Open Thread and Link Farm, Street Kids With Dog Edition

  1. Opinion | The Terrible Things Trump Is Doing in Our Name – The New York Times (Alternate link.)
    “Family separation, it turns out, never really stopped. According to Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the A.C.L.U.’s National Immigrants’ Rights Project, just over 700 families were separated between last June and late May.”
  2. (140) “Transtrenders” | ContraPoints – YouTube
    I love Natalie’s videos – especially ones like this, which ends up embracing some ambiguity and showing both the debaters in the last half of the video as flawed but sympathetic. CW: Some trans readers, in the comments, said that they found this video “hard to watch because of how personal it is.”
  3. Why Democrats Should Pack the Supreme Court | Take Care
  4. Opinion | I Co-Founded Facebook. It’s Time to Break Up Facebook – The New York Times(Alternate link.)
    “The F.T.C.’s biggest mistake was to allow Facebook to acquire Instagram and WhatsApp.”
  5. The DSM-IV Believed Women Didn’t Have Paraphilias | Thing of Things
  6. Groundbreaking climate change discovery made by, sigh, Boaty McBoatface
  7. What We Get Wrong About Closing The Racial Wealth Gap
    Debunking ten myths about the cause of the Black-white wealth gap.
  8. Good Samaritans Punished for Offering Lifesaving Help to Migrants – The Appeal
  9. Thousands petition Netflix to cancel Amazon Prime’s Good Omens | Books | The Guardian
    I don’t see any political meaning in their mistake, I just think it’s funny. Also, Good Omens was pretty good TV, that was great TV whenever the two lead performers were on screen.
  10. Robert Kraft prostitution case surveillance warrant cited Orchids of Asia Day Spa’s full refrigerator | WEEI
  11. Questions For Our Opponents, Answered | Thing of Things
    Answering the strawmanny questions from a anti-trans feminist philosopher.
  12. “Coming Out” as Face Blind – Narratively – Pocket
    It sounds like “coming out” was more fraught with fear for the author than it was for me. But, like her, I’ve found that being willing to tell people I’m faceblind really improved my life.
  13. An Arctic fox trekked from Norway to Canada, wowing scientists – The Washington Post
  14. In the recent Democratic Party debate, Bernie Sanders suggested “rotating” Supreme Court justices. He seems to have been referring to this proposal.
    “…every judge on the federal courts of appeals would also be appointed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court would hear cases, but through a panel of nine justices selected, at random, from all the justices. Once selected, the justices would research and prepare cases from their home court of appeals chambers before traveling to Washington to hear oral arguments for two weeks, when another set of judges would replace them. The panel members would then return to their home chambers to complete their opinions. In addition,a 7-2 supermajority of the Court, rather than a simple majority, would be needed to overturn a federal statute.”
  15. ‘Better to Be Born Rich Than Smart’: Education Must Answer for Systemic Inequality – Education Week
  16. How to Hire Fake Friends and Family – The Atlantic – Pocket
    “Yuichi: I say, “I’m very sorry. I’m a member of the Family Romance corporation. I’m not your true father.” Right before she can respond—just as she opens her mouth to speak, I wake up. I am terrified of the answer, so I just wake up.” (See also: Rentafriend.)
  17. Overzealous cleaner ruins £690,000 artwork that she thought was dirty | Art and design | The Guardian
    God I love stories like this.
  18. Opinion | San Francisco school board votes to destroy historic WPA-era murals.
    And yet I hate stories like this. (The mural depicts American Indians and slaves owned by George Washington, because the painter wanted to make an anti-racism statement.) I wouldn’t mind them moving the murals, or even hiding them behind panels, but destroying them is appalling.
  19. Maggots could revolutionize the global food supply. Here’s how. – The Washington Post(Alternative link).
  20. How a Criminal Justice Reform Became an Enrichment Scheme For The DA’s Office – POLITICO Magazine
    “Meanwhile, in 2019, Louisiana cut its annual state budget for public defenders by 83 percent.” Louisiana has the 2nd highest incarceration rate in the country.
  21. Belle Delphine: Is Bathwater Gamer Girl the Greatest Internet Troll? – Rolling Stone
    Since this article, a mass-reporting campaign successfully got Delphine kicked off instagram.
  22. State Supreme Court: Obesity covered by anti-discrimination lawThe Washington State Supreme Court ruled that “obesity” is a disability, and thus employers can’t refuse to hire qualified people because of them being “obese.” I suspect it’s still legal to fire people for being fat if they’re not fat enough to meet the BMI definition of “obese.”
  23. Ulysses Grant’s Civil-War Expulsion of the South’s Jews – HISTORY
    Lincoln interceded and prevented Grant from mass-evicting Jews from the South. Later in his career, Grant worked hard to be a friend to Jews, either out of sincere repentance or out of a desire to stop being known as an antisemite.
  24. A Bay Area ban on feeding squirrels and birds saved their lives – Vox
    Feeding pigeons and birds seems like a harmless, pleasent activity. But noooooooo.
  25. Democrats tried to win over working-class voters. But they ignored their biggest worry. – Vox
    That worry being stagnant wages, which basically were not discussed at all at last night’s debate.
  26. Why aren’t voters more willing to abandon a health system that’s failing? – Vox
    I thought that this was a very good article. In particular, the point that no system can truthfully promise stability – private, public and single-payer plans are all subject to being changed from above – is a good one. (I totally stan Elizabeth Warren, but this is one issue I disagree with her on – letting Americans choose between private and public options is just better than outlawing private insurance.)
  27. An open letter from to Lierre Keith, a TERF, from Bonnie Mann, a radical feminist who used to be anti-trans. (pdf link).

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93 Responses to Open Thread and Link Farm, Street Kids With Dog Edition

  1. 1
    J. Squid says:

    I thought Belle Delphine was a brilliant way to make money from targeted performance art from my earlier reading. But seeing her Instagram vids takes this to an entirely new level. She is genius and a really talented performer and writer.

    I’m both surprised and comforted by a critic quoted in the article also calling what she does performance art.

    None of which is to say that I don’t see why a lot of people find her problematic. It can be both brilliant and problematic

  2. 2
    Harlequin says:

    Sadly, the link for “What We Get Wrong About Closing The Racial Wealth Gap” doesn’t work!

  3. 3
    annqueue says:

    My particular form of face blindness seems to be more a categorization of humanity into a few buckets rather than complete inability to recognize faces. I put too many people in the same bucket so I’m always mistaking someone for someone else. Walking down the street, I get to choose between a bland vaguely friendly expression or not making eye contact, for fear of not recognizing someone and offending them. Lack of context makes it really hard.

    While people seem willing to accept that I have a touch of face blindness, they never seem to ‘get it’ until they see it in action. When they see me mistake a friend for another friend in a way they couldn’t possibly do themselves, they express shock. If I’ve already told them about it, at least I get to say “This is what I’ve been trying to explain to you!”

    Afterwards they’re usually quite accommodating when I whisper to them in group settings “Is that Zach or Ben?” “Alex has glasses and Katie doesn’t, right?”

    One of my coping mechanisms is when I confuse two friends, after I realize my mistake, I immediately ask or say something that makes it clear that I DO know who they are and remember details about our interactions or their lives. It’s even more helpful if they know about the face blindness: “I’m sorry Karen, I called you Peggy. How’s your hip? I haven’t seen you since the surgery.”

    All examples taken from real life.

  4. 4
    J. Squid says:

    My particular form of face blindness …

    Yeah. I think that there are not only gradations, but, as you say, forms. And it’s true that people who don’t have the issue at all find it hard to believe.

    My gradation and form is that I can’t recognize anybody who I don’t see often enough. I can’t tell you anybody’s eye color, ever. That simply isn’t a thing I notice no matter how long I’ve known you nor how often we’re in close proximity.

    I don’t think giving a description of the people I see most often and/or who are closest to my heart to a sketch artist would result in a recognizable portrait of those people.

    Some sample responses I’ve gotten when I introduce myself to people I know but don’t recognize…

    “I know who you are. We were on the same board last night!”
    “Yes we’ve met! I sat across the table from you for a year on that project we worked on.”

    I often don’t recognize myself in pics. I went to a high school reunion and was looking at this one photo and thinking, “There’s Tosh and there’s Amy and there’s Laurie. They were the only others in my calc class that year, but who the fuck is person 4?” Only to realize, after 5 minutes, that it was me!

    For years, I thought that Dennis was both Dennis and Tony. Now Ruben is both Ruben and Chris.

    Also, if I haven’t seen someone for long enough, I can’t remember what they look like. There have been times I was worried I wouldn’t recognize my mom if I saw her tomorrow.

    Weirdly, though. I’ve begun to be able to recognize actors across their works.

    So, yes. Different forms and different gradations.

  5. 5
    David Simon says:

    Link 27 seems to be a letter to Lierre Keith, rather than from.

  6. 6
    Mandolin says:

    I do about average on recognition tests, but I don’t think I retain very well.

    I almost never notice people’s eye color. I only know my parents and husbands because I’ve memorized them. I notice eyes, of course. I just don’t retain a color label usually.

  7. 7
    J. Squid says:

    I almost never notice people’s eye color. I only know my parents and husbands because I’ve memorized them. I notice eyes, of course. I just don’t retain a color label usually.

    I suspect that my face blindness is related to the way I see everything, not just people. I tend to see the whole and not the details. While I know that there are eyes in faces, I’m not sure that I actually see the eyes and not just the face as a whole when I look at a face. In the same way, I will see the whole room, but totally miss the 2 cubic foot box wrapped in sparkly purple paper with curled ribbons tied to it.

    It’s fascinating for me, not because there’s a name for my issues with identifying people, but because I’ve always been interested in the concept of different cognition of identical visual input. You know, “Is the green I see the green you see?” And this line of inquiry answers, “No. The green you see is definitely not the green I see.” It’s not terribly important but it is terribly interesting. As you can see by how I’ll go on and on and on any time the subject is brought up.

  8. 8
    Ampersand says:

    Harlequin and David, thank you! I’ve corrected the post.

  9. 9
    Harlequin says:

    I served as a reference for a friend who needed security clearance. At the end they ask you to describe the friend. The interviewer said “What’s her eye color?” and I said “Uhhhhhhh…” and she responded “It’s fine if you don’t know.” (And I score pretty highly on facial recognition tests.) So I think it’s very common not to know!

    This is reminding me a little of those articles about people who have no visual imagination (e.g. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/when-the-minds-eye-is-blind1/). I don’t remember if it’s in that article, but one example I read was, Imagine you’re lying under an umbrella on the beach. Really think about the scene. What color is the umbrella? Most people know but some do not.

    My mind bucketizes like annqueue’s, too, but for words instead of faces. I sometimes call people by the wrong name, not because I think they’re someone else but because I grabbed the wrong name out of a bucket. (I horribly confused a colleague last week by mixing up the names of 2 women with similar jobs; I’ve known them both for several years. I could have given you correct biographical details, I just labeled the person-concepts wrong that day.) There’s a stupid joke I love, “A skeleton walks into a bar and asks for a beer and a mop,” which I will always tell as “broom and mop” without constant vigilance because b-word + long-handled cleaning tool.

  10. 10
    Decnavda says:

    Where and when are the Peanuts Abby Road pictures from? The exact same painting is on a road in front of the Snoopy ice rink across the street from the Charles Schulz museum in Santa Rosa, CA, which I visited about a month ago, but that does not look anything like the same place. (I included “when” in my question because there has been a lot of recent construction in the area, and the painting on the road I saw last month was a LOT more faded than the ones in this picture, so I am also thinking that these might be old photos from in front of the Snoopy rink.)

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    Decnavda, I’m afraid I have no idea where or when the photos were taken. I follow several street art photo twitter accounts; I think I saw these photos on one of those.

  12. 12
    Grace Annam says:

    I have moved several comments to The MintGarden.

    Grace

  13. 13
    Medea says:

    Okay, reposting in Mint Garden.

  14. 14
    nobody.really says:

    As it turns out, I’m a Republican. And it took fewer than 10 questions to find out. Who knew?

  15. 15
    RonF says:

    @14: It’s funny how Democrats were perfectly happy with the structure and function of the Supreme Court when it had a liberal majority and there was a Democratic President, but now that there is a conservative majority and a GOP President it’s obviously fundamentally flawed and radical changes need to be made to it. Meanwhile, the GOP’s take was not “We need to change the Supreme Court’s structure and function”, it was “We need to win some elections.”

  16. 16
    J. Squid says:

    It’s always been structurally flawed and a clearly partisan institution. It’s just that nobody complains when it’s partisan in their direction. Thus, conservative claims of an “activist court.” It’s funny how Republicans don’t say that now.

    Another factor in the heightened unhappiness among liberals is that the Republicans broke the rules on how and when justices are appointed. I don’t think you’d see the same outrage if, as is customary, Obama had been able to nominate and have confirmed a nominee of his choice.

    But the GOP has made it clear that there are no rules or norms anymore, so packing the court/setting term limits it is as far as a fair chunk of liberals are concerned.

    I’ll also point out that due to structural problems with our constitution with respect to representation, Republicans control the federal government even though they don’t command a majority or even a plurality of votes. This has been remarked on since at least JFK wrt POTUS. And Republicans use that control to further restrict voting rights in order to disenfranchise those who would vote for their opponents.

    Republicans think that’s all squarely above board right now, but they won’t when the tide turns. Just as they were all gung ho about executive powers – remember the Unitary Executive – during Bush II but were outraged about Executive overreach with Obama.

    Nothing lasts forever and it will come around to hurt them eventually. And then you’ll hear from stiff lipped Republicans exactly the same thing you’re hearing from Democrats now. We’ve seen it as recently as the last 3 administrations, so I’m not sure why you believe Republicans just put their heads down and focused on winning elections. It is demonstrably not true at any time during the current century.

  17. 17
    Ampersand says:

    Meanwhile, the GOP’s take was not “We need to change the Supreme Court’s structure and function”, it was “We need to win some elections.”

    The GOP’s take was literally “Democrats won the election, so let’s not allow them to appoint anyone to the Supreme Court, because elections mean nothing.”

    Also, the Supreme Court last had a liberal majority when I was a toddler, so I don’t feel a lot of responsibility for whatever liberals were allegedly saying back then.

    ETA: Oops, I replied before reading J’s response, sorry for the overlap.

  18. 18
    Lauren says:

    And the Republicans not only prevented Obama from nominating a supreme court judge, they also blocked nominations for many of the crucial federal judges. And now they are stacking the courts.

    Something completely different, I found this game, explainig the game theory behind trust and the different variables that influence it, super interesting. The one modeling seggregating effects of small biases is great, too. I like all his stuff, really.

  19. 19
    J. Squid says:

    And the Republicans not only prevented Obama from nominating a supreme court judge, they also blocked nominations for many of the crucial federal judges. And now they are stacking the courts.

    Yep. I didn’t even get started on that because SCOTUS is enough for a small novel, but the GOP has been doing that since Clinton. Which, of course, is great news for social conservative authoritarians, corporations and the wealthy but not so great for the rest of us. To be fair, though, it’s ended the cries of, “Judicial activism,” from conservatives that woke me up every dawn, continued screeching through the daylight hours and went far enough into the night to disturb my sleep. Now they sit content with the knowledge that they are able to enact their cruelty to the poor, minorities and other oppressed groups.

  20. 20
    RonF says:

    @26: Perhaps the answer is that most voters don’t share the perception that it’s failing.

  21. 21
    RonF says:

    JSquid:

    Another factor in the heightened unhappiness among liberals is that the Republicans broke the rules on how and when justices are appointed.

    What rule did they break? The President nominates, the Senate confirms – or not. The Senate decided not to hold hearings (which I thought wrong, but is not a broken rule) and to not confirm, as is their right.

    I don’t think you’d see the same outrage if, as is customary, Obama had been able to nominate and have confirmed a nominee of his choice.

    Are you familiar with the case of Robert Bork? That rather got the ball rolling that we see today, and it wasn’t the act of the GOP.

    I’ll also point out that due to structural problems with our constitution with respect to representation, …

    I see it as a structural feature, not a structural bug. The U.S. was never meant to be a pure democracy, mainly because the Founders having studied history realized that pure democracies fail.

    Republicans control the federal government even though they don’t command a majority or even a plurality of votes.

    A party that has no majority in the House and a less-than-cloture-proof majority in the Senate does not control the Federal government. If they truly controlled the Federal government they could pass legislation without the need of votes from the other party. That’s clearly not the case.

    Amp:

    The GOP’s take was literally “Democrats won the election, so let’s not allow them to appoint anyone to the Supreme Court, because elections mean nothing.”

    The Democrats won *an* election – for President. They did not win a sufficient number of Senate elections. It is the genius of the American electoral system that due to separation of powers no one election can give a single party the power to run the American government. To appoint Supreme Court justices without both party’s votes a given party must win elections over a broad part of the country. The Democratic party dominates urban politics but holds much of the rest of the country in contempt – they are deplorables, bitterly clinging to their God and their guns. Turns out that openly holding a large part of the electorate in contempt is a poor marketing strategy. The Presidential election meant quite a bit, in fact – but so did the Senate elections.

    I suppose it’s a function of what you consider liberal vs. conservative, Amp. I don’t know how old you are and thus what years would qualify you as a toddler, but I’m quite sure that you were out of diapers when Obergefell vs. Hodges was decided (and so much for Baker vs. Nelson and stare decisis). As far as the conservatives I talked to were concerned, any court reaching that decision was a liberal one.

    I do think my original point holds, though. I don’t recall that the GOP’s Presidential candidates have ever proposed adding Supreme Court seats or creating some kind of rotation scheme as we have seen in this campaign. They’ve certainly complained about appointments to the court, but I don’t recall them proposing the changes we see here.

  22. 22
    J. Squid says:

    Are you familiar with the case of Robert Bork?

    Are you familiar with the fact that A) Bork got a confirmation hearing and B) another nominee of the President’s choice was subsequently confirmed. You’re being intentionally obtuse not to see the refusal to hold a hearing and the refusal to confirm any nominee of the President as outside the bounds of what is customary wrt SCOTUS appointments.

    Given your attitude to the response 3 of us gave to you, I’m not going to engage you any further on this issue at this time.

  23. 23
    Mandolin says:

    It’s funny when cleaners clean art because unexpected things are funny.

    But I think it must also be seen as sad because it is the destruction of art that can’t be restored. Burning the only remaining copy of a graphic novel would be a thing that sucks. Maybe it could be funny also; I dunno.

    I am prickly about people saying things like this are funny without talking about the damage the way they would about other art, because there are people who will do that because they think modern art doesn’t count as real art. And, like, aesthetics aside – and these may not be pieces that appeal to me – that’s not a way I feel comfortable interacting with art.

    I’m not saying where you fall on this; just my reaction to the link presented with only one line, followed by another link presented as an opposite. It may well not be representative of that viewpoint. It just gets my backup in the absence of anything else.

    I feel only more determined about this as someone whose work has been abused for not being the right kind of art. Luckily, it wasn’t destroyed.

  24. 24
    nobody.really says:

    As it turns out, I’m a Republican. And it took fewer than 10 questions to find out. Who knew?

    Enough already: Is no one else gonna take the quiz? Are there no other crypto-Republicans (or crypto-Democrats) among us?

    It’s kinda interesting to see which variables combine to produce a Republican. The variables “Religion is important to my life” and “Protestant” are big ones for Republicans–and you don’t need both.

    And oddly, being between 50 and 60 yrs old skews Republican. That’s oddly specific. A Reagan echo, perhaps?

  25. 25
    J. Squid says:

    Oh, I took the quiz. A few times.

    For me being a Republican hinges on the question of whether I’m a man or a woman. If I’m a man, it ID’s me as Republican in, I think, 3 questions. If I’m a woman it takes more like 5 or 6 to decide I’m a Democrat.

    I wound up feeling like they could’ve just reduced it to that one question and been just as accurate.

  26. 26
    J. Squid says:

    The variables “Religion is important to my life” and “Protestant” are big ones for Republicans–and you don’t need both.

    The variables it found for important for male J. Squid were gender, age and education. Those 3 answers put me so deep on the GOP side of the chart that no combination of Democratic leaning answers could pull me anywhere close to the dividing line.

    The variables it found important for female J. Squid were gender and religion.

  27. 27
    Mandolin says:

    Damn. It didn’t even want to know my gender.

  28. 28
    Mandolin says:

    Not a member of noted racial groups –> not religious –> not straight –> went to college –> we’re done here, you democrat.

  29. 29
    Ampersand says:

    Ron, just as the court before 1971 occasionally voted for conservative positions, the court after 1971 sometimes voted for more liberal positions. But although Kennedy isn’t as doctrinaire right-wing as (say) Scalia was, on balance, Kennedy was a conservative; that’s why he chose to retire while a conservative was in the White House to name his replacement.

    I find it telling, though, that you seemingly consider anything other than an absolute 100% of rulings going along with conservative partisan preferences, to mean that there’s a liberal-majority court. In your mind, does “liberal” mean “any justice who fails to absolutely obey the conservative line, even if it’s in only 1 out of 10 cases?”

    To add to what J wrote: What happened with Bork (President nominates, Senate votes the nominee down, President nominates someone more acceptable to the Senate, that person is voted in) is how the system’s been understood to work for generations. Indeed, if you’re saying that the Senate is never, ever supposed to vote against the nominee, then what on Earth is the purpose of having the Senate vote at all?

    But what y’all did was unprecedented, and it’s completely removed my ability to take you seriously when you object to (for instance) court-packing. If it’s okay for you guys to throw the unwritten traditions out, then it’s not only okay for us to do the same thing – it’s absolutely necessary. You guys are only one or two more Supreme Court justice appointments away from making it legal for Republicans to close down every polling place in Black neighborhoods, as long as there’s a thin non-racial justification (“budget cuts”).

    I’m not very impressed with what the framers intended; the framers included slave owners, after all. And I’m not in favor of “pure” democracy, if that means each and every law being decided by a popular vote.

    I am against, however, a system that allows an almost all white minority of voters to hold power far beyond their ability to get Americans to agree with their policies or priorities. Because Republicans know they don’t a buy-in from the majority of voters, they’re free to pursue extreme and unpopular policies without having to worry about getting reelected. It’s dangerous to have a party that never needs to seek majority (or even plurality) approval because the entire system is tipped in their favor.

  30. 30
    Ampersand says:

    I really enjoyed the animated graphic that went with that quiz.

    Me: Not Black, Asian or Hispanic –> Not religious –> Straight –> Attended College —> Not Protestant –> Not Catholic —> Male —> HARRY, YOU’RE A DEMOCRAT!!

    Almost twice as many steps as it took with Mandolin.

    I tried again, this time choosing “not straight.” This time, it took only four questions.

    Me: Not Black, Asian or Hispanic –> Not religious –> Straight –> Attended College —> DEMOCRAT YOU BE!!!

  31. 31
    Ampersand says:

    I tried playing with the quiz to get it to ask more questions before deciding (using totally fictional answers). But I never got it to take more than 7 questions.

  32. 32
    J. Squid says:

    I went back to do it again because I couldn’t remember exactly how it went and here’s what I get:

    Not black, Hispanic or Asian (why isn’t Black capitalized?) —>
    Religion not important in my life —> Straight —> Did not attend college —>
    Not female —> Not 50 or younger —> Not older than 60 —> +31 Republican

    And:
    Not black, Hispanic or Asian (is it just more or does the lack of capitalization seem worse the second time around?) —> Religion not important —> Not straight —> Didn’t attend college —> + 59 Democratic

    But I don’t understand why it asked about college the second time. That answer dragged me 15 points toward Republican. If there’s nothing else that they can ask that can pull me back over the line, why ask that one?

  33. 33
    J. Squid says:

    But I never got it to take more than 7 questions.

    Amateur. I got it to 8 with:
    Not black, Hispanic or Asian (it gets worse every time!)
    Religion is important
    Protestant
    Straight
    Female
    Not Married
    Does not live in the South (wait. South is capitalized, but black isn’t? WTAF?)
    College degree

    Off to see if I can make it go to 11!

  34. 34
    Sebastian H says:

    “I am prickly about people saying things like this are funny without talking about the damage the way they would about other art, because there are people who will do that because they think modern art doesn’t count as real art. ”

    I think part of the problem is that modern art is for the lack of a better word, inbred. Over decades the intended audience for many (most?) pieces of modern art has increasingly narrowed to a few other niche artists and critics. So most of the problems arise because the art is forced to intersect with a vast majority of people who are definitely not the intended audience. “Cleaners clean up art” is funny because it shows how the artist’s conception of art is so divorced from most people’s understanding of art that they can’t even recognize it.

  35. 35
    nobody.really says:

    Not black, Hispanic or Asian (why isn’t Black capitalized?) —>
    Religion not important in my life —> Straight —> Did not attend college —>
    Not female —> Not 50 or younger —> Not older than 60 —> +31 Republican

    What’s up with “Not 50 or younger” and “Not older than 60” skewing Republican? If you say that you’re 50 or younger, it curls toward Democrat. And if you say you’re older than 60, it curls toward Democrat. Just this one decade curls Republican. Weird, weird, weird….

    [Edited to add] A little more analysis:

    – Picking “50 or younger” shifts 10 points toward Democrat.

    – Picking “60 or older” shifts 2 points toward Republican; that is, the COMBINED effect of saying no to “50 or younger” and yes to “60 or older” is a 2 point shift toward Republican.

    – But saying that you’re between 50 and 60 leads to a 26-point shift toward Republican. That still warrants some explanation.

    Off to see if I can make it go to 11!

    I have faith in you!

  36. 36
    J. Squid says:

    I have faith in you!

    You get me. You really, really get me. *** wipes away tears ***

  37. 37
    dragon_snap says:

    I took the quiz even though I’m not American (nor a resident of the US), because why not, eh? :)

    I got: All Americans –> Not [B]lack, Hispanic or Asian (+8R) –> Says religion is important (+33R) –> Protestant (+48R) (yikes!!!) –> Not straight (+7D) (phew)

    J. Squid @32 — After experimenting a little, I think that it will always ask you at least four questions, no matter if the last one couldn’t possibly put you onto the other side of the line.

  38. 38
    J. Squid says:

    I think that it will always ask you at least four questions

    If I recall correctly, there is no path that gets you to Republican if you answer black, Hispanic or Asian (there it is again!) then Black.

  39. 39
    AJD says:

    The purpose of the quiz isn’t to answer “are you a Democrat or a Republican”; the purpose of the quiz is to answer “what’s the probability that you’re a Democrat or a Republican (given this information about you)?” And there’s a meaningful difference between 95% likely to be a Democrat (black women over 30) and 53% likely to be a Democrat (non-religious non–college educated straight white men under 50), even though they’re both on the same side of “the line”.

    (As is often the case, the headline is misleading.)

  40. 40
    Mandolin says:

    I don’t think anyone missed that. We were being silly.

  41. 41
    Ampersand says:

    I was just watching “Supergirl,” and it occurred to me that two superhero shows I’m watching have, in the current season, openly trans actors in major supporting roles. In Supergirl, it’s been mentioned once that the character is trans. (That I’ve seen so far). But her storylines don’t revolve around her being trans (so far). In “Jessica Jones,” it’s never mentioned if the character is trans or cis.

    And it’s not revolutionary. I haven’t seen any articles about this, or any fuss being made. It’s just that we’re beginning, I hope, to enter a period in which having openly trans actors play ordinary characters is nothing special.

    (Of course, it would also be nice to see some mainstream TV shows cast trans actors in lead roles.)

  42. 42
    J. Squid says:

    This is a great way to tell the story of the 1985 MOVE bombing and massacre in Philadelphia.

    I was, at the time, a week away from graduating from a small high school about an hour north. I remember seeing it on TV and being absolutely horrified that the police were just killing these people and letting a whole neighborhood burn. I remember the coverage was totally sympathetic to the police (though memory being what it is, I could be mistaken).

    This massacre has stayed with me for 34 years. 34 years later, I’m still devastated when I think about it. It has informed my views of racism and of the police. It is an unspeakable injustice that nobody in the Philadelphia Police Department or the City government faced any penalty at all for this. It just goes to show how Black Lives Don’t Matter and how unreasonably high the bar is for the police to suffer any consequences.

    Until this year, I never heard anything about it after the coverage died down. That is unconscionable. I’m glad the memory is being publicized now, though.

  43. 43
    J. Squid says:

    It looks like we’ve got some really effective treatment for Ebola now.

    So much for that pandemic.

  44. 44
    Ampersand says:

    I want to comment on a couple of points that have been made by Jeffrey in the Mint Garden thread. But since the points I want to make aren’t actually related to the purposes of the Mint Garden, I’m responding here.

    Responding to Nobody.Really’s citing two old and poorly designed studies of monkeys playing with allegedly “boy” and “girl” toys, Jeffrey wrote:

    But that argument gets harder to maintain when we’re describing the disparate behavior of boy and girl rhesus and vervet monkeys.

    It’s worse than that. You’d have to theorize that humans evolved to have fewer behavior differences between the sexes than other apes, but that societies were selected to favor precisely the behavior differences that we evolved out of. It’s a joke really. The idea that I could be built so differently from my wife,but the organ that controls this body, my mind, doesn’t have adaptions that reflect that difference is just downright preposterous. Anyone doubting the “man and women are wired a bit different on average” hypothesis is the one making the extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence, and frankly, the evidence I’m seeing points the other way.

    Frankly, Jeffrey, that you accepted those two monkey studies without question suggests that you’re not objectively evaluating evidence, but instead accepting even terrible evidence if it goes along with your predetermined conclusions. A flaw that almost all people share. But maybe you shouldn’t be so certain that you’re looking at evidence rightly and anyone who disagrees with you is being stupid.

    Secondly, you’re dividing primates into “humans” and “other apes,” and saying that there are “precisely the behavior differences” in “other apes” as there are in human societies. But that framing is complete nonsense. There is no universal category of “other apes” with a single common set of gendered behavior differences. Rather, gender behaviors vary from primate species to primate species, even in something as basic as which sex is dominant.

    Third:

    You’d have to theorize that humans evolved to have fewer behavior differences between the sexes than other apes

    No, you’d have to theorize that humans have evolved to have more plasticity in behavior than other apes. Is that something you doubt? Or, even if you don’t believe that humans are more plastic, do you think that the theory that humans are more plastic is inherently ridiculous?

    Also, I’m not sure if you’re talking about a “blank slate” hypothesis or not. But believing that gendered behavior varies by individual and by cultural environment is not a “blank slate” hypothesis, because it’s not saying genes have no effect at all. Rather, it’s saying that genes are not the only important variable, and how genes are expressed is a result of interactions with environment, rather than something that happens in a void.

    Returning to plasticity: Although I think humans are the most plastic, other primates have sometimes shown considerable plasticity of behavior. For instance, in a troop of baboons that had virtually all adult males wiped out by disease, more peaceful behavior became that troop’s norm.

    The males, which had taken to foraging in an open garbage pit adjacent to a tourist lodge, had contracted bovine tuberculosis, and most died between 1983 and 1986. Their deaths drastically changed the gender composition of the troop, more than doubling the ratio of females to males, and by 1986 troop behavior had changed considerably as well; males were significantly less aggressive.

    After the deaths, Sapolsky stopped observing the Forest Troop until 1993. Surprisingly, even though no adult males from the 1983–1986 period remained in the Forest Troop in 1993 (males migrate after puberty), the new males exhibited the less aggressive behavior of their predecessors. Around this time, Sapolsky and Share also began observing another troop, called the Talek Troop. The Talek Troop, along with the pre-TB Forest Troop, served as controls for comparing the behavior of the post-1993 Forest Troop. The authors found that while in some respects male to male dominance behaviors and patterns of aggression were similar in both the Forest and control troops, there were differences that significantly reduced stress for low ranking males, which were far better tolerated by dominant males than were their counterparts in the control troops. The males in the Forest Troop also displayed more grooming behavior, an activity that’s decidedly less stressful than fighting. Analyzing blood samples from the different troops, Sapolsky and Share found that the Forest Troop males lacked the distinctive physiological markers of stress, such as elevated levels of stress-induced hormones, seen in the control troops.

    That gendered behavior among primates can change based on environment and local “culture” is pretty undeniable.

    In the early 1970s, a highly respected primatologist named Hans Kummer was working in a region of Ethiopia containing two species of baboons with markedly different social systems. Savanna baboons live in large troops, with plenty of adult females and males. Hamadryas baboons, in contrast, have a more complex and quite different multilevel society. When confronted with a threatening male, the females of the two species react differently: A hamadryas baboon placates the male by approaching him, whereas a savanna baboon can only run away if she wants to avoid injury.

    Kummer conducted a simple experiment, trapping an adult female savanna baboon and releasing her into a hamadryas troop and trapping an adult female hamadryas and releasing her into a savanna troop. The females who were dropped in among a different species initially carried out their species-typical behavior, a major faux pas in the new neighborhood. But gradually, they absorbed the new rules. How long did this learning take? About an hour. In other words, millennia of genetic differences separating the two species, a lifetime of experience with a crucial social rule for each female—and a miniscule amount of time to reverse course completely.

    (To be fair, you did specify apes, and baboons are not apes, although they are primates. Still interesting, though.)

    Even among chimps, who are possibly the most violent primate species, how violent chimps are depends in part on the local chimp culture and environment, rather than being consistent among all chimp societies. Apart from violence, there are many Chimp behaviors that vary by chimp “culture.” That’s not to say that there’s no genetic influence at all, of course; it’s saying that environment, including the local “culture” (i.e., what adult chimps do that infant chimps copy), interacts with genes to produce behavioral patterns. (Incidentally, it appears that humans may be inadvertently wiping out cultural differences in chimps).

    Maybe you don’t care much about baby monkeys and toys,

    It’s interesting that “not buying the results from two badly designed studies with tiny sample sizes” becomes “you don’t care” in your telling. That you think it’s “not caring” is a sign that you haven’t actually understood what people who disagree with you are saying.

    I can imagine a study about monkeys and toys that would interest me a lot. But a study that seemingly assumes that a toy cooking pot would be understood by monkeys as a gendered toy, when those monkeys don’t cook and are very unlikely to have ever observed cooking, just seems REALLY dubious. (And that’s only one of many reasons to doubt those studies.)

    but it’s less hard to believe that a group of male chimps, embarking on a mission to seek out, kill, and eat a vulnerable chimp from a rival tribe, experience the world differently from the female chimps who don’t exhibit this behavior.

    Sure. But 1) chimps are not humans, 2) not all chimps act the same, and 3) not all primates act like chimps. (Also, although males are more violent as a rule, there are cases of female chimps participating in attacks, but I’m too lazy to find the ref right now so if you don’t want to take my word for that, that would be understandable.)

    So the argument that the way particular chimps in a particular situation behave proves anything significant and generalizable about gender behavior in primates generally, let alone in humans specifically, seems dubious to me.

  45. 45
    Ampersand says:

    J, that news about the new Ebola drugs is really great; I hope they pan out.

  46. 46
    Mandolin says:

    Jeffrey, I see that you have responded to me. Please be aware that I am not interested in interacting with you on issues regarding trans people; I wouldn’t want you to waste your time on attempted interaction. Of course, you may simply be posting for people other than me to read.

  47. 47
    Mandolin says:

    Nobody really –

    They were discussed a lot when they were more recent. There were a bunch of articles picking them apart for being generally sloppy in the way evolutionary psych stuff is often generally sloppy.

    The inclusion of cooking pots is about where my head hits all the desks since it is essentially impossible that the common ancestor of all primates used cooking pots in evolutionary conditions.

    From the post I linked below:

    Recall that this was selected based on alleged girl preferences in late twentieth-century North America, and that the authors believe that if they observe a female preference among vervets for this object it is evidence that its foundations appeared early in our pre-hominid evolution. This is a feature of more than one bit of this sort of gender “research” that shows the extent to which the authors aren’t thinking through their premises. The only plausible argument for the alleged preference for playing with cooking pots among human girls is that they have evolved to be more nurturing or domestic or something, and these are part of their symbolic play reflecting those tendencies. It’s bizarre to include cooking in this particular sphere given that it’s far from universally associated with females (even in our own culture). But it would be completely bizarre to argue that human females evolved a preference for modern objects currently associated with cooking as objects such that they would be drawn to their form without any knowledge of their function. To suggest that female vervets or our common ancestors, who obviously lack any knowledge of cooking, evolved a preference for these as objects is simply ludicrous. Species don’t evolve in anticipation of another species millions of years later using objects in a certain way.

    http://saltycurrent.blogspot.com/2011/02/laughable-gender-research-vervet-toy.html

    This post one of many written at the time, and therefore I’m sure only covers part of the array of criticisms, but I really don’t want to spend any more time looking at this.

    Also, nobody.really, although I am very frustrated and touchy on this subject (obviously), I want to be clear that I don’t blame you personally. It’s just a way this conversation often evolves that I find problematic, and I am responding to that, not to you as a specific person who is advancing a very common idea.

    I gather from your comment, and appreciate that you were using the study differently than it is sometimes used, but I really don’t want to go back and look at everything to try to untangle the course of the conversation.

    [Moved to this thread from The Mint Garden. –Amp]

  48. 48
    Mandolin says:

    Re: Amp’s points:

    I have always found it interesting that violent male chimps are the symbol of all evolutionary primate history determining human gender roles– and yet for some reason no one* ever proposes that the natural human condition is that female primates should initiate orgies whenever there’s a social problem.

    *Well, it does happen, but not generally in the same stream of discourse.

  49. 49
    nobody.really says:

    …yet for some reason no one* ever proposes that the natural human condition is that female primates should initiate orgies whenever there’s a social problem.

    I think you meant to say that for some reason nobody.really proposes that female primates should initiate orgies–social problems optional. Not that anyone listens. Alas.

    But just in case anyone were tempted to listen, the Catholic Church has adopted a policy of not recognizing female primates.

  50. 50
    nobody.really says:

    Thanks to all for the kindly worded feedback. Clearly other people have greater appreciation for this topic than I have.

    At the risk of provoking people on this sensitive topic, I keep reading criticisms of the cooking pot–and I don’t get it.

    As I understand it, the experimenters sought to determine whether the disparate preferences demonstrated by male and female children arise from some innate quality (nature) or culture/socialization (nurture). They hypothesized that finding the same preferences among non-human primates would support the nature side of the argument. They purport to have found that female non-humans have a greater affinity for a cook pot than do male non-humans, supporting the hypothesis that this preference from something innate, not something cultural. If you were to say to the experimenters, “CULTURE SIMPLY CAN’T EXPLAIN A FEMALE NON-HUMAN’S AFFINITY FOR A POT!” I expect they’d say, “Exactly. And because culture seems like an unlikely explanation, we look for some other explanation, such as an innate attraction.”

    Look, if you presented me with a coin that seemed normal but came up heads 75% of the time, I could imagine offering one of two responses:

    1) Wow, I would have expected something like a 50% result. This anomalous result warrants further exploration; after all, people who seek to cheat at games of chance (such as football teams) might exploit this phenomenon.

    2) Coins can’t possibly understand cultural phenomenon such as games of chance, let alone football–ergo the researchers are stupid.

    I hope I would offer reaction 1), not reaction 2). An anomalous result warrants further analysis. We might offer a number of criticisms of the study, but I can’t understand THIS criticism. To me, the fact that we can’t offer a cultural explanation for an anomalous result merely suggests that we should seek for some other explanation. Maybe we can find the explanation in natural proclivities. Maybe we can find it in flaws in experimental design or statistical analysis. But I don’t think we can find it in a cooking pot.

    Ironically, Amp implicitly criticizes the study for the opposite reason: Perhaps a female monkey’s preferences DO reflect culture—the monkey’s culture. In other words, I had imagined that non-human primates would act entirely on the basis of instinct. Amp cites examples demonstrating that non-human primates have cultures. Thus, a study of the proclivities of monkeys—even a large number of them, provided they come from the same group—may yield little more than an explanation of the cultural preferences of those specific monkeys. True, that culture may differ from human cultures, and the fact that both female humans and female monkeys have an affinity for a cook pot may simply reflect a coincidence—but this data does not necessarily demonstrate innateness.

    Not to worry, though. I have already submitted my grant proposal to demonstrate that female fruit flies tend to land on cook pots whereas males tend to land on toy police cars….

    [Moved to this thread from The Mint Garden. –Amp]

  51. 51
    Ampersand says:

    Nobody Really, the explanation offered by the study isn’t “well, this happens, we don’t know why.” It’s “evolution.” And there’s no even remotely plausible explanation for why monkeys would evolve sex-based preferences for a human device like cooking pots.

    Two better explanations of the results:

    1) Since it wasn’t a large difference, or a large sample, and since the finding has not been replicated, it could easily be just a statistical coincidence. If you flipped a coin 100 times and it came up heads 59 times, that’s not surprising or something that needs a lot of speculation to explain.

    2) The monkeys were responding in some fashion to the color red – the toy cooking pot was bright red – not to that it was a cooking pot.

  52. 52
    nobody.really says:

    Nobody Really, the explanation offered by the study isn’t “well, this happens, we don’t know why.” It’s “evolution.” And there’s no even remotely plausible explanation for why monkeys would evolve sex-based preferences for a human device like cooking pots.

    I can’t say that I fully follow this argument—and, alas, I haven’t found a copy of the paper online. With that caveat, I understand the experimenters to make this argument:

    1) If we find differences in the behavior of two groups, the difference must arise from either nature or nurture.

    2) We find differences between the behavior of male and female kids, and male and female monkeys.

    3) We find it implausible to conclude that these differences in monkeys (attraction to a cookpot) arise from culture (nurture).

    4) By process of elimination, we conclude that these differences arise from something innate (nature).

    5) We presume that innate characteristics arise from evolution.

    Do you think I misunderstand their argument? Or do you disagree with this argument?

    For example, I sense you object to the idea that innateness reflect “evolution.” Do you reject the idea that species have innate characteristics? Or that these properties arise from evolution? Or have I just missed the point?

    Two better explanations of the results:

    1) Since it wasn’t a large difference, or a large sample, and since the finding has not been replicated, it could easily be just a statistical coincidence. If you flipped a coin 100 times and it came up heads 59 times, that’s not surprising or something that needs a lot of speculation to explain.

    As I say, people more sophisticated than I might conclude that something about the experiment or the statistical analysis failed to meet appropriate experimental rigor. While I haven’t found a copy of the study, Andrea Ferguson kindly referred us to Chris’s analysis of the study. This analysis states that the study involved 88 monkeys, each observed 2-3 time interacting with six objects/toys. How many monkeys or observations should we require to generate reliable results?

    I agree that having more scientists replicate the study would bolster my confidence, but I can hardly fault the study or its experimenters for their absence.

    Also, Chris’s analysis provides a table of the experimental results. To me, the RED PAN columns look like 18 for males and 28 for females. If so, the female column exceeds the male column more than 50%. How much disparity should we require before we conclude that we have found a disparate result?

    2) The monkeys were responding in some fashion to the color red – the toy cooking pot was bright red – not to that it was a cooking pot.

    This strikes me as a plausible argument. Apparently it struck the experimenters the same way, since (again, quoting Chris’s analysis that quotes the study) they wrote:

    [S]exually dimorphic preferences for features (e.g., color, shape, movement) may have evolved from differential selection pressures based on the different behavioral roles of males and females, and that evolved object feature preferences may contribute to present day sexually dimorphic toy preferences in children.

    * * *

    Female rhesus monkeys have been found to show a preference for the characteristic “reddish-pink”’ facial coloration of infant vervets compared to yellow or green. Consistent with this female color preference, girls are also more likely than boys to prefer warmer colors (i.e., pink and red) to cooler colors (i.e., blue and green) (Minamoto, 1985 cited in Iijima, Arisaka, Minamoto, & Arai, 2001). A preference for red or reddish pink has been proposed to elicit female behaviors to infants that enhance infant survival, such as contact (Higley, Hopkins, Hirsch, Marra, & Suomi, 1987). The hypothesis that reddish pink or red may be a cue signaling opportunities for nurturance and thus eliciting female responsiveness could explain our finding of greater female contact with both the doll (with a pink face) and the pot (colored red).

    Thus, I don’t see how the idea that female monkeys respond to the redness of a pot conflicts with the experimenters’ conclusions.

  53. 53
    nobody.really says:

    Oh, wait–I think Amp wants to promote the hypothesis that human girls play with red pots because they’re pots, while monkey girls play with red pots because they’re red.

    That does strike me as a plausible hypothesis. It doesn’t contradict the observation that male monkeys exhibit preferences that differ from female monkeys, or that female monkeys may have a preference for red. It doesn’t conflict with the idea that this preference results from evolution. But it reduces the relevance of those ideas for explaining human behavior–which, indeed, I understand the experimenters were trying to do.

  54. 54
    J. Squid says:

    3) We find it implausible to conclude that these differences in monkeys (attraction to a cookpot) arise from culture (nurture).

    Why do you find it implausible? What evidence backs up your assertion that it’s implausible? This is a terrible way to do science.

    “We note that nobody.really is attracted to monkeys while his wife is not. I find it implausible that these differences arise from culture.”

    The way you summarize what you understand from the study makes the study out to be fatally flawed.

  55. 55
    Harlequin says:

    I’ll leave the questions of interpretation to the rest of the able commenters here, but I can address the math part:

    Also, Chris’s analysis provides a table of the experimental results. To me, the RED PAN columns look like 18 for males and 28 for females. If so, the female column exceeds the male column more than 50%. How much disparity should we require before we conclude that we have found a disparate result?

    When you have small numbers of things, you get statistical uncertainty just from the counting. (Think of it like counting raindrops that hit a square inch of concrete. You might get 3 in one 10-second period in light rain, then 5 in the next, then 3 again–it probably didn’t rain 67% more in the middle 10 seconds, you just by chance had more raindrops there.) The rule of thumb is that the uncertainty on a count of something is about the square root of the number of counts. So for 18 observations, I would assume there is uncertainty of plus or minus about 4. And remember there’s also uncertainty on the 28–around 5. (That’s bigger in an absolute sense, but smaller as a percentage of 28.) And the approximate uncertainty on the difference between two numbers is going to be the square root of their sum–in this case, around 7. Finding a difference of 10 plus or minus 7…it’s not nothing (you could have also seen something like 4 plus or minus 7, after all!) but it’s not very strong evidence.

    If, on the other hand, the counts had been 180 and 280, the expected uncertainty on the difference is only about 21 on a difference of 100. Of course, if we had 10 times as many observations, we don’t know if the relative numbers would remain close or get further away: we don’t know right now if the not-very-significant difference is not very significant due to lack of statistics or to lack of a large effect size. (And when you get more and more counts, other things besides the statistical uncertainty start to matter–like various sorts of bias–so the uncertainty may not decrease as fast as that. Also there are better statistical tests than [size of the difference]/[uncertainty of the difference]! But anyway.)

    Note: if there are actual statistical uncertainties given in the measurement, you should use those instead of the square root rule-of-thumb. There are lots of other possible sources of error besides statistical noise. And of course this doesn’t apply to other statistical quantities (like the average of something). But if you have a count of observations, and no estimate of the uncertainty, the square root rule-of-thumb can be very helpful. And it can also tell you approximately what will happen if you change an experiment–for example, if you wanted to decrease your margin of uncertainty by a factor of 3, you can guess you’d need about 9x the number of subjects, assuming the uncertainty was mostly statistical. And that does apply to stuff like averages as well as counts.

  56. 56
    Mandolin says:

    People have an extremely strong desire to find simplified biological explanations for gender differences. This means that people are more credible about the results even when the studies are badly designed.

    There have been studies trying to confirm that pink for girls is a biological fact, when we can actually trace it back to a relatively recent social tradition. Those studies still get funding and discussion — even though the counterevidence is obvious, both historical and globally.

    Somehow, I think it’s interesting that we get a lot more people checking to see what the behavior of *other primates* is before they even look at the behavior of *other humans.* I mean, I don’t find it that interesting, it’s a combination of (at least) racism, scientific funding models, and the segregation of disciplines. But it’s always been disappointing when the BBC reports some finding as “oo look we proved something is biologically true for all humans by testing some people from the UK and —also— France!” And it remains disappointing that the quality of scientific literacy in reporting has not improved.

  57. 57
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    People have an extremely strong desire to find simplified biological explanations for gender differences.

    In fairness, these explanations are often provided as an alternative to simplified or unsupported narratives from those who take an opposing view. I’ve never met the person who claims that differences in behavior between the genders are 100% nature rather than nurture, but I’ve been taught in a university class room that the opposite is true, with more certainty than you’d find in a book by Geoffrey Miller.

    Somehow, I think it’s interesting that we get a lot more people checking to see what the behavior of *other primates* is before they even look at the behavior of *other humans.* I mean, I don’t find it that interesting, it’s a combination of (at least) racism, scientific funding models, and the segregation of disciplines.

    This is wildly uncharitable on every level.

    Those who study sex/gender differences do look to humans, it’s just that running randomized controlled studies on humans where we deprive them of culture isn’t a thing we can do, but you know that. Almost everyone who’s into this sort of thing can and will name-drop Simon Baron-Cohen. Almost everyone who believes that the “nature” side of this debate is undersold can and will point to the wildly disparate levels of violence committed by the two sexes across space and time.

    I’m curious how you think an appeal to ape behavior is racist or motivated by racism. I don’t see how that follows at all. It’s just obvious to me that such an appeal is meant to shape default assumptions- if every ape (you can almost substitute animal for ape here) on earth shows sexually dimorphic behavior, we shouldn’t just assume that humans wouldn’t do the same, but for social constructions.

  58. 58
    nobody.really says:

    [I]f every ape (you can almost substitute animal for ape here) on earth shows sexually dimorphic behavior, we shouldn’t just assume that humans wouldn’t do the same, but for social constructions.

    I think the monkey experiments sounded cool, and it disappoints me that we didn’t see more of them, fixing the admitted problems that arose in the originals. I surmise these studies cost a lot. But I also surmise that these studies provoke controversy–and that may impede the ability to get them done.

    But I found other impediments as well. Alas, having submitted my grant proposal to demonstrate that female fruit flies tend to land on cook pots whereas males tend to land on toy police cars, I got rejected. It turns out that the feds still ban research on pot….

  59. 59
    J. Squid says:

    I’m curious how you think an appeal to ape behavior is racist or motivated by racism.

    Who said that?

    ETA: I see what I missed now.

  60. 60
    Ampersand says:

    I surmise these studies cost a lot.

    It’s possible that other studies failed to replicate the results, and were not published. (Journals have a well-documented bias towards publishing positive results.)

  61. 61
    nobody.really says:

    It’s possible that other studies failed to replicate the results, and were not published. (Journals have a well-documented bias towards publishing positive results.)

    A fair consideration generally. A journal might not express interest in publishing the first monkey study if it found no correlation. But once someone publishes a study that DOES purport to find a correlation, I’d guess that plenty of journals would express interest in publishing a contrary finding–probably more interest than in publishing a study that merely confirms the prior study.

    That said, I have no special knowledge about academic journals, so consider that a spitball….

  62. 62
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Who said that?

    ETA: I see what I missed now.

    I owe you like 8 misreadings before I’m allowed to get mad.

  63. 63
    J. Squid says:

    I owe you like 8 misreadings before I’m allowed to get mad.

    I may disagree with you on nearly everything and find many of your positions to be loathsome, but I cannot say that you are unkind or impolite. That’s super rare and better than I can do.

  64. 64
    Mandolin says:

    Copy/pasting from IM with Ampersand because if I decide to clean it up, I’ll just not bother and not post it.:

    like. studying gorillas is great and all

    but the better subjects of study are people! and they dont do even basics.

    if they want to know whether or not there’s a plasticity constraint on which toys small girls want to play with, then they can’t just generalize from our culture, check some monkeys, and assume significance. You have to check first to see whether there is evidence that humans actually show a plasticity constraint THEMSELVES. It’s prohibitively expensive to go check every culture personally, and there’s no way to travel back in time, but there are ways to check to see what people in other places and at other times do. So, if you want to know if girls are constrained to use these toys, then the first step is to look to see whether, over time and space, there is evidence that supports the idea of a constraint. If you find that it’s cross-culturally idiosyncratic, then you have an answer — it’s almost certainly not constrained. (it’s still possible that it is constrained, and for some reason it’s more common for cultures to break that constraint than to work within it, but you’d want to have some reason to pursue that line of thought.) If you find it is pervasive, or at least dominant, then you have reason to go check a bit more. How far back does this constraint go? Does our information come largely from post-colonial, post-contact data? Etc.

    It drives me up the wall that people don’t even check the first step before swooping to apes. There are a number of reasons that this occurs. On a systemic level, these include: racism (the embedded assumption that apes are an equal or better reflection of human behavior than other humans), separation of disciplines (meaning that the ev-psych people aren’t talking to the people who have access to the information they should be checking), denigration of the humanities (preference for controlled experiments of small populations of non-humans over ongoing observation of humans), and resources (it takes a lot of time and effort to go diligently through other fields of research when the salient information has not already been collected into one body).

    There appears to be an assumption that human minus culture equals primate. I say primate because in the case of the vervet monkey studies, we are actually privileging animals that are significantly further away from us, evolutionarily speaking. Usually, the exemplar of this attitude is that human minus culture equals chimpanzee. There are problems with this formulation.

    First, we’re not that related to chimpanzees. People confuse genetic similarities and evolutionary timeline proximity with immediate temporal and biological closeness, which is not accurate. Of other animals, we are super related to chimpanzees. Over evolutionary timescales, we are super related to chimpanzees. But evolutionary time scales are really, really long. And they’ve produced vast changes in abilities and behavior by the standards of the kinds of fine-grained behaviors we’re discussing. I think the cultural substrata for the belief that “human minus culture equals primate” come from an incorrect understanding of evolution as a modernist march into the future, paired with an incorrect understanding that we “grew out of” other extant primates. This isn’t true; they’re cousins, not uncles. This is not to say that chimpanzee behavior is irrelevant to the behavior of humans! It’s relevant! But they are NOT so related to us that their behavior should be considered a greater indicator of our biology than that of other humans.

    Anyway, what happens when you have various ape groups that actually have different ways of handling their issues? There are a number of studies on things like rape, hierarchy and aggression which follows chimpanzee groups. Cool — but why are we looking at that instead of bonobos? Also, while it’s unclear to what extent chimpanzees have culture, we do see cultural differences move through the groups, including greater or lesser aggression and spreading of tool (ish) use. This is not to get into the problems of suggestibility which are raised when experimenters work with animals they assume aren’t malleable, but I’ll leave that down to actual experimental methodology, and something theoretically fixable.

    So, OK, let’s go back. We’ve got this theory about how juvenile female primates prefer toys they can “anthropomorphize” as infants. First, we observed it in our culture by doing something like looking at toy sales.

    Our next step should be checking to see whether this behavior is persistent enough to be a biological traits. (Revise above to “female primates relative to males”) Let’s start with the easy hanging fruits. If you look back at the most sold materials for as long as we’ve been record keeping in America, has it stayed true?
    Do you get the same when you flip over to looking at sales records from France?

    Look at some other cultures. Are sales rates the same in SubSaharan Africa?
    Where do you see changes in these rates? Nowhere? Or sometimes?

    Let’s say you get a strong correspondence, but not a universal one. It’s fairly hard to find universal human behaviors. So you take it to the vervet monkeys, and you say “hey vervet monkeys do you want to play with hollow things that you can put over fires to increase the temperature of raw food.” And let’s say the female vervet monkeys are like “oh hell yeah those things are awesome” while the males are like “ew no YOU make ME a sandwhich,” in significant enough measures to be statistically convincing

    Depending on how strong the behavior is among humans — present, past, and globally — your next step might vary. But I basically never see anyone do it at all. If you want to see if your culture demonstrates biologically constrained behavior, but a differing culture has moved outside those constraints, it makes sense to test the monkeys to see how they react to the other culture’s formula. If this culture associates female children with white, wearable toys — what happens when you check to see if the monkeys like those things? And what does that mean about us if they do? What does it mean about the validity of the data? What does it suggest about possible researcher influence on the subjects?

    If you’ve got strong statistical human bias across SIGNIFICANT PORTIONS OF HUMAN POPULATIONS POPULATIONS, and strong statistical bias among related apes as well, then you have probably identified a plasticity constraint. But the first bit matters more than the second.

  65. 65
    lurker23 says:

    mandolin i do not think you are right?

    you are talking about ‘girls like pink’ which is not true of course there is nothing in genes or hormones to make girls like pink and not green. but the science people who know about alot of the differences are not now thinking about whether girls like pink or green,. they are thinking about whether girls and boys are different. and when you ask the question like that so it can be answered in good sense then the answer is of course yes.

    we know that alot of men and alot of women are different in alot of ways, and of course the same in alot of ways but i am talking about the difference. most men and most women have different genes, different brains, different bones, different muscles, different hormones, and alot of other things.

    we look at primates or dogs or fish and see that when you have a lot of differences in alot of things you also look like you have alot of difference in how animals are. if you want to say that things which have really alot of differences are going to be the same and act the same then it is your thing to prive not the other way around.

    and how people are has alot to do with alot of stuff (and alot of stuff we do not know) but we know that there are alot of things not the same!! like this important one in the brain.
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hope-relationships/201402/brain-differences-between-genders

    anyway if you say you need to do human plastic studies to see what color girls like, green or pink, maybe that makes sense i guess but i do not think alot of serious people care what color it is or think green or pink is genetic.

    if you say you need human plastic study before you will agree that is true that boys and girls think differently about alot of things, that does not make sense.

  66. 66
    Harlequin says:

    Lurker, I am deeply sorry to inform you that trying to show that girls prefer pink because evolution is the topic of actual peer-reviewed literature. (I am not going to comment on the quality of the study because I don’t have enough time at the moment to do that well–just pointing out that it exists.)

    There are measurable differences between cis men and cis women. It is very, very difficult to tell what of that is nature and what nurture. It’s also worth mentioning that they are statistical differences, usually with a high degree of overlap (in studies that show differences in mean math IQ–and not all do–the difference in the mean is 1-2 IQ points, when a typical difference between any two random people is 15 points). And that, while there are–say–many structures in the brain that show statistical gender differences, essentially nobody has 100% “female” or 100% “male” markers.

    I’m reminded in these conversations of Asimov’s classic essay on the relativity of wrong. It is true that there are natural differences between cis men and cis women. But in terms of how large that difference is, you will almost always be closer to the truth if you assume there’s no difference at all than if you assume there’s a difference as big as average height or average testosterone/estrogen levels–since those three things are among the largest differences we know. Both answers are wrong, but one of them is wrong-er.

  67. 67
    Harlequin says:

    Which is to say, Mandolin is right that these studies are not typically trying to answer a general “boys and girls are different” question, but rather are attempting to explain specific differences. And in any case, yes, we should be studying humans to understand humans!

  68. 68
    nobody.really says:

    Freedom is diminished daily; the excesses of reaction and repression become larger and bolder; the unthinkable glows forth on our television screens each night, and the unspeakable flows glibly from the mouths of high government officials. Scores of… young black militants have been murdered, and hundreds more have been wounded and jailed. In Washington, the words “preventive detention” are no dirtier than equivalent phrases in Berlin were in 1936; resistance to desegregation is being openly led by the country’s chief legal official; and the President of the United States seems not the least bit ashamed to nominate to the Supreme Court a man who appears to be a bigot and racist. Every week brings a new piece of bad news as the courts become more outrageously political, the police more blatantly violent.

    In what year was that written? (No fair googling.)

  69. 69
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Harlequin, it’s true that mean differences between populations are often small, including among the sexes, but these differences will be more pronounced at the tails even if the tails are thick, and sometimes the tails are what we care about. Men only have to be a little more aggressive than woman to be drastically over-represented among violent criminal offenders.

    I know you know this, probably way better than I do. This is such a basic statistical concept, but it’s strange how often I encounter smart people with no conception of this at all, but it matters! Here’s an example of a subject matter expert who wrote an article for layman that omits this consideration: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/making-evil/201902/why-are-we-not-outraged-prisons-are-filled-men

    It’s a bad article for many reasons, but I can’t believe how quickly the author dismisses testosterone’s small correlation with risk-taking and competitiveness, the differences don’t have to be large, and the population differences probably aren’t mono-causal.

    Every time there is an article about gender/sex and athletics I see the exact same mistake. I don’t think Parker Molloy is ignorant, but why doesn’t she grock this? Is she surprised when she walks around an American city and everyone she sees over 6’2″ is male, even though the height distributions of males and females overlap significantly?

    As a bit of an aside, I also wonder how to talk about this sort of thing when the effects of our “nature” become part of our “environment.” I never got around to reading The Extended Phenotype, but it seems to me that certain behaviors will be shaped by genes, even if the individual performing a behavior isn’t genetically predisposed to do so, but must in an environment shaped by the genes of others. (an example might be a low-aggression lion who finds himself in a population that is suddenly more predisposed toward aggression, and now engages in aggessive behavior himself as a response) The Nature/Nurture dichotomy breaks down there, doesn’t it? I imagine one could push this so hard as to obliterate any distinction at all between nature and nurture if they wanted to, after all, maybe we’re all just passengers on a ride called “physics,” and even my typing this is a pre-ordained natural response to an unending chain of natural responses, free will is a lie and all that :)

  70. 70
    Petar says:

    Too easy.

    “Young black militants have been murdered, and hundreds more have been wounded or jailed” – very late 60s or very early 70s. Definitely the Nixon presidency.

  71. In 1991, an anthropologist named David Gilmore wrote a book called Manhood in the Making, which was “the first cross-cultural study of manhood as an achieved status.” He found that those cultures in which male violence was valorized in any way tended to be those which had very strong cultural scripts requiring boys to achieve manhood status, often through rites of passage that are themselves quite violent and often dangerous. Those cultures that did not have these kinds of scripts not only did not valorize male violence in the same way and to the same degree—and not only did not shame boys who did not live up to what we might call traditional standards of manhood—but also did not have the same levels of male violence period.

    I thought about this book reading Mandolin’s comment, but also in reading the piece in Quillette that criticizes the Psychology Today article to which Jeffrey linked above. In the Quillette piece, the author, Alex Mackiel, writes this:

    Shaw’s socio-cultural explanation implies that all human societies socialize boys and girls in the same way, resulting in the consistent sex difference in rates of violence that we see across human societies and cultures. This is deeply unlikely, given that societies across the world vary immensely in their socio-cultural attitudes and arrangements.

    Gilmore’s book suggests that there is indeed a great deal of commonality in the way that different human societies—different along all sorts of axes—socialize boys into becoming men. This excerpt is from the conclusion to his book and at least points in a direction that makes the conversation a good deal more complex than Mackiel and those who agree with him would suggest, not least because Gilmore is not a “nurture purist” in the nature vs nurture debate:

    [W]herever “real” manhood is emphasized, even lightly, and for whatever reasons, three moral injunctions seem to come repeatedly into focus. This imperative triad occurs to varying degrees but is common enough to suggest that manhood is a response to specific structural and psychological deficits…To be a man in most of the societies we have looked at, one must impregnate woman, protect dependents from danger, and provision kith and kin…”Real” men are expected to tame nature in order to recreate and bolster the basic kinship units of society; that is, to reinvent and perpetuate the social order by will, to create something of value from nothing.

    In most societies, the three male imperatives are either dangerous or highly competitive. They place men at risk on the battlefield, in the hunt, or in confrontation with their fellows. Because of the universal urge to flee from danger, we may regard “real” manhood as an inducement for high performance in the social struggle for scarce resources. a code of conduct that advances collective interests by overcoming inhibitions. In fulfilling their obligations, men stand to lose—a hovering threat that separates them from women and boys. They stand to lose their reputations of their lives; yet their prescribed tasks must be done if the group is to survive and prosper. Because boys must steel themselves to enter into such struggles, they must be prepared by various sorts of tempering and toughening. To be men, most of all, they must accept the fact that they are expendable. This acceptance of expendability constitutes the basis of the manly pose everywhere it is encountered; yet simple acquiescence will not do. To be socially meaningful, the decision for manhood must be characterized by enthusiasm combined with stoic resolve of perhaps “grace.” It must show a public demonstration of positive choice, of jubilation even in pain, for it represents a moral commitment to defend society and its core values against all odds. So manhood is the defeat of a childish narcissism that is not only different from the adult role but antithetical to it.

  72. 72
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I don’t know how anyone could doubt that culture and violence are linked, and that much can be done to shift cultural norms and reduce male violence. I argue this all time- I think culture norms and their links to desirable outcomes are under-discussed. There’s a whole ton of studies that support this hypothesis from all kinds of angles. I imagine most well-read academics know this, so I think it’s unfair to assume that Mackiel fails to appreciate the complexity, given that he’s interested in why violence has been declining around the world- a question whose answer certainly falls on the “nurture” side of the nature/nurture divide given the rate of progress. Without a doubt, his presentation is less simplistic than the article he’s responding to, as well as many others like it found all over the web and major newspapers.

    What’s really unfortunate about that Quillette piece is the title, “Socialization Isn’t Responsible for Greater Male Violence”. It’s really bad. What’s the baseline against which we’d measure whether or not socialization is causing violence? One way of reading that title is to assume that the entire male/female violence gap is attributable to genes. But we all know the gaps differ across time and space, and sometimes the gaps differ greatly across a single decade- evolutionary biologists can’t explain that. A more charitable reading goes like this: “the way we socialize men today decreases violence compared to some default- perhaps how ancient hunter gatherers did or something” (I know authors don’t always choose titles, but if this author did, I have to assume this is what he means). I’m not a fan of either interpretation. I’m not sure that my more charitable reading makes any sense, given that all humans for as far back as we could possibly look were socialized. I imagine our evolutionary ancestors were socialized right after birth just like us. No humans outside of children-raised-by-wolves have been raised without socialization. Even if we socialize people to commit less acts of violence, it’s not unreasonable to think we could do even better than we are now, so it could be said that a portion of male violence is caused by socializing, even in a society that has closed the male/female violence gap more than any other. Really bad title.

  73. 73
    Mandolin says:

    FWIW, things I think are fairly basal instinctual behaviors, on a species level:

    *strong natural instinct toward/obsession with fairness and identifying cheaters (useful social adaptation)

    *strong likelihood of beliefs westerners would probably interpret as having a religious or spiritual aspect — which, whether real or not, operate through anthropomorphization and pattern-matching (the anthropomorphization may be true if the religion is true, but I think it still involves a desire to find and communicate with other aware things; pattern-matching is how we learn things so presumably aslo how one would apprehend what we consider spiritual or magical as well.)

    *anthropomorphization – helping us model other people

    *pattern-matching – increases problem solving abilities and adaptability to various tasks and environment

    *ritual development around food and sex – I have no idea why everyone does this, but everyone does this. (As far as I know.) It’s either biological or — I suspect — just practical. We all need to eat and have sex, and we end up making fancy stuff around it, because we enjoy making fancy stuff.

    *innovative cuisine — because we’re omnivores and get bored

    *adaptation around pregnancy – These adaptations don’t have to be genetically mandated, but they do have to exist; it is the case in all human societies that about half the people get pregnant and about half the people don’t. Pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing are intensive, physically demanding tasks that alter the body — and they just take a lot of time and fuss. I honestly believe most differentiation in sex roles (and particularly division of labor) originates with this, and that it is a core of many common threads between social gender roles. Changes in family structure therefore create changes in social organization and gender roles because they alter the possibilities and needs. This is somewhere in between biologically determined and not biologically determined.

    *we like stuff — even when you get cultures that ritually get rid of stuff, they’re doing it because stuff is cool and therefore you’re even cooler if you can afford to just get rid of cool things

    *we can’t not have cultures even if we try really hard — to culture is to human, to human is to culture; there’s no real such thing as a human without culture — how could you get one? i mean, i know we’re trying to get all the clothes off the barbie dolls to see if they look the same underneath, but in this metaphor a barbie is an impossible theoretical entitity and the clothed dolls are actually physically there.

    *we will seek to have sex – most people will want to have sex, and will seek to do so with a fair amount of rigor even when the circumstances make it difficult.

    *we will love – we will form romantic attachments; we will bond with our families (however we define them) and our communities (as we define them); we will have deep and strong connections with our children.

    *we will be violent – we will always have anger that translates to violence.

    *we will sort the world into us and other – which allows us to form the tight social groups we need, but will forever cause problems.

    but also:

    *we will like neotonous animals – because our parenting instinct isn’t very picky

    *we will invent tools – because when we want something, we find a way to get it

    *we will make art – because our giant brains will play in even scraps of downtime

    *we will make music – because we carry our voices with us*

    (*actually, not sure if this extends into the past. theoretically we must have invented melody at some point. But did people use their voices recreationally to make sounds they liked before that? It seems likely to me. Children do even when they’re too young for language. A squeal isn’t the same as a song, but it’s a shared principle.)

    When I was in school, there was an argument that one of the major traits shared in common in human cultures was an abstract sense of duality or binary opposition. A specific cultural binary might be black versus white, or red versus white, but it still employs opposites as an important tool for breaking down and understanding the world. Dunno if it’s true. If it is, it might be part of what causes us to cut people into us/them — and for that reason, in the U.S., a strong motivation to find out what makes a woman and what makes a man. (I am aware there are arguments this does not pertain to Eastern cultures, but I have not yet found the evidence persuasive, as it’s often presented along with outdated theories about collective societies.)

  74. 74
    Mandolin says:

    I just felt like people were assuming I was a blank slater, which I’m not. (Very few people are in my experience. I think it’s like extreme cultural relativism, a rare species which showed up and disappeared relatively quickly in the middle of the twentieth century.)

  75. 75
    Mandolin says:

    Oh, here are another few actually. Again, on the species level.

    We will be obsessed with faces – because other humans are so important to us

    We will gossip – because other humans are so important to us

    We will communicate – because other humans are so important to us

    I also personally believe we will probably also always be creatures of meat, because it is not only the brain which determines human experience, but also the associated systems. At any rate, I believe we will always be affected by our body’s squidgy chemicals, and always experience emotions.

  76. 76
    J. Squid says:

    I just felt like people were assuming I was a blank slater, which I’m not. (Very few people are in my experience. I think it’s like extreme cultural relativism, a rare species which showed up and disappeared relatively quickly in the middle of the twentieth century.)

    I kind of am. My position is interpreted as such, anyway. I have my reasons, though.

  77. 77
    Mandolin says:

    Huh. Totally blank slate? I mean, I guess I feel like as long as you even have something as basic as a proposed sex drive, the brain can’t be a blank slate. It’s a slate that has the goal of having sex. Or more basally, a slate that has the goal of continuing to be alive.

    I feel like if we acknowledge biological drives, even ones that are considered very basic like eating and having sex, by the time you’ve got an interaction of those motives, you have a slate that has a fair amount of writing on it.

    (I think physical reflexes like nursing are generally considered compatible with blank slate theory, though I confess I don’t know why.)

  78. 78
    J. Squid says:

    I mean, I guess I feel like as long as you even have something as basic as a proposed sex drive, the brain can’t be a blank slate.

    I don’t think anybody thinks that there are no biological drives (like survival instinct, for example). I’ve never heard blank slate defined like this.

    I think of blank slate (and it seems like every place I’ve seen it discussed does, too) as, “We are all, basically, the same. The big driver of differences between people is socialization.” But maybe I’ve misunderstood all this time.

  79. 79
    Ampersand says:

    Here’s a quote from Steven Pinker’s book The Blank Slate. Pinker, at least, seems to be arguing that blank staters believe that humans are born without any biological instincts. (I think a lot of Pinker’s work is a giant strawman).

    Or so it seems to me. If people think I’m reading Pinker unfairly, I’d be interested in knowing that.

    Nonetheless, every society must operate with a theory of human nature, and our intellectual mainstream is committed to another one. The theory is seldom articulated or overtly embraced, but it lies at the heart of a vast number of beliefs and policies. Bertrand Russell wrote, “Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day.” For intellectuals today, many of those convictions are about psychology and social relations. I will refer to those convictions as the Blank Slate: the idea that the human mind has no inherent structure and can be inscribed at will by society or ourselves.

    That theory of human nature-namely, that it barely exists-is the topic of this book. Just as religions contain a theory of human nature, so theories of human nature take on some of the functions of religion, and the Blank Slate has become the secular religion of modern intellectual life. It is seen as a source of values, so the fact that it is based on a miracle-a complex mind arising out of nothing-is not held against it.

  80. 80
    Mandolin says:

    That’s not a blank slate, if you just th8nk all humans come preloaded the same way. I think there has been considerable attempt to muddy the water on the definitions for political convenience. Which is to say, i am pretty sure the idea that that’s a blank slate belief stems from a characterization of it as such by opponents who are trying to connect the two so that since a blank slate isn’t true, then the unrelated position which they’re using the same name for must also be untrue.

    However:

    1) I could be wrong.

    2) when people pick up terminology to describe themselves whether it comes from opponents or not, it often shifts the definitions away from the original anyway

  81. 81
    Mandolin says:

    Blank slates are like total cultural relativism. They frequently fail tests they’d need to pass if they were true rules (sex drive/ don’t randomly murder people in your community) while still, taken outside absolutist form, being useful constructs for considering aspects of many situations.

  82. 82
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Amp, I think you are reading Pinker unfairly. Have you read that book cover to cover?

    The “blank slate” ideology is sort of an ideal, no one can believe in it completely because it’s obviously ridiculous in a Darwinian world, but it does push people towards certain unfounded beliefs. Religion is like that. It’s getting harder to accept Genesis and deny evolution or a 4.5 billion year old earth, but many other beliefs, like that Jesus is literally the son of god still persist because people want them to. For some, it is a moral question whether or not certain inquiries into the truth of, say sex differences, is acceptable, and people like myself and Pinker think that these people have it backwards. One’s moral positions depend on what’s true.

    The Blank Slate explores some of the ideas that persist concerning the malleability of the human mind and body, as well as group differences. It discusses some of the respected thinkers who push these ideas, and then critiques them. It may strawman your position, but he names names and quotes authority figures and academics while making his case. Do you think you and Pinker mostly agree about sex differences in behavior, for example?

    For me, the reaction to the Damore memo was proof that blank slate ideology is alive and well, and the denial of certain blank slate tenets are tabooed. You want to talk about a straw man, just look at the way his memo was misrepresented in the press and online. Never has a publicly available document been so poorly reported. Maybe it’s the case that the average person is less offended by discussion of sex differences and more offended that these would take place in a corporate setting. I have sympathy for that view, but that doesn’t excuse or explain all the misreporting, or the way Gizmodo stripped the document of it’s graphs and citations, leading many to insist to this day that the memo is un-cited pseudo-scientific speculation by a lay-person. It doesn’t explain the reaction of so many women who code who believe that the damore memo says something about them (it doesn’t and this is obvious for anyone who actually reads it). People saw it as an attack on an important cause that brings meaning to their lives, so it had to be shut down by any means necessary, even if that means failing at one’s job to deliver accurate reporting. If anyone doubts it was widely misreported I can provide tons of links. A good place to start is the memo’s wiki page.

    Another area where blank slate ideology looms large is intelligence. This is too hard of a discussion to have in the comment section of a blog, but reading Stuart Ritchie really opened my eyes to what I now see as the greatest unearned privilege of all, and that’s being born with certain mental abilities related to problem solving. It’s getting harder to deny that as individuals, we aren’t all equal there, and at the same time, problem solving skills related to intelligence are becoming more valuable in the marketplace. This is probably the most under-discussed privilege with the exception of mental health and depression.

    Note: for those who google Stuart J Ritchie, his recent book is title “Intelligence, All that Matters” this is really unfortunate because he definitely doesn’t think intelligence is all that matters, rather, it’s part of a series of “all that matters” books. He laments this on Julia Galef’s podcast, which is a great episode, BTW:
    http://rationallyspeakingpodcast.org/show/rs-210-stuart-ritchie-on-conceptual-objections-to-iq-testing.html

  83. 83
    J. Squid says:

    That’s not a blank slate, if you just th8nk all humans come preloaded the same way.

    Granted that this is Wikipedia and hardly definitive, but…

    Tabula rasa (/ˈtæbjələ ˈrɑːsə, -zə, ˈreɪ-/ “blank slate”) is the theory that individuals are born without built-in mental content and that therefore all knowledge comes from experience or perception.

    and

    Stoic epistemology emphasizes that the mind starts blank, but acquires knowledge as the outside world is impressed upon it.

    I don’t think I understand it the same way you do. But, as always, I could be wrong and my exposures to Blank Slate theory don’t accurately represent it.

  84. 84
    Mandolin says:

    Wikipedia is saying the same thing I am; I’m fairly sure about this. tabula rasa means the mind starts blank – totally blank. Preloaded with nothing. Without built in content. All behaviors and knowledge are responsive to the world.

    “We are preloaded with stuff, but it doesn’t vary” is still preloaded. It’s not tabula rasa theory. Again, I’m… I could be wrong, but I did study this.

  85. 85
    Mandolin says:

    In its recent incarnation, tabula rasa theory was an extreme reaction to racism. (So was cultural relativism.) it’s that pendulum swing thing. Social scientists were pushing against “everything is instinctual thus any ‘deficiencies’ shown by other races are immutable” with “nope, no instincts at all.” And “our ways are better than any other races ways” with “nope, nothing is better than anything else.” (Actually “there is no way to determine anything constant about human morality.”)

    And also “they’re savages” becomes “no, they’re *noble* savages.”

    I actually suspect the people arguing for the beliefs knew they were not totally correct on some level – or at least when I was reading stuff, I had the impression that they didn’t act as though the prime directive was a real thing. They were arguing for something like the prime directive though – as a response to a pervasive social environment promoting exploitation and erasure.

    Anthropology was heavily implicated in colonialism. It started as like diversity consultants where anthropologists went in to learn about local systems in order to give colonial rulers information on how to impose rule more firmly. Then anthropology realized it was being an ashhole and in order to move the pendulum, they flung it hard the other way.

    This appears to be a normal part of learning to accept others humanity, at least in a recent western context. It’s why I’m not really worried about media stereotypes about e.g. trans people. It’s normal – and I suspect necessary in our current system – to go from “ew monsters” to “dying angels” before hitting anywhere near “people, they’re just people.”

  86. 86
    Mandolin says:

    (There may well be a pattern to how oppressed groups understand and react to that media portrayal also, but it definitely seems to be affected by cultural winds. E.g. segregation of characters and writers — an insistence on the exclusivity of own voices – comes in and out of fashion. However, the pattern may well be broader than that, and accommodate fashions as an alteration to the expression of the pattern, not a change in the fundamental pattern itself.

    But I dislike insistence on the exclusivity of “own voices” very strongly, so my emotional reaction may get me caught looking at the detail rather than the trend.

    (Own voices rock, and should be encouraged and celebrated and discussed. They aren’t the only possible game in town.)

  87. 87
    J. Squid says:

    Again, I’m… I could be wrong, but I did study this.

    In that case, I’ll defer to your knowledge and experience. It just means I’ll have to find a label for how I think about it at some point.

  88. 88
    Michael says:

    @Jeffrey#82- the issue is that Damore’s writings arguably constitute a hostile work environment under anti discrimination laws. The problem was mainly Google’s fault. They allowed discussions of politics on their internal message boards. However, they insisted their policy against a hostile work environment was still in place. By the time Damore wrote his article, people had already written articles arguing against Tibetan independence, for example. Then Damore’s article leaked and people demanded he be fired. A rule that says “You can discuss politics but don’t say anything racist, sexist, etc.”. is a recipe for disaster. Some people won’t realize that it’s OK to write an article against Tibetan independence but not an article like Damore’s because, let’s be honest, offense is subjective. A Tibetan man might be more offended by an anti-Tibetan independence article than Damore’s article. So Google fired Damore. Then, they fired a left-winger named Tim Chevalier to avoid the appearance of bias. Finally, Google instituted a “no politics at work” policy on Thursday:
    https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/8/23/20829430/google-new-community-guidelines-employees-political-speech-internal-debate
    That should prevent future incidents- they should have had that policy all along.

  89. 89
    Harlequin says:

    Harlequin, it’s true that mean differences between populations are often small, including among the sexes, but these differences will be more pronounced at the tails even if the tails are thick, and sometimes the tails are what we care about. Men only have to be a little more aggressive than woman to be drastically over-represented among violent criminal offenders.

    Sure, the tails matter. Although, of course, there are a bunch of other sociological things that matter for those statistics, like how much intentionality and blame we assign to women who do commit such crimes, as well as your comments acknowledging the cultural influences. But in any case, most of the differences we deal with on a daily basis aren’t in the tails, sort of by definition. I mean, I was responding to a comment about preferences for the color pink.

    As for the Damore memo–we’ve discussed it here a number of times and I don’t really want to get into it again but I’m having a bull and a red flag issue here :). Objecting to it is not a guaranteed sign you believe in a blank slate; objecting to it may be a sign that you understand the science he’s talking about so you understand all the ways it is actually wrong (whether or not it is uncited). You can search through the comments here for more discussion of this, or just Google around for rebuttals–there are plenty of good ones. Leaving aside all the research he misrepresents or over-interprets, the most obvious problem is that Damore uses population-level trends about gendered interests to try to explain differences in people who are in the top 1% of math-related ability in the population. You wanna talk tails, there’s a tail for you.

  90. 90
    Ampersand says:

    For me, the reaction to the Damore memo was proof that blank slate ideology is alive and well, and the denial of certain blank slate tenets are tabooed.

    This particular strawman often comes up in this debate – where disagreeing with a particular argument over what the differences are and what they mean (in this case the Damore memo), is taken to be a statement of “blank slate” ideology. It is no such thing. You’re effectively leaping from “humans are not blank slates” to “everything James Damore wrote is inarguably true and if you don’t agree then you’re a blank slater.”

    The memo itself is well criticized here and here (and I’m sure other places). Neither of those articles can be fairly described as endorsing a blank slate ideology. I do think some of the reactions to Damore’s memo were over-the-top, but disagreeing with Damore’s memo – even disagreeing voraciously – in no way requires being a blank slater.

  91. 91
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Guys, I’m not saying that Damore’s memo is right, or that objecting to it is proof that one is a blank slater. My own position is that I suspect he’s partially right, but that I don’t actually know, and neither do the people who think his memo was “psuedo-science.”

    What I’m saying is that the way in which it was objected to in major media outlets was not scientific, rather, the memo was misrepresented again and again and again in the media (do I need to link to these? I will, but I feel like everyone here is likely aware that this happened in major outlets by people who probably call themselves reporters) I admit I’m no longer being charitable when I start assigning motives for these wild misrepresentations, but I think these reporters have essentially tabooed a discussion like the one Damore wanted to have, and I ( Pinker too) have some ideas about why that taboo is so strong.

    Like I just said in my previous comment, I’m OK with the argument that this sort of discussion shouldn’t take place in a workplace (though this does create some problems for those who work in human resources departments and disagree with their more blank-slatist peers). I also think Damore was an idiot to publish such a thing, even if he did attend a diversity seminar ending with a request for feedback, which is supposedly how the memo came to be. I’ve had government jobs with this sort of training, and even when I knew the trainer was saying something outlandish, I understood to keep my mouth shut. I’m aware that these training sessions aren’t effective, the point is to lower an employer’s liability. Damore was a fool to write the memo, no doubt, but the objections to the memo went beyond that and instead attacked the “substance” of the memo as interpreted by a very uncharitable reader. With respect to the intelligence of everyone here, several subject matter experts did agree with the science behind the memo. It’s simply not for any of us to claim he’s got the science “wrong,” rather, he presented scientific evidence that is disputed by some and agreed to by others. We are also free to form our own doubts, but it’s not like his memo was well outside mainstream scientific opinion back by scientific research. He may be wrong. It’s also possible his case was understated.

    Harlequin, I actually think many of the most hot button issues WRT sex differences have to do with people in the tails of distribution. I don’t see many twitter squabbles over gender preference for certain colors. Instead I see arguments over women in tech, violence, suicide, athletics, CEO’s and corporate boards, etc. An exception is women’s pay, but once all variables are controlled for, like hours worked and years experience the difference is smaller, It’s entirely believable that such a small gap is 100% environmental, while this can’t possibly be the case for violent crime.

  92. 92
    Ampersand says:

    What I’m saying is that the way in which it was objected to in major media outlets was not scientific, rather, the memo was misrepresented again and again and again in the media (do I need to link to these? I will, but I feel like everyone here is likely aware that this happened in major outlets by people who probably call themselves reporters)

    It would be helpful if you did. (ETA: I’m asking you to link to dozens of articles! But just one from a major mainstream outlet that you think is typical of the articles you’re talking about.)

    And could you also clarify this: Are the stories you’re referring to

    1) presented as straight news stories, rather than opinion pieces, and

    2) representative of how Damore’s memo was generally reported on in major mainstream media outlets (like, say, the New York Times and the Washington Post)?

    Regarding the memo, it includes unsupported and dubious claims made as if they were facts, and shows a generally right-wing bias, as in the use of the phrase “PC authoritarians” and in this ridiculous false equivilency:

    Just as some on the Right deny science that runs counter to the “God > humans > environment” hierarchy (e.g., evolution and climate change), the Left tends to deny science concerning biological differences between people (e.g., IQ8 and sex differences).

    Back to Jeffrey’s comment:

    “… several subject matter experts did agree with the science behind the memo.”

    Is there a subject matter expert who defended Damore treating studies of average differences among men and women generally as if they could say anything at all about the population of Google employees?

  93. 93
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Amp, I’ll link to some stuff. This kind of thing is always hard- these lists always feel cherry picked, because they literally are. Here goes

    NYT I don’t know about and can’t check, their paywall is stronger than ever, and I prefer WAPO anyway since I live there. I think WAPO got it right in their news section but was also late to report on it. The Damore story moved pretty fast over social media networks, mostly because it was such a perfect distillation of the culture war, So the story picked up steam through outlets like Vox, post-gawker-media, and Vice Media’s Motherboard who kept calling it an anti-diversity manifesto. The memo was presented to the public first through Vox/recode and Gizmodo. Both these sites deleted all graphs and all citations without comment. That’s inexcusable, especially since almost everyone who clicked on those articles and then read the memo are unlikely to read the memo again. I mean who would read it twice? It’s not that good. To me this was the very worst of all misrepresentations because it’s so sneaky.

    The short Vox recode piece that broke this story by Kara Swisher: https://www.vox.com/2017/8/5/16102476/google-diversity-vp-employee-memo

    A quote:

    It’s not an easy line to walk. The employee — whom I am not naming since he seems to be the subject of threats online — penned a piece he sent across the company that said, among other things, that women just can’t do tech.

    No he didn’t say that. What drives a person to write that sentence? Anyone who feels so strongly about a topic that they can’t write read with the slightest amount of charity needs to be reassigned to another project.

    Then there was the oft used descriptor “sexist/anti-diversity screed.” That’s just not true by any fair reading of the memo. Some examples of that can be found a this NRO link: https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/08/google-engineer-diversity-memo-misrepresented-mainstream-media/

    But my argument doesn’t depend on that media depictions exist only as objective reporting. Opinion journalists who misrepresented the essay are showing a bias toward blank slatism, too, which is actually the thing I care about. I mean, check out this ridiculous Slate article: https://slate.com/technology/2017/08/google-was-right-to-fire-the-memo-writer.html

    An editor was like “yup, this is good.” Here is one quote, but there are more:

    Firing an employee who made it clear he felt many of his co-workers were inferior was the right move, and it says something about what Google wants to be as a company.

    Both clauses are painfully wrong. I don’t think this author has poor reading comprehension skills, so I’m left to wonder, why did she write these words?

    Many American’s watch cable news (sigh), so it would be weird to stick to print journalism. Here’s a youtube video of a CNN panel, all journalists. The anchor at one point says “He’s essentialy saying he doesn’t want women anywhere near a computer.” The video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3w-CBCAwfZE

    Vidoes like the above are really easy to find bur not so much when my internet is slow like it is right now. Also, I need to stop wasting time and get back to mudding drywall. So I’ll end with a piece by Conor Friedersdorf echoing my sentiments: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/the-most-common-error-in-coverage-of-the-google-memo/536181/

    Actually, one more example, and this time, it’s… YOU (Read that in Dave Chappelle’s Sticks and Stones voice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MZZ__5F_-A )

    Is there a subject matter expert who defended Damore treating studies of average differences among men and women generally as if they could say anything at all about the population of Google employees?

    But Damore’s memo says nothing about the people currently working at google. Thinking it does is a misrepresentation, and a common one of the exact kind I’m talking about. His argument is about the general population and what it looks like, and why such a population isn’t likely to be mirrored at a place like google, so it shouldn’t be used as a measuring stick like it is now. Picture this: I write a memo about sprinters around the world and about how they disproportionately have West African ancestry- but that’s not a sign of discrimination because studies show that on average, West Africans are just a bit faster than other populations over 100m. I include some studies. Some weird white power group who are really invested in the idea that it can’t possibly be the case that white people are a tiny bit slower say “Hey, look these white Sprinters at the NCAA level?” (if only they could make this claim at the international level, or even at the finals or semifnals of an olympic event, but alas, they have no data points there) “Are you saying these white athletes are slow and unworthy of their college scholarships? Your studies say nothing about the population of sprinters and how whte sprinters perform”

    Obviously my stupid short story isn’t perfect, after all, there is no evidence that white people are discriminated against when it comes to joining a track team, while there is evidence that women are discriminated in tech and almost everywhere else too. But we’re free to do thought experiments, and it could have been the case that the reverse was true. Perhaps people of Dutch Descent are just a bit faster, and every Olympics is dominated by Athletes from the Netherlands and Pennsylvania. In such a situation, my (now revised) memo is just as valid a piece of evidence, whether it includes studies of the population of actual world class sprinters or not. In this thought experiment, a reasonable person might come away saying something like this: “It’s entirely plausible that Jeff’s memo explains part of the disparity between Dutch and non-Dutch people in competitive sprinting events, but we should probably not disregard the possible that others, especially from marginalized groups are being discriminated against and that this too, contributes to the disparity. Maybe lets keep both these things in mind when creating diversity goals” Basically, what Damore said in his memo.

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