Systemic Claptrap

     [NOTE: This will be a linkless piece. Either you’ve been keeping up with the news, in particular the developments in left-wing agitprop, or you haven’t. The former group will know what I’m talking about and therefore will need no links. The latter might as well play Solitaire. — FWP]

     Among the highest contributions of the late Sir Karl Popper was his work on falsifiability as a criterion of quality in a proposition about cause and effect – i.e., about “how things work,” the meat and potatoes of science. In brief, to be taken seriously as a potential explanation for some phenomenon, a hypothesis must be objectively testable, with at least some of the possible outcomes of the test proving it false. The hypothesis must be formed so that a test – a prediction of an objectively observable outcome – is possible. If the prediction fails, the hypothesis has been falsified. If a hypothesis is stated in such a way that it cannot be falsified, Popper argued, neither can it be verified. It’s valueless as a statement of causality.

     “Thinkers” with theories that by design cannot be falsified were made furious by this. It blasted their pet theories out of the realm of science and into the domain of faith. They argued against Popper’s contention, often by claiming that truly objective tests of a worthwhile hypothesis are impossible. Nevertheless, Popper’s falsifiability criterion is regarded today as the cornerstone of all legitimate investigation.

     Yet even today there are persons advancing theories that are unfalsifiable by design. The one that’s received the most popular attention lately is “systemic racism.”

     In simple terms, “systemic racism” is a proposed explanation for the statistical differences in various categories between the Negro race and the others. As statistical aggregates, Negroes have not done as well educationally, economically, or socially as Whites. “Civil rights” laws and other statutes intended to counteract deliberate racial discrimination against Negroes have had little influence on those differences. Affirmative action, Head Start, school lunch programs, and so forth have all failed to produce the improvements their proposers expected from them.

     The sole as-yet-unfalsified hypothesis about the causes – i.e., a statistical difference between the races in intelligence, work ethic, aggression, and law-abidingness – is displeasing to the race-hustlers of our time. It cuts the legs out from under their ambitions. Therefore, they proposed that racial discrimination is literally embedded in the fundamental structures of America’s institutions, practices, and customs: i.e., systemic. Moreover, this “systemic racism” is uncorrectable for an appalling reason: the creation and organization of those institutions by Whites. Nothing can be done for the Negro without first “getting Whitey out of the way.”

     But the “systemic racism” hypothesis is unfalsifiable. No imaginable event or outcome, starting from any imaginable initial conditions, would constitute a disproof of the thesis. Thus, while it is safe from being disproved, it is also impossible to confirm by empirical results as long as Whites continue to be the largest American demographic cohort. By the assumptions built into the “systemic racism” hypothesis, Whites’ mere presence in these United States guarantees that it cannot be falsified. It’s an article of faith, quite as much as my belief in God.

     The point of “systemic racism,” of course, is to create grounds for massive governmentally imposed discrimination in favor of Negroes over Whites. Its proponents argue for this on the grounds of “equity:” achieving the equal outcomes that the racism supposedly built into the foundations of our organizations and institutions makes impossible. All our conceptions of individual rights must give way to the drive for “racial justice.” Freedom must be relegated to the dustbin of history.

     That’s the consequence of accepting the “systemic racism” faith. Mature Whites who want only to be left alone and in peace are unlikely to accept it. But those for whom power over others is the Holy Grail think it’s a dandy idea. That’s why it’s being promoted in the government-run schools. As a side effect, it deflects attention from why those schools are no longer worth a damn as educational institutions.

     Other angry activist groups see the “systemic” approach as valuable to their own causes. We will soon see protests about “systemic patriarchalism,” “systemic heterosexualism,” “systemic cisgenderism,” and whatever other causes manage to form a compatible bludgeon-phrase. Success always inspires emulation.

     But as I said recently, success also breeds failure. Americans generally happy with “the way things are” are no longer vulnerable to imputations of unearned guilt. We’re growing calluses over our sensitivities. The consequences won’t always be just or pleasant.

     The late Walter Williams argued that racism is only important when it involves a denial of rights. As such denials are well in the past, Williams contended that what remains of racial attitudes and preferences are, if not entirely harmless, nevertheless not correctable by law without doing even greater harm. Sadly, his reasoning has not received the attention it deserves…and who will ultimately be saddest remains to be seen.


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    • Roll-aid on October 15, 2021 at 7:56 AM

    Good article.   My beliefs, while aligned with yours, have perhaps a more cynical dimension to them.   We Americans live in a very, very wealthy country – at least for the present.  It has been said, “There’s a lot of ruin in a country” and that’s true in spades for the U.S.A.   While I’m sure there is a core of true believers in the “systemic racism”, I also believe there is a vastly larger number of people who simply see that working the system can be incredibly lucrative and there are rivers of money flowing around right now.

    Smart, crafty, people who can say the right things to the right people are making fortunes.    They have multiple opportunities – as you pointed out – in many related areas. “Success always inspires emulation.”  They are smart enough that they could do well in productive work, but that’s too hard and success/failure measurements still exist in some way, shape or form.

    As with any scam, look a little closer and you will see a multitude of consultants, contractors, second and third tier auxiliary hangers-on, etc.  Hey, where else are those graduates of gender studies programs going to get jobs?

    The beauty of this scam is because the core rationale is “systemic” there are no objectively definable objectives (a corollary of your reasoning) where the people in charge can eventually say, “Well, we are finished.  Nothing left to do.  Racism is gone, can’t find a bit anywhere.  Nope.  Time for us to trim back a little on that area.”

    It will not end well.  What cannot go on forever, won’t.  Heads on pikes may not be in the future, but I would not count them out entirely.

  1. Two things:

    (1) The only problem I have with the concept of falsifiable is the name – it is perceived (by the non-sciencey types) as some sort of trick – they do, somewhat, suspect that researchers are saying that their results can be faked. I used to teach it, but point out that the unfortunate term really means: Can this hypothesis be tested?

    There are true things in this world that cannot be empirically tested.

    (2) I happened to be playing a game of Free Cell – a form of Solitaire, when I happened to check on LT. I was waiting for a load of laundry to finish, and it passed the time.

    Yes, I had better things to do, but not in the basement, in that short time frame.

    1. Yes, there are true statements for which empirical tests are not possible, BUT:
      1. With some of them, we believe that they’re true but cannot be certain;
      2. No such statement can be considered a scientific proposition: i.e., knowledge of cause and effect. Only prediction counts in science.

    • Skeptic on October 15, 2021 at 6:49 PM

    “Systemic  racism” is best disproved by one simple fact.  African Americans are by any measure the least prosperous and productive Americans but the most prosperous and productive Africans to be found anywhere in the world.

    • Steve in PA (retired/recovering lawyer) on October 16, 2021 at 8:08 AM

    After all these many years of proclaiming that “Equality!” was the desired outcome of all the legislation, judicial decisions and administrative fiats fostering Affirmative Action, we now have irrefutable evidence that supports my alternative thesis, viz., that the former slave never wishes mere equality with the former master; he wishes to become the new master.  What puzzles me is the old master’s enthusiastic support for this outcome.  However, I try to encourage myself by the slow but growing understanding by those who have been taken advantage of by the Affirmative Action fraud that they have, in fact, been hornswoggled, deceived, swindled and victimized by those who they had believed were their legitimately elected “leaders.” Unfortunately, when I plot the degree of awakening on the X Axis against the amount of destruction being effected to our country on the Y Axis, the outcome is always the same, and destruction always wins.

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