Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Saletan Tackles Another Tough Issue

Studies show that the races might be ranked according to average intelligence. But all this data does, of course, is remind us that we should think of people as individuals or particular persons and not as members of races, and that William Jennings Byran was far from completely wrong to fear that evolutionary science, disconnected from egalitarian, dignified moral guidance, might readily be used to justify despotism and eugenics. "Sinful man," St. Augustine writes, "hates the equality of all men under God and, as though he were God, loves to impose his sovereignty on his fellow men."

Discussions - 11 Comments

Peter - Great idea to pick WJ Bryan and Augustine to guard the gates against misunderstanding!! Just right.

Given that today is Gettysburg Address Day, we do well to check in on Lincoln to see if he has any wisdom to impart on this subject insofar as it has any political implications. A note he wrote to himself (c. 1854) regarding slavery and human equality seems fitting:

"If A. can prove, however conclusively, that he may, of right, enslave B.--why may not B. snatch the same argument, and prove equally, that he may enslave A?--

"You say A. is white, and B. is black. It is color, then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own.

"You do not mean color exactly?--You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and, therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own.

"But, say you, it is a question of interest; and, if you can make it your interest, you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you....

"Most governments have been based, practically, on the denial of equal rights of men, as I have, in part, stated them; ours began, by affirming those rights. They said, some men are too ignorant, and vicious, to share in government. Possibly so, said we; and, by your system, you would always keep them ignorant, and vicious. We proposed to give all a chance; and we expected the weak to grow stronger, the ignorant, wiser; and all better, and happier together."

Lincoln gets to the heart of the matter by demonstrating that mere self-interest, not a true concern for one's fellow man (be he equal or otherwise), drives the late justification for white enslavement of blacks. Another note (c. 1858) presents a supposition for consideration by those who may be tempted to find solace in racial hierarchy:

"Suppose it is true, that the negro is inferior to the white, in the gifts of nature; is it not the exact reverse justice that the white should, for that reason, take from the negro, any part of the little which has been given him? 'Give to him that is needy' is the christian rule of charity; but 'Take from him that is needy' is the rule of slavery."

Nota bene: Lincoln says, "Suppose it is true," suggesting that black inferiority could very well be untrue, and yet even if it were true, one could not infer that the great variety of social, civil, and political inequalities oppressing blacks in America (both North and South) in his day were justified or warranted. Lincoln's supposition was geared towards bolstering the humanity and decency of whites in a day when many North of the Mason-Dixon line were being seduced by Stephen Douglas and others to think nothing of the spread of black slavery into the federal territories. "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy." Lincoln's formulation of a political Golden Rule would appear to be appropo of the findings noted above.

Jefferson said as much back in 1809:

". . . whatever be their degree of talent, it is no measure of their rights. Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not therefore lord of the person or property of others."

Slate magazine deserves a lot of credit for running this article. I am very curious what the reaction will be or if it will be conveniently ignored.



First, some people need to apologize to Watson. The way he said what he said was ham handed, but the hysterical reaction was absurd. Especially the claim that what he said was not scientifically supportable.



Second, doesn't this prove that proposition nation thinking is a lie? The genetic template of those who make up a nation’s founding stock obviously matters.



Third, isn’t the fact that Hispanics have an average IQ of 89 an important thing to consider when it comes to immigration?

Thanks, Lucas...

Morel says this: "Lincoln's supposition was geared towards bolstering the humanity and decency of whites in a day when many North of the Mason-Dixon line were being seduced by Stephen Douglas and others to think nothing of the spread of black slavery into the federal territories."

I have the Library of America Lincoln just like everyone else, and I can see that every single Lincoln quote that Morel posts above comes from notes that Lincoln made. He didn't even write this stuff to his friends. And when got in front of a crowd he said stuff like this: "I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the races. There is a physical difference between the two, which in my judgement will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there mustbe a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position." So the idea that he wanted to bolster white humanity just does not hold water. He wanted to shut the blacks, slave and free, out of the territories.

As for the supposed moral issue of slavery spreading to the territories Jefferson said this: "Moral the question certainly is not,because the removal of slaves from one state to another, no more than their removal from one country to another would never make a slave of one human being who would not be so without it. Indeed if there were any morality in the question it is one the other side; because by spreading them over a larger surface, their happiness would be increased, and the burden of their future liberation lightened by bringing a greater number of shoulders under it."

Poor Augustine was far too fixated on his pears. "Tolle lege, tolle lege...."

Peter, what, more specifically, was Augustine's idea of the equality of men/human beings under God? Is it the same as, compatible with, comparable with, some mixture of comparable with and dissonant from, Lincoln's?

Paul, You've reminded me of why I'm afraid to give multiple-choice tests. But I'll choose something like compatible with (and adding, well, which Lincoln?--that great president becomes, in a key way, more Christian in the Gettysburg Address and especially in the Second Inaugural. A big issue is something like: Is the modern idea of the individual (embedded in the Constituion with its refusal to treat people as members of races, classes, genders, or religions) dependent on the Christian conception of personal freedom (with its critique of natural and civil theology) given by Augustine?

Peter, I don't give multiple-choice exams either.
Augustinian human equality = equal human freedom from human authorities (because of "conscience"? because of "immortal soul"? because of "eternal destiny"? because of the Creator's personal interest in -- knowledge and love of -- each and all)? Sure, that's (a multiple-part) part of it, but is it the only part, or the whole? (Sorry for the reintroduction of multiplicity!) Human equality also includes (original) sin: "all have sinned and fallen short ... ." (with the expressed reservation, by Augustine, of Mary) and its consequences, including "mortalitas" (I'm teaching Augustine's Confessions these days.). I just think -- this comes as no surprise -- that the specificially theological character and characteristics of Augustinian equality should be noted. Then we'd have to talk about the natural, social, and supernatural inequalities he likewise acknowledges. We may end up in Bob Kraynak territory, rather than "Augustinian/Christian presuppositions of modern individualism" land. But your original point really was to say that Christianity introduces a notion of human dignity or personhood that obviates the challenges to human equality posed by Bell Curves and certain versions or aspects of evolutionary theory, right?

Paul, It would be a challenge to take all that on today. But you're last sentence is right. My post was limited to how handle what might be scientific knews about the intellectual inequality of the races.

isn’t the fact that Hispanics have an average IQ of 89 an important thing to consider when it comes to immigration?

By that logic, shouldn't we then start encouraging more immigration from East Asia?

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