Sophomoric Claptrap @ UNH

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The "Office of Community, Equity & Diversity" of the University Near Here provides a document entitled DEI ["Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion"] Terminology. Perhaps that's an implicit warning that the Office uses certain "special" terms in ways you won't find in a normal dictionary. There's a disclaimer up front:

It [meaning, I think, "this"] is not intended to be an exhaustive list of every word and term used in conversations about diversity and social justice. Keep in mind that as language continues to evolve around these concepts, many of these words and terms will also change.

Or, if I may translate: "Not only do we have our own special lingo, we reserve the right to alter it whenever we find it convenient or necessary, in order to achieve whatever our current goals are."

Many words and terms are "defined". There's a lot of unintentional humor. Do you think you know what "disability" means? Well, you probably don't. Because:

Disability: Understanding disability requires a complex consideration of a variety of factors. As stated within the WHO ICF Practical Manual, “The functioning of an individual in a specific domain reflects an interaction between the health condition and the contextual: environmental and personal factors. There is a complex, dynamic and often unpredictable relationship among these entities.” As highlighted, any understanding of disability needs to be centered within this dynamic and often changing interaction between an individual (identities, impairments, personal goals, strengths, etc.) and the environment (physical and digital space, culture of inclusivity, accessibility, barriers, practices, etc.).

That's an impressive dish of word salad, almost certainly designed to make you come away knowing less about the topic than you thought you did before.

Style guidelines for word salad:

  1. Never use one word when you can string two or more together.
  2. Go as long as you can without using a period.
  3. Embrace redundancy.
  4. And vagueness.
  5. Use plenty of jargon.
  6. When listing items, always add "etc." at the end in case you missed something.
  7. Etc.

Concentrating on rule 2: we are told there are many "factors" involved (twice). We are reminded (again, twice) that those factors are "complex". And also (twice) that they are "dynamic". And not just "dynamic": they are "dynamic and often changing".

Not to be pedantic, but "dynamic" means "often changing".

But once you've sorted that out, you'll note that your understanding needs to be centered within an interaction.

I'm relatively sure that's pretentious drivel. At best, it boils down to "keep your eyes open and your brain engaged." Good advice, I guess.

(The document also provides the legal definition in the Americans with Disabilities Act. It's remarkably readable in comparison.)

But what I really want to mention is this definition:

Race: A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly race), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the social, economic and political needs of a society at a given period of time.

Well, first, there's the obvious: using the word "race" in the definition of race. Not really kosher.

But there's that "social construct" thing. No, they don't define "social construct" in the document; I assume that means we have permission to go to Merriam-Webster, where we learn it's

an idea that has been created and accepted by the people in a society

Fine. The implication being that "race" has no reality outside of peoples' heads. It's artificial!

The only problem being: that's not true at all.

As it happens, the evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne looked at the concept of "race" recently, specifically focusing on this question: Are “races” social constructs without scientific or biological meaning? Excerpting the first few paragraphs:

Every day, it seems, I hear that “races have no biological reality or meaning; they are purely social constructs.” And that statement is somewhat misleading, for even the crudely designated races of “white, black, Hispanic, and East Asian” in the U.S. are, as today’s paper shows, biologically distinguishable to the point where if you look at the genes of an unknown person, you have a 99.86% chance of diagnosing their self-identified “race” as one of the four groups above. That is, if you ask a person how they self-identify as one of the four SIRE groups (SIRE: “self identified race/ethnicity), and then do a fairly extensive genetic analysis of each person, you find that the groups fall into multivariate clusters.

More important, there’s little deviation between one’s SIRE and which genetic cluster they fall into. Over 99% of people in the sample from this paper can be accurately diagnosed as to self-identified race or ethnicity by looking at just 326 regions of the genome.

This in turn means that there are biological differences between different SIREs, so race cannot be simply a “social construct.” This is in direct contradiction between the extreme woke view of “race”, as expressed in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a statement I discussed in an earlier post:

Race and ethnicity are social constructs, without scientific or biological meaning.

Nope, and we’ve known that statement is wrong for nearly 20 years. Of course, if you take “biological meaning” as “data show that there are a finite number of distinct groups with huge genetic differences”, then it is a correct statement. But nobody thinks that any more except for racists or those ignorant of modern population genetics in humans.

I should note that Coyne is outspokenly on the left side of the political spectrum on most contentious issues. But he's remarkably honest about calling out the claptrap emitted from that side.

I suppose I can't blame UNH very much for submitting to unscientific bunk. I'd be surprised if you'd find any members of the woke religion that would dissent from this "race is a social construct" dogma. Or, if they did dissent, they'd be ostracized, shunned, and … well, probably not burned at the stake. But they'd be out of the field pretty quickly.

There's much more in that DEI Lexicon, but that's enough for today.

Last Modified 2024-01-17 9:32 AM EDT