the big lie and you

Gordon Roe Univ Western Ontario (ROE@SSCL.UWO.CA)
Fri, 21 Oct 1994 18:25:53 -0400

I've enjoyed the discussion on Rushton but I think you may be missing a point
here. It isn't neccesary for his work to be considered acceptable science by
those specialists in our field: all he needs are a few intemperate and
incendiary responses from those acknowledged experts. With these he can turn
and say that, although he isn't an anthropologist, he at least has the courage
to try to scientificly examine unpopular ideas. His critics become conservative
and reactionary, he becomes liberal and revolutionary.
An example. In an undergrad anthro course, after the usual quick but exact
refution of his work, several students express discomfort at this apparently
relentless attack. They apply a version of the free-thinking scepticism we say
we value and reach the conclusion that the instructor is trying to snow them
with science they can't independantly assess. What they leacve with is the
feeling that, if he really is a fool, we wouldn't be bothering to attack him so
openly. So maybe he has something after all.
That's what is so damn good about the big lie: it forces the offended party to
prove _their_ innocence.
So let's get back to reason. Please. It's tough enough around here already.
Gordon (