The Use and Misuse of Facebook   Leave a comment

I spend a lot of time arguing with people on Facebook about politics. I feel very strongly that there are right and wrong ways to do it.

Politics on Facebook are very dangerous. By friending people who say things that you agree with and de-friending anyone with whom you disagree, it is very easy to slip into a comfortable cocoon of like-minded people on one end of the political spectrum who post only news stories and personal ideas that reinforce the world view of that group, and opinions about how stupid those who disagree are. Once this happens, you can frequently post opinions that are pretty dumb and that insult the living daylights out of people who disagree with you, with the experience that your posts go unchallenged and you get a lot of likes. You can become utterly convinced that you are intelligent and well-informed, when in fact you are nothing but an ignorant, obnoxious loudmouth who is utterly incapable of a civilized conversation with anyone with whom you disagree. There’s a lot of this going on.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that Americans have come to so dislike the company of people who they disagree with politically that they have even been *MOVING* to areas with like-minded neighbors. So contact in our daily lives with people who disagree with us has been becoming rarer.

So one of your most valuable resources on Facebook is intelligent people who disagree with you and will say so. Every once in awhile they will prove you wrong, and when they do, it is important that you publicly admit it. They’ve earned that, and if it happens every once in awhile it is important that you reward them with that recognition, otherwise they might unfriend or at least unfollow you, and quit providing this vital service.

Another issue is that people who don’t know each other, by virtue of being in the safety of their physical isolation, can get much, much fiercer and more rude than they would be if they were sitting in the same room.

As a result of all this ferocity, many people who do have opinions hesitate to say anything but are really, really put off, being pushed in exactly the opposite direction of the posts that they are hearing:

If you want to discuss politics on Facebook, it is vital that you never friend any work colleagues.  There is a lot of talk about how free speech is jeopardized of college campuses, but that’s nothing compared to the situation in the workplace, where free speech as an ideal never existed.  The consequences of a bitter political disagreement in the workplace can be severe (I lost a job in 1999 without ever disclosing my party affiliation — just defending “the free market” when most of my co-workers were trashing capitalism was damning enough).

A lot of people never discuss politics on Facebook, but there is still a danger.  Watching all your friends show the best things going on in their lives, their vacations and their most photogenic selfies (and many people, especially young women, have become geniuses at digitally retouching their selfies) and seeing your friends do activities that they didn’t invite you to, can lead to quite an inferiority complex, or at least depression.

Posted October 20, 2018 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

Was the Apollo Program Done “For All Mankind”?   Leave a comment

The movie “First Man”, about the Apollo 11 moon landing, omitted the planting of the American flag on the moon. The claim is that this was because the landing was done “for all mankind”. We did leave a plaque on the moon saying “We came in peace for all mankind”, but it wasn’t true. This is leaving out a HUGE amount of context about the space race of the 1960’s.

In the 1950’s, the US had a bomber fleet in Western Europe ready to bomb the heck out of the USSR if we got mad enough. It wasn’t technically feasible to build a bomber that could make the round trip from communist territory to the US. The Soviets had the bomb, but they really had no way to get it to the US to serve as a deterrent, which they desperately needed.

So they funded intercontinental ballistic missile development much more aggressively than the US did, and by the late 1950’s, had missiles capable of sending a nuke halfway around the world from Russia to the US.

It turns out that such a rocket is capable of putting something into orbit, so they launched Sputnik, the first satellite, before the US could. They further exploited their lead in rocketry to launch the first one, two, and three-man spacecraft into orbit.

The propaganda gains this brought for the Soviet Union, and for communism in general, were enormous, and very detrimental to the well being of the human race. In the 1960’s, many in the US had an inferiority complex relative to communism, and many newly independent third world countries were deciding whether to adopt capitalist or socialist economics for their own development, and many chose the socialist model, to their own detriment.

John F Kennedy announced that the goal of the US space program was to put a man on the moon and bring him back again. It was a challenge to the Russians, and the goal was far enough off that the US had a realistic hope of surpassing the lead that the USSR had.

To most Americans, NASA was all about “beating the Russians to the moon”. The space program was generously funded, hitting 4% of federal spending in 1966. It is *HIGHLY* unlikely that the American public would have been that generous to fund a program to go to the moon “for all mankind”. After we reached the moon in 1969, NASA funding quickly dropped to less than 1% in the next few years (it’s less than 0.5% of federal funding right now).

Socialist economics were still pretty popular until the implosion of the Warsaw Pact in 1989. After that, most of the world embraced market-driven economics, resulting in dramatic increases in the standard of living in many third world countries, and reductions in world poverty.

Posted October 15, 2018 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

ContraPoints on Free Speech   Leave a comment

The following video is by far the best defense of the left-wing position on free speech (namely, that “hate speech” should be banned) that I have ever encountered.

I know, from her other videos, that the speaker in the series has a masters degree in philosophy, and I think, given the arguments she makes, that she is very intelligent.

It is part II of a 2-part series. Part I was nowhere near as good. In it, she cited Christopher Hitchens as representing the “free speech” point of view, and showed him claiming that Nazi Holocaust deniers are deserving more protection of their speech than others, and then she claimed, by the same principle, that “victim” demographics deserve more protection than other groups and that “hate speech” should therefore be banned on college campuses. She also shows Hitchens, during Q&A, telling an idiot asking a stupid question to shut up and refusing to address his question (ostensibly, therefore, violating the questioner’s “right to free speech”).

I don’t think Hitchens speaks for all the right, and in addition there is a BIG difference between claiming that some people need “extra protection” (a dubious proposition to begin with) and claiming that ANYBODY has such a “right to not be offended” that we should start shutting other people up. Hitchens never said that, because Holocaust deniers, in his view, deserve “extra protection”, that no one should be allowed to offend them.

So here’s the second video, which is much better.



With the example of “Paddy’s Bar”, she does demonstrate that a complete absence of rules is rarely feasible if you want any good outcome.

So I agree with the video that a forum usually needs boundaries in order for the discussion to be productive and enlightening. But that is speech within one forum. That means that if you want to say something that is banned in other forums, you have the right to set up your own forum and set rules that you find acceptable. That is “free speech”. The left has been deliberately interfering with the ability of forums that they don’t like to exist, sometimes by rioting or pulling fire alarms, and that is “censorship” and it’s wrong.

She talks about the fact that there are few black philosophy majors.  And she talks about two micro aggressions that she knows of from her six years in college. In the first case, a black student dropped a class because the lecturer had used the term “negro”. In the second case, a black woman asked a white male philosophy lecturer why there weren’t more black philosophers, and in his answer he mentioned slavery in ancient Greece.

Now, I don’t think either of those events were very egregious. The word “negro” is old-fashioned, but it’s not a terribly hateful word. The micro aggression was certainly not enough to justify dropping a class over. And in the second case, what answer was the black woman expecting? When people discuss the history of oppression, they mention slavery all the time. I suspect that the speaker feels that any explanation the lecturer gave for the absence of black philosophers, other than injustice, would have been deemed an offense.

I had to think about it for awhile, and I think I realize what happened. And it demonstrates the flaw in the author’s position.

In the video, she says that philosophy departments all over the country have meetings now and then about “Why aren’t there more black philosophers?”. She doesn’t describe how the conversations go, but I figure that the speech restrictions that most of academia operates under prevent an accurate answer to the question.

Philosophy is a tough major. Graduating philosophy students have the second highest IQ of any major, outperformed only by physicists.

There is an overwhelming consensus of intelligence researchers, liberal and conservative, that the IQ of the average black American is 10 points lower than that of the average white American.  That’s a big difference. There is not a clear consensus about why this is. To minimize controversy, let’s adopt one of the least offensive theories, namely lead poisoning. Minority neighborhoods have more lead pollution than white neighborhoods, and it is well-established that lead poisoning lowers IQ.

So given that blacks have, on average, lower IQ, we would expect them to be under represented in high-IQ majors in general, not just philosophy, but also in, for example, STEM fields, and that is, in fact, what we observe. So that is probably why there are fewer black philosophers.

Now, to express the opinions in the preceding two paragraphs is MUCH more offensive than the micro aggressions against blacks that the video describes. I suspect that neither ContraPoints (the speaker in the video) and the rest of the philosophy are willing to entertain those notions for a microsecond. So it is impossible for them to reach an accurate conclusion.

What happens in the absence of being able to accurately answer this question, that philosophy majors are constantly asking themselves?

Their ideological blinders forbid any answer other than “injustice”. So the speaker in the video concludes that racism on campus must be to blame. The problem is that, in spite of having spent 6 years in college, she can’t remember observing much racism (in fact, of the two micro aggressions described, she only saw one, and the other was related to her second hand). So she blows these two teeny tiny moments of fleeting emotional discomfort up to monstrous proportions and concludes that massive censorship is likely to solve the lack of black philosophy majors.

When the black woman asked the question about why there weren’t more black philosophers, it might have been rude to start talking about racial differences in IQ. On the other hand, by bringing the subject up, wasn’t she opening the door to all possible explanations?

What the liberal rules of acceptable discourse do is impose a dogma that there is no explanation for a difference in outcomes between groups other than “injustice”. They then talk about group differences in outcomes all day long and conclude that injustice is rampant. And that’s wrong. And that wrong conclusion is reached because of censorship.

The video says that Milo Yiannopolous should not be tolerated on campus, because most of what he does is bait and bully liberals (which I agree is most of what he does), and in fact, his presence undermines, rather than elevates, the quality of campus debate. I don’t agree with that. If Milo were barging into other forums and discussions on campus and disrupting them, I would agree with her. But that’s not the case. Milo wants to have a lecture in his own forum, and only those interested in listening to him will attend (and bear in mind that that is a TINY minority of the students). As long as he sticks to his own forum, I can’t see a compelling case against allowing him to speak, as long as his speech is legal, which it generally is. I disagree with most of what Milo says, but he has made a few good points. Milo likes to pick on transsexuals (which I don’t agree with), but I think the maker of the video is letting her status as trans and her resulting opposition to Milo’s speech cloud her judgment here.

She talks about “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces”. She describes the origins of the concept in gay bars where anyone who expressed homophobic opinions was ejected so that the gays could relax and be themselves. But she utterly fails to address the news stories reporting campuses having rooms with play dough and movies of frolicking puppies, where students could retreat when overwhelmed, and the news stories reporting that students retreating there complaining of their “dearly held beliefs” being challenged outside.

It comes down to “forums” again. Yes, it is necessary for leaders of forums to be able to enforce rules, including evicting troublemakers. Some colleges have problems where any student organization that uses student facilities has to accept all students, meaning they can’t eject anybody. So when Christians try to hold a Bible study, Christian-hating gays show up and are deliberately rude and disruptive and make it impossible for the Bible study to happen. So you need a “safe space” for Christians, a forum where they can eject anybody they see as problematic.

But the “safe space”, whether it be for gays, Christians, or transsexuals, doesn’t have to be the whole damn campus. Any forum should be free to eject (or verbally bully) anyone who is deemed disruptive, according to the sole and final judgment of the organizer of the forum.

One thing that ContraPoints gets close to saying, while discussing safe spaces, without saying it directly, is that racist, sexist, and homophobic speech is so ubiquitous that it needs no protection — everybody is constantly bombarded with those points of view, so there is no need for them to be tolerated in an intellectual environment.  But that’s not true.  Jonathan Haidt’s book reports that research he did showed that conservatives understand liberals better than vice-versa.  I think part of the reason for that is that the liberals control the non-Fox mainstream media and Hollywood, and most public school teachers are liberals, so it is very, very hard for anyone to get through life without getting the liberal viewpoint.  An urban liberal, on the other hand, can very easily go through life without any exposure to conservatives other than straw men erected by liberal sources.  And this goes completely into very educated people.  In the September 2017 issue of Scientific American, there was an article about the dearth of black physics faculty in universities, and the article claimed that there was no observed IQ difference.  Now, even Ezra Klein, the editor of Vox, and vehement opponent of the book The Bell Curve, agrees that there’s 10 point difference.  But whoever wrote that article in Scientific American, and all the editors who approved the article, live in such a filtered liberal ideological bubble, that they are isolated from that basic and relevant fact.

One thing that never, ever, seems to cross ContraPoints’ mind is that defining “hate speech” is difficult, and that most contemporary definitions prohibit sane discussion of important topics.

  • We need to discuss affirmative action.  How much should there be?  Some would characterize any argument against increased affirmative action as “hate speech”. So if the conversation takes place on that basis, no company can hire any white males until every minority or female applicant has been hired.
  • We need to discuss immigration. Many would characterize any concept of an undesirable immigrant as “hate speech”, meaning that the only conclusion we can reach is completely open borders.
  • We need to discuss “Black Lives Matter”.  It’s obviously “hate speech” to claim that any blacks are criminals.  So the only conclusion that a “hate speech” free conversation can reach is that police must never arrest any black person no matter what they do.

Posted June 11, 2018 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

What’s the Problem With The Regressive Left?   Leave a comment

Allow me to describe the thinking of the regressive left (sometimes called the Social Justice Warriors) as I perceive it.



  • The most important characteristic of a person’s identity is their group membership by birth — their ethnicity (partly their race, but sometimes also meaning the religion of their parents), their gender, and their sexual preference. This membership is much more important than any choices that they have made or anything that they have achieved in their lives.
  • Individual rights are not very important. Group rights are essential.
  • Not all groups have equal rights. All groups range on a continuum from “victim” to “privileged”, where “privileged” groups have no rights at all.
  • The last two points often result in an analysis where, if there is a conflict between two individuals, what actually transpired between them is unimportant. All that matters is who is more “victim” and who is more “privileged”, determined by group membership, and from there, it follows that the “victim” party is completely unaccountable and anything the “privileged” party does or says is wrong.

The regressive left claims to be fighting for “equality”, but it’s a flat-out lie. They are aiming for a hierarchy with the “victims” on top and the “privileged” on the bottom.

The other objectionable thing about making group membership the core of everybody’s identity is that it moves us in exactly the opposite of the direction we need to go to transcend these differences.

One can wonder: “Why is it that so many of the ‘privileged’ go along with this framework which affords them no rights and blames them for everything wrong?”. There are a couple of severe penalties for non-compliance:

  1. There are real bigots in society, and most of them hail from humble origins, and are so uncouth and lacking in education and sophistication, that they are so profoundly repulsive that most others will pay any price to avoid being associated with them.
  2. If a person is in any position that involves hiring and firing people, they and their employer are potentially subject to catastrophic discrimination lawsuits. If your management detects any hint of dissent from the consensus of the regressive left from you, you may be fired, or at least, they will avoid putting you in any position of authority, to avoid putting the company in legal jeopardy.



  1. Nature / Nurture — the regressive left usually comes down heavily on the side of nurture, the one exception to this being sexual preference.
  2. Gender is a social construct. All observed behavioral differences between genders are learned.
    • And all observed behavioral differences between genders should be eliminated.
  3. Race is a social construct. There are no physical differences, and especially no behavioral or cognitive differences, between ethnic groups other than the purely cosmetic.
  4. Popular generalizations about ethnicities or genders are generally false.
  5. Any observed relative under performance of “victim” groups is generally due to either discrimination or historical injustice.

These dogmas have not been proven either way. If someone who is trying to disprove all of them faces a high burden of proof, it can’t be met. But someone trying to prove them true has no hope of meeting a much lower burden of proof.

I believe pretty strongly that if these assumptions are debated on the basis of a preponderance of evidence, they don’t stand up very well at all. The position of the regressive left, on the other hand, is that we have a moral obligation to pretend to believe these things, whether they’re true or not, because believing them will somehow make them more true.

If an assumption is not true, and we design our society to depend upon that assumption, then our social policies are apt to fail. So it’s important to be able to conduct an honest inquiry into the truth.

The other thing is, if we tell everybody well-intentioned lies in the pursuit of some goal, everybody’s not going to just believe them and all live happily ever after. Some people will question the lies, and the lies will have to be defended. This is where it gets ugly. When someone challenges these assumptions, the position of the progressive left is that they are some kind monster, to be viciously and personally smeared and marginalized from public debate through any means necessary, including dishonesty.

Thus, the regressive left is a constant source of censorship and lies.

Posted June 1, 2018 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

2018 O’Reilly Artificial Intelligence Conference NYC   Leave a comment

I went to the O’Reilly AI conference this week.

I particularly went to sessions about finance. A very big problem with using machine learning for finance (and with machine learning in a lot of applications) is that, with the state of the art of machine learning, the reasoning isn’t very transparent. The point was made that transparency wasn’t just a problem for finance, it was a problem generally, for people trying to debug machine learning systems, too.

This is a big deal with using machine learning to evaluate applicants for loans. This process is heavily regulated, and when you deny a loan to someone, you are required by law to explain exactly why, to prove that you weren’t discriminating illegally. And if the reasoning is based on a neural net with thousands of interacting floating point values, that’s not human-readable.

One presentation was a guy who would try to coax an explanation out of the neural net by perturbing the inputs and seeing how that changes the result. He was reporting progress, but it still seemed to be on the drawing board and a long way from convincing the regulators it was ready for prime time.

Some applications, like fraud detection on credit card transactions, are lightly regulated, so neural nets can be applied. If you call someone on their cellphone to ask them if they really made a certain credit card charge, you don’t have to explain your reasoning or prove that illegal discrimination wasn’t a factor, so it’s really the wild west.

It turns out that when credit card transactions are flagged for fraud, only about 1% of them turn out to be really fraudulent, so they’re trying hard to reduce false positives. They found that by applying machine learning, they could reduce the number of false positives by a factor of two.

It turns out that machine learning can make huge mistakes. One case is “adversarial attacks”. They showed us two pictures, one of a school bus and one of a dog. Both were correctly identified by the machine learning, as a “school bus” and a “dog”. Then they modified a lot of the pixels very slightly, in a way known to confuse the machine learning, and showed us the pictures again, next to the original pictures. The change, even with the pictures side-by-side, was not noticeable to the human eye, but now machine learning identified both as an “ostrich”.

In a less malicious but more serious case, they showed us a machine learning that had been taught to distinguish stop signs from speed limit signs, and placing a yellow post-it pad on the stop sign (and not blocking any of the letters), confused the machine learning so that now it identified the stop sign as a speed limit sign.

Another application was for agriculture. The main way we apply herbicide is that we genetically engineer crops that can tolerate herbicide, and then douse the whole field with it. This one company was working on a rig that would be towed behind a tractor, and would optically be able to distinguish between crops and weeds, and squirt the herbice on only the weeds. They were working on being able to distinguish between different sorts of weeds, because some weeds, like “pigweed”, are resistant to most herbicides and would need application of special, more potent, herbicides that you really wouldn’t want to be applying indiscriminately.

One lecture was about a Stanford project to use machine learning to replace some datastructures, and he was claiming that a neural net could outperform a binary tree in some cases (since a binary tree would depend on performing log n ‘if’s that can’t be performed simultaneously, while the machine learning can be based on many simultaneous multiplies). It wasn’t just binary trees, that was just the main example he talked about, he felt that many of the data structures we are familiar with could be addressed, but in a lot of cases you would want to mix the machine learning with familiar, traditional datastructures.

Google had an interesting project. Machine learning experts are in very short supply, and there are different strategies for machine learning that have been published. Google has a project where they will trying several different machine learning strategies at once, see which ones are working best, and try those again, and iterate in a loop. The strategy consumes absolutely huge amounts of compute resources, but you get results comparable to if you had inaccessible machine learning experts.

One German was talking about the GDPR. His whole view was very European, and it was about these rules the European Union has adopted related to privacy and the responsibility of programmers and companies to uphold liberal democratic values. He talked about the 2016 US election as if no one would have voted for Trump except that Cambridge Analytica performed some sort of mass hypnosys on half the US population (I voted against Trump, but I have relatives who voted for him, I understand why they did, and Cambridge Analytica had NOTHING to do with it). I asked if implementing the GDPR would be constitutional in the US because a “right to be forgotten” would conflict with freedom of speech. He said Europe has freedom of speech (which I find preposterous) and gave arguments that the right to be forgotten was a good thing (which is plausible) without explaining how forcing websites to remove accurate statements did not in fact conflict with free speech. I didn’t argue with him any more because it would have been hogging the floor.

The most exciting presentation was by, a company working on an enhanced brain-machine interface. Reading electrical signals directly from the brain is very difficult. Even if you put electrodes on the scalp, the signals in the brain are still the thickness of the skull away, and very weak, and the nerves on the scalp are much stronger and closer, so the noise to signal is just horrendous. To really get anywhere, you have to drill through the skull, which is not a terribly popular idea.

This company just has a bracelet that you wear on your wrist that detects signals in the nerves leading to your hand, and can read what you’re doing with your hand. The signals from the bracelet go to a neural net to figure out which nerve is which, and they can then figure out with a very high degree of accuracy what you’re telling your hand to do. They had a demo where the founder was wearing the bracelet, and there was a monitor with a picture of a hand in it, and as he moved his hand around, the hand cartoon in the monitor mimicked his actions. Then a friend grabbed his hand and held it in in fist, and the monitor continued to display what he was telling his hand to do, even though his hand was forced to be in a fist.

Then they had a very cool demo of an iPhone playing the video game “Asteroids”, which only had a few degrees of freedom, and someone had learned to play the game by moving one hand, but with training, they were able to send subtle signals well enough to play the game, while in fact their hand was completely motionless.

I asked how much CPU power was involved — if in fact there were 1000 GPU-assisted CPU’s in the cloud facilitating these demos. They said No. I asked if there was enough CPU power in a smartphone to do the demo. One guy said Yes, the other guy said there was enough CPU power in the average digital watch to do the demo. He said there were only 16 values read by the bracelet, it wasn’t that much data.

They claimed they could read the equivalent of a six-fingered hand, and a user could learn to manipulate a robot arm with more degrees of freedom than a human arm with this bracelet.

Another application was amputees. If you lose a hand in an accident, they’re pretty good at transplanting hands, but a problem is that since the nerves that control the hand are unused while you’re waiting for a hand to transplant, the nerves atrophy, making it difficult to learn to use the new hand once you have it. If you wear the bracelet and do things with it while you’re waiting for the new hand, the nerves won’t atrophy so much.

They’re going to start shipping bracelets in 2018, you can register on the website I gave above to be put on their waitlist.


Posted May 3, 2018 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

Sam Harris & Charles Murray vs Vox   Leave a comment

In about 1993, two Harvard-educated intellectuals, Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, published The Bell Curve, which described, among other things, racial differences in IQ and the social policy implications.

Less than 10% of the book is about race. I haven’t read the rest, as I understand it, they have a lot of Libertarian social policy prescriptions that liberals naturally hate.

The liberals threw a hysterical shit storm over the book and vilified the authors as “white supremacists”, which was strange, given that the book reported that Asians have, on average, a higher IQ than whites, not something one would normally expect from a “white supremacist”.

Herrnstein passed away, and Murray became a pariah to the left. He works for some right-wing think tank. In about 2011 he wrote a book “Coming Apart”, which I read and is quite good. In that book he bends over backward to avoid discussing race — he makes no mention of anyone other than white people, and the focus of the book was on the growing cultural divide between lower-class and upper-class whites. It is a very useful book to read if you are an upper-class intellectual having difficulty fathoming the mindset of the Trump voter.

Sam Harris is one of the 4 most famous Atheists in the world, he was dubbed one of the “4 Horsemen” of the New Atheists. As an atheist, his job is to criticize religion, and he feels that Islam is one of the most dysfunctional and destructive religions around. 10 years ago, he belonged firmly to the political left, but since then, the left has decided that no one should criticize Islam for any reason, and he’s gotten a lot of flak.

When the Bell Curve came out and the liberal shit storm happened, Harris thought “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. That must be a terrible, maliciously racist book.”. But when he came under criticism from the left, he started seeing parallels between the left’s treatment of Murray and their treatment of himself. He read The Bell Curve for himself, and invited the author, Charles Murray, onto his pod cast and introduced him as “The most misunderstood and unfairly treated intellectual of our time.”.

Vox published an article critical of Harris’s interview. The authors of the article were Eric Turkheimer and Richard E. Nisbett, who are both authorities on the subject of intelligence and particularly the relative influence of genes and environment. They are both very extreme on the environment side, while Murray is very extreme on the genes side.

I have read Nisbett’s book “Intelligence and How to Get It”. I thought it was disingenuous in that it mentioned many ways that environment can influence IQ, but never, ever, brought up a very important point — studies have found that when a child born to dumb parents is adopted and raised by smarter parents (something that happens a lot), when the kid is about 12 years old, the high IQ of the parents rubs off on the kid in a pretty significant way, but as the kid approaches adulthood, their IQ converges on the IQ of the biological parents. So it’s important to distinguish between short-term and long-term effects, which the whole book never even touches on.

I have also read some of Turkheimer’s published papers (he has them all on the web). Prior to him, adoption studies were generally finding that there was very little difference in IQ between kids adopted into homes of different incomes. The problem with this research is that there are very few really bad adoptive homes. Adoptive homes are rarely poverty stricken — they range from solid lower middle-class to upper class, and many researchers found that the difference between the two makes little difference to the kid. Turkheimer’s work establishes that a god awful home can really negatively effect the kid’s IQ. But his papers were dishonest in that they showed a lot of graphs that weren’t plots of experimental data, but rather artist’s depictions showing IQ raising steadily as income raised across the spectrum from poor to rich, which conflicts with everybody’s else’s research on the subject and which Turkheimer’s research did not establish.

Murray, on the other hand, is extremely on the “genes rule the day, environment has little impact” end of things.

So after these two wrote the article critical of Harris’s pod cast, labeling The Bell Curve as “Junk Science” and “pseudo science”. Harris felt that this was extremely unfair, and had an email exchange with Ezra Klein, the editor of Vox about it.

Calling something “Junk Science” and “pseudo science” is very extreme, and I think Harris had a good point. The racial differences described by “The Bell Curve” are facts. While Murray’s position that these differences are genetic in nature is on the extreme side, he is not far from the consensus of psychologists in the field of intelligence testing in this regard. Few rule the possibility out.

So Harris and Klein had an argument over email, and eventually Harris got so annoyed that he put the whole email conversation on the web, which I and a lot of other people felt was not good form.

So now, a year after the Harris/Murray podcast, Harris had Klein on his podcast, which was over 2 hours.

Harris felt that race and IQ was something that people should be able to talk about and have honest disagreements without either side getting vilified. He felt that the search for truth was paramount.

Klein felt that a perception that blacks had lower IQ’s and that the cause of this was genetic is so harmful, and has enormous potential to justify injustice, that it was a pernicious belief and that was the dominant concern. He also felt it was objectionable for privileged whites to be passing judgment on the lack of talent of vulnerable people. And he felt that a scientific discussion of race and IQ should include a lot of discussion of the history of racial injustice.

Harris replied that the history of injustice and the potentially harmful social policies that a perception of genetic racial differences in IQ are irrelevant. To him, the discussion was about science, and he felt that people should be allowed to focus on getting to the truth of the matter.

The claim that discussion of race & IQ should spend a lot of time on history reminds me of when I read Steven Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man, which claims to debunk the assertion that IQ varies with race.  Gould spent half the book quoting 19th century white male non-scientists saying racist things, which I felt was totally irrelevant, and I was frustrated that Gould got through the whole book without giving any biological reason why populations that had been isolated long enough to develop obvious genetic cosmetic differences could not also have evolved genetic cognitive differences.

Harris also said that it was counter-intellectual to say that the race of the speaker had any bearing on the truth of a statement.

Klein made several arguments to the effect that The Bell Curve was wrong, but he never denied that truth was not his top priority.

One point Harris made was that the article said that The Bell Curve said blacks were “inferior“, and he objected to that use of the word. Harris pointed out that there was almost no doubt that he personally had a lower IQ than John Von Neuman, one of the brightest minds of the twentieth century. He asked Klein if it was therefore fair to say that Harris was “inferior” to John Von Neuman. Klein really didn’t answer that question.

A couple of times, Harris made the point that he had spoken to well-known, well-respected intelligence researchers who told him, off the record, that they agreed with Murray, but they weren’t willing to say so publicly because they didn’t want to be treated the way Murray had. Klein didn’t have a response to that, and I think that he probably felt that this level of intimidation was a good thing.

Harris made an excellent case that the Vox article was intellectually dishonest, and Klein was pretty clearly of the opinion that the potentially pernicious policy implications of the truth was of more importance than intellectual honesty as an ideal.

There were some points that neither of them mentioned:

    • The dogma that there are no cognitive or behavioral differences between ethnic groups could itself be pernicious, particularly if it is inaccurate. Social policies based on science that is wrong are not going to work very well.
    • Even if there are no genetic differences in IQ between ethnic groups (which I feel is a possibility, but not a strong one), everyone agrees that significant differences currently exist.  And if the cause of the differences is not genetic, we really aren’t sure what it is.  If we can honestly discuss race and IQ, we might be able to identify the cause and fix it.  If we can’t have that discussion, we’ll never identify the cause, and the tactics we employ to fix inequality of outcomes will be the wrong ones and those differences will persist.
    • Even if the causes of the observed differences in IQ are entirely environmental, these differences should have a profound impact on how we should interpret observed differences in outcomes.  Liberals have a habit of citing unequal outcomes as proof of discrimination, but it is well established that differences in talent do exist, regardless of their causes.  Given that differences in talent do exist, perhaps egalitarian efforts would be better invested in eradicating the causes of the talent gap, rather than constantly vilifying whites for discrimination that is not really the driver of differences in outcomes.  This is extremely relevant to charges of discrimination made against STEM fields, which are very meritocratic and where a high IQ is a key ingredient of success.
    • Do the liberals really believe that they can conceal the intelligence gap from everybody? A lot of American students are in integrated schools, and they can tell who is contributing intelligently to class discussion, and they see who is in honors classes and who is in the remedial classes, and they can see whether observed group differences are because of any great injustices being imposed by the school faculty. Isn’t the liberal policy of telling everybody that they are terrible people if they believe their own eyes and ears going to backfire at some point? Isn’t the current state of American politics, where much of the public has become anti-intellectual and revolted against the intellectual leadership of the highly educated, due to the fact that liberals have been indulging in obvious lies?
    • Liberals have been saying, very loudly, that discrimination and historical injustices perpetrated by the whites are responsible for all the suffering of blacks. This is not only an excuse for the poor performance of blacks, it’s also an accusation against the whites. And isn’t the right of the accused to speak in self defense and offer alternative explanations, even in the form of insults, a fundamental human right?

Posted March 29, 2018 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

New TV Show ‘American Sloth’   Leave a comment

There’s a popular TV show out, “American Greed”, usually about people who commit crimes to make a lot of money, and all the harm they do.

I propose a new show “American Sloth”, about the millions of lazy Americans who are dragging society down.  Featuring:

  • The teenager who has to repeat 10th grade because she’s on Facebook on her phone for 60 hours a week and completely neglects the rest of her life.
  • The 35 year old man who lives in the attic over his mother’s garage.  He can’t afford to move out, because he’s working part time at a crummy minimum-wage job.  He never gets around to looking for  a better job because he’s watching ESPN for 10 hours a day.
  • The 55 year old man who told his doctor he has “back pain”.  The doctor can’t prove whether he does or doesn’t, but it’s enough to qualify for social security disability insurance and food stamps.  It pays much less than honest work, but it’s enough to survive on and buy weed.  And internet porn is free.
  • The mom who lives with the father of her child and deliberately doesn’t marry him so that she’s technically a “single mom” and, as such, qualifies for welfare.  She works a little, but makes sure she keeps her working hours low enough that it doesn’t jeopardize her benefits.
  • The 27 year old man who’s living in his parent’s basement where he’s been since graduating from college in the liberal arts 5 years ago.  He feels he’s qualified to be a philosopher king, but unfortunately for him, there are very few job openings for philosopher kings in constitutional democracies.  And to tell the truth, with the grades he got, especially in economics, he would suck at it.  He’s achieved the highest rating at World of Warcraft.
  • The wife of a middle class working husband who means to get around to looking for a job someday, once she’s figured out what she wants to do and has caught up on binge-watching all the awesome TV shows on HBO, Netflix, and Showtime.

Posted March 20, 2018 by xyquarx in Uncategorized