Karl Steel on Human Biodiversity: “Let’s Not Face Facts”
One of the great effects of the internet is its ability to let people make idiots of themselves, from Richard Dawkins’ tantrum over the confiscation of a jar of honey at an airport to Ed Balls’ tweeting of his own name. This ability can be politically informative, as it was when Mark Shea, a published author and speaker, fell for a transparent hoax claiming that the ‘Dark Enlightenment’, a loose group of writers who discuss politics and human biological diversity, is in fact a shadowy pagan cult, with millions of dollars of funding, that holds parties in capes and hoods on private islands with French chefs and chants in Old German.
Yes, that’s right: a man who essentially gets paid to think fell for something that a sixth-grader could have seen through. The Cathedral, as one can easily see, is perfectly willing to contain blithering idiots, so easily scared by the slightest hint of dissent from progressivism that they’ll believe anything about their opponents—the only way it could get better is if Shea had slipped up and stated a self-evidently ridiculous core tenet of his belief system.
…which is exactly what Karl Steel has done.
Steel, an assistant professor of English at Brooklyn College who lists among his teaching interests comparative medieval literature and “Critical Animal Theory”, decided to make his opinions known on genetics.
@HBDBibliography absolutely. when I want the best in science, I go with a journalist with a BA. seriously, fuck off.
— Karl Steel (@KarlSteel) March 5, 2014
(As opposed to a teacher of comparative medieval literature, whose scientific literacy is, naturally, second to none.)
After a hearty round of responding to every question or criticism with “fuck off”, he retreated to his blog, where he somehow managed to fall for the hoax Mark Shea published after Shea retracted it, and then wrote:
I’m not here to debate science or human potential (but, you know, here and here and here), because there’s no point in legitimizing this crap by carrying on the debate on the terms they demand. I’m more interested in the white supremacists’ insistence that I face facts and be reasonable. …
To take this further, the demand “be reasonable,” in purpose, [sic] the same idiom as “face facts.” It’s a demand to give up on trying, to stop fighting back, to just go along with the single option that’s available. It’s the certainty that there’s only one right solution to a problem. It’s an abandonment of creativity, an abandonment of skepticism, an abandonment of, well, hope, which might account for why the white supremacists and their Dark Enlightenment allies are so very, very gloomy.
If there’s a lesson we should draw from the fable tradition, particularly if we free it Henryson’s mostly dreadful Christian moralizations, let’s not face facts.
Let’s not face facts. This is an imperative of progressivism itself, though few progressives would be so stupid as to flat-out admit it. It’s no surprise that an assistant professor of English would believe that the only data needed to understand the world is a book of medieval fables—which are, remember, fiction; lions do not actually rescue mice from traps (but who needs facts like that anyway?)—but it is surprising indeed that anyone would come right out and admit that he don’t need none of that newfangled science stuff, or confess to the belief that the only proper and moral way to carry out government is to write off facts as unworthy of facing and read some old fables instead.
For Steel, “creativity, skepticism, and hope” are enough to find the truth. (Where’s the change?) But Steel’s prescientific mindset, as he ought to know as a medievalist, gave the world little knowledge. Most of the technology we see every day was made possible by the finding and facing of facts; none of it had anything to do with digging up cherry-picked morals from “noncanonical medieval literature” and touting them as unshakable truth.
Even more revealing of Steel’s mode of thought is his complaint that “a bunch of mostly white guys — or at least twitter [sic] personae presenting as white men, living or dead — tried to get me, a non-geneticist, to argue with them, non-geneticists, about genetics”. One can only imagine Ken Ham complaining that Bill Nye, a non-biologist, tried to get him, a non-biologist, to argue about biology. Just as you don’t have to be a biologist to know that evolution is the theory that best fits the data, you don’t have to be a geneticist (or even a psychologist) to know that, contra Steel, there is no “refusal to define” intelligence embedded in the study of it, or that the “racist” theory that there are genetic differences in intelligence across populations has not been disproven, and even has evidence in its favor. Or, for that matter, that the only way to decide whether those genetic differences exist is to investigate the question scientifically, and that fictional tales of lions and mice have absolutely nothing to say on the matter.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that a medievalist would have about as much knowledge of science as the average medieval peasant might have had; Steel doesn’t even appear to know that science is a set of processes for finding facts—in fact, it is the best such set to exist now. And here’s the thing about facts: there really is “one right solution”. That’s pretty much what truth means.
Then again, truth isn’t popular in universities these days.