Extropians Flounder on Diversity, ReasonColumn by Sharmin Ghaznavi
As much as I hate to add to the controversy surrounding the MIT Extropians, I felt the need to write something after reading the e-mail they received and posted on their World Wide Web site praising the group's lucidity and insight.
I realized after reading through the e-mails that the strengths of the Extropians arguments lie in their cogency and eloquence. Their manifesto is well written - so well written - that what goes virtually unnoticed is that it is not well-thought-out. At best, the arguments by the Extropians are testament to their myopia and total lack of insight.
First, the Extropians argue for an emphasis on diversity of thought instead of emphasis on cultural and racial diversity. What the Extropians fail to realize is that as a consequence of segregation - both the imposed segregation of the past and self segregation of the present - diversity of thought is closely linked to cultural diversity. It is no secret that differences in rituals, location, history, and even language give rise to unique bodies of thought. These are the same elements that compose cultures, and segregation has kept cultures apart. Creating cultural diversity is crucial to creating diversity of thought.
Interestingly enough, however, the same individuals who argue for diversity of thought also herald the superiority of math and physics to all other disciplines, referring to them as "monuments of the human mind." While I agree these disciplines are, as they call them, "monuments of the human mind," so is every other discipline. A small step out of the paradigm of scientific evaluation is all that's needed to recognize as much. By placing this emphasis on math and physics, the Extropians inherently support the convergence of all thought into the framework of mathematical and scientific paradigms, contradicting their desire for diversity of thought.
The Extropians also endorse reading a common literature and listening to the same music, among other seemingly conformist suggestions. How is this supporting diversity of thought? At best, reading the same books and listening to the same music, provides for a limited range of opinion and thought on the same books and same music.
After close look at the Extropians' arguments, their superficial insightfulness quickly gives way to the fact that they have merely raised up age old issues at MIT. They have brought up nothing new and contributed only their not so unique brand of cynicism.
The Extropians argue that freshmen are capable of reason, and I would agree with them on this point. But if reason is what the Extropians want freshmen to use, why didn't they allow freshmen to consider their MIT experiences in time and come to their own conclusions? The Extropians instead chose to give freshmen a manifesto full of preconceived warnings and ideals to live up to.
The Extropians seem much like parents who seek to live their lives vicariously through those of their children. Rather than the sages they regard themselves as, the Extropians look a lot more like a group of bitter individuals seeking to reclaim their earlier MIT years.