From The Wall Street Journal:
The social sciences are having a moment. The most prominent members of this congeries of academic disciplines—economics, psychology, sociology and political science—traditionally have been derided as the "soft sciences" by comparison with more rigorous, substantial fields like biology, chemistry and the ne plus ultra of "hard" sciences, physics. But over the past decade the study of human behavior has shaken off some of its science-lite reputation and acquired a new cachet with the general public. Even on campus, many of its practitioners have a bit more swagger than they used to—notwithstanding the failure of economists to precisely predict the current financial crisis...
Last Saturday, Harvard hosted a conference on "Hard Problems in Social Science," sponsored by the Indira Foundation, that was explicitly inspired by Hilbert's legacy. Twelve leading social scientists from a variety of fields and institutions were given 15 minutes each to present whatever hard problems they liked. The Harvard organizers did one thing that couldn't have been tried in 1900: They broadcast the meeting on the Internet and have invited the public to propose and discuss new problems, and ultimately to vote on what the hardest ones really are...
Economist Claudia Goldin proposed understanding why there is still a gap in wages between women and men, even when they are in the same professions and have equal qualifications.
Roland Fryer pointed to the gap in educational achievement between black and white children, and suggested a solution: Figure out what those charter schools that have closed the gap, or at least narrowed it, are doing right, and then distribute those techniques to the public schools. Longer hours, esprit de corps, a return to drilling—whatever it is, find it and clone it.
Listening to the speakers, I was impressed by the range of their ideas and by how much I was learning from them. But I was struck by the nearly complete lack of overlap among their proposals. Social scientists collaborate across disciplinary boundaries more than ever, but this has not necessarily produced consensus on what the biggest issues are. I started to wonder whether it can really be the case that the hardest problems in social science just happen to be those that this group of scholars, impressive as they are, has been working on for the past decade. The speakers were convincing me that their problems were difficult—if they were easy, wouldn't they have been solved already?—but they weren't saying as much about how important or fundamental they really were.
Actually, those questions could be solved by the employees at your local Taco Bell. Women who have the same qualifications as men are still women and are thus less ambitious and whites have higher IQs than blacks. How could anyone be impressed by these hacks?
Nick Bostrom, a broad-minded philosopher who seemed to have secured a guest pass to this particular gathering, suggested that social science has made great progress in the past by refuting incorrect beliefs, such as the assertion that "there are no inborn differences in personality or intelligence" or "trade causes economic weakness." His first hard problem, he said, would be to discover the "biggest falsehood promulgated within the social sciences today."
Is the writer here clueless or is she speaking to us in code? (And was Bostrom clueless or was he speaking in code?) Figuring out the big lie answers the questions alluded to above and is a natural extension of the statement that the social sciences have proven false the proposition that “there are no inborn differences in personality or intelligence.”
I looked up Nick Bostrom and his website seems to have a lot of fascinating things about transhumanism. This ideology is dangerously close to eugenics, the most politically incorrect thing in the world. In fact, Bostrom understands this and addresses the inevitable question in his Transhumanist FAQ
Do Transhumanists Advocate Eugenics?
Eugenics in the narrow sense refers to the pre-WWII movement in Europe and the United States to involuntarily sterilize the “ genetically unfit” and encourage breeding of the genetically advantaged. These ideas are entirely contrary to the tolerant humanistic and scientific tenets of transhumanism. In addition to condemning the coercion involved in such policies, transhumanists strongly reject the racialist and classist assumptions on which they were based, along with the notion that eugenic improvements could be accomplished in a practically meaningful timeframe through selective human breeding.
Transhumanists uphold the principles of bodily autonomy and procreative liberty. Parents must be allowed to choose for themselves whether to reproduce, how to reproduce, and what technological methods they use in their reproduction. The use of genetic medicine or embryonic screening to increase the probability of a healthy, happy, and multiply talented child is a responsible and justifiable application of parental reproductive freedom.
Beyond this, one can argue that parents have a moral responsibility to make use of these methods, assuming they are safe and effective. Just as it would be wrong for parents to fail in their duty to procure the best available medical care for their sick child, it would be wrong not to take reasonable precautions to ensure that a child-to-be will be as healthy as possible. This, however, is a moral judgment that is best left to individual conscience rather than imposed by law. Only in extreme and unusual cases might state infringement of procreative liberty be justified. If, for example, a would-be parent wished to undertake a genetic modification that would be clearly harmful to the child or would drastically curtail its options in life, then this prospective parent should be prevented by law from doing so. This case is analogous to the state taking custody of a child in situations of gross parental neglect or child abuse.
And it goes on for another couple hundred words, explaining why transhumanists favor eugenics without calling it eugenics.
Yes, I think he was speaking to those social scientists in code.