The late Jim Lovelock’s Gaia Theory has been attacked for some years online as pseudoscience, with the suggestion that the Earth can see itself from manmade satellite imagery in space. Those who don’t know any better have misrepresented Lovelock in their claims that he said that the Earth is self-aware in the same way that people have conscious thought. This mischaracterises Lovelock’s theory, which, rather, suggests that the Earth can be viewed as a life-sustaining entity – a celestial body geared towards hosting life – and perhaps it would be helpful to science to assume a teleology in that sense, even if one does not exist. In some senses, the Gaia theory is pseudoscientific.
However, the ridiculous charge against Lovelock’s theory – that the planet has an intelligence – is analogous to the misrepresentations of the views of many of today’s thought leaders, particularly those speakers, podcasters and commentators just beyond the hard sciences. These leaders frequently refer to stats and scientific principles in support of their arguments, while their primary fields of expertise may be biology, neuroscience, or the softer fields of psychology or sociology. This piece is a venture in defending or critiquing what we believe at Yeah! to be the views held by some of the finest minds in public discourse today – most of them coincidentally (perhaps in some respects unfortunately) white males.
We strongly advise that you read further or watch or listen to their online material to determine what these philosophers’ and social critics’ own views are for yourselves.
For a number of years there appear to have been what might be deemed culture wars between
- thinkers who argue via the prism of science and reason,
- contrarians (often, though not exclusively, on the right) keen to cloud the debates related to these same thinkers’ efforts to improve society or introduce their ideas, and
- people who hold views in genuine opposition to these thinkers, or
- those who believe and therefore object to misrepresentations or generalisations attributed to these social critics and commentators over which they would not stand
For further reading on attacks from the Alt-right against those on the left, Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies is a good primer.
A class of Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) have faced criticism for their reluctance to hear out conservative speakers including Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulis (who himself comes in for criticism in Nagle’s book) on campuses in the United States. Academics who identify themselves to the left of these speakers have also come under attack.
Tested, verified, and peer-reviewed research and data is under assault by some on the left who charge the scientific community with racism, while similarly (as Steven Pinker and Sam Harris have discussed in a recent talk) the meaning of journalism and fake news are being re-defined by those on the far right. From a perspective of what might be deemed “progressive”, here’s a look at the “worst” of what we believe a number of these thinkers have said.
Race and Intelligence
Studies that show links between race and intelligence, applying scientific principles, suggest that although differences are discernible, they are not stark enough – as some of the thinkers who have discussed these studies admit – to apply these same measures to specific members of any race. As Sam Harris has suggested in conversation with Gad Saad, to use any such standards in a multi-ethnic society – giving preference to Asian over European candidates vying for an accountancy position, for example – would be racist.
What we think: Looking at testing itself, suggestions that our IQs are increasing decade on decade, for instance, may fail to consider certain standards and skill-sets. Is it fair to say, for example, that more people among a general population (in the West) could re-wire a plug or darn a sock a century ago? Is it also fair to suggest that people may have put fowl and livestock into the same category a century ago (as being from the farm) while a dog was a pet? Today, instead, we would differentiate between the birds and four-legged beasts. Does this suggest we’re smarter than our great-grandparents? If so, how? Similarly, there may be determinants – although the scientific claims run against this line of thought – that unfairly skew testing outcomes among members of different ethnic populations. A clarification on this here. Further clarification here.
The gender pay-gap is somewhat illusory (a position taken by psychologist Jordan Peterson)
According to the research, women tend to apply (and train) for roles such as teachers and nurses. Men happen to study for financially rewarding jobs in the STEM fields.
Even career-driven women take time out to have and care for children. Studies suggest that they feel more fulfilled – per capita – in their roles as mothers, and that women who work full-time spend more time with their children than their homemaker counterparts. Males are more competitive by nature, and they are therefore more likely to ask for or negotiate pay rises than female colleagues.
What we think: Regardless of how anyone feels about the promotion of legislation for gender quotas on boards of management or in houses of parliament, we’d contend that the above are reasonable points.
Muslims across the Islamic world support the terrorists in the so-called War on Terror
According to the cited statistics, many living in Muslim countries (such as Indonesia, Turkey, the UAE and Egypt) at least tacitly endorse the work of terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in fighting western democracies, or they believe in holy war, or they would like to see a global caliphate.
The conclusion one could draw is that there are hundreds of millions of terrorists or terrorist sympathisers – many of them living amongst us – who want to destroy secular civilisation.
What we think: The statistics (compiled by bodies such as Pew) may be credible. A quote from one report on the subject:
The ideas of Osama Ben Laden, the “mastermind” of the attacks of September 11, 2001, unfortunately continue to thrive in the Muslim world. Sixteen percent of the population in the Muslim world, according to the PEW data processed by us, continue to openly support Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, 17% the Taliban, 21% Hezbollah, and 22% Hamas. 27% of Muslims worldwide do not oppose suicide bombing.
Is it not the case, to use an example from the West, that many Catholic Irish-Americans supported the IRA when the majority of the population of Ireland denounced their violence?
Again, examining Catholicism as an example, are there not many within the Church who want to see the entire world Catholic? There are similar efforts among the Protestant churches to proselytise and convert. There are over twenty million Catholics in the United States and two million Muslims. How have followers of these conservative religions influenced social policy there?
Islam is perhaps the most conservative of major world religions, so it’s not surprising that its adherents would choose to live in a caliphate, say, just as Catholics choose to follow Rome. As some critics themselves claim, however, Muslims frequently prefer to come to live in secular democracies over countries where Islam or sharia is enshrined. The tendency to problematise Islam could be abused by Islamophobes to encourage division in multi-ethnic societies.
Perhaps our rejoinders are weak and our analogies are questionable!
However, we welcome your feedback.