If we thought the last topic was contentious, and it was, then I’m not sure how to class these items. Merely mentioning them will raise blood pressure to dangerous levels in some. Because of this, I will be as careful as I can in discuss Goldberg’s ideas, making clear where mine are different, in as dry a language as I can manage. All emphases are in the original.
And everybody knows it. Goldberg says in this essay (read it!), “not a single black student of mine fails to find risible the claim that there is no such thing as race. Only the occasional white social science major claims to find this contention sensible.” Some, for noble reasons, surely, deny race because of their well-founded fear that some races will be treated, and are treated, and have been treated, worse than others. Interestingly, though Goldberg doesn’t mention this, the same people who deny race will often be the strongest supporters of Affirmative Action (USA) or Positive Discrimination (UK).
But, while race exists and while there are on-average differences between races, the context of these differences matters. If you are looking to increase the probability of finding a speedy runner, you’d do best to travel to East or West Africa and not by hunting around Canada. But if you do not care about runners, then there is no difference between the Africans and Canadians. If you were interested solely in height, then there is a difference in the peoples of Sweden and Laos: if you do not care about height, then there is no difference.
There is a statistical argument that some use to deny the existence of race, and the association with race and intelligence: I examine these next time, when I collect all the statistical methods used by supporters and detractors of Goldberg.
The Death Penalty Discriminates, But Not Like You Think
I am speaking here of the USA only. Goldberg examines, where the race of the perpetrators and victims are known, the two-by-two matrix of white and black murderers and their victims: that is, white murderer-white victim, white murderer-black victim, black murderer-white victim, black murderer-black victim. “Over half of all murders…are committed by blacks, but over half of all those executed for these crimes are white.” The “discrimination is against white murderers—and in favor of the black murderers.”
This “may well represent a feeling on the part of some judges and juries that the life of the white victim (who is usually the victim of the white murderer) is of greater value than the life of the black victim (who is usually the victim of a black murderer).”
Thus, if the discrimination is eliminated, it would have the effect of increasing the number of blacks sentenced to death.
Incidentally, Goldberg reminds us: “A sneer is not an argument.”
The Death Penalty Deters Murderers—Probably
I am speaking again of the USA only. Goldberg stresses continuously that deterrence “refers to other people besides the murderer”: after all, murderers were not deterred. The appropriate question to ask is: did the death penalty deter those who would have murdered? “There are good theoretical reasons, and suggestive statistical empirical reasons, for believing that it does, but these are far from conclusive.”
“It is often claimed that the death penalty is barbaric or uncivilized and that the penalty is vengeful…” Recall that the definition of “barbaric” is an “ought” and is not subject to empirical test.
If the death penalty does deter some people from murdering—and thereby does render the murder rate lower—then the opponent of the death penalty is in the position of claiming that the society permitting a higher murder rate is less barbaric or uncivilized than is one with a lower murder rate.
“There is no doubt that other factors are more important to the deterrence of murder than is the death penalty. The presence of a father during the boy’s years of development is clearly more important.”
Incidentally, by using “boys”—and in other places—Goldberg shows that men murder at a vastly higher rate than women.
Let’s say that the proponent of the death penalty is incorrect in his belief that the death penalty does deter and we do invoke the death penalty. “All” we have done is execute murderers who should not have been executed…and, undeniable and horribly, a very few people who are innocent.
But now let’s say that the opponent of the death penalty is incorrect in his belief tha the death penalty doesn’t deter and we don’t invoke the death penalty. We will be responsible for the deaths of innocent people—those whose deaths would have been prevented by the deterrent effect of the death penalty.
Almost certainly, the number of innocents executed would be less than the number of innocents murdered if the death penalty deters.
The best evidence (Goldberg explores a range of theories) is that “most homosexuality is not purely heredity” but that
heredity does play a predispositional role; that is, Male A, who lacks the predisposing heredity is unlikely to become homosexual no matter what his environment. Male B, who has the predisposing heredity, is not likely to become homosexual if he encounters some environments, but is likely to if he encounter others…
It is commonly, but incorrectly, claimed that some societies positively sanction—or at least do not negatively sanction—homosexuality and that this demonstrates the nonpathological nature of homosexuality in our society [homosexuals have higher rates of depression and suicide than non-homosexuals; the question is whether this is because of socialization or pathology]. Let us ignore the fact that the claim is untrue; while there are societies that practice berdache, permit adolescent homosexual servitude to adults, and the like, no society sees as equal the type of of ongoing homosexuality of which we speak.
(berÂ·dache: Among certain Native American peoples, a person, usually a male, who assumes the gender identity, and is granted the social status, of the opposite sex. See Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man for a fascinating fictional account.)
Conservatives…see the cost of an acceptance of homosexuality as self-evident…Those on the Right figure that little is lost if they’re wrong; conservatives have always been real good at enduring other people’s pain.
Liberals…feel insecure in acknowledging…that moral and political positions…are inherently founded on subjective assumptions. This insecurity forces liberals to too often make up evidence, as if such evidence—even if correct—could render objective the inherently subjective moral positions that reflect their socialization and psychological needs.
See also what he says about so-called “victimless” crimes—bribery is such a crime, he reminds us.
Goldberg has left out the fact that homosexuality per se is like race: the state is only interesting when it comes to certain behaviors. For example, in many of the medical studies in which I participated (as statistician), the question of whether a man is a homosexual is not asked; what is asked is whether the man has sex with other men; these people are labeled MSM (the acronym being obvious). MSM are at greater risk for certain diseases than men who do not have sex with men.
PLEASE! Please let us refrain from the usual degradation of argumentation here. Let us confine our comments solely to the logic of Goldberg’s argument. Let us have no “I’m for” or “I’m against” statements.
Neither side wishes to face the fact “that the abortion question is inherently and eternally unanswerable, though it can be settled by force…because the question of whether the fetus is or isn’t a person is a matter of the definition of ‘person.'”
If a fetus is a person, then abortion is murder. If a fetus is not a person, up until the moment of birth, then abortion is not murder. Arguments about when a fetus “develops a brain, becomes sentient, can survive outside the mother…cannot answer the ‘what is a person’ in any less arbitrary way than we can. Science cannot refute even the claim…that a baby becomes a person at age two…” Goldberg is once again reminding us that “is” cannot decide what “ought to be.” Please keep this in mind.
“[A] pro-choice advocate’s invocation of a ‘woman’s right to her own body’ merely unsuccessfully attempts to obfuscate…or unnecessarily confuses the issue…” that it is the definition of “person” that matters. If a fetus is a person, then she has no “right” to murder it. In other words, the question of her “right” is no differently, logically, than the question whether the fetus is a person.
Religion cannot be used except by its offering what is and is not a person—the very point in question—nor can the claim that the state “does not have the right” to declare the fetus a person be recognized unless we also recognize, say, that the state cannot decide if a slave is a person.
Goldberg has taken as his basis the “all or nothing” position. This is statement that either the fetus is a person at conception or at birth only. No discussion is given to the idea that the fetus becomes a person in utero: as was, in various cultures, the case; see, for example, the idea of “the quickening”. This was the time, roughly after the first trimester, in which the fetus was thought to be imbued by its soul. Our culture (in the USA in 2009) leans in this direction as witnessed by the debates over “late-term” abortions.
To be clear, the logic of Goldberg’s position is this: only the definition of what a person is matters in this debate. I take it that all of us have a position on this, but that position is irrelevant to what we want to talk about. The only question we want to attack is: is Goldberg’s logic flawed? (I don’t think it is.)
Next Time We examine the most common statistical arguments used against Goldberg and find that they are nearly always used incorrectly, including by some people who ought to know better. I have ignored patriarchy and will leave it until we review the book Why Men Rule.