Interesting Bloggy Debate About Inclusivity

exclusion zone

in·clu·siv·i·ty
ˌinklo͞oˈsivitē/
noun

1. An intention or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.

I thought this inter-blog debate was interesting.

It started with Apophemi, whose views I mostly agree with (at least in this post). Here’s a few excepts:

There are things that lie too close to home for me to be comfortable debating them, which I’m sure at least a plurality of people in the ongoing Charming And Friendly Rationalist Dinner Party group would wholeheartedly disapprove of, seeing as I thus require adherence to these ideas or at least a lack of explicit challenges to them on the part of anyone speaking to me before I can entertain their arguments in good faith. [...]

An example: I cannot in good faith entertain the argument that high-scarcity societies are right in having restrictive, assigned-sex-based gender roles, even if these social structures result in measurable maximized utility (i.e. many much kids). I have a moral imperative against this that overrides my general impulse towards maximized utility, or rather (if you asked me about it personally) tilt-shifts my view of what sectors ‘deserve’ to see their utility maximized at the expense of a given other sector.[...]

Because of the conditions of discourse that not having limitations on what type of ideas can be acceptably entertained, these environments are also self-selecting. In other words, even when the people speaking loudest or most eloquently don’t intentionally discourage participation from people who are not like them / who may be uncomfortable with the terms of the discussion, entertaining ‘politically incorrect’ or potentially harmful ideas out loud, in public (so to speak) signals people who would be impacted by said ideas that they are not welcome.

I agree with Apophemi about many things. Part of my philosophy for “Alas” is that, at least on this blog, certain debates are closed. For example, I’m not interested in arguing about if Science shows that White people are genetically smarter than Black people; I’m convinced that science shows no such thing with any certainty, and more importantly, that the debate itself is harmful in just the ways Apophemi describes. Similarly, there are a number of anti-trans arguments I’m rather not see here. There are lots of places where those arguments are welcome, but I’d rather Alas be a place where trans people are welcome.

On the other hand, some debates are not closed in our society,1 even if they are distressing to have. There is more-or-less a consensus in our society that overt racism is wrong, but there’s no such consensus about reproductive rights, or about marriage equality, or about fat activism. Since there is no consensus, I think it’s important to be able to have these debates openly. And since I can’t function well in environments in which insults are hurled and people are overtly dehumanized, I try and create an environment for myself in which these topics can be debated with enough civility to reach my personal minimum threshold of bearability.

Of course, by creating such an environment, I inevitably exclude other people – people who find the demand to maintain that threshold of civility makes “Alas” into a place they find oppressive or hurtful.

So it won’t be surprising that although I largely agreed with Apophemi, I also had a lot of sympathy for this response to Apophemi by Scott Alexander of Slate Star Codex, a blog I quite like although I often disagree with Scott’s ideas. Scott wrote:

This reminds me of the idea of safe spaces.

Safe spaces are places where members of disadvantaged groups can go, usually protected against people in other groups who tend to trigger them, and discuss things relevant to that group free from ridicule or attack. I know there are many for women, some for gays, and I recently heard of a college opening one up for atheists. They seem like good ideas.

I interpret Apophemi’s proposal to say that the rationalist community should endeavor to be a safe space for women, minorities, and other disadvantaged groups.2

One important feature of safe spaces is that they can’t always be safe for two groups at the same time. Jews are a discriminated-against minority who need a safe space. Muslims are a discriminated-against minority who need a safe space. But the safe space for Jews should be very far way from the safe space for Muslims, or else neither space is safe for anybody.

The rationalist community is a safe space for people who obsessively focus on reason and argument even when it is socially unacceptable to do so.

I don’t think it’s unfair to say that these people need a safe space. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been called “a nerd” or “a dork” or “autistic” for saying something rational is too high to count. Just recently commenters on Marginal Revolution – not exactly known for being a haunt for intellect-hating jocks – found an old post of mine and called me among many other things “aspie”, “a pansy”, “retarded”, and an “omega” (a PUA term for a man who’s so socially inept he will never date anyone).

I think this leans towards my own preference, which is to have lots and lots of different spaces. No conversation will be comfortable for everybody, so the optimum is to have as many different spaces making good discussions accessible to as many different sorts of people as possible.

Scott also included a very kind link to “Alas,” so thanks for that, Scott.

Scott loses me later in his essay, though, by going overboard in what (even if this wasn’t Scott’s intent) comes off as an attempt to deny that there is any problem at all. For instance, he argues that Yoga classes are taken more by women than by men, but it wouldn’t be reasonable to assume that yoga classes are driving men away with anti-male attitudes; rather, “men and women are socialized differently in a bunch of subtle ways and the interests and values they end up with are more pro-yoga in women and more anti-yoga in men.” Okay, that seems reasonable to me.

He then says the rationalist community is the same way, and therefore there is no problem of women and some minorities feeling excluded by the dialog there. But unlike yoga class, we have direct evidence – such as the post Scott was responding to – that there are women and minorities who do feel excluded from rationalist communities, and say so clearly.

Nor do I think it takes a very great leap of empathy to realize why, for example, some Black readers would find serious discussion of how Black people are allegedly genetically less intelligent than whites or Asians, to be unwelcoming. (Scott points out that Less Wrong has no shortage of Asians. But, again, it’s not hard to see why claims that Blacks are intellectually inferior to Whites and Asians may be, on average, easier for Asian readers to stomach than Black readers.)

The third post I want to point to is On inclusivity in Less Wrong: a response to Scott Alexander by Ben Kuhn. He has a similar reaction to mine to the Yoga metaphor: “People find Less Wrong exclusionary. I’ve asked them and they said so, and as far as being discouraged from contributing goes, that’s the end of the story.” Overall, Kuhn argues for a middle ground:

Basically, the rebuttal of Apophemi is fine. I agree, discourse without limitations is an important part of Less Wrong and shouldn’t go away, fine. But that’s no excuse for overreaching and ignoring the middle ground. Less Wrong does have problems with discourse that marginalizes people. We need to at least notice that we’re making a trade-off here, and look for ways to improve along both axes when we can.

I don’t really have any solutions to offer, beyond my belief that all forums exclude in one way or another, and therefore we need a lot of different forums. But the trade-off between “discourse without limitations” and “we want to be welcoming” is always going to be an issue, whenever any forum is created. It’s something useful for blogrunners (and readers) to keep in mind.

  1. I’m an American, so that’s what I think of as “our society,” although I realize that not all “Alas” readers are Americans. []
  2. I’m not sure I agree with Scott about this. I interpreted Apophemi’s essay as explaining why ze doesn’t feel comfortable posting on spaces like “Less Wrong,” without necessarily proposing any changes. []
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95 Responses to Interesting Bloggy Debate About Inclusivity

  1. 1
    mythago says:

    Scott’s yoga class example illustrates the very problem with his essay and, bluntly, his huge blind spot. He posits a neutral “pro-yoga” and “anti-yoga” socialization that just happens to fall along sex lines. The real problem, of course, is that once something become associated with women – yoga, eating salad, the color pink – men are supposed to shun it, lest their masculinity be suspect. A man who is enthusiastic about yoga classes is likely to be deemed feminized and possibly gay, possibly unless he emphasizes that his only motivation for participating is that the favorable gender ratio improves his chances of meeting female sex partners.

  2. 2
    nobody.really says:

    Thoughts upon reading the original post, without reading the links: I think Amp nails it when he concludes that “all forums exclude in one way or another, and therefore we need a lot of different forums.” To add some gloss:

    1. The discourse in some forums repels me. And the discourse in my forums may repel others. We advance the cause of free speech not by expecting that every forum will accept every speech, but by enabling a broad range of forums, each of which may seem exclusionary to someone.

    2. My free speech includes the right to criticize other forums, but does not include the expectation that those other forums will change in response to my criticism. To quote Bob Hayes, but without making him go through the trouble of saying it first, Repellant, exclusionary speech: It’s not a bug; it’s a feature.

    That said, I don’t understand Amp’s concerns with Scott Alexander’s acceptance that women and some minorities feel excluded by some “rationalist community” forums.

    [H]e argues that Yoga classes are taken more by women than by men, but it wouldn’t be reasonable to assume that yoga classes are driving men away with anti-male attitudes; rather, “men and women are socialized differently in a bunch of subtle ways and the interests and values they end up with are more pro-yoga in women and more anti-yoga in men.” Okay, that seems reasonable to me.

    He then says the rationalist community is the same way, and therefore there is no problem of women and some minorities feeling excluded by the dialog there. But unlike yoga class, we have direct evidence – such as the post Scott was responding to – that there are women and minorities who do feel excluded from rationalist communities, and say so clearly.

    Yeah, just as we might find clear evidence that Jewish people feel excluded from safe forums for Muslims, and Muslims might feel excluded from safe spaces for Jews. Amp’s final remark seems to imply that if women and some minorities feel excluded from a forum, the forum should change. This is inconsistent with my understanding of Amp’s main thesis.

    To be sure, I embrace Ben Kuhn’s middle path, too: We should strive to avoid alienating people needlessly. But we also should have little expectation that we will ever be embraced by everybody.

    When I convene people of disparate views to draft a common policy, I start by stating my goal: I want to avoid stepping on anyone’s toes inadvertently. We want to craft a policy that will step on your toes only knowingly and advisedly.

    Or, to quote John Adams’s character in 1776 as the Continental Congress is nitpicking the draft Declaration of Independence to death in an effort to avoid giving offense: “This is a RE-VO-LU-TION, dammit ; we’re going to have to offend SOMEBODY!”

    Then again, Adams and I are white males; take that for what it’s worth.

  3. 3
    Ampersand says:

    Nobody Really, I felt that Scott was denying that women and minorities are feeling excluded.

    I think it’s inevitable that all forums exclude some people (implicitly, explicitly, or both). But I also think we should admit this, rather than being in denial about how things work. Perhaps I misread him, but I felt that some of Scott’s post was coming from a place of denial.

    Amp’s final remark seems to imply that if women and some minorities feel excluded from a forum, the forum should change.

    With respect, I don’t think my final remark does imply that. :-)

    I do think that more forums should change to match my preferences, of course. :-D

    But I also recognize that in any good system, there will be many forums which are run in ways that are contrary to my own preferences.

    I really don’t know enough about “Less Wrong” – a forum I’ve only read a handful of times – to have an opinion on if it should change or not. But as a general rule, whether or not it should change depends on the preferences of people using the forum. If a majority of Less Wrong users can be persuaded that change is the thing to do, then there’s nothing wrong with changing. (And if there are large groups who cannot agree, then presumably there will eventually be splinter groups, which means more variety of forums out there, which is all to the good.)

  4. 4
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    This doesn’t seem to distinguish between direct and self-inflicted exclusion.

    “Cops are not welcome in this forum” is exclusionary for cops.
    “I won’t entertain arguments in favor of police protecting themselves at the expense of those they are arresting” is exclusionary for a perspective, whoever has it.
    “I generally think citizens should have very strong civil liberties and that cops who feel otherwise are wrong” might have the effect of deterring police participation because they “feel unwelcome” but it is not inherently exclusionary.

    I don’t really have any solutions to offer, beyond my belief that all forums exclude in one way or another, and therefore we need a lot of different forums. But the trade-off between “discourse without limitations” and “we want to be welcoming” is always going to be an issue, whenever any forum is created. It’s something useful for blogrunners (and readers) to keep in mind.

    That’s not actually a necessary tradeoff. It only becomes a tradeoff if you appoint yourself as referee, which is to say that you have to be willing to judge whether someone’s claim of offense is reasonable, etc.

    There are plenty of places which welcome discourse and welcome all sorts of opinions, without making those tradeoffs. Some of them (your local street corner is a great example) are also free of exclusion in most cases, unless you start to really stretch the boundaries of what “exclude” means.

    And of course, not all of them see a requirement of “welcoming” to include selective silencing** of a particular, opposing, viewpoint. I might “feel unwelcome” at a Young Republicans festival because I disagree with their perspectives, but many such groups are perfectly happy to hear and argue with opposing views; they would in fact welcome my participation. If I don’t feel welcome unless they suppress their speech, is that their problem or mine?

    For example, I’m not interested in arguing about if Science shows that White people are genetically smarter than Black people; I’m convinced that science shows no such thing with any certainty

    Too bad. I have no interest in suggesting that whites are genetically smarter, but I’m more than happy to smack down folks who are; if you can’t talk about it then you can’t disprove it. It also precludes the possibility of going beyond disproof to finding the reverse.

    Worse yet, it generally promotes blind faith. That happens both because you’re eliminating the #1 avenue to correct your mistakes (arguing with devoted opponents) and because you combine “I won’t discuss this question” with “I am certain of the answer.” That is, to put it very mildly, a highly dysfunctional social tactic when applied generally.

    And of course it tends to obscure reality and make solving some problems more difficult: differential IQ results by race (which certainly exist although they are almost certainly not genetic) are a valuable datapoint w/r/t a variety of other problems, but you can’t easily deal with them or address them if you’re walking on tiptoes to pretend that they don’t exist.

    Overall, that’s much more damaging than the occasional ravings regarding IQ.

    ** By which I meansilencing. I.e. telling/demanding that someone be silent, shouting them down so that they can’t be heard, etc. I’ve seen plenty of claims which treat unwanted disagreement as silencing, and statements like “sit down and shut up” as NON-silencing. Which is a bit backwards, y’know?

  5. 5
    Harlequin says:

    nobody.really:

    But unlike yoga class, we have direct evidence – such as the post Scott was responding to – that there are women and minorities who do feel excluded from rationalist communities, and say so clearly.

    Yeah, just as we might find clear evidence that Jewish people feel excluded from safe forums for Muslims, and Muslims might feel excluded from safe spaces for Jews.

    Okay, but there’s a big difference between a safe space for one group excluding members of a different minority group, and a safe space for one group excluding members of their own group who happen to be members of another unrelated but overlapping minority group*. The appropriate analogy is not “a safe space for Jews that excludes Muslims”, but something like “a safe space for women that excludes queer women.” Though–for reasons discussed by others above–that isn’t a problem for me, unless many of those safe spaces take exclusion of overlapping minority groups due to other considerations and turn it into a defining feature of the safe space. (And even it being a problem for me doesn’t mean they should stop.)

    *I’m sure there is a Jewish/Muslim overlap if we consider heritage & culture as well as religion, but…I’m not really sure how to treat that.

    ***

    There’s part of Amp’s post that I would phrase differently, and I think it makes a difference to how the discussion goes. Bolding mine:

    For instance, he argues that Yoga classes are taken more by women than by men, but it wouldn’t be reasonable to assume that yoga classes are driving men away with anti-male attitudes; rather, “men and women are socialized differently in a bunch of subtle ways and the interests and values they end up with are more pro-yoga in women and more anti-yoga in men.” Okay, that seems reasonable to me.

    He then says the rationalist community is the same way, and therefore there is no problem of women and some minorities feeling excluded by the dialog there. But unlike yoga class, we have direct evidence – such as the post Scott was responding to – that there are women and minorities who do feel excluded from rationalist communities, and say so clearly.

    It’s not just that there are women and minorities who feel excluded from rationalist communities, it’s–to parallel the first quote–that women and minorities are driven away by misogynist and racist attitudes. This isn’t an incidental “women’s and racial minorities’ relevant issues never get mentioned”, this is “women get harassed and people say racist things.” (Or, at least, they did at the time I stopped participating in such spaces, partially because of this issue. Maybe Amp phrased things the way he did because this has changed since I left. In which case I suppose this comment had no purpose, sorry!)

    Of course, the line between not being catered to, and actually being driven away, is blurry.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    It’s not just that there are women and minorities who feel excluded from rationalist communities, it’s–to parallel the first quote–that women and minorities are driven away by misogynist and racist attitudes.

    You’re right. Point well taken.

  7. 7
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Gin and Whiskey,

    There are plenty of other places on the internet to have the race and IQ debate. I think Razib Khan’s blog is one of the best when it comes to discussing race. rod Dreher was having a race and IQ debate on his blog a few days ago. I’ll be starting up my dormant blog soon and would be happy to have the argument with you there.

    One of the things I like about Dreher’s blog is that while he does censor rude speech and name calling, he doesn’t censor on the basis of unpopular ideas. You can find communists, monarchists, race realists, hardcore social conservatives, liberals, Trotskyists, and a whole variety of other quirky viewpoints represented there, and the discussion is always remarkably civil.

  8. 8
    nobody.really says:

    Okay, but there’s a big difference between a safe space for one group excluding members of a different minority group, and a safe space for one group excluding members of their own group who happen to be members of another unrelated but overlapping minority group*. The appropriate analogy is not “a safe space for Jews that excludes Muslims”, but something like “a safe space for women that excludes queer women.”

    Fair enough; perhaps the categories Jewish and Muslim are mutually exclusive in a way that Female and Queer are not. So perhaps it was a poor illustration.

    But I think this objection glosses over the larger point: There is no such thing as Woman. There’s only Luisa. And Julie. And Loraine. And, ok, they may occasionally sing “I am Woman,” but none of them really is.

    And thus, there’s no such thing as Safe Space for Woman. There are merely spaces created and moderated by Luisa, or Julie, or Loraine, with the goal of being safe for women as this goal is understood by Luisa, or Julie, or Loraine, respectively. But inevitably the category Woman contains so many people of such diversity that some will inevitably trigger visceral reactions in others.

    And thus, any label such as “safe space for people who self-identify as rational (or rationalist?)” will prove inaccurate for some people. Those people will feel frustration at having their buttons pushed, and at being deceived by the moderator.

    Let me affirm people’s pain at having their buttons pushed. But let me dis-affirm people’s frustration that a moderator engaged in false advertising by claiming to create a safe space for X. True, no moderator can deliver on a promise to create a safe space for X (and so I discourage people from making such statements). But the impossibility of the task is so glaring that no one could credibly claim to have been deceived. Imagine I advertise a “safe space for Germans from the 1940s.” Why, a space for people with so much in common — what could possibly to wrong?

    This illustrates the weakness of categorical thinking: Categories don’t need safe spaces; individuals do – individuals that each fit into infinite categories. Categories aren’t manifestations of reality; categories are manifestations of our mind’s inability to cope with reality. Categories purport to tell us about the world, but really tell us about us.

    In conclusion, I’m sorry to hear that many woman and minorities who self-identify as members of the rationalist community feel repelled by the discussion at sites putatively designed to cater to members of the rationalist community. If this applies to you, I’ll offer this unsolicited advice: Transcend the label “member of the rationalist community.” To thine own self be true. Find the discussion where you authentically find community, regardless of label — or make it yourself, give it whatever label you like, and moderate it however you like. And when future commentors complain “As a member of [category label], you’re moderating this discussion in a way that repels me,” respond however you please. Because you’re never going to please everyone.

  9. 9
    nobody.really says:

    Further musings, in case you’re not yet sufficiently mused: Why do I keep encountering this dynamic of someone feeling excluded from a community when she had expected to be embraced?

    Theory du jour: As a member of a minority group, I go through life assailed on all sides by members of the majority. My hourly experience reinforces my other-ness, their lack of communion and community with the masses. It’s a life of constant — if hopefully low-level — stress. (I’ve heard that African American males suffer heart disease at higher rates than white American males – or black males in Africa. A lifetime of microaggression take a toll that cannot be explained by genetics.)

    Then – hallelujah! – I find a community of people who share my minority attribute. At last, I’m among MY people. I can finally let down our guard, knowing that we stand in solidarity with each other, we have each other’s backs, we ….

    And then I overhear my beloved colleague callously laughing about people with Type AB- blood. All throughout my childhood I was abused by my father because of my blood type. And now, just as I thought I was safe, among my own kind, I confront rejection on ANOTHER front. Betrayed, I realize the people I thought I understood, and that understood me – it was all a lie. And I’m out in the cold once again.

    Even among misfits, I’m a misfit….

    If you live that psychodrama, then yeah, I could see the yearning for community and the sense of betrayal upon realizing that you haven’t really achieved it. And while I’m at it, I could see that my advice to embrace individualism would provide cold comfort; it’s basically just making a virtue of necessity.

    If all this seems skull-crushingly obvious to you, well, it isn’t to me. This isn’t really my psychodrama. Right now I’m enjoying the support of a community of friends. We have some things in common; we have some differences. But I believe the sense of community does not derive from what we have in common as much as from knowing and being known by others, in spite of what we don’t have in common.

    I’ve never met Bob Hayes in my life, as far as I know. I certainly haven’t always agreed with him (although we’ve both mellowed with time). But based on our long correspondence here and elsewhere, when I learned that he might be coming to my town I felt comfortable inviting him to stay with me. True to form, he declined in a characteristically acerbic way. But my point is that I feel some community with him that is based on coming to know him as an individual rather than feeling a sense of solidarity with him.

    If I were feeling isolated as the sole rationalist in my community, I’d certainly look for fellowship on the internet. And if I discovered that the rationalist discussion groups all tended to creep me out, I’d be disappointed. And I’d look for other discussion groups. Because I also play the Hammond B3 organ. And I’m Hawaiian. And left-handed. And love creating parodies of Ke$ha videos. Rationalism need not be the sole basis upon which I strive to connect with people. And who knows? Maybe video parody people are better socialized than rationalists. It’s worth a shot.

    Anyway, good luck and God bless! 

  10. 10
    Gar W. Lipow says:

    > important feature of safe spaces is that they can’t always be safe for two groups at the same time. Jews are a discriminated-against minority who need a safe space. Muslims are a discriminated-against minority who need a safe space. But the safe space for Jews should be very far way from the safe space for Muslims, or else neither space is safe for anybody.

    Pardon me, but WTF? I can see how a safe space for both Muslims and Jews can’t allow anti-Semitism (in the original meaning of the word) nor allow the idea that Islam is an inherently more violent religion than other religions, or that there is “no such thing as a Palestinian” or the equation of all Zionism with racism (while allowing the argument that many common forms of Zionism ARE racist) and so on and so forth. But I don’t see why there cannot be a common safe space for Muslims and Jews so long as it is agreed that safety for Jews does include safe bigotry against Muslims and that safety for Muslims does not include safe bigotry against Jews.

  11. 11
    Elusis says:

    It seems to me that the issue here is someone on a (skeptics?) blog making the argument “there aren’t many women here because this just isn’t the kind of thing women like.” Isn’t that what the yoga metaphor is about?

  12. 12
    Harlequin says:

    nobody.really:

    I’ve heard that African American males suffer heart disease at higher rates than white American males – or black males in Africa. A lifetime of microaggression take a toll that cannot be explained by genetics.

    IIRC, it’s well-established that socioeconomic status makes a big difference in health outcomes, regardless of quality of available medical care. It’s also true that there seems to be psychological stress associated with spending lots of time in groups where people like you are less than 20% of the group, even in the absence of microaggressions or unwelcoming behavior (or outright racism/misogyny/homophobia/whatever). That’s considered one of the reasons physics & engineering haven’t been able to increase their proportion of women–they’re below that threshold, which exacerbates the other causes.

    One thing that Amp was careful not to do in his post, but that I & others have been doing in the comments, is to focus on feelings of exclusion on the part of minority groups. But people with the dominant traits can still feel excluded by many things, including codes of speech that protect minorities. I used to be part of a fanfiction community that had (for various reasons) a surprising amount of racist and/or homophobic attitudes in the fiction it produced. There were safe spaces designed for posting what you wanted regardless of content, so most such stories were found there, but there were also subtler forms in the mainstream stuff. I once expressed to some friends that I wished there could also be a reader’s safe space free of that content, and I was accused of censorship and (eventually) lost a couple of those folks as friends.

    I mean, I would say that was a totally ridiculous thing for them to be angry about, but it clearly didn’t feel that way to them. So we weren’t really suited for interacting if that kind of discussion was going to be on the table, and it was. (The community as a whole also drifted apart around the same time, so no way to say which “side” won that debate. I will note that the practice of having such writers’ safe spaces, in a specific and separate location, was widespread at the time but has died away over the ensuing years…but whether that’s because the stories went away or because they were incorporated into other areas, I couldn’t venture to guess.)

  13. 13
    JoKeR says:

    First, I’m not trying to join the discussion about safe spaces in this comment. I am responding to the frequent references to the difficulty of having Jews and Muslims together. I’d like to point out there are places and times where this occurs regularly.

    First, I’ve seen articles about school cafeterias or other regular dining locations trying to accommodate different preferences (vegetarian, vegan, gluten intolerance, nut allergies, etc.) including religious food restrictions. Some cafeterias have found that it is possible to satisfy both kosher requirements and Islamic requirements with the same menu. Thus, if they don’t feel their needs are being met these two groups can become allies in seeking to get the food service to offer foods (and it can be the same foods) that are acceptable to both groups.

    Also there are groups who deliberately seek interaction across these groups. At the very least there are peace making efforts where people from both these groups (and others) come together to try and learn from and about each other. These are sometimes focused on teens in a camp-style communal week (or more or less) where there are behavioral and courtesy requirements which participants must agree to in order to join the activity with the hope of introducing participants to “the others” and help them to learn that the people who have been mistrusted can act with integrity and be trusted and even liked as friends.

    These two examples do not represent in any way the entirety of such mutual situations, but are examples of safe spaces where it is possible to have participation by groups who seem inevitably (from what we see in media, at least) at odds with each other. Of course, such spaces would be less welcoming to fanatics from either side, but that is the nature of safe spaces.

  14. 14
    Alexander Stanislav says:

    Do you think that because most blacks would find discussions of group-IQ differences unpalatable, rationalists should stop talking about IQ? Not that those discussions are particularly common in the rationalist community.

  15. 15
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Alexander Stanislav,

    Yes, I’d very much like to hear the answer to that question. Are we to dumb down unpleasant truths and the voicing of legitimate arguments because someone, somewhere might have their precious feelings hurt? This ‘safe space’ business seems like an excuse for people to be able to go through life never having to deal with anything that might make them uncomfortable.

  16. 16
    Harlequin says:

    Hector:

    This ‘safe space’ business seems like an excuse for people to be able to go through life never having to deal with anything that might make them uncomfortable.

    The general notion of a safe space is that most of the world is an unsafe place for certain groups of people, so it’s nice to have one place, somewhere, where you’re not always looking over your shoulder or bracing yourself for the next stupid thing somebody’s going to say about people like you. “I just want an occasional break from feeling constantly uncomfortable” is really, really different from “I cannot handle feeling uncomfortable ever.” And that’s ignoring the fact that “uncomfortable” is a really dismissive term for the kinds of things (including, y’know, physical violence) that can make people want to create a safe space.

    Are we to dumb down unpleasant truths and the voicing of legitimate arguments because someone, somewhere might have their precious feelings hurt?

    No. But we can choose where and when we have such discussions.

    Also, you seem to think people on the left have a lot of control over what everybody else talks about. If only I had such power… [insert evil villain cackling here]

  17. 17
    Alexander Stanislav says:

    @Hector

    I agree with Harlequin, the existence of safe spaces is a good thing, because there are lots of people who need them. However, not everywhere can be a safe space, and I was curious about whether people think that the rationalist community should strive to be a safe space for racial/sexual minorities.

    There is as Barry says, a tradeoff between truth seeking and being inclusive. Lots of places optimize for the later, and the rationalist community is one of the few places that optimizes for the former. I am more than fine with that but it seems to me that others are not and I’m not sure if I’m misunderstanding.

  18. 18
    Ampersand says:

    Alexander, I feel I sort of answered your question in my post:

    I think this leans towards my own preference, which is to have lots and lots of different spaces. No conversation will be comfortable for everybody, so the optimum is to have as many different spaces making good discussions accessible to as many different sorts of people as possible.

    That doesn’t mean I think the rationalist community should be free of criticism for its choices; but it should certainly be free to make those choices.

    I don’t know much about “the rationalist community.” But I’m wondering if it’s really a single, singular community, or if it’s more like an assortment of communities (blogs, different websites, local meet-up groups, etc). If it’s more like an assortment of communities, then presumably different sub-communities of the rationalist community will choose different standards.

  19. 19
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: so it’s nice to have one place, somewhere, where you’re not always looking over your shoulder or bracing yourself for the next stupid thing somebody’s going to say about people like you.

    You’re assuming that ‘what people are saying about people like you’ is, in fact, stupid rather than true. Isn’t that rather begging the question?

    If it is true that members of Group X tend to have genetic traits that cause lower intelligence, then the truth of the proposition is absolutely unaffected by whether members of Group X are made ‘uncomfortable’ by it or not.

    Re: No. But we can choose where and when we have such discussions

    Where and when would *you* consider it appropriate to debate, say, genetic differences in IQ between racial groups?

  20. 20
    Ampersand says:

    You’re assuming that ‘what people are saying about people like you’ is, in fact, stupid rather than true. Isn’t that rather begging the question?

    You’re assuming that Harlequin is assuming it. Maybe Harlequin has simply already seen the matter discussed to her own satisfaction, and feels no need to waste further time arguing about it.

    Where and when would *you* consider it appropriate to debate, say, genetic differences in IQ between racial groups?

    I know this question wasn’t addressed to me, but I’ll answer anyway.

    It’s like arguing with holocaust deniers. To me, it seems like a waste of time to debate whether or not the Holocaust happened. The matter has already been settled to the satisfaction of the overwhelming majority of intelligent people, and it’s not a good use of my time to delve into the minutia of whatever culturally irrelevant arguments the holocaust deniers are still clinging to.

    Furthermore, the people who are still Holocaust deniers, at this point, are extremely unlikely to ever change their minds. Nor is there any point in “arguing for the sake of the lurkers” – the large majority of mainstream Americans already agree with me, and so need no persuading. So there’s really no once to convince.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong for some other blogger, somewhere, from debating with those jackasses if she wants to. And if she wants to, then I guess her blog, or some other agreed-on forum, is an appropriate place for debating it.

    And of course, nothing stops the holocaust denial jackasses – and, for that matter, the “scientific racism” or “racial realist” or “human biodiversity” jackasses – from making their own forums, where they can debate to their hearts’ content, assuming they can find someone willing to debate with them.

    But to me, it seems like a waste of my time. So that’s why you’re unlikely to see either the race/IQ wars, or whether or not the Holocaust happened, debated here on “Alas.”

  21. 21
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    I don’t think it’s true to say ‘no one gets their mind changed on the race/iq issue’. I used to be strongly opposed to IQ hereditarianism and to race realism. Then I started actually considering the arguments and looking at the data, and changed my mind.

    Re: And of course, nothing stops the holocaust denial jackasses – and, for that matter, the “scientific racism” or “racial realist” or “human biodiversity” jackasses – from making their own forums, where they can debate to their hearts’ content, assuming they can find someone willing to debate with them.

    I doubt you’d look kindly on me if I started referring to ‘pro choice yahoos’ the same way you refer to ‘race realist jackasses’. But let that pass. I would be OK with this ‘let many schools of thought contend’, except that some people on your side of the fence try, not just to have your own safe spaces, but to kick people you disagree with out of the public square. Here’s an example: Stephen Hsu, the current ‘vice president for research and graduate studies’ at the university where I went for graduate school (Michigan State), is a race-realist intellectual who was formerly a physicist at the University of Oregon. When he was hired two years ago, a professor at Oregon sent an e-mail to the Michigan State faculty warning them of his evil racist views, and in essence doing what he could to lose Dr. Hsu his job. I don’t consider that respectful of ‘let’s have lots of different communities with different norms’. It’s an attempt to shut down discussion of racial differences and close it out of the public square, by threatening people’s jobs.

  22. 22
    Harlequin says:

    Hector:

    You’re assuming that ‘what people are saying about people like you’ is, in fact, stupid rather than true. Isn’t that rather begging the question?

    I was talking about safe spaces in general (which is why I started the paragraph with “The general notion of a safe space”). For instance, it’s nice for me to have places where mentioning my bisexuality doesn’t result in accusations of 1) really being gay or straight or 2) being an indecisive slut (among the myriad other reactions I get of course–and not that I think there’s anything wrong with being a slut, but the people who say that in this particular context mean it pejoratively).

    I used to be strongly opposed to IQ hereditarianism and to race realism. Then I started actually considering the arguments and looking at the data, and changed my mind.

    I still think it is true that in most debates of this nature, especially here on Alas where the commentariat is pretty good (I exclude myself from consideration in that judgment), that most people have already carefully considered the arguments and looked at the evidence. It’s just that most people here came to a different conclusion than you did, and Amp, as is his right, considers it a debate he doesn’t care to engage in again.

    I doubt you’d look kindly on me if I started referring to ‘pro choice yahoos’ the same way you refer to ‘race realist jackasses’. But let that pass.

    Chiding someone (mildly) else for language use you disagree with is an interesting thing to do in a comment thread where you are arguing against safe spaces for opinions you don’t hold…

  23. 23
    closetpuritan says:

    You’re assuming that ‘what people are saying about people like you’ is, in fact, stupid rather than true. Isn’t that rather begging the question?

    It could be both stupid and true! Or rather, people could be using a true fact in a stupid way, and/or being a jerk about it. And certain debates do tend to encourage bad behavior and attract racists.

    I’m not sure that I’m in favor of forcing people to confront uncomfortable truths in all spaces. I mean, maybe it doesn’t make sense to have pictures of dismembered fetuses on a My Little Pony fan forum. And that’s without getting into examples like saying “What about euthanasia?” on a suicide prevention forum–which is probably more comparable to saying “What about these IQ studies?” on an anti-racism forum.

  24. 24
    Jake Squid says:

    +1, closet puritan. Plus one.

  25. 25
    Harlequin says:

    Yes, thanks, closetpuritan–that’s a great way of putting it.

  26. 27
    Myca says:

    In the future, when we’re having debates here over why there is a broad perception of virulent racism in the Republican party and the American Right, I’m going to link to this comment thread.

    —Myca

  27. 28
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: most people have already carefully considered the arguments and looked at the evidence. It’s just that most people here came to a different conclusion than you did

    ‘Most people’ where?

    I’d venture to suggest that probably most people in America, and *certainly* most people in the world as a whole (at least the ones who have thought about it), believe that intelligence is largely hereditary and that it has racially linked genetic components. Cultural liberals don’t make up the majority of America, and they represent an even smaller minority of the world. Of course, majority opinion is no way to settle a scientific question, we need data for that (and what data we have suggests that under the conditions of developed Euro-American society, the heritability of intelligence is probably around 50%, with another 20% due to variation in prenatal environment. This is a liberal estimate, incidentally, some estimates are higher, but I think the 50% estimate is more likely to be true). I’m simply pointing out that your appeal to popular opinion here probably fails.

  28. 29
    Harlequin says:

    ‘Most people’ where?

    Carefully considered the evidence? Most people who are involved in this sort of debate. Came to a different conclusion? Most people here on Alas. Which is why I said “in most debates of this nature” for the first part and “here” for the second part in the comment you’re responding to.

    As to the rest of your comment, I don’t know how to respond without violating Amp’s wish that we not debate this topic here, so I’m going to bow out.

  29. 30
    Elusis says:

    At some point, you gotta wonder Hector, why is this your pet topic? Why die on this hill? Why is it so important to you that the question get asked and answered? Let’s say you manage to uncover firm, incontrovertible proof that black people are, on average, less intelligent than all other races*.

    Then what? What happens next in your scenario?

    *when measured by tests largely developed by and normed on white people, for a definition of “intelligence” also developed by and normed on white people, etc. etc.

  30. 31
    Tristan says:

    “*when measured by tests largely developed by and normed on white people, for a definition of “intelligence” also developed by and normed on white people, etc. etc.”

    Oh, I get it now. The game is rigged by “white people” (cuz other people have no say in psychology, ever). Manipulated. Just to prove that Asian people are slightly smarter than white people.

  31. 32
    Tristan says:

    “What happens next in your scenario?”

    —-

    Some people want to get to the root of what is “real”. Are differences in society solely due to unwarranted discrimination? Or something else? Or mixes and matches of different things, maybe some discrimination being reinforced by actual facts in some cases.

    I can understand prohibiting topics on your own board, but why make arguably false statements, “Re: most people have already carefully considered the arguments and looked at the evidence. It’s just that most people here came to a different conclusion than you did”, among others, and THEN prohibit any response?

    Otherwise, though, I don’t really want to argue it either, so I’ll check out and watch the one-sided assertions fly by.

    Edited to add: Sorry, the statement above is not really arguably false. I just saw the word “here” and that could well make the statement true.

  32. 33
    Ampersand says:

    Here’s the thing: I’ve looked into this enough to be convinced, to my own satisfaction, that neither logic or science supports “race realism.” Furthermore, it’s my experience that people defending “race realism” often rely on arguments that show (at best) that they haven’t read or comprehended the points they’re trying to respond to, or (at worse) are simply completely disingenuous. (There are clear examples of this already on this thread).

    I also know that – not unlike Holocaust revisionism – it’s the sort of debate that you can’t (or at least, I can’t) participate in adequately without spending hours and hours researching. Hours that I should be spending doing something else, like drawing comics.

    Finally – even more so than Holocaust revisionism – I’m convinced that leaving “racial realism” unanswered is actively harmful. It’s actively harmful to naive readers who may be taken in by racial realists use of authoritative-sounding jargon to deliver their hogwash, and it’s actively harmful to some people of color who might read it. Furthermore, because most “racial realists” are racist fanatics, if you allow them to post their nonsense more and more of them will show up, and they’ll just keep posting more and more and more. Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile. (Just look at where this thread is already heading.)

    Given that I can’t guarantee that pseudo-scientific racism here will be adequately answered (since I can’t do it myself, nor can I guarantee that anyone else is going to have the time or motivation to stick with it for weeks and weeks), and given that unanswered pseudo-scientific racism is harmful, it seems to me the only responsible thing I can do as a moderator is to forbid advocacy of “racial realism” on this blog altogether.

    (Note that this is a completely one-sided ban. There is no ban on anti-racial-realism links or arguments. But, obviously, there’s not going to be much debate on the matter here, since you can’t have a debate without two sides.)

    So Tristan and Hector, consider this your warning: No more arguments defending “racial realism” on this blog. If I see anything even hinting at that from either of you, I’m going to feel perfectly justified in banning you. So just drop the subject, and drop it now.

    Some further reading on the subject:

    The Heritability of Intelligence: Not What You Think | Beautiful Minds, Scientific American Blog Network

    The Dark Art of Racecraft – Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Atlantic

    Ethnography.com » Blog Archive » The Political Economy of IQ, Or Tilting At Windmills with Steve Hsu (and Jason Richwine)

    Misrepresentations of Race Research on YouTube | Stranger and Friend

    Tim Wise » Race, Intelligence and the Limits of Science: Reflections on the Moral Absurdity of “Racial Realism”

  33. 34
    Alexander Stanislav says:

    @Barry

    The debate is not nearly as one sided as you make it out to be. And frankly there is nothing more terrifying that someone who is convinced not just that their position is right, but that their opponents are deluded morons who haven’t done their research. You can accuse us of being wrong, but you can’t legitimately accuse us of being uninformed: here is a discussion between one of the researchers you cited and an HBDer. As you can see, the level of discourse is much higher than any of the links you cited.

    [Links to racist site deleted by Amp.]

  34. 35
    Jake Squid says:

    I dunno, maybe it’s time to close comments on this thread. The discussion has certainly gone away from the subject of the post and I’m pretty sure that almost none of the regulars wants to see more of the current subject.

  35. 36
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Ampersand,

    Fair enough, it’s your blog, so I’ll shut up.

  36. 37
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: (Note that this is a completely one-sided ban. There is no ban on anti-racial-realism links or arguments.

    Likewise, if I had my way I’d impose ‘completely one sided bans’ on things that I considered false or immoral. I suspect you’d find a lot of viewpoints that *you* value would fall under the ban, though.

  37. 38
    Ampersand says:

    Alexander - I don’t know how I could have been clearer. You either don’t understand what I’m saying when I say advocating for scientific racism isn’t allowed on this blog, or you feel so entitled that the idea of respecting somebody’s elses blog rules didn’t occur. In either case, however, you’re no longer someone who is welcome to post on “Alas.”

    And frankly there is nothing more terrifying that someone who is convinced not just that their position is right, but that their opponents are deluded morons who haven’t done their research.

    1) There is nothing more terrifying than someone saying “don’t post this on my blog, but other areas of the internet should be free to set their own rules?” Really?

    2) I didn’t say scientific racists were uninformed; that’s a strawman. Some have a grasp of jargon and do large amounts of research. Of course, you can say the same for some Holocaust deniers. In both cases, despite the existence of some very well-spoken, highly-researched advocates, I’ve looked into it and been persuaded to my own satisfaction that the overall position isn’t persuasive. See also creationists, truthers, climate change deniers, etc…

    Best wishes to you in your future, Alas-less endeavors.

  38. 39
    Ampersand says:

    Fair enough, it’s your blog, so I’ll shut up.

    Thanks!

    Likewise, if I had my way I’d impose ‘completely one sided bans’ on things that I considered false or immoral. I suspect you’d find a lot of viewpoints that *you* value would fall under the ban, though.

    Actually, as you’re surely aware, there are many views that I consider “false or immoral” that people are allowed to advocate for on Alas.

    But in any case, you can have your way. Just start your own blog. :-)

  39. 40
    Ben Lehman says:

    While we’re on the topic of race and IQ, it’s worth noting that IQ is statistically meaningless.

  40. 41
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Alexander you can have the debate over at my blog if you want.

    It’s pretty hilarious (and mind boggling) that Myca appears to think I’m either a a Republican or right wing. I don’t know your politics, Myca, but I would venture to bet I’m well to the left of you.

  41. 42
    Myca says:

    It’s pretty hilarious (and mind boggling) that Myca appears to think I’m either a a Republican or right wing.

    Though you may well be on the economic left, it’s crystal clear that you are on the cultural (far, FAR) right.

    I don’t know your politics, Myca, but I would venture to bet I’m well to the left of you.

    You’d lose that bet.

    —Myca

  42. 43
    Myca says:

    And frankly there is nothing more terrifying that someone who is convinced not just that their position is right, but that their opponents are deluded morons who haven’t done their research.

    Likewise, if I had my way I’d impose ‘completely one sided bans’ on things that I considered false or immoral.

    Otherwise, though, I don’t really want to argue it either, so I’ll check out and watch the one-sided assertions fly by.

    My question for those of you who think it’s bad pool to prohibit these arguments – are there no arguments you’d consider beyond the bounds of discussion? Ampersand has mentioned Holocaust Denialism, and I think that’s a good example of something that’s just not worth arguing over.

    Now, I understand that you believe this is different, sure. I disagree, but whatever. Set that aside for a moment. Are there no arguments you just don’t think have a place in polite society?

    —Myca

  43. 44
    Grace Annam says:

    Eytan, you’re very welcome.

    A conversation I had in another space put me in mind of this conversation, and I thought it might be worth adding, here, and then adding a bit of my own.

    A friend of mine who is trans has heretofore simply checked “female”, in her Facebook account. Apparently when Facebook added all the options, three friends of hers passed the news along to her, in a way which gave her the impression that they would be more comfortable if she marked herself as a trans woman. (They were all gay men, which she found significant.)

    She also mused that it was a bit like gender-neutral bathrooms: awesome that they’re available, but not-so-awesome if there is an expectation that all trans people belong in the gender-neutral bathrooms, and only the gender-neutral bathrooms.

    I have a Facebook account, but I don’t use it. Back when I set it up, I’m sure I chose “female”. If I ever start using that account again, I might or might not change that designation. Clearly, there are times when it’s relevant that I am trans, and times when it’s not. Less clearly (particularly to many cis men) there are times when it’s safer and times when it’s less safe. Part of the calculus, for me, would be the moment-to-moment assessment: is identifying as trans, in this moment, worth putting that bullseye on my forehead?

    In her book, Redefining Realness, Janet Mock says, while comparing her experience in Hawaii, where she was known as trans, to her experience in New York, where she was not known as trans, for several years, until she chose to come out:

    There were numerous times when the man I was dancing with would be tapped on his shoulder or pulled away. He would return with a look of confusion, dejection ((test)), or disgust, as if he had lost something, as if he had been blind to something, as if he were the only person in that bar who didn’t know. The moment of forced disclosure is a hostile one to experience, one in which many trans women, even those who have the conditional privilege of “passing” that I have, can be victim to violence and exiling. In Hawaii, my home, disclosure was routinely stripped from me. People would take it from me as if it were their duty to tell the guy I was flirting with that I was trans and therefore should be avoided. It’s these societal aggressions that force trans women to live in chosen silence and darkness, to internalize the shame, misconceptions, stigma, and trauma attached to being a different kind of woman.

    Later, she says,

    It is not a woman’s duty to disclose that she’s trans to every person she meets. This is not safe for a myriad of reasons. We must shift the burden of coming out from trans women, and accusing them of hiding or lying, and focus on why it is unsafe for women to be trans.

    …and later…

    One of the reasons the gay rights movement has been successful is its urging that gays and lesbians everywhere, no matter their age, color, or wealth, come out of the closet. This widespread visibility has shifted culture and challenged misconceptions. People often transpose the coming-out experience on me, asking how it felt to be in the closet, to have been stealth. These questions have always puzzled me. Unlike sexuality, gender is visible. I never hid my gender. Every day that I stepped out into the sunlight, unapologetically femme, I was a visible woman. People assume that I was in the closet because I didn’t disclose that I was assigned male at birth.

    What people are really asking is “Why didn’t you correct people when they perceived you as a real woman?” Frankly, I’m not responsible for other people’s perceptions and what they consider real or fake. We must abolish the entitlement that deludes us into believing that we have the right to make assumptions about people’s identities and project those assumptions onto their genders and bodies.

    So, this is some of the terrain that trans people, and more specifically trans women, inhabit as they make this Facebook decision.

    As a cis man, you inhabit a different terrain. If you choose to identify specifically as such, as an act of solidarity, I have no doubt that you will remember that it’s a choice made in meaningfully different circumstances than those faced by trans people contemplating the same choice, so it’s not actually the same choice. Most others probably won’t appreciate that very keenly.

    Grace

  44. 45
    gin-and-whiskey says:
    I don’t know your politics, Myca, but I would venture to bet I’m well to the left of you.

    You’d lose that bet. —Myca

    Heh. Yeah, my money’s on Myca ;)

    The Holocaust isn’t a good analogy: there’s still a lot we are trying to figure out about intelligence, testing, genetics, etc., and there are a lot of credible scientists who are continuing to do work in their field. W/r/t racial IQ, the social stigma arises from a sense that “we know that there’s nothing extraordinarily major to talk about, and that there’s a lot of historical misuse and misunderstanding, so even if there are some minor or undiscovered effects which might hold scientific interest, the potential for damage means that we shouldn’t discuss it without immense care.” The social stigma from Holocaust denial is something which is more like quackery, flat earth, etc. in that there are no credible people who seriously believe that there was no Holocaust, and frankly I have difficulty believing that even your average holocaust denier isn’t faking it for political means much of the time.

    But as for this:

    Are there no arguments you just don’t think have a place in polite society?
    —Myca

    Polite society has historically had a lot of things which were off limits. It’s polite to talk about the wonders of kids, but not abortion; it’s polite to express your faith in god but not to talk about why religion is false; etc. So sure: there are TONS of issues which shouldn’t come up in polite society, because it’s inherently a limited setting where folks don’t push too hard. Politeness is deadly sometimes.

    So the issue for me is a bit different:
    1) Are there “good things” and “bad things” to discuss? Yup, in theory. You and I would probably agree on most of them.
    2) Do I have faith in other people, or (even harder) faith in the masses and majorities and people in control of any particular conversation, to do a good job making the call? Hell no.
    3) Do I think that the overall benefit is greater if we generally discourage stifling of things, even though that’ll mean some unpleasant conversation topics? Yup, generally.

    Of course, that’s not going to happen. So that’s why I frequent this blog, for example, which has a relatively high match to my own conversational preferences.

  45. 46
    mythago says:

    there’s still a lot we are trying to figure out about intelligence, testing, genetics, etc., and there are a lot of credible scientists who are continuing to do work in their field

    This is like saying “there’s still a lot we are trying to figure out about planetary formation, tectonics, the Big Bang, etcetera, and there are a lot of credible scientists who are continuing to do work in their field”. All true, but that doesn’t mean Flat Earthers deserve serious scientific consideration for their theories here.

  46. 47
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    I’m not sure what you are trying to say…?

  47. 48
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Myca,

    Of course there are topics I don’t want to see discussed in the public square. I’m not a liberal, quite the opposite, and I have no strong principled belief in freedom of the press. I’ve been quite clear in the past that not only individuals but also governments have the right to censor certain kinds of speech. My issues with cultural liberals including Ampersand is not that they choose to suppress certain topics, but *what* topics they choose to suppress. And that’s fundamentally because I disagree with cultural liberals about what sorts of values and what sort of society I want to promote, as well as where I think the scientific and moral truth lies.

    Establishing that some topics should not be discussed, doesn’t get you to *which* topics should not be discussed.

    For the record, I’ve voted communist of one stripe or another in a couple elections: have you?

  48. 49
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    There is a deeper issue here too, Myca, that Ronald Knox pointed out. The Communist, the Roman Catholic, and anyone else with an authoritarian view can be perfectly fine with censoring speech they disagree with, because they’re not philosophically committed, in principle, to freedom of speech. I can happily suppress blog comments critical of Christianity, without being hypocritical. liberals who want to suppress ‘racist’, ‘sexist’ etc. speech are in a different position: they are betraying their principles, since they *do* purport to believe in freedom of speech.

  49. 50
    Tristan says:

    Here are a couple of very exaggerated examples:

    A feminist group notes that the NFL is only made up of male players. They start a campaign to have 50% female players by 2016. The talent scouts claim that the top players are just overwhelmingly men. They offer to introduce objective measures, for instance who can lift more weight or who can run faster. The feminist group says there is no place in polite society for such a debate, and they better be quiet about that.

    A white guy notices that, although blacks make up 12-13% of the population, NBA teams are sometimes upwards of 90% black. He demands more white players in proportion to the numbers in society. No one is allowed to look at whether black players are objectively better, because that would be too “sciency” and something that only Neanderthals do. Flat-earthers as well.

    Now a bit closer to home. The top publications in the hard sciences seem to overwhelmingly come from men. Almost all patents are awarded to men. The top jobs in hard sciences at elite universities are overwhelmingly filled by men. The demand is for 50% representation of women. The patent office says that it follows completely objective procedures for granting patents. The journal “Nature” says it would like to get more contributions from women.

    Now if feminist groups start bitterly attacking them, would it be a fair response to say, “OK, let’s try to objectively measure what’s going on here.” Maybe it’s the case that men and women are roughly equal in intelligence, but men have higher and longer “tails” on the bell curve, which would predict that men are much more likely to be at the top or the bottom. More men with patents? Check. More homeless men and more men in jail? Check.

    I don’t know if it is really true that men have a differently shaped statistical curve than women, but I would think that if you are going to shame men for discrimination (see Larry Sommers, Harvard, for instance), then you would allow the shamees to show that it may not be discrimination. Fair play, tally ho, and all.

    It seems to me that simply sticking to the party line, and actively suppressing facts showing something to the contrary, in response to the allegations in the party line, is just stupid.

    People who don’t want a response from the flat-earthers maybe shouldn’t be hurling shaming accusations of discrimination.

  50. 51
    Myca says:

    For the record, I’ve voted communist of one stripe or another in a couple elections: have you?

    I’ve voted for the socialist candidate more than once, AND I believe in equality and freedom from tyranny for all people, so though I may not be quite as far left economically as you are, I’m not a socially authoritarian right-wing reactionary either. Economics isn’t all there is.

    Liberals who want to suppress ‘racist’, ‘sexist’ etc. speech are in a different position: they are betraying their principles, since they *do* purport to believe in freedom of speech.

    You’re strawmanning. Ampersand’s (and my) belief in freedom of speech does not imply that we therefore need to allow racists to wander into our living rooms (or blog forums) and spill their bile freely. Belief in freedom of speech, on other words, does not create an obligation to offer a platform.

    I believe that your speech ought not be restricted by the government, and that you should be free to discuss it wherever it’s welcome. You know where the Stormfront forums are, yes?

    —Myca

  51. 52
    Tristan says:

    Cool. A pissing contest as to who is more left wing. Not whose idea is better, just who is more left wing.

  52. 53
    Ampersand says:

    Tristian, the idea that Larry Summers (and his many defenders) lacked forums in which to make their case is just ridiculous. People defended Summers’ views not just on uncountable blogs, but in major mainstream newspapers and on TV.

    Certainly, that’s the way it should be. I don’t know of anyone who has proposed that Summers, et al, should not be able to have forums for their perspectives. Certainly, no one on this blog.

    Similarly, Hector – what Myca said: “Belief in freedom of speech, on other words, does not create an obligation to offer a platform.” Quite the opposite – the ability of people to decide what they will allow in their own publications, rather than the government (or anyone else) forcing them to publish against their will, is an essential part of freedom of speech.

  53. 54
    Ampersand says:

    W/r/t racial IQ, the social stigma arises from a sense that “we know that there’s nothing extraordinarily major to talk about, and that there’s a lot of historical misuse and misunderstanding, so even if there are some minor or undiscovered effects which might hold scientific interest, the potential for damage means that we shouldn’t discuss it without immense care.”

    This is pretty much how I feel. And I don’t believe it can be discussed “with immense care” on this blog, at present.

    That doesn’t mean that I think scientists shouldn’t discuss it, or even blogs where they can take the proper amount of care shouldn’t discuss it. But it’s not a good topic for this blog.

  54. 55
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Myca,

    Then I’m unclear what you are saying. Is it that you don’t want to see racial IQ differences discussed *here*, or that you don’t want to see them in *polite society*? Because your question was ‘are their things you don’t want discussed in polite society’, to which I of course answered yes.

    As for this blog, and yours if you have one, you can choose whatever topics you want to be forbidden, and I’d have no problem with that. I would of course have a problem if you tried to suppress topics you dislike from being discussed *anywhere in ‘polite society’*.

  55. 56
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: Belief in freedom of speech, on other words, does not create an obligation to offer a platform.

    Would you extend this to, for example, Catholic institutions who fire people for advocating women’s ordination or abortion rights? They have a right to decide what kinds of speech they want to tolerate within their ranks, too. (And I must say that I’m more sympathetic to them on the issue of *content* than I am to you).

  56. 57
    mythago says:

    Would you extend this to, for example, Catholic institutions who fire people for advocating women’s ordination or abortion rights?

    In other words, Hector, you know you’re not going to win this argument by comparing apples and apples (that is, asking whether a devout Catholic has the right to ban discussion of women’s ordination on his blog), so you’re going to wade into the complicated issue of when religiously-affiliated businesses do or do not have to follow laws that apply to secular businesses. Gotcha.

  57. 58
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Hector @55 – The question wasn’t directed to me, but I would extend it to Catholic institutions who fire people for advocating these issues *within the context of their jobs*. So, for example, I think a Catholic schoolteacher who tells his pupils that there should be female priests would be legitimately fired.

    I do not think it is legitimate for Catholic institutions to fire people for advocating these positions outside the context of their jobs, any more than I would think it legitimate for Amp or Myca to ban you from this blog for explaining your views on Race and IQ on your own blog.

    There are exceptions of course – incitement to violence, for example. I think it would be entirely legitimate for a Catholic institution to fire an employee who advocates the extermination of non-Catholics, or for that matter, an employee that advocates the extermination of Catholics, even if they do so without any association to their work. But in general, I think there’s a clear difference between saying “we don’t want our employees to talk about a particular issue *here*”, and “we don’t want our employees to talk about a particular issue *anywhere*”.

  58. 59
    another delurker says:

    I don’t know if it is really true that men have a differently shaped statistical curve than women, but I would think that if you are going to shame men for discrimination (see Larry Sommers, Harvard, for instance), then you would allow the shamees to show that it may not be discrimination. Fair play, tally ho, and all.

    There’s ample evidence that gender-based discrimination in science exists. (See, for example, this study in PNAS: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/09/14/1211286109)

    Should people like Larry Summers be allowed to argue that maybe not all of the difference in outcomes is due to discrimination? Sure, why not? However:

    1. As Amp said, they already do have a forum to say such things.

    2. Larry Summers, at least in his infamous speech, pretty clearly did not know what he was talking about, and most if not all of his arguments are easily refuted. It’s funny how many people remember the response to his speech as a bunch of bitter feminists shouting “you shouldn’t be allowed to say that,” rather than as the evidence-based refutation of points that don’t stand up to scrutiny.

    3. Even if they’re right, and some of the gender imbalance in science is due to innate differences in ability, so what? Does that mean that nothing should be done about the discrimination that is known to exist? I don’t see why it should.

  59. 60
    Tristan says:

    Another Delurker,

    You don’t seem to get it. If men are inherently better football players then women, yeah, someone is probably going to favor a male name over a female name with the same supposed paper qualifications, because the qualifications that are not listed are probably going to be better in someone with a male name.

    Even what you think may be discrimination may not be, aside from the fact that I personally don’t really put much stock in “studies” like this that are driven more by an activist agenda than a scientific agenda. You also have to know that there are studies opposing what you say, whether they are also nonsense or not.

    And that’s really as far as I want to go here. I’m not going to argue it, I’m going to contain my frustration at not being able to discuss it, and either read further here without posting on that topic or just move on. It is kind of irritating that only one side is allowed here – if Ampersand thinks it’s not a topic for polite company – or his board – then I would think he would also ask the other side to … quit discussing it, or insulting people (like “go to Stormfront” by Myca). But he’s not going to, and it’s his board.

    Ampersand also doesn’t like people discussing him negatively – like on Feminist Critics – but he doesn’t seem to think his actions give rise to that criticism in any way. Huh.

  60. 61
    another delurker says:

    I was talking about science, not football. And actually no, I’m not aware of any published peer-reviewed papers that conclude that gender-based discrimination in science does not exist. If you’d like to point me to one, I’d be very interested in that.

  61. 62
    mythago says:

    And that’s really as far as I want to go here.

    “I’m not going to actually back up what I say! But you’re wrong. Studies say so. And now I’m not arguing. See me not arguing?”

  62. 63
    Myca says:

    Would you extend this to, for example, Catholic institutions who fire people for advocating women’s ordination or abortion rights?

    I would absolutely extend this to Catholic Bloggers who don’t want women’s ordination or abortion rights discussed on their blogs.

    As regards the purported racial difference in IQ, I would be very interested in a study looking at cross-racial levels of lead exposure – my impression is that African American people are much more likely to live in urban environments dominated by heavy industry, and we know that lead exposure lowers IQ scores.

    So to the degree that there is a legitimate correlation (which I find somewhat questionable – look at Robert Williams BITCH-100 test for a counter-example of how centering the dominant culture can create a false impression), I’d be surprised if a huge portion of that difference wasn’t an ongoing environmental side-effect of de-facto segregation.

    —Myca

  63. 64
    Isolde says:

    Anyone notice that Tristan made a substantive response, which was instantly deleted by Ampersand?

    Really nasty stuff, Ampersand. Fair you ain’t. I’ll be gone too, but people are watching this behavior.

  64. 65
    Charles says:

    “Isolde”, cute.

    Actually, that was me, not Amp.

    Tristan, you don’t seem to be able to understand what “not even a hint” of arguing for your racist pseudo-scientific clap-trap would consist of, so you are now banned entirely from Alas.

  65. 66
    Jake Squid says:

    Oh, this thread just gets better and better.

  66. 67
    Myca says:

    Just so you know, Charles – every time I load up the site and there’s a new comment from you on the sidebar, I get a little excited to read it. :)

    —Myca

  67. 68
    Isolde says:

    “Tristan, you don’t seem to be able to understand what “not even a hint” of arguing for your racist pseudo-scientific clap-trap would consist of, so you are now banned entirely from Alas.”

    ——————

    No, Charles, and it was up long enough that other people saw it as well.

    He was responding – and in a very mild way – to “Another Delurker” (and Mythago’s taunts) about Another Delurker’s article. Nothing at all to do with Race and IQ, which is what Ampersand didn’t want to hear.

    You are simply making things up.

  68. 69
    Charles says:

    “Isolde”,

    I banned Tristan for continuing to hint at arguing for his racist pseudo-science. His last comment was just the one I clicked on to send him to moderation hell.

    Now, “Isolde” you should probably do as you said you would and go on your way.

  69. 70
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Myca says:
    February 17, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Would you extend this to, for example, Catholic institutions who fire people for advocating women’s ordination or abortion rights?

    I would absolutely extend this to Catholic Bloggers who don’t want women’s ordination or abortion rights discussed on their blogs.

    As regards the purported racial difference in IQ, I would be very interested in a study looking at cross-racial levels of lead exposure – my impression is that African American people are much more likely to live in urban environments dominated by heavy industry, and we know that lead exposure lowers IQ scores.

    So to the degree that there is a legitimate correlation (which I find somewhat questionable – look at Robert Williams BITCH-100 test for a counter-example of how centering the dominant culture can create a false impression), I’d be surprised if a huge portion of that difference wasn’t an ongoing environmental side-effect of de-facto segregation.

    —Myca

    Yeah–see, this is interesting stuff. But it’s not fair* to be discussing it when we can’t respond.

    *in the whiny sense, not the objective sense.

  70. 71
    Isolde says:

    It’s also not fair in the objective sense.

  71. 72
    Sebastian says:

    Yeah–see, this is interesting stuff. But it’s not fair* to be discussing it when we can’t respond.

    Hey, I think that I can respond, as probably no one will accuse me of pushing the idea that my race is intellectually inferior to any other. Just in case, though, no, I do not believe that Black people (however you define that) are genetically less intelligent (however you define that)

    But seriously, of all the good research that exists about cultural test bias, priming, test assumption evaluation, etc, why is it that liberals still tote out the fucking BITCH-100?

    The BITCH 100 is a case study in how you should not design a IQ test. Every single question of the BITCH-100 test requires proficiency in Ebonics, familiarity with 70s African American pop culture, and in a very limited number of cases, knowledge that would be more readily available to socially weaker people.

    One could argue that it proves that a test can be designed to exhibit strong cultural bias, and Robert Williams deserves credit for that… except that he designed his test in 1972, using strategies outlined by Asch in the McCarthy era (1952), and that Deutch and Gerald applied in 1956. The only thing that he deserves credit for, and it is no small thing, is bringing the issue to the public attention, in terms that everyone could understand.

    So, once again, the BITCH-100 proves that an IQ test can be explicitly designed to favor a particular group of people, but says nothing about whether a test can be designed to minimize cultural bias. For at least thirty years, psychologists have tried to devise methods to assess the cultural bias inherent in various IQ tests. And you know what? The second strongest biased tests are some early 20th century immigration tests. The most biased IQ test ever designed and administered? BITCH-100. Nowadays, no one would dream to administer an IQ test that has not been assessed for cultural bias. Noticed that I am not saying “without cultural bias”.

    But bringing the BITCH-100 as an argument against the usefulness of IQ tests, is like bringing a Ford-T with a steel spike jutting out the steering column as an argument against NHTSA ratings.

    Edit: By the way, I do not mind this discussion. I’ve had it so many times, and I’ve had so many smart and knowledgeable people on my side, that by now I can do this in my sleep. Current research much shows that once cultural bias is minimized, racial differences pretty much disappear. It’s extremely clear when you choose US immigrants from Africa, and retest them periodically, which was recently done in UPenn.

    Unfortunately, what gets mixed up with the issue, and gives fuel to racist assholes is the influence of African American culture on Black Americans, and its effects on performance under stress. But then, men are weaker in pink rooms…

  72. 73
    Myca says:

    It’s also not fair in the objective sense.

    You are more than welcome to discuss the social and biological effects of environmental lead. Probably not in this thread, but in general, sure, I think it’s a great topic.

    Kevin Drum is the point man on this, (or at least the point man in how my understanding of it developed) and a few of his articles are below, so that you can read up on the latest info and be educated for the discussion.

    Race, Lead, and Juvenile Crime
    America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead
    Chart of the Day: Fewer People Are Being Sent to Prison. Way Fewer.
    Why Is Murder Down in São Paulo? The Answer is…
    Lead and Crime: It’s a Brain Thing

    Maybe I’ll toss up a post on it at some point, or we can discuss in an open thread.

    —Myca

  73. 74
    Myca says:

    But bringing the BITCH-100 as an argument against the usefulness of IQ tests, is like bringing a Ford-T with a steel spike jutting out the steering column as an argument against NHTSA ratings.

    Heh. This is a great line. Mea culpa. Like I said when I brought it up, I was using it as an example of “how centering the dominant culture can create a false impression,” which I think is accurate, but the BITCH-100 is certainly not a strong argument on its own.

    —Myca

  74. 75
    Myca says:

    Oh, just found a great quote from the Race, Lead, and Juvenile Crime article I wanted to share. After noting that that arrest rates for violent crime have fallen much faster among black juveniles than among white juveniles, Kevin gives some actual numbers on lead exposure, and writes:

    In other words, black juvenile crime rates fell further than white juvenile crime rates because they had been artificially elevated by lead exposure at a much higher rate. In the early 80s, black kids had elevated lead levels at 6x the rate of white kids. After the elimination of leaded gasoline, black kids still had elevated lead levels at 3x the rate of white kids, which explains some of the continued disparity in juvenile crime rates, but that still represented enormous progress. Not only was the ratio lower, but the absolute numbers were far lower too.

    —Myca

  75. 76
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    I think the lead-IQ link is fascinating and almost certainly real, but I’m not going to try to argue on this thread, since I don’t want to run the risk of crossing over into forbidden topics.

    For what it’s worth, IQ correlates with some entirely culture-free cognitive traits like, for example, ability to visually suppress background elements in a moving image:

    http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2013/05/scientists_come_up_with_new_vi.html

  76. 77
    Sebastian says:

    Hector, I think there’s a big can of worm in that particular test. For starters, there is no such thing as IQ. There are a number of skills, most of them trainable, which allow higher scoring on most popular IQ tests.

    It is rather trivial to design a test that rewards or penalizes the ability to concentrate on a part of a whole. Suppressing background elements uses this ability. The visual test you’ve linked to relies on not suppressing background elements, thus high scores in the visual test will inversely correlate with high scores in IQ tests which reward the ability to concentrate on a task to the exclusion to everything else. I think that it takes a lot of balls to say “People who ignore important details in the background are smarter”. About as much as it takes to say “People who are easily distracted by unimportant details in the background are smarter”.

    And by the way, you should be very, very afraid of the words “entirely culture-free cognitive traits”… because there’s at least two world renowned psychologists who seem to have nothing better to do than prove that there is no such thing. One of them flew to Botswana, to administer an “entirely culture-free cognitive” test to some people who had never been in a room where three right angles came together, and they all performed extremely poorly on some parts.

  77. 78
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Of course there’s such a thing as IQ, which is, in a deliberately circular sense, “that which the particular test defines as IQ.” IOW, you can measure something, and call it IQ, and thereby compare it among groups. But that doesn’t tell you what it ACTUALLY IS, i.e. what you’re actually measuring: Brain function? Potential? Skill at taking tests? Education? Exposure to certain cultural stuff?

    And of course there are a lot of assumptions. I know a kid who was recently assessed, for example. One of the tests involves copying a complex figure. You’re “supposed” to start with the basic outside structure and then move on to the details. If you don’t then your score goes down.

    Now, you might reasonably ask, “unless I’m interested in finding people who are capable of broadly outlining figures, do I care?” and that’s a good question. Etc.

  78. 79
    Sebastian says:

    I have a problem with this definition of IQ. I simply do not see the use of it.

    If a test measures combinatorial thinking, call it a combinatorial thinking test. If a test measures spacial reasoning, call it that. If a test measures both, and eight other skills besides, call it an IQ test… not because it is a good name, but because this is what we are calling such tests.

    But when you use the word IQ by itself, and attaching it to a person or group, you are very heavily implying that you are dividing people into smart ones and dumb ones, as opposed to groups qualified for particular tasks. Its counter-productive, and a bit sloppy. Hector_St_Clare’s article is an example of this circular reasoning.

    We have a test that measures awareness of background detail while you’re supposed to focus on a main task. Obviously, its results will inversely correlate with the results of tests that measures the ability to concentrate on a main task. Because most IQ tests reward that ability, the researcher says “I’ve come up with a quick and culture-independent (yeah, right) way of measuring IQ”… and he does not mention that he just defined IQ as “being able to concentrate on a task to the exclusion of all else”.

    But. Members of a theoretical culture, where food is procured through relatively involved tasks in a dangerous environment, would be much more effective if they pays attention to moving leaves while they are extracting a root from the soil. So, those people, who have spend their life improving the ability to see background details while performing a foreground task, will be, en-mass, great at the above quick-and-oh-so-efficient test, and thus will be assumed terrible at other IQ tests.

    There is nothing wrong with saying that the members of that culture are less competent at achieving full concentration. But some people would just label them as low IQ. And this has been done, again and again, for at least 150 years, to Southern Europeans, Asians, Eastern Europeans, Jews, Blacks, etc…

    If you are going to be talking about about this, and throwing numbers around (Tristan’s numbers have been sucked out of his middle finger or pulled out of his ass, by the way, depending on your cultural background) you better make sure that your knowledge of the topic is not dated from last millennium.

    I do not know what part of intelligence is hereditary. The very best scientists do not know either. And yes, their research is hindered by political correctness, and only a blind man will fail to see that. I see it my wife’s research, I see it in her colleagues research (I’ve done quite a bit of engineering work, mostly for free, on custom experimental set-ups for three major centers of Cognitive Sciences research)

    But the reason that political correctness is seen as necessary is because ignorant morons, from both sides of the political spectrum, spews false or irrelevant crap, and raise tempers and stakes until there is no room left for science.

  79. 80
    Grace Annam says:

    I am reminded of something Julia Serano wrote:

    As a scientist, I can understand why people might feel that “what causes transsexuality?” is a compelling question. But as a trans person I find that such questions invariably reduce me to an object of inquiry and curiosity. In other words, questions of etiology marginalize me. Furthermore, many who are interested in answering such questions do so because they view transsexuality as abnormal, immoral, or a developmental disorder that needs to be corrected/eliminated. Because of such concerns, some researchers have gone out of their way to state that eradicating transsexuality is not their ultimate goal. Frankly, such claims seem somewhat naive to me. After all, these researchers may personally accept and/or respect trans people, but surely they are also aware that there *are* people out there who wouldn’t think twice about using such knowledge/info to eliminate or further marginalize trans people.

    What’s the point of trying to find out if one large, diverse group of people is smarter, on average, than another large, diverse group of people? (Even if we concede that “smarter” is at all a useful concept.) Suppose you find differences which actually hold up to scrutiny in an exhaustive peer-review process?

    Where does that get you?

    What’s your endgame, after that?

    What decisions can you make where that information is more useful than harmful? We KNOW that it’s going to be misused, because history and the present day is simply drenched with the blood from the injuries caused by well-meaning people who like to apply statistical variations to individual cases. So what is the gain which outweighs the certain damage of the misuse?

    Is it to assert that if you have two applicants who are identical in every other way, it’s okay to choose the one from the favored group because statistically, that person is likely to be ever-so-marginally better-performing than the other person?

    Because that strikes me as a desperately insignificant gain all by itself, even if you don’t compare it to its inevitable cost.

    Grace

  80. 81
    Sebastian says:

    Grace, there is a point in research of this kind. Because when you start, you do not know where you will end up, and because you find things along the way.

    We (as a species) know a lot more today about what goes on in a people’s brains when they assign values on objects, when they make decisions, when they exert their will, when they solve problems. A lot of useful things have come out of this… let us see.

    We have medications that allows people to live a more normal life, to hold a job that would have been beyond them otherwise, to interact socially where otherwise they would have been paralyzed.

    We have better understanding of how early development affects children the rest of their lives, and we at least know how not to make mistakes that we have been making for centuries. We know a lot more about what works about education, and what does not. Notice that I am not saying that we are putting all of this into practice, far from it.

    We are getting an idea how priming, stereotypes, bias, conditioning, risk aversion bias, etc, etc, etc affect people’s thinking, and unfortunately, are putting this knowledge into practice mostly in order to more easily separate people from their cash, or influence their votes.

    But all of this cannot come to light without research, and when you do research you cannot just say ‘I will not look into this’. You need to control for variables, you need to know what matters. It is a fact that there are differences between people. Those have to be understood and quantified… and I really do not care if this information is used to push watermelons on me, or if, need I ever have to compete for a job again, I am subjected to exhaustive testing.

    As for the horrors of finding out that “Group X has, on average, more developed skill Y”? I already do not understand why a poor rural white South Carolinian takes comfort in the fast that on average people with his skin color earn more than people with mine. I will no more understand why he would enjoy knowing that people with his skin color are better at a specific task than people with mine.

    But I certainly would like to know that _I_ am more susceptible to particular ailment, or that _I_ need to raise my hypothetical kids in a particular way. And I do believe that if you restrict (bluntly or obliquely) research in one area, you are harming research in others.

    Note that I am not a researcher. It does not pay well enough, the hours are insane, and there is too much politicking. But I am willing to give as much support as convenient to researchers… I am certainly working very hard to help at least one as well as I can :-)

  81. 82
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Grace Annam says:
    What’s the point of trying to find out if one large, diverse group of people is smarter, on average, than another large, diverse group of people? (Even if we concede that “smarter” is at all a useful concept.) Suppose you find differences which actually hold up to scrutiny in an exhaustive peer-review process?
    Where does that get you?

    I dunno, I think that could actually be pretty useful information in a gross predictive sense.

    For example, let’s say you’re trying to “increase the # of XXX who graduate from college” on a national level. It could be very helpful to know where you should focus your efforts, and the more that you know about XXX the more accurately you can do so. Or, say you have limited access to fund scholarships: you might decide to focus on helping low scorers catch up, or on helping high flyers excel, etc.

    What decisions can you make where that information is more useful than harmful? We KNOW that it’s going to be misused, because history and the present day is simply drenched with the blood from the injuries caused by well-meaning people who like to apply statistical variations to individual cases. So what is the gain which outweighs the certain damage of the misuse?

    It’s hard to know without knowing what the information is. But the fact that information may be misused (and I don’t dispute the fact that it could, or even will, be misused) doesn’t mean it should be suppressed. I disagree with that premise, overall.

    Knowledge is a shield and a sword at the same time.

    Is it to assert that if you have two applicants who are identical in every other way, it’s okay to choose the one from the favored group because statistically, that person is likely to be ever-so-marginally better-performing than the other person?

    It’s much more useful in a group decision matrix, i.e. “where should we focus this program?” or “how can we change this overall outcome?” or “what is causing this group difference?”

    It’s relatively useless on an individual basis, of course. Unless we figure out how to modify intelligence in kids, in which case it could be a very useful thing.

    Because that strikes me as a desperately insignificant gain all by itself, even if you don’t compare it to its inevitable cost.

    Then you don’t have to make those judgments.

    After all: do you think you have the right to deny that information to other people who think it might be useful? Who think that they should be entitled to make judgments on their own, even if they are judgments based on criteria that you dislike?

    Inherently, we disagree about the underlying issue: you appear to be willing to suppress examination and information for fear of finding what you dislike, and I’m not willing to do that. I understand your position, I just don’t think it’s correct.

  82. 83
    Grace Annam says:

    gin-and-whiskey,

    I am a scientist by inclination and training, though clearly I chose an outré career for one. I’m in favor of general and specific research for the sake of its collateral effects (space program, anyone?). I’m also broadly in favor of research for its own sake.

    That said, neither I nor the human species is infinite, and so we must pick and choose where to focus our efforts. It’s unusual, but there are cases where ethical people can make good arguments that a bit of research cost more than it was worth, or where one group pays the costs while another group calls the shots and benefits. And, of course, there are areas of research which we have learned to regard as flatly unethical.

    When a line of research seems likely to hit an ethical quagmire, I think it’s worth it to ask why people want to do it, especially when the people advocating for it tend to hold views I find dubious.

    It fascinates me that you leapt from what I wrote to

    you appear to be willing to suppress examination and information for fear of finding what you dislike

    Wow. You really don’t see a distinction between asking on a public forum what someone hopes to gain from something, on the one hand, and actively suppressing what that person is doing, on the other? Those are the same thing? Or, if they’re not, then what I wrote leads inevitably and inexorably to suppression of scientific inquiry?

    I’m frankly taken aback.

    Grace

  83. 84
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    It fascinates me that you leapt from what I wrote to

    you appear to be willing to suppress examination and information for fear of finding what you dislike

    Wow. You really don’t see a distinction between asking on a public forum what someone hopes to gain from something, on the one hand, and actively suppressing what that person is doing, on the other? Those are the same thing? Or, if they’re not, then what I wrote leads inevitably and inexorably to suppression of scientific inquiry?
    I’m frankly taken aback.
    Grace

    If there’s been a miscommunication, I apologize for my part in it. But having just gone and reread your post (which I read more than once before replying) it seems to me to be a clear argument against that research. If that’s not what you meant–as apparently you didn’t–then my reply would be different of course.

  84. 85
    Jake Squid says:

    An argument against = suppression of?

  85. 86
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Jake Squid says:
    An argument against = suppression of?

    [shrug] when someone writes a post about XXX filled with statements about the “certain” problems of XXX, and the dubious-and-probably-nonexistent benefits of XXX, and includes what appear to be rhetorical “what good can there be here?” kinds of questions, without even a single qualifying “but XXX is still OK” kind of thing… well, it seems to me that is properly interpreted as a call not to do XXX.

    If Grace meant something else, then OK. I’m much more interested in talking about what she actually thinks–or what you actually think–than why she expressed it with that particular language, or why I interpreted her as I did.

  86. 87
    Jake Squid says:

    It’s hard to have a conversation with somebody who takes your argument against X as suppression of X. Arguing against something does not preclude being convinced that the opposition’s argument is stronger and changing one’s mind. Arguing against something does not mean you’re in favor of suppression – legal or extralegal, violent or non-violent. An argument against is not equal to suppression. Your very stance discourages me from conversation with you since, before I’ve said a thing, I can see that you are misinterpreting the position you (think) you disagree with.

  87. 88
    Jake Squid says:

    Which is to say that I can argue against my friend having 100% of his retirement invested in shares of Apple stock. That in no way means that I’m in favor of preventing him from doing so by force of law or arms.

    Your position that argument=suppression is not defensible and is just factually wrong if words have meaning.

  88. 89
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Your very stance discourages me from conversation with you

    Great! I’d be more than happy for you to refrain from conversation on this issue–like I said, I am uninterested in pursuing a meta-discussion, especially about something which appears to be based on a miscommunication.

  89. 90
    Jake Squid says:

    … well, it seems to me that is properly interpreted as a call not to do XXX.

    A call not to do XXX = suppression of XXX?

    Great! I’d be more than happy for you to refrain from conversation on this issue–like I said, I am uninterested in pursuing a meta-discussion, especially about something which appears to be based on a miscommunication.

    What’s the miscommunication? Grace is against doing certain research and you repeatedly and unequivocally categorize that as in favor of suppression of that certain research.

    You’d like to have a debate which you’ve already won before anything is said because those are the terms of the debate that you’ve set. But you don’t want to discuss the terms of the debate that you’ve set.

    No wonder you don’t want to have a meta-discussion.

  90. 91
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    For chrissakes, Jake.

    Grace wrote a post. I replied. We did not communicate effectively. The miscommunication has been resolved.

    These things happen. It is obvious that some folks, like you, read it differently and reached different conclusions. I am also 100% positive that at least some folks read it like I did, and reached similar conclusions–I know this because I showed her post to two other people, one of whom agreed with my interpretation and one of whom did not.

    Of course, both of those people (and I) were more flexible than you. Which is to say that the one who didn’t agree with me found my interpretation wrong but within the bounds of reason, and the who did agree with me felt that way about the other side. As did I. So I remain confused, and mildly amused, by the fact that you’re in a snit over this.

    If you really insist, I am willing to engage in a discussion of why I interpreted her post as I did. I am also happy to engage in a discussion of the actual issue, which is, frankly, much more interesting than this.

    But the peurile tactic of first telling me that you don’t want to converse because you’re sure that I’ll misinterpret you (#87), and then, after I accept your statement, blaming the resulting lack of conversation on me (#90) is ridiculous.

  91. 92
    Myca says:

    For chrissakes, Jake.

    Grace wrote a post. I replied. We did not communicate effectively. The miscommunication has been resolved.

    So, first off, I sympathize with your frustration, and understand where it’s coming from. You offered a mea culpa and bowed out, and don’t understand why Jake is continuing to harp on it.

    Here’s the problem – many many many times people equate vigorous criticism of a position with ‘crushing free speech’ or ‘suppressing opposing opinions’. Go back and read the statue thread, specifically the discussion of the statue and the discussion about ‘trigger warnings.’

    You would have someone say something like, “people really do get triggered. It’s not a funny or made up thing,” and get a response along the lines of, “saying offensive things is speech protected by the First Amendment!”

    Which is utterly nonresponsive.

    And the reason that happens, I suspect, is because it’s a much easier, more fun fight to have. Rather than being the guy who just made the sexual assault survivor cry in public, now you’re the guy defending the First Amendment! And your opponents are meanies who want to crush free speech and censor all opposing viewpoints!

    And, I’d like to emphasize, this was in a thread were very nearly everyone involved thought that the statue uproar was kinda silly. There wasn’t anyone saying, “this very bad statue needs to be torn down right now and burned in effigy and Wicca good and love the earth and women power and I’ll be over here.”

    So if this happens there … if this happens where the disagreement has very close to zero to do with censorship … imagine how often it must happen in any situation where people are actually requesting sensitivity around triggers.

    The answer is: All The Fucking Time.

    Compounding all this is that you responded to Jake in that thread as though he’d called for a ban on triggering speech. I address that here, and Jake confirms my interpretation here.

    So it may be that Jake is a little tired of this ongoing ‘misinterpretation,’ especially when it’s the same misinterpretation, constantly, over and over, and often from the same people.

    Bottom line – don’t accuse people of trying to suppress speech unless they say something to indicate that they’d like to suppress speech. Those people exist! I disagree with them as much as you do! But saying, “Hey, this is a shitty idea,” just isn’t the same.

    —Myca

  92. 93
    Jake Squid says:

    First, what Myca said.

    Second:

    Your very stance discourages me from conversation with you since, before I’ve said a thing, I can see that you are misinterpreting the position you (think) you disagree with.

    (emphasis added)

    does not mean that I told you

    that [I] don’t want to converse

    Discouragement doesn’t equal refusal or bowing out in any reasonable interpretation of our common language. It’s this kind of stuff from you that is annoying as hell. You do it all the time. I suspect that it’s not due to a poor grasp of the written word, although I have no way to confirm that.

    If you really insist, I am willing to engage in a discussion of why I interpreted her post as I did.

    I don’t care why you interpreted her post as you did. I care why you continue to equate opposition to suppression even after it’s been made more than clear that the two things are different things. I care why you make non-apology apolgies like:

    If there’s been a miscommunication, I apologize for my part in it. But having just gone and reread your post (which I read more than once before replying) it seems to me to be a clear argument against that research.

    Which reads “I apologize for my part but I was right.” And, of course, the entirety of comment 86 in which you make it clear that opposition to = suppression of and how, since that’s clear, you’d rather talk about why Grace wants to suppress research.

    Never once have you conceded that it is possible to oppose something without wishing to suppress it.

    It appears, from here, that you are so invested in being seen as correct that you will do everything you can to belittle me and change the subject.

    It’s fine that I disagree with you. I disagree with you on a host of things just as I agree with you on a host of other things.

    But it’s annoying as hell to see you twist the words of others, not admit to it, deny it, claim that your view of the original comment is possible (which has not been the discussion)… Anything at all to avoid admitting that, maybe, you were a little too quick to link opposition to suppression. It’s annoying to see you do this sort of thing on such a regular basis. You repeatedly show a lack of respect for others when you do this and I wish you’d stop it.

  93. 94
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: he does not mention that he just defined IQ as “being able to concentrate on a task to the exclusion of all else”.

    No, he took the trait ‘able to concentrate on a task to the exclusion of all else’ and found that it was highly correlated to the way we *already* define IQ (which relates to mathematical ability, abstract reasoning, vocabulary, etc.).

    Re: But when you use the word IQ by itself, and attaching it to a person or group, you are very heavily implying that you are dividing people into smart ones and dumb ones, as opposed to groups qualified for particular tasks.

    I don’t see the problem with dividing people into ‘highly intelligent’ and ‘less intelligent’ ones. Being a lower-IQ person doesn’t mean you’re morally less worthy or that your needs are less important.

  94. 95
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: The general notion of a safe space is that most of the world is an unsafe place for certain groups of people, so it’s nice to have one place, somewhere, where you’re not always looking over your shoulder or bracing yourself for the next stupid thing somebody’s going to say

    I missed this earlier, but I should add that I reject the premise here (that most of the world is an unsafe place for, e.g.. women, African-Americans, Jews, Muslims, etc.) so of course I reject the conclusion too.