Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pinker's Dangerous Ideas

Steve Pinker offers up a list of questions based on what he calls “dangerous ideas:”

Perhaps you can feel your blood pressure rise as you read these questions. Perhaps you are appalled that people can so much as think such things. Perhaps you think less of me for bringing them up. These are dangerous ideas -- ideas that are denounced not because they are self-evidently false, nor because they advocate harmful action, but because they are thought to corrode the prevailing moral order.

Well I guess I know where he is coming from but actually, no. I think each one of his candidates is at least an interesting question. If they are ‘dangerous” in any sense, it is because they are hard to answer, and because slick or simplistic answers can prove a nuisance. For my own entertainment, I offer his questions infra together with (in CAPS) my own slick and simplistic answers:

Do women, on average, have a different profile of aptitudes and emotions than men? YES

Were the events in the Bible fictitious -- not just the miracles, but those involving kings and empires? MOSTLY YES

Has the state of the environment improved in the last 50 years? MIXED; SOME YES, SOME NO

Do most victims of sexual suffer no lifelong damage? SOMETIMES YES, SOMETIMES NO, DK THE PERCENTAGES

Did Native Americans engage in genocide and despoil the landscape? YES

Do men have an innate tendency to rape? PROBABLY YES

Did the crime rate go down in the 1990s because two decades earlier poor women aborted children who would have been prone to violence? POSSIBLE, NOT PROVEN

Are suicide terrorists well-educated, mentally healthy and morally driven? THAT’S THREE QUESTIONS

Would the incidence of rape go down if prostitution were legalized? PROBABLY NOT

Do African-American men have higher levels of testosterone, on average, than white men? DK

Is morality just a product of the evolution of our brains, with no inherent reality? WHAT DO YOU MEAN “JUST”?

Would society be better off if heroin and cocaine were legalized? PROBABLY, BUT I’D TAKE IT INCREMENTALLY FOR MORE INFO

Is homosexuality the symptom of an infectious disease? NO

Would it be consistent with our moral principles to give parents the option of euthanizing newborns with birth defects that would consign them to a life of pain and disability? NO

Do parents have any effect on the character or intelligence of their children? THIS IS DANGEROUS? OF COURE THEY DO

Have religions killed a greater proportion of people than Nazism? SORRY, TOO SIMPLISTIC

Would damage from terrorism be reduced if the police could torture suspects in special circumstances? NO

Would Africa have a better chance of rising out of poverty if it hosted more polluting industries or accepted Europe's nuclear waste? YES

Is the average intelligence of Western nations declining because duller people are having more children than smarter people? YES

Would unwanted children be better off if there were a market in adoption rights, with babies going to the highest bidder? MAYBE; AGAIN, I’D PROCEED INCREMENTALLY HERE FOR MORE INFO

Would lives be saved if we instituted a free market in organs for transplantation? DITTO

Should people have the right to clone themselves, or enhance the genetic traits of their children? DITTO

HT: Marginal Revolution, but the link seems to be broken at the moment.

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