I’m oversimplifying things, but again the compassionate/sympathetic/progressive side of the debate – and the side endorsed by many of the poor themselves – is supposed to be that success is due to accidents of birth, and the less compassionate side is that success depends on hard work and perseverance and grit and willpower.
The obvious pattern is that attributing outcomes to things like genes, biology, and accidents of birth is kind and sympathetic.
For example, a comment from last week: I’m sorry to leave self a self absorbed comment, but reading this really upset me and I just need to get this off my chest…How is a person supposed to stay sane in a culture that prizes intelligence above everything else – especially if, as Scott suggests, Human Intelligence Really Is the Key to the Future – when they themselves are not particularly intelligent and, apparently, have no potential to ever become intelligent? I hear these kinds of responses every so often, so I should probably learn to expect them. But first, a comparison: Some people think body weight is biologically/genetically determined.
Other people think it’s based purely on willpower – how strictly you diet, how much you can bring yourself to exercise.
In Math, I just barely by the skin of my teeth scraped together a pass in Calculus with a C-.
Every time I won some kind of prize in English my parents would praise me and say I was good and should feel good.
Since IQ this high only appears in 1/10,000 people or so, it beggars coincidence to believe this represents anything but a very strong filter for IQ (or something correlated with it) in reaching that level.
Although there’s a lot of debate over the science here, there seems to be broad agreement on both sides that the more compassionate, sympathetic, progressive position, the position promoted by the kind of people who are really worried about stigma and self-esteem, is that weight is biologically determined. Sometimes I see depressed patients whose families really don’t get it.Attributing them to who works harder and who’s “really trying” can stigmatize people who end up with bad outcomes and is generally viewed as Not A Nice Thing To Do.And the weird thing, the thing I’ve never understood, is that intellectual achievement is the one domain that breaks this pattern.But the very phrase tells us where we should classify that belief. I got a perfect score in Verbal, and a good-but-not-great score in Math.
Ramanujan’s genius is a “gift” in much the same way your parents giving you a trust fund on your eighteenth birthday is a “gift”, and it should be weighted accordingly in the moral calculus. I shouldn’t pretend I’m worried about this for the sake of the poor. And in high school English, I got A s in all my classes, Principal’s Gold Medals, 100%s on tests, first prize in various state-wide essay contests, etc.
Here it’s would-be hard-headed conservatives arguing that intellectual greatness comes from genetics and the accidents of birth and demanding we “accept” this “unpleasant truth”.