Friday, March 17, 2017

Meta-bigotry


Sophistry is the attempt to persuade someone of some proposition or policy by the use of fallacious arguments.  What I have called meta-sophistry involves accusing others of fallacies or of sophistry in a manner that is itself fallacious or sophistical.  The meta-sophist cynically deploys labels like “sophist” as a rhetorical device by which he might smear and discredit an opponent.  Where the opponent’s arguments can easily be read in a way that involves no commission of fallacies, the meta-sophist will instead opt for a less charitable reading so as to facilitate the accusation that the opponent is a sophist.  Because the meta-sophist poses precisely as a foe of sophistry and fallacious argument and as a friend of reason, his brand of sophistry is especially insidious.  He is like the politician who makes the loud condemnation of sleazy politicians a useful cover for his own sleaziness.  (As I have documented many times over the years – e.g. here, here, and here – “New Atheist” writers are paradigmatic meta-sophists.)

A close kin to meta-sophistry is what I call meta-bigotry.  This is the deployment of epithets like “bigot” in a manner that is itself bigoted.  We have seen some vivid examples recently, such as in the unhinged reaction of certain academic philosophers to Richard Swinburne’s controversial SCP talk, and in the mob that shut down Charles Murray’s lecture at Middlebury College.  Indeed, so manifestly bigoted are these purported anti-bigots – so obviously moved are they by unreasoning hatred and malice rather than by calm and dispassionate argument – that it is astonishing that they could claim with a straight face to be anything other than bigots themselves.  How have we come to this?

What bigotry is and what it isn’t

The answer is in part that a great many people seem to have forgotten what bigotry actually is and exactly why it is objectionable.  John Knasas, in the course of a discussion on a completely unrelated subject, happens to give in passing a pretty good characterization of bigotry:

[B]iases and prejudices can determine how things come across.  In the light of racial prejudice, white bigots are unable to appreciate something done by a black person in good faith.  A smile, a courtesy, will be taken as a setup, unemployment as indicative of lazy character, employment as indicative of another white person’s mercy rather than the black person’s merit, and so on.  The bigot constantly interprets what is given in the light of preconceptions.  (Being and Some Twentieth-Century Thomists, p. 115)

Oxford defines a bigot as “a person who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions.”  Merriam-Webster tells us that a bigot is “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.” 

These characterizations of bigotry are by no means eccentric or partisan.  They reflect longstanding English usage of the term.  Now, notice that on all of them, the nature and problematic status of bigotry are essentially procedural rather than substantive.  That is to say, they have to do, not with the content of the bigot’s beliefs, but with the manner in which he holds them.  The bigot is someone whose attachment to his beliefs is fundamentally emotional rather than rational.  He evaluates the evidence in light of his beliefs rather than evaluating his beliefs in light of the evidence.  He is reluctant or unwilling to give a fair hearing to opinions other than his own or to arguments against his own.  He tends to be hostile to those who hold those different opinions, prefers to avoid them altogether rather than engaging them and their views, and resorts to invective instead of reasoned debate.

The reason all of this is problematic, of course, is that bigotry gets in the way of our discovering truth.  If the bigot’s opinions are wrong, he is very unlikely to discover that they are, because he turns his mind violently away from all sources of information that might reveal his errors to him.  Even if he turns out to be right, that will be a matter of luck, for the manner in which he forms his opinions is so inherently unreliable that he is unlikely to be right very often or without a large admixture of error.

Now in light of these facts, it is obvious that thinkers like Swinburne and Murray are not bigots.  As those who know them or their work attest, they are both about as civilized, learned, and open to rational criticism and debate as a scholar can be.  Their manner of discourse is decidedly cerebral rather than emotive, and they are always giving arguments rather than issuing mere assertions.  Their opinions on this or that subject may or may not be wrong – that is an entirely different question – but there can be no reasonable doubt that they hold those opinions in a way that is not at all bigoted. 

By contrast, people like the foul-mouthed professors who had nothing but hatred and mockery to throw in Swinburne’s direction, and the students who violently disrupted Murray’s talk, are straight-from-central-casting bigots in the ordinary dictionary sense of the term.  They could not care less what Swinburne’s or Murray’s actual views or arguments are.  They “already know” they must be wrong.  Certainly they would never so much as entertain even the bare possibility that Swinburne or Murray might after all be right.  They responded to them precisely in terms of their own “preconceptions” (as Knasas puts it), “obstinately devoted” to their own liberal opinions (as Merriam-Webster puts it) and “intolerant” of conservative ones (as Oxford puts it).  Since they manifest this bigotry precisely under the guise of opposing bigotry, they are meta-bigots.

Now, what has facilitated this forgetting of what bigotry actually is is a simple though fairly widespread confusion – namely the confusion of what is merely in some cases one particular kind of bigotry with what all bigotry is per se

In particular, one kind of bigotry can involve negative opinions concerning some group of people – whether an ethnic group, adherents of a certain religion, adherents of a certain political party, or whatever.  But it would be a mistake to identify bigotry with such negative opinions.  For one thing, not all bigotry involves having negative opinions about some group of people.  For example, a person might take so negative an attitude about some set of ideas – Heideggerian existentialism, evolutionary biology, British idealism, or whatever – that he is unwilling to give it a fair hearing or to be shown that his objections to it are based on misconceptions.  Such a person would be a bigot, even though his bigotry isn’t directed toward some ethnic or religious group or the like.

For another thing, not all negative opinions concerning some group of people are bigoted.  Take, for example, the claims that bureaucrats often evade responsibility, businessmen are often too concerned with the bottom line, many lawyers are more interested in gaming the system than in securing justice, and so forth.  These are negative opinions concerning large groups of people, but someone could certainly hold them in a way that is not bigoted.  For example, someone could sincerely believe that there is good evidence for these propositions, could nevertheless be open to hearing arguments and evidence to the contrary, could be perfectly willing to acknowledge that bureaucrats, businessmen, lawyers, etc. have their good points too, and so on.  These opinions may or may not be mistaken, but the fact that they are about groups of people does not necessarily make them bigoted.  (Another obvious example would be the claim that bigots are irrational.  That’s a negative opinion about an entire group of people, but it is hardly itself bigoted!)

All the same, there is a common tendency today to suppose that any opinion concerning some group of people that is in some way negative is of its very nature bigoted – and indeed to suppose that that sort of thing is just what bigotry is.  Hence many people suppose that if someone says something concerning some group that is in some way negative, then that person simply must be a bigot – regardless of whether the person’s opinions are expressed dispassionately, whether he backs them up with arguments, is willing to listen to criticism of them, is happy to acknowledge that the group in question has good aspects too, etc.   And such people also suppose that since they personally repudiate the making of negative claims about any group, then they themselves cannot possibly be bigots – regardless of how shrill they are in their purported anti-bigotry, of their refusal to back up their position with arguments or listen to the other side, of their demonization of those who disagree with them, etc.

The fallacy here is of the general form:

Many instances of X are Y and many instances of Y are X.  Therefore, something is X if and only if it is Y

An example of this fallacious reasoning would be:

Many instances of stealing involve taking a person’s money without his consent and many instances of taking a person’s money without his consent involve stealing.  Therefore, something is stealing if and only if it involves taking a person’s money without his consent.

The premise here is certainly true, but the conclusion does not follow, and indeed is false.  For stealing sometimes involves something other than taking a person’s money without his consent (e.g. it might involve taking other kinds of property, or it might involve getting a person to consent under false pretenses), and taking someone’s money without his consent is not always stealing (e.g. it may involve forcing him to pay a fine for violating some just law, or requiring him to pay justly levied taxes). 

Similarly, many people who think of themselves as opponents of bigotry seem to be reasoning as follows:

Many instances of bigotry involve having a negative opinion of some sort concerning some group of people, and many instances of having a negative opinion of some sort concerning some group of people involve bigotry.  Therefore, something is bigotry if and only if it involves having some sort of negative opinion concerning some group of people.

Here too, though, while the premise is true, the conclusion does not follow and is not true.  Again, it is possible to be a bigot even if one does not have a negative opinion of some sort concerning some group of people, and it is possible to have a negative opinion of some sort concerning some group of people and nevertheless not be a bigot.

Now the fallacy is compounded by the fact that what are sometimes characterized as negative opinions about groups of people are, strictly speaking, not really that at all.  For example, if someone thinks that a certain sexual practice is immoral, it doesn’t necessarily follow that he has a negative attitude about the people who engage in that practice.  Everyone knows this where some sexual practices are concerned.  For example, if someone says “I think adultery is wrong,” few people would respond “Ah, so you hate people who commit adultery!”  However, if someone says “I think homosexual acts are wrong,” the response is often “You hate homosexuals!”  But that simply does not follow, any more than in the case of adultery.  The negative attitude in question is essentially about a certain kind of behavior, rather than about a certain group of people per se.

Similarly, if someone thinks that a certain religion has negative features, it doesn’t follow that he has a negative attitude about the adherents of the religion.  Everyone knows this where some religions are concerned.  For example, if someone says “I think Scientology has crazy doctrines and is cultish,” few people would respond “Ah, so you hate Scientologists!”  Or if someone says “I think the Amish way of life is much too restrictive and blinkered,” few would say “You hate Amish people!”  However, if someone says “I think Islam has a greater tendency to generate terrorism than other religions do,” the response is often “You hate Muslims!”  But that simply does not follow, any more than in the case of Scientologists or Amish people.  The negative attitude in question is essentially about a certain set of religious ideas, rather than about the group of people who hold those ideas.

This reinforces the point that opinions to the effect that such-and-such a sexual practice is wrong, that this or that religion has negative features, or what have you, are simply not per se bigoted.  Such opinions could be held in a bigoted way, of course, and indeed sometimes are.  But that is true of any opinion on any subject – including more favorable opinions on the sexual practice, religion, etc. in question.  Again, bigotry has essentially to do with the manner in which one holds an opinion, not the content of the opinion. 

Note that this does not entail that just any old content is reasonable or otherwise unobjectionable so long as it is not held in a bigoted way.  Lots of people have crazy beliefs that they cling to tenaciously but in a way that is nevertheless not bigoted.  They may be perfectly willing to hear counterevidence and criticism, are not emotional about the subject or contemptuous of people who disagree, etc. but nevertheless can’t be talked out of their odd views.  In my view, lots of people who firmly believe certain kinds of conspiracy theories, or who are fascinated with UFOs or other odd phenomena, or who swear by various quack medical theories, etc. are like this.  There may be irrationality here, but not necessarily bigotry.  To call someone a bigot implies a certain kind of moral failing that is simply not justly attributed to people who are merely eccentric or confused. 

Meta-bigotry as a tactic

So, accusations of bigotry are often based on misunderstandings of what bigotry is or are otherwise fallacious.  Are these errors the result of honest mistakes?  No doubt in some cases they are.  But by no means in all cases.  For the accusation of bigotry has in recent decades become a kind of rhetorical tactic among many egalitarians.  Indeed, in some cases the tactic is deliberately adopted rather than merely a tic that the egalitarian unthinkingly falls into.  The intention is to demonize critics of egalitarian policy, so as to intimidate such critics into silence and to discourage third parties from hearing out any criticisms they do express.  The aim is precisely to bypass rational discourse and instead to alter opinions at an emotional level.  In my initial post on the Swinburne SCP controversy I quoted extensively from some activists who frankly admit that this is what they are up to.

Now, a more blatant example of sophistry and bigotry cannot be imagined.  Because this tactic is deployed in the name of opposing bigotry and illogical thinking, it is a textbook instance of meta-sophistry and meta-bigotry.  Meta-bigotry is an especially insidious form of bigotry precisely because it presents itself as opposition to bigotry.  The meta-bigot is less likely than other bigots are to perceive his own bigotry.  He thinks: “But I’m so passionately opposed to bigotry!  How could I possibly be a bigot?”  (The answer is: Try dialing down the passion, and maybe you’ll see.)

The Murray incident is just the latest indicator of how pervasive meta-bigotry has become on college campuses.  The Swinburne affair is just the latest indicator of the inroads it has made even into academic philosophy.  A sizable chunk of the modern academy has become a kind of Bizarro world, in which shrill fanatics like the Middlebury mob and Swinburne’s critics are regarded as the reasonable and open-minded people, and sober scholars like Swinburne and Murray are treated as if they were shrill fanatics.  It does not seem to be an exaggeration to say that in the contemporary academic context, the people routinely labeled “bigots” usually are not really bigots (whether or not they are in error in other ways), and the people most keen to fling the “bigot” label at others usually are bigots (namely, meta-bigots).

But then, as Plato warned us, egalitarianism has always tended in this irrationalist direction.  It was, after all, the passionately egalitarian Athenians who executed the anti-egalitarian Socrates.  Swinburne and Murray are in good company.

147 comments:

  1. Bigotry is essentially the Big 5 personality trait low Openness to Experience, it is one of the main predictors of political conservatism.

    However, it is not the only personality predictor of political conservatism. In particular, Big 5 Conscientiousness, particularly the subtrait Orderliness, also tends to predict political conservatism. Orderliness, incidentally, is also the personality trait that predicts religiosity, which low Openness does not.

    So, one reason that politically conservative positions have come to be associated with bigotry as Prof. Feser has defined it, is that being bigoted tends to make you politically conservative.

    However, being bigoted is not the only road to conservatism: Conscientiousness/Orderliness also leads to conservatism. I'd suspect that most socially conservative intellectuals, including Prof. Feser, are likely relatively high in Openness, but also high in Conscientiousness/Orderliness.

    There's also a wrinkle in this in that low Openness people (i.e. bigots) can also end up as extreme left wingers, but only if they are extremely high on a third personality trait, Big 5 Agreeableness, which basically maps onto maternal compassion.

    (There are 5 major personality traits, of which three have significant political import: Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness.)

    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-personality-of-political-correctness/

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  2. Here is the psychological profile of left wing extremists:

    Low IQ
    Low Openness (surprising, as this normally predicts conservatism)
    High Conscientiousness, especially Orderliness (surprising, as this normally predicts conservatism)
    Higher Religiosity (surprising in one way as the left is normally associated with irreligion, but goes with high Orderliness)
    High Neuroticism (susceptibility to negative emotion)
    High Agreeableness (maternal compassion, especially towards the helpless, but also extreme hostility towards those that threaten the helpless)

    -----

    For contrast here is the psychological profile of libertarians:

    High IQ
    High Openness (usually associated with liberalism, especially social liberalism)
    Low Conscientiousness, especially Orderliness
    Low Religiosity
    Low Agreeableness

    -----

    And the psychological profile for ordinary liberals:

    High Openness
    Low Conscientiousness, especially Orderliness
    Low Religiosity
    High Agreeableness

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    1. Forgive my skepticism, Thursday, but that sounds to me like one of those self-serving BS studies liberals periodically conduct to give a scientific patina to their delusions of moral and intellectual superiority.

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  3. Giving platform to people like Charles Murray is like giving platform to Holocaust deniers. Nobody can believe that the Holocaust is a hoax without bad faith, and nobody can believe that some races are statistically significantly dumber than others without bad faith.

    Free speech is not an ideal in a vacuum: it presupposes good faith. Free speech should not be granted to those who hold beliefs in bad faith.

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  4. Free speech is not an ideal in a vacuum: it presupposes good faith. Free speech should not be granted to those who hold beliefs in bad faith.

    The obvious problem with this is that there is in fact no way to tell whether a person holds beliefs in bad faith or not unless you let them speak.

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  5. Meta-intolerance presents itself as passionately opposed to intolerance but is itself intolerant. The expression "I cannot tolerate intolerance" shows this attitude.

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  6. Giving platform to people like Charles Murray is like giving platform to Holocaust deniers. [...] Free speech should not be granted to those who hold beliefs in bad faith.

    Is this to say that the particular ideas Murray was lecturing on were ones in "bad faith"?

    Or is it to say that anyone who espouses something you deem to be in "bad faith" should not be allowed to publicly speak on anything, even ideas separate from the "bad faith" ones?

    What would you do with the determination that your rule to suppress ideas of "bad faith" is actually itself an example of "bad faith"?

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  7. I'd argue the opposite, that to believe that people with vast physical difference, who, according to science, have evolved seperately for thousands upon thousands of years in drastically different environments, would end up mentally identical, is much more of a "bad faith position". Except insofar as it's been hammered into them.

    Moreover charles was attacked for failing the mention "the hidden figures" put forward as having had a pivotal role in that calumnious film.

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  8. We're going to find out if different average economic performance among different racial groups has a genetic component within the next 3-5 years. The studies are already being done.

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  9. I'd argue the opposite, that to believe that people with vast physical difference, who, according to science, have evolved seperately for thousands upon thousands of years in drastically different environments, would end up mentally identical, is much more of a "bad faith position".

    There is nothing more unnatural to the Thomistic-Aristotelian system of thought than the idea of evolution. The fact that evolution logically does entail scientific racism is an excellent argument to

    (1) Reject evolution

    (2) Go back to Genesis

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  10. Or is it to say that anyone who espouses something you deem to be in "bad faith" should not be allowed to publicly speak on anything, even ideas separate from the "bad faith" ones?

    No, I do not believe that. Murray is allowed to lecture on anything else as he sees fit. For instance, Murray could be, in another possible world, an expert in algebraic geometry, and because his views on races has little to do with algebraic geometry, be free to speak on that on university property.

    However, given that Murray is a conservative activist (i.e. apologizing for the status quo), it is obvious that his beliefs on race are not orthogonal from his beliefs on anything else he would choose to lecture. They would be intrinsically bound up.

    What would you do with the determination that your rule to suppress ideas of "bad faith" is actually itself an example of "bad faith"?

    So do you think we should give access to tuition and state-funded university property to Holocaust deniers to spread the idea that the Holocaust is a lie designed to advance domination of the world by an elite cabal of Rabbis and the world's foremost Jewry? There are many people in the world who believe that, you know. That is what your unrestricted idea of speech would entail.

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  11. As I understand him, Murray argues that blacks in relation to whites display on average a different KIND of intelligence, not that they are less intelligent. For example, blacks on average are much better than whites in extemporaneous verbal engagement, while whites on average are better at analysis. You might disagree with this or think his views are unfounded, but to equate him with being a "Holocaust denier" is way over the top.

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  12. The question whether some races are "dumber" than others - at least in the sense of scoring significantly lower in a particular kind of IQ test, and with some operationalised definition of "race" - is one of empirical fact. This is either true, or false, and can be determined objectively by observation.

    Under such circumstances arguments that "a priori" predict the outcome from a set of supposedly valid "first principles" are all suspicious. Where one can look to see what is the case, one should not insist on thinking it through with closed eyes.

    Of course, empirical claims can be simply false. And empirical evidence is not self-interpreting either. There are plenty of ways in which Murray might be shown to be wrong. But where data is available it needs to be considered reasonably, not dismissed with prejudice.

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  13. That is what your unrestricted idea of speech would entail.

    This entailment is completely made up. For one thing, jem didn't give an "unrestricted idea of speech", or any account of freedom of speech at all; the comment was questioning the coherence of your 'bad faith' criterion. Which notably you did not do anything to defend.

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  14. Others have touched upon it, and it isn't a topic that interests me very much, but isn't it actually the case there is prima facie evidence of some differences in intelligence and aptitudes between the races (there is certainly so between the sexes)? It seems a little bit strange to say that someone arguing this, therefore, is completely beyond the pale and akin to a holocaust denier. It seems to border on the absurd and to be a good illustration of just the kind of silliness our host is describing.

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  15. Also, I believe Murray had not even gone to the college to talk about racial differences.

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  16. In the second sentence of this post, 'matter' should be 'manner'.

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  17. There is nothing more unnatural to the Thomistic-Aristotelian system of thought than the idea of evolution.

    Not so fast:
    http://irishacademicpress.ie/product/aristotelian-interpretations/
    http://creationism.org.pl/groups/ptkrmember/spor/2004/rourke%20aristotle-evolution.pdf

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  18. the comment was questioning the coherence of your 'bad faith' criterion.

    Why is it bad faith to believe that speech made in bad faith should be restricted? To allow speech made in bad faith is to allow people to spread intellectually toxic ideologies, which undermine the foundation of civilization. Holocaust deniers know that it happened, but they see any attempt to even put it into debate as a means of recruitment. This is guile and manipulation of civic freedom for unfree ends, and thus cannot be tolerated.

    Others have touched upon it, and it isn't a topic that interests me very much, but isn't it actually the case there is prima facie evidence of some differences in intelligence and aptitudes between the races (there is certainly so between the sexes)?

    (1) It isn't at the level of statistical significance, IIRC

    (2) Belief in racial superiority is motivated by hatred, pride, and wanting to justify one's position (and all the benefits that come with it) as the apex predator of society. It is absolutely comparable to Holocaust denial.

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  19. Tomislav: I'm white European. I happen to be convinced by published studies that-on average-east Asians do better at IQ tests than we do. Does that make me a bigot?

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  20. Here comes a post by Feser one thinks is so perfectly and evidently reasonable that nobody would find anything amiss with it. But nevertheless interesting discussion issues. A few comments of my own:

    @ Thursday: ”We're going to find out if different average economic performance among different racial groups has a genetic component within the next 3-5 years.”

    Race strongly correlates with culture, so the cause of the probable differences will probably be of cultural origin. And statistically you can't completely eliminate the effect of culture, for example cultural preconceptions are given and unavoidable. Similarly, culture necessarily affects the educational environment which in turn affects all kinds of mental properties.

    I mean it's quite alright that such studies are being done. What worries me is 1) their quality (even academic statistics are sometimes below par), and mostly 2) the potential that even good statistics will be abused by bigots.

    I believe very strongly that there are no significant difference between the races as far cognitive capacity goes. The reason for my confidence is rather simple: We know enough about how biological features evolve and we know enough about the differences in the environment in which the races evolved to conclude that there is no mechanism that would produce significant differences in cognitive capacity.

    On the other hand we also know how causally important cultural and in general environmental effects are. For example parents' expectations of their childrens' academic success is a strong predictor of that success. Not to mention the quality of the teachers at school. If I am wrong and there are measurable biological differences between races, these differences will be insignificant compared to the environmental effects.

    Incidentally, given our understanding of biological evolution it's more probable that there are significant differences in cognitive capacity between the sexes than between the races. I understand such differences have been measured. So, for example, it was found that women are better at communication and men are better at three-dimensional visualization. But even here the cause may be cultural rather than biological.

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  21. @Tomislav Ostojich: ”do you think we should give access to tuition and state-funded university property to Holocaust deniers”

    No, because public money should be invested only in ideas that pass a minimum bar of generally recognized seriousness, and the same goes for funding the teaching of ideas (including fundamentalist religious ideas in a scientific class). On the other hand if in an academic setting a researcher wants to argue that there have been errors in the historical analysis of the Holocaust, including errors in the estimate of the number of victims, then I think she should be welcome to do so, because if she is right then truth is served, and if she is wrong then truth is served also, since the open and critical debate realized in academia is the most efficient environment for proving falsities. To put obstacles to the free expression of false ideas may well backfire. So I think it serves the public interest if people are allowed and even encouraged to defend in an academic setting any unpopular idea they may have, including say a biologist arguing that the is some deep flaw in the Darwinian account of the evolution of the species, or a cosmologist arguing that the universe is far less old than generally believed, or a philosopher arguing that Islam is a religion that pushes people towards violence.

    All societies put some limits to free speech. In Germany, for example, to deny the Holocaust is a crime punishable by law. Given Germany's history such a policy perhaps serves the public interest. In general though I hold that free speech is a right as long as 1) it does not produce significant harm to the public interest (say, to teach how build weapons of mass destruction), and 2) it is not *designed* to hurt other people or even designed to provoke violent acts (as I hold some antireligious speech to be, as well as some anti-abortion speech).

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  22. Tomislav,

    I am not an expert, or particularly interested, but I have certainly heard and read differently to your point 1). The point is not that it is correct there are differences based in race/genetics, but it is at least a defensible position, and it seems just silly to rule out all consideration of it a priori as beyond the pale.

    Your point 2) seems to leap to a hell of a lot of conclusions. Why you'd assume someone claiming differences must believe in some blanket superiority or they must be motivated by the sinister motives you mention.

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  23. Why is it bad faith to believe that speech made in bad faith should be restricted? To allow speech made in bad faith is to allow people to spread intellectually toxic ideologies, which undermine the foundation of civilization. Holocaust deniers know that it happened, but they see any attempt to even put it into debate as a means of recruitment. This is guile and manipulation of civic freedom for unfree ends, and thus cannot be tolerated.

    This wasn't what jem said, either. The question was:

    What would you do with the determination that your rule to suppress ideas of "bad faith" is actually itself an example of "bad faith"?

    Anyone can go around claiming that speech they disagree with is made in bad faith. To take an example that might perhaps clarify things, in the past few years I have, personally, been witness to people having insisted, explicitly (using literally the same phrase you are using), that all of the following are such that anyone who claimed to believe them could only be doing so in bad faith:

    Catholicism
    Thomism
    that gay marriage is reasonable
    that marriage is of one man and one woman
    that there are only two genders
    that there are more than two genders
    that climate change is not a pressing issue
    that President Trump's travel ban is unjust

    People do this to their opponents in controversial matters all the time. If we had a system in which it is assumed that one has no right of free speech in matters of bad faith -- your original claim was, "Free speech should not be granted to those who hold beliefs in bad faith," which at least sounds a lot stronger than merely saying that free speech should be 'restricted' -- then people will certainly do it much more. If someone decides to label your view, "an intellectual toxic ideology, which undermines the foundation of civilization," whatever the reason, how does that get handled?

    That's the first and primary point, but it's perhaps worth noting as well that a great many people, although not so many as used to, agree with Frederick Douglass that free speech is a human right making it possible for people to participate in their society at all; no doubt you don't believe that, but that will sound a lot like a "foundation of civilization" to those who do believe it.

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  24. I'm baffled by this talk from Thomists about differences in evolution of intelligence between races. I thought the human intellect was the one thing Thomists thought was off limits when it came to material-evolutionary explanations?

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  25. @ Anon

    Thomists think that the use of intellect on earth relies on one's sensory capacities. Every human is intelligent in that it has a root capacity for engaging in intellectual activities. Obviously from that it does not follow that everyone is equally intelligent. Babies and people with Down syndrome, for instance, have intellects but are not as intelligent as adults or people without such conditions. ('Intelligence' is being used in two distinct senses here. Whatever is measured by IQ tests and other measures clearly depends on the material aspects of our embodiment.)

    I haven't read Murray's work, but I don't see how anyone a priori could rule out the possibility that some races are better disposed for intellectual activities than others. I don't think Thomistic anthropology will do it for you, nor will any other anthropology. Antecedently it is rather implausible that all races have literally the same intellectual abilities. The differences, though, might be rather minuscule and perhaps are easily trumped by cultural factors. That's an empirical question which antecedently seems very difficult to resolve. It may also be that whatever differences there are in intellectual ability do not warrant differential treatment. That is an ethical question.

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  26. Tomislav: (2) Belief in racial superiority is motivated by hatred, pride, and wanting to justify one's position (and all the benefits that come with it) as the apex predator of society. It is absolutely comparable to Holocaust denial.

    The following are distinct:

    (1) There is a race-belated statistical difference in outcomes on IQ tests.

    (2) Races have statistical differences in their intelligence.

    (3) Some race(s) are superior to others.

    A scientific finding validating (1) would provide insufficent basis to assert (3), and in addition nobody here who mentioned (1) as possible even suggested that it might imply (3). You are tilting at the wrong windmills here.

    Dianelos: I believe very strongly that there are no significant difference between the races as far cognitive capacity goes. The reason for my confidence is rather simple: We know enough about how biological features evolve and we know enough about the differences in the environment in which the races evolved to conclude that there is no mechanism that would produce significant differences in cognitive capacity.

    I believe very strongly that we don't know enough about how biological features evolve to know that.

    We have only been recording stuff for less than 6,000 years (a short period in evolutionary terms) and have been investigating genetic changes scientifically for about 150 years (a mere snapshot). We have pretty good evidence for some things, especially about some biological structures that provide survival traits in present day animals and plants. We have hardly even begun to scientifically watch genetic structures change to produce evolutionary changes in populations - at least above the microbe level - and we don't have a very good grasp on the ways in which randomness is involved in outcomes, though we know it is. It is far more realistic to say that we have created a lot of colorful accounts of how some biological structures may have come about evolutionarily, but since we did not observe them coming about we can only guess whether they did in fact come about that way.

    As for intelligence and evolution, there is no reason to doubt that purely accidental (random) genetic variation in separated populations could have produced differences in some aspects of intelligence in those populations without there being any survival-based directive modifications to the populations, because this is the sort of random accidental change (neither for nor against survival) that random changes would produce in short time periods (evolutionarily speaking).

    If I am wrong and there are measurable biological differences between races, these differences will be insignificant compared to the environmental effects.

    I assume you mean "biologically caused differences in intelligence", right?

    Did you mean that they will be scientifically insignificant because the environmental effects will completely overshadow the heritable causes, so that no scientific conclusion of "significance" can be located for biological causes? Or just that the environmental effects will be quite a bit larger than the biological ones?

    Did you mean that you think that the biological differences will be found to be much smaller, or that you believe that they are much smaller is already a definitely fact known?

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  27. I'm baffled by this talk from Thomists about differences in evolution of intelligence between races. I thought the human intellect was the one thing Thomists thought was off limits when it came to material-evolutionary explanations?,

    Nothing in Thomism precludes micro-evolution, if that is understood to occur entirely within one species. Indeed, micro-evolution is quite conformable to Thomism. And that's all that's necessary to assert that different identifiable populations of humans may exhibit different intelligence results.

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  28. Micro-evolution would be just a species trying to realize its full natural potential. Macro-evolution is problematic for various reasons in Thomism, not least because a change of species implies pursuit of non-existence which is actually contrary to the impetus of evolution, which is the progression and preservation of the species.

    Furthermore, the species would cease a process of evolution upon becoming another species and itself never actually attain that stage of evolution for it has ceased to exist as the subject of acquired properties or attributes.

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  29. Bigotry is essentially the Big 5 personality trait low Openness to Experience, it is one of the main predictors of political conservatism.

    Thursday, the number of assumptions built into "the Big 5" and the article you linked is very high, and at least in this forum I doubt that trying to sort through them for ones that hold sufficient water to forge ahead with is worth it. Certainly debating each one of those many assumptions would be foreign to the meta-bigotry topic of this post - except perhaps as shining examples of bigotry or meta-bigotry.

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  30. " Oxford defines a bigot as “a person who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions.” Merriam-Webster tells us that a bigot is “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.”

    Until I read that, I had always assumed that "bigotry" was a bad thing.

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  31. 'Nothing in Thomism precludes micro-evolution, if that is understood to occur entirely within one species. Indeed, micro-evolution is quite conformable to Thomism. And that's all that's necessary to assert that different identifiable populations of humans may exhibit different intelligence results.'

    That's not the issue I'm having. I understand that a Thomist could accept some forms of evolution. What I don't understand is how to make metaphysical sense of this, at least with regard to the intellect. While the intellect according to Thomism is dependent on the senses for knowledge, it is still immaterial. I can understand physical things being spoken of as evolving, but from what I grasp of Thomist philosophy the human capacity for reason is a supernatural gift, not a product of a material process. Can someone explain this to me?

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  32. "There is nothing more unnatural to the Thomistic-Aristotelian system of thought than the idea of evolution. The fact that evolution logically does entail scientific racism is an excellent argument to

    (1) Reject evolution"


    Goodness. Is this the an attempted rebuttal of an ostensibly factual premise based on its emotionally unpalatable social implications?

    Well, it might be that evolution is incompatible with Thomistic understandings of Aristotle; but it seems likely that the Aristotelian-like doctrine of natural kinds can be defended in, or out, of an evolutionary context.

    What may not survive outside, is either monogenesis, or any meaningful moral implications said to derive from the tattered family fabric such as might remain after 100,000 to 40k years of evolution have finished with it.

    But then again it may not even take so long as that. We all know the Dutch are evilly other, and they almost look like normal people.

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  33. @ Jeremy Taylor,

    I imagine genetics plays an enormous part in people's capacity for learning. Given that we acquire our knowledge from the senses, the acuteness of our senses and anything related to it biologically will unsurprisingly affect our ability to learn. Now whether or not there are racial traits that normally carry with them consequences for the senses is another matter, but it wouldn't in the least surprise me. Environment/climate also no doubt will take its toll as not all environments are conducive to learning or study - and as it were a million other factors could be introduced. But I don't see why a Thomist would be worried about whether or not racial traits affect someone's ability to learn or advance in knowledge, for better or worse. What matters is the capacity to learn at all. Now we haven't even touched on the brain or parts of the brains that are materially important for things like memory or imagination, which again is obviously crucial for human learning. Regardless, even if we do find racial traits that are conducive or disadvantageous to learning or acquiring knowledge, this does nothing to affect anyone's humanity as such.

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  34. As regards evolution, the only thing I really hate about the idea is the stupidity that it counts as progress for a species to annihilate itself. Non-existence is exactly what is most naturally reprehensible to all living things; therefore, for me it is just bafflingly stupid to suggest that any species is inherently geared toward its own annihilation. Such a creature would be an absurdity: like all living things, it would seek with all its might to maintain its own individual existence (and concomitantly its own species necessarily, as this is necessary for the preservation of its individual actuality) while simultaneously be in process of ending and tending towards its own total extinction, both individually and specially! It's a farce from the get-go.

    Now every living organism seeks the preservation of its own existence and even tries to evade death by reproduction: the individual is destined to corruption and death but by reproduction some likeness of it is at least preserved. To become another species, then, would be a complete last resort in some sort of attempt to preserve and replicate at least its animate nature.

    Furthermore, there are serious problems with every living thing trying to become a master species, as it were, because the hierarchy of life requires lower organisms: if every living organism were advancing up the ladder, so to speak, then what is necessary for life - food and especially vegetative food, which being the most basic form of life would also be the most desirous of advancement, as it lacks even mobility to evade destruction - would vanish, and this would result in the death of all living creatures on earth. Mass extinction is progress now?

    Now some might point out that it is exactly vegetative forms of life that seem, as it were, most content with their own destruction by way of consumption as in part this is one of the most efficacious ways for the creature to perpetuate and multiply its kind. But if this is so, then evolution runs up against a serious problem, as vegetative life is the most basic kind of life and in an evolutionary model necessarily the mother and root of all life. But it is specifically this kind of life the existence and preservation of which is most necessary for more advanced forms of life. Therefore, if evolution is true, then evolution is inherently an existential threat to more advanced forms of life, tending to their extinction. But this is exactly what every living thing is supposed to be open to becoming and even, if anything, tending to! Evolution turns out to be a necessarily self-destructive system caused and perpetuated by a an innate impulse towards evading destruction!

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  35. @ Anon

    While the intellect according to Thomism is dependent on the senses for knowledge, it is still immaterial. I can understand physical things being spoken of as evolving, but from what I grasp of Thomist philosophy the human capacity for reason is a supernatural gift, not a product of a material process.

    Right. But possessing an intellect in Aquinas's sense is not the same as performing tasks on IQ tests. It is not the same, either, with using one's intellect. Both of those things might depends on factors other than the binary possession of an intellect. So a Thomist could hold that various 'physical' factors are correlated with the sort of things Murray is interested in while also holding that all humans have an intellect and God must have created their intellectual souls.

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  36. I can understand physical things being spoken of as evolving, but from what I grasp of Thomist philosophy the human capacity for reason is a supernatural gift, not a product of a material process. Can someone explain this to me?

    The AT position is, basically, that the move from animal to human requires special divine intervention at some point, precisely because you can never get an immaterial intellect from a purely material being like an animal. Humans as they are now cannot simply evolve from animals, though this does not necessarily rule out common ancestry.

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  37. @Thursday
    How can God intervene to create if He can't even change?

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  38. Weren't you complaining about Hilary Clinton and her parties"anti-Catholic bigotry" awhile ago even though what they said really wasn't "bigotry" as your post pointed out? So what, is it only "bigotry" when someone disagrees with YOU? Sheesh, why is when you step out of your field, you become the Catholic Dawkins?

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  39. @Anonymous 1:40am

    God cannot change into something different so as to no longer be God (eternal, immaterial, etc.) But from this, it doesn't follow that God cannot create or intervene.

    @Anonymous 3:33am

    What exactly are you trying to say? Bigotry is the act of being intolerant toward those holding differing opinions. And meta-bigotry is when one tosses around the word bigot in a manner which is itself bigoted (as per above definition). Clinton, and her party fulfill both definitions.

    So your question 'why is it only "bigotry" when someone disagrees with you' is a loaded one. And your remark "why is when you step out of your field, you become the Catholic Dawkins," is nothing but empty rhetoric.

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  40. @Jason
    so if God creates won't go from not being a creator to being a creator?

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  41. What would be a good strategy for testing whether the original post here is an example of meta-meta-bigotry? For some reason, I come out of reading it feeling somehow gaslit.

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  42. Anonymous: so if God creates won't go from not being a creator to being a creator?

    No; God exists outside of time, so there is no "going", He just always is creating. It can be misleading to put into language, because we are temporal creatures, and our language is tensed. However, the only changes are from our perspective — whatever our way of speaking may be, it no more means that God changes, than our speaking of "the hand of God", etc. means that God has a body.

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  43. Timocrates: Macro-evolution is problematic for various reasons in Thomism, not least because a change of species implies pursuit of non-existence which is actually contrary to the impetus of evolution, which is the progression and preservation of the species.

    No thing actually changes in "macro-evolution"; that's a common but sloppy way of talking that obscures the actual process. Really, some new thing may come into existence, just as new things continually do, except sometimes the new thing is the first of its kind. As has been noted many times before, Aquinas famously allows for this possibility. (Whether it could or would happen according to the proposed biological patterns, is largely for biologists to figure out.)

    Furthermore, the species would cease a process of evolution upon becoming another species and itself never actually attain that stage of evolution for it has ceased to exist as the subject of acquired properties or attributes.

    Since "species" do not become anything, there's nothing to worry about. There is no reason, evolutionarily speaking, why a given species might not continue to exist even when it circumstantially gave rise to some new species; if the first species happened to go out of existence, this would be no more remarkable than any other situation in which a species might go extinct.


    But this is exactly what every living thing is supposed to be open to becoming and even, if anything, tending to! Evolution turns out to be a necessarily self-destructive system caused and perpetuated by a an innate impulse towards evading destruction!

    Biological evolution doesn't have any 'impulses' or 'supposed to's. Anyone who says so doesn't understand it or is trying to pull a fast one on you. There are, of course, various philosophical notions of "evolution" that are intertwined with various ideas of progress, but their only connection to biology is an attempt to ride on its presumably respectable coattails. (Sometimes, even actual biologists get confused, but we should resist the temptation to throw the baby out with the bathwater.)

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  44. Mr. Green said

    No; God exists outside of time, so there is no "going", He just always is creating. It can be misleading to put into language, because we are temporal creatures, and our language is tensed. However, the only changes are from our perspective — whatever our way of speaking may be, it no more means that God changes, than our speaking of "the hand of God", etc. means that God has a body.


    That does make sense but isn't it too incredulous and mysterious? Why do thomists complain when for instance some humean raises puzzles about causation and our intuitions of it If they,themselves gonna appeal to mysterious nature of God? How can they convince the critic that their account is better than theirs?

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  45. I'm coming late to this party, but I just wanted to thank pizza guy for his excellent comment. You really nailed the essence of the problem with Tomislav's objections to Murray (who, as Ed points out, is a careful and judicious scholar.)

    A couple of additional points:

    1) it is worth pointing out that no one serious at this point denies that when taking IQ tests (or other tests that measure IQ) Jews outscore whites by almost a standard-deviation, and then Asians outscore whites by about half a standard-deviation, and then whites outscore blacks by one standard deviation: http://www.vdare.com/articles/why-do-we-keep-writing-about-intelligence-an-iq-faq

    2) evolution can work fast -- Cochran and Harpending think it worked on us over the past 10,000 years (and on the Jews over the past 500 years): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0042FZRPC/ref=dp-kindle-redirect/166-8503651-0976303?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

    You should check out Greg's blog for a discussion of these issues: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/

    I don't recommend posting foolish comments -- Greg does not suffer fools lightly!

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  46. Are you really citing vdare. com, a racist, white nationalist, anti-mmigrant website as a credible source? It seems that this post is attracting some unwanted visitors.......

    The reason the race/intelligence thing is so controversial is because most of the time those citing it are white nationalist/supremacist/neo-nazis(Murray himself has been labelled a white nationalist FYI) etc, and these are NOT the kind of people you want to associate with now do we? As far as I know this issue is not taken seriously by REAL scientist who study it.

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  47. I have to point out that the SciAm article Thursday linked is built on some pretty shaky bases. I followed some of the links. To take one of the examples, Altemeyer's work (used as a source for "authoritarianism") includes a delightful definition of "right wing" and "left wing" which entirely lacks the ability to predict members of either group's actual political preferences. But it's defended as being a "scientific" rather than a "political" definition. Mull over that defense; the more you do, the better it gets. (Gracie Allen could learn from it.) Bottom line: unless and until they move out from under the shadow of The Authoritarian Personality, they will never get anywhere. And we seem to be at least a generation away from such a movement even beginning.

    "Murray himself has been labelled a white nationalist FYI" Love that. Because some have labeled him so, that fact tells against him in some way. I recommend reading the article again, where it analyses the sophistic syllogisms of the sort this one relies on.

    Since no one else has done so, I'll quote GKC here: “It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.”

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  48. That does make sense but isn't it too incredulous and mysterious? Why do thomists complain when for instance some humean raises puzzles about causation and our intuitions of it If they,themselves gonna appeal to mysterious nature of God? How can they convince the critic that their account is better than theirs?

    Maybe, just maybe, it's because Thomists offer arguments why they believe that e.g., God is unchanging? And perhaps that it's not all that mysterious? Or that, in the case of Hume, they offer a different account of what causation means and entails, so that Hume's argument doesn't really apply to Aquinas or Aristotle (though it may apply to Locke and others.)

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  49. 1. No, I do not believe that. Murray is allowed to lecture on anything else as he sees fit....
    However, given that Murray is a conservative activist (i.e. apologizing for the status quo), it is obvious that his beliefs on race are not orthogonal from his beliefs on anything else he would choose to lecture. They would be intrinsically bound up.


    a. Note that Murray DID NOT lecture on racial differences in intelligence.
    b. It is clearly false that Murray is "apologizing for the status quo". Anyone who reads him cannot but see that he is attacking, not defending, the s.q. To say otherwise is, dare I say it, a seeming act of bad faith, either a misrepresentation, or spoken in willful ignorance of his position.
    c. "[I}t is obvious that his beliefs on race are not orthogonal from his beliefs on anything else he would choose to lecture." This statement is far from obvious. It would need defending.

    2. So do you think we should give access to tuition and state-funded university property to Holocaust deniers to spread the idea that the Holocaust is a lie designed to advance domination of the world by an elite cabal of Rabbis and the world's foremost Jewry?

    a. Again, Murray was not lecturing on the ideas you attribute to him, and object to. There should be no problem.
    b. Yes, in some cases, there should be such access. If we have complete censorship, how are we really to know they are wrong? Simply taking it on the authority from people like you? No thanks. If St Thomas could introduce two objections with "It seems that God does not exist", surely we can look at arguments we find unpalatable.

    Then entire line of argument is very weak. I have to endorse what Brandon said, "the comment was questioning the coherence of your 'bad faith' criterion. Which notably you did not do anything to defend." I haven't seen the defense either. Is there anyone who cannot see the fallacy embedded in "Belief in racial superiority is motivated by hatred, pride, and wanting to justify one's position"? It doesn't address the truth of falsity of the position, but only the motives of the one who holds it.

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  50. Are you really citing vdare. com, a racist, white nationalist, anti-mmigrant website as a credible source? It seems that this post is attracting some unwanted visitors.......

    Wait, did you seriously say this on a post devoted to meta-bigotry, which explicitly calls out the practice of demonizing an idea by mere association with bigotry rather than allowing people to deal with it seriously.

    They could not care less what Swinburne’s or Murray’s actual views or arguments are. They “already know” they must be wrong. Certainly they would never so much as entertain even the bare possibility that Swinburne or Murray might after all be right. They responded to them precisely in terms of their own “preconceptions” (as Knasas puts it), “obstinately devoted” to their own liberal opinions (as Merriam-Webster puts it) and “intolerant” of conservative ones (as Oxford puts it). Since they manifest this bigotry precisely under the guise of opposing bigotry, they are meta-bigots.

    I don't know anything of vdare.com myself, since I don't go that site, but Anonymous here would block us from considering any ideas that come from vdare because they are considered racist, white nationalist, and anti-immigrant, rather than because they are wrong. Well, that's chutzpah for you.

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  51. 2) evolution can work fast -- Cochran and Harpending think it worked on us over the past 10,000 years (and on the Jews over the past 500 years): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0042FZRPC/ref=dp-kindle-redirect/166-8503651-0976303?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

    Jeffrey S, I do not dispute that observable changes in a population can happen "fast", (though if 10,000 years counts as fast, then we could not have actually observed it in records).

    What I suggest is that our science about such changes lags well behind the claim here:

    We know enough about how biological features evolve and we know enough about the differences in the environment in which the races evolved to conclude that there is no mechanism that would produce significant differences in cognitive capacity.

    We just don't know that.

    Dianelos' claim that If I am wrong and there are measurable biological differences between races, these differences will be insignificant compared to the environmental effects also has problems:

    If "environmental" is taken to include conscious human preferences that bear on marriage and child-bearing choices, these could well cause a population drift in a relatively short time, possibly even shorter than typical non-conscious causes. That is: if due to social mores men came to prefer smart women over stupid ones for marriage, this could itself result in a population becoming measurably more intelligent in an evolutionarily short time.

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  52. [T]he SciAm article Thursday linked is built on some pretty shaky bases. I followed some of the links. To take one of the examples, Altemeyer's work (used as a source for "authoritarianism") includes a delightful definition of "right wing" and "left wing" which entirely lacks the ability to predict members of either group's actual political preferences

    Altemeyer's work was an important first step, but it has been superseded by Brophy and Peterson, as well as Jon Haidt, so if you want to criticize the article, you need to take on the better and more up-to-date researchers and thinkers. Altemeyer is the equivalent of a Heraclitus or Parmenides compared to a Aristotle or Plato.

    The Big 5 personality structure is, like IQ, rock solid. Factor analyze personality descriptors and you always get the Big 5. The n's are huge.

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  53. Incidentally, here are some videos from Jordan Peterson (and Brophy) on the psychology of SJWs and other left wing bigots:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_fBYROA7Hk
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcEJr8h_yGM
    https://youtu.be/8ABa4RdNPxU?t=1h3m16s

    I also have to say that Peterson is doing great work combating left wing bigots on campus up here in Canada.

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  54. Isn't vdare the site that hosts/hosted Paul Gottfried and Sam Francis? I don't share Francis's interest in race (as opposed to culture) but they are insightful and interesting conservative writers, well worth a read.

    I recall David Stove wrote an essay on this topic (which I haven't read), alongside one on the differences between the sexes (which I have read - it was good, worth a read, but more suggestive than definitive). Was he a white-nationalist (presumably an Australian one) too?

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  55. I couldn't find the one on racial differences. Here is the one on the differences between the sexes:

    http://gerryonolan.com/public_html/stove/women.html

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  56. Tomoslav Ostojich writes:

    Nobody can believe that the Holocaust is a hoax without bad faith, and nobody can believe that some races are statistically significantly dumber than others without bad faith.

    I've been to Auschwitz. I know the Holocaust really happened. It's about the most well-attested fact in history.

    Regarding human equality, may I remind you that even the late Stephen Jay Gould (who excoriated proponents of race-based differences in IQ, in writing) used to remark: "Human equality is a contingent fact of nature." He believed that all races of man were cognitively equal, but he did not believe that Neandertals and Cro-magnons were, and I don't know of any anthropologist who does.

    Murray does not believe in white supremacy; he believes that most whites are somewhere in the middle, as far as intelligence is concerned.

    Regarding the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews, you might find these sources interesting:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashkenazi_Jewish_intelligence

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jon-entine/evolutions-deadly-tradeof_b_6915468.html
    ("Evolution’s Deadly Tradeoffs? Diseases That Can Kill Us May Also Save Lives And Increase IQ" by Jon Entine)

    Here's a quote from the conclusion of Entine's article in the "Huffington Post" (March 24, 2015):

    "At least for now most scientists are reluctant to embrace positive selection as an explanation of Jewish intelligence, although it remains a respected theory. David Goldstein, a geneticist at Duke University and author of the book Jacob’s Legacy: A Genetic View of Jewish History, called the theory 'tantalizing, circumstantial, politically incorrect in the extreme... [but] cannot be ruled out.'"

    (Jon Entine, executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project, is a Senior Fellow at the World Food Center Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy, University of California-Davis.)

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  57. Maybe this is an example of linguistic change. "Bigot" is so often used now to refer to someone who hates a certain group that that is what the word is coming to mean.

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  58. @Thursday:

    That really misses the point. It is not "personality" which is in question, but beliefs. The error does stem from Adorno, and it wasn't an accident in his case. (It may have been in the case of Freud.) But the real problem isn't the mendacity of its origins - Haidt is clearly an honest man - but from its erroneous base.

    You see, the idea of social scientists' approach is based on the notion that our beliefs spring from our personalities, not that they are rationally grounded. In other words, that ultimately all beliefs are really rationalizations. It assumes, at the start, that people don't really believe things for reasons. And it does so because, by the nature of social science, it must. A purely rational explanation is per se out of bounds; they must have something empirical to measure. So they define their concepts to be measurable, and, what do you know, they make up theories which are set to confirm their assumptions.

    But in doing so, they automatically rule out what is distinctive about human nature, and human action, the fact that we reason. So what they are doing, when they go as deep as the SciAm article (and Haidt's, and Altemeyer's, et al) is really like those who indulge in fitting a theory to the measurements of the Great Pyramid. By the very nature of their art, they must rule out a priori the rightness or wrongness of a judgement, and treat all our ideas as if they were mistaken. (Thus the correlation of certain views with others is treated as the result of our personality, rather than of the natural correlations and consequences of other beliefs. But surely, their method can be relevant only in cases where we reason badly. Social sciences must, by their very method, leave out an enormous part of the account, which in the long run, is the most important.

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  59. George,

    All fair comment, but the other problem with considering the strong correlations, where empirically verified, as evidence of a kind of personality-based political determinism is that it is quite possible that rational arrival at beliefs could have a causal relationship the other way. Accepting certain beliefs early on in life (or later for those who change their minds on cultural or political issues) could modify character.

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  60. Cognition/psychology are substantially mediated by individual neurology.

    Individual neurology is primarily (or-- at least-- substantially) genetic.

    Neurology is hyper-complex and thus massively polygenic.

    I don't think ANY of the above three propositions are controversial, so...

    *If* populations were geographically isolated within distinct environments, *then* differential evolutionary selection for all sorts of genes was readily conditioned (per recent population genetics, e.g., Harpending & Cocharn). (And even within similar environments, genetic drift may provide occasion for group selection.)

    Human populations *have been* geographically isolated for 10,000+ years.

    *Therefore* evolutionary differentiation in cognition is theoretically *inevitable*: I'm not sure how this conclusion is avoidable to anyone who sufficiently grasps the underlying concepts.

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  61. It assumes, at the start, that people don't really believe things for reasons.

    No, it doesn't. You are importing all sorts of assumptions into your theorizing.

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  62. @ Dianelos Georgoudis

    "The reason for my confidence is rather simple: We know enough about how biological features evolve and we know enough about the differences in the environment in which the races evolved to conclude that there is no mechanism that would produce significant differences in cognitive capacity."


    That just shows a lock of imagination on your part. Here are a few potential factors.

    1. The size of the social group, A high G will let you keep track of more people and players in your enviroment, letting you form larger social groups, and provide more general goods to the members of the society. (The EQ test has a strong correlation to IQ, and hence the G-factor)

    2. Agriculture, Studying and manipulating the patterns of other species, the soil, climate, etc. as needed for successful agriculture is helped by high-G. Additionally it created settled populations where groupd size, competition, and repeated dealings were amplified.

    3. Seasonally Harsh environments, a greater payoff for futrue planning and lower time preference. (Which seem to be G-moderated .

    4. Intense competition (especially amoung males, something like a 1 in 14 successful line rates), in large social groups where cunning was at least as important a factor as physicallity.

    5. Group selection, groups awith many individuals of extraordinary ability (IQ) in leadership, science, tactics, and strategy let them conquer of displace groups that did not


    Also while culture and upbringing has a role, it doesn't explain intergroup differences as the best predictor of a person's adult IQ is thier IQ at age 5, before most formal education even begins. Ad the heritability factor is something like 0.4-0.5, which is a very strong correlation for a complex quantitative trait.

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  63. There's also a wrinkle in this in that low Openness people (i.e. bigots) can also end up as extreme left wingers, but only if they are extremely high on a third personality trait, Big 5 Agreeableness, which basically maps onto maternal compassion.

    If that's what passes for personality "science", we are well advised to run away from it. The notion that one single personality factor (such as low "openness to experience") maps onto "bigotry" without several additional factors is just as silly as you can get, and almost certainly entails misunderstanding bigotry. (Unless you intentionally define the so-called "personality factor" so as to concentrate it into the traits common to bigotry). And the notion that extreme agreeableness maps to "maternal compassion" is worse than silly. You haven't ever run into a person who is extraordinarily agreeable (to the point of a personality disorder) without their being "maternal"? I have.

    As George suggests, trying to account for beliefs as if they are explained by personality is going to run into a number of problems. But any time you run into a system that even uses a term like "religiosity", you already knew that you had problems, didn't you? I thought you did. It's one of those self-fulfilling prophecies. Does "religiosity" EVER get applied to atheistic secular humanists? No, of course not. But is secular humanism a belief-based world-view at least as much as God-centered beliefs? Yes, it certainly is. (Possibly more so, given that there is clear direct metaphysical evidence for God, whereas there is only at best circumstantial (negative) evidence for atheism.) So there is no reason to exclude those who are secular humanists from having "religiosity" as a personality trait.

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  64. Thursday: The Big 5 personality structure is, like IQ, rock solid. Factor analyze personality descriptors and you always get the Big 5. The n's are huge.

    I ain't no scientist, but when I skim the studies it kinda looks like they are validating part of the theory within assumptions accepting other parts. On the other hand,

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4104167/

    The five-factor model (FFM) of personality variation has been replicated across a range of human societies, suggesting the FFM is a human universal. However, most studies of the FFM have been restricted to literate, urban populations, which are uncharacteristic of the majority of human evolutionary history. We present the first test of the FFM in a largely illiterate, indigenous society. Tsimane forager–horticulturalist men and women of Bolivia (n = 632) completed a translation of the 44-item Big Five Inventory (Benet-Martínez & John, 1998), a widely used metric of the FFM. We failed to find robust support for the FFM, based on tests of (a) internal consistency of items expected to segregate into the Big Five factors, (b) response stability of the Big Five, (c) external validity of the Big Five with respect to observed behavior, (d) factor structure according to exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, and (e) similarity with a U.S. target structure based on Procrustes rotation analysis. Replication of the FFM was not improved in a separate sample of Tsimane adults (n = 430), who evaluated their spouses on the Big Five Inventory. Removal of reverse-scored items that may have elicited response biases produced factors suggestive of Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness, but fit to the FFM remained poor.

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  65. I have a simple question, really: If one is aware of the predominance of meta-bigotry, is one meta-woke?

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  66. You haven't ever run into a person who is extraordinarily agreeable (to the point of a personality disorder) without their being "maternal"?

    Agreeable has a technical meaning in personality research. Just because it doesn't map onto your colloquial meaning doesn't mean that people are using it incorrectly. You would be well advised to think about how the words "determinate" or "imagination" differ in colloquial meaning vs how they are used by philosophers.

    In other words, this is a very cheap tactic.

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  67. it kinda looks like they are validating part of the theory

    The 5 factor model was derived atheoretically. I.e. nobody was really looking for these areas, people just noted that when doing factor analysis descriptions of human personality clumped into 5 areas.

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  68. Agreeable has a technical meaning in personality research.

    Yes, but this cuts both ways. The point was that it doesn't "basically map onto maternal compassion". I, for instance, consistently score extremely high on Agreeableness on personality tests, and it ain't because I'm in any way maternal -- actually it's in great measure because I'm frank to the point of being ruthlessly blunt and almost wholly noncompetitive, neither of which are suggested by the phrase 'maternal compassion', and yet both of which are typically tracked by Agreeableness on personality tests.

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  69. frank to the point of being ruthlessly blunt

    Doesn't sound agreeable in either the colloquial or technical sense.

    almost wholly noncompetitive

    This is related to keeping short term peace within the family, and it's behavior typical of mothers.

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  70. @Timocrates, There's a lot of good material here especially around ecology and biology.

    Timocrates said..."Micro-evolution would be just a species trying to realize its full natural potential. Macro-evolution is problematic for various reasons in Thomism, not least because a change of species implies pursuit of non-existence which is actually contrary to the impetus of evolution, which is the progression and preservation of the species."


    Species as understood by the bioligist and the specific form of the Thomist are not exactly the same thing. The biologist views the term only in light of sexual compatibility (at least for sexual species. If some mad scinetist created a virus that prevented those infected from reproducing with anyone not also infected, the biologist would declare a speciation event, whereas a thomist would not say a new form had emerged.

    Timocrates said..."Furthermore, the species would cease a process of evolution upon becoming another species and itself never actually attain that stage of evolution for "it has ceased to exist as the subject of acquired properties or attributes"

    Homo Sapien, has not ceased to have the properties of hominids generally, or of apes, monkeys, mammals, chordates, eukaryotes, the common biochemistry this planet's life. Essential defining features tend to be preserved albiet modified, rather than discarded.

    Timocrates said..." As regards evolution, the only thing I really hate about the idea is the stupidity that it counts as progress for a species to annihilate itself. Non-existence is exactly what is most naturally reprehensible to all living things; therefore, for me it is just bafflingly stupid to suggest that any species is inherently geared toward its own annihilation. Such a creature would be an absurdity: like all living things, it would seek with all its might to maintain its own individual existence (and concomitantly its own species necessarily, as this is necessary for the preservation of its individual actuality) while simultaneously be in process of ending and tending towards its own total extinction, both individually and specially! It's a farce from the get-go."

    Evolution is a response to the impermancne of the enviroment. Non-existence is the eventual fate of any particular enviromental feature. That life has features to accept and adapt to this fact is by no means suprising.

    And again you a confusing the specific form of the Thomist for the species of the biologist. The special form, while disctinct from the particular existing individual, is not seperate from it, nor is it precisely the same form as other members of the biological species. (It's not platonism)
    As an individual fox has a unique was of being as a fox, and if successful as a fox contributes to the specific fom of his line. With suffecienf shock, isolation, or selection, this line might become sexually incompatible with other lines of foxes. Nonetheless they still share more in form than they differ.

    Timocrates said..." Now every living organism seeks the preservation of its own existence and even tries to evade death by reproduction: the individual is destined to corruption and death but by reproduction some likeness of it is at least preserved. To become another species, then, would be a complete last resort in some sort of attempt to preserve and replicate at least its animate nature."

    To become another species in the biological sense just means sexual incompatibility. You don't seed a fox turn into a turtle. The vast majority of essential features (nature) is preserved. The "and" model of taxonomy much more accurately reflects the process than the "or" or transformative taxonomy model.

    Entirely new essential form only arrise from simple forms after and mass extinction event, or when entering uncolonized enviroments.

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  71. Timocrates said..."Furthermore, there are serious problems with every living thing trying to become a master species, as it were, because the hierarchy of life requires lower organisms: if every living organism were advancing up the ladder, so to speak, then what is necessary for life - food and especially vegetative food, which being the most basic form of life would also be the most desirous of advancement, as it lacks even mobility to evade destruction - would vanish, and this would result in the death of all living creatures on earth. Mass extinction is progress now?"

    Timocrates said..." Now some might point out that it is exactly vegetative forms of life that seem, as it were, most content with their own destruction by way of consumption as in part this is one of the most efficacious ways for the creature to perpetuate and multiply its kind. But if this is so, then evolution runs up against a serious problem, as vegetative life is the most basic kind of life and in an evolutionary model necessarily the mother and root of all life. But it is specifically this kind of life the existence and preservation of which is most necessary for more advanced forms of life. Therefore, if evolution is true, then evolution is inherently an existential threat to more advanced forms of life, tending to their extinction. But this is exactly what every living thing is supposed to be open to becoming and even, if anything, tending to! Evolution turns out to be a necessarily self-destructive system caused and perpetuated by a an innate impulse towards evading destruction!"

    Please just crack open any ecology textbook to the chapter on population dynamics. There is no hierachy of life. Even the fiercest predetors fall prey to parasites and desiese. Ecological systems are dynamic and resilient webs of energy and material transfer. I suspect someone smarter than me could model it all in terms of thermodynamics, but essentially the dominance of any one species creates a potential that other species can unlock. One of the simplest illustrations is the S-curve model of a predetor-prey species.

    The very existence of coal and oil is evidence of an ancient triumph of the plants. The incorporation of lignin let some plants stand taller than the others, resist herbivory, and microbial decay. Far from being simple, plants have complex biological defenses, inclucing phytotoxins, irritating botanical features, and signalling pathways that can warn neighbors to prepare for herbivory, or call to predetors of insects.

    And we know that mass extinction happens, and that explosions on new types follow from them. There is nothing neccessarily perfect or eternal in the specific forms of animals, (as contingent being they are neccesarily flawed), nor does the internal causal structure of kind after kind guarantee the internat structure will be effecting in the face of changing enviroments.

    The fundamental thermodynamic, chemical reason that life can exist at all, even though it takes energy maintain, is that life is much more effective than non-life at accessing and releasing potential energy. Evolution can unlock even more effective ways of accessing that energy, and sure even sometimes so much so as to lead to mass extinction. This is not a reason to reject evolution. There is no fundamental reason as to why to rules and internal causal structure of the whole of life, both on earth nd elsewhere, must be commensurate with the rules and internal causal structure of individual living things. The fossil record shows not just one, but 5 mass extinction events from which life has recovered.

    All things are eventually destroyed, and the fact that evolutionary theory reveals one way many things may come to destruction is by no means a reason to reject it. Your attempt to set up a reduction ad absurdum fails, precisely because the consequence you set up is merely a rarity rather than an absudity.

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  72. To become another species in the biological sense just means sexual incompatibility.

    WorBlux, I agree with much that you said, but it seems to me that based on what I have read of evolutionary biologists, "species" can be laid out taxonomically based on what can interbreed with what, or based on other criteria that will mostly overlap with that criterion but not perfectly so. That is, they view the choice of taxonomic criteria as fundamentally at the preference of the organizer, for his own purposes, and each distinct taxonomy will garner a following based primarily on its usefulness for significant purposes, not because it is more "true" than another taxonomy.

    This is because they (pretty nearly universally, as far as I can tell) reject the Aristotelian / Thomist notion of species as an essential (essence-driven) reality, and instead are committed to the theory that there is no such thing as essential differences: every thing differs from other things solely by the mere accumulation of additional subtle differences, no one or complex of them being critical or essential. There are no "natural kinds" as the Aristotelian thinks of them.

    Given this starting point, for them there could not be any such thing as species tending toward becoming something "else" or towards a "master species" because there is no set "kind" of anything, and there could not be any definitive "master" anything anyway, only comparatives of better able to survive current conditions vs less able to survive current conditions, which has no possible connotation of "better" simply speaking. As well because in their lexicon, "species" don't "become" anything, at most you find "populations" in which X trait becomes less prominent over time, and in which Y becomes more prominent, but even there the delineation of the "population" can be at least a bit arbitrary.

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  73. Doesn't sound agreeable in either the colloquial or technical sense.

    To quote someone in the comments, "Just because it doesn't map onto your colloquial meaning doesn't mean that people are using it incorrectly."

    Straightforwardness is a standard subtrait associated with Agreeableness in personality tests (except for HEXACO, which splits it off into a sixth trait for completely independent reasons). And indeed, for you to attack someone for the "cheap tactic" of not respecting the actual technical definitions and then to respond to the point by saying something doesn't "sound" agreeable is mere stupidity. The fact that, as I said, I do in fact score consistently very high on Agreeableness, and very, very high on indicators of straightforwardness under that heading, is itself a sign that how things 'sound' to you is not a reliable indicator any fact here.

    Arguably no Agreeableness subtrait in excess is pleasant to deal with; the traits group together because they are associated with cooperative social ventures. There are a number of reasons why straightforwardness clusters with other Agreeableness traits, and whether or not some subtrait is had in excessive amount is not relevant to which cluster it belongs (or to whether it is agreeable in the sense of pleasant).

    This is related to keeping short term peace within the family, and it's behavior typical of mothers.

    (1) Noncompetitiveness has no particular relation to keeping peace; that depends as much on other subtraits as anything else.
    (2) Neither noncompetitiveness nor keeping short term peace is "behavior typical of mothers", as a great many daughters and nagged husbands can tell you. In fact, I score far higher on
    (3) This has nothing whatsoever to do with compassion.

    Mothers and fathers score across the entire spectrum, for the obvious reason that they are human. What research that has been done on sex differences that I have seen suggests that women statistically score at least as high or higher than men on just about everything except Openness and the assertiveness subtrait of Extraversion. Making up rationalizations post hoc is useless here: you could make up an ingenious little just-so story about how mothers being anxious about all sorts of things helps bind the family together, and thus that Neuroticism maps onto "motherly concern", and all you would have established is that you can make up associations that don't mean anything. One might as well say that having a personality is "behavior typical of mothers", with just as much justification.

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  74. Sorry, there was part of a sentence accidentally deleted for (2). It should read: In fact, I score far higher on cooperative subtraits than women on average do, as far as I have seen; my possession is not typical of the average woman (or, as far as I have seen, of very many people at all).

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  75. Brandon:

    You're exact words were "ruthlessly blunt," which sounds very much like low Agreeableness subtrait Politeness. It seems you misspoke or picked the wrong aspect of you personality to highlight Agreeableness with. Never use the word ruthless to highlight Agreeableness.

    The biggest sex differences are on Agreeableness, with women being more Agreeable.

    Women are slightly higher on Neuroticism. Women are slightly higher on Conscientiousness subtrait Orderliness, which accounts for their higher religiosity. Women are slightly higher on the Openness subtrait Interest in Aesthetics and slightly lower on Openness subtrait Interest in Ideas. Women are slightly higher in Extraversion subtrait Enthusiasm and slightly lower in subtrait Assertiveness.

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  76. Women are slightly higher on Conscientiousness subtrait Orderliness, which accounts for their higher religiosity.

    What hogwash. Orderliness does not "account for religiosity." Having religion might possibly be related to orderliness, but it is rank nonsense to say that therefore the orderliness accounts for having religion, as if you can identify causality when you identify correlation.

    Besides, when you read the studies, it becomes clear that not one of them approached religion in such a way as to capture the religiosity of faith-based secular humanism. They are fundamentally flawed. The definitions of so-called religiosity are not personality-related, they are belief-related, which is quite a different thing. The claimed results of the studies are (at best) preaching to the choir, and at worst just confirmation bias.

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  77. Here's a hint: order is related to telos. AT thinkers should have no problem relating the two concepts.

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  78. Orderliness is not the same thing at all as the order related to telos. AT thinkers have no problem making the distinction.

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  79. Agreeable has a technical meaning in personality research. Just because it doesn't map onto your colloquial meaning doesn't mean that people are using it incorrectly. You would be well advised to think about how the words "determinate" or "imagination" differ in colloquial meaning vs how they are used by philosophers.

    "Agreeable" doesn't have a "technical meaning" in the research outside of just being the choice to allocate 5 or 10 or 15 subtraits people answer to under the general trait-name "agreeable" that could just as easily have been given a synonym like affable, comfortable, amenable, or congenial. It's not like someone cooked up the proper objective name for the the group of subtraits, nor like someone found a blood test for agreeableness that maps onto all of the subtraits.

    Does the fact that the various research groups identify the names of the 5 groups, and the sub-traits, and the questions used to identify those, with significant variations, make you even a little concerned about the "technical" precision of the names? Does the name (in some studies) of the "Openness to Experience" trait worry you when it includes the subtrait of imagination described as "use fantasy, not as an escape, but as a way of creating for themselves, a more richer and interesting inner-world"? Does the fact that "positive emotions" subtrait is put into the Extraversion trait concern you, even though an introvert who runs high on artistic interests will also score high on positive emotions if they have high access to their artistic values at home? Does it worry you that the "depth of emotion" subtrait is put into the "Openness" trait when highly neurotic depressed people also have deep feelings of depression?

    When all is said and done, given the testing methods, all is based on the colloquial sense of the words as understood by those who actually answer the questions: the adjectives and descriptors in the questions are not scientifically determined by those who answer, but colloquially. The data is based on entirely colloquial understanding of the core words in the questions. There isn't anything "objective" or "technical" about any individual's answers, the only objectivity comes from the collation of data i.e. the fact that by asking hundreds of people, presumably the researcher will avoid SOME of the distortions in small subgroups of people in their grasp of certain words. That's all. Calling that a "technical meaning" is just slapping techno-speak on the scientists' ordinary humdrum understanding of the groupings that they are finding.

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  80. Here's a hint: order is related to telos. AT thinkers should have no problem relating the two concepts.

    So those who recognize a distinct religious end order themselves thereby. Then wouldn't religiosity account for orderliness, not the other way around? Sheesh.

    Not to mention the fact that it's bunk anyway.

    Results from these studies support the relative stability of personality traits across the human lifespan, at least from preschool age through adulthood.[63][65][82][83] More specifically, research suggests that four of the Big Five –namely Extraversion, Neuroticism, Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness- reliably describe personality differences in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

    and: Some of these differences are evident at, if not before, birth.

    I defy you to assert that religiosity at birth accounts for orderliness.

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  81. The names of the 5 traits were assigned, somewhat arbitrarily, by the researchers to particular clumps of personality descriptors. If you want to argue about whether the 5 traits could have better names, be my guest.

    But the descriptors themselves were not clumped together by the researchers. The clumps emerged from factor analysis, and they persistently clump in the same way across many, many studies.

    Incidentally, the best way to test whether getting at something real in psychology is to use statistics destructively. See if you can you make the construct go away. But the 5 factor model survives that. It won't go away.

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  82. Seeing the order in world and recognizing the purposeful nature of that order is usually what makes people religious. I can't imagine a more orthodox sentiment.

    Wanting your life to be in harmony with that order is what orderliness is.

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  83. See if you can you make the construct go away. But the 5 factor model survives that. It won't go away.

    Did you see the quote and link above?

    We present the first test of the FFM in a largely illiterate, indigenous society. Tsimane forager–horticulturalist men and women of Bolivia (n = 632) completed a translation of the 44-item Big Five Inventory (Benet-Martínez & John, 1998), a widely used metric of the FFM. We failed to find robust support for the FFM, based on tests of (a) internal consistency of items expected to segregate into the Big Five factors, (b) response stability of the Big Five, (c) external validity of the Big Five with respect to observed behavior, (d) factor structure according to exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, and (e) similarity with a U.S. target structure based on Procrustes rotation analysis. Replication of the FFM was not improved in a separate sample of Tsimane adults (n = 430), who evaluated their spouses on the Big Five Inventory.

    Take the FFM outside of literate society, and it went away.

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  84. @ pizza guy,

    ”I believe very strongly that we don't know enough about how biological features evolve to know that [there is no mechanism that would produce a significant difference between the races as far cognitive capacity goes]. We have only been recording stuff for less than 6,000 years (a short period in evolutionary terms) and have been investigating genetic changes scientifically for about 150 years (a mere snapshot).”

    Point well taken. My short comment: Even though strictly speaking we don't know that such a mechanism doesn't exist, from what we do know we have no reason to suspect that there is any such a mechanism; to my knowledge nobody has suggested some plausible mechanism that would produce biological based differences of intelligence between human races (if you know of some such suggestion I'd like to learn about it). The fact that we don't observe any significant difference and that we need sophisticated studies to investigate if any differences exist - fits well with the hypothesis that no such mechanism exists.

    My longer comment: Biologically modern humans exist for 200.000 years. And records of human intelligence go far before 4.000 BC. We have sophisticated human-made tools – far beyond anything any other animal has managed – dated to 50.000 BC. And cave art at 30.000 BC. The marvelous Lascaux paintings are from 15.000 BC. And as far a genetic changes goes we have a huge amount of evidence that reaches back billions of years. We have millions of data points to reason about. And in any case in science we don't have to observe something in order to know about it. Scientific knowledge is based on observations but is not limited by them. So, for example, we have a pretty good idea what happened in the first minutes of creation (I am using realist language here), we have a pretty good idea what will happen to our sun after a few billions of years, and so on.

    Now it is true biological evolution is a very special, indeed a unique case of event. On the one hand we do understand the behavior of matter and thus understand the mechanisms of Darwinian evolution and why it works, but on the other hand it is such a complex event, and so-called emergent phenomena so common in it, that there is still much ongoing research and much still to be discovered. Intelligence is a special problem within a special problem. Even the nature of intelligence, or rather of the interplay between biology and intelligence, is not well understood.

    My main point I'd like to make is this: Intelligence has been measured by sociologists and psychologists quite extensively in the last decades. We discovered that there are large variation between individuals. And even it's not clear to what degree adult intelligence is caused by nature (biology one is born with) and by nurture (one's environment while one grows) the consensus is that that biology plays a significant role. On the other hand we have *not* discovered any large variation on such biologically caused intelligence when averaging individuals who belong to different races. That's why complex studies are going on to ascertain if any such measurable difference exist. Thus we already know that if there is any effect of the biological differences among various races, this effect is much smaller than the effect of the biological differences among individuals of the same race. Since we know that already I don't see the relevance or utility of studies that try to ascertain if the biological difference among races affect intelligence to any measurable degree.

    [continues below]

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  85. [continues from above]

    On the contrary suppose that such studies for whatever reason (whether because it is so, or because of methodological error which may easily slip into complex studies that try to measure small variances) would produce the result that there is some small difference of intelligence caused by the differences in biology among the races. In this case the potential for abuse is huge. And I am not only thinking of racists who will exploit such results blowing then out of proportion thus hurting our chances of building a fair society. Suppose the study proved beyond reasonable doubt that Asians are biologically more intelligent than whites to a measurable degree. Given the highly competitive environment of the world and the in general aggressive and militaristic attitude in the US, I can imagine a slightly unbalanced and uneducated American president figuring that a preemptive strike against China is in order, lest the superior yellow race dominate the world within a few decades. (Let's not mention here that China remains nominally a communist country, and has already the biggest economy in the world, and owns a huge piece of the American public debt.)

    Is such a scenario really unlikely? In the recent past there has been a slightly unintelligent American president who started a major war against a secular and large middle eastern country imagining it had weapons of mass destruction that threatened the US – in the process wasting trillions of dollars of taxpayers' money, causing the death of thousands of young American soldiers and the destruction of the lives of tens of thousands more, causing the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, and destabilizing an entire region of the world. So, I say, we should not underestimate the potential for evil that bad information has.

    But conversely, what can be possibly be *gained* by such studies, can anybody here make some suggestions? I mean we already know that there are biological causes for the variation of intelligence among individuals and we may use that information to, say, improve the educational system. Why do we need more information about the averages over races. I mean there may be even differences depending on eye color, or perhaps depending on the distance between the eyes. Does it make sense to make complex studies to find out?

    (Above I used “intelligence” as shorthand for “the set of cognitive capacities we relate to intelligence summed together in some reasonable manner to produce a single value”.)

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  86. @ Jeffrey S.

    it is worth pointing out that no one serious at this point denies that when taking IQ tests (or other tests that measure IQ) Jews outscore whites by almost a standard-deviation, and then Asians outscore whites by about half a standard-deviation, and then whites outscore blacks by one standard deviation

    I wonder how many standard deviations better do at IQ tests rich blacks in the US who had demanding parents and were sent to the best schools that money can buy, compared to the IQ scores of poor Asians in Cambodia with illiterate peasant parents who were forced to send them to the village primary school for a few years.

    My point of course is that environmental factors play a huge role. And such environmental factors are impossible to factor out. The best way would be to only study children of different races who were plucked out of their culture and grew as adopted children in some other culture, but even here there are limits. Put a black child in the best possible environment in the US; when she learns about the history of slavery she will feel inferior. Or take an Ashkenazi child and put it an a secular and bad environment; when she learns that per capita the Jewish people have won 10 times more Nobel prices than any other group of people she will feel superior. Also racist sentiments and preconceptions are global and impossible to completely remove from a child's environment. The problem here is this: Suppose a study does measure some small difference; how do we know that what it did wasn't to measure the environmental effects which are impossible to factor out and not the biological effects?

    And speaking of IQ tests, I understand the scores have risen significantly in just one generation. The genetically caused biology of the brain does not change in any significant way in just one generation. Ergo, IQ tests make little sense as measurement of the effect of genetically fixed biology on intelligence.

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  87. I wonder how many standard deviations better do at IQ tests rich blacks in the US who had demanding parents and were sent to the best schools that money can buy, compared to the IQ scores of poor Asians in Cambodia with illiterate peasant parents who were forced to send them to the village primary school for a few years.

    This has been studied, and the poor Asian immigrants (not necessarily from Cambodia) actually do better than upper middle class blacks, because of regression to the mean.

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  88. Incidentally, for there to be genetically caused differences in intelligence would not require macroevolution or the change of one species into another. You could change the average intelligence of a group simply by killing off all the smart ones (or all the stupid ones) in a group. As long as an already existing, continuously varying trait confers an advantage or disadvantage in the environment, it can be selected for or against.

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  89. Did you see the quote and link above?

    As Charles Murray has said, "Beware the man of one study."

    They mucked around with the test in translation, because of limited vocabulary among their group. They also ended up taking almost half of the items out, because they were worried about response bias to certain kinds of questions, and taking out questions can do really terrible things to your response, especially when you are worried that, say, Openness is going to be contaminated by Extraversion because art in a certain culture is mostly performance based.

    C'mon guys.

    -----

    Incidentally, that study was also not what I was talking about: the use of destructive statistical techniques to try and make a factor go away.

    -----

    BTW, this is not to trash the original researchers, who seem to have put a lot of effort into a real good faith attempt to do something new.

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  90. "But conversely, what can be possibly be *gained* by such studies, can anybody here make some suggestions? I mean we already know that there are biological causes for the variation of intelligence among individuals and we may use that information to, say, improve the educational system. Why do we need more information about the averages over races. I mean there may be even differences depending on eye color, or perhaps depending on the distance between the eyes. Does it make sense to make complex studies to find out?"

    Well, if granting simply for the sake of argument that your hypothetical were true, and that hominids [used deliberately and with irony] of one distinct phenotype could be in general classified as less intelligent, or behaviorally incontinent, then some very straightforward reasons appear for having this knowledge ready to hand; reasons having to do with quality of life in a shared space with uncongenial others.

    You might say, with some exaggeration for the purposes of illustration, that that would be the same kind of information that might be useful before embarking on a dangerous enterprise wherein male cowards, or free-riders could prove disastrous. If for example, narrow shouldered men with freckles and wiry red hair and upturned noses, were on average significantly more disposed to physical cowardice and lethargy than other identifiable phenotypes, then one might wish to think twice before taking such a person on a journey as a matter of course.

    Now however, if you are of a mind that the modern-liberal civilization project is all about, to quote Rawls, an (a priori) "commitment to a shared fate" , then you might be indifferent to such information. You might even be indifferent to your own reproductive success, to your freedom to map out a life path without the additional labor of accounting for constant social turbulence, to the infrastructure decay caused as the stupid and improvident tear down what you and your predecessors have built, and indifferent too, to the idea of freedom and autonomy, in general.

    If so, even if your initial hypothetical were granted, you might nonetheless not only be uninterested in such information, but actively opposed to anyone else having it either; that is to say, their having access a perspective which might dispose them toward keeping you, or anyone else for that matter, at arms' length: this, in order to reduce their life costs, and better their own chances of having a productive and pleasing existence.

    But the opposing view is that being a slave to another who is a slave to his own irremediable, or at least intractable dysfunctions, seems not to be the best use of one's life.

    Of course your own mileage may differ.

    Certainly you would at least agree that if there were such an outrageous thing as a, say, genetic communist, and that they could be detected readily, then no sensible person would consent to allow such an entity hospitality or fellowship.

    Doesn't mean you go out hunting them of course.

    It's a big planet; and my view is that they should (if there were such a thing, in the way there are short men, or cowardly men) be allowed to enjoy the benefits - and costs - of living among entities much as themselves.

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  91. It seems that modern universities are interested in every kind of diversity, save intellectual diversity.

    And this, of course, should be the first and main type of diversity sought by academics.

    This is, in the long run, a threat to the survival of higher learning.

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  92. @ WorBlux,

    ”Here are some particular factors:”

    Perhaps there is a misunderstanding. I never claimed that biological evolution will not select for intelligence. Of course it will, and it did most conspicuously in the case of the human species. I also never claimed that we don't know the respective mechanisms that would increase biologically based intelligence, of course we have a pretty good idea. The adaptive advantages of organized society, of tool making, of agriculture, and so on – are pretty obvious. Such went on for at least 50.000 years.

    What I am saying is this:

    1) There is no evidence that humanity has become measurably smarter the last 5.000 years or so. Let us not be confused by the success of modern science and technology. Scientists and engineers do marvelous stuff today by building on the work of others, not by being smarter than thinkers thousands of years ago. Perhaps a better evidence might be found in the case of solitary geniuses such as in the fine arts (and to a smaller degree in theology, and even smaller in philosophy), and here I see no evidence of improvement. If anyone here knows an argument for holding that humanity's intelligence has increased in historical times I'd like to hear it.

    2) We know that any differences among races, if they exist, will be much smaller than differences among individuals within a race. Why? Because the latter are obvious and well-known whereas the very existence of the former is a matter of much debate. Thus any biological mechanism that might have given some advantage to a race over the other will not be very weak.

    3) Until a few thousand years ago members of all races were fighting for survival. The numbers of humans were small, societies were very small, and there is no conspicuous success in any geographical region. If there were significant difference in intelligence they'd have some visible effect – precisely because intelligence has so much adaptive value. But there isn't, so there weren't.

    Therefore if there are today significant difference between races they must be result of a few thousand years of evolution – a very small time-span for *biological* evolution. But not too small for socio-biological evolution. Thus the average intelligence of some social group may be significantly higher than others because that group's culture evolved in a way that is more conducive to the upbringing of more intelligent members (even though biologically there isn't any advantage).

    On the other hand nurture can affect nature (or culture can affect biology) as the “pizza guy” has argued. It seems to me that his was the best suggestion for a mechanism that might in relatively short time produce differences among the races. I discuss his suggestion below.

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  93. Just another Bigot trying to justify his Bigotry...

    ;)

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  94. @ pizza guy,

    ” if due to social mores men came to prefer smart women over stupid ones for marriage, this could itself result in a population becoming measurably more intelligent in an evolutionarily short time.”

    And such social mores may have been more prevalent in one race over the other.

    Right, that might work. But let's consider what we know about what actually happened. Until very recently (say the last few centuries) the great majority of humanity subsisted in conditions where men did not choose women for their intelligence but for perceived features such as fertility, industriousness, obedience. Conspicuously intelligent women might actually have been chosen against. I'm not even sure that in modern societies men give much weight to intelligence when choosing their mate.

    Perhaps the argument might work better in the other direction. Women would prefer more successful or powerful males which would often be also over the average intelligent. The problem with that suggestion is that until very recently women had little say in the matter.

    My point is that it's not sufficient to suggest some mechanism which might work in theory; one would need to suggest a mechanism we have good reason to believe did obtain.

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  95. @Anonymous,

    I wouldn't say bigot in the sense the article uses, but it would be more accurate to say "trying to justify racial prejudices or make them appear not as racial prejudices but as intellectual "positions" ". The fact that Feser considers Murray on par with/same class as Socrates makes me REALLY question his motives/moral character(I can't help but suspect he holds some sinister thoughts), and the comments obsessing over this "race, and IQ" thing, and being so hungry to prove it despite it being not a very discussed/serious topic in science today except by white supremacist/racist desperate to "prove" they were right (yet show doubts about evolution which is WAY more tested, and confirmed than this) makes me wonder about the moral character of the people of this blog.

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  96. Despite it being not a very discussed/serious topic in science today except by Jonathan Haidt, Edward O. Wilson, Geoffrey Miller, Steven Pinker, James Watson . . .

    You know, the usual white supremacist bunch.

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  97. Re the above names, yes, unironically yes, thankfully people are beginning to wake up to the evil of Biological Reductionism. 'Humans are soulless biological machines' fails to elicit a reaction but 'Humans are soulless biological machines and black machines are inferior to white machines' is understood loud and clear. Now if only people could go ahead and draw the obvious conclusion that we are not identical with our bodies...

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  98. Yes these guys research it but they haven't drawn the conclusions you seem so eager to accept(but for what reason, I wonder?) about a supposed genetic component for the race/IQ disparity. Research actually being done has not shown this:

    http://people.virginia.edu/~ent3c/papers2/nisbett2012int.pdf

    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2011/12/26/the-argument-that-different-ra-1/

    http://skepdic.com/iqrace.html

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  99. "The bigot is someone whose attachment to his beliefs is fundamentally emotional rather than rational. He evaluates the evidence in light of his beliefs rather than evaluating his beliefs in light of the evidence. He is reluctant or unwilling to give a fair hearing to opinions other than his own or to arguments against his own. He tends to be hostile to those who hold those different opinions, prefers to avoid them altogether rather than engaging them and their views, and resorts to invective instead of reasoned debate.
    The reason all of this is problematic, of course, is that bigotry gets in the way of our discovering truth. If the bigot’s opinions are wrong, he is very unlikely to discover that they are, because he turns his mind violently away from all sources of information that might reveal his errors to him. Even if he turns out to be right, that will be a matter of luck, for the manner in which he forms his opinions is so inherently unreliable that he is unlikely to be right very often or without a large admixture of error."



    The text I have quoted is quite important since it specifies that the bone of contention with the bigot is his emotional resistance to the consideration of ostensibly factual assertions.

    When it comes to the assessment of bigotry or prejudice as regards an "impartial" assessment of value statements or lifeways, the matter instantly becomes more murky. And it becomes especially so, given the almost universal belief among progressives themselves in the fact value dichotomy, and the emotive theory of value.

    It's difficult to see how an average progressive could coherently argue that emotive choices or things valued could be examples of bigotry; even though they may be valued on what a critic considers a non-rational basis: such as being ultimately disadvantageous in some regard or with reference to some end not itself seen as objectively mandated.

    And I think that progressives generally agree with this explicitly, more so now than ever before. And, that their sociopolitical program has been accordingly adjusted so as not to bother trying to argue people out of their attachments, but to instead gain and use political means to forcibly manage them out of their preferences or the power to support them. Or failing that, to 'evolve" these value-holders out of existence themselves.

    Now, as I see it progressives are aided in this program by sensitive conservative types who simply refuse to throw the obvious reductios back in the progressives' faces; but have nothing to offer in the way of support for their own position than a stale reiteration of threadbare commitments to values and ideals which their antagonists already scoff at.

    Letting the nihilist postmodern left off the hook in the name of civility, shared humanity, solidarity, compassion or some other crap, almost seems to be the defining characteristic of the sensitive conservative.

    Now I myself admit I am somewhat unsettled to see members of the self-identified libertarian leaning "alt-right" now making some of the same derisory references to the self-sabotaging, weak-kneed traits of sensitive conservatives that I was frustratedly making decade or more ago.

    But it just goes to show how glaringly obvious the don't-rock-the-boat, be-nice, feebleness of conservatism has become to all.

    You let the left off the fact value hook they have hung up, then you get what you deserve. If they speak of bigotry, but invoke values, too bad for you if you are not quick enough on the uptake, or are too squeamish and mild mannered to take advantage of it and drive the forensic knife in.

    If you are not willing to use very basic logic in order to throw the deconstructive rhetorical acids they have cooked up right back into their polemical faces, then you probably have no claim to be taken seriously.

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  100. Anonymous: (I can't help but suspect he holds some sinister thoughts)

    You can't help it? Really? You suffer an uncontrollable compulsion to attribute "sinister thoughts" to people in the absence of evidence? Well, I guess that's better than trying to justify your prejudices as intellectual positions, that's for sure!

    makes me wonder about the moral character of the people of this blog.

    At least people are surely not wondering about your moral character.

    Your reading comprehension, perhaps... but not your moral character.

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  101. Anonymous: That does make sense but isn't it too incredulous and mysterious?

    I would be surprised if an infinite and transcendent God weren't a little mysterious to mere mortals like us, no? But why is it "too" much? It's not something we can imagine, but it is something we can understand. As George LeSauvage said, there are arguments for this, and in the words of the philosopher, when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however incredible or mysterious, must be the truth. Prof. Feser has written much about the difference between imagination and intellect, and addressed relevant issues about the nature of God in many other posts you may wish to check out (not to mention his books).

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  102. I just want to say one thing.

    @Anonymous: You said:

    Anonymous said...
    @Anonymous,

    I wouldn't say bigot in the sense the article uses


    I think Anonymous has it more right than others give him credit for. Though ultimately he is still wrong - as most anonymouses usually are. Anonymous, though, probably got Anonymous's point wrong to begin with.

    Aren't you just a little ashamed of yourself.

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  103. Anonymous: I just want to say one thing.

    Well, well said.


    (P.S. It finally dawned on me that the Anonymous to whom I previously replied was being sarcastic. Guess I didn't get enough sleep last night.)

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  104. I wasn't. The fact that Feser thinks Murray is a "sober intellectual" is.......off-putting.

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  105. Well that told him then. I'm sure anonymous internet trolls making unsupported assertions are just what Dr. Feser needs to put him in his place.

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  106. So it doesn't bother anyone except me that Feser thinks Charles Murray, a guy who (attempts) to argue that African-Americans are less intelligent than European Americans for "genetic reasons", and for this reason welfare aid, educational aid, etc being given to them should stop as it is "futile", and who collected research from Nazi-associated/white supremacist/racist/eugenics supporting, groups/people is a "sober scholar"? Wow.

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  107. @ Anonymous 5:04 AM

    ”So it doesn't bother anyone except me that Feser thinks Charles Murray, a guy who (attempts) to argue that African-Americans are less intelligent than European Americans for "genetic reasons", and for this reason welfare aid, educational aid, etc being given to them should stop as it is "futile", and who collected research from Nazi-associated/white supremacist/racist/eugenics supporting, groups/people is a "sober scholar"? Wow.”

    I think that Murray is wrong both in the facts he believes obtain and in the implications he believes follow. But this does not mean that Murray should not be allowed to speak, nor that he should be not be considered a sober scholar. That's the point that Feser is making. Think about it, he is clearly right. After all sober scholars throughout history have been known to have held some beliefs we all today agree are completely wrong. What makes a scholar is *not* that she got things right, but the way scholarly way she goes about her work. And the mechanism that has proven effective to prove scholars wrong when they were wrong was open scholarly debate. Which bigots in the case of Murray try to violently restrict. In other words bigots are not only ethically contemptible but also stupid, since by their bigotry they further that which they wish to diminish.

    In short: If Murray is so clearly wrong as you and I believe then the best way to prove him wrong and deflate the many racists who justify their meanness on his work, would be to engage him in the kind of scholarly debate the bigots stupidly try to restrict. And which response leads racists to think he must be right since people instead of argument respond with violence, and leads non-racists to wonder if he might be right given that people who disagree with him try to stop him from speaking and resort to violent acts.

    Above I have explained why I think Murray is wrong when he thinks that babies of different races have on average measurably different capacity for becoming intelligent citizens. Let me now explain why his argument about the “futility” of social programs is the wrong implication, even if he were right about the former. Environment and especially school has a strong effect on the development of a person's intelligence, and to have intelligent citizens is a goal every society strives for, since such citizens produce more wealth and (ahem) vote more wisely. So, if it were shown that a particular race is by birth disadvantaged for developing intelligence then society would profit by investing *more* in the upbringing of children of that race.

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  108. "I wasn't. The fact that Feser thinks Murray is a "sober intellectual" is.......off-putting."

    I don't see what Murray has said that would disqualify him as a sober intellectual? Quote something that he has said. Obviously try not to be purposefully uncharitable here, we don't want to have question your motives/moral character. I don't really even follow him, but its acting in bad faith to just bring up questioning of Feser's motives based on his assessment of Murray without indication as to why. I'm assuming it has to do with his remarks about Blacks and intelligence? As far as I can tell, Murray hasn't said anything of ill intent, just controversial at best. I'm guessing that you think him even addressing intelligence in relation to race is suspect, but I can't see why.

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  109. It seems you replied while I was writing.

    'So it doesn't bother anyone except me that Feser thinks Charles Murray, a guy who (attempts) to argue that African-Americans are less intelligent than European Americans for "genetic reasons"'

    Well he doesn't actually, but people keep claiming he does. This is what he said in The Bell Curve:

    "If the reader is now convinced that either the genetic or environmental explanation has won out to the exclusion of the other, we have not done a sufficiently good job of presenting one side or the other. It seems highly likely to us that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial differences. What might the mix be? We are resolutely agnostic on that issue; as far as we can determine, the evidence does not justify an estimate."

    Can you quote where he specifically says that blacks are inferior in intelligence due to genetics?

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  110. This provides a pretty good overview of why he's so "controversial": https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/charles-murray

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  111. Not to mention, even if he did claim what you think he claims, so what? Are you saying that unless you come to the conclusion that everyone is the same in every single way in terms of genetics (which is obviously not true), then dissent from that conclusion must be deemed suspect?

    As for where he gets his data from, again, so what? It depends on how he judges the data he is provided. Are you saying that even if you were given good data, but it came from terrible people, that you would reject the data outright? Good info is good info, no matter where you get it from. Not to mention, you don't have to be a racist to accept data about race from a racist.

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  112. The thing is Murray's claims about the "genetic issue" of race/IQ are NOT true as he claims based on studies linked previously, and many more. The issues is he is making pseudo-scientific claims not accepted by mainstream scientist to fuel some kind of hidden agenda, and only is benefitting racist/white supremacist.

    As to where his data comes from, the data has been shown to be biased/slanted to fit the worldview of the racist/white supremacist(no surprise there),by scientist who evaluated it, and the fact that Murray keeps peddling this to show what it does not show cast severe doubts on his credibility.

    Again I don't know why people seem so eager to accept this genetic race/IQ thing or defend Murray(where is this same kind of devotion to say evolutionary theory which is much more tested/accurate than what Murray peddles). There's a difference between being intellectually honest, and pretending to be to fit your own biased agenda. The latter is Murray.

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  113. Anon,

    Can you please showing me where he says that Blacks have lower IQs due entirely or primarily to genetics? Stop dancing around the topic and just provide it. None of the quotes in this article have him saying this.

    I'm not even defending anything that Murray says. I am defending him simply against people claiming things that he didn't say. Also, how can you trust this article when it claims The Bell Curve is "making a fundamentally eugenic argument" and their evidence: he uses a single word that eugenicists use?

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  114. " ... to have intelligent citizens is a goal every society strives for ..."

    Well yes, one can obviously see the costs of living among stupid people anytime you drive the decaying streets of a municipality which has become predominantly inhabited and run by them.

    But that commonplace observation does not get you where, say, a progressive wants to go.

    Thus, they almost need to talk as if "society" is a real thing; with aspirations and aims independent of the aims of the various individuals doing the associating.

    I am sure you did not mean it that way. Being a kind of Christian of some sort, you would probably argue Jesus said be kind to the hapless; rather than that it's good for "society" to be inclusive of the hapless and pay their costs.

    But this "society" business is a fallacy most left-liberals lapse into habitually; and sometimes - for polemical or rhetorical reasons - even intentionally. This, despite the the fact that even the founder of their noxious feast, Marx, explicitly warned them against any such reifications.

    I don't know whether Europeans are more prone to thinking in this manner than normal people or not. I guess that if you lived in an old village with lots of old buildings, and heard lots of old stories about the people of your area, you might tend to think in that way. But it would not seem to follow necessarily.

    The empty Cathedrals of Europe should disabuse romantics of any notion that there is present some kind of self-existent and self-sustaining large scale entity called "society" which can be referenced by simply glancing at the surroundings.

    The snail has left the shell behind.

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  115. From what I have seen, Murray has actively responded to those who have criticized his work.

    "The issues is he is making pseudo-scientific claims not accepted by mainstream scientist to fuel some kind of hidden agenda"

    Here we go, so you are insisting he has a hidden agenda even though you can't even prove it. Considering what I have seen about him is that a lot of people are putting words in his mouth and linking him to terrible ideologies based on terribly argued conclusion. Just give the direct quote and I will accept what you say and question Feser myself.

    "Again I don't know why people seem so eager to accept this genetic race/IQ thing or defend Murray"

    I can almost definitely guarantee that there is vastly vastly vastly more who hold strong certainty of the opposite to the point where people who label anyone who raises any concerns to the contrary as bigots.

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  116. As far as I know there is no direct quote where he says that. But the implications of his work, and the social/economic policies he derives from it, indicate this is what he is implying with his research. You know just because someone doesn't flat out admit they hold certain views, doesn't mean that they don't.

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  117. " Anonymous said...

    " As far as I know there is no direct quote where he says that. But the implications of his work, and the social/economic policies he derives from it, indicate this is what he is implying with his research. You know just because someone doesn't flat out admit they hold certain views, doesn't mean that they don't."



    Wow. And I even dislike Charles Murray.

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  118. Also the IQ/genetics thing seems to be something to really look in to. I mean, if its ok to consider obesity having a genetic factor, anger and violence having a genetic factor, alcoholism, homosexuality, etc, etc, then why not intelligence? Because some terrible people will use it to support their terrible ideas?

    All sorts of groups with terrible views use all sorts of science to support their views. Are you saying we should stop embryology because abortion supporters will use it to support their view? Should we stop cosmology because people will use it to fallaciously argue against the existence of God? Should we stop climate science because some people will use it to support the view that the US should turn communist and force all other countries to do the same in order to combat it?

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  119. I'm all for researching on intelligence, and a possible genetic component. The thing is this specifically the RACE/IQ genetic thing so far has no support, and is mainly pseudo-science sort of like intelligent design and has been debunked again, and again, so I don't really see the need to bring it up. It only seems to be empowering racist like Richard Spencer, and in the era of President Donald Chuckles the Ass-Clown Trump who is foolishly enabling the rise of white supremacy etc, this will only make things worse.

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  120. I have not read Murray and probably won't, but I am familiar with the outline of the controversy. In fact, I was in a psychology class in '94 when The Bell Curve came out and students were freaking out even though they hadn't read it and were clearly depending on second-hand characterizations of Murray (and nothing seems to have changed). The professor even asked what it was that had them worried and one students squawked "Because the Republicans are going to...!" err, what exactly? No one could say, but surely something naughty because, you know, reasons. Well, some twenty-odd years and one two-term Republican POTUS and inner-city public schools are still humming along racking up RICO indictments.

    But lately I'm starting to get a sense of cognitive dissonance among the self-appointed imams of the SocJus religion. Namely, starting with that intelligence is the only significant measure of human worth. It is seen in cheerleading for abortion (after all, human fetuses haven't a fully-developed brain yet) and enthusiasm for snuffing out children with Downs. And on the other end of the spectrum when grandma starts forgetting things and then suddenly there is a right of doctors to starve her to death.

    But along with the worship of intelligence is the worship of equality. The thing is, one of the first thing one encounters with reality is that it doesn't distribute intelligence equally. This is offensive to the doctrine of equality. Put simply, if Murrray and his books never existed, the two-headed beast of intelligence being the most important thing e-vah and the offense that some humans have more of it than others would still be prowling about looking for souls to devour.

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  121. " Billy said...

    Also the IQ/genetics thing seems to be something to really look in to. I mean, if its ok to consider obesity having a genetic factor, anger and violence having a genetic factor, alcoholism, homosexuality, etc, etc, then why not intelligence? Because some terrible people will use it to support their terrible ideas? "


    The reason for this is probably not so much based on the progressives' actual fear of Nazi-like extermination programs, but fear of the possible, or likely, effects on "social solidarity" - translate as transfer payments and sacrificial underwriting - as some people begin to coldly count the costs and make calculated assessments of their self-interest relative to certain assumed social commitments: Once the assumptions are open to question or become suspect.

    What we have seen here on Feser's comboxes in the way of objections is reflective of the kind of response strategy generally.

    It's floated by a mix of fideist leaning religious types, and the occasional progressive. They both continually assert social duty implications, but in a manner wherein they never quite lay out their fundamental premisses; obviously because they fear and anticipate the consequences of opening up like that.

    For example, the sensitive religious conservative could say: "He is your brother because Jesus said so, end of story. And it is your duty to sacrifice your advantages and future for his advantage comfort no matter whether you will or no."

    Or the collectivist could say, as do the Parecon boys: "You have no moral entitlement to the profit of your own talents, since you did nothing to deserve them. And because they can only be fully manifest in a social situation, you owe their exercise to society."

    But of course the moment either of them do this, their premisses stand open to immediate impeachment and rebuttal, as they well know.

    For example the sensitive conservative would immediately be told that he has no business pretending that his religious sentiments constitute philosophical arguments, and that if men are brothers and have duties to each other in a reciprocal fashion, then the hapless has a duty of some sort to the supplier of his comforts, as well.

    And in the case of the Z-Net type, he would be immediately confronted with the information that he is posing a ghost-in-the-machine anthropology at odds with his own materialist worldview; one wherein cost incurring and financially liable identities (or souls for that matter), were willy-nilly dropped into bodies unevenly kitted out. This, rather than one's identity being the mind-body itself. And further, that the term "social situation" did not necessarily describe, nor morally prescribe, any particular form or sweep of association or associates.

    So, well-knowing this, or at least ferally wary of being caught up in their own webs, they resort to declarations and innuendo, rather than frank argument.

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  122. "But lately I'm starting to get a sense of cognitive dissonance among the self-appointed imams of the SocJus religion. Namely, starting with that intelligence is the only significant measure of human worth. It is seen in cheerleading for abortion (after all, human fetuses haven't a fully-developed brain yet) and enthusiasm for snuffing out children with Downs. And on the other end of the spectrum when grandma starts forgetting things and then suddenly there is a right of doctors to starve her to death.

    But along with the worship of intelligence is the worship of equality. The thing is, one of the first thing one encounters with reality is that it doesn't distribute intelligence equally. This is offensive to the doctrine of equality. Put simply, if Murrray and his books never existed, the two-headed beast of intelligence being the most important thing e-vah and the offense that some humans have more of it than others would still be prowling about looking for souls to devour.

    March 22, 2017 at 8:53 AM"


    That's a good point.

    Ann Coulter has even written on the phenomenon. Which does not mean it's not still a good point nonetheless.

    I recall noticing that peculiar trait of the progressive mind some years ago: as they continually referred to naive middle-class, middle America, natural rights advocates, as gap-toothed Neanderthals who were doomed to a deserved extinction because of their lack of intelligence.

    Granting the progressive for the sake of argument that they might be right concerning the relative intelligence of a Columbia educated progressive and an Indianapolis community college dental assistant, I noted that many of the members of the Democrat Party client class were of an order of intelligence still lower again. The implications then being?

    Never got to their implications through the blizzard of imprecations.

    Still don't know quite how they reconcile it intellectually. They probably don't. Guess you just gotta feel these insights, rather than plodding your way to them through reasoning.

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  123. So, well-knowing this, or at least ferally wary of being caught up in their own webs, they resort to declarations and innuendo, rather than frank argument.

    Indeed I sometimes think of it as a kind of sociopathic patriotism with the motto: "Give me ambiguity, or give me something else!"

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  124. "You know just because someone doesn't flat out admit they hold certain views, doesn't mean that they don't."

    Yea, doesn't mean he does either though. Yet, some people are so sure of what he thinks, they will cause violence at his talks and some will question the motives and morals of anyone who gives even the slightest of defense of him.

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  125. Anon, there's no denying you've a lot of passion and vitriol... but how about evidence that supports your loud condemnation? Because at the moment you seem pretty much like what Feser was talking about in this post.

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  126. Blogger Dianelos Georgoudis said...

    "@ WorBlux,
    What I am saying is this:"

    1) There is no evidence that humanity has become measurably smarter the last 5.000 years or so. ..."

    There is no evidence period. That sort of data doesn't exist, what we do know is that some members of ancient societies would be considered quite intelligent if living today.

    Blogger Dianelos Georgoudis said...
    " 2) We know that any differences among races, if they exist, will be much smaller than differences among individuals within a race. Why? Because the latter are obvious and well-known whereas the very existence of the former is a matter of much debate. Thus any biological mechanism that might have given some advantage to a race over the other will not be very weak."

    As in most thing variation within racial groups hend to by greater than accross racial groups. (Absent strong selective pressure) The biological mechanisms are shared between the races, but the distribution is different.

    The existence of racial differences of IQ is well known and well proven among those who study such things. The cause is hotly debated and controversial but the results both clear and explanitive of of large number of racial disparities within natio


    Blogger Dianelos Georgoudis said...
    "Therefore if there are today significant difference between races they must be result of a few thousand years of evolution – a very small time-span for *biological* evolution. But not too small for socio-biological evolution. Thus the average intelligence of some social group may be significantly higher than others because that group's culture evolved in a way that is more conducive to the upbringing of more intelligent members (even though biologically there isn't any advantage)."

    Withing 500 years any groups that migrated would adapt skin color to balance vitamin D production and folic acid depletion. Lactose tolerance first appeared less than 6,000 years ago. Successes at the genetic level can spread fairly quickly. The process doesn't car if it's the result of a social feedback loop or an escape from the jaws of a lion.

    Blogger Dianelos Georgoudis said...
    "Perhaps the argument might work better in the other direction. Women would prefer more successful or powerful males which would often be also over the average intelligent. The problem with that suggestion is that until very recently women had little say in the matter."

    You forget that polygamy and slavery were common in agricultural empires.
    (Wives and slave were often taken via warfare, and of course your slaves would end up bearing your children) The mitrochondrial DNA shows about 1 in 3 females had lines lasting to modern times, whereas Y-chromosome analysis shows only about one in 14 males did. (And that about 1/3 of asian males decend from Gengis Khan's clan. In hunter-gatherer societies the number is closer to 1 in 4 for both males and females.

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  127. @ DNW,

    ”this "society" business is a fallacy”

    I won't go into this discussion because it strikes me as irrelevant.

    You do agree the high cost of living among stupid people, so you agree that in your country your tax dollars are well spent in giving people good education. If then it were proven that some particular group, say white blue eyed males, were born with some deficit in intelligence potential, you'd agree that more dollars should be spent in educating that group. If not, why not?

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  128. @ Billy,

    ”I mean, if its ok to consider obesity having a genetic factor, anger and violence having a genetic factor, alcoholism, homosexuality, etc, etc, then why not intelligence?”

    Nobody claims that there is no genetic factor in intelligence. Of course there is. Even I who happen to believe that in the nature vs nurture debate nature is very overrated, agree that two babies that should grow in exactly the same environment will develop different cognitive faculties because of genetic factors.

    The issue is whether on average there is a measurable difference between races. It is an ugly issue since racism and all the ills it produced was based on the belief that some races are inferior. And it is a stupid issue because differences of averages over races, if at all measurable, will be small. There are much greater genetic differences between individuals of the same race – so if one would like to use knowledge about such differences to optimize education, the study of differences of averages over races is a waste of money. And provides much potential for abuse.

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  129. So, it turns out, when confronted, Anon couldn't support his over-the-top rhetoric. Personally, I am very surprised. I was sure we'd be treated to a detailed and mature explanation.

    Anyway, as was pointed out above, there is persistent statistical data to support the claim of racial differences in intelligence. That doesn't mean they are actually genetic, but it surely suggests it isn't absurd or bigoted to think that some of the explanation could be genetic? Am I missing something?

    Also, I wouldn't put too much stock in the majority of scholars not countenancing a particular position in this sort of topic. I have found you have to take any politically or socially controversial research with a huge pinch of salt if you haven't investigated the assumptions and methodology deeply yourself. Ideological assumptions, usually left-liberal, and even ideologically motivated chicanery are everywhere, just look at research into homosexual parenting, domestic violence, or the anything about people's political or social beliefs. I would imagine this sort of thing extends to the area in question.

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  130. Dianelos Georgoudis said... @ DNW,

    " ”this "society" business is a fallacy” ... I won't go into this discussion because it strikes me as irrelevant."

    Stipulate that "society" is not an entity capable of making sound moral claims against one individual on behalf of another individual with whom the first party has no actual indebtedness, then it would be irrelevant by stipulation.

    The question mooted is whether in the name of some externally based claim of equity, it is incumbent upon charter members to make special allowances for others to also become members; or, whether that equity claim obligates them to make allowances or sacrifices above and beyond what were called for in the original charter, on behalf of the lagging members.

    " You do agree the high cost of living among stupid people, "

    I agree that sharing a living space with them imposes unwelcome and odious costs in the form of having to absorb and compensate for the spill-over effects of their behavioral incontinence and life-way incompetence.

    " ... so you agree that in your country your tax dollars are well spent in giving people good education. "

    I agree that offering people a good education will afford some people benefits which they would otherwise not experience. However, you beg the question or at least assume that the expenditure of tax dollars on schools and students per se, results in a good education. Among American cities which have some of the highest per capita spending per pupil, are found districts which cannot graduate half of their students, and most graduating are functionally illiterate.

    This is part of the reason why the progressives are so desperate to pursue other social management remedies. Money didn't work.

    "If then it were proven that ..., say white blue eyed males, were born with some deficit in intelligence potential, you'd agree that more dollars should be spent in educating that group. "

    No. Not if we are talking about the system of equality before the law; or even if we are talking about less formal principles of association.

    If your blue-eyed white males cannot normally learn what is necessary in order to survive in some particular socioeconomic or technological environment, they probably should seek another environment in which to thrive. It is in this regard that I am more than willing to make allowances: i.e., for people to live apart in ways that suit them. This of course entails they choose between a congenial but perhaps less enthralling A, and the more exciting B, of which they may not be able to be a respectable or self-sufficient member.

    If not, why not?

    Because you wind up with what has happened in this country. As the class of political peers has expanded to include an ever broader and ever less distributively competent set of persons to whom there has nonetheless been imputed a fictional competency, freedom is submerged under a flood of compensatory claims made in their name.

    A once understandable arrangement made in the interest of competent persons, is subverted by the inclusion of those not actually possessing the qualities which would make them worthwhile (political or other) peers.

    People who cannot govern their own urges and whims - morons, or most children, for instance - are increasingly lobbied for as deserving of having a peership say in your life ... when their practical need for wardship and their temporary, accidental, or insistent dependency, makes them unequal to the task of managing their own.

    So, if you wish to stake a membership claim outside of the formal and agreed upon boundaries of obligation, you might wish to state the alternate domain in which you are anchoring those alternatively founded claims to forbearance, sacrifice, and solidarity.

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  131. @ Worblux,

    ”The existence of racial differences of IQ is well known and well proven among those who study such things. The cause is hotly debated and controversial but the results both clear and explanitive of of large number of racial disparities within natio”

    Suppose that different adult IQ scores are caused 50% by differences in the genome of individuals, 50% by differences in the environmental factors of their upbringing, and 0% by their race, i.e. by those differences in the genome that are race specific. After all it's not like every difference in the genome, say blood type or the distance between the eyes, will have some effect on the IQ. And on average the variations in the genome that do matter for IQ may cancel themselves out in every racial group.

    But if race had 0% effect on IQ scores, one would still observe a strong correlation between IQ scores and race, for the simple reason that there is a high correlation between race and environmental factors of upbringing. Thus for example, black children in the US grow in much poorer environment than whites. Children of Asian immigrants may be equally poor but because of cultural reasons grow in stable families and with demanding parents who impose a high degree of discipline.

    Thus the *only* thing matters is the cause of the IQ differences, which as you say is a much debated and controversial issue. Meaning that there is no reason that justifies any belief about differences among IQ scores being to some degree caused by race. On the contrary, given that many studies have been done without dispelling the controversy makes it probable that any causal role race may play will be very small. For if it weren't then the effect would have been noticed by now. So, on the contrary, we have good reason to believe that race place little or no role. Sometimes absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

    What I find so strange in this context is that we know that the biological features that define race have little to do with the kind of evolutionary pressures that produced the human brain. So for example the dark skin of blacks is an adaptation to the strong sun in Africa, the slanted eyes of Asians is caused by genetic drift or culturally fixed sexual tastes, and so on. Given what we know about how biological evolution works we would be surprised if the features in the genome which define race had anything to do with intelligence.

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  132. On the web there is this in my judgment excellent article “On nature and nurture – and why nature is probably much overrated” It does not specifically discuss the relation between race and intelligence, but proves how little effect biology has as the cause of the difference in intelligence observed among individuals in the first place. And thus puts to sleep the whole idea that race is a significant cause.

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  133. "And thus puts to sleep the whole idea that race is a significant cause. "

    I think that everyone here, would agree that "race" is not a significant cause.

    "Race" so-called, is a more or less crude population marker for classes or sets of people apparently manifesting shared physical traits.

    Whether the kinds of biological distinctions manifest in skin tone, susceptibility to certain diseases, lactase persistence, height, or physical vigor, have analogues in the functioning of the brain, is what is up for debate.

    The presumption of brotherhood duty issue, which I have broached, is another matter entirely; and has nothing to do with race per se.


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  134. To the anonymous who is clueless about IQ testing and genetics -- I always find it fascinating that folks like you tend to run away from this topic arguing that people who study it do so in bad faith or because we are racists even though:

    1) we are quite ready to acknowledge the superior IQs of Asians in comparison to Europeans;

    2) we are quite ready to acknowledge that IQ is not just about your genes -- of course there is a mix of nurture and nature influencing our intelligence; what seems to freak you out is that we acknowledge nature at all!

    I recommend Stuart Ritchie's book as an excellent recent introduction to the topic:

    http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/?p=6122

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  135. Could we also call meta-bigotry "hypocritical bigotry"?

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  136. 1) we are quite ready to acknowledge the superior IQs of Asians in comparison to Europeans;

    2) we are quite ready to acknowledge that IQ is not just about your genes -- of course there is a mix of nurture and nature influencing our intelligence; what seems to freak you out is that we acknowledge nature at all



    Indeed. For fun, look a neighborhood scouts list of safest cities and most dangerous cities and then look at the wiki for the demographics of those cities. Hint: lots of Asians is a good thing. Then for extra credit, look at the success rate of African immigrants which shouldn't be happening according to the race-hustler narrative.

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  137. For a completely different leading-edge understanding of the limitations of the now dogmatically orthodox genetic determinism why not check out the very interesting topic of Epigenetics.
    A good place to start would be the book by Bruce Lipton titled The Biology of Belief - Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles - and on the back cover The Science of How Thoughts Control Life.

    Also a very interesting paradigm busting book titled The Rainbow and the Worm: The Physics of Organisms by Mae-Wan Ho.
    And The Heart-Mind Matrix: How the Heart Can teach the Mind New Ways To Think (and thus to be) by Joseph Chilton Pearce

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  138. For a completely different leading-edge understanding of the limitations of the now dogmatically orthodox genetic determinism why not check out the very interesting topic of Epigenetics.
    A good place to start would be the book by Bruce Lipton titled The Biology of Belief...


    It has been apparent for many years that genetics doesn't "determine" life in the simplistic way it was often imagined in the 60's and 70's. And few careful scientists are now as "dogmatically" certain of genetic determinism as many were back 50 years ago.

    Yet I really don't think that exchanging the simplistic account genes - deterministic hand-waving - heretofore unexplained behavior model with a replacement by mystical genes and epigenetics - quantum randomness and spiritual hand-waving - heretofore unexplained behavior model is really all that much of a gain. I would rather stick to the model that says "we don't actually have a scientific account for consciousness nor its spiritual, moral, and physical effects" than to assume that quantum effects and spiritual effects amount to equivalent sorts of explanation.

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  139. Scott W.: But lately I'm starting to get a sense of cognitive dissonance among the self-appointed imams of the SocJus religion. Namely, starting with that intelligence is the only significant measure of human worth.

    Hear hear.

    Now (in this very thread) we see people projecting their own fixation on intelligence as the main parameter of worth onto those who study intelligence, and imagine that anyone who finds inequality of intelligence must thereby be asserting inequality of human worth. Pretty much in direct defiance of all those compassionate people who find a medically severe lack of intelligence in another to be an occasion of pity and remedy as opposed to a diminution of worth.

    Prescriptions of social policy must be based on reality, not make-believe wishes for universal intellectual equality that are as irrational as make-believe wishes of universal physical equality or health equality.

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  140. Dianelos Georgoudis said...

    On the web there is this in my judgment excellent article “On nature and nurture – and why nature is probably much overrated”


    How modest of you to judge it excellent.

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  141. Dianelos Georgoudis said... " And on average the variations in the genome that do matter for IQ may cancel themselves out in every racial group."

    While in thoery possible, in practice is improbable. Show may any disease which has a heritable risk factor, but which doesn't have unequal racial distribution.

    Dianelos Georgoudis said... " But if race had 0% effect on IQ scores, one would still observe a strong correlation between IQ scores and race, for the simple reason that there is a high correlation between race and environmental factors of upbringing. Thus for example, black children in the US grow in much poorer environment than whites. Children of Asian immigrants may be equally poor but because of cultural reasons grow in stable families and with demanding parents who impose a high degree of discipline. "

    But you would not see the difference persist through twin and adoption studies, which from what I know of the literature, it does not. Additionally would see far more success in intervention programs, which with the exceptions of reducing exposure to toxins and improving early development nutrition fail to produce significant long-term results. One factor that could still be leveraged it to reduce childhood abuse and other adverse experience, which I think could reduce but not eliminate the gaps.


    And secondly because the IQ of parents has a major influence on the environment, it's difficult to isolate the two variables where children remain with the biological parent. Also culture is in part intentional. The Chinese have had two and a half millennia of institutions prizing and rewarding intellectual accomplishment. The value of perpetuating this is more readily realized by those who are intellectually accomplished.

    Dianelos Georgoudis said... " Thus the *only* thing matters is the cause of the IQ differences, which as you say is a much debated and controversial issue. Meaning that there is no reason that justifies any belief about differences among IQ scores being to some degree caused by race. On the contrary, given that many studies have been done without dispelling the controversy makes it probable that any causal role race may play will be very small. For if it weren't then the effect would have been noticed by now. So, on the contrary, we have good reason to believe that race place little or no role. Sometimes absence of evidence is evidence of absence."

    The debate isn't caused by the methodology or results, but because it conflicts with the doctrine of radical egalitarianism. The controversy isn't about the science, it's about the surrounding worldview. So far the evidence that is absent is any demonstration of a way to erase the gap via environment.

    Dianelos Georgoudis said... "What I find so strange in this context is that we know that the biological features that define race have little to do with the kind of evolutionary pressures that produced the human brain. So for example the dark skin of blacks is an adaptation to the strong sun in Africa, the slanted eyes of Asians is caused by genetic drift or culturally fixed sexual tastes, and so on. Given what we know about how biological evolution works we would be surprised if the features in the genome which define race had anything to do with intelligence."

    So would even the strongest defenders of racial IQ differences. Race as mere appearance has nothing to do with intelligence. That appearance as a probable indicator of a specific genetic heritage does, and is also a probable indicator of a plethora of genetic traits that are more than skin deep.

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  142. @ WorBlux

    ”Show may any disease which has a heritable risk factor, but which doesn't have unequal racial distribution.”

    But that's exactly my point. It's very easy to demonstrate that there are is an effect of race apart from environmental factors on the frequency of heritable diseases, and in comparison very hard (nobody has conclusively managed yet) to demonstrate a racial effect of race apart from environmental factors. Which strongly suggests that even if there is a significant effect of biology these effects must cancel themselves out when averaged on a race.

    But you would not see the difference persist through twin and adoption studies

    As I explained in some detail here these studies suffer from a methodological problem which is usually overlooked and in any case is impossible to factor out.

    because the IQ of parents has a major influence on the environment, it's difficult to isolate the two variables where children remain with the biological parent

    Yes, good point. Thus the correlation between IQ of offspring and IQ of parents may certainly not be caused by genetic factors but by environmental ones. Even if no genetic factors existed, the fact that the IQ of parents has such a major influence on the environment would cause such a correlation.

    The debate isn't caused by the methodology or results, but because it conflicts with the doctrine of radical egalitarianism.

    I am not sure nor particularly care to know what drives people on both sides of the loud debate. On the other hand surely we agree that no matter what the effects of genetics is on intelligence (or on any other human characteristic), the value of human persons remains identical. This is a basic premise of theism: that we are all creatures made in the image of God and have the same value in the eyes of God, and thus the same value simpliciter. That's an ethical truth that even atheists understand. Thus the way we care more for those babies that are born with some handicap (whether physical or mental), if it were the case that some babies because of their race are born with some cognitive handicap society should implement special programs to help them.

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  143. George LeSauvage,

    ”How modest of you to judge it excellent.”

    Not just modest, but also precise. And you are right, modesty is one of may greatest virtues.

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  144. "I am not sure nor particularly care to know what drives people on both sides of the loud debate."

    Well, that simplifies matters.

    "On the other hand surely we agree that no matter what the effects of genetics is on intelligence (or on any other human characteristic), the value of human persons remains identical. This is a basic premise of theism: that we are all creatures made in the image of God and have the same value in the eyes of God, and thus the same value simpliciter. That's an ethical truth that even atheists understand."


    You say that it is a basic premise of theism that we are all creatures made in the image [and likeness] of God? That cannot be true of all theism; it is certainly not even true of all monotheism, and not even true of all so-called 'Abrahamic religions'.

    Unless, for example, you wish to impute to the announced status of all Muslims as being slaves of Allah, the additional attribute of their moral equality; and then to somehow extend that dubious equality to the proposition that they are made in the image of Allah, I cannot see how you would make that work. But you know, there are none like Allah ...


    " ... have the same value in the eyes of God, and thus the same value simpliciter. That's an ethical truth that even atheists understand."

    And in the case of atheists, they have even less logical foundation to assume the truth of what you say they understand. This is especially so if they are in fact culturally piggybacking off a more general concept which they deny. That would just make their comical moral incoherence all the more ironic, and entertaining.

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