Catching Flak

Disjointed Ruminations of a Web Critter

August 31, 2014

This ill-tempered eructation is probably in bad taste. My childhood made me do it.

Should you want to earn a doctorate in aberrant psychology, you might instead try writing a column on the web, at least if you write about third-rail subjects. The response you receive from readers will be a cross between Guy Fawkes Night and a home for rabid dogs.

The subjects engendering the sharpest ire are race, IQ, and evolution. I could write that six-year-old girls should be taught to engage in anal sex with HIV-positive feral hogs, and the response would be mildly against, almost as an afterthought. “Probably not a really great idea, Fred. Maybe we ought to think it over.” But IQ—hoo-boy. Say that Jews are way smarter than ordinary whites (which the evidence certainly suggests) or that East Asians represent an evolutionary advance over Caucasians in intelligence (even though everything from test scores to brain size suggests as much) or especially that Latin Americans may not be stupid as hoped, and the squalling would take paint off a wall. Do not ever suggest that IQ may not be an accurate measure of genetically determined intelligence unless you are ready to go into hiding.

And evolution: People actually become angry if you do not share their faith in the miraculously accidental provenance of weird segmented crawly sea-bugs with a thousand eyes that scuttled about in the Cambrian ( i.e., trilobites). Why, for God’s sake? Trilobites would seem to have exiguous influence on our trajectory through this vale of strangeness in which we inexplicably find ourselves. Couldn’t people get upset over something else—mortgage rates, maybe?

Some of these folk are exceedingly intelligent and well-read, such as Steve Sailer, Razib Khan, my fellow race-traitor John Derbyshire, and Peter Frost  in Canada (the latter not being a distressing medical condition but an anthropologist). All of these may be found on my favorite website, The Unz Review. They are well worth reading—carefully.

But those appearing in the Comments sections are chiefly noise, fellow travelers boiling with comic but often vapid indignation. You would think I had molested their sisters, all beause of trilobites. If commenters were restricted to those who had done basic reading, I suspect they would be much fewer and perhaps not so angry.

I suggest that people who want to talk about evolution ought to have a reading knowledge of elementary biology, a familiarity not just with the metaphysics of Richard Dawkins but with the sweep and phenomenal complexity of life. I mean (if the reader will bear with me) such things as:

Basophils, eosinophils, neutrophils. Descemet’s membrane, ciliary body, suspensory ligaments, retinal pigmented epithelium (the eye being of evolutionary interest). Peptide pituitary hormones, vasopressin and oxytocin. Osteoclast, osteoblast. Nephrons, glomerulus, Loop of Henle. Axon, dendrite, sodium in-potassium-out depolarization, neurotransmitters, receptor sites. Rough and smooth endoplasmic reticula, Golgi apparatus, lipid bilayers, hydrophobic and hydrophilic tails, lysosomes, ribosomes, epitopes, m-RNA, t-RNA, transcription, translation. Restriction enzymes, DNA polymerase. Purines adenine and guanine and pyrimidines cytocine and thymine (well, uracil in RNA). Degeneracy of the codon alphabet. Nucleotides, nucleosides, adenosine triphosphate, indels, mitochondrial cristae, single-nucleotide polymorphisms, polymerase chain reaction, restriction-fragment length polymorphism, electrophoresis. Luciferin, (and Luciferout?) luciferase, ATP. X chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA. Peptide bonds COOH to NH2, water molecule extruded. Socially important compounds like 2, 4, 6- trinitrotoluene, toluene being benzene with a CH3 group, bond resonance in benzene, pH, the negative log of the hydronium ion content. Levo- and dextro- isomers. Alkanes, alkenes, alkynes, al gore. Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian. Purported transitional forms: The Ichthyostegids of, if memory serves, upper Permian sediments of eastern Greenland; Archaeopteryx, Bavaria 1861; coelacanth, Marjorie Latimer, sort of 1937 I think; and my favorite, Piltdown Man. The amniote egg. Saurischian and Ornothiscian dinosaurs. Sauropods, pseudopods, copepods. Etc.

While I am no expert, on anything, I have done the minimal reading. Since many questions regarding evolution depend on details rather than vague and sweeping theories, detail is important.

And accessible. Anyone who chooses can find an organic-chemistry text, a university text on biochemistry, a med-school physiology book, one on comparative anatomy, and a similar tome on paleontology, which provide what seems to me a necessary background.

I don’t think a little reading is too much to ask of the wrought-up and hostile. The material is inherently easy, requiring little beyond a fair memory. Most of biology is more terminology than content—that is, simple ideas wrapped in scary jargon.

For example, doctors speak of “systole” and “diastole,” whereas if they said “pulse” and “interpulse,” the meaning would be instantly clear to all of us rubes. Or: If I say “Acetylcholine, a major neurotransmitter except in the post-ganglionic sympathetic system, diffuses across the synaptic gap and binds to receptor sites, the excess being removed from the gap by acetylcholinesterase,” it sounds frightfully  important and mysterious.

If however I say, “In a restaurant, cigarette smoke drifts from one table to the next, whose inhabitants get red-eyed and annoyed, and fan the smoke away with a menu,” it is as puzzling as potatoes. Yet conceptually the two are identical. Big words, small ideas.

So much for the infuriosi of evolution. The other theme that upsets commenters is, as mentioned above, race. In this, blacks are largely incidental. Involved instead is a massive intellectual edifice of strict materialism from the Big Bang through formation of galaxies, planets, seas, the appearance of life, evolution, and finally genetics as the determinant of practically everything. It is not a calm understanding thoughtfully held. Its materialism is categorical and all-inclusive, so that anything not explained by material interactions would call the whole structure into question. Since it serves many of the functions of a religion, any doubt draws the reactions usual to heresy.  

Benetah a disingenuous objectivity, its adherents are emotional, become enraged by dissent, and often personally hostile. I am regularly told in terms condescending or insulting, that I am stupid, ignorant, and “anti-science.” Sure. Any day now.

Genetic—that is, materialistic—explanations come naturally also to the commenters, even to those who could not distinguish between a gene and a back hoe. Thus the profound belief that the various races, however defined, have fixed intelligences that forever determine their place in the world. For example, India has a mean IQ of 81, relegating the country to eternal insignificance.

Maybe, and maybe not. But the apostles of uber-materialism, sure that everything is genetic, take a beating from the liberal media, sure that nothing is. In opposing one political correctness, they have constructed another, equally intolerant. An embattled ideologue is a rigid ideologue.  There is also palpable in this a large dollop of good old-fashioned racial animosity.  Thus the eruptions of dyspepsia, marvelous (and fun) to behold.

See? I told you this would be disjoined.

Philip Francis Stanley and Grotesque Ophthalmological Malpractice