Thomas Nadelhoffer

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The most interesting point seems to be that there is a guy called ANOMALY who defends eugenics.



I hope that comments like the one you have contributed will remain confined to Daily Nous where the recent thread about the coincidence of author names and associated subject matter ran. In this context, that is, with respect to the matter of this prospective journal and this philosopher and on this blog in particular, your remark seems dismissive, condescending, and uninformed about so-called liberal eugenics, philosophy, bioethics, and the apparatus of disability. In short, the contents of Alison Reiheld's post deserve to be taken more seriously than you have taken them.

Best regards,

Thomas Nadelhoffer

I have a genuine question for people who would prohibit work like Anomaly's work on eugenics from being published: Isn't it perfectly appropriate for people to publish *criticisms* of eugenics? After all, lots of important work on this front has been published (and understandably without objection). I take it this is how the marketplace of ideas is supposed to work--namely, bad ideas are subjected to trenchant criticisms. Assuming the ideas really are bad--that is, indefensible--then critics ought always to be able to make this clear in their responses. This dynamic allows good ideas to win out in the public sphere.

But if bad ideas are prohibited, this very important process of debunking and refuting is stymied. If the only articles that are allowed to be published about eugenics, for instance, are criticisms of eugenics, this won't expose people to the full spectrum of ideas about eugenics. This asymmetrical silencing seems problematic as it doesn't take the public seriously. It also undersells the power of anti-eugenic arguments. If eugenics is an easily refutable idea, then what's the fear in putting the issue to the court of popular opinion? For every bad argument for eugenics, anti-eugenicists can publish good arguments for rejecting the practice. Is the worry that eugenics has a seductive allure that outstrips its plausibility? If so, why not think the solution is more high-quality responses to those who defend eugenics poorly? In short, I suppose I find myself in the camp of researchers who think controversial ideas ought to be openly contested in the public sphere. To shield people from these ideas by prohibiting their publication is to sell people short. Perhaps I have too much faith in the efficacy of rational persuasion.

Peter Singer

Jeff McMahan, Francesca Minerva and I are in full agreement with Alison Reihold's final paragraph. Our aim is to publish work that presents significant ideas with the rigor demanded by the leading academic journals but might not, for various reasons, otherwise be published. We have no desire to provoke controversy for its own sake. We will indeed view the submissions we receive with a gimlet eye, and we will instruct our reviewers to do the same. We appreciate especially the sentiment that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and we wish all potential critics would follow that maxim.

Josephine Johnston

One of the many things I appreciate about Prof Reiheld's analysis here is that she shows how Anomaly's paper is poorly researched and fails to engage with the relevant literature. That critique is importantly different from saying that his paper contains "bad ideas" or that any paper defending eugenics should be prohibited. It's a critique that asks questions not so much of Anomaly himself but of the reviewers and editors who approved this paper for publication.

I am not really surprised that someone somewhere feels drawn to eugenics and has decided to write a defense of it (especially given the political moment in America). What's surprising is that the paper was published without the author needing to more fully defend his premises and without having to engage with the existing and very strong counter arguments. Especially if you are going to write about something with as disturbing a history as eugenics, you need to take the existing literature far more seriously. I'm disappointed and embarrassed that such a poor paper was published by a journal in my field.

Alison Reiheld

Hi, folks. This is the author of this blog article. I know it was long as such things go, but it would have been woefully inadequate were it any shorter. Or as Horace once said "In struggling to be brief, I become obscure." So, many thanks for reading fully and responding thoughtfully.

Josephine Johnston: I am glad that the nature of my critique of Anomaly's paper came across so clearly. This is precisely the function I hoped it would serve.

Thomas Nadelhoffer: I understand your position, and it is one that is common in our field. Indeed, my own position is not wholly against it. What I want to see is not no papers ever defending eugenics [not no papers ever investigating the merits of colonialism, not no papers ever considering gender identity and racial identity], but rather--given the weight of the topic--only carefully reasoned papers which engage relevant literature thoughtfully and well. A great deal of the job of doing philosophy is considering and addressing relevant objections from the breadth of literature on a topic in advance. And while no one can do this perfectly--thus the value of hermeneutics that comes from multiple persons discussing and analyzing a published work--it is nonetheless critical that with weighty topics philosophers take care to pay special attention to literature generated by those most affected and pay special attention to how their premises might be rooted in myths or widespread social stigma. The author's own responsibility in their work, and the responsibilities of peer reviewers and editors, is to ensure this. I am no fan of ill-founded, bad arguments in favor of positions I agree with. I am no more a fan of them when they support positions with which I disagree. We can, and should, do some of this work on the front-end BEFORE papers hit the public sphere.

Peter Singer: Thank you for taking my argument seriously. Having not had the opportunity to interact with you or Profs. Minerva and MacMahan, I was not sure how my words would be received. But in particular, I hoped that this would get back to you all. The main point I wanted to make in this blog entry, after all, is the importance of pre-gaming these issues. We will all be watching the JCI, to see if it is better than we fear and as good as might be hoped.

On another note, I have often appreciated the American Journal of Bioethics' format of publishing a long-form Target Article alongside a number and diversity of Peer Commentaries that respond to and critique the Target Article. It does a nice job of airing both sometimes-controversial arguments and responses to them in a single place, and demonstrating that the point of publishing a possibly controversial argument is to engage in discussion of the topic. Few journals employ this format or anything like it even though it is common in our field at conferences to have Papers and Respondents/Commentaries presented to the audience in a single session. Perhaps this might be something to consider, in terms of publication ethics for a journal devoted to publishing controversial ideas?

Thank you all for diving in. We do our best work when we take each other seriously.

Alison Reiheld

I would like to make one quick addendum to my blog post, here.

I firmly believe that if anyone seeking to defend eugenics were to fully engage the relevant literature they would find themselves unable to defend eugenics at all. And that eugenics is in fact indefensible by any actual serious engagement with the issue. Thus, it is unsurprising that any paper in defense of eugenics will fall short on criteria such as engaging relevant literature. But this is not because I cannot stomach the claim so much as that the claim is indefensible if it takes account of the required concepts. So, we need not attempt to prohibit the publication of defenses of eugenics per se. We need only set a rigorous bar. And they will fail to meet it.

Low IQ Kid

If the purpose of humanity is to maximize production then Anomaly has many solid points in his article.

If purpose of life is to live a happy life, then Anomaly's whole thesis falls apart.

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