Monday, October 29, 2007

Is there a good naturalistic argument for racial equality?

Gosh I hope so. But James Watson seems to think otherwise.


exapologist said...

Yep, Watson's a nut. I think Peter Singer's account of equality in "All Animals are Equal" is plausible, though.

Hallq said...

Re title: and if there isn't, why on earth would you expect to find good supernaturalistic arguments?

Victor Reppert said...

Well, if I were tackling this offhand I wold say that the evidence for an advantageous difference between blacks and whites stemming from environmental causes is pretty good, and the history of various individual blacks making top-level intellectual contributions is pretty overwhelming, too, so I really don't know where Watson is going with this type of evidence. It is true that Darwin was not a racial egalitarian, but many Christians in Darwin's time were anti-egalitarians as well. I think there is a worry about people using "social Darwinist" arguments to defend exploitation of the weak. There is also a worry about the possibility of eugenic raising its ugly head.

The Hebrew prophetic tradition, which is picked up very forcefully by Jesus, suggests that one of the bases on which people are judged is how they treat the weak and the powerless. The further idea that Christ died equally for every human being (here the Calvinists would substitute the idea that Christ died for people in every racial or ethic group without distinction) can be used to oppose a racist philosophy.

Hallq said...

1) Social Darwinism:

Aside from questions about the naturalistic fallacy, Darwin has been invoked for a number of conflicting causes, so prima facie there's no reason to assume any of the people so invoking him do so legitimately.

2) Eugenics:

The feasibility and usefulness of eugenics is a function of how the world is today--it doesn't matter whether it got that way through evolution. Notice Plato raised the possibility of human eugenics long before Darwin, not based on some primitive theory of evolution but on observations of animal husbandry. Would you suggest theism or substance dualism could challenge apparent findings of modern genetics?

3) Christianity:

Both the points you make here seem to be purely a question of ethics, not the way the world is (specifically, the facts about difference between racial groups). And it's not clear why a naturalist couldn't say we have ethical obligations to treat people well regardless of race, regardless of innate differences between racial groups.

Victor Reppert said...

Do we have any good reason to suppose that Watson has some eugenicist motivations in mind in making these statements? Or is he just saying that there is a some genetically grounded intellectual superiority of whites over blacks. If the former, then we have worries about Social Darwinism and ethical arguments to engage.

If it is a narrowly scientific claim with no further agenda, then all I can say is I don't know where he's getting his evidence.

Personally, I don't see any more reason for superior intelligence as a basis for unequal treatment (assuming it exists, which as I indicated, I doubt), than I see the ability to jump higher as a basis for unequal treatment. But if the basis for preferential treatment doesn't have to be rational, then we start treading in ethically troubled waters.

Anonymous said...

I think we can all learn more about racial equality by reading books written by Jewish prophets.

They were God's chosen people, after all.