Biology as a Sorting Mechanism

Some try to frame the left/right dichotomy as a battle between ‘order’ vs. ‘chaos’, but it’s more like ‘egalitarianism’ (forced equality) vs ‘hierarchy‘, whether such hierarchy is biological, social, and or economic. The far-left may deny individual exceptionalism in favor of a ‘blank slate‘ approach, because they believe the state should be able to ‘perfect’ man. The reign of Pol Pot is one such extreme example, where anyone who didn’t conform to the Khmer Rouge’s vision of ‘perfection’ was either murdered or ‘re-educated’. The biological reality that some people are perhaps born ‘better’ than others goes against such aspirations of perfectibility and egalitarianism. A communist regime is very orderly and systematic (the opposite of chaos) in its efforts to force equality, and although the eventual deterioration of the economy may lead to chaos, and the installation of a far-left government may be chaotic, chaos just for the sake of chaos is not the intent. One can make the argument that the left is ‘too orderly’ in trying impose their will on biology and human nature.

But to get a communist government you must first have a revolution, which is why the left seeks crisis – whether economic or geopolitical – as a way of punishing the rich and bringing about a more egalitarian society where everyone is equal, even if it means everyone has less (Sanders’ economic vision comes to mind).

The economic strain of WW1 weakened the Tzar autocracy, eventually leading to revolution:

“Russian Revolution” is the collective term for a pair of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which dismantled the Tsarist autocracy and led to the eventual rise of the Soviet Union. The Russian Empire collapsed with the abdication of Emperor Nicholas II, and the old regime was replaced by a provisional government during the first revolution of February 1917 (March in the Gregorian calendar; the older Julian calendar was in use in Russia at the time). In the second revolution that October, the Provisional Government was removed and replaced with a Bolshevik (Communist) government.

As Pinker and others have noted, there is evidence the world is getting safer, and the left wishes this weren’t so, preferring chaos so that the ‘unfair’ status quo is replaced by a more egalitarian one. Liberals deny individual cognitive exceptionlism, to promote leveling. According to the left, if people succeed it’s because they had an unfair advantage, practiced 10000 hours, cheated, etc. – not because of superior genes.

The left is robbing exceptional people of their exceptionalism by planting seeds of doubt, that maybe exceptional people cheated or are deliberately oppressing the less successful. It’s like Obama’s ‘you didn’t build that’ remark. Nevermind the day traders on Reddit who are consistently making fortunes in the stock market despite the left’s insistence that the market and the economy is rigged. But over and over again, exceptional people keep proving the left wrong.

However when pressed, some on the left will concede that IQ is real, is biological, and is relevant for certain skills, but then they have another strategy, which is to turn IQ into a handicap, meaning that a high IQ must come at the cost of another but more important attribute (for example, that smart people are lazy or unethical).

The question is, can people handle the truth about genes and socioeconomic outcomes, and I’m afraid the answer in many instance is still ‘no’. As I explain in the post IQ Anxieties, the idea of biology as a ‘sorting mechanism’ for society and achievement goes against the concept of ‘free will’ as ingrained by school, parents, teachers, clergy, etc – the conceit that anyone, with enough practice and education funding, can achieve anything (growth mindset vs. fixed mindset). And as explained earlier, such a sorting mechanism goes against the left’s aspirations of ‘perfectibility’. The ‘fixed mindset’ is more accurate, but probably not what people want want to hear, preferring the ‘growth’ one, which sells books and fills Ted talk lectures.

The concept of biological determinism makes many uneasy, because we want to believe we can not only control our lives, but our outcomes too. To quote Scott Adams, your mind is creating little movies in which you are the star.

For better or worse, the disconnect between reality and these ‘mental movies’ is vast. Maybe ‘better’ because, at the personal level, it’s a coping mechanism; ‘worse’ because the consequences of individual delusions are shared by society, in the form of bad policy.

Teachers can identify exceptional students at a very young age, long before 10,000 hours can kick in. Or the especially well-written Salon or Slate article that you know was written by someone with genuine talent at putting words together, talent that manifests early in life. Even in school, there are the ‘smart’ kids and ‘dumb’ ones. Again, no 10,000 hours needed to separate tomorrow’s losers from potential winners. Some defenders of the 10,000 rule may argue that the rule only applies to those who are already talented, with the 10,000 hours of practice supplementing talent instead of of replacing it, in which I agree, but many deny the role of talent altogether. The delusions inspired by the 10,000 hour rule remind me of parents who think their dull kids are smart, or Amazon self-publishers who blame ‘gatekeepers’ for their crappy books being rejected.

We want to live in a world where where if we fail it’s someone else’s fault, a conspiracy, or a failing of society – not a failing of the individual. That’s why Sanders’ blame-the-rich rhetoric is appealing to many – no, it’s not your fault (either due to laziness, poor life choices, bad genes, etc) for failing to succeed at life, it’s those ‘greedy rich people’ keeping you down. Although ‘bad genes’ are obviously beyond one’s control, it’s still an individual problem, not a societal one. This means that the successful and society should not divert too much attention to them (losers), but instead focus on the winners. Maybe this is unfair or mean, but it’s economic and biological reality that some will be better than others, that some will have more than others, and those who have the biological potential to succeed should have priority over those who don’t.

Related: Education and the Blank Slate: Setting Realistic Expectations