A guest post by commenter Bill:
Over the last century or so and especially over the last fifty years, Western elites have adopted a number of bizarre positions. These positions are held not because any evidence suggests them to be true, but, evidently, for reasons emotional, ideological, and self-interested. This, by itself, is not especially comment-worthy: people are like that.
They also, however, adhere with similar intensity to older positions: to modern philosophy, to a kind of Whiggish history, and to the machine—to the Mechanical Philosophy and the scientific program it lionizes. To themselves they are hard-headed, empirical rationalists; guardians, seekers, and producers of truth. Naturally enough, rationalists, realists, and truth-tellers deserve to be high, while spiritualists, super-naturalists, and fantasists deserve to be low. The Logos must rule.
Tensions arise when the new beliefs come into conflict with truths produced by the machine, to which they are committed by the old beliefs. The tensions are not merely internal to the heads of Liberals, either. These two belief-sets are not equally strong in all Liberals, some of them lean heavily towards the machine and some of them lean heavily towards progressivism. Since progressivism is increasingly ascendant, the machinists retreat. One way they retreat, reminiscent of the way their predecessors the alchemists retreated before them, is into esoterica. That is they retreat into producing texts whose exoteric, open meaning is false and progressive but whose esoteric, hidden meaning is true and anti-progressive.
The most accessible example of this is race denial. The renowned Stanford geneticist (and cowardly machinist), Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, in the introduction to and again in chapter 1 of his 2001 book, Genes, Peoples, and Languages says explicitly and in almost these words that human “racial” differences are unimportant and are only skin deep. The remainder of the book is a detailed refutation of these claims, which refutation, however, never notices itself as such. By two pages from the denial in chapter 1, you know that race is at least blood deep. By the end, you know it is bone deep, gene deep. Exoterically, he never admits that race exists, that it is biological, or that it is important. Esoterically, the book is almost about showing the truth of these things. Cavalli-Sforza is famous enough that his behavior has provoked learned commentary. There is a fine series of blog posts on this by the anthropologist Peter Frost beginning here, continuing here and culminating in an informative seven part series (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven).
A funny example of this came to my attention the other day over at West Hunter, the blog of the physicist-turned-anthropologist Gregory Cochran. In the linked post, Cochran talks about the work of Dan Freedman with newborns. As it turns out, newborn babies display some of the stereotypical behavior of their respective races. Newborns display large differences in their willingness to accept externally imposed discomfort. Babies rank, from most to least accepting: Navaho, Chinese, Japanese, White, Black. As it turns out, you can buy a DVD of data from the experiment, a DVD entitled Cross-Cultural Differences in Newborn Behavior. Look at the word between “cross” and “differences.”