Search Box

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The New Victorians

While writing the previous post, it occurred to me who the politically correct class remind me of: the Victorians.

The Victorian bourgeois are remembered for having such prudish attitudes that they covered their piano legs out of a misplaced sense of modesty. They studiously avoided certain words they considered indecent. Women were kept covered up, with only their ankles and possibly feet showing. And it was widely assumed during the era that women were asexual.

We laugh at them now for their insistence on ridiculous social codes and their unwillingness to acknowledge basic facts about human nature (such as women's sexuality).

Science has made great strides in learning about human nature in the past century. We've not only learned about women's sexuality, we've discovered the neurobiological roots of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, and have developed drugs which keep them under control. We have learned more about evolution and all its implications, including the different mating strategies between sexes. We have learned about the genetic basis for for such basic human differences as IQ, and even for traits like shyness.

However, any mention of any actual differences between people -- or populations -- is considered scandalous by the New Victorians. Unfortunately, they seem to be in control.

Any politician who would dare mention the genetic basis for IQ in public would be hounded out of office. In fact, any scientist who mentioned that would be forced to leave his job. Just ask James Watson, long ago discoverer of the double helix and more recent discoverer of the consequences of political incorrectness.

Any university president who suggested that there might be cognitive reasons why women aren't as well represented in the highest ranks of science or engineering or math would provoke a firestorm of protest. In fact, merely suggesting such a possibility was the beginning of the end for Larry Summers at Harvard.

The statistics on IQ, by the way, show that women average five points less than men, and are underrepresented at both ends of the bell curve, meaning, fewer female geniuses as well as fewer female idiots.

But heaven forbid anybody mention this. It would be like the Victorians talking about a woman's leg. It's simply not something that decent people do.


Anonymous said...

John, how does this post sit with the extraordinary accomplishments of the Victorian era? The Victorians made the scientific and engineering progress that provided the foundation for the "atomic age". The Victorians era was the first of genuine mass affluence. Victorian literature included the groundbreaking speculative/science fiction of Wells and Verne. Massive Victorian era investment in infrastructure still serves us well today. I could go on...

What's a little public prudishness relative to all this?


John Craig said...

Guy --
Every one of your comments is valid, but none of them negate my point, which focuses purely on their prudishness, without denigrating their many accomplishments.

And maybe, just maybe, could we perhaps be a touch less culturally/nationally sensitive?

BTW, while doing a very small amount of research for this piece, I found out that the Victorians weren't nearly as priggish as they are generally thought to have been. But I didn't want to get into that, it would have detracted from point of the post.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the public prudishness of the era reflected, in that time of enormous social change, progress and aspiration, a desire by the social leaders to adopt mores which were thought a basis for a better society. (Though we know that in private the Victorians' behavior reflected basic human nature.)

Accepting that theory, our PC zeitgeist might similarly be seen as reflecting a desire for a better society. In that sense perhaps we can accept it as human nature.

Fortunately, Victorian mores did not prevent their social and scientific progress so we can hope that "political correctness" will not prevent ours?


PS I shall not rise to the bait of your cultural sensitivity jibe.........just yet.

John Craig said...

Guy --
First paragraph, agreed.

Second paragraph, depends on how you define a "better society." (To me, it's a more honest one, not a less honest one.)

Third paragraph, I'm sure it will not impede scientific progress -- the scientists are for the most part sequestered away in their labs and will do their research regardless. As far as social progress goes, again, it's all a matter of how you define it. Basically, what's good for some people is not good for others, so it's basically just a power struggle.

And as far as your PS, I must confess to frustration: what can I do to get you to rise to the bait?

Anonymous said...

I have decided to go on a positivity kick. An attempted antidote to the social, political and economic challenges of the present. So you may have difficulty baiting me in my present mood.

(The only negative of course is that this may lead your erudite, and editorially demanding, readers to question my mental state, thus negating my renewed on topic focus. Oh well.)


PS Where on earth did that bizarre "grey lady" photo come from - a rejected extra from Scary Movie?

John Craig said...

Guy --
Just a warning: I'm taking your "positivity kick" as a personal challenge to bring you down into the gutter with me.

But, to tell the truth, I think I've already succeeded, as this is the second time today that you've made sarcastic reference to my erudite and editorially demanding readers. (Gutter blow.) But at least this time you didn't use the word "many."

I just Google Imaged "Grey Lady" and that picture came up, among many others. The figure pictured is in fact from some sort of commercial haunted house type of place.