Here are some recent headlines from the world of science:
"Researchers Say Intelligence and Diseases May Be Linked in Ashkenazic [Jewish] Genes" - New York Times
"Some Politics May Be Etched in the Genes" - The New York Times
"Feminists Feed on Lawrence Summers' Flesh, Vital Organs; Pancreas Swallowed Whole, 'like a Cocktail Peanut.' " - New York Times
OK, I made the last one up. Feminists didn't actually feed on the president of Harvard University, but it's certainly been all-you-can-eat-at-Sizzler night, metaphorically speaking. In January, you might recall, Larry Summers raised the possibility - nay, the hypothesis! - that as a statistical matter biological differences may partially account for the disproportionately low number of women at the top ranks of science. In response, an activist feminist professor from MIT contracted a case of the vapors, and when she arose from her fainting couch she was on the "Today Show" complaining to a supportive Katie Couric about what a bigot Summers is. Fast forward from her Café Vienna moment with Katie, through more groveling than Jake Blues offered to Carrie Fisher at the end of "The Blues Brothers," and we have the recent announcement that Summers will spend an additional 50 million of someone's tuition dollars over the next 10 years to atone for his - and Harvard's - alleged bigotry toward (just-as-smart-as-you-Mister-Man) female scientists.
The flames of the Summers' auto-da-fe cast a useful light on the cognitive dissonance, schizophrenia and bad faith dotting the intellectual and political landscape today when it comes to genetics.
Consider the other headlines I mentioned above. One paper by a respected independent researcher suggests that Jews from Northern Europe (aka Ashkenazi Jews) are more likely to get certain diseases, like Tay Sachs, in part because Jews have been selectively breeding for intelligence for centuries. Central to the theory is the fact that Jews have been middleman traders, financiers and bankers since the Middle Ages - occupations that require high levels of intelligence.
Or consider the new study that claims, as reported just this week in The New York Times, that political attitudes are in some part genetically determined. The study itself, which appeared in the American Political Science Review, is far more cautious than the Times' coverage of it. But the basic gist is that studies of twins have revealed that genetics plays a significant, but far from ironclad, role in political attitudes. Identical twins are more likely to see politics through a similar prism than other siblings. Or so the authors claim.