Thursday, August 19, 2004

Meritocracy and Genes

Valerie Grant in The NZ Herald - PC policies cannot build us a fair and just society

The more that society is a level playing field, the more closely it resembles a meritocracy, then the greater the variation in human achievement will be determined by our genes. In terms of freewill this is somewhat of a paradox - the less our environment effects our life then the more it will be determined by biology.

Grant makes clear that her argument is based on statistical variation, which cannot predict outcomes for any single event. But her essential point is that given a completely level playing field we will still have differences in the number of men and women represented in different fields of endeavor and this should be seen for what it is - a reflection of our biology, not of discrimination.


Blogger Greyshade said...

A "fair and just society" is one in which every citizen has the opportunity to develop their potential and all are respected, equal before the law and "endowed with certain inalienable rights" regardless of their station. It is not a society in which any person may by choice or chance alone become a builder's labourer, barrister or brain surgeon but one in which a builder's labourer, barrister or brain surgeon are valued alike and held "equal in the eyes of their creator" and before the law.
The circumstance that we differ in our inate talents and that these differences may be to a greater or lesser extent hereditary neither makes us a meritocracy nor prevents us being a "fair and just society". It is the society where citizens are denied the potential of their natural talents through want of birth, connection or privilege that is unfair and unjust.

19 August 2004 at 1:07 PM  
Blogger Sock Thief said...

Not being used to getting comments I've only just noticed yours. Would agree with what you have written.

I think what Valerie Grant has to say becomes important when considering how to evaluate social policy aimed at promoting equality of opportunity. Any such evaluation would have to be statistical in nature. The danger being that success will be seen as, for example, an equal proportion of men and women in particular professions.

But the more there is actually equal opportunity the more likely it is that it will be our genetic endowment that plays a role in life outcomes. How this may influence the representation of particular groups in particular areas needs to be taken into account.

25 August 2004 at 2:43 PM  

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