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Archive for May 2011

Science vs. progressivism: the Kanazawa affair

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Satoshi Kanazawa is the latest casualty in the war against science.

His now-infamous post on race and attractiveness stirred the modern-day Tommaso Caccinis of the leftist blogosphere to condemn him as a blasphemous racist, and even attempt to get him fired from his position at the London School of Economics. His science was admittedly questionable at best, since the data that he used (which, keep in mind, was generated by a widely respected study with significant government backing) turned out to be subjective enough to open the door for legitimate criticism, and there is definitely room for legitimate criticism here; I am not convinced that his study says what he thinks it says, or even that it says anything at all. But that criticism was hardly brought up, and it was eventually lost in the flood of blasphemy charges from pitchfork-waving progressives.

The authors of the article pointing out the problems with the Add Health data, not satisfied by merely criticizing the data like actual scientists, went on in the same article to blast Kanazawa for coming to conclusions that did not still hold true once half the data got thrown out the window, because obviously it is impossible for people to be reasonably considered sexually attractive before the age of 18 (never mind that many countries, and even many states in the US, set the age of consent lower than that), and therefore it is “inappropriate” to point out that existing data is compatible with Kanazawa’s conclusion and incompatible with the absurd progressive response that everyone in America, even in black-dominated areas such as the one I currently live in (where, interestingly, even the worst of the black supremacists tend to limit their sexual activity to white women), has been brainwashed into supporting a standard of beauty more useful to the evil, culture-controlling Je… um, whites. Of course, thinly veiled accusations of pedophilia are not a valid argument for throwing out half of the data, and statistics is enough of an art that analyses from authors who throw out such absurd ad hominems are questionable. (I’d run the numbers myself, but my statistics class was taught by a miserable alcoholic who spent most of the semester talking about his drinking habits, so I am decidedly unqualified for such analysis.)

What do we have here? A scientist used data from a seemingly credible source to come to a certain conclusion, and it turned out that that source might not deserve the reputation it enjoys. One could even legitimately go so far as to call the study pseudoscience, and given the overreaching claims and use of obfuscatory buzzwords in the article, it is clear, at least to me, that it is at best another example of the absurdity of science journalism. This would be the limit of the controversy over that article in a world that had any sort of respect for science, but, since the dominant ideology of the Western world relies on the belief, different only in degree than that of the creationists that adherents of that ideology so love to mock, that the processes of evolution ceased to operate on the human brain as soon as Homo sapiens first set foot on Earth, we do not live in such a world. Progressivism is not concerned with truth, and therefore will not limit its criticism to the truth value of Kanazawa’s claims, of the data and methodology that led him there; they are instead concerned with conformity to progressivism, and will largely limit their attacks to those grounds. “To hell with truth; we have the Truth!”

So, of course, the controversy broke completely free of the constraints of rationality, and progressive bloggers took up arms against not Kanazawa’s methods, but his results. Jezebel, a crypto-feminist spinoff of an online tabloid, spewed forth a Two Minutes Hate that simply called Kanazawa an “awful”, “crappy” racist who hid his racism behind meaningless bar graphs. Crooks and Liars dismissed “Zantoshi” Kanazawa’s conclusion out of hand with the unsupported progressive non-argument that beauty is entirely subjective. Pam’s House Blend, a self-proclaimed “Online Magazine in the Reality-Based Community” (shades of “Fair and Balanced”?), claimed, in an ironic yet predictable denial of reality, that races are too diverse for statements about racial trends to be valid. The Guardian, in what may be the first use of Reductio ad Hitlerum in the mainstream media (if that anti-science Pravda of radical New Left trash can even be considered mainstream), compared Kanazawa to peddlers of Aryan pseudoscience, and then claimed that Kanazawa’s article was morally objectionable because it “insulted and denigrated women of African descent all over the world, insinuating that some inevitable genetic development forces them to the lowest rung of his imaginary rigid scale of ‘attractiveness'”, as if science should be suppressed if it has the possibility of hurting anyone’s self-esteem. (One can imagine a similar objection to Darwin; does it not hurt the self-esteem of humans everywhere to learn that they are not God’s special snowflakes, but instead the descendants of apes?) And so on.

If this were an isolated incident, or if the criticism focused on his scientific failings and not his un-PC results, it would be effectively irrelevant; Kanazawa is a sensationalist, and I doubt many people would care if his bombast cost him his career. But this is not isolated; considering the particular objections that were raised to his article (note the title of the post announcing the petition to get him fired: “Fire Racist, Sexist Satoshi Kanazawa”), he is the latest victim of a pattern of progressive opposition to science that has claimed the careers of many other scientists of far more merit, including Lawrence Summers, who lost his position as president of Harvard after drawing fire for a conjecture that there might possibly be a biologically caused nonzero difference in scientific aptitude between the sexes, and Nobel laureate James Watson, who lost his job for pointing out the established fact that the average IQ of Africa is lower than the average IQ of the US. And in cases such as these, the ends do not justify the means; attacking even the worst hack for ideologically motivated reasons may bring about a desirable immediate result, but that result comes at the cost of strengthening the ideology behind it.

History has seen this pattern many times before. The progressive insistence that science be subordinated to its essentially faith-based beliefs differentiates itself only in rhetoric and ideology from the Soviet attacks on geneticists as “fly-lovers and people-haters” and puppets of the bourgeoisie and the Catholic charges of heresy against heliocentrism. Instead of defending their beliefs in the arena of rational debate, they attempt to shut down all opposition, regardless of its accuracy. And, judging by the fact that Kanazawa’s career is currently threatened not by his possibly unscientific methods, but by his politically incorrect results, it looks like they’re getting away with it.

Is there now any doubt as to who holds power? Is there now any doubt as to what is the dominant ideology of the Western world?

Written by nydwracu

May 31, 2011 at 22:47

Posted in politics

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Postmodern morality and the New Right

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It is obvious that most, if not all, political positions stem from systems of morality, here defined as sets of rules that assign value judgments to actions and states. What is not so obvious is how exactly those moral systems work. Ever since Hume pointed out that the gap between is and ought cannot be crossed, it has been clear that there is no objective moral system, and considering that the differences in political ideology between certain groups are so large as to render the arguments of one group practically incomprehensible to opposing groups, it is highly likely that there are multiple moral systems in today’s society. As Abbie Hoffman once said, there seem to be a lot of different realities going around. So what are those systems?

Jonathan Haidt proposes that there are two, which he rather intuitively terms ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’. Conservatives, he says, value protection of others from harm (which he terms ‘care’), justice, ingroup loyalty, respect for tradition and authority, and purity, whereas liberals value only care and justice. This two-way division conveniently divides the ideological arena into two sides, and, he says, “offers a surprisingly simple explanation of the ‘culture war’ going on in the United States”. However, such clean cuts come with a price: the creation of that moral binary necessarily leaves out any systems sufficiently far off from that binary. But this only matters if there are any such systems.

Green: Harm 2.2, Fairness 1.8, Loyalty 3.0, Authority 2.0, Purity 1.2; Blue: Harm 3.7, Fairness 3.8, Loyalty 2.1, Authority 2.1, Purity 1.2; Red: Harm 3.0, Fairness 3.1, Loyalty 3.1, Authority 3.3, Purity 2.9

These are the results of an online moral system test developed by a group of social scientists, including Haidt. The green bars are my own results. It should be clear that I do not fit into either of Haidt’s binaries; my scores for Authority and Purity fall far below 3.0, ruling me out of the conservative camp, but so do my scores for Harm (care) and Fairness, making me not a liberal either. What, then, am I?

Liberal and conservative systems in this context can roughly be equated to modern and premodern systems. (The term ‘premodern’ here is completely neutral; any perception of bias was brought about either by your own progressivism or your (false, but statistically reasonable) assumption that I am a progressive.) Before the paradigm shift that was the Enlightenment trickled down to the common man (if it can be said to have done so at all, when even now, a significant percentage of the population opposes it), hierarchical structure, ingroup loyalty, and moral avoidance of disgust were universal, as shown by the widespread existence of monarchy, nationalism, and veneration of religious and cultural symbols. Then along came the utilitarians, Rawls, and other champions of Reason, and they preached that ingroups are unimportant, that the true moral calling is to serve all of humanity, that authority must be subordinated to rationality, and that such emotional reactions as disgust have no place in a domain that rightfully belongs to Reason alone. The concepts of loyalty, authority, and purity fell out of fashion, and were replaced by heightened attention to harm and fairness. This was driven further by the horrors of the two World Wars, which popular opinion blamed on adherence to loyalty and authority; thus, premodern morality became not only outdated, but immoral, and modern morality was born.

But Rawls was a long time ago, and further developments have been made.

The fall of Communism and its dreams of remaking man in its globalist, Enlightenment-inspired image showed the impossibility of rewriting human nature, the existence of which, contrary to the modernist doctrine of tabula rasa, was established through the study of developmental psychology. The misery and anomie of the neoliberal, post-60s United States showed the social consequences of rootless individualism and the dangers of indiscriminately taking a bulldozer to pillars built by past generations, and led to a pessimistic rejection of the utopian dogmatism of modernism. Critical legal theory tore down the idealism inherent in the court’s self-proclaimed role as arbiter of justice. Economic theories popped up like mushrooms after a storm, each proclaiming to be the One True Path to just distribution of resources, and each as objectively correct as any other. And, most importantly, people began to realize that Hume’s is-ought gap applies just as much to the nontheistic religion developed by Enlightenment philosophers as it does to the theistic religion that the Enlightenment attempted to replace, and so this new, postmodern moral philosophy cast off the concept of justice as subjective, irrational, and irrelevant, in much the same way as modernism cast off purity.

I suspect that this is the moral system of this decade’s New Right (seriously, couldn’t they have found a term that didn’t have hundreds of prior uses?), but in the absence of evidence, that’s nothing but a hypothesis. Might be an interesting topic of research, though.

 

Considering this, I wish I could call myself a postmodern conservative, but that particular label is already taken, and “postmodern reactionary”, while more useful for pure shock value, doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. I really need a new name anyway; stealing the name of a minor character from an old DOS game is sort of getting old.

Also, if you suspect by now that this post is inconsistent with the last one on this topic, as far as I can tell, you’re right. Guerrilla ontology, I suppose.

 

Written by nydwracu

May 10, 2011 at 04:34

Posted in politics

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Why am I in college?

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Cuba is the only country in Latin America that chose a different path to try to achieve national independence, sovereignty, and political and economic development. Cuba did so through a popular nationalist revolution that swept away a bureaucratic authoritarian, dictatorial, praetorian, repressive, and corrupt regime. How has Cuba’s different approach to national, political, and economic development shaped the current Cuban reality. How has neo-imperialism hindered Cuba’s development?

This is from the study guide. I already had doubts about the amount of trust I could put in this class; the professor claims that import substitution industrialization was fundamentally flawed and a complete and utter failure, whereas other sources say that it had some success in larger, more populous countries, that it may have reached a larger degree of success with international trade agreements among Latin American countries, and that its failure compared with the Asian export-driven model was due in part to the USA’s Cold War policy of heavily promoting capitalist development in Asia. But this particular bit seems… I don’t know, maybe a bit over the top? Out of all the things that have hindered Cuba’s development (possibly including its reliance on an economic model that has literally never succeeded), the one thing that gets singled out is neoimperialism?

But it gets even better. The professor for this class is the head of the political science department.

I am a product of the public school system. I have spent enough time in that particular conditioning facility that I am used to mindlessly regurgitating the expected answers. And yet, I find myself questioning my ability to do that here; the disparity between the expected answers and the answers that I find is large enough that I would have to completely shut myself off from outside information in order to ensure that no crimethink slips into my regurgitations.

Why do I subject myself to an institution that cannot even live up to its stated purpose?

Written by nydwracu

May 9, 2011 at 09:11

Posted in politics

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