May 4, 2010

"Harvard Law students are not in the 'pursuit of truth.' They’re not scientists. They’re not researchers."

"They’re law students and legal academics. I presume that everyone there is manifestly unqualified to evaluate the scientific evidence one way or the other. It’s rebuttable. If they show me their scientific creds, I’ll listen. Until then, STFU."

So says a commenter over at Volokh, provoking are great response from Volokh:
Now if these comments just complained about people who write definitive-sounding op-eds or blog posts about subjects they know nothing about, I wouldn’t be responding to it here. But of course the author of the e-mail wasn’t writing an op-ed aimed at persuading the public. She was continuing a conversation with a friend. The recommendation is that non-scientists who don’t know much about the subject shouldn’t even discuss it....

[W]hat a narrow, stultifying notion of education that is. Read quietly, on your own, with no discussion with others who are interested in the subject, until you become knowledgeable enough. Only then should you feel authorized to discuss it. Only then will we be “sympathetic” should you be publicly pilloried for your e-mail to a friend that raises the question — because only then could we say that “actual science is being foreclosed” by the condemnation of you.
The law school classroom experience requires students to discuss complicated and sensitive subjects in front of other students. How on earth are we going to be able to do that if the students think there's a terrible risk in saying the wrong thing — or the right thing the wrong way?
The way most people actually educate themselves effectively, it seems to me, is very different. They get interested in a subject. They talk to friends about it. They read some more. They talk some more about their readings, perhaps especially with people who are also learning about the matter. Their friends might help correct their errors. Enlightenment might emerge in a conversation when it didn’t emerge in mere reading.
Yes. Exactly. Human culture emerges as people interact with each other. Life would be very different if it was all about reading and studying. In fact, this is why we value diversity in the classroom, so that different kinds of individuals will converse and react. We will get to a better understanding of things that way.

Now, part of that really is seeing and feeling what makes other people angry. This conversation that is so valuable can't be bland and emotionless. Emotion is a part of reasoning and learning. But what does the group do to itself? What should the law school classroom (or any classroom) be like? There is an ideal level of interaction that includes ease and care in the expression of ideas and the response to what other people are saying. I want students to debate and even argue, to get excited and even angry, but not to the point where the exchange breaks down.

Back to Volokh:
That’s supposed to be one of the joys of intellectual life. It’s supposed to be one of the advantages of life in a university, where you can find classmates who — like you — have intellectual interests beyond your narrow field of study.
My law school, the University of Wisconsin, prides itself on interdisciplinary study. We encourage students (and faculty) to import other fields of study into working within law. We like the cross-fertilization and don't see the academic disciplines walled off from each other (with the walls staunchly guarded by the experts). Do you think law should be aridly academic? Do you think cases should be argued and decided by people who are intensely specialized in the study of legal texts? If you think you do, I don't think you'd keep thinking that if we had a way to run the experiment and see the results.

Back to Volokh:
Some of the people who learn about the subject may end up working on it professionally. People with Ph.D.s in physiology and membrane biophysics might write prominent books on anthropology and geography. Computer programmers who get interested in law, and who spend years talking to their friends about policy questions unrelated to their formal educations, might become lawyers. 
Volokh himself is that computer programmer. Jared Diamond is the biophysicist.

I think the lesson here is that we should want to experience our full humanity and to understand and respect and help each other as full human beings. This is an idea that completely harmonizes with the rejection of racism.

106 comments:

Bob Ellison said...

"Show me your [scientific] papers!"

AllenS said...

As long as political correctness trumps free speech, you never be able to have a reasonable free conversation about race.

Questions for law professors:

1. Define hate speech.

2. Define free speech.

Until law professors can provide those answers... then STFU.

Big Mike said...

Eloquent, Madam Professor, simply eloquent.

Original Mike said...

Jared Diamond is a good argument against his thesis. Diamond should have stuck to biophysics.

vet66 said...

It doesn't appear to me that the Socratic method of discourse (dialectic) is popular among the elitists for about the last 50 years. They have perverted Plato's "master figure" and Socratic method/scientific method into something akin to "I say it so it is so!" Gore is a prime example of this perversion of thought which translates to "It matters not what you think, STFU and do as your instructed."

The main weakness in the elitist position is their insecurity manifesting itself in childish name-calling and hysteria in the face of legitimate disagreement and curious questioning.

It is always interesting when the teacher becomes the student and the student becomes the teacher.

Lem said...

We like the cross-fertilization and don't see the academic disciplines walled off from each other (with the walls staunchly guarded by the experts)

Hint.. More pics of the Meadester planting and landscaping ;)

Cedarford said...

Really good post by Althouse.

SMGalbraith said...

How anyone can disagree with Professors Althouse and Volokh on this will stun me.

Yeah, I better get out the smelling salts. And not visit the charming Brian Leiter's site.

Even more remarkable (again), this was an offhand comment in a private e-mail conversation or exchange that the woman was having.

SMGalbraith said...

Yes, good post Althouse.

Thanks.

ricpic said...

Expertise boils down to the employment of jargon that excludes the layman. Just as the conduct of war should not be left to the generals, determining the conduct of society in every other respect should be left to the generalists.

holdfast said...

To all those scientists, engineers, economists and others without formal credentials in political science, kindly STFU when it comes to politics or international affairs, and just let the credentialed experts run the debate. KTANXBY

Obviously I am kidding, but that would certainly get rid of a lot of pundits. A related observation from my days on campus: I always found that no matter how lefty/anarchist/otherwise crazy, almost all liberal arts students were up at least up for a good debate - they would not agree with my views, but they'd generally listen respectfully and debate the issue. The real fanatics were the hard(ish) science types - biologist and botanists especially - who seemed to have come to politics later in life and did not have the capacity to admit that other views should even be allowed to exist. I don't know if this was because in science one is taught that there actually is a single correct answer to a problem, and they could not grasp that politics and other human interaction was a little more complex, or because their training did not include any debating skills, but some of them were downright scary (especially the year APEC came to campus).

David said...

People fail to recognize that law is fact intensive. As a practicing lawyer, you have to understand many fields that you never studied before. Every field of human endeavor has a legal component, but if you can't understand the underlying activity in relentless detail, you will never be a good lawyer.

Original Mike said...

"Back off, man. I'm a scientist!"

Lincolntf said...

When these gals were all rallying to boot Larry Summers for a similar statement, I bet they never thought they'd be getting the same treatment a few short years later.

Original Mike said...

"They have perverted Plato's "master figure" and Socratic method/scientific method into something akin to "I say it so it is so!" Gore is a prime example ... manifesting itself in childish name-calling and hysteria in the face of legitimate disagreement and curious questioning."

Anyone who wants to see this in action merely needs to visit www.realclimate.com.

george said...

Since when do we value diversity in the classroom? Diversity of skin pigment maybe but not true diversity of opinion or thought... and especially not at the most elite schools.

Celebrim said...

"Jared Diamond is a good argument against his thesis. Diamond should have stuck to biophysics."

Indeed. The more you know about the subjects that he writes about, the dumber Diamond's books seem.

Lem said...

Human culture emerges as people interact with each other.

IMHO No matter what we scientifically discover in the course of research we will still have to choose to treat each other with respect.

I hate to rock the boat but I really fail to see what the fuss is about. I have no fear that we will go back (you are wellcome to try and convince me otherwise)

I mean, I guess I can see what some people wish it was about.. as compelling as a train wreck or an out of control fire.

But the fact remains, we are always going to have to choose how to conduct ourselves and how to treat each other.

So far, we no reason to fear knowledge.

Kirk Parker said...

Original Mike, I'll second that!

h. said...

They aren't statisticians. Harvard law students aren't presumed to be statisticians. Three non-stats people sat around at dinner having a conversation about a topic that they probably don't know a hoot about. Then, when one traitor leaks a follow-up email to the world, a fourth non-stat person who probably also doesn't understand a hoot about the topic in question, declares the debate over because she feels a certain way. Then there's a huge kerfluffle and we're all supposed to talk about something most of us don't know anything about. That would be what I tell me kids "Talking out of your butt". Who is going to go read an introductory stats book or two, look at the numbers, some of the papers on the controversy and generate an informed opinion? Maybe Volokh.

And then lawyers take all this hubris and make more laws that affect all of us.

An IQ test measures how well you do on an IQ test. The results of an IQ test correlate with some things. Yea, rah.

I interpret the STFU to be more driven from "lawyers can quit presuming to know what they need to know about everything".

Susan said...

Read quietly, on your own, with no discussion with others who are interested in the subject, until you become knowledgeable enough. Only then should you feel authorized to discuss it

And even if we agreed with that proposition, my understanding is that she did research on the topic while at Princeton. So she is far more qualified to discuss the subject, in public or private, then the histrionic folks who are pillorying her because they heard somewhere that they're supposed to dislike "The Bell Curve".

oldhoya said...

1) It is natural to expect differences in populations no matter what you measure (e.g. height, weight, IQ, lactose intolerance...)simply because variance is how Mother Nature rolls.
2) Marginal differences in mean group IQ would have no predictive value with respect to individuals and rather marginal policy applications.
3) The demand that mean IQ measures among racial groups must be equal is an ideological imposition on an empirical issue and is unworthy of a professional scholar.
4) The habit of the inference of malice when ideologically demands are not met is behavior unworthy of a professional scholar.
5) The dissemination of an email out of context for the express purpose of mobilizing an ideological attack on an idividual is behavior unworthy of a professional scholar.
6) There are IQ differences among ethnic groups. Not all cultures are equally successful or otherwise equal. Get over it. We try to develop justice and order in an inherently unfair universe. Denial, racial tribalism and the inability to refrain from ideological tantrums is not a viable path.
7) Ms. Minow handled this issue badly and not in a manner that suggests she has the depth and detachment that ought to be required for someone in her position.

Expat(ish) said...

My wife is actually perfectly intellectually qualified and impeccably credentialed (Ph.D in Sociology, top-5 school, published book on statistical analysis of sociological data)(she's smoking hot too)(you may well envy me) to discuss The Bell Curve. She rejects the conclusions on a political/instinctive basis and has some quibbles with their methodology. But she says that the question is thorny and complex and the actual answer is not at all clear because she feels we are not asking the questions in the right way and do not have the right data to analyze.

Under these circumstances, I think any moderately thoughtful person can have a lot to contribute to the conversation.

Personally this is not an interesting question to me, but it seems something people should be able to talk about.

My experience with lefty academics (not Ann, of course) is that they are at their most snooty (and snotty) when they have the weakest positions or when they're simply in reflex land. Ask someone with a PhD in "Library Science" about the Patriot Act. Then ask them about Cuba. etc.....

-XC

orbicularioculi said...

Of course, students should be able to discuss any subject.

However, the politically correct "Speech Codes" of the halls of academe, at Harvard or The University of Wisconsin, prohibit free speech if it "offends the sensibilities" of anyone but Christians, or white heterosexual men.

The Bell Curve by Murray and Herrnstein was castigated by the same group of pseudo-intellectual educrats and young acolytes of ignorance.

The subject of IQ is never discussed in a rational manner and you will never see Charles Murray allowed a platform to discuss his book/s or the research of the last 100 years in psychometrics.

What Harvard is doing is simply ignoring the "elephant in the room" and killing the messenger. The question of Black and White relative "Q" is not a subject fit for academic discourse.

Why? Because they say so, even when they know the truth - all individuals are not created equally in physical, intellectual, or artistic capabilities.

I almost forgot, Larry Summers proved the point when the female tenured talent at Harvard drove him out of his sinecure at Cambridge for his temerity in raising the question of possible intellectual inequalities of men and women in the sciences.

It is proven science that the brains of men and women are not the same, and that men and women are better at some tasks than others. This is just so much BS rolling downhill at Harvard and other colleges and universities.

They don't WANT the truth when it gores their ox of political correctness and the university speech code/s.

MadisonMan said...

Very nice. And Original Mike wins the thread at 9:20.

Inkling said...

It'd perhaps be more accurate to say that law is pre-scientific. It engages in the sorts of debates between people, each asserting authority, that have been common among almost every group throughout history. That's what Althouse is describing.

But what law doesn't do test its view using any scientific, math and controlled experiment-based methodology, even when that would be appropriate. Clashes about facts quickly get reduces, in the context of a courtroom or law journal, into clashes of authority, precisely the situation that existed before modern science. Medicine no longer quotes Galen as an authority. Law still quotes people almost as ancient.

Take witnesses, for instance. Centuries ago, when the use of witnesses under oath developed, people typically lived in small communities where "I saw X do Y," meant an X he'd known for twenty years or more. And even if the person was a stranger, he was a stranger who looked a lot like them and their neighbors. The differences in appearances that lead to identification were ones witnesses were well familiar with making.

Today, we're still using witnesses but not really taking into account the fact that the person identified is likely to be first a total stranger and second someone who's racial makeup and appearance is one they have little experience with discerning differences.

How does that impact the accuracy of witness identification? Who knows. It is not in the interest of either the prosecution or the defense to get at the actual truth. Each wants to retain the option of crediting or discrediting specific witnesses. And to the extent that any debate develops around the topic, it'll pit so-called experts whose research was intended from the start to support one (lucrative) conclusion or another and whose use in a trial has a specific end.

In saying this, I'm not saying that the scientific methodology is always a good way to arrive at the truth or that science as practiced by scientists comes up to the ideal. I'm simply saying that the sorts of thinking taught in law schools and practiced in courtrooms shows little evidence of being influenced by science as it has developed over the last two centuries.

For instance, unlike physicians, lawyers aren't trained to evaluate the statistical quality of research data or to make sense of conflicting results. They're taught to bring in experts who quote research that benefits their client and ignore or criticize contrary data.

And I do realize that there is an important distinction between patients who want their physician to heal them and lawyers, whose clients expect their lawyers to get them off, whatever they may have done. But that doesn't change the fact that, apart from a particular lawyer/client relationship, there's little pursuit of the truth in general and little effort to widely applied truths that in medicine are routinely discovered and universally applied.

William said...

You can argue against this woman's comment, but the comment itself is simply not hate speech. You cannot advance the cause of tolerance by acting in an intolerant way and calling her a racist. Fairness is as fairness does.....Nobody involved in this affairs looks good, but some people look worse.

ricpic said...

2) Marginal differences in mean group IQ would have no predictive value with respect to individuals and rather marginal policy applications.

First of all we're talking about a full standard deviation separating the mean group IQ of blacks and whites. Hardly marginal. I agree that that has no predictive value with respect to individuals. But the effect, were it recognized, on policy applications would be huge. Just one example: how do you most effectively education a predominantly dull normal population? The rote method. But that is presently out of favor because it stifles "creativity" or some such.

kcom said...

"Ask someone with a PhD in 'Library Science' about the Patriot Act. Then ask them about Cuba."

Love it. I wish I knew a library scientist I could ask.

On a side note, what is the most thrilling discovery ever made on a field expedition in Library Science? And who analyzes the data?

roddy said...

Intellectual inquiry has nothing to do with it (although it should as Volokh and Althouse, and dozens of others, have argued.)

What happened at HLS is a function of brand protection.

HLS is the Valhalla of the Liberal/Progressive idea in every sense of the word. As such, complicated and multi-dimensional concepts that have no accessible political answer or remedy (most especially a liberal answer or remedy) like race and its effect upon behavior and intelligence are largely unproductive lines of inquiry.

To the extent those lines of inquiry are forced into the light, the liberal/progressive concern over "feelings," especially those of "outgroups" like Black students, are paramount.

There is no way HLS could stand for a no-holds barred analysis of many of these issues because of the threat it poses to the Liberal comfort zone. Potential students might not like having shibboleths like "The Third Way" and Race frontally attacked.

If the arteries of prestige graduates and enrollees to and from senior US Govt and leading NGOs was constricted, then much of the HLS brand would be at risk.

HLS is surely a fine law school. But if its students, paying nearly $40k annually in tuition get put off their feed enough, then someone has to pay.

And that someone, today, is Stephanie Grace.

Hagar said...

If something someone says does not make sense to you, you should consider the statement suspect, no matter how "eminently qualified" and "authoritative" the speaker might be.

Most things in life are like a Mandelbrot set; the product may look splendiferously complex and colorful, but are based on very simple principles that should be understandable to almost anyone.

So, if something feels wrong to you, go on the assumption that it is wrong, at least in part. OTH, do not assume something is true because it feels right until you have thought it over and slept on it.

Original Mike said...

Diamond's hypothesis that Eurasian cultures dominated the world because Eurasia has an east-west axis has always reminded me of Anne Elk's theory of the brontosauruses.

bagoh20 said...

Rare is the one honestly seeking truth rather than victory. It's a hard discipline that few of us can manage consistently. We have to admit we don't already know the answer in order to find it. That's tough. Yet we jump to one conclusion or the other almost instantly.

I've often thought that ideology helps one to assume the correct path when there is little time to get all the facts, but it's a blunt instrument.

paul a'barge said...

Harvard: where bright young people go to slam the door shut on their minds.

J.R. said...

The value of a university education it so to learn universally. This should lead one to encounter uncomfortable opinion, and facts.

Unfortunately university education has become more technical and less universal. And uncomfortable opinion is suppressed under speech codes.

This evolution is not helpful to society.

LarsPorsena said...

""Ask someone with a PhD in 'Library Science' about the Patriot Act. Then ask them about Cuba."

...and how. You'd get a lot less doctrinaire answer from Hugo Chavez.
Fortunately, the digital age is turning libraries into the vestigial organs of the education system.

Ironclad said...

An excellent post by Ms. Althouse. To slightly expand the field here, the same PC "tolerance" that stifles free expression in this specific case has crept over much of the dialog sphere in other areas. To cite an example - no one can frankly discuss the motivations of someone like Major Hassan of Ft. Hood or the gentleman that was arrested yesterday trying to fly to Dubai without also being called every name in the book (usually starting with the word "Racist"). I despair that by limiting debate, one never identify the real problem in certain issues. And unless you can identify root causes, any corrective action - educational or political - will never truly be effective.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

What you - and this girl at Harvard - are doing offends people, Ann.

So you should be silenced.

You should not be allowed to discuss this or any other issue offensive to black people. You aren't black. So, you are incapable of knowing how offensive it is to discuss certain topics, such as black history.

Certain things should be off-limits to you.

What's important is that someone was offended. That's all that matters. So, clearly, this girl and anyone seeking this banned knowledge has to be silenced so that certain groups aren't needlessly offended.

Isn't this the very stance you took a few days ago when the offended were Muslims? You urged that people shut up so Muslims don't get offended.

Now you rise in defense of clearly racist statements? What she said was racist, wasn't it, Ann? And even if it isn't racist, it did offend some people didn't it, Ann?

Isn't that enough, Ann? To silence others? If their speech offends others it should be silenced, no?

Why in one post do you defend silencing people who "offend" Muslims but in the next post you attempt to defend the white girl who attends Harvard who is offensive to blacks?

Petard. Meet Ann ... re: hoist.

k*thy said...

Well said, bagoh20. As Althouse says, it's something we should want to do do. When I do, it's always a richer experience - better than anything I could have cooked up on my own.

SMGalbraith said...

Before we (we?) get too smug here, let's remember that the political right has it's PC orthodoxy as well.

Granted, a university, above all, should be free of such orthodoxy. Or as free as possible.

But this - suppressing unpopular ideas - is a human failing and not an ideological one.

edutcher said...

This is just another kind of academic snobbery; the soc or statistics majors contending only they can evaluate the data, regardless of anyone else's 'scientific creds'. Any educated person should have a reasonable grounding in the sciences - social and physical - so (s)he can make a reasoned deduction. The commenter is using STFU the same way the government uses, "Trust us, we know what's best", to shut off debate so one side always gets its way. This was the whole point behind 'the science is settled' argument with global warming.

The worst thing that can happen is that the STFU crowd gets their way. Us hoi polloi, history shows, are very often the ones that keep them honest.

Mark said...

My personal opinion is that this issue is so fraught with emotion among leftists, particularly leftist academics because of their unstated belief that IQ = value as a human being. This can be seen in the way that Minnow paraphrased the email stating an openness to the idea that there is a genetic component to IQ that is associated with race to "blacks are inferior". Something similar could be seen in the furor against Sarah Palin for giving birth to a child with Down Syndrome.

I don't know how widespread is my perspective as a Christian and an American that the value of every human being is equal before God and before the law regardless of our differing abilities but I am pretty sure that people on the political left do not share that view.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"I don't know how widespread is my perspective as a Christian and an American that the value of every human being is equal before God and before the law regardless of our differing abilities but I am pretty sure that people on the political left do not share that view."

The left doesn't even pretend to that view. Ann, frankly, doesn't even pretend to that view.

Any group that expresses offense is ipso facto correct to demand we shut the fuck up. That's the prevailing wisdom - as advanced by none other than Ann Althouse just days ago.

Did the Pope help priests sexually rape kids? STFU ... that knowledge is offensive to Catholics.

Did the Jews murder Jesus? STFU. Jews demand we not study the Bible or ask these questions.

Did Mohammed fuck a 12-year-old kid? STFU. Muslims take offense at attempts to study Arab history or even depict their prophet.

Why should white people not have to shut the fuck up when it comes to everything even potentially offensive to a black person?

Why should the Muslims have the power to silence white people (as Ann was urging just days ago) but black people not also have the right to silence white speech they deem "offensive?"

Progressively Defensive said...

I just read the original e-mail and I'm impressed with Crimson DNA; she summarized Charles Murray's very well composed argument in his book(s). There is not an offensive word in it. I think I disagree with her but on scientific grounds, but I think she composed her views eloquently and sensitively. I don't even think she took a firm position but rather indicated her theoretical view (which is all we have) is that there is a genetic component to intelligent which means there is an ethnic component ... as she indicates, pending further study.

I just saw a wonderful PBS narrated by Harrison Ford on E.O. Wilson, now more than ever a member of my pantheon. The show was called Lord of the Ants (I think Dr. Wilson would prefer Dedicated Scholar of the Ants). By that field he created the field of socio-biology. He also incurred the hatred of the same pools of individuals who hate Charles Murray, for far less justification. At one point in the 70s a radical of the sort I leave you to describe more precisely poured ice water on his head when he tried to lecture. He said with stoic resolve and courage that he felt good: he was the only scientist in the 20th century who courageously endured a physical assault for an idea (he did not say this, but generated in good will, in pursuit of scientific discovery, and kindness). If we ever have a Secretary of Grandfatherness in the USA, this is the guy by the way.

former law student said...

The recommendation is that non-scientists who don’t know much about the subject shouldn’t even discuss it

I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that menstruating women are, more often than not, able to sour fermenting wine into vinegar, as no less an authority than Pliny the Elder observed.

I may be full of shit, but this is how we learn and grow. Only by expressing unfounded generalizations denigrating groups other than our own do we develop as a society.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"There is not an offensive word in it."

Offense is in the eye of the beholder.

If I am offended, then you ipso facto have been offensive, and I can therefore shut down your speech.

That is the law these people want enforced.

If I disagree, I can always claim great offense (even better if I threaten violence), and then that itself becomes the proof that what you have said is "violently offensive."

Understand how this works?

It's not about facts.

It's about power and the ability of the left to wield it without needing to have facts at their disposal.

former law student said...

5) The dissemination of an email out of context for the express purpose of mobilizing an ideological attack on an idividual is behavior unworthy of a professional scholar.


So, if I notice your Klan robe and hood in the closet where I'm hanging up my coat, I should just thank you for inviting me, and keep my observations to myself?

Kirby Olson said...

Locke's blank slate is the nurture part, whereas Marx's cultural origins is also the nurture part.

Where does the nature part step in? Darwin.

I think the left has a limited understanding of nature. Marx himself thought that nature could be endlessly tampered with, and changed.

The result was the Aral Sea.

Is Harvard the next Aral Sea?

If you let the wrong people run a great institution or resource -- whether it's the White House or Harvard University -- they can run it right into the ground.

But there are still good people at Harvard -- Mary Ann Glendon is in Law there. And they have some good people in Economics and in Literature, too.

This groundswell seems to have been caused by an emotional earthquake combined with a lynch mob of black students.

I haven't read about any faculty signing on to the lynch mob, as they did at Duke.

The only info I'm getting on this case is through this blog.

former law student said...

1) It is natural to expect differences in populations no matter what you measure (e.g. height, weight, IQ, lactose intolerance...)simply because variance is how Mother Nature rolls.


Certainly women are dumber than men -- their breasts siphon off cells meant for the brain. Therefore the smaller the bra cup, the brighter the woman.

former law student said...

Continuing the theme of differences between human populations: Women are shorter than men, they weigh less (unless obese), their skulls and therefore brains are smaller -- it's obvious that they're less intelligent. Do we even need to discuss it?

AC245 said...

Before we (we?) get too smug here, let's remember that the political right has it's PC orthodoxy as well.

Yes, we should stop paying so much attention to reality and focus instead on some imaginary moral equivalence.

former law student said...

my understanding is that she did research on the topic while at Princeton

My understanding is that Ms. Grace was a sociology major, and knows zip-squat about genetics or biology in general. Scientists call statements like hers "Talking out one's ass."

former law student said...

Ms. Minow handled this issue badly

As damage control efforts go, I thought hers was pretty good.

former law student said...

Something similar could be seen in the furor against Sarah Palin for giving birth to a child with Down Syndrome.

Wow, I missed that furor entirely. Do you have any citations from the MSM?

I remember the furor when Sarah Palin pretended she gave birth to Bristol's child -- the furor died down when Bristol gave birth to her own child later that year.

David R. Graham said...

"I think the lesson here is that we should want to experience our full humanity and to understand and respect and help each other as full human beings. This is an idea that completely harmonizes with the rejection of racism."

Delightful! Classic articulation of classical humanism, showing its existential roots. Reminds me of Nietzsche -- by which I mean a compliment and a reverence (if one thinks badly of Nietzsche, derogates his work or demurs his influence, one doesn't understand Nietzsche and derogates, demurs oneself).

Thanks!

exhelodrvr1 said...

So the accepted line of thought is that every ethnic group has the same average IQ? Even though they lived separately for significant periods of time, under conditions that would have favored different traits, thus tending to weed out at a higher rate those without those traits? Even though there are clearly physiological differences between groups, and the underlying functioning of the brain is physical in nature?

former law student said...

So the accepted line of thought is that every ethnic group has the same average IQ?

Grace said "intelligence," not IQ. If IQ is used as a proxy for intelligence we have to explain how the subnormal Jews of WW I got so much smarter in just a generation. Filleting cultural influences out of IQ tests is just about impossible. The failure of IQ tests to measure intelligence was described a half-century ago, in Hoffmann's The Tyranny of Testing Of course Hoffmann was a mathematician and physicist, not a law student, so his credentials can be impeached.


Even though they lived separately for significant periods of time, under conditions that would have favored different traits, thus tending to weed out at a higher rate those without those traits?

Natural selection favors the less intelligent? That violates Sgt. Stryker's Law: Life is tough, but it's tougher if you're stupid.

Even though there are clearly physiological differences between groups, and the underlying functioning of the brain is physical in nature?

I've already explained how their underlying physiological differences explain why chicks R dumber than us guys. Consider how their brains are bathed in estrogen during adolescence.

Wandering Geologist said...

I object to the commenter commenting on the commenting on of sensitive and complicated subjects. Commenting on sensitive and complicated subjects is a sensitive and complicated subject. Is the commenter a scientific expert on the subject of commenting on sensitive and complicated subjects? No? Then STFU.

exhelodrvr1 said...

FLS,
"Natural selection favors the less intelligent?"
You're still around. That's too small of a control group to make generalizations, though.

Typically, you talk around the question rather than answering it.

Natural selection favors whatever characteristics it takes to survive in a particular environment. Different environments put higher premiuns on different characteristics. And the relatively small groups of people that "started" ethnic groups likely had certain characteristics which would have a higher likelihood of propagating down through their descendents.

former law student said...

"Natural selection favors the less intelligent?"
You're still around.


Good point. Recent research finds an underlying physiological basis explaining why liberals are smarter than conservatives:

Nature Neuroscience 10, 1246 - 1247 (2007)
Published online: 9 September 2007 | doi:10.1038/nn1979


Neurocognitive correlates of liberalism and conservatism
David M Amodio1, John T Jost1, Sarah L Master2 & Cindy M Yee2

Political scientists and psychologists have noted that, on average, conservatives show more structured and persistent cognitive styles, whereas liberals are more responsive to informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty. We tested the hypothesis that these profiles relate to differences in general neurocognitive functioning using event-related potentials, and found that greater liberalism was associated with stronger conflict-related anterior cingulate activity, suggesting greater neurocognitive sensitivity to cues for altering a habitual response pattern.

Top of page
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1.Department of Psychology, New York University, 6 Washington Place, New York, New York 10003, USA.
2.Department of Psychology, 1285 Franz Hall, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA

Which raises the question: does stupidity lead to conservatism? Or does being conservative actually stunt the intellect?

Seven Machos said...

FLS -- I think you are taking a bad position here. We really do want people to feel free to talk out their ass. It's not a bad thing in itself. This woman should be pilloried for being wrong on facts and morals. At the same, I encourage her in the strongest possible terms to say what she wants to say.

SMGalbraith said...

'Yes, we should stop paying so much attention to reality and focus instead on some imaginary moral equivalence.'

Fascinating. I feel a little - just a very little - like the young lady who made what was deemed an inappropriate comment.

How dare I criticize X.

Like I said, mandating orthodox thinking is a human failing, not an ideological one.

No equivalency stated, no weighing of different groups; just an observation on the human condition.

Largo said...

Wandering Geologist said...

I object to the commenter commenting on the commenting on of sensitive and complicated subjects. Commenting on sensitive and complicated subjects is a sensitive and complicated subject. Is the commenter a scientific expert on the subject of commenting on sensitive and complicated subjects? No? Then STFU.


Win!

former law student said...

We really do want people to feel free to talk out their ass.

On the theme of there are no ideas too dumb to be expressed: Althouse may be a wonderfully tolerant professor, but I'm sure she's had a student or two that she wished the earth would just open up and swallow in the middle of class.

Largo said...


Seven Machos said...

FLS -- I think you are taking a bad position here. We really do want people to feel free to talk out their ass. It's not a bad thing in itself. This woman should be pilloried for being wrong on facts and morals. At the same, I encourage her in the strongest possible terms to say what she wants to say.


Ha, yes! And isn't that almost the very definition of sophomoric?

A young student learning to think will make all kinds of unfounded generalizations. It's part of learning how to handle abstractions. They also ill-express themselves, and many are cocky so as to say things that will make their professors role their eyes.

It's a stage of learning they have to go through. And most will grow out of it.

Unfortunately, we are learning from the events of these past few days that many do not. :-(

Largo said...

[Extra comment 'cuz I forgot to check the email followups thingy last time. Please ignore.]

Largo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seven Machos said...

But Largo -- This woman has been besmirched for life. That's not remotely fair.

Seven Machos said...

FLS -- The point here is that you need not be credentialed to speak about something. Down that road is a lot of terribleness.

An example here is all the people who are asking me to cite a study demonstrating that black people as a race have lower IQs. Well, that study doesn't exist because it is impossible to scientifically approach an issue that is so vast and so complicated, and also the entire notion of measuring intelligence with some stick is atrociously barbaric. But the charge sticks for some because, after all, I don't spend my days researching intelligence.

Jane Jacobs was pilloried by the architectural establishment for knowing nothing about architecture.

I could go on and on.

Seven Machos said...

CORRECTION: An example here is all the people who are asking me to cite a study demonstrating that black people as a race DO NOT have lower IQs.

Largo said...

I think you might be misreading me there, Seven. I'm one of the good guys.

Seven Machos said...

Largo -- Probably so. Sorry.

Largo said...

Seven.

I just looked back at my comment and was surprised by it. It really can be read in two diametrically different ways, with about equal ease!

(I didn't even mean to suggest that the student was sophomoric. Just that even sophomore need to be free to be sophmores).

I'll leave it as a good case study -- unless you advise me that comes across as disrespectful as it now stands. (One is often unqualified to gauge one's own tone.)

wv: novedic. When the dentist wanted to last longer... [yikes, I'm bad!]

Seven Machos said...

Largo -- My own policy is to always leave up everything I write. If journalism is the first draft of history, then blogs are the notes about the first draft of the first draft of opinions that are forming.

Largo said...

Yup. Except if I wrote something derogatory about someone that didn't deserve it, and I became aware of that later, (or repented if I had known it all along), and its presence had a continuing negative effect on the one maligned, I'd remove it then. [There may be other similar scenarios.]

But 3am approaches. Time for me to say goodnight gracie!

Synova said...

"Certainly women are dumber than men -- their breasts siphon off cells meant for the brain. Therefore the smaller the bra cup, the brighter the woman."

I'm not sure what you're trying to show here, FLS, but women are dumber than men... men are also dumber than women. If I believe the stats I've heard, which is that more men score very high and very low than women do.

Also, being a woman myself and attempting honesty and self-awareness... hormones suck and make a woman emotional. A lack of sleep (also often associated with pregnancy and small children) makes one stupid.

Men are more likely to suffer from ADD or ADHD as well as learning disabilities than women. Male hormones affect moods just like female hormones do, just probably less cyclically. And more men are in the really amazing unreality level of smart than women.

Now... boob size? Who knows... maybe really chesty women have more hormones growing their boobs. This ought to be something scientifically testable. I don't see a problem with asking the question and I don't see a problem with testing to see.

Maybe there is some reason that Blonds really do tend to be ditzy.

Though I think you were trying to be offensive on purpose, I think that being offended is one of those stupid female hormone things.

Seven Machos said...

Synova -- FLS is making analogous absurd arguments to show how arguments about racial IQ are absurd.

But, by all means, let's talk about boobs. I am a big fan. It's funny. I didn't used to care a lot. Then, one day, I got glasses. Life changing.

Synova said...

"Continuing the theme of differences between human populations: Women are shorter than men, they weigh less (unless obese), their skulls and therefore brains are smaller -- it's obvious that they're less intelligent. Do we even need to discuss it?"

The guy who made his name on that theory, when he died and his brain was put in a jar, had a brain that measured smaller than the average female brain... or something really awesomely ironic like that.

But if no one ever suggested brain size equates to intelligence or spent a life trying to prove phrenology theories, would we have been able to discount those theories? Or would we secretly assume that the forbidden knowledge was true?

former law student said...

synova, I see you fall in 7M's camp. I admit there is merit to "Let stupid ideas die of exposure."

Kirby Olson said...

People will never accept a single closed final argument in any sphere. People aren't like that. They like to think for themselves.

Dictators don't like it, but there will always be disruptive thought.

It's just human nature, I think.

If someone says, everyone is the same, then someone will say, no they're not.

If someone says, everybody's different, someone will argue, no we're all the same.

If someone says all black people are idiots, someone will say, no, all black people are geniuses.

It just doesn't matter what anyone says. They're all just jabbering. We're worse than dolphins in that regard. It's all jibber-jabber.

You'd think that the law students more than anyone else would know this.

William said...

I'm reaching for consensus here. The lesson for all of us, left and right, black and white, is that membership on the Harvard Law Review does not prove superior wisdom and should therefore not be used as a qualificatio for the Presidency.

A.W. said...

am i the only person seeing the contradiction here?

Althouse wants us to denounce this crushing of dissent, and i tend to agree, but this is nothing compared to the crushing of dissent that occurred in regards to south park. But she thinks we should just take that, stand impotently on the sidelines as people are silenced by threats of violence, while we should all get riled up about this more minor infringement.

Well, if you have your priorities straight, how about you come over to my blog and contribute to freedom of speech and draw mohammed today? http://everyonedrawmohammed.blogspot.com/

paul a'barge said...

Althouse: I think the lesson here is that we should want to experience our full humanity and to understand and respect and help each other as full human beings.

Wrong.

It think we should read Saul Alinsky's tactics and use them relentlessly, without reservation or remorse on Libtard lawyers, including their bloggers.

Gabriel Hanna said...

If IQ is used as a proxy for intelligence we have to explain how the subnormal Jews of WW I got so much smarter in just a generation.

Yesterday afternoon the scale at the gym said that I weighed 180.5 pounds. I went home to my fifty-year-old bathroom scale that evening and found I weighed 205 pounds. Next morning I went to the doctor's office and that scale said I weighed 179.9 pounds.

What do we conclude from this?

a) I gained 15 pounds on my way home from the gym and lost it overnight.

b) The concept of a test for mass is inherently flawed and all bathroom scales, pan balances, mass spectrometers and planetary orbits are meaningless--it is impossible to determine whether one person is heavier than another by some simple "test".

c) My bathroom scale is probably wrong.

FLS believes that a and b are more likely than c, either because FLS cannot grasp the concept of "correlation", or because FLS has turned his/her brain off for this argument. FLS also identifies as part of the reality-based community.

Filleting cultural influences out of IQ tests is just about impossible.

Because people of different cultures don't see blinking lights in the same way, I guess, and they push buttons differently too. And people of different cultures, when asked to repeat numbers or letters backwards, must have mysterious cultural taboos against participating in such tests or something. And these mysterious cultural influences also force one to do poorly in school, on the GRE and SAT, and on the ASVAB.

The failure of IQ tests to measure intelligence was described a half-century ago, in Hoffmann's The Tyranny of Testing.

When I want to know the current state of research in my field, I turn to books written 50 years ago!

Meanwhile, we learn from Galen that germs are bunk, it's all humors. And we learn from Galton that IQ tests are nonsense and we should be measuring skulls. I'm about to write a paper about phlogiston and I'm going to cite Cavendish.

Gabriel Hanna said...

Incidentally, neither a bathroom scale, a pan balance, nor a mass spectrometer measure "weight".

A bathroom scale measures the compression of a spring. A pan balance measures the difference between the forces applied to it by two masses. And a mass spectrometer measures the time of flight of a molecule.

Why do these measurements correlate with each other when none of them measure the same thing? It must all be coincidence--everyone knows that no one can tell how heavy something is by a simple "test".

Fat people everywhere are demeaned by this bogus "science".

former law student said...

Let's anchor Hanna's analogy a little more firmly into the case.

Yesterday afternoon the scale at the gym said that H weighed 180.5 pounds. Shlomo weighed 200. H went home to his fifty-year-old bathroom scale that evening and found he weighed 181 pounds. Shlomo weighed 175. Next morning H went to the doctor's office and that scale said I weighed 179.9 pounds. Shlomo weighed 202.

What do we conclude from this?

Tests that are calibrated for white people do not accurately measure non-whites.

former law student said...

When I want to know the current state of research in my field, I turn to books written 50 years ago!


The Bell Curve is 16 years old, so why do conservatives continue to cite it?

Revenant said...

Tests that are calibrated for white people do not accurately measure non-whites.

How exactly does one go about calibrating a test "for white people"? There is no common "white" language, culture, religion, or environment. In fact, the only way intelligence tests could be calibrated by race... is if intelligence was a function of race. Huh.

Even if you meant to say that, for example, American IQ tests are calibrated for white Americans, you're still mistaken. That hasn't been the case for decades. I would also observe that the "these tests are biased for white people" theory doesn't explain why, e.g., Chinese people have higher mean scores than "white people" do.

Gabriel Hanna said...

Tests that are calibrated for white people do not accurately measure non-whites.

FLS, that's not what happened and you know it.

Many, many tests over the last fifty years give different results from a few tests done 80 years ago. Yet you expect the few tests done 80 years ago to trump the others and damn the whole idea of testing.

The Bell Curve is 16 years old, so why do conservatives continue to cite it?

By that logic, my 300 year-old source should be more relevant than your 50-year-old one.

Even you are not that stupid.

The Bell Curve summed up the state of contemporary research. Please show me more recent research that invalidate the studies presented there.

You won't like going through the last 16 years of research with me. Better stick to fifty-year-old condemnations of invalid testing and try to pretend that's what modern researchers still do.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@FLS:

http://www.scopus.com/record/display.url?eid=2-s2.0-33845591161&origin=inward&txGid=tYAsDUoqT25Y8Uy4NN3IajY%3a2

Got one more recent than 2007?

This 5-year prospective longitudinal study of 70,000 + English children examined the association between psychometric intelligence at age 11 years and educational achievement in national examinations in 25 academic subjects at age 16. The correlation between a latent intelligence trait (Spearman's g from CAT2E) and a latent trait of educational achievement (GCSE scores) was 0.81. General intelligence contributed to success on all 25 subjects. Variance accounted for ranged from 58.6% in Mathematics and 48% in English to 18.1% in Art and Design. Girls showed no advantage in g, but performed significantly better on all subjects except Physics. This was not due to their better verbal ability. At age 16, obtaining five or more GCSEs at grades A*-C is an important criterion. 61% of girls and 50% of boys achieved this. For those at the mean level of g at age 11, 58% achieved this; a standard deviation increase or decrease in g altered the values to 91% and 16%, respectively.

Right. IQ and g mean nothing and measure nothing.

Revenant said...

The Bell Curve is 16 years old, so why do conservatives continue to cite it?

The theory of relativity is 105 years old, and still cited regularly. The validity of a theory is not inversely proportional to its age.

Seven Machos said...

IQ and g mean nothing and measure nothing. Right. Yes.

Also, there are no monads and string theory is a bunch of shit. Global warming, too.

Oligonicella said...

"I think the lesson here is that we should want to experience our full humanity and to understand and respect and help each other as full human beings."

So I can wear shorts??

Largo said...

So I can wear shorts??

Zing!

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Seven Machos:IQ and g mean nothing and measure nothing. Right. Yes.

So you can point to another contemporary peer-reviewed study that finds no correlation between IQ and school performance? While I wait for that, I presume you will continue to fling feces and shout RACIST.

Seven Machos said...

Gabriel -- There is no such thing as race and there is definitely, definitely no such thing as IQ. It's all bullshit.

Do you ask atheists to tell you about the wondrous acts of God that led the Jews out of Egypt? Perhaps you'd like to know if pollywarbles as a group have higher LCX scores than giggersoretoots as a group. Would you like that?

Mark said...

former law student - Certainly women are dumber than men -- their breasts siphon off cells meant for the brain. Therefore the smaller the bra cup, the brighter the woman.

This is one of those common misconceptions like the idea that heavier objects fall faster than light objects. It is easy to understand how the this mistaken idea got started. Boobs, especially big ones make men stupid. It is natural to assume that being around those IQ zapping fun bags would have an adverse effect on the owner's intellect but that is simply not true.

Revenant said...

While I wait for that, I presume you will continue to fling feces and shout RACIST.

Duh?

I mean, seriously, have you not spotted the pattern yet? You cite scientific studies; Seven replies with some variant on "only assholes believe that". Lather, rinse, repeat.

Mark said...

Mark - Something similar could be seen in the furor against Sarah Palin for giving birth to a child with Down Syndrome.

former law student - Wow, I missed that furor entirely.

Congratulations on recovering from the coma in which you must have spent most of 2008.

Seven Machos said...

Revenant -- I can give you all kinds of books and articles about string theory, monads, and racial purity.

I had no idea you were a secret Tom Buchanan. These other people, sure. I know they are out there. But you I am surprised at.

Mark said...

former law student - If IQ is used as a proxy for intelligence we have to explain how the subnormal Jews of WW I got so much smarter in just a generation.

Something similar happened with southern Italians during the same time period. We can probably attribute it to a combination of adequate nutrition, particularly in utero, in the United States as well as the opportunity to marry and breed with partners who were not from the same village and so less likely to be some degree of cousin. The first generation born in the US tended to be several inches taller than their parents as well and they had lower rates of birth defects and infant mortality as well.

Largo said...

"""
This is one of those common misconceptions like the idea that heavier objects fall faster than light objects.
"""
:-)

Interestingly, your remark gives rise to a serious point. Galileo put such ideas not only to an empirical, but to thought experiments. What he said was (and historians are invited to correct my take on it): lets suppose heavier objects do fall faster. Place a heavier object upon a lighter object. Combined, they should fall faster. Yet the lighter object, tending to fall more slowly than the heavier, would impede the fall of the heavier, and so the fall should be slower than that of the heavier object alone. A similar conflict is reached if we assume lighter objects fall faster.

Conclusion? Speed of a body's free-fall is independent of its heaviness.

Now thanks to Galileo, the "light vs heavy" dichotomy of Aristotle becomes a continuum. The idea of "weight" steps back to give center stage to the idea of "mass". We see that force is not the source of motion, but of change in motion. He was a giant.

And here is the relevant point. His legacy is a result, not only of empirical observation, but also (and perhaps most importantly) in his stretching, distillation, and transformation if ideas.

In sociology, the idea of race is important. In cognitive science, the idea of intelligence is important. Galileo worked with things that can be readily measured. Cognitive scientists and sociologists, not so much so. But Galileo's thought experiments did not require measurement. They required him only to think about old ideas in a new way.

AND TO DELIBERATELY SUPPOSE SOMETHING THAT WAS FALSE, IN ORDER TO FIND (AND DISTILL) THE ABSURDITY IN THE SUPPOSITION.

This was valuable when the common view was that heavy objects fell faster. It would have been valuable even if it were the common view that they did not.

Where are our Galileos today in sociology? In cognitive science? In -- shall I say it -- jurisprudence?

And are there pertinent issues of constraints, which might be informed by the Galilean story?

Largo said...

[I should have said:
And Galileo chose--deliberately--to suppose, as true, that which was false, in order to distill what was absurd about the supposition.]

Largo said...

vet66 said...
"""
It doesn't appear to me that the Socratic method of discourse (dialectic) is popular among the elitists for about the last 50 years.
"""

That's right, vet.

Now drink your hemlock like a good little boy!

Revenant said...

Revenant -- I can give you all kinds of books and articles about string theory, monads, and racial purity.

That's very special, Seven. Run along, now.

Largo said...

>> Revenant -- I can give you all kinds of books and articles about string theory, monads, and racial purity.

> That's very special, Seven. Run along, now.

About all three at once? I guess Neil Stephenson has been very busy recently. :)