Monday, January 02, 2006

More from the Crackhouse of Dangerous Minds

Danny Hillis takes a Trent Lott approach toward dangerous ideas. If you all would just keep your mouths shut about these dangerous ideas, we wouldn't have had all these troubles.

To me, the idea that we should all share our most dangerous ideas is, itself, a very dangerous idea. I just hope that it never catches on.
The monks who burnt the Great Library of Alexandria (and murdered the Librarian) no doubt had similar views.

Steven Pinker, who also came up with the "dangerous ideas" topic, has a very dangerous idea indeed, one that drives many of his academic colleagues into the Hillis camp. It's not a new or original idea though, nor even one that would seem surprising to 90% of the population:
Groups of people may differ genetically in their average talents and temperaments

The year 2005 saw several public appearances of what will I predict will become the dangerous idea of the next decade: that groups of people may differ genetically in their average talents and temperaments.
That idea has been the dangerous idea of an awful lot of decades. The problem isn't that it's false, because it may well not be. The problem is what can be done about it to prevent it from becoming the rationale of war, genocide, and mass discrimination. Pinker doesn't offer much in the way of a solution:
Political equality is a commitment to universal human rights, and to policies that treat people as individuals rather than representatives of groups; it is not an empirical claim that all groups are indistinguishable. Yet many commentators seem unwilling to grasp these points, to say nothing of the wider world community.
Many a parent who has had an elementary school teacher tell them their child "is not bright enough for college" has had the experience of seeing that child graduate in a demanding curriculum and take a starting salary twice that of the offending teacher, but genetic testing offers the rather gloomy prospect that someday those predictions may always be correct.

On the other hand, maybe it would ease some adolescent stress if a kid could get his or her response letter from Harvard Admissions before the first birthday.