Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Arnold Kling vs. IQ

Arnold Kling has an article in TCS on Race, IQ and Education. Kling has written about this subject before, so I was more skeptical than Half Sigma about Kling's newfound "race realism."

Kling draws an analogy between the World Series and the Nobel Prize:

I do not think that anyone believes that the result of the World Series says something about the people of Boston per se. No one thinks that if you replaced Josh Beckett and David Ortiz with citizens selected at random from the Boston phone book you would still have a championship team.

In contrast, I think that people believe that the result of the Nobel Prize in economics says something about Jews per se. And yet, if you were to replace, say, Eric Maskin, with a Jew selected at random, the result would be as absurd from a Nobel Prize perspective as replacing Ortiz or Beckett on the Red Sox with random Bostonians.

In order for someone to believe that a Red Sox win tells us something about the superior innate aptitude for baseball among Bostonians, he must believe four things:

1. That an independent measure of baseball aptitude shows a higher mean among Bostonians than the population at large;

2. That the common factor of Red Sox players is that they are all Bostonians;

3. That the Red Sox wins a disproportionate share of World Series; and

4. That selection for the Red Sox is random.

Clearly, three of these are false. There is no independent measure of baseball aptitude. The common factor among Red Sox players is that they were recruited to play for the Red Sox because of their demonstrated skill at baseball; the common factor is not that they are Bostonians (unless "Bostonian" includes Californians recruited to play for the Red Sox).

Now consider Jews and the Nobel Prize:

1. Independent measures of the intelligence of Jews show a mean IQ of about one SD above the U.S. mean;

2. Jews do not become Jews by virtue of their success at science; they are Jews first;

3. The over-representation of Jews among Nobel laureates goes back to their emancipation; and

4. The only common factor among Jewish nobelists is . . . their Jewishness, not membership in a team!

Kling wants everyone to be evaluated as an individual, and laments the race-consciousness of our society. So let's imagine a world in which everyone's individual IQ (and "law-abiding quotient", and "assimilability quotient", and "cooperativeness quotient", and "enterprise quotient", etc.) is known and available. Then we could evaluate each individual individually, and be done with group distributions.

We should realize that we are as far from that ideal as we are from any other utopia. In the mean time: it matters who your relatives are, because absent additional knowledge, these are useful proxies for who you are, or will be, or who your children will be. This is reality, and it ought to inform social policy in a rational way, not just because racial identity is stronger that municipal identity as Kling maintains.

What we presently do is live in a fantasy world of public discourse that our elites have constructed for us, in which the underperformance of non-Asian minorities on a battery of academic and social outcomes is now and forever blamed on the irrational racism of white America, and our social policy is formulated to combat this disparity based on this belief. If the belief in white racism is, in fact, not the correct explanation for this disparity; if the correct explanation lies in the innate mean aptitudes of non-Asian minorities; then our social policy is a sham and destined to fail.

Update: Noah Millman's discussion of race and IQ, jumping off from Saletan's Slate article that put this back in the news is better, and less mean-spirited, than my own. But this jumped out:

The left is already comfortable with the idea of multi-culturalism and race-consciousness.

These are not the same thing. To be specific: the left prescribes multiculturalism for Northern European, and specifically Anglo-Protestant, culture, and race-consciousness for everyone else. This is the summary formula for the destruction of the West. As the growing evidence supports the idea that what we call civilization -- liberty, self-government, the rule of law, enterprise, cooperation, and transparency -- is a uniquely Northern European heritage, we might be roused to defend ourselves against the claims of the multiculturalists, and this the left will not abide.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wilberforce vs. Dabney

[Noah] said, "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant." -- Gen 9:26-27

There is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. -- Col 3:11

I saw the movie Amazing Grace last week on DVD (about the only way I see movies nowadays). While not something that will win an Oscar, it was solidly done.

As other reviewers have pointed out, the movie underplays Wilberforce's evangelical Christianity. It's still there, and viewers will come away with an appreciation for the involvement of "itinerant clergymen" (in the sneering words of their opponent, Lord Tarleton) in England's abolition movement. But Wilberforce's own faith is depicted sentimentally rather than doctrinally.

While I can understand, if not agree, with this portrayal as an effort to make the character more accessible to "mainstream" (ie. secular) audiences, less forgivable is the decision to underplay the hostility of enlightment-era England to the abolitionist movement. The Deists of the day believed that their own manifest racial superiority gave them ample right to enslave less worthy races, and they were particularly hostile to the evangelical Christianity of such as Wilberforce. Lord Melbourne, for instance, in his opposition to the abolitionists, once remarked something to the effect that "It's a sorry thing when religion interferes with matters of state."

This story needs to be told. It is highly ironic that secularists, after opposing Christianity in its effort to abolish the slavery, an institution that predates Christianity, and even Judaism, by millenia, now turn around and blame Christianity for . . . not doing it sooner.

But then, Christianity did not speak with once voice regarding slavery, especially in America. No history of the involvement of religion and slavery would be complete without considering the work of Protestant theologian Robert Dabney. Dabney was a pastor in Virginia when the Civil War broke out, served as a Confederate Chaplain, and eventually became Stonewall Jackson's chief of staff. Two years after the end of the war he wrote A Defense of Virginia in which he laid out the theological case for slavery.

Dabney's non-slavery related theological work is well regarded even today among Protestant theologians, so his book about slavery cannot be summarily dismissed. My goal is to generate a series of posts comparing his work to that of William Wilberforce. This project will probably take the rest of the year (I do not, in fact, have unlimited free time.)

Here are my sources.

Dabney, Robert L., A Defense of Virginia

Wilberforce, William, A Letter on Abolition, 1807

Wilberforce, William, An Appeal in Behalf of the Negro Slaves, 1823.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cold Case

Television: the gift to bloggers that keeps on giving . . . .

I happened to catch the last third of Sunday's episode of CBS's Cold Case, in which the detectives are investigating the 1950ish harrassment and murder of a young girl suffering from "gender identity disorder." Basically, this girl thought she was a boy inside, and the show was all about how "gender" is socially constructed, and why can't everyone just accept that she's really a boy in a girl's body. Or something.

Where do I start?

The show cheated several ways in order to provoke the desired emotional reaction. First, the girl: the show made a feignt at butching her up, but she was still obviously a girl, and a pretty one at that. The boy's clothing she wore would be unremarkable today; I will accept that it would have been taken as rather odd 50 years ago. But she acted like a girl: here again, the show made a pretense of giving her some "guy" lines, but her body language was still, for the most part, feminine. Like her weeping, for instance.

Second, the reactions of her classmates (she is in high school): when I turned on the show, the girl (in a flashback sequence) is in the process of being physically harrassed by a bunch of leather-jacket-wearing toughs. (Think Grease.) They are, apparantly, supposed to be threatened by a girl wearing boys clothing.

Nonsense. This is unbelievably dishonest. Adolescent boys like butch girls, especially if they have an interest in "guy stuff." And in general, men do not think that lesbianism threatens their masculinity. (The girl was not, technically, a lesbian, but whatever.) So even in the dark ages of the 1950s, this girl might get some raised eyebrows and a few jokes at her expense, but she would not have been beaten up.

If the show really wanted to tell the story of how a gender disorder can get you harrassed, they could have picked a boy who thought he was a girl. Dressing in drag really would get you beat up in the 1950s, because the social of dynamic male homosexuality is radically different than that of female homosexuality.

But the producers of the show new perfectly well the reaction that a male cross-dresser would provoke among modern audiences: yuck! Okay, nobody would think he would deserve to die, but a non-zero percentage would think he needed a good ass-beatin'. So the sympathy factor wouldn't be there.

The girl is ultimately sent to a mental hospital, and here the show steals shamelessly from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Reagan and Race

Ross offers the best roundup yet of the whole "Was Reagan a Racist" bit playing itself out in the NYT between Krugman and Brooks:

Goldwater, it's worth noting, didn't just oppose the Civil Right Acts; he also played many of the same cards that Nixon and Reagan did, talking up law and order, critiquing welfare, and so forth. He did so because these are perennial conservative themes, not because he was a racist, and he lost anyway because they weren't themes that resonated with most American voters in 1964. They started to resonate in '68 and '72 and '80, though - not because white Americans in the Border South and the Midwest and the Mountain West suddenly figured out that they were code for hating black people, but because crime rates exploded over the quarter-century that followed Goldwater, and the (liberal-run) government seemed helpless to do anything about it.

Yes, you can argue that no civil rights movement would have meant no Republican realigment. But I think it's much, much more persuasive to say no crime wave, no Republican realignment. Or no urban collapse and welfare-system failure, no Republican realignment. Or no disastrous consequences of high-tax statist economics in the 1970s, no Republican realignment. Or no Roe v. Wade, no Republican realignment. Or no leftward shift in Democratic foreign policy, no Republican realignment.

The assumption that Ross shares with just about everyone else writing about this: it is right and proper that segregationists, qua segregationists, should go away from the political process empty-handed.

This is a curious attitude towards democracy. It is hard to think of any political constituency so bereft of political representation after 1972 as southerners who cared about the people their children went to school with. Disagreeing with segregation is entirely understandable. But why would it be wrong for a party to give a voice to it? Isn't that what "government for, by, and of the people" ought to mean?

It is very ease for people, myself included, to reject Jim Crow laws, but we should be sufficiently self-aware to realize that our enlightenment is a function of factors of wealth, geography, and the nature of cognitive work that have allowed us to enjoy de facto segregation from large concentrations of blacks. The blacks we know socially and professionally have been preselected for their level of assimilation to majority white cognitive, behavioral, and socio-economic norms.

But for a poor Southern white, or a poor urban white for that matter, the end of segregation meant finding himself progressively surrounded by blacks not so preselected; indeed, by increasing numbers of people at the very instant that they were not only rejecting adaptation to white culture, but were actively nursing a grudge against white society. People whose crime rates were exploding, whose families were disintegrating, whose dependence on the public sector was becoming manifest.

I don't know what that was like. Ross probably doesn't know either. Brooks and Krugman certainly have no idea.

But I can imagine. In the very early 80s, I spent a semester at an inner-suburban high school that was 80% black. I didn't have a political agenda back then; in fact, I didn't expect much from my fellow humans at all. Mainly I just wanted to get through the day without being beaten up. But I remember the palpable sense of fear that I felt navigating the campus. No, I was never really beaten up that semester, but the entire atmosphere of the school made me think that it might happen at any moment: people larger and stronger than me talking loudly and profanely, people whose body language always suggested violence. Smoking in bathrooms. No-go stairwells. Actual fights in the lunchroom. Everything about the place suggested something only just barely under control.

Mercifully, my daughters will never have to go through that: we homeschool, and in any case our school distict is over 90% white, where the number of blacks isn't even large enough to get its own statistic.

More broadly, my perception is that the ethnic cleansing of whites from urban areas is largely complete. Our housing patterns are now probably more segregated than ever. So the constituency for Jim Crow is dramatically reduced. But that wasn't true in 1980. And nobody -- not Reagan, not Carter -- had much to say about it. Update: Via Half Sigma, an article in Time, circa 1976, that describes exactly what I mean.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I walked a girl home in high school . . .

This post has no particular point. But I haven't posted in a while, I don't have any other material, and I have yet to fully plumb the depths of beta-male navel gazing, so . . .

There was a girl in high school. J.S. was tallish, had long blond hair, and an attractively slim physique. In retrospect, she was probably around a 7.5, but it was a small school, and she seemed outstandingly beautiful at the time. She was an accomplished musician, and was one of the few girls to take advanced math (somehow, this didn't buy her any geek cred). She transfered in the same year I did, she as a Junior, I as a Sophmore.

She was almost immediately snatched up by the student body president, a senior to whom I had taken an instant and (retrospectively) irrational dislike. So my chain of reasoning went something like this: she's blond, she's beautiful, she's dating the BMOC . . . she's obviously shallow, self-centered, and will be callous and cruel at the first opportunity. I can't think of any actual evidence for putting her in this particular mental bin of mine, except to say that my experience up to that point led to this intuition.

One evening in the spring semester, a bunch of us were hanging out at the elementary school playground. Just sittin' around talkin'. The group included J.S. Her relationship with BMOC hadn't lasted, but she was still in this mental bin. At some point she stood up, announced that she was going home, and asked the group for a volunteer to walk her there. Something like, "Anyone want to walk me home?"

In the space of about a second, I made the following calculations: I can offer. And she, of course, being shallow and cruel, will say something like, "Ew, not you!" or "Cooties" or something that would satisfy my purpose of demonstrating to everyone how shallow and cruel she was.

So I piped up, "I'll walk you home." But the way I said it, at least in my own mind, was such that it invited the reaction I was expecting. Just a hint of sarcasm, perhaps, maybe some sassiness. And of course she said . . .

"Okay, let's go."

What? I mean, I obviously I mis-heard. A girl like that surely didn't want to be even remotely paired off with me. There must be a trick somewhere that I wasn't in on (again). Where's the trick, where's the trick . . . ?

One of my dorm mates literally had to push me to my feet, saying encouragingly "Go for it, big guy!" So . . . I shuffled off along side J.S. Her house wasn't far, and upon arrival she invited me in, sat me down, and got me something to drink. Lemonade, I think.

I have no recollection what we talked about while I guzzled my (very large) lemonade (because I couldn't waste it) so I could get out of there. I do remember that she smiled, was kind, and made more conversation than I deserved. And I also remembered feeling nervous and totally out of my depth on multiple levels (age, status, etc.)

I don't remember how I processed the event of that evening. But the beauty of the paranoid worldview is that it is inherently unfalsifiable. So my estimation of her didn't likely change. I remember at least one other time that spring that she took the initiative in striking up a conversation with me, and I remember how easy it was for me to tease out an ulterior motive.

I've read some of Spungen's posts about how female social hierarchies work. In retrospect, I'm guessing that her acceptance into the distaff side of high school was not unqualified. In particular, I can imagine that her breezing in and catching the eye of BMOC, however temporarily, may have caused some resentment. So she may have sought companionship with the high school guys to compensate.

I wonder where she is now?

Friday, November 09, 2007


On Monday's episode of NBC's new spy-comedy Chuck, the title character, in a flashback sequence, remembers his first meeting Bryce Larkin, his fellow Standford undergrad and eventual arch-nemisis. Upon learning that Chuck, portrayed as the uber-geek (with sporadic levels of plausibility) by Zachary Levi, is programming his own version of an old video game, Bryce offers to introduce him to a girl he knows with a similiar interest in the same game, an offer Chuck enthusiastically accepts.

Even though my back was to her, my wife remarked that she could feel me getting pissed.

The desperate fantasy of geeks everywhere (and I include myself in this category): if only I could meet a girl with the same interest in my essentially geeky-male hobby, she'd be the girl for me.

Even if enough such women existed to go around (they do not), it is unlikely that they will be interested in geeks. "Shared interest," in an of itself, is an exceedingly weak basis on which to attract a woman. At best, a woman's knowledge of your particular field of interest might help her appreciate your status within that field, assuming you have status. But don't kid yourself: it is the status itself that attracts women, not the fact that she "shares your interests."

And I would issue the further caveat that the field of interest in question must have some intersection with the real world. Even a prodigious talet for reverse-engineering out-of-circulation video games, in an of itself, is not going to be much help.

So returning to the show: it is all to plausible that Chuck might share this fantasy. I had the fantasy myself until well into my twenties. But I guarantee that Bryce Larkin, portrayed as the alpha BMOC by Matthew Bomer, would know better. And that was the implausibility to which I reacted.

More broadly, the writers of Chuck try to portray his present lack of success with women entirely as a function of a low self-image resulting from his expulsion from Stanford. Geeks everywhere love to be told this, even when we don't believe it. It is entirely plausible that his sister would encourage him in this way; that's what concerned female relatives do (or at least, that's what my own did). But in several ways, the writers show that they want the audience to think this really is the reason! (As opposed to, say, the stink of underachievement that permeates his existence.)

So, okay, low self-esteem is a real turn-off all by itself. Point conceded. But this almost never exists in a vaccuum.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bionic Woman

I watched episode 5 of the new Bionic Woman. The Berkut (sp?)group is keeping an Arab Muslim under surveillance: suspicion of terrorism. The reasons seem pretty flimsy to me, but lo and behold, the guy actually turns out to be a terrorist! Imagine that, and Arab Muslim terrorist actually makes T.V.!

This only partially makes up for episode 2, when a bunch of white guys in fatigues nerve gas an entire small town for no apparent reason.

Overall, the show is pretty lame.