Blind them with values

Michael Gerson, former Presidential wordsmith, delights readers of the Washington Post’s editorial page twice a week. Why the Post or anyone would hire a former administration official (of the current administration) to hold forth on its op-ed page is an ever deepening mystery, especially since, though a speech writer, or perhaps propter hoc, Gerson so frequently doesn’t rise above the intellectual level of Jonah Goldberg-style “liberals are fascists” name calling. Today Gerson writes:

>This creates an inevitable tension within liberalism. The left in America positions itself as both the defender of egalitarianism and of unrestricted science. In the last presidential election, Sen. John Kerry pledged to “tear down every wall” that inhibited medical research. But what happens when certain scientific views lead to an erosion of the ideal of equality? Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a rising academic analyst of these trends, argues: “Watson is anti-egalitarian in the extreme. Science looks at human beings in their animal aspects. As animals, we are not always equal. It is precisely in the ways we are not simply animals that we are equal. So science, left to itself, poses a serious challenge to egalitarianism.”

The tension between the factual or factual-type assertions of scientists and the values of fraternity, sorority, liberty and equality follow from the very nature of the two different enterprises, as any twelve-year old knows. Anyone who has ever noticed the difference between an “is” and an “ought” knows that this is the case. It’s not peculiar to “liberalism,” unless (and perhaps this is the case), Gerson’s conservatism is ludditism.

One thought on “Blind them with values”

  1. That quotation from Yuval Levin is deserving of scorn in its own right!
    1) Watson is anti-egalitarian in the extreme.
    No, more likely he is simply a racist whose familiarity with genetics and statistics helped him come up with a scientific-sounding justification for his low perception of black people. In any case, it’s a very bold move to make Watson stand for science as a whole, especially since the scientific community’s reaction to Watson’s remarks has been uniformly negative. It’s a red herring–Watson’s rantings might have chilling political implications, but the scientific community is not responsible for his personal views, no matter what kind of scientific terminology he employs.
    2) Science looks at human beings in their animal aspects.
    This is some kind of category error…Human beings are animals and as such do not possess two distinct kinds of “aspects”, animal and human, the latter containing all the good ones. And science does not excuse or endorse the behaviors alleged to belong to the “animal aspects” including any discriminatory or otherwise immoral behavior. This is a false dichotomy.

    Ludditism is good call.

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