All entries for Saturday 18 March 2006

March 18, 2006

Ellis: should he be booted?

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

This issue and its resultant reactions really interest me. I have blogged on the subject of free speech before in relation to Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain who verbalised his views on homosexuality a few months ago. This issue is a similar one.

I feel it to be extremely misled to say that because Dr Ellis has a viewpoint that opposes the politically correct view of the majority of society, he is therefore wrong and should be quashed. His opinion is not proven, but neither is the opposing one, so why should he be punished just because he dares to say something unpopular?

Leeds University have said that, in his defence, Dr Ellis has not shown any prejudice against students of his for reasons of gender or race. Of course, for his beliefs do not support this (this is a point that many have misunderstood). Ellis claims that the average intelligence levels are different, not that all women, for example, are less intelligent than men. The protesters who have campaigned against him have said, how can a female student, for example, take part in a course taught by Ellis with their head held high knowing that he would be looking down on you. This is not a valid argument, but is instead a reactionary misinterpretation of his claims. He said, and I quote: "The way to deal with this is not to treat people as groups, but to treat them as individuals."

I would even go as far as saying (I know very few will agree, but please don't rant at me before you've allowed me to explain) that his claims are not completely ridiculous. This is not to say that I agree with them, just that I can understand the thinking behind it. If we accept that evolution is true, the process of change is based on selection. In the UK, for example, intelligence has been valued for a long time. Those who are mentally adept have enjoyed recognition, success and perhaps even reproductive advantage as a result. In contrast, those living in countries of relative poverty, where many still live a hand-to-mouth existence, intelligence is of more limited benefit and is probably second to physical strength and agility, for example. Similarly in the case of gender, it is only recently that women have taken on similar roles to men: for centuries it has been men who have taken part in business, science and even literature. It has not necessarily been advantageous to be an intelligent women, as other traits have been more highly prized. If these selection pressures exist for long enough, the gene pool can change.

This entire issue seems to be another sad case of 'we believe in free speech as long as you agree with us.'

Dr Munira Mirza, a tutor in multiculturalism and community relations at the University of Kent: "Academics and students are resorting to lazy, blame-game discussion and not engaging in the debate. I would rather disagree with him openly and explain why his theories do not stand up."
Leeds University Secretary Roger Gair: staff have "freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, put forward new ideas, controversial and unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs".

March 2006

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