise the government may very well be a democratic one. A majority may really decide – and in some hypothetical (but increasingly realistic) circumstances, wisely decide – that the preservation of their collective existence does require extreme measures. And those policies may be introduced by a democratically elected government, one that may be replaced by a different one in few years.

Also, even in Nazi Germany, it wasn't really true that the government wanted to create millions of sheep. It really wanted to create human wolves or at least Germanic shepherds – some approximate opposites of the sheep. Yes, here in Czechia, they preferred to grow obedient workers in armories, surely not intellectuals.

I don't propose such policies now but I do find it plausible that at some moment, someone could persuade me that "it's already too late". I think that if such a need will exist in coming years, it's not late yet. But it's possible that to show that it's not late yet, the government that could need to introduce some urgent measures like that in the future would have to be a non-democratic one, indeed.

Dawkins was a bit provocative, emphasizing that his integrity as a biologist is primary for him. And Molyneux reacted like a leftist, a guy from the outrage culture who is building on social sciences instead. So I do think that it was an example of a reversal of roles. The ideological polarization is omnipresent these days but you can see that I may feel closer to a guy considered left-leaning than to a guy considered conservative. It's about science vs pseudoscience (the latter includes most of social sciences).

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