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Jewish World Review August 11, 2000 /10 Menachen-Av, 5760

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell
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Facts are "out" -- THE MODERN AGE has been called "the age of reason," as distinguished from past ages of faith. However, ideological faith has now begun displacing both reason and facts.

For example, hysteria about "global warming" continues unabated, despite satellite data which show the Earth to be a fraction of a degree cooler today than in 1979. These data come from the satellites of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Those who prefer to believe in global warming also prefer to use data from different sources, including readings taken in or near cities that are generating their own heat. But that is very different from NASA satellite readings of the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere, which is not warming. Those who are truly determined to promote the idea of global warming resort to computer models, which of course can produce virtually any outcome, depending on what assumptions are fed into the computer.

Misinterpretations of facts are just one problem. More brazenly, many denounce the very collection or publication of facts that go against their ideological faith.

Radical feminists like Gloria Steinem have denounced the collection of scientific data on biological differences between men and women. The feminist dogma is that "society" is responsible for creating artificial differences between males and females. Yet scientific study after scientific study -- many done by women, incidentally -- show differences between the sexes beginning in the womb, before they have ever seen "society."

Boys have higher mortality rates, beginning in the womb, and unborn little girls show more mouth movements. Among adults, studies of brain activity show the patterns of this activity to be different in men and women. No wonder the radical feminists want such research stopped.

Half a century ago, there was a survey of studies of black children with high IQs which listed 16 such studies of youngsters with IQs above 120, 130 or 140. Today, it is doubtful whether a single study of this sort is being done anywhere in the United States. In some places, it is forbidden by law or by politics to even test black children for IQs.

Back when IQ tests were widely given, blacks usually scored about 15 points below the national average. Black "leaders" then demanded -- and received -- a ban on IQ tests for blacks, lest anyone think this difference was genetic. Of course, this ban stopped no one from thinking that. All it did was suppress facts, including facts which could argue against the genetic interpretation.

First of all, there have been various Caucasian groups in the United States with IQs 15 points below the national average, as well as other groups around the world with similar test scores. Whole nations' IQs have risen by that much, without any genetic change. Moreover, high-IQ blacks include several times as many females as males. That goes against both the genetic and the environmental theories of mental test differences.

But we are forbidden to explore such facts. At a time when black scores are going up on various tests, we are forbidden to find out if they are also going up on IQ tests. Since scores on different kinds of tests tend to be correlated, chances are that black IQ test scores would also be going up -- if we were allowed to find out. But black "leaders" and white liberals won't let us.

It is not just particular facts that are denounced or suppressed. Increasingly bold intellectuals are denigrating the very idea of facts. It's all how you look at it, according to the more airy and self-indulgent of the intelligentsia.

Was Einstein's theory just a matter of how you looked at it? Even at Hiroshima or Nagasaki?

The idea that there is no such thing as truth has gotten very fashionable in some quarters. It is now called "my truth" or "your truth" or somebody else's truth. But truth loses its meaning if it becomes private property. The whole point of truth is that it enables one person to rely on what someone else says.

Behind all this evasion of reality is the simple fact that some people have constructed a vision of the world in their mind which differs greatly from the real world. And they cannot bring themselves to give up that vision. Nor will they allow others to shatter their vision with facts.

The real question is: Why do we take them seriously? Are we so easily impressed or intimidated by their airs of superiority?

JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author, most recently, of The Quest for Cosmic Justice.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate