Creating More Diversity

Like Tyler Cowen, I found this interview with Harvard professor of genetics George Church bizarre, in the sense of un-self-aware. Here is the most telling part:

SPIEGEL: Wouldn’t it be ethically problematic to create a Neanderthal just for the sake of scientific curiosity?

Church: Well, curiosity may be part of it, but it’s not the most important driving force. The main goal is to increase diversity. The one thing that is bad for society is low diversity. This is true for culture or evolution, for species and also for whole societies. If you become a monoculture, you are at great risk of perishing.

“The main goal is to increase diversity”. Fine. Yet in Church’s own classes — if he is like 99.9% of professors I know — he treats all the students the same (same lectures, same assignments, same tests, same grading scheme), apparently not understanding that such treatment decreases diversity.

When I was a graduate student, I had lunch (along with other graduate students) with Richard Herrnstein, another Harvard professor (of psychology). Herrnstein was on Harvard’s admissions committee. The perfect candidate, he said at lunch, would be a flute-playing football player with perfect SAT scores. Jane Jacobs describes an equally dispiriting lunch with a Harvard professor of urban studies.

What is it about Harvard professors? As Ron Unz says, “the elites they have produced have clearly done a very poor job of leading our country.”

10 Replies to “Creating More Diversity”

  1. I absolutely agree that treating all students the same, decreases diversity along with real learning. This is something that is discussed in the homeschooling world and a few good schools often.

  2. I’m still reeling from the Unz piece. In particular, our current “elites”, who are not the old elites. Depressing…

    Seth: Unz complains (and I agree with him) about Harvard admissions. As my post indicates, I also wonder about the quality of teaching at Harvard and other elite schools. People often complain about groupthink (everyone thinking the same) at the top of our government. I’ve heard the same complaint about the French government: Everyone at the top went to the same school and thinks the same.

  3. And IIRC, Unz targets Harvard at being one of the worst offenders in using a “holistic” criteria for selecting UNDERqualified whites (in particualr, Jewish) who then become our next cohort of elites.

  4. This reminds me of a quote from Alain de Botton (I’m paraphrasing)

    There is nothing like climbing to the top that convinces people that the system is working.

    Seth: Or being born at the top.

  5. D- got a link for that or are you just spouting nonsense? I’ve never heard of Ivy League admissions being *easier* on whites, let alone Jews.

    Seth: That Ivy League admissions are “easier on Jews” is one of Unz’s main points. His data revealed this. Maybe he was also surprised, I forget.

  6. Seth: I’ve looked over some of his writings, and his main point seems to be that Ivy Leagues discriminate against Asians, much as they used to discriminate against Jews. He does complain a bit about seemingly lower standards for Jews nowadays, but a lot of people have pointed out that he’s conflating Jews with “half-Jews”, and the relative numbers of those two groups has changed dramatically in recent decades.

    Details aside, I’m amazed that in the age of affirmative action and discrimination against Asians, that anyone could claim discrimination in *favor* of whites. It doesn’t seem mathematically possible! (But maybe I missed something.)

    Seth: You mean “discrimination AGAINST (non-Jewish) whites”? Or do you mean “discrimination in favor of Jewish whites”? I don’t understand your point. Discrimination against Asians obviously favors someone else, why not whites? Or Jews?

  7. I should add that I’m not an expert on his claims about Jews; I merely found the comment about overall laxer standards for whites to be odd.

  8. To be clear, if you actually read Unz’ paper (it’s about 45 pages if you print), there is heavy, heavy discrimination against Asians and non-Jewish whites at the Ivy level. And there is basically AA for white Jews as well as the standard groups known to benefit from AA.

    Now we all knew Asians were getting screwed and we all knew whites got screwed, but the surprising parts of his paper are just how bad Asians and non-Jewish whites get hosed, and how much a boost Jewish whites get for being Jewish.

    This latter claim was certainly the most shocking, as I had always assumed Jewish overrepresentation in all academic circles awas simply due to cognitive and/or personality differences, but you can’t come away from reading Unz’ paper and still believe that’s the case for the Ivy league schools at present.

    Seth: I agree with all this. Let me add that Unz also makes a point similar to mine: That elite schools, while claiming to want diverse students, do a poor job of reaching that goal.

  9. My understanding that the pro-Jewish bias is actually a bias against certain classes of non-Jewish whites. A study a couple of years ago suggested that anything suggesting a conservative orientation (e.g., membership in Young Farmers of America) was the kiss of death for applicants. Obviously, this bias would hit non-Jewish whites far more heavily than Jews. I wonder how applicants with an obvious Orthodox or Hassidic background fare against Evangelical Christians.

  10. Christopher Burd, I’m not so sure that would be enough to explain the disparity, but I do think plain bigotry explains a lot of this. I’m guessing it’s assumed that a non-Jewish white kid from Idaho must (apart from basking in the glow of his Christian white privilege) spit tobacco, wear a cross and carry around a pitchfork when he’s not hunting or trying to find black people to harass or lynch. That abstract image is very easy to hate for someone who still (amazingly) maintains some group victim status, and sees that guy as an enemy.

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