So, there is a lot of discussion in the news about a Google engineer who posted a 10-page internal memo at Google about improving work-place gender diversity without resorting to the usual affirmative action policies and who subsequently (and very quickly) got fired for it. Many have characterized the engineer’s manifesto as a heresy, most condemning it and others lauding it, one even comparing it to Martin Luther’s act of nailing his 95 Theses to the wall of the Roman Catholic Church.
But the most interesting part of this open discussion so far has been what some experts in the field of psychology have been saying. For the most part, the experts seem to agree with the engineer.
In an article titled “The Google Memo: Four Scientists Respond,” (archived version here) one of the scientists, Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychology professor at the University of New Mexico, praises the memo for its adherence to science. He says, “Graded fairly, his memo would get at least an A- in any masters’ level psychology course.” He thinks it’s spot on in terms of the current understanding of science, even though it is diametrically opposed to prevailing attitudes and trends about gender equality. The rest of the scientists in the article are between somewhat to generally supportive of the memo.
So, if science supports the memo and the memo advocates that some gender disparities are due not to nurture but nature (inherent differences between the sexes), then from where comes the idea that the differences are not due to inherent differences but instead come from systematic discrimination? Miller suggests that the source is not science but instead based on deep faith in some non-scientific ideal.
The only reasons to value diversity would be at the levels of legal compliance with government regulations, public relations virtue-signalling, and deontological morality – not practical effectiveness. Legal, PR, and moral reasons can be good reasons for companies to do things. But corporate diversity was never justified to shareholders as a way to avoid lawsuits, PR blowback, or moral shame; it was justified as a competitive business necessity.So, if the sexes and races don’t differ at all, and if psychological interchangeability is true, then there’s no practical business case for diversity.Geoffrey Miller, “The Google Memo: Four Scientists Respond On Gender Differences,” 7 Aug. 2017, Quillette, 9 Aug. 2017 <http://quillette.com/2017/08/07/google-memo-four-scientists-respond/>.
So, here are some lessons for ISKCON from this:
- Trying to reshape our society to be respectable in the eyes of mainstream society is a bad policy because it essentially means exchanging our own values for the values of modern society.
- Because these different sets of values are tied to different authorities–ours being based on shastra and coming through an unbroken disciplic succession and theirs based on the changing modes of material nature–exchanging our parampara values for theirs necessarily means changing our sources of authority for theirs. It means abandoning the disciplic succession for modes-of-nature-inspired speculation.
- Our values (via varnasrama-dharma) have a different objective: maximize purity for the sake of making spiritual advancement (butter melts next to fire). The objectives of other social ideals prevalent in the debate offer to maximize class equality (a big-“S” Socialist project) and maximize standard of living (material comforts) by letting the invisible hand of the economy have free reign. We reject both of these. We are after neither mundane equality nor optimized material comforts.
One final reason for not jumping on the P.C. bandwagon in the name of preaching that is more important than the above three reasons is that the big social problem our varnasrama social system addresses does not change from age to age. That problem is sex attraction.
So these regulative principles are there. So what is, what is the big plan behind these regulative principles? The big plan is: here is the attraction, puṁsaḥ striyā mithunī-bhāvam etaṁ to cut down this attraction between male and female. This is the big plan. Otherwise there is no need of the varṇāśrama.
Śrīla Prabhupāda. Lecture, Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.8, Vrindavan Oct 30, 1976.
The social problems of the non-devotees change with the modes of nature, but the problem of sex-attraction does not change from age-to-age.
But because this problem is actually the root of all other problems in the material world, we should hold steadfastly to varnasrama social values because these reflect reality–even if it means that for the indefinite future we will have to suffer opprobrium from the rest of society. Lest it be forgotten, in modern society, which some of us want to emulate, four out of every ten children born in the United States are born to unwed mothers. How can any society this dysfunctional expect to endure?
As they say in the safety instructions for passengers on airplanes, first secure your own oxygen mask before helping others. That requires us to first follow our own principles before we can help others. If we were to embrace something other than the Truth in our own lives, then we ourselves would be living according to illusion and hence would have no power to preach anyway, or at least whatever we would be preaching would not be genuine.
Therefore, putting on our own oxygen masks includes following the varnasrama system and avoiding Maya devi’s trap of trying to expand our preaching through forfeiting the parampara.
aikāntikī harer bhaktir
“Devotional service of the Lord that ignores the authorized Vedic literatures like the Upaniṣads, Purāṇas and Nārada-pañcarātra is simply an unnecessary disturbance in society.”