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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! This is your peripatetically genial host John Derbyshire reporting to you from the lovely town of Tucson, Arizona.
I'm here to report on the annual conference titled Toward a Science of Consciousness here at the University of Arizona.
What happens is, once a year a bunch of philosophers, neuroscientists, psychologists, physicists, and a sprinkling of New Age types get together to read papers and compare notes, trying to figure out how the lump of meat inside my skull brings forth subjective experiences like redness, Middle C, the taste of garlic, or romantic love; or, as one of our hosts, the philosopher David Chalmers asks: "How does the water of the brain turn into the wine of consciousness?" Chalmers calls this the Hard Problem of consciousness.
If you think you know the answer to the Hard Problem, please don't email in with it. For one thing, I've heard every conceivable opinion on the subject this week, from the cool empiricism of philosophers Daniel Dennett and John Searle to quotations from the Bhagavad Gita in the original Sanskrit.
For another thing, being interested in this stuff is a kind of guilty pleasure that I can't help feeling one ought to have grown out of by one's twenties, like eating candy — one of those childish things the Apostle Paul tells us he put away when he became a man.
Well, I never did put this one away, but I'm a bit embarrassed about it, and just come to these conferences once in a while to get it out of my system. By the time your email arrives, this nagging curiosity about consciousness will be out of my system for another year or two, and I'll be getting on with the practical business of life, as a responsible adult householder should.
OK, that's quite enough about my inner subjective states. Let me turn to what's happening in the material world, ignoring those participants here at the Tucson conference trying to convince me the material world doesn't exist.
I can't actually offer you much in the way of commentary this week, I'm afraid, bereft as I am of my research and technical staff. Instead, I shall give over this week's broadcast to some free-form remarks on the week's big headliner: the Supreme Court decision affirming the right of Michigan voters to ban racial preferences in state hiring and college admissions procedures.
Here we go.
02 — The Supremes get one right. The vote was six to two, Justice Kagan having recused herself, for reasons I don't know.
Here's the background to the case. Back in 1996 a white lady, 43-year-old Barbara Grutter, decided on a change of career and applied to the University of Michigan Law School. She was rejected, but she found out that black and Hispanic applicants with lower academic scores than hers were admitted. She sued Lee Bollinger, the President of the University, on racial discrimination grounds. So the case bears the name Grutter v. Bollinger in the law books.
A district court ruled in Ms Grutter's favor; an appeals court reversed that; and in 2003 the Supremes upheld the reversal, in other words they let the race preferences stand.
This made a lot of people mad, and an initiative was put on the state ballot, banning race preferences in public accommodations. The initiative was passed by Michigan voters, 58 percent to 42, in November 2006. Its constitutionality was challenged, and appeals courts ruled that sure enough, it was un-constitutional — that Michigan voters had no right to ban affirmative action. The state of Michigan appealed that to the Supreme Court, the Supremes heard the appeal last fall, and judgment came this week.
To any person of common sense, discussions about race preferences in public accommodations take place in a looking-glass world of inverted logic and weird suppositions.
Here making that point is one person of common sense, Justice Scalia, writing in support of the majority, quote:
It has come to this. Called upon to explore the jurisprudential twilight between two errant lines of precedent, we confront a frighteningly bizarre question: Does the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbid what its text plainly requires?
Scalia nails it. A previous generation of Americans destroyed the village in order to save it. This generation is bent on destroying the principle of equality under the law in order to save it.
Dissent came from the Court's two most rigidly Cultural Marxist justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Let's take a look at that.
03 — La Latina loca. Justice Ginsburg seems not to have written up her dissent, but Sotomayor, a racial socialist of the worst kind, vented her wrath at great length — 58 pages.
I can't tell you I have read all 58 of those pages. I fear that if I were to do so, I would solve the Hard Problem of consciousness, at least temporarily, by losing consciousness. The few pages I sampled were full of convoluted and scientifically illiterate flapdoodle.
Sotomayor writes, for example, that:
Colleges … must be free to immerse their students in a multiracial environment that fosters frequent and meaningful interactions with students of other races, and thereby pushes such students to transcend any assumptions they may hold on the basis of skin color.
Six points of criticism on that.
Point one: In the first place, as Justice Kennedy pointed out, the matter before the Court wasn't the constitutionality of affirmative action, but whether state voters may decide by voting whether to have or not have affirmative action.
Point two: It's hard to see why colleges financed by voters' taxes "must be free" to do things that 58 percent of voters disapprove of.
Point three: The notion that affirmative action "immerses … students in a multiracial environment" is questionable. When our colleges have segregated "Africa House" dorms and black fraternities, Black Studies and Raza Studies programs, dining halls where the blacks all sit together, and math and computer science classes where blacks are harder to find than polar bears in Puerto Rico, where's the "immersion"?
Point four: The notion that this "immersion," if it even happens, "fosters frequent and meaningful interactions with students of other races" rests on Contact Theory, a sociological theory popular in the 1950s but now discredited by Robert Putnam and others.
If you want further confirmation that Contact Theory is a heap of dog poop, compare the way white people vote in Mississippi, which has always had lots of blacks for Contact Theory to work its magic with, to the way white people vote in Vermont, which has few blacks, and that only recently. In which of those two states are the whites singing "Kumbaya"? Right.
Point five: The assumptions that most 18-year-old college freshmen hold are the ones hammered into their heads from infancy onwards by the multi-culti propagandists of the public education cartels and mass media. The great majority of college freshmen don't need the multi-culti indoctrination that Justice Sotomayor seeks for them. The job's already been done. They arrive at college already believing everything she believes.
Point six: Race has nothing to do with skin color; it's to do with race — with ancestry and inheritance. Australian aborigines are black, but they are genetically no more closely related to West Africans than I am — less so, in fact. There are albino West Africans whiter than Sissy Spacek. There are hill tribes in Burma darker than Barack Obama. Anyone who does not understand this should be locked in a room with a copy of Mark Twain's novel Pudd'nhead Wilson and not let out till they've memorized it.
That's six pieces of foolishness occupying just five lines of text out of about 35 lines per page in Justice Sotomayor's dissent; one-seventh of a page out of 58 pages, or about one four-hundredth of the whole. Presumably if I parsed the entire dissent for you I'd come up with two thousand four hundred idiocies. Be thankful my time is limited.
04 — Open and candid. Here's another quote from the Wise Latina, quote:
The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.
Not being a judge, I have no power to apply or not apply the Constitution on anything. As a free citizen, though, I can take up the first half of Sotomayor's suggestion. I can "speak openly and candidly on the subject of race," so here goes.
Race is just inherited biological group differences, such as you find in any widely-distributed species of creature practicing sexual reproduction. We mate mostly with partners from the same geographical region. Iterate that for a few hundred generations, you get group differences in all heritable characteristics. If you iterated it for tens of thousands of generations, the groups would become so different they wouldn't be able to cross-mate. That is the origin of species.
Broad patterns of behavior, intelligence, and personality are all considerably heritable. It follows that in a multiracial society, different races will precipitate out differently on all indices of behavior, intelligence, and personality. Musicality, athleticism, introversion, criminality, academic achievement — different races will show different overall profiles, with much overlap of course.
This isn't rocket science. It's Biology 101.
What can we do about it? Nothing positive. Gene therapies might help, but we're decades away from that. There is one negative thing we can and should do: Stop pretending it's anyone's fault but Mother Nature's. That just creates rancor, social discord, and racial hostility.
That aside, our governments should, as Justice Scalia implied, firmly apply the Equal Protection Clause and eschew racial favoritism.
Is that open and candid enough for you, Justice Sotomayor?
Sotomayor's plea for us to speak "openly and candidly on the subject of race" is of course perfectly hypocritical, just as was Eric Holder's call five years ago for us to stop being a, quote, "nation of cowards" and to, quote, "have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us."
This is basic Marxist strategy, of a piece with Mao Tse-tung's professed desire to "let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend." A lot of naive Chinese people responded to Mao by criticizing the arrogance and privileges of the Communist Party bosses. Those naive people were all hustled off to labor camps.
This is how the left operates. If they show you a velvet glove, you can be sure there's a steel fist inside it. In the U.S.A. they can't send us to labor camps yet, much as they'd like to; but they can wreck careers and livelihoods. Ask Jason Richwine or James Watson. If you have anything to lose, do not "speak openly and candidly on the subject of race." They'll crush you like a bug.
05 — Let's gloat. For those of us in the reality-based community, the fun thing about the Michigan ruling has been watching all the wailing and gnashing of teeth among the lefties. I haven't taken so much pleasure from a public event for ages. I know, it's bad manners to gloat; but how many opportunities do we get?
The New York Times editorialists, for example, were weeping into their Cabernet Sauvignon. Quote, referring to Sotomayor's dissent:
"Our Constitution places limits on what a majority of the people may do," she wrote, such as when they pass laws that oppress minorities. That's what the affirmative action ban does, by altering the political process to single out race and sex as the only factors that may not be considered in university admissions.
So ending race preferences is an act of oppression, like apartheid in old South Africa. No, wait a minute: That was a system of race preferences … Ah, the hell with it.
Best of all, Al Sharpton blew a gasket, calling the ruling a, quote, "devastating blow for equal opportunity" and, quote, "a dangerous precedent on protecting minorities." Dangerous — you know, like whipping up a mob to burn down a clothing store.
Eric Holder naturally sided with His People, calling Sotomayor's dissent, quote, "courageous and very personal." Don't you love the way these leftists flatter each other for their "courage" in parroting the party line — in repeating what every elementary school teacher, every corporate HR department, every newspaper and TV editorialist, every Hollywood studio boss, every head of every government department, all say by rote. So courageous!
And Holder praised Sotomayor's dissent for being "very personal." How is it good for a Supreme Court justice to be "personal" in a written opinion on a case before the Court, let alone very "personal"? Aren't judges supposed to be im-personal? Do we really want our Supreme Court justices to be ruling based on their personal feelings or situations? Do we want an Attorney General who believes judges should so rule?
Just as predictable as these reponses from the power centers of our society was the non-response from the Republican Party. All the big names in the GOP were doing their familiar imitation of roaches when the kitchen light goes on.
This illustrates yet again why the GOP so richly deserves its epithet as the Stupid Party. Affirmative Action is widely and deeply unpopular. A survey for ABC NEWS last year found that 79 percent of whites and 71 percent of nonwhites oppose consideration of race in college admissions. A political party with more than five working neurons would pick this fact up and run with it.
So; a good Supreme Court decision, and a flash of illumination on our current political landscape. We didn't really learn anything about our politicians we didn't know before; but as the great man said, we more often need reminding than instructing.
06 — Signoff. That's all I can do in my present straitened circumstances, listeners. Radio Derb will resume full coverage of the world's events next week. Meanwhile let's raise a glass to Justices Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas, and Breyer for affirming, with various degrees of conviction, that the Constitution means what it says.
[Music clip: More Derbyshire Marches.]