Many atheists (self-proclaimed realists) still have a blind spot when it comes to the realities of race.
When the Bishop of Worcester informed his wife of Charles Darwin’s new theory on the origin of species and his theory that humans were descended from apes, she (reportedly) replied: “My dear, let us hope it is not true, but if it is, let us pray that it will not become generally known.”
There are some irrefutable truths that can make one uncomfortable, to the point where one can be forgiven to wish that it can be ignored, if not outright unknown. I can certainly relate to the Bishop’s wife, as many others can.
I wasn’t always an atheist, having figured that with all the religion in the world there must be some semblance of truth to the notion of gods, reincarnation and an afterlife. But I grew more skeptical and scientifically-minded with age, and when I revisited the issue of religion, I realized there was negligibly small evidence for any claim of the existence of a god. While this revelation set my mind at ease in regards to evangelical preachers asserting I was destined for eternal agony, I was very troubled as to what implications the lack of evidence had for any life after death.
Most atheists are perfectly comfortable with the idea of consciousness being lost forever upon death. But I must admit that such a concept terrified me when I first realized it, and quite frankly it still does. My heart sank when I first considered the prospect of an eternal nothingness that would await me on the inevitable day I stopped living, a complete absence of any stimuli or thought, the same level of awareness of the world that I had before I was born. But I eventually forced myself to face the raw, bleak truth: That was almost certainly what will happen, and no amount of crying, self pity, or wishful thinking could change that unpleasant reality. I’m sure many of my fellow atheists had to go through the same emotional trials as I did then, force-feeding themselves that bitter pill.
Years after I started calling myself an atheist, I had another epiphany of sorts. One that was even more rare and even less socially acceptable. I realized there was no solid evidence supporting the prevalent belief that people of all races are equal in terms of mental processes and cognitive ability. In fact, given the countless eons where the races have reproduced apart from another in the face of different environments in which they evolved, as well as the discrepancies in recorded intelligence reported by every IQ test, the idea of mental equality among races was almost certainly false.
While many of my fellow atheists seem to have come to terms with the idea of postmortem nothingness, or were never bothered by it in the first place. Exceedingly few have employed the “Reality is reality, no matter how unpalatable” mantra when dealing with racial inequality. Many avowed atheists, among them professional scientists, refrain from even entertaining the idea that people of different races might have differing levels of mental ability. They hold firmly to the claim that all races are identical in terms of their mental functions, and all evidence to the contrary is the result of bias and “institutional racism.”
In a sense, they can be forgiven for their unwillingness to consider the alternative, obvious explanation for varying performances by race. What if it were true that some races are inherently more intelligent than others, or less prone to violence or criminal activity? How would we adapt to a society where people of some races are less successful than others, and such inequality would be impossible to change? Furthermore, what if, just as the Bishop’s wife feared regarding evolution, such racial differences became common knowledge? How would people of two different races look at each other in the street, much less interview the other for a job or consider the other as a possible romantic partner?
Both race realists and egalitarians must agree the thought is troubling. But no amount of unpleasantness and awkwardness such knowledge might cause would change its status as the truth, something atheists and scientists would be hypocritical not to acknowledge. What makes this issue pressing is that racial inequality is something that needs to be acknowledged, as it would be detrimental to society to live as if it were not the case. Consider affirmative action laws, diversity quotas, and unfettered immigration. Treating racial equality as a given on the outset leads to a decline in fairness and the quality of life.
In fact, the assumption of equality adversely affects the people of the “below average” races as well. As James Watson famously noted in his incendiary comment on the problem with providing humanitarian aid to Africans: “All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really.” Is it really more noble to take the egalitarian route, expect them to know how to use the resources we give them, and try the same method when those resources are mismanaged the first time? Or should new policies be enacted, focusing more on basic education on how to cultivate those resources themselves, as well as disease prevention and birth control? Such a proposal might sound uncomfortably patronizing, but is that not a small price to pay for actual results?
Atheists and scientists are alarmed and outraged over the teaching of “creation science” in American public schools and the treatment of evolution as an unfounded theory, and rightly so. However, there is a far more pervasive lesson plan in schools, and with barely more evidence to its name than intelligent design: That all races are inherently equal in terms of cognitive abilities. Nobody from the evolution, anti-junk science crowd seems to take issue with such teachings, even with the theory of evolution itself serving as evidence against the claim. In fact, there have even been calls for an outright ban on research related to race and intelligence.
For all the atheists posturing as skeptical and adhering to empirical evidence and reason rather than pseudoscience and appeals to emotion, it appears that many of them are guilty of the same fallacious thinking they preach against. I invite my fellow atheists to revisit the issue of race and mental abilities, and look upon the evidence (or lack thereof) with unbiased eyes. If atheists refuse to take such a step, it would seem they have more in common with the Bishop of Worcester’s wife than they would care to admit.