Ed West

What does it say about Owen Jones that he isn’t interested in scientific research?

What does it say about Owen Jones that he isn't interested in scientific research?
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Owen Jones writes in the Guardian today on the subject of trans rights, making a revealing statement in the process. He says:

In truth, debates over the latest scientific research are of little interest to me: what matters is that the happiness, security and even lives of a minority are at stake, and all too little has been done about it.’

I’ve no desire to get involved in this particular debate, partly because I don’t know enough and I also don’t want to spend ten years getting harassed and threatened like Julie Bindel. One should never underestimate the threat of violence in shifting public debate, not just in religious matters.

I would have thought, though, that ignoring scientific research in public policy in favour of ideological fashion is a pretty good way of maximising unhappiness in the long term.

But I do respect Owen Jones for openly saying that this is about morals rather than science. What I find irritating about progressive politics is that it ignores and contradicts science, while at the same time pretending to be in favour of reason. The entire worldview is based on the tabula rasa idea of human nature which is contradicted by science. The blank slate makes the progressive goal of equality of outcomes possible; indeed, if equality is not achieved there can only be nefarious forces at work and ‘more work to be done’.

On top of this, social justice warriors borrow from a Christian eschatology in which humanity is brought from the darkness of bigotry and conservatism towards the light of universal justice and equality. Owen Jones writes:

It is my firm belief that in generations to come we will look back at such commentary as we do now on discussions of women, gays and black people in the magazines of the 1950s.’

I was recently reading a 1970s biography of a gay Victorian poet; the poet thought he was born that way, believing like his contemporaries that environment had a significant but limited effect on character. He’d entertained the likes of Francis Galton, who admired the poet’s wife because genius ran through her family. Another friend was barred from marrying his sister because madness ran through his.

Obviously, the biographer noted, he was wrong: Freud had shown that his sexuality must have been caused by his relationship with his mother, even though she had died when he was only four and he barely remembered her, and he had a close (if difficult) relationship with his father. Which looks closer to 2015's view of the 'truth' – the one from the 1870s or the 1970s?