December 20, 2015

"Contrary to Chief Justice Roberts’s implication, science is not some unchanging world of pure objectivity and fact."

"Nor does the pursuit of scientific knowledge exist completely apart from the social dynamics, attitudes and cultures of those who seek answers. Science is inextricably linked with our shared humanity and distinct experiences.... Instead of stating 'force equals mass times acceleration' and moving on, a good instructor will ply her students with real-life examples of how the application of force to a mass produces acceleration. Students must create relatable examples that allow them to practice and perfect their use of these tools before expanding them out into the larger, untested world."

In the NYT, Jedidah C. Isler (an astronomy and astrophysics postdoctoral fellow) attempts to answer the Chief Justice's questions "What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?" and "I’m just wondering what the benefits of diversity are in that situation?"

The questions came up in the oral argument in the Fisher case against the University of Texas which uses race as a factor in admissions decisions. Existing case law allows intentional race discrimination when it is necessary to serve a compelling government interest, and the compelling interest has been understood in terms of the educational benefit, such as making "classroom discussion...  livelier, more spirited, and simply more enlightening and interesting." What kind of discussion in a physics class would be improved because of the racial diversity of the students?

That's a challenging question, and Isler accepted the challenge. What is Isler talking about when she cites "real-life examples" and  "relatable examples" illustrating principles of physics and having some greater dimension because of the racial diversity in the classroom? Too bad she didn't give a real-life, relatable example of the kind of real-life, relatable examples she was talking about. Is Isler thinking of teachers who "ply" their students with story problems involving "the application of force to a mass produces acceleration" that takes place in an urban environment? In my head, that plays out like a "South Park" scene. Some white teacher is motivated by the presence of black students to infuse physics with details she imagines "relate" to their "real lives"? It would be absurdly patronizing and stereotyping!

116 comments:

Gahrie said...

It would be absurdly patronizing and stereotyping!

So is Affirmative Action, but that is not stopping anybody....

Original Mike said...

"Too bad he didn't give a real-life, relatable example of the kind of real-life, relatable examples he was talking about."<

That would have highlighted the shallowness of the argument.

traditionalguy said...

Physics is the hardest Science to get false Propaganda narratives from by using statistics on faked data. They can measure things. So Roberts is asking the right questions.

jr565 said...

Physics is physics. It doesn't matter who is teaching it or who is taking the class.

surfed said...

In many inner city schools there is zero diversity in the classroom other than a Portlandia type young white person (who has never seen an African American anywhere other than on tv or in the movies) from the Teach for America minions and thinking that if there was a white student in the classroom how that would affect/effect their delivery of a physics lesson was a pretty funny thought experiment.

Ann Althouse said...

Affirmative action in admissions is not justified as a benefit to the minority students who are admitted. They are not participating in the lawsuit and the benefit to them, if any, or harm, if any, is simply not the issue. The plaintiffs are the white students who take a disadvantage and the defendant is the university that is defending what it is doing and which has been limited by the case law to arguing not that the minority students ought to get a benefit (e.g., as a remedy for pass discrimination) but that the diversity in the classroom is an educational benefit. That means the issue is NOT what the minority students GET but what they GIVE. Whether they are patronized or benefited just isn't the issue within the doctrinal framework.

Sebastian said...

"the compelling interest has been understood in terms of the educational benefit, such as making "classroom discussion... livelier, more spirited, and simply more enlightening and interesting." What kind of discussion in a physics class would be improved because of the racial diversity of the students?"

The "compelling interest is made-up lawyer BS; so much for the rule of law. The benefit is merely posited; no evidence ever figured into legal argument, and no standards were ever articulated as to how much diversity, by what standard of evidence, would suffice to demonstrate that "compelling interest" actually exists, in a way that justifies a certain level of preference. Even the long-after-the-fact defenses like this one don't rise above anecdote and fail to address obvious counterarguments -- if the goal is to advance diversity of viewpoints in physics, are racial preferences a better way to achieve it than other forms of diversity? do lower academic qualifications offset preferred students' ability to contribute? etc. etc. In other words, the defense of racial preferences for the sake of diversity as compelling interest is complete and utter BS, from beginning to end. Prog theater, nothing more.

Fernandinande said...

"Isler talking about when he cites "

She.

"What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?" and "I’m just wondering what the benefits of diversity are in that situation?"

Illegal aliens from outer space would likely provide a "unique perspective".

Amadeus 48 said...

"Roberts looks in at the plate...Isler is dug in up there...he looks determined to advance the runners...Roberts nods at the catcher...Roberts winds up and here's the pitch...Isler swings and misses!"

Quaestor said...

"Dud watahmelin drop from duh fofth flo of de projeck by duh Crip accelerates at 9.8 metahs per second per second until it squashes de Blood crack baby on de haid..."

Real world examples, yes very relevant and inspiring to young Einsteins of color.

rhhardin said...

a good instructor will ply her students with real-life examples of how the application of force to a mass produces acceleration.

You won't get any science intuition from women. They're not interested enough.

hoyden said...

Throwing a rock or brick through a window demonstrates the application of f=ma, breaking glass is an object example of applying sufficient force to induce substance failure. Molotov cocktails demonstrate the relationship between flammable liquids, combustion, and the required available oxidizer.

There's even physics in carrying out purloined merchandise. Don't forget the economics lessons related to opportunity vs risk, and the cost of building vs destroying capital.

rhhardin said...

Gyroscope precession is an excellent example of f=ma.

Ann Althouse said...

"She."

Thanks. I saw "Jedidiah," but it's "Jedidah."

Steve M. Galbraith said...

"We need black students in the classroom because they will present THE black point of view."

And what is that? Never mind. You're not supposed to ask.

But we're not placing black students in any sort of box.

I liked it better when they said it was an attempt to rectify past injustices. But they're not allowed to say that so they have to come up with these word games.

Ann Althouse said...

"The "compelling interest is made-up lawyer BS; so much for the rule of law. The benefit is merely posited; no evidence ever figured into legal argument, and no standards were ever articulated as to how much diversity, by what standard of evidence, would suffice to demonstrate that "compelling interest" actually exists, in a way that justifies a certain level of preference."

Much of the oral argument probed into exactly that.

Temujin said...

"Contrary to Chief Justice Robert's implication, science is not some unchanging world of our objectivity and fact."

Except, of course, when talking about Climate Change which- as we've all been told constantly- has the "consensus" of 97% of scientists so the rest of you just shut up.

"Nor does the pursuit of scientific knowledge exist completely apart from the social dynamics, attitudes and cultures of those who seek answers." The pursuit is often (but not always) driven by personal and collective social dynamics. However, the truth- the facts- are that A is A. A thing is what it is. If the science is allowed to be science, that is, based on facts and not driven by social activists, then the social dynamics are neither here nor there. They are, to use a climate term: 'hot air' and nothing more.

Terry said...

This is stupid. The purpose of science is to remove the observer. That is why it supposedly delivers "objective" truth, and not "subjective" truth. If science can't deliver objective truth, it's no better than alchemy.

Bill Harshaw said...

I once knew a grad student who was teaching some courses at a same-sex school (forget whether it was Catholic or what). In a discussion he was asked the difference between a same-sex class and a two-sex class (this was long ago in a different universe). He said there was more energy in the latter. That's my take on diversity in STEM courses: the greater the diversity the more likely there will be challenges to the conventional wisdom, which as a liberal I feel is always to the good.

Fernandinande said...

Reminds me of
Metric System Thriving In Nation's Inner Cities

MayBee said...

That means the issue is NOT what the minority students GET but what they GIVE. Whether they are patronized or benefited just isn't the issue within the doctrinal framework.

In an alternate reality, we would hear angst about how universities are using black bodies for the benefit/amusement of the white man.

dbp said...

Here is a real-world physics example:

African American gang members have a penchant for holding their pistols horizontally when shooting. I would love to hear their ideas on how the sights are supposed to work in this orientation. Now, there may be little overlap between black gangsters and black college students but maybe they have some insight into this mystery.

MikeR said...

This is really dumb.

Terry said...

"the greater the diversity the more likely there will be challenges to the conventional wisdom"
What kind of challenge to the conventional wisdom do you think would be good in an undergrad physics class, Bill Harshaw?

D. B. Light said...

What Temujin said. To the Left scientific authority is immutable truth when it advances their cause, and a mere social construct when it doesn't.

Gahrie said...

Affirmative action in admissions is not justified as a benefit to the minority students who are admitted.

Which is exactly why we need to put some non-lawyers on the bench...especially the Supreme Court.

Life is not a debate tournament.

Ann Althouse said...

Steve M. Galbraith said...""We need black students in the classroom because they will present THE black point of view." And what is that? Never mind. You're not supposed to ask. But we're not placing black students in any sort of box..."

The quote you have there is not from the article. Did YOU make it up? You are fighting a straw man.

Quayle said...

I'm still waiting for the scientific proof that physical or sub-atomic particles don't behave differently while being measured or observed, depending on the race of the observer.

Those who understand the issues presented in the study of history and philosophy of science will know I'm not just being snarky.

To proceed to assert that science is a valid way of knowing, scientists have had to make, and maintain unquestioned faith, in presumptions to these kinds of initial foundations issues and questions, which faith is always favor the validity of science - e.g. that particles are independent of the observer. But so far throughout all science no scientist has ever been able to prove that their faith in the assumptions is "scientific."

So the writer has a point. Race may indeed play a part in science. We just don't know and don't know how to find out. Up to today, we've been perfectly fine operating purely from assumption.

hoyden said...

MayBee said, "In an alternate reality, we would hear angst about how universities are using black bodies for the benefit/amusement of the white man."

Democrats are unique in their capacity to exploit slavery and racism for their personal benefit. From pre-Civil War slavery, through Jim Crow, and into the era of Equal Rights. The Communists might have been disappointed that more white people did not embrace their economic ideas, but they hit pay dirt when they infested the Democrat party in the latter part of the 20th century. The Clinton/Sanders wing is ascendant.

hoyden said...

dbp, "...penchant for holding their pistols horizontally when shooting."

I suspect this is a style thing and the challenge is how to look good and still hit the target since the physics doesn't change with pistol's axial orientation with respect to the gravity vector.

Terry said...

Holy cow that article is bad. "As a black woman and astrophysicist, I immediately became defensive of my own worthiness, and that of the black students I mentor and support every day. I wanted to scream my credentials from the rooftops: I have physics degrees from two historically black universities and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from an Ivy League institution."
Who gives a f*ck? This woman is saying that her Blackness and her gender add to her value in the classroom. It's pathetic.

Ken B said...

Sad to see an obviously smart woman argue such nonsense. Just the beginning is a tip off this is not a rational argument: she feels personally attached ked and belittled.
So she responds with a version of 'Jewish physics'. Sad.

Laslo Spatula said...

I made it through Moderation and THEN was deleted?

A satire that -- at the end -- leaves with a pretty obvious college pro-diversity viewpoint.

Points out how Science has used racism along the way.

Maybe it was too liberal.

I seriously don't get it.

I am Laslo.

Roger Sweeny said...

As a high school physics teacher, I have not noticed ethnic diversity to make ""classroom discussion... livelier, more spirited, and simply more enlightening and interesting."

Isler may not be completely wrong. It is certainly true that "Contrary to Chief Justice Robert's implication, science is not some unchanging world of our objectivity and fact." Though very little has changed in the last half century up through the first two years of college physics. On the other hand, physics does have a big problem at the graduate level. Relativity and quantum just don't fit together and an incredible amount of time and brainpower has been used up trying to develop a unified theory. The results have been extremely disappointing. A lot of interesting math has been done without having much positive effect on actual physics (in this, the situation has some parallels to economics). Perhaps, just perhaps outsiders could move things forward. And maybe ethnic diversity would contribute to bringing outsiders in.

Steve M. Galbraith said...

"We need black students in the classroom because they will present THE black point of view." And what is that? Never mind. You're not supposed to ask. But we're not placing black students in any sort of box..."

I am stating, as I see it, the diversity argument: i.e., that black and Hispanic and "X" students will bring THAT identity/perspective into the room.

Is that not the argument for diversity? That these students - because of their race and solely because of it - will bring a particular POV to the classroom?

You suggested it's stereotyping students. It is. But it's supposed to be correct stereotyping.

PB said...

All professors are being pressured to include off-topic subjects like this in their classroom discussions. Nowhere is this more inappropriate that in the STEM disciplines.

As George Will wrote in his WaPo column,

"Scientists and engineers live lives governed by the reality principle: Get the variables wrong, the experiment will fail, even if this seems insensitive; do the math wrong, the equation will tell you, even if that hurts your feelings. Reality does not similarly regulate the production of Marxist interpretations of “Middlemarch” or turgid monographs on the false consciousness of Parisian street sweepers in 1714. Literature professors “deconstructing” Herman Melville cause nothing worse than excruciating boredom in their students. If engineers ignore reality, reality deconstructs their bridges."

Colleges should be asked to define diversity, how they measure it, and how they quantify the benefits of their diversity efforts so they know if they have the optimal amount of diversity. They can't and won't try, claiming holistic processes can't be measured and they know optimal diversity when they feel it.

Steve M. Galbraith said...

The author (not me paraphrasing her): "If we limit the physics classroom to white students, or students whose presence in a classroom we leave unquestioned, we also limit the production of new information about the world — and whose perspective that world will reflect. If that’s the case, then we all lose."

What "perspective" does a black student - solely because he or she is black - bring to the physics classroom? What does their race tell us about whatever "perspective" they have that is different from the non-black students?

How is this "perspective" acquired? Innately? That is, is it inherited? Does a black student from Nigeria have a "perspective" that is the same as a black student from New York?

THIS is stereotyping people, placing them in a "perspective" box because of his or her race.

Race ALONE tells us nothing about a person. At least I thought about 50 years ago we agreed to that.

Trashhauler said...

"That's my take on diversity in STEM courses: the greater the diversity the more likely there will be challenges to the conventional wisdom...."

Wisdom is not the goal in STEM classes. Facts are the goal. One cannot "wisdom" a way to solve a quadratic equation.

This continues in the real world. Any action which is best done in a standardized manner does not benefit from diversity. No matter how diverse the number of people performing the action, there is no benefit from doing things the wrong way.

dbp said...

"I suspect this is a style thing and the challenge is how to look good and still hit the target since the physics doesn't change with pistol's axial orientation with respect to the gravity vector."

The physics is the same but not with respect to how the sights compensate for windage and range. A pistol, properly adjusted for vertical orientation will shoot to the left and low if held horizontally. You could use the adjustment in the rear sight to fix the ranging problem but the front sight on a pistol is usually fixed and so you will always be hitting to the left of where you aim. (This assumes you are right handed and are holding the gun 90 degrees counter clockwise from vertical.)

Roughcoat said...

Points out how Science has used racism along the way.

That's an unfortunate formulation. Science hasn't used racism; rather, racists have used/manipulated what passes for science.

holdfast said...

" but that the diversity in the classroom is an educational benefit. That means the issue is NOT what the minority students GET but what they GIVE. Whether they are patronized or benefited just isn't the issue within the doctrinal framework."

Yeah, but it's hard to seriously address a point that is so obviously contrived bullshit.

Rusty said...

hoyden said...
"dbp, "...penchant for holding their pistols horizontally when shooting."

I suspect this is a style thing and the challenge is how to look good and still hit the target since the physics doesn't change with pistol's axial orientation with respect to the gravity vector."

Except that the reaction forces are turned 90 deg. and the recoil will go either to the left or right depending on the handedness of the shooter making subsequent shots even further off target.

Writ Small said...

I grew up in an area that had a fairly high percent of blacks (20-25%), and there were some very smart black kids in my advanced high school classes. Then I went to college at a pretty tough engineering school, Georgia Tech, although it was not the very top tier. It struck me as odd how much less competitive the black students were at my college than had been at my high school, but it wasn't until years later when I read about the mismatch effect that I worked out why.

Here's the thing, though. I went to college with plenty of kids who came from predominantly white areas and didn't know lots of smart black kids back home like I did. Guess how they "benefited" from having that kind of diversity in physics class.

Michael K said...

"That means the issue is NOT what the minority students GET but what they GIVE. Whether they are patronized or benefited just isn't the issue within the doctrinal framework."

No, they are important for Virtue Signaling. They are decorations. Nobody cares if they learn anything. If too many flunk out, grades will be race normed.

People forget that there are normal distributions of IQ for the three major races. That means that some black students will have IQs equal to white and Asian students. I feel really sorry for them as they will be lost as "collateral damage" in the race wars. Black Physics students will be assumed to be affirmative action beneficiaries and will be assumed to be stupid.

William said...

The curling event in the Olympics is almost exclusively white. Should curling have an outreach program to recruit minority competitors? Wouldn't that make curling a more interesting sport and the curlers themselves better people?.........Is it remotely possible that black people aren't especially interested in curling or.physics and that white people are not especially interested, pro or con, in minority participation in their sport....., .......;One does note, however, that hot girls in a classroom does raise the energy level in that classroom. The physics department should hire hot girls from the behavioral sciences to sit in on their classes. More men would be attracted to these classes and would compete harder to appear smart in class.

Thorley Winston said...

So apparently the answer to Chief Justice Roberts' question was "none, whatsoever."

jimbino said...

Studying physics at the University of Chicago was a great exposure to diversity for me. Sadly, there were no Blacks or Hispanics and only some 5 women students out of 200 and no female or racial minority profs, a pattern that continued throughout my later career in physics, engineering and computer science.

At Chicago, we did real experiments in physics, and for the first time I, an evangelical Christian at the time, was exposed to Orthodox Jewish culture through lab partners. It was I who opened their apartment doors on the Sabbath, who eventually donned a yarmulke and dated an Orthodox Mathematics student, partied with Jews outside of class and eventually studied classical Hebrew. We all gained a valuable exposure to the "other side," I'm sure.

mikee said...

1. Diversity in STEM fields, statistically, means most students averaged worldwide will be Chinese. I hope they let all us others in their classes 50 years from now.

2. At some of the short ranges gang bangers shoot people, they aren't aiming, they are just pointing the guns, so a sideways gangsta grip does not matter significantly. And as a med school friend said once, "I thought people who got shot died. Now I know they just go to the ER." Handgun wounds are most often not fatal.

Sal said...

Too bad she didn't give a real-life, relatable example of the kind of real-life, relatable examples she was talking about

I'm still waiting for examples of racially unbiased math questions we can insert into the SAT exam.

Michael P said...

Like Temujin, I thought the line of argument would apply to climate change and (alleged) groupthink by the establishment rather than undergraduate physics courses. In undergraduate STEM courses, there is approximately zero research or pursuit of new knowledge. The purpose of these courses is to cover existing knowledge and (more often) techniques for reasoning and problem-solving. Postdocs, and even graduates of decent STEM programs, should be well aware of that, so I wonder why Isler advances that particular argument.

SGT Ted said...

She offers assertion without proof. She isn't being a scientist.

chillblaine said...

Science, which is objective and verifiable, is made better by something subjective and vague. Prog-Think.

Owen said...

Ann: Above you said the justification for the program is "not what minority students GET but what they GIVE" to the other students. That seems to be fatally flawed. Consider: the plaintiffs are whites whose numbers are not sufficiently strong to beat a minority admit. The white who DO get in, are presumptively stronger, i.e. already "privileged" by preparation and culture and background and genetics etc etc. Yet it is they who are to be given a further benefit -- the presence of minority admits who will somehow spice up their educational menu. So the excluded whites are doubly disadvantaged: first on being excluded (even though their scores would otherwise have sufficed) and second on being denied access to that spicy educational mix. Meanwhile the white admits get a double advantage: access, plus the spice.

The minority admits are ignored in this calculus, as they are in reality: lonely and confused in their struggle to survive and prosper in an environment constructed of pretense and false values.

Justice!

Sammy Finkelman said...

The thing about that Op-ed piece is that I think she misunderstand the whole point of the question.

The thrust of what she said is that there is no special diversity brought to aphysics class by a black student. That was exactly Justice Roberts' point.

Jedidah C. Isler seems to think that somebody was arguing for excluding them. Nobody was. Somebody was arguing against the "diversity" justification (that this makes for a better student body) for getting more black students than you otherwise would get.

Roberts' point was NOT to say that, because there is no benefit for the other students or to the dynanics of the class from racial diversity, that therefore black students shouldn't be there, but, rather, that therefore there is no special reason to recruit them.

Sammy Finkelman said...

2/20/15, 9:49 AM In a discussion he was asked the difference between a same-sex class and a two-sex class (this was long ago in a different universe). He said there was more energy in the latter.

Doesn't this depend on what sex you are talking about?

What was the sex that was the same?

mccullough said...

The Physics of Baseball is a pretty cool book, written by a White Yale Professor who likes baseball.

Bill Harshaw said...

Terry: Challenges to conventional wisdom should be welcome at any time. If the teacher can't give her reasons why a challenge is wrong, she's not a good teacher. If the student can't be taught the difference between making a logical and well-grounded challenge and just being different or idiosyncratic, he's not a good student. The basis for science is evidence and logic, not authority.

I believe some of the best work in the STEM fields has been done by whippersnappers. See John Nash.

SGT Ted said...

Jedidah posits that her emotional reaction is a substitute for evidence.

Roger Sweeny said...

People forget that there are normal distributions of IQ for the three major races.

Yes and no. If you aggregate everyone into three conveniently color-coded boxes, black, white, and yellow, you get three curves. But there are groups within each box who are, on average, well above or well below the race median. Perhaps the two best known examples are Ashkenazi Jews and Igbos (eastern Nigeria). Both have significantly higher average IQ than their race, and not surprisingly both are generally more successful, in business and in academics.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Unrelated: Video Shows Arkansas Teen Blow Smoke in Science Teacher's Face

Theranter said...

FWIW Feynman called social science "pseudo-science."

This post-doc is trying to fuse an anecdotal social science view with Physics.

And if she "went from sitting in a classroom full of brilliant black physicists-in-training to one in which I was the only person of color pursuing the same subject," wouldn't reversing her finagled theory show that she, and her classmates, missed out on something in the all-the-same-race classrooms?

wholelottasplainin' said...

Harshaw:P"That's my take on diversity in STEM courses: the greater the diversity the more likely there will be challenges to the conventional wisdom, which as a liberal I feel is always to the good."

Has your "take" ever been substantiated/demonstrated/proven in the real world?

Can you square "political correctness" with claims of "diversity" being a challenge to the conventional wisdom?

Sweeney: "Perhaps, just perhaps outsiders could move things forward. And maybe ethnic diversity would contribute to bringing outsiders in."

So, special treatment should be given to some people, based on their race, in the hope that "perhaps, just perhaps" they "maybe" might make some contribution, while other people with better preparation/more intelligence/more knowledge should be kept out of the conversation? What bullshit, and what a shitty was to force a society to bow to false idols.

Jane the Actuary said...

The closest I see to a justification for affirmative action (rather than a call for non-discrimination) is the final paragraph:

"If we limit the physics classroom to white students, or students whose presence in a classroom we leave unquestioned, we also limit the production of new information about the world — and whose perspective that world will reflect. If that’s the case, then we all lose."

Which seems to suggest that physics is a creative endeavor, rather than an attempt to understand the nature of the physical world as it exists, and black physicists would create new and different interpretations. Or perhaps that a black student's life experiences will give them some different insight -- which, given how alien astrophysics is from anything we encounter in daily life, feels like magical thinking.

jimbino said...

Studying physics at the University of Chicago was a great exposure to diversity for me. Sadly, there were no Blacks or Hispanics and only some 5 women students out of 200 and no female or racial minority profs, a pattern that continued throughout my later career in physics, engineering and computer science.

At Chicago, we did real experiments in physics, and for the first time I, an evangelical Christian at the time, was exposed to Orthodox Jewish culture through lab partners. It was I who sometimes opened their electric apartment doors locks on the Sabbath, who eventually donned a yarmulke and dated an Orthodox Mathematics student, partied with Jews outside of class and eventually studied classical Hebrew. We all gained a valuable exposure to the "other side," I'm sure.

Fernandinande said...

hoyden said...
dbp, "...penchant for holding their pistols horizontally when shooting."
I suspect this is a style thing and the challenge is how to look good and still hit the target since the physics doesn't change with pistol's axial orientation with respect to the gravity vector.


Held horizontally, the motion from the recoil will also be horizontal because the grip is to the side of the barrel, rather than below it. Since most people are taller than their width, it's better to hold a pistol vertically when taking multiple quick shots at a person.

Laslo Spatula said...

Roughcoat said:

"That's an unfortunate formulation. Science hasn't used racism; rather, racists have used/manipulated what passes for science."

Agreed. Was clumsy on my part -- I meant to infer 'Science' as claimed by people for their own ends -- i.e. what passes for a lot of science now.

I think that would've been clearer in the actual comment.

I'll be off for now, waiting on the Weatherman.

-LS

Paul Snively said...

Well, nuts. Roger Sweeny beat me to it.

I'm a computer scientist and former physics student, read the article, and came away with not-inconsiderable doubt that the author actually has the credentials she claims. That's how bad the special pleading for blacks is. It's not that the process of scientific discovery isn't subjective (it is), or that people's differing cultures might not lend positive value to the process of scientific investigation (they might). It's that "In science, the only valid experiment is one which can be reproduced by anyone (ab omnibus), anywhere on Earth (ubique), at any time in Earth's history (semper). The reason for this emphasis on experiment in science is to let Nature, not mere human opinion, be the ultimate authority of science." (Frank Tipler, "The Physics of Immortality") The article does its level best to subvert this standard—to establish race, not as a proxy for culture, which can shape and inform an investigation, but as a trump card with respect to what the objective of science is.

And people wonder why some of us immediately assume we should ignore anything a black academic says, fully aware of how disastrously unfair this would be to John McWhorter, Glen Loury, and countless thousands of others.

Jupiter said...

Ann Althouse said...
"That means the issue is NOT what the minority students GET but what they GIVE."

Jedidah Isler said...
"Black students’ responsibility in the classroom is not to serve as “seasoning” to the academic soup. They do not function primarily to enrich the learning experience of white students."

I read a couple other things she wrote (google her name). Einstein she ain't.


Jupiter said...

rhhardin said...
"Gyroscope precession is an excellent example of f=ma."

I wonder about you, rh.

Howard said...

Trashhauler: You have no idea what you are talking about. STEM requires more creativity and vision than any of the arts. Facts are not facts, they are estimates of what is going on, therefore, they can be corrupted, altered and change depending on your perspective and the resolution of your tools.

If we ever want to get past racial discrimination and help to end the problems of poverty, violence, drugs, etc. in minority neighborhoods, getting more of them into STEM fields is the only sustainable way.

White privilege is not fair, get over it. Some of the dimmer whites are going to have to give up their spots to minorities. It's not like we are boxing out Einsteins.

Sebastian said...

"Much of the oral argument probed into exactly that." Ah yes, and after all these years, the probing will lead the SCOTUS to decide that diversity was made-up BS, indeed that "compelling interest" is nowhere in the Constitution--for one thing, because the framers of the 14th would have viewed that as a pretty big loophole for the racists of their day. Yeah, I know they tried to get the UT guy to say if he knew anything about how this diversity thing was actually playing out, and of course they realized (even Tony, it seemed, but who knows what new BS he'll dream up) that there was no such evidence, and that no one cared, and that it would be pointless to send the case down one more time, as SCOTUS had never given anyone any notion that they ought to care, because evidence doesn't matter when you make stuff up without any articulated standard of evidence. And no, out here in the real world, where we occasionally do have to deal with actual evidence, "narrowly tailored" doesn't count.

Ann Althouse said...

"I made it through Moderation and THEN was deleted? A satire that -- at the end -- leaves with a pretty obvious college pro-diversity viewpoint. Points out how Science has used racism along the way. Maybe it was too liberal. I seriously don't get it."

Moderation happens before and after publishing. I have some efficiency strategies.

I have a problem with comments that don't stay on topic, but creative/funny things are also fine and I encourage them. What I am not happy with, in my blogspace, are stories that go too far with race and sex. I don't like seeing words like "Mandingo" and "Negro" in the creative efforts, even if, as I assume, you are a good person who means well. It's an intuitive response from me when I'm dealing with longer comments that are digressive and pushing the envelope. Do they really enrich the reading experience for people who come to my blog and read the comments here? I have to answer that question intuitively. The standard is higher for long posts with lots of space that require scrolling by. Think about whether people will actually read and enjoy your writing or whether you're basically amusing yourself and taking advantage of the audience that is already here.

Terry said...

Feynman on social science (which he identifies as a pseudoscience):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaO69CF5mbY
What Feynman doesn't like about social science is that it claims to be science, but it is not science. This goes back, I believe, to the late 19th-early 20th century, when people in the West began to believe that just as science had given people absolute truths about the natural world, it could also give absolute truths about human behavior. Humanity could be improved by science, just as the manufacture of hardware had been improved in the 19th century.

Ann Althouse said...

"The closest I see to a justification for affirmative action (rather than a call for non-discrimination) is the final paragraph: 'If we limit the physics classroom to white students, or students whose presence in a classroom we leave unquestioned, we also limit the production of new information about the world — and whose perspective that world will reflect. If that’s the case, then we all lose.' Which seems to suggest that physics is a creative endeavor, rather than an attempt to understand the nature of the physical world as it exists, and black physicists would create new and different interpretations. Or perhaps that a black student's life experiences will give them some different insight -- which, given how alien astrophysics is from anything we encounter in daily life, feels like magical thinking."

I thought that part was just badly written, obscuring the actual legal issue. No one is talking about "limiting" the physics classroom to white students, only about making affirmative efforts to achieve greater inclusion. "Limiting" sounds like active exclusion.

And what is meant by "students whose presence in a classroom we leave unquestioned"? Does she WANT attention to be drawn to the minority students? I guess that's an awkward way to refer to letting students in by a neutral standard. Or... I'm really not sure.

Terry said...

Physics is the science of how things move over time. Things move when they are subjected to a force. Accounting for all of the forces tells you how things move (one of my physics instructors had been a scientist at an artillery range). There is no "white" or "Black" perspective on this. The inability to provide a quantity for something like a "diverse viewpoint" in the sciences implies that it has no value, or at the very least, you are talking about a human factor and not a scientific factor. Is the "diversity viewpoint" that Isler brings to astrophysics of more or less value than a Latina "diversity viewpoint"? Perhaps we should make people with a idiot-level IQ's physicists so we can enjoy the diversity they would bring to science.
Nazi's believed that there was such a thing as 'aryan science' and 'Jewish science.' Now we are supposed to believe that there is a 'Black science' and a 'white science.'

dbp said...

For the record I, as an avid reader of comments here, found Mr. spatula's
"mandingo" story very entertaining and more-or-less on topic. But I don't run the place.

As for the pistol held horizontally bit, two things:

1. It did seem to get some discussion of the physics behind fire arms and marksmanship.

2. My theory of the use of horizontal firing is that if you have multiple targets along a horizontal plane, you can start with the right hand one and use the recoil from each shot to move left as you go. I had heard of it being used with SMGs in close quarters to good effect.

Iapetus said...

"Do we require that white students justify their presence in the classroom? Do we need them to bring something other than their interest?"

And the issue before the Court is why the same criterion for admission--interest in the subject (and ability) and not race--should not apply to everyone including minorities. That question is a LEGAL one, not a PEDAGOGICAL one. The Court has shown in case after case that it has a hard enough time doing its job when it comes to legal matters, it should not wander off into other areas, like education, where it has no expertise at all.

Terry said...

The author keeps a thumb on the scale and refuses to acknowledge it. She refers to 'mismatch theory' as being 'widely discredited'. I think she meant 'widely criticized' (which is a supportable statement). 'Discredited' is an absolute term; something either has or has not been discredited. For proof of this, she links to an amicus brief. An amicus brief is not proof of anything. It is an opinion. The Times published Isler's piece in its opinion section. I hate it when people say they are stating facts and then hide behind the 'opinion' label when they are challenged.

rhhardin said...

rhhardin said...
"Gyroscope precession is an excellent example of f=ma."

I wonder about you, rh.


People don't really believe f=ma. They believe that if you push on something, you change its position.

Gyroscopes are a case where the difference matters. The gyroscope response is unintuitive exactly because the intuitive belief in change of position obviously does not happen; rather, a change in velocity does, as f=ma predicts. This is so unexpected that nobody understands gyroscopes, except perhaps guys who wondered about it enough.

In most of life, you'd never notice the mistake.

cubanbob said...

Howard said...

Trashhauler: You have no idea what you are talking about. STEM requires more creativity and vision than any of the arts. Facts are not facts, they are estimates of what is going on, therefore, they can be corrupted, altered and change depending on your perspective and the resolution of your tools.

If we ever want to get past racial discrimination and help to end the problems of poverty, violence, drugs, etc. in minority neighborhoods, getting more of them into STEM fields is the only sustainable way.

White privilege is not fair, get over it. Some of the dimmer whites are going to have to give up their spots to minorities. It's not like we are boxing out Einsteins.
12/20/15, 2:32 PM "

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.
Albert Einstein

If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts.
Albert Einstein



cubanbob said...

Ann Althouse said...
"That means the issue is NOT what the minority students GET but what they GIVE."

Please tell me that this was said in haste and not well thought out.

cubanbob said...

No one is talking about "limiting" the physics classroom to white students, only about making affirmative efforts to achieve greater inclusion. "Limiting" sounds like active exclusion."

As long as it limited to all who are qualified at the level being taught and are interested in the subject no one would complain about adding more seats to the class. That should be the goal, why it isn't is the question that needs to be answered.

Steve M. Galbraith said...

White privilege is not fair, get over it. Some of the dimmer whites are going to have to give up their spots to minorities. It's not like we are boxing out Einsteins.

Apparently, if you disagree that race - and race alone - brings a unique "perspective" into science then you favor white privilege - whatever that means.

Here's the test: We have two science students: one is black, the other is white.

What is their different perspectives on science? Where does this perspective come from? Their race or skin color?

If black students wish to become scientists then they need to follow the same path that other races have. Earn it.

Should we try to reach out to minority students? Of course. No one denies - or should - the racism that still exists. But that is different than this gibberish that race brings along some unique scientific perspective to the world.

n.n said...

Science is a frame-based philosophy with accuracy inversely proportional to the product of time and space offsets from an established reference. It specifies methods and tools to help enforce that constraint, which historically and in today's "secular" societies, are routinely evaded or replaced with speculation (e.g. incomplete and sparse models) and prophecies.

As for class diversity schemes, they deny the dignity of individual human beings, and are derived through faith-based assumptions -- perhaps pulled from a penumbra -- of origin justified by correlation.

virgil xenophon said...

@AA/

If having students of a different pigmentation in majority white classrooms and universities is such a necessary enriching social and academic experience in order to further better learning and understanding, then why aren't this nations "black" colleges recruiting whites and asians like crazy and providing set-asides for them in order to ALSO improve the learning experience at these self-same black colleges? Doesn't the road run both ways?

Gahrie said...

Some of the dimmer whites are going to have to give up their spots to minorities

We agreed to that fifty years ago. Now we simply want to know how much longer?

n.n said...

Affirmative Action was supposed to be about addressing latent prejudice. Not about relabeling and disseminating racism, sexism, etc. with a pretense of advancing human and civil rights.

The class diversity schemes are analogous to slaves once freed subsequently enslaving their patrons. It may work in a quasi-religious pro-choice cult, but it cannot be reconciled with any principles that acknowledge human dignity and moral rights.

The First Amendment calls for a Separation of Cult or Court and State.

Gahrie said...

I don't like seeing words like "Mandingo" and "Negro" in the creative efforts, even if, as I assume, you are a good person who means well.

But splooge stooge is perfectly fine.

Cracker and hillbilly also work great.

Francisco D said...

For those who believe that physics is close to a "pure" science, I refer you to Thomas Kuhn and Steven Hawking. The leap of Faith that it takes to believe in The Big Bang Theory (i.e. the moment of singularity) seems greater than the leap it takes to believe in a Divine Creator.

As a social scientist, I am not going to choose sides based on supposed objectivity. Science has a methodology that is more objective than religion, unless it becomes politicized. (Imagine that!). However, the roots of scientific thinking are no different than the roots of religious thinking.

It's all about faith and the narrative. As such, I remain spiritual but not doctrinaire, scientific but not foolish enough to believe in a false consensus.

Birkel said...

Personally,I hope the votes for overturning state sponsored (and yet again Democrat-approved) discrimination are there so Althouse can quit forcing me to pretend this can of Affirmative Action hash will ever be opened by the Assumed Can Opener.

Original Mike said...

"The leap of Faith that it takes to believe in The Big Bang Theory (i.e. the moment of singularity) seems greater than the leap it takes to believe in a Divine Creator."

Nobody "believes in" the singularity. The singularity is an artifact of the fact that we don't understand the physics right at the beginning. Everybody (every scientist) understands that.

ken in tx said...

Eugenics was never disproven. It was only discredited by being used improperly by the Nazis. Sort of like Marxism. If the right people did it, it would work out well, surely.

Anthony said...

Well, I do agree with that initial quote, though as several have noted here that's always maleable depending on the issue ("climate change", etc.).

But yeah, Science as a methodology and theoretical construct is incredibly powerful. But, being done by mere humans, is rarely performed in its ideal form.

Terry said...

The major problem with the Isler article is that it tries to show that physics, the science, is better because of 'diverse viewpoints', particularly her viewpoint. This is nonsense. Slicing-and-dicing opportunity between ethnic groups is common in the world; the Soviets used to have limits on the number of Jews they trained to become mathematicians. In some ex-Soviet satellites, ethnic Russian are prevented from holding certain government posts.
It may rankle our American sensibilities, but the best argument for affirmative action is about social cohesion, the idea that we are all Americans who share the same national history and the same national destiny. Too bad Isler didn't make that argument.

campy said...

"We agreed to that fifty years ago. Now we simply want to know how much longer?"

Forever. Duh.

Paco Wové said...

"As a social scientist, I ..."

BZZZZT. Thanks for playing. Bye!

Lem said...

Professor Isler has never heard of the 'The L.A. Math Test'?

1. Johnny has an AK-47 with an 80-round clip. If he misses 6 out of 10 shots and shoots 13 times at each drive-by shooting, how many drive-by shootings can he attempt before he has to reload?

Howard said...

Steven G: I agree the idea that diversity enhances the classroom is a poor reason for affirmative action. However, I think whites should be willing to compete against affirmative action students.

Just because you don't believe in white privilege doesn't mean it doesn't exist, it means you are likely self-centered, unscientific, a denier of determinism and are blinded by pride and vanity.

People in the sciences understand this universal concept of what is past is prologue:
Standing on the Shoulders of my White Tribe

"If black students wish to become scientists then they need to follow the same path that other races have. Earn it."

If white students wish to become scientists then they need to follow the same path that other races have like a lack of family support, institutional racism, poverty, no professional family history, etc.

Birkel said...

So, Howard is very sure he has identified exactly why blacks, as a group, struggle. That is because Howard is a racist.

And the only answer is More Leftist politics. Those Democrats like Howard are so compassionate. Just look at the compassion Howard's fellow travelers have heaped on big cities everywhere.

Racists like Howard, just like so many Democrats before, should stop their racism.

Terry said...

Good God, that was the most bigoted thing I've ever read, Howard. You have no idea if Isler suffered from "a lack of family support, institutional racism, poverty, no professional family history, etc." Institutional racism against Blacks has been dead for at least four decades. East Asian students suffer from institutional racism in academia, one of the few places (other than the misnamed EEOC) where racial and ethnic discrimination has the blessing of the government. Plus you referenced wikipedia!

Francisco D said...

@ Paco Wove

People who are arrogant in their ignorance fascinate me.

There is nothing like the smell of stupidity in the morning. It smells like huckleberries.

Original Mike said...

"People in the sciences understand this universal concept of what is past is prologue:
Standing on the Shoulders of my White Tribe"


What conceivable difference does it make that Newton was white?

Gahrie said...

If white students wish to become scientists then they need to follow the same path that other races have like a lack of family support, institutional racism, poverty, no professional family history, etc

Yeah, because there are no disadvantaged and poor White people, and if there were, they would certainly never prosper and succeed through hard work and delayed gratification.

How the hell can racism be more institutional than being openly discriminated against because of your skin color by the government?

Terry said...

It is a mistake to think that white and Asian students should be able to compete with affirmative action admits.
If a university decides that 10% of a certain class shall consist of Blacks (or whatever), they will accept enough Blacks to make the 10% mark. No Black student will be replaced by a white or Asian student.
The competition will be among the non-Blacks to get one of the remaining seats.

MayBee said...

If white students wish to become scientists then they need to follow the same path that other races have like a lack of family support, institutional racism, poverty, no professional family history, etc.

How does this create better scientists?

Fabi said...

Are you a scientist, Howard?

MayBee said...

Steven G: I agree the idea that diversity enhances the classroom is a poor reason for affirmative action. However, I think whites should be willing to compete against affirmative action students.

I'm not sure what you mea "wiling to compete". In school? Yes, I'm sure the students who are more qualified are happy to compete against the less qualified students.
For admissions? That's the harder thing. How do you compete when the rules are different for each group?

john marzan said...

http://www.unz.com/isteve/nyt-the-benefits-of-black-physics-students/

NYT: "The ‘Benefits’ of Black Physics Students:" Is This a Parody?

RichardJohnson said...

Howard responding to "If black students wish to become scientists then they need to follow the same path that other races have. Earn it."
If white students wish to become scientists then they need to follow the same path that other races have like a lack of family support, institutional racism, poverty, no professional family history, etc.

Are YOU a STEM graduate? Were YOUR parents not college educated? Just wondering.
I spent 60+ hours a week in class and study time for my STEM degree. As such, I may find the "earn it" statement more reasonable than you do. If I hadn't been willing to study 60+ hours a week, I wouldn't have gotten that STEM degree.

The problem with your argument is that there have been plenty of scientists who were white who came from poor families with "no professional family history" who attended university without any support from their poor families. My mother came from a farm family. She was the first one in her family to go to college. She got a Master's degree in a STEM subject from a university rated among the best in the country in her field of study.


There is also in the history of Great Britain a comparison to "institutional racism." For centuries only those professing the Anglican creed could attend Oxford or Cambridge. Catholics and Dissenters were denied admittance to those universities, the premier universities in England. Yet in The Evolution of Man and Society, the noted geneticist C.D. Darlingon points out that of the great scientific and engineering advances made in Great Britain from the 17th through the 19th century, nearly all of them came from Dissenters, who were forbidden entrance to Oxbridge. If Dissenters made it to Oxbridge, such as Isaac Newton, they did so by dissimulation.

A further problem with your statement is that of the blacks who benefit from Affirmative Action at the elite universities, a substantial proportion of them- probably most- have college-educated parents. I can't recall the name of the book, but there was a book that came out 10-20 years ago about a black kid from DC- call him Ishmael-raised by a single mother, who wanted to rise out of his circumstances. He studied very hard, with an emphasis on math and was able to gain admittance to a MIT summer math and science program for minority students between his junior and senior years. He was about the only one in the class who didn't have college-educated parents. He was behind his peers, who had gone to good suburban or urban private or public schools. As such, while he made good progress during the summer, he was told at the end of the program to not bother to apply to MIT. He did get into Brown. He is now working as a social worker in his hometown of DC.

While the PR is that Affirmative Action programs at elite schools benefit kids like Ishmael who come from poor single parent families in the ghetto, the reality is that they mostly benefit the offspring of those who have already made it to the middle class.

RichardJohnson said...

Bill Harshaw
That's my take on diversity in STEM courses: the greater the diversity the more likely there will be challenges to the conventional wisdom, which as a liberal I feel is always to the good.

My grad-level STEM courses had students from all over the world. If this "diversity" brought forth "challenges to the conventional wisdom," such as in a student publishing a breakthrough paper, it came from a student being damned bright, NOT because of the color of his skin. [As a fellow US student said, out of a country of a billion people [China], they aren't going to send over the dumb ones.]

They were admitted NOT to achieve some "diversity" quota, but because they wanted to take advantage of the technical expertise the university would provide and because their grades and board scores indicated that they would do well in their classes.

Brando said...

The problem with this "diversity is the benefit" argument is that it would then require schools to measure how much the "diverse" students (i.e., black students--no one seems to care about ensuring more white students in an Afro-Studies class or male students in a Womens Studies class) are actually participating. If the black kid in the Physics class isn't speaking up enough to share his "black" point of view on physics then the school is not getting its money's worth!

It is sad and hilarious at the same time to watch the racialists descend into ever deeper levels of paternalistic bigotry as they try to justify what really boils down to "racial payback". Today, "diversity" is the theory they're going with--and even there they can't help but to sound as bigoted as any slavemaster who insists "my slaves prefer working for me! Look how happy they seem!" When it finally unravels, what will they then use to justify this racial scheme? Because don't for a minute think they will achieve any results that will have them saying "okay, we achieved our goals, we no longer have to judge people by the color of their skin".

Paco Wové said...

"People who are arrogant in their ignorance fascinate me."

In retrospect, that was a needlessly snarky and curt comment on my part, Francisco. I should have explained my objections to your comment in more detail. My apologies.

Unknown said...

Some of the dimmer whites are going to have to give up their spots to SMARTER minorities, OK.

Some of the dimmer whites are going to have to give up their spots toot OK DIMMER minorities, not OK

Peter said...

" a good instructor will ply her students with real-life examples..."

BUT so much of physics deals in abstractions. Is it possible to do well in physics if you so lack the ability to handle abstractions that you can only understand physics if/when you can somehow relate it to your everyday experience?

Perhaps one can relate "F=ma" to "baseball meets bat" (or something), but one can't relate quantum mechanics to everyday experience because matter just simply differently on a subatomic level (Shrodinger's cat is both alive and dead until you look at it? Tunnel diodes?). Perhaps "F=ma" can be understood intuitively, but what of relativity?

AlbertAnonymous said...

This is just so typical. She starts with Roberts' questions at oral argument as a jumping off point, but doesn't stick to the legal issues on which Roberts focused. She skips from "the benefits of diversity" and immediately jumps into a defense of her "worthiness" and "right" to be in Colleges and their physics classes. She's just using it to join the bandwagon and malign Scalia and his questions, rather than answer/comment on Roberts' questions. [See the prior Althouse post and the mismatch issue].

But when mounting her defense she uses herself as an example and kind of makes Scalia's point. She says: "I have physics degrees from two historically black universities and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from an Ivy League institution" and later "I had come from a tiny Christian high school where I didn’t get nearly as much scientific preparation as my dream to be a professional stargazer required."

So, she did not have enough preparation in high school, but she went to historically black colleges and earned two degrees in physics. And presumably did well enough to earn a spot at Ivy League institution and get her PhD. I wonder what would have happened if she'd been accepted at an Ivy League institution (based on the color of her skin - in the name of diversity) even though her tiny Christian high school hadn't prepared her "nearly as much" as required.

And though she never gets back to Roberts' questions, she pretty much makes his point too. She says: "Yet there were people at Norfolk State University who believed in me and welcomed me. When I walked through the doors, my professors asked me if I wanted to understand physics, not what “unique perspective” I might bring." So she didn't need a unique perspective for her physics class after all?

Finally, the straw man. Though no one (especially Chief Justice Roberts) was suggesting that blacks should be excluded from physics classrooms, she concludes with: "If we limit the physics classroom to white students..."

Maybe she should stick to physics. Her persuasive writing skills (heck, even her ability to answer the questions asked) seem to be lacking in this opinion piece.

Francisco D said...

@Paco Wove

That was gracious. Apology accepted.

Thanks.