Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why Background Is Irrelevant

With the nomination of Sotomayor, we have heard many Hispanics saying they are thrilled at her nomination because she will give Hispanics a "voice" on the Supreme Court. Comments such as this are about as evil as one can imagine in a complex, advanced civilization such ours, so deeply rooted in the worst aspects of tribalist thinking as they are. I don't need poor, Southern white men on the Supreme Court to have a voice, and my wife doesn't need poor, Mexican-American women on the Supreme Court to have one, either. In fact, if you wanted to represent me on the Supreme Court, you could probably not make better choices than either Walter Williams or Thomas Sowell. They are going to represent me in the only way that matters.

But let's look at this from a different angle, to see what utter nonsense this really is. My world view is probably not fundamentally different from that of Frederick Turner's. The two of us developed the same world views completely independently of each other, with no influence in any way, shape, or form on each other until we met when I entered graduate school at UTD and became his student. Turner was born in Scotland to Victor and Edith Turner. Victor Turner was one of the greatest anthropologists to ever live (if his presence in every book of anthropology I have ever seen is any indication). Fred was raised a relatively privileged life, notwithstanding his childhood in Africa with the tribe his father studied. His parents were atheist Marxists, though they gave up being atheists and converted to Catholicism in England, when they returned. Fred went to great schools, including getting his degree at Oxford. Fred immigrated to the U.S. and became a citizen. Over time, he came to support free market economics, and is very active in the intellectual arena of libertarianism. He also actively uses evolutionary theory in his scholarly work. One day in class, Fred asked everyone to tell a little about themselves. Fred knew about my own world view by that time, so when I pointed out that I was raised in rural Kentucky by a father who worked in coal mine (and was a UMWA member) and only went to 8th grade, went to rural Kentucky schools, was raised Baptist (and a creationist), but that I went on to college to major in recombinant gene technology (at a small Kentucky college, WKU), Fred looked right at me and said, "How on earth did the two of us come to the same conclusions?" Indeed. Frederick Turner and I both have the same fundamental world views -- and, I would suggest, would have the same judicial philosophies. We have completely different backgrounds. But what does that matter when it comes to sensibly viewing the world? Or not?
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