September 22, 2014

Scientific American
75 Varick St. 9th floor
NY 10013-1917

When I read your section on diversity in SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN vol. 311 no. 4 October 2014 I was most struck with the lack of diversity of opinion it displayed in spite of its promotion of diversity as an advantage in seeking the truth.  So I thought it would be a genial thing to pretend an outsider had been invited into the discussion and to offer a few questions an outsider might have asked.  Rather than agonize over the Truth, I also include her/his own answers hoping those will be different from answers the authors would have provided, and as we know that is a good thing.

1. Is diversity emotionally acceptable?  Even an outside opinion would be that the answer is a resounding yes.  People who make promoting diversity a significant part of their life’s work all seem extremely happy.

Extreme feelings tend to follow patterns.  There is depression, marked by unhappiness and psychomotor retardation.  Then there is its reverse, the manic syndrome, marked by accelerated physical activity and at least superficially rapid movement of ideas.  The manic person is interested in accomplishing things, unrealistic though they may be.  The manic mood is infectious; we tend to be drawn into it as we are made gloomy by the depressed.

Religious transport is different.  It is marked by happiness, but generally not rapid thought or movement and little effort toward accomplishment.  The emotion is not infectious, leaving companions supportive but quite cold. 

The good feeling of the true believer in diversity is different.  It is euphoric.  Mice that have been dosed with morphine act euphoric.  They move around aimlessly more than mice ordinarily do, holding their tails straight up, raising each center of gravity upward by arching the back and standing on their toes, and their eyes bulge. 

There was such a thing as Nazi euphoria. The British secret service, which generally had little trouble in getting a few select people to betray their own country, lost their entire German operation very quickly to Nazi euphoria.  The turncoats simply stopped checking in with their controls.  The intent of the Nazis was to create a national society.  One remembers them as having been very exclusive, but on a more local scale they were very inclusive turning what had not long before been a collection of different countries and still had a great deal of local uniformity into a single, unified social machine. 

The euphoria of the believer in diversity can be recognized by the physical signs of the raised center of gravity, the increase in motor activity, which appears not to be particularly directed – it’s more like strutting – and the eyes bulge.  (Is that’s even possible?)  Yet the flow of ideas does not accelerate; if anything it is slows.  It is not slowed to the degree seen in religious ecstasy or depression, but it is certainly not accelerated as in manic state. 

This discordance of physical elation and mental hesitation puts the emotion into the “uncanny valley” of things which are almost, but not quite, right.  It can give you the creeps. 

So the outside contributor would say yes, diversity is tremendously rewarding emotionally.

2. The second question is whether it is legal.  That should be a no brainer even for the outsider.  Of course it is the law of the land.  The Supreme Court said, “Separate but equal is unconstitutional.”  On the face of it, that might be mad.  The right to pursue happiness is assumed in the Declaration of Independence, a document still respected.  If people want to separate, they have that right.  And again on the face of it the constitution says nothing of the sort.  It lists certain powers of the federal government and then says, in effect, “If we haven’t covered it, it’s the right of the states and of the people.”  So on paper the law of the land grants us freedom of association. 

But the effective law, as created and enforced by the courts, is that nothing may interfere with the national society.  And that law is vigorously enforced; they sent storm troopers into Little Rock.  So yes social diversity is legal, nay it is required by law.

3. Is it valuable?  It unquestionably is.  Your own articles assure us of that.  But there is a paradox here.  Any resource is finite.  If there is a valuable resource, then it must be conserved.  We deplete mineral resources, but we are very concerned about how much there is left.  We would much prefer if all our resources were renewable or at least recyclable. 

But diversity is depleted with no voice raised saying, “Wait.  We may need that one day.  Let’s limit our exploitation and save an ample amount for our children, who may face greater challenges one day than we have now.” 

So an outsider might value diversity, but it seems that nobody else does.

4. Is it safe?  Suppose your outsider offers to bring to your town a nuclear reactor on the principle that there is a market for the power it consumes and it will be cheaper if produced locally so as not to incur the costs of the long distance power lines and the energy lost in transmission.  You look at the plans and say, “Wait, you propose to make no arrangements for safety whatsoever.  Of course it’s cheap.  And by the way, get out.” 

The runes do not offer comfort.  People have been living cheek by jowl with their diversity under fairly traditional conditions the longest in Africa. Civilization is very old in Egypt and the Mid East.  Social conditions there have not evolved into an enviable state.  So there is much room for debate on just how safe diversity is.  Yet the outsider hears no debate.

5. Does it kill babies?  This gets a bit technical.  Let us define a baby as any very young person.  So how young can a person be?  The outsider proposes that when the healthy egg from a woman meets a healthy egg from a man and the couple are eager and able to raise the potential result into an adult, you have a person.  There are those who would say that life begins at conception, but that is a bit late.  The genetic construct of a unique human was established when egg met sperm.  There are many hazards to be met before conception; indeed getting from gamete pair to conception is more dangerous than all the risks between conception and adulthood combined.  But it is a person running those risks, not a chemical reaction. 

You may protest that there are things the outsider is leaving out.  A near term pregnancy that has been achieved with donor sperm does not meet the definition, for instance.  But at least you understand what is meant by a baby.

Now it turns out according to An Association between Kinship and Fertility of Human Couples Agnar Helgason et al. SCIENCE vol. 329 no. 5864 February 8, 2008 page 813 – 816 that if a couple are related as 8th cousins they will have fewer children than if they are related as 3rd cousins.  Egg meets sperm in both cases, presumably at about the same frequency, but the results are different.  If they choose the relative stranger they have killed some of their own babies.  This, in all probability, comes under the heading of pre-zygotic infertility.  The effect is not spectacular.  It is only a 20 to 25 percent reduction in the number of offspring.  And it saturates out at 8th cousin.  That same reduction will be seen if the couple are from the opposite sides of the world.  Then if you look at grandchildren there is a reduction of the same magnitude.  This time it is clearly post-zygotic.  So in two generations you have cut their fertility almost in half.  This much is true so far as science can give you truth.  There is massive evidence, which has been corralled at, which indicates that this infertility continues to accumulate to extinction. 

Now obviously this involves diversity on a scale orders of magnitude below what you are concerned with in the articles.  A village of a thousand to which nobody has moved for generations probably doesn’t have the intellectual diversity you seek in your studies, but its genetic diversity is so great that it will not survive much longer.  Diversity will kill all their babies.

People who work together are likely to play together, and professional diversity probably promotes social diversity.  You are not killing babies at random here.  You are selectively killing the ones who would have grown up to be professionals, to be socially tolerant, to be risk takers.  You are killing off exactly the ones you want to keep.

Thus there is ample evidence to demand a debate on such issues.  But one hears none, only one unified voice saying, “Diversity is always good,” and another, not unified, voice saying, “We hate all outsiders.”  In the absence of debate these will only get louder.  In that case you can guess which one will fall silent first. 

6) What about Rotherham?
Sorry scratch that.  This is no longer funny.

Anyway, there you go.  Don’t thank me.  You wanted an outsider’s voice, and I’m only trying to get with the program.


Linton Herbert

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