Thursday, October 19, 2006

Diversity, An Anti-Concept

The Detroit free Press had pro and con guest op-eds on 10/17/06 regarding the issue of Afirmative Action. The pro arguement is by Scott E. Page, professor of complex systems, political science and economics at the University of Michigan and author of a book promoting Diversity in all aspects of society.

After Mr. Page tells us how we value individual ability, he then says:

"An employer who wants boxes packed should hire people who are good at packing boxes.

But that logic does not hold for most jobs in the modern economy. Suppose, for instance, that our employee will help design a car or develop a vaccine. These are hard problems, and when a team confronts a hard problem, it needs people with different ways of thinking. Hence, the team's performance depends as much on its members' cognitive differences as it does on their individual abilities. Put simply, effective groups and teams need cognitive diversity. Ability alone is not enough."

First of all, what are cognitive differences? He doesn't explain. He just says "different ways of thinking." To me, that means different psycho-epistomologies, and it is true that everyone has their own psycho-epistomology or method of thinking. However, if you have say one white man and you add another you will have cognitive diversity. If you have one black (or Hispanic or Asian) man and you add another, you will have cognitive diversity. But cognitive diversity is not what Afirmative Action is or was about. Afirmative Action is about racial and gender diversity not cognitive. (Or there'd be a bunch of conservatives in every university.)

So, what he seems to be saying is that cognitive diversity depends on racial and gender diversity, which means that the content of one's mind is determined by race and gender. While such things may influence one's opinion on certain aspects of reality, they should not have much of a cognitive effect. Discovering that 2+2=4 or E=MC2 requires the same cognitive process regardless of race or gender.

Notice how he was first talking about a repetitive manual labor job of packing boxes, and now he is talking about creative jobs like designing cars and developing vaccines. Well, there are a lot more people employed in making and selling cars and working in hospitals and clinics than there are designing those cars and developing vaccines. Claiming that "most jobs" in our economy are of a creative nature is just plain false. Anyway, he still hasn't explained how the pigment of your skin or your gender will help you develop vaccines. But he tries:

"Capturing a person's cognitive ability with a single number (or even two) should strike us as odd -- "this is my son; he's a 116." Better that we think of people as collections of cognitive tools -- as bundles of ways of seeing, interpreting and solving. Better that we see them in their fullness.

Thinking of people as possessing bundles of tools doesn't deny the concept of ability. An individual's IQ score depends on the number and types of tools a person possesses. If Sarah has 60 tools and Kevin has 53, she probably outscores him on an IQ test. Nevertheless, when we put Sarah and Kevin in a group, what matters is not how many tools each has, but what unique tools each brings to the group."

What are "bundles of tools"? I would agree that an IQ score doesn't tell you much about a person's ability to think, but I cannot think of a better description of the cognitive content of many of today's intellectuals--a contextless, haphazard "bundle of tools."

But how do race and gender affect these "bundles"?

"If diversity is good, how do we find it? One source is experience. The person who grew up on a farm sees the world differently than a suburbanite. Other sources include schooling and training -- mathematics is a tool, as is knowledge of how to bore a cylinder -- as well as our cultures and identities. Our identities shape how we see the world, what analogies we draw, and what rules we apply in a given situation."

"Our identities shape how we see the world..." In other words, the color of our skin and our gender determines how we use reason. Reason then is a "tool" that doesn't have a specific nature whose rules and requirements must be learned and followed. Reason comes in "bundles" of different sizes and and types.

Actually, the concept of diversity has no meaning outside the context of that which one seeks to diversify. Diversity could be a bad thing. My car could have a diversity of breakdowns. Low imunity could lead to an attack by a diversity of pathogens. The USA is hated by a diversity of irrational ideologies.

The concept diversity is used today as an anti-concept. An anti-concept is an invalid concept used to destroy a valid one and smuggle into the mind of listeners an invalid meaning. In the context of afirmative action 'diversity' is used to destroy individual merit by holding that one's "bundle of tools" is determined by external influences like culture, race, gender, and other "experiences." See what's missing here? Individual merit. When Mr. Page says "Thinking of people as possessing bundles of tools doesn't deny the concept of ability.," he's right, it doesn't. But it does make ability take a back seat to the intrinsic theory of values known as racism. In short, diversity says a person's value is determined by how different he is from others. That's racism.

Homogeneous societies like China and Japan and others have existed for centuries without any serious diversity. Presumably then, these cultures are evil and immoral.
Of course they are not evil (at least for that reason). To point to the lack of diversity as a bad thing in America, the most diverse society on the planet, is asinine.

Dr. King said he wanted his children to be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Diversity is the attempt to make sure that kind of judgement doesn't happen.

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