« The Flynn Debate | Gene Expression Front Page | Human Propensity for Dipshit Theories »
February 16, 2005

Strawman - The latest tactic in the Summers' Affair

I see that Henry from Ihmissuhteet has linked to us and his post links to some interesting developments in Sweden. The issue is centered on the social construction of gender and fits it quite nicely with our continuing coverage of the Summers' Affair.

Before I go further I wonder if anyone else has noticed, as I have now on a few occasions, that when the issue of Summers and Pinker's defense of Summers come up in debate, that Pinker is frequently slammed for invoking, what they refer to as the strawman of the Blank Slate, and it is argued that no one really believes that we are completely maleable so therefore Pinker is full of it. Q.E.D. Never mind the cognitive dissonance that must ensue from this line of reasoning, or the complete, or perhaps willful, ignorance of history about the prevalence of the Blank Slate premise.

It is for those who deny the existence of Blank Slatism that I link to Secular Blasphemy and their take on the latest brou-ha-ha in Sweden following Carl Hamilton's article in Aftonbladet: (emphasis added)

In one respect Sweden's government is unique in the world. It has a definite opinion about a scientific controversy: whether women's and man's brains are different, or not. The first time i realised that the government had involved itself in neurobiology, was when gender equality minister [! - ed] Jens Orback in a speech about sexual deviations and living with horses [!!! - ed], affirmed:

- The government considers female and male as social constructions, that means gender patterns are created by upbringing, culture, economical conditions, power structures and political ideology.

Apart from taking a position on this scientific question, the government has decided to side with the most extreme researchers: gene theoreticians who for ideological reasons state that biology can not have any saying in explaining why male and female behaviour differs.

This reminds me about the Soviet biologist Trofim Lysenko. Lysenko was by Stalin proclaimed a scientific genius and his "creative darwinism" was hailed as a huge step forward for genetic research. Lysenko argued that learned traits could be inherited and that by manipulating the environment one could easily cause fundamental changes in plants and animals. Career hungry politicians loved him. Ideology meant everything, experiment and science nothing.

The real scientists, who protested, were cleaned out (and executed).

One of the reasons I write this is that the county government (länsstyrelsen) in Norrbotten has banned the publication of a book about gender equality because it contains an interview with a scientist who argues that the difference between men and women is not only caused by the environment, but a combination of inheritance and environment.

According to professor Annica Dahlström, one of the world's leading neurobiologists, men's and women's brains are different. Thus she has entered an area where Sweden's government has already ruled what is scientifically true and false.

The result is that the book is being censored. The county government has demanded that the interview with Dahlström has to be removed, or there will be no money and no book.

The county government doesn't hide what this is about:

- Since our job is to execute Swedish policy, we cannot stand behind a book that expresses these opinions.

Thus, no deviating opinions about gender roles, especially not if they happen to be correct.

So there you have it - government policy is formed on the premise that gender is wholly socially constructed. If that's not a Blank Slate I'm not sure what else would qualify. Of course, the social constructivists who formed this policy surely didn't consult with the likes of E.O. Wilson ( I just love this quote) and other scientists who may beg to differ with this nonsense.

And let's not overlook the troubling aspect of politicians deciding what is science, and the troubling parallel to Tatu Vanhanen's brush with criminal prosecution for positing that there is a biological basis for many attributes that have differential distributions across populations.

Yeah, that strawman sure seems to have a lot of meat and bones.

Posted by TangoMan at 11:41 PM