More on the New Republic piece

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93 Comments

Bleah. _The New Republic_, champion of Joseph Lieberman, scourge of Howard Dean, represents “The Left?” This is a tired string of right-wing talking points, with all the usual accuracy that implies.

Here’s an idea. Why don’t all the pro-evolution people start encouraging school boards to teach ID? We will include specific sections in the curriculum about all the known arguments against ID (or some other form of Creationism) to balance out the time we spend teaching students about all the arguments for evolution. This guarantees a teach the controversy approach that will provide mentally stimulating material for young students. Except we will call it “Critical Thinking.”

Further proof that it is muscularly possible to roll one’s eyes and yawn at the same time. First he gives the benefit of the doubt to Johnson, Dembski, and Wells that they aren’t lying when they say ID isn’t religious, then he pulls the classic tu quoque “baldness is a hair color” trick and redefines religion to mean “fixed belief”, then implies that a certain subset of these “religious” beliefs are characteristic of the left.

What’s the point? That some people believe some silly things because it flatters their political conceits? Stop the presses. And start them again when Ralph Nader and Barbara Streisand declare war on science, the enlightenment, and modernity, and seek to rewrite the constitution to institute an Ahmonsonite theocracy, and then we’ll have some rough symmetry in the comparison.

So the leading lights of ID have (when the forum requires) denied that ID is religious (as distinct from when they are raising funds!) and Zywicki chooses to believe what they say when required, rather than everything else they say, and everything they DO, to the contrary? How very selective.

As for the list of silly questions Myers deconstructed, as far as I can tell Zywicki just trotted those things out as part of a general argument:

1) Those who disagree with me believe things. 2) All beliefs are religious. 3) Therefore, disagreement with me is religious disagreement.

If anything, this only emphasizes that the mind is as plastic as Myers says. For Zywicki as for any religious person, the way to make something come true is to SAY it’s true.

There’s so much wrong with this, yet there’s also one thing that’s fundamentally right. First let me clear up what’s wrong with it…

1) The New Republic isn’t “the left”, unless the term “left” refers to everything except the extreme right.

2) Virtually no-one claims that women’s brains can’t possibly be different, on average, in some way, from men’s brains. That’s just an ill-constructed straw man. The point is that women who ARE good at and interested in math or driving a big rig or whatever should be allowed to pursue their interest to the extent that their ability allows, and not subjected to prejudice or discrimination solely on the basis of their gender.

3) The few people I have met who came close to subscribing to the straw man idea that women were neurologically identical to men were by no means on the “left”, nor “liberal” in the American sense of the term. They have all been socially and financially upper class, and typically quite harshly judgmental of everyone else, economically right wing, intolerant of free expression of ideas, and in many cases, Republicans. This is relevant in that it disproves the idea that this mainly straw man position, even when held (more or less), is characteristic of the “left”.

4) No-one likes being told that a group they identify with is in some way “inferior”. If you go around saying that Danes are inferior in some way, you’ll be ill-received in Denmark. A person who shows respect to others, as advised by Jesus and many other moral teachers, generally refrains from such comments, since they are useless, hurtful, and rarely stand up to skeptical scrutiny. Ultimately, it’s more offensive when the comments are blatantly untrue, but even if they’re mere over-interpretations of some complex contemporary social trend, they’re still annoying. Lawrence Summers violated this simple principle of decency, albeit rather mildly, and the result was predictable. The persistent right wing whine that their bigoted, hurtful, racist comments are “true”, while incorrect, is also irrelevant. EVEN IF the “average woman” is “less interested” or “less talented” in math for some biological reason than the average man (and we have absolutely no strong evidence to support this useless yet potentially offensive conjecture, but EVEN IF), there is no reason to go up to women who ARE good at math and tell them that their “gender” is “inferior”. It just doesn’t make sense.

However, there is also something very, very right about the Zywicki piece, and I’ll be back to explain shortly…

Harold, waiting with bated breath for the needle in the haystack.

So the leading lights of ID have (when the forum requires) denied that ID is religious

It’s even worse than that, they have Multiple Designer Confusion Disorder (MDCD). Basically they can never make up their minds if they are religious, atheistic or agnostic!

The designer is clearly the benevolant and loving God of the bible!

Then they get confused and suddenly the designer isn’t God, it’s now space aliens:

We are of course performing science! ID needs no God we have a perfectly natural designer in space aliens which we can test for!

but then they get confused again because they suffer MDCD after all:

We don’t know who the designer is and neither can we be bothered finding one!

Clearly, a distinct and very severe case of MDCD.

Fortunately, the DSM-IV prescribes an active treatment regimen for MDCD: 800mg of arsenic, taken twice per day, until symptoms cease.

Okay, I’m back - remember, one has to wait a while between posts to PT (a rational rule designed to reduce alcohol-driven hyperverbosity and crude “shut down” attempts).

Here’s what’s RIGHT about the Zwyckli piece (no pun intended)…

ID is, as we have seen, running into problems in Pennsylvania and Utah. The problem, which Zwyckli seems to be unconsciously picking up on, is that it is a double deception.

Most PT posters assume that ID is religion disguised as “science”. But it’s really a bit more complex -

It’s POLITICS disguised as phoney religion, with the phoney religion then “double disguised” as “science” in some special situations.

It goes like this. You start with a political stance - a commitment to a “laissez faire” or “robber baron” approach on social and tax policy and environmental regulations, a low threshold for war, and a weakening of civil rights, more or less - that doesn’t have anything to do with religion, and may even be at odds with some religious systems (NOTE - I am not in any way attempting, in this post, to critique this underlying political stance, but rather, merely showing how ID is related to it).

To increase acceptance, you form an alliance with authoritarians who use religious language, and you adopt phoney “morality” on sexual issues. Now you have a winning system - God commands that you vote for me because I condemn abortion and gay marriage. As for social security, foreign policy, etc, well, you’ll just have to take what I dish out, because the other guy is “unGodly”.

But then it gets complicated. The ostensibly religious authoritarian part of your alliance wants politically-motivated religious dogma taught as “science” to school children. Their point is that otherwise, children may grow up to be tolerant of homosexuals and whatnot. That’s an important point. Your whole system is based on provoking some people to vote against their economic and environmental opinions, by inflaming their bigotries. So you agree. But there’s a problem. The courts don’t allow dogma to be taught as “science” to schoolchildren. Even right wing judges can see that for Mormons and Catholics and Baptists to send their children to the same public schools, that can’t work.

So you invent ID - a second mask, to be worn over the religious mask in court. You disguise your phoney, politically motivated “religious” stance as a “scientific” stance, in some limited circumstances. You attempt a complex dance. In court you deny that “ID” is religion, and in private, you claim that it is. But both stances are dishonest. It’s politics. The problem is, the charade is now too complicated, and some of the actors start to get confused. They deny that ID is religious in private, or worse yet, say that is, in public.

Lest anyone doubt my analysis, let me offer some data to support it. The political views of sincerely religious people are variable, and the political views of sincere advocates of emerging scientific ideas are totally random. What are the politics of nuns, or string theory proponents, or even nuns who are string theory proponents? Hard question to answer. What are the politics of ID “proponents”? Easy question to answer.

It’s not science versus religion. It’s not science versus right wing politics, either - you can be to the right of Pinochet, and still not endorse the tactics of ID (and some ID oppenents are). It’s science verus DISHONESTY. And that’s what’s making even a Zwyckli uncomfortable.

This post makes a lot of mistakes (some of which were just pointed out by another poster).

1. The New Republic is hardly “left”, though it does occasionally publish work by people who might be broadly construed as “left liberal”. At the same time, it has published a lot of neo-con stuff, and with respect to foreign policy, is pretty much indistinguishable from the neo-cons.

That said, I do not recall ever having read an article in The New Republic (not to say one was never published) that took the strong position that all differences between men and women were a result of culture, and that culture is entirely independent of biology. I would never identify The New Republic with that position.

2. I would say that the view that a) culture-at least since the agricultural revolutions starting around 10,000 ya-can be understood without reference to biology has been the default position of the vast majority of researchers in the social sciences-regardless of ideology b) the premise that culture presents a radical break with biology and that therefore humans are radically different from other humans has also been the premise of nearly everyone in the social sciences, regardless of ideology. Though I disagree with this position, if one takes the time to acquaint oneself with the history of the social sciences, it is clear that this was not a position that was adopted irrationally. Furthermore, significant valid claims to knowledge have come out of this broader research tradition. I regard it as incomplete-not irrational.

3. The much stronger view, that tends to mix relativist theories of knowledge with strong culturalist explanationsa and extreme cultural relativism, has been identified with one segment of the “academic left”. I would concur that this camp has been vocal and presented itself as the “left” position. I would also agree that at least some people in this camp have been as much an obstacle to a scientific world view as many conservatives. They have had a largely negative (IMO) impact on academic discourse and the culture of academia.

4. There is still a lot of pseudo-biology and pseudo inheritance arguments circulating that receives serious consideration by conservatives. Exhibit A: Charles Murray.

5. The Bush administration has pretty much thrown in its lot with politicizing scientific inquiry and has given aid and comfort to forces in American society that wish to overturn a general scientific world view. In society at large, the clearer and more present danger to a scientific world view comes from the neo-cons and religious conservatives. They have largely drowned out the rational, secular right.

6. There is today, a significant body of scholarship emerging by people “on the left” (broadly construed) that reexamines the complex relationship between biology and culture. For an example of this type of work see the edited volume “Foundations of Human Sociality” (eds. Joseph Heinrich, Robert Boyd, Samuel Bowles, Colin Camerra, Ernst Feher, Herbert Gintis) or “Not by Genes Alone” (Robert Boyd). Clearly, Sarah Hrdy must be considered broadly “left” and self identifies as a feminist. In economics, Geoff Hodgson has written voluminously on the Darwinian foundations of Institutional Economics. Hodgson would be clearly considered to be broadly “left”.

7. One may accept the premise that evolution includes what happens above the shoulders as well below the shoulders, without necessarily accepting every hypothesis or conclusion of Ev Psych. Some of Ev Psych is good and interesting. Some of it exhibits all the higher virtues of post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning.

The article sets up a straw man. But then again, at the risk of being accused of being snide, Tim seems to delight in linking to straw man critiques of the social sciences and has yet, never demonstrated to me, any real working knowledge of what actually goes on in the social sciences.

Virtually no-one claims that women’s brains can’t possibly be different, on average, in some way, from men’s brains. That’s just an ill-constructed straw man. The point is that women who ARE good at and interested in math or driving a big rig or whatever should be allowed to pursue their interest to the extent that their ability allows, and not subjected to prejudice or discrimination solely on the basis of their gender.

Unfortunately, that claim is made, and isn’t just a straw man. The point you make is the rational point, of course. But rather than try to go with the rational argument (which, granted, often seems not to work very well in this society), organizations in favor of equal opportunity try to back it up by arguing what you call the straw man.

As an example, give you the case I’m most familiar with:

http://www.aas.org/~cswa/Equity_Now_Pasadena.pdf

The Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy list as their very first “guiding principle” that “Women and men are equally talented and deserve equal opportunity.”

Of course, the first statement is dubious in and of itself because no two individuals, regardless of gender, are equally talented in all things. But I think it unfortunate that the CSWA used this as the basis for something so important as equal opportunity. For there *is* evidence that men’s and women’s brains are better. It’s not clear which one is “better” for astronomy, and indeed I don’t believe that aptitude for astronomy is such a single valued thing that it may even be possibly to identify that. But it’s much more complicated than a blanket assertion that “men and women are equally talented.” Yet there’s the assertion. Argue against the assertion, you are arguing against the first guiding principle of the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy, and now you have the appearance of arguing against improving the lot of women in astronomy. Which I am very much not arguing against.

I wish it were just a straw man. But it’s not, no more than Young Earth Creationism is the star man that IDiots would have us think it is, and we all need to be aware of that.

-Rob

While I’m on my soapbox, let me make a more general point about Summers.

Summers’ mistake (again IMO) was not in referencing biological differences between male and female patterns of reasoning. His mistake was offering this as a)established fact when it is still very much an hypothesis that needs to be pursued and better defined and b) jumping from hypothesis about biology to making a conclusion about labor market outcomes. The remarks came off as ill informed (which they were) and as sloppy reasoning. This gave the appearance of trying to justify a perceived climate of gender discrimination in Harvard’s Sciences Department.

I don’t dispute Summers’ right to engage in speculative statements or his right to make generally provocative statements. Nor do I think all the response to him was entirely well thought out either. But I don’t buy the premise that he is a victim of the PC thought police. More like a victim of foot in mouth disease.

For there *is* evidence that men’s and women’s brains are better.

I can’t believe I said that. What I meant to say was “there *is* evidence that men’s and women’s brains are *different*.” (Maybe I was going to say “better at different things, but I didn’t really want to say that.)

I’m not sure that it’s clear which things men and women have, on the average, better aptitude for as a result of biology (as opposed to culture and upbringing stuff). Perhaps there is some evidence that I’m unaware of.

-Rob

Rob, I think the point is that it’s irresponsible to say someone has better aptitude “as a result of biology,” because it’s never that simple. It is always a combination of biology and environment. I see your point, and it might very well be true that there could be a statistical correlation between certain aptitudes and gender, but it would be egregious to describe that as “biological” or “genetic,” because there are so many other factors. Blame it on the bogus nature vs. nurture, dichotomous nature of the argument, but we need to move away from the idea that anything in the development of the mind is either black or white. Instead, it’s a rainbow.

Of course, if we start using a rainbow analogy, the conservatives will have one more thing to hate about it.

harold:

By and large, I think you have missed it. ID is probably best viewed as the political action arm of creationism. But politics isn’t the goal, only the path one must follow to get a theocratic government installed in the US. I think you have the strategy basically correct: take your religious goals and rephrase them in such a way as to do an end-run around legal restrictions (the head-on approach failed). With the legal oversight neutralized, we can use PR techniques to mobilize the evangelical population into political action. When these people should succeed politically, they can appoint (or be elected as) creationist judges, and the snowball can accellerate.

Politics is a tool more than a goal. The goal is to use political methods to enable the use of civil authority to enforce moral behavior as God demanded (in the opinion of those who fantasize about wielding that authority). Another nice side effect of political power – if you have it, you can use it to make exceptions to moral behavior in the case of yourself and those useful to you. It’s no coincidence that the US Senate routinely exempts itself from the workplace restrictions they enact on everyone else.

As for the “science”, this is nearly an afterthought. Science has earned so much respect that if it can somehow be enlisted in support of the theocratic goals, the political skids are much more effectively greased.

Rob -

I still think Zwyckli is constructing a straw man.

It is true that, in American society, groups of individuals who feel or have felt a burden of discrimination will engage in reactive “positive discrimination”. For example, it’s widely believed that people of Irish descent helped one another get jobs on urban police forces during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Similarly, there are “women’s” groups in most scientific and business environments, whose blatant and open goal is to promote women in the field, as aggressively as legally possible. It goes without saying that if women had not been, traditionally, excluded from science and business, these groups would not exist. It is clear to me that women still face some discrimination, and that the popularity of these groups is driven by this. Whether these groups will ever go away is an open question (my guess is they won’t, not even if every member of the profession in question is a woman), but their level of activity and support is likely to reflect the degree of discrimination perceived by women.

However, despite all this, the document you link makes only a vague statement that “women” have equal “talent”. The implication is that the “average” woman is about as likely to make a good astronomer as the average man, undeniably, but it’s hardly like the nonsense Zwyckli would put into the mouths of imaginary “leftists”. Strong statements that women could not possibly be neurologically different from men in any way, as Zwyckli implies we should find, are NOT present.

If someone were to declare that women are, on average, inferior as astronomers, it is undeniable that the group you draw attention to would probably barbecue that someone’s cajones. As I point out, this is just the universal human response to such unkind and overgeneralized statements. Especially if one is a self-proclaimed Christian, but even if not, one should refrain from profitlessly insulting people with these kinds of remarks, which one would so dislike having directed toward oneself. One thing I intensely dislike about Zwyckli’s article is his implicit defense of Lawrence Summers. It’s just incompetent for a man whose role is president of a university to pointlessly insult a large group of faculty members. It’s obvious that academic and professional disciplines show imbalanced gender and ethnic characteristics, but there’s no logical reason to use this fact to make uncalled-for and illogical remarks. Summers’ remarks were actually rather mild, but they predictably touched a very raw nerve, and he should have known better.

We need to distinguish between negative and positive discrimination. Negative discrimination is many orders of magnitude worse.

It’s one thing to say “we need a qualified candidate, and if multiple equally qualified candidates are available, try to get a woman” (positive discrimination). That may be, in some ways, reprehensible. It’s not really a debate for this forum. My general stance is pragmatic. I support “enforcing existing positive discrimination programs” but not creating any new ones. But again, this is not the forum for this debate.

It’s another thing altogether to say “despite your excellent qualifications, you can’t have the job because you’re a member of a group we discriminate against” (negative discrimination). This type of discrimination is morally repulsive and appropriately unconstitutional.

Unfortunately, there are some people so immoral and cynical that they express intense opposition to “positive discrimination” (eg affirmative action) as a coded way of signalling that they secretly sympathize with the repellent and illegal concept of negative discrimination. Not everyone who opposes positive discrimination falls into this category, I hasten to add.

There is some concern that the “straight white Protestant males” of the population (a group to which I belong) may suffer, not merely from losing our supposedly desirable former status as the only group NOT being discriminated against (a status I am happy to have lost), but from the lack of “positive discrimination groups” working on our behalf (whereas some other categories of people do have such groups). Fortunately, all data indicates that we continue to do just fine, so I personally feel that this concern is exaggerated, to say the least. This concern is a major political factor in the US, however, and probably accounts for the voting patterns of “white men” to a large degree.

Posted by harold on July 8, 2005 11:58 Most PT posters assume that ID is religion disguised as “science”. But it’s really a bit more complex -

It’s POLITICS disguised as phoney religion, with the phoney religion then “double disguised” as “science” in some special situations. Hmm. I’d say ID is religion attempting social engineering through politics by disguising itself as science.

Politics is only the means. Religion is the goal.

Flint -

I don’t deny that manipulating some people who sincerely believe in a “theocracy” is part of the strategy, but for the most part, I really think that this is politics.

If the motivation behind all this is sincere religious belief, why are all these people lock step “conservatives” on economic, foreign policy, and non-sex related social issues?

My analysis explains this perfectly - it’s about power and money, also known as “politics” - they’re right wing first, and while a few of them may believe in some sort of religion, most of them are just hypocrites, pretending to be “religious” in order to advance their agenda.

If religion is driving them into politics, as you seem to be saying, then why isn’t there a single voice saying “I believe in ID, but Jesus would want us to be nice to suffering people”? Why is every sponsor of an “anti-evolution” policy for public education, anywhere, at any level, always a “conservative” Republican?

I am NOT arguing against your perfect right to be a conservative Republican on other issues who supports strong scientific education, if that’s the deal.

Liberal ID supporters - are you out there? I’ve asked individual creationists, before, whether they would support creationism if it were associated with “liberalism” instead of right wing politics, or if its advocates were Democrats. The answer has always been a “creationist no” - the sound of silence, that is.

Isn’t it the case that bad religion (of the reality-denying, self-contradicting, me-me-me creationist/ID kind) is indistinguishable from politics. Hence the confusion over which comes first or is the driving force behind the other. I think the underlying cause is particularly scummy humans - whatever the overt movement to which they pledge their allegiance happens to be.

So maybe what we have here is either politi-gion or relig-itics?

On second thought, never mind.

Most PT posters assume that ID is religion disguised as “science”. But it’s really a bit more complex -

It’s POLITICS disguised as phoney religion, with the phoney religion then “double disguised” as “science” in some special situations.

Amen, brother. This is a POLITICAL fight, not a scientific one. And that is why science is, to a very large extent, utterly irrelevant to it.

The IDers will not be beaten by picking apart their “science”. They will only be beaten the same way every OTHER political movement is beaten — by out-organizing it, and then using political strength to grind it into the ground. Disrupt their organizing effotrts, interfere with their funding, encourage and exacerbate internal faction fights, cut them off from potential recruits.

Those who don’t want to get their hands dirty with such a thing, are in the wrong fight.

We have a Left in the US?

Where has it been hiding for the past 90 years or so?

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harold:

First, I enjoyed your demolishment of Zywicki’s argument. However, I disagree when you say:

I don’t deny that manipulating some people who sincerely believe in a “theocracy” is part of the strategy, but for the most part, I really think that this is politics.

If the motivation behind all this is sincere religious belief, why are all these people lock step “conservatives” on economic, foreign policy, and non-sex related social issues?

For a start, not all fellow travelers of the ID movement are “lock step ‘conservatives’”. Denyse O’Leary, for example, inclines to the left wing. And I have never seen any statement by Behe that indicates a political preference one way or another.

I believe the general association between creationism (including ID) and conservative politics comes about by a more indirect means than you indicate. Specifically, most creationists in the US worship Jesus as a God. This places them in an uncomfortable position, for Jesus clearest, most frequent and most forcefull moral teaching would, if applied in the political arena, require them to advocated a form of socialism. They would be substantially to the left of the Democrats, and probably to the left of Nader Greens. Applied individually, they would be amongst the poorest US citizens regardless of their incomes due to the size of their charitable givings.

To sublimate this conflict between the values of the God they worship and their actual values, they overemphasise other aspects of Christian teaching. By their forcefull condemnation of sexual “immorality” and abortion, they allow themselves to believe they are really following Jesus moral teaching. By emphatically defending the theological doctrine of creation, they allow themselves to think how strongly they are standing up for the “God” whose commands they habitually disobey.

The association between creationism and conservative politics, on this view, comes about because the more right wing your politics, the greater the dissonance between your political views and the actual teachings of Jesus. And hence the greater the need for some displacement to obscure that dissonance.

One advantage of this view is that it need not attribute so cynical a motive or course of action to creationists and your suporters as your view does. As displacement must be subconcious to be effective, on my theory the motives of creationists are in general sincere.

Bloody Plato! Why couldn’t he have learned statistics, at least the bell-shaped curve? Oh yeah, it wasn’t invented for a couple millenia. Well, it’s been a couple hundred years since it did get developed, but clowns of various sorts represented by Zywicki are still thinking in terms of Platonic forms. (Except when they’re lauding Charles Murray, who used the bell curve to demonstrate that he knew nothing of the phenomenon of confounding variables) It’s time they got with the program.

If there is one thing that the Modern Synthesis (especially Mayr) ought to have taught us, it’s that biology refers to populations, and that populations vary. And, if N is large enough, then there are a large number of the population that are several standard deviations above the mean of any trait. So there are plenty of accomplished women scientists, and they kick my butt every day.

If an undergraduate spouted such fatuous tripe as Summers did (that gender might determine scientific achievement) he would be corrected gently but firmly. Only the president of Harvard could be taken seriously when uttering such nonsense.

Rob, I think the point is that it’s irresponsible to say someone has better aptitude “as a result of biology,” because it’s never that simple. It is always a combination of biology and environment. I see your point, and it might very well be true that there could be a statistical correlation between certain aptitudes and gender, but it would be egregious to describe that as “biological” or “genetic,” because there are so many other factors. Blame it on the bogus nature vs. nurture, dichotomous nature of the argument, but we need to move away from the idea that anything in the development of the mind is either black or white. Instead, it’s a rainbow.

Well, in any event, trying to predict the aptitude of individuals based on any statistical factor is going to be completely flawed from the get go. So saying anything about any someone based on any group they belong to or anywhere they’ve been is a bad idea.

But, yes, right now, saying that we can say that we know aptitudes are different because of genetics is clearly wrong. Larry Summers was wrong to suggest that, and he also ignored Occam’s Razor in that we have *clear* cultural reasons for why women aren’t as well represented in science. It’s such a complicated system that there’s no way we can make a clean answer like that.

What I’m worried about, though, is that those who really want equal opportunity will assert that it is TRUE that men and women are identical. Because then any evidnece that they aren’t can be used to undermine the position for equal opportunity, and to counteract that people who want equal opportunity may find them in the positions of having to shout down researchers who come up with evidence against the biological identicality of the minds of men and women.

Read “The Blank Slate” by Stephen Pinker for a similar situation. There, the political left, in reaction to terrible things like eugenics that were done with genetics, argued that there was no human nature, and that it was all nurture, to support their political positions. Even when their political positions were good things to support, they had based them on bad science– and were put in the position of having to shout down and character assassinate scientists who were learning that, yes, in fact, there is some human nature in the brain.

We really don’t want to fall into that trap again with gender equality/differences. Asserting that the two are identical psychologically and mentally, and therefore we should have equal opportunity, will really open us up to those who don’t want equal opportunity as the evidnece that there are real physiological differences mounts.

-Rob

Just a note – conservatism isn’t necessarily the enemy of evolution and science. Nor is liberalism necessarily the friend of science. Right now, the nutty fringe of the conservatives in the USA have more sway than does the nutty fringe of liberalism, but in reality, science vs. anti-science is an axis that’s not parallel to conservative vs. liberal.

There are plenty of flaky anti-scientists on the left. From the relativists who assert that the scientific method is just a social construction of Western Civiliazation, and that there is no real truth after all, to the astrology/stars&crystals types, there are all kinds of people on the left who would tear down science. Yes, right now antiscientists have more sway in the Republican party than they do in the Democratic party, but I think it’s important to keep in mind where the real dangers lie, and to find real allies where there are real allies.

I’m fond of David Brin’s categorization of “romantics” and “modernists”, the former being the anti-science types and the latter being the pragmatic types. You can find both romantics and modernists in the political Left and the political Right. If we managed to get away from identifying ourselves as being on the Left and seeing everybody on the Right as being a threat, we might have a more meaningful debate. Indeed, we might be able to wrest away people on the Right who don’t like the antiscientific homophobic theocratic elements of their party. (Which, before our current president, included me; our current president pushed me fully out of the Republican party.)

-Rob

Rob Knop Wrote:

If we managed to get away from identifying ourselves as being on the Left and seeing everybody on the Right as being a threat…

In fact, if we stopped trying to project a nine-dimensional graph onto a one-dimensional line, we might have a much better idea what’s going on.

Remember, according to the immensely popular “left/right” model, Nelson Mandela, Pol Pot, Stalin and the Dalai Lama are all “leftists”, and consequently have identical beliefs and social policies.

mdr (who has met people in the USA who agree with that assertion)

Remember, according to the immensely popular “left/right” model, Nelson Mandela, Pol Pot, Stalin and the Dalai Lama are all “leftists”, and consequently have identical beliefs and social policies. 

mdr (who has met people in the USA who agree with that assertion)

This isn’t a rare belief at all in America. It’s pretty commonly expressed among the more crude political commentators. David Horowitz has built an entire career on claiming that liberals and Stalinists are the same thing.

Mike S. Wrote:

An extension of this idea is that having a career in upper management, or in elite academic institutions, is not “better” than being a stay-at-home mom (or dad). Your whole argument (and the traditional feminist argument) is basically predicated on this notion, though.

No, the traditional feminist argument is that women should have the choice, as men do.

Flint Wrote:

On the contrary, my recommended policy position is explicitly a normative position

Regardless of your intent,It is *explicitly* an empirical statement – “there ****ARE**** NO”. “is” – empirical; “ought” – normative. Flint – Humpty Dumpty.

Jefferson’s understanding that “all men are created equal” - a normative statement

Jefferson’s statement is most emphatically not normative; it does not state that we *should* treat people as equals, but that they *are* equals. ““We hold these truths to be self-evident”. Normative statements are prescriptions, they are not truths. Semantics 101.

Summers was interpreted (and interpretations can vary) as telling an audience of female scientists that they were congenitally inferior at their profession. At the very least, this is undiplomatic.

It’s certainly undiplomatic to blame people for radically false and unsupportable interpretations that others make of their words. Oh, but “interpretations can vary”. My, what a weasel. “When I say ARE, I mean should. When Jefferson said truth, he meant policy.” What a world you live in.

Yet you seem to be supporting the position Summers took

I only seem that way to someone who sees things in terms of black and white. Rather than supporting Summers’ position, I have supported his right to take it. I told you that I used to sleep with a feminist theorist, a law professor and founder of the Women’s Studies program at UCLA. I didn’t get into her bed by supporting Summers’ position.

But then you say my position in disagreement is nonetheless “undisputed”.

You just can’t help but beg the question, can you? You insist that, if *you* think that something you have said contradicts Summers, then it must contradict Summers, and everyone else must think so too. You are apparently not capable of conceiving that others might not be as confused as you are. What I said what that *what you actually wrote*, that “our society imposes sex roles in countless ways” and “this has influence on our perceptions and understandings” is undisputed. If you really think Summers would disagree, or that disagreement with these truisms is at the core of Summers position, then you’re even more retarded than I thought. But I don’t think that’s the real problem; the real problem is sloppy reading, sloppy thinking, and a general lack of intellectual honesty.

My generalities and those of Summers are mutually contradictory.

False. There’s nothing that Summers said, either specifically or generally, that is contradictory with the claim that “society imposes sex roles in countless ways” or that “this has influence on our perceptions and understandings”. So you’re lying, or stupid, or confused, or some combination of those.

And this is why I state my general framework. If you think Summers is right and yet belittle me for stating something “undisputed”, it’s hard to tell which side you are supporting.

I support the truth, some of which can be found in some of the things Summers says, and some of which can be found in some of the things you say. But you have this absurd black and white notion of “sides”, and the blindly egocentric view that I must subscribe to all the erroneous *inferences* that you make.

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This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on July 8, 2005 9:13 AM.

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