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Thursday, 15 May 2008

American Superiority: Genetic

Did someone declare this National Flaming Racist Idiot week, and I just didn't notice until now? You have got to read Michael Medved's latest foray into pseudoscience: he has declared American superiority to be genetic, encoded in our good old American DNA. Because our ancestors were immigrants, who were risk-takers, who were selected for their energy and aggressiveness. Oh, except for those who are descended from slaves.

The idea of a distinctive, unifying, risk-taking American DNA might also help to explain our most persistent and painful racial divide - between the progeny of every immigrant nationality that chose to come here, and the one significant group that exercised no choice in making their journey to the U.S. Nothing in the horrific ordeal of African slaves, seized from their homes against their will, reflected a genetic predisposition to risk-taking, or any sort of self-selection based on personality traits.

But, he hastens to add, modern African-American genetics have been leavened with the genes of recent, self-selected immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa, so their unfortunate stay-at-home genes have a "less decisive influence".

As is usual for Medved, a dullard incapable of any kind of thought beyond the superficial, he doesn't think his thesis through. Wouldn't this imply that Moslem immigrants to Europe, with their risk-taking willingness to move to new environments, are their true hope for the future? That the old blue-bloods of this country are less fit than, say, the Nisei? And if the descendants of African slaves are not successful go-getters because their arrival was coerced, what about the immigrants who were fleeing religious persecution, or all the Americans who are descended from indentured servants? Are there no successful entrepreneurs in Europe or Asia or Africa? Should we give extra bonus points to the descendants of nomadic tribes of warriors, like the Germans? It's a very peculiarly narrow view of a kind of simplistic genetic determinism that ignores the complexities and the varieties of ways people got here to promote a ridiculous premise.

And it just gets sillier.

Senators Obama, Clinton and other leaders who seek to enlarge the scope of government face more formidable obstacles than they realize. Their desire to impose a European-style welfare state and a command-and-control economy not only contradicts our proudest political and economic traditions, but the new revelations about American DNA suggest that such ill-starred schemes may go against our very nature.

Uh, what? Republican policies are now part of our genetic nature, and the Democrats will be defeated by our capitalist genes?

This is Michael Medved of the Discovery Institute, an organization that has recently been raving about the evils of eugenics and the soulless Darwinian view of nature. Yet here he is, spouting off the kind of smug, invalid, pseudo-biological jingo that belongs in the Gilded Age and would be comfortable in the mouth of a robber baron trying to justify a war in Latin America. It's nothing but handwaving rationalizations for an intrinsic superiority to our tribe, with a complete absence of evidence.