Mélange 7/6/17

  1. Wretched excess in America
  2. Due process banished from campus
  3. The Return of Angelism
  4. Race and IQ

1

I am getting pretty tired of wretched excess in America:

  1. Incredible Edible America (moderately excessive)
  2. Ginormous Food (highly excessive)
  3. The Mustard Belt competition (competitive gluttony)
  4. Pastor Robert Jeffress’s Celebrate Freedom Rally (Run for your life! Lightning strikes likely!)

I’d like to think that the late W.A. Criswell is rolling over in his grave, but maybe I was naïve about his sobriety.

Were I still a Protestant, even a baptistic one, I think my last Sunday at First Baptist Dallas would be the first Sunday Jeffress started touting Trump.

2

Late last month a task force appointed by Gov. Chris Christie released a report on how New Jersey institutions should respond to sexual assault on campus. The panel, dominated by academic administrators and victim advocates, based most of its work on the assumption that university investigations are meant to validate accusations rather than test them.

The report urged Garden State schools to ensure that “equal representation is provided to survivors and the accused” and to develop “an investigation and adjudication model that honors the survivor [and] the respondent.” To describe an accuser as a “survivor” before the complaint is adjudicated is to prejudge the case …

A mid-June report on campus sexual assault from, of all organizations, the American Bar Association also played down the importance of lawyers to a fair disciplinary process. The ABA task force recommended that if a college does permit accused students to have a lawyer—and many don’t—cross-examination by the defense should be forbidden. In the ABA’s view, lawyers should submit questions to the disciplinary panelists, who can then decide whether, and in what form, to ask them.

The Supreme Court has called cross-examination “the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.” The ABA urges its abolition on campus to prevent “the potential trauma from having a victim be directly questioned by her assailant”—again, presuming the accused student guilty.

(KC Johnson, Will Trump End Campus Kangaroo Courts?)

3

It is standard wisdom that the sexual revolution pretty much triumphed … But along the way something strange happened. The protest on behalf of nature and the body was hijacked by a revived Cartesian angelism and transformed into an assertion of the supremacy of the will and the ultimate irrelevancy of the body.

This happened early on with homosexuality, where the very logic and shape of the body was ignored and the mind was given a precedence that should have been seen as utterly inconsistent with nature. It is curious that the public debate, such as there was, during the 80s and 90s on acceptance of homosexuality, and later of same-sex “marriage,” was conducted, for the most part, not on the level of a discussion of the obvious unnaturalness of homosexual acts, but by means of disputes about the meaning of often obscure texts from the Old Testament.

Where will all this lead to? In C. S. Lewis’ novel, That Hideous Strength, the third volume of his space trilogy, we can see where the anti-nature attitude of Professor Filostrato has led.

In us organic life has produced Mind. It has done its work. After that we want no more of it…. We must get rid of it…. Slowly we learn how. Learn to make our brains live with less and less body: learn to build our bodies directly with chemicals, no longer have to stuff them full of dead brutes and weeds. Learn how to reproduce ourselves without copulation.

In the novel Filostrato is simply the dupe of demons and of those directly in touch with demons. For the Devil, in spite of all his promotion of sins of the flesh, hates the human body, if for no other reason than that the Eternal Logos has assumed a human body as part of his complete human nature. This must be intolerable to that proud, pure spirit, Satan. Hence his relentless attack on our bodily nature.

(Thomas Storck, The Return of the Heresy of Angelism)

4

I suggest that race and IQ is an exceptional topic, in the literal sense. The data are not all in, yet I see no value in including this topic in our liberal-arts discussions. Certainly scientists will research the topic and will share their findings, which will always be available online for those interested. However, those aggrieved that this particular issue is not aired more widely in general discussion need to make their premises clearer — upon which, I suggest, those premises will seem less convincing than they are aware.

[L]et’s suppose that black people actually are, on the average, lower in g [roughly IQ] than others. Why, exactly, is it so urgent that this be openly “acknowledged”?

I can see exactly three rationales as to why we must be “honest” about the IQ gap, if it exists. None offers anything we could call progressive or constructive.

The first is that the IQ gap delegitimizes policy devoted to redressing the injustices that black people have suffered …

If this is what those calling for us to be “honest” about the data they draw attention to mean, then I suggest they be more overt in their prescription. But the prescription would fare poorly. The chances that there will ever be a brutally open, race-based meritocratic consensus of this kind among America’s ruling and chattering classes are roughly nil. Those who are revolted by the very idea of such a conclusion — including me — can rest assured that the moral development of the West, halting and imperfect though it has been, has produced a bulwark against complacently accepting racial stratification. As I have written often, educated Americans in particular now harbor nothing less than an anti-racist religion that will never accept such a mode of thinking as anything but antiquated and morally repulsive.

A second purpose of being “honest” about a racial IQ gap would be the opposite of the first: We might take the gap as a reason for giving not less but more attention to redressing race-based inequities. That is, could we imagine an America in which it was accepted that black people labored — on average, of course — under an intellectual handicap, and an enlightened, compassionate society responded with a Great Society–style commitment to the uplift of the people thus burdened?

I am unaware of any scholar or thinker who has made this argument, perhaps because it, too, is an obvious fantasy. Officially designating black people as a “special needs” race perpetually requiring compensatory assistance on the basis of their intellectual inferiority would run up against the same implacable resistance as condemning them to menial roles for the same reason. The impulse that rejects the very notion of IQ differences between races will thrive despite any beneficent intentions founded on belief in such differences.

Finally, some advocates of “honesty” about race and IQ have argued that we must acknowledge that black people have lower IQs but must also “progress” toward an ability to celebrate individuals for a range of talents beyond intelligence. I consider those making this argument sincere — and quixotic.

“Smarts,” as they drive civilization forward, will always occupy a privileged place in our evaluation of human beings. The Duke Ellingtons and the Michael Jordans will be our kings, but the Albert Einsteins and the Stephen Hawkings will be our gods. As a linguist, I am aware of no human language in which the word for “smart” does not refer to, well, smarts. No society in the world applies that word as well to those who are good at spearing fish, playing the flute, or making themselves well liked. Much of the reason we step around the issue of race and IQ is that intelligence, shimmering in all of its viscerally resonant glory, is something whose value we do not really question.

(John McWhorter, Stop Obsessing Over Race and IQ) I’m with McWhorter on this, and appreciate his articulating his position with gratifying depth.

I fall into his “sincere — and quixotic” category.  I just don’t believe that human worth depends on any manner of intelligence (multiple or IQ only), or that there are gradations of human worth on other grounds, either. A human is a human is a human.

* * * * *

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.