Monthly Archives: June 2013

“Extraordinary Scientific Delusion”

It’s important, because it could be just one out of many. And likely is.

Gerard pointed to one of the best articles I’ve ever seen, a few days ago…

Everyone knows that stereotypes are inaccurate, especially psychologists…
[Many examples, cited by page number]
Except stereotypes are not inaccurate. There are many different ways to test for the accuracy of stereotypes, because there are many different types or aspects of accuracy. However, one type is quite simple — the correspondence of stereotype beliefs with criteria…One can do this sort of thing for many different types of groups.

And lots of scientists have. And you know what they found? That stereotype accuracy — the correspondence of stereotype beliefs with criteria — is one of the largest relationships in all of social psychology. The correlations of stereotypes with criteria range from .4 to over .9, and average almost .8 for cultural stereotypes. The average effect in social psychology is about .20. Stereotypes are more valid than most social psychological hypotheses.

Of course they have to be. If stereotypes were no more accurate than most psychological hypotheses, they’d never make their way into our evolutionary hard-wiring in the first place. “Stereotypes are not accurate,” as a statement, suffers from the same problem as “Torture doesn’t extract truthful information”; the minute you take it seriously, the question naturally emerges “Well then, how is it that either one ever came into common use?”

So just a little bit of diligent thinking about how things work tells us something is wrong with the stereotypes-not-accurate chorus, and the measurements tell us something is wrong with it too. The chorus fails to find the right pitch, oh-for-two. The article proceeds from there, straight to the point:

Which raises a question: Why do so many psychologists emphasize stereotype inaccuracy when the evidence so clearly provides evidence of such high accuracy? Why is there this Extraordinary Scientific Delusion?

The article then blames the “leftward lean of most psychologists.” Hmmmm, this inspires a lot of thought. Let’s take a look at what might be happening here — I think the problem is widespread, not limited to discussions about stereotypes and not even limited to psychology. So let’s entirely abandon the stereotype issue and look at what’s going on with the institution.

I’m inclined to blame the lefties last, here, and poke around looking for some other causes. Not quite so much because I think they’re blameless, or that I doubt the statement about political leaning within the psychological field. I’m thinking the problem through like an engineer, and I can’t help noticing something: If we could somehow press a magic button, and convert every social science practitioner into a conservative libertarian, there is much of the original problem left unaddressed. We’re told, for generations, that “science” says wet; throughout all that time the correct, measurable and reproducible answer is dry. Am I then to believe the scientists did all their science-ing, found out their cherished beliefs were wrong, and simply chucked the data out the window so they could continue to pursue their impassioned political objective of spreading liberalism throughout the world?

Never blame on malice, that which can be attributed to incompetence. Or, in this case, laziness.

We had on here a certain dissenting voice who sought to prove the existence of anthropogenic global warming by citing the overwhelming “consensus” among “scientists.” This argument was effectively deflated when it emerged there was an inconsistency in defining what exactly a scientist is; at one point, the definition swiveled away from something concerning possession of the proper credentials and affiliations, to “one who does science,” in this case the Eratosthenes after whom this blog is named, with the water-well experiment. These are two different definitions. To argue that they’re not, would be an insistence that the credentialing process seeks to provide an accurate report on who is & isn’t doing-science, which is an idea I don’t think anyone is seriously going to advance or pursue. So it follows that we have a lot of people, at any given time, who qualify for “scientist” under the first definition without qualifying under the second, and vice-versa. This is obviously hazardous to any argument taking the form “97 percent of scientists agree [with assertion] [therefore we know it to be true, since “science” says so].”

My point about social scientists coming up with the demonstrably wrong answer, connects here, through this: I like the one-who-does-science definition better. When we argue about whether or not to believe the science, we seem to be arguing here back & forth about what exactly science is. This all seems strange and surreal to me, since when I was growing up it didn’t seem like there was much ambiguity about it: Science is a process. Because it is a process, we say things to each other like “let’s fix this through the scientific method” or “I don’t think you’re doing this scientifically enough.” It seems the argument that really needed to happen, that never quite happened, has to do with replacing this definition with something about class membership: “All the scientists say” doesn’t have anything to do with a process, unless the speaker is endeavoring to make a point of “Everyone who pursues the scientific process comes to this same conclusion.” That doesn’t seem, to me, to be what they’re trying to say at all. So the question that confronts us is one of: Is science still a process? Or is it a peerage of elites, privileged with membership in some exclusive community, and because of that presumed to be more enlightened than those left outside.

This relates to another concern I see emerging: I was always taught that scientists work differently than normal people, because it is in their job description to toil away tirelessly in efforts destructive to their own theories. This new peerage-science, I’ve noted before, seems more interested in keeping the theories propped up, even punishing those individuals within its membership who challenge the ones that shouldn’t be challenged. The former, classical model of science, would rain down on its own cherished theories with the destructive energy of experimentation, by cumulatively gathering more data; if that data were to be discarded for some reason, the disposal was done because of concerns over the input, and in pursuit of an objective of keeping the experiments clean and therefore reliable. This new science, rather than cumulatively gathering more data, seems intent on a more subtractive model, coming up with newer and progressively more creative reasons for disposing of data because of output concerns — the data do not support the conclusion that is desired, so they have to go. And whoever came up with the data should probably hit the road too; don’t let the doorknob hit ya where the Good Lord split ya. And please hand over your credentials on the way out.

So we have two things here, being described with one word, leading to confusion. One thing is an effort to measure things, validate those measurements, and logically infer from all that the nature of the world in which we live. The other thing is a bureaucratic thing, an effort to build a consensus. In the first of those two things, measurement is the point, and apart from that, the inference process; in the second, it is the consensus itself that is the point. We should not be mixing up these two definitions of “science” because they are not adequately similar, their differences are meaningful — hence the confusion. As anyone who works in statistics knows, a statement of the form “everyone within set X does Y” is only as good as the definition of the set X. Blogger friend Phil has raised this point many a time, that in this case if the set is being culled according to a proper orthodox belief in something, then the statement being made about its consistency in that belief, is reduced to nothing more than an exercise in redundancy. “Everyone who agrees with us, agrees with us.” And that is how, I think, psychology sunk its century of desultory thinking into the statement “stereotypes don’t work,” which is found to be demonstrably untrue the first time someone decides to objectively test it. “Science,” as we know it, hasn’t failed us here. What failed us is something else, masquerading under the label.

How do we tell the two apart? After all, the good, solid, classical, process-driven science has every reason in the world to say: “All the scientists agree such-and-such,” just like this modern, phony, consensus-driven elite-group science. That’s what makes a disguise effective, the disguise emulates something that has a reason to be — that is how a disguise evades detection. But if I make a such a statement about all-scientists-agree, and I’m earnestly discussing the solid, utilitarian, classical science, I should be talking more about the process than about the persons involved. My statement should be one of, “everybody who’s made this measurement has come to the same conclusion.” Your waist size is 36 and your inseam is 34. You parked less than twelve inches from the curb. Your expense report adds up to $1,202.34. In implementation, such a test becomes tricky: The fraudster consensus-scientists are trying to make it look like that. And they can make it look like that. And they do. “Everyone within our distinguished peerage agrees X” may mean…they all measured it. Or, it may mean the matter was put to a vote, and the vote was unanimous. There may be nothing untoward about that, but the scientific value is certainly questionable. Or, it may mean there is an effort in place to expel anyone who says not-X, and if you find a “scientist” who says not-X, or who questions X, rest assured he won’t still be a scientist by this time next year, because we’ll get right on that.

The best way to tell the difference, I think, is: Classical science is a positive process. The cumulative collection of information is unending. Therefore, it is “hungry,” always trying to find ways to get hold of more. This new phony consensus science works according to a negative process; its sustained effort is toward pruning. Sooner or later, someone launches into a dialogue about who must be booted out.

Also, real science writes in pencil, and lightly. It’s always trying to find ways to topple its preconceptions. Everything is tentative.

The phony science writes with ink. Its narrative is unchanging, and easily distinguished: They got their anointed experts into a room somewhere, had a symposium with presentations and workshops and committee assignments and papers, and when it was all over they put out a “bible” of some kind. This is to be taken as the final, definitive word. Oh sure, it’s subject to revisions, but only occasionally, and only by the experts — apart from that, the bible is to be revered as the sacred scripture that it is. If it isn’t revision-time, or if you’re not one of the anointed, then shut your mouth and do as your told, don’t question the bible.

That’s not how science works. That’s how religion works…because religion is supposed to work that way. It’s faith-based. Outside of church, there are other things that work like that; bureaucracies work that way. Right before they are properly ridiculed.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes and Right Wing News.

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In a comment over at Breitbart, a troll asked the following question:

Founding principles? Means what? Owning slaves?

Stink bomb. I know he was a troll, but the bomb needs to be diffused, because too many people on our side are “shut up” by it.

The founding principles had nothing to do with owning slaves. Read the discussions from the founding era, and you will see that even slave owners — most of whom were born into slave-owning — were struggling with a problem that we have (thankfully … and with a lot of thanks to them, specifically) never had to deal with.

There is a reason the original Constitution didn’t mention slavery except to impose a ban on importing them with an eye toward ending the practice altogether.

The original draft of the Declaration of Independence — the preamble to our Constitiution, written by slave owner Thomas Jefferson, included a scathing endictment of slavery. Others removed it with an eye toward keeping the union against the Brits, from whom they inherited the practice, so that we might succeed in establishing a nation based on new principles. A better vision that dawned in the midst of imperfection.

The anti-Americans speak as if America invented slavery when in fact it was born out of the principles that abolished it.

” … he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold. he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce; and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people for whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.” – Thomas Jefferson in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence

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Progressives: I’m Taking Your Ball and Going Home

Maybe I should put that headline in quotes, since I didn’t write the title or what follows.

Submitted from Soozcat, wife of Captain Midnight, in an off-line. Enjoy!

When our niece was still in grade school, we decided it was time to teach her about money and budgeting. Captain Midnight planned ahead, cashed out an entire paycheck, and brought home the money in bills and coins. We spread it out on the kitchen table in front of our wide-eyed niece and asked her, “So what could we do with this money?”

“Disneyland!” was the first word out of her mouth.

We agreed that, yes, we could take this money and go to Disneyland with it. But there were things we needed to take care of first. We put 10% of the money aside for tithing. Then we removed our monthly rent payment. Next came the costs of various utilities: electricity, gas, water, Internet access. We set aside money for groceries, money for gasoline, money for clothes. And we made a little pile of money to pay for things we liked to do: eat out once in a while, go to the movies, visit the beach. There was hardly anything left over to pay for a Disneyland trip.

Fortunately, our niece was old enough to understand what we were trying to demonstrate. She already knew that things cost money. She had deduced, from our frequent mentions that we needed to pay the bills first, that responsible people pay what they owe. And she realized that, as fun as visiting Disneyland was, it was even more important to have a warm, secure, well-stocked home to come back to afterward.

Of course, we needed to wait for our niece to be old enough. Had we tried teaching her about money when she was less mentally mature and more prone to expecting instant gratification, she might have seen all that cash on the table, thrown a fit and demanded that we use the money to go to Disneyland RIGHT. NOW. It wouldn’t have mattered that none of it was her money, nor that we needed it to pay for crucial services — Disneyland was calling to her, and she wasn’t getting any younger.

It occurred to me recently that, when it comes to tax money, progressives never grow out of this rapacious mental stage. Tax monies are there primarily for their personal gratification — to fund untested pet projects, to dole out more pork products than a salumeria to the usual suspects, and presumably these days to wiretap every man, woman and child in America. And if any’s left over, it gets laundered and finds its way into their bank accounts. The idea that these monies are not inherently theirs never seems to cross their minds, nor does the concern that they should first take care of their constitutionally mandated responsibilities. They want Disneyland and they want it now!

And if you dare try to curb their spending, they’ll threaten to shut off the water, power and telephone so they can keep paying for Disneyland. In fact, they do this so consistently that it’s become something of a cliché.

To illustrate, let’s take an example from a decade ago. In Washington state, licensing fees for car tabs were alarmingly high. Local citizen and political gadfly Tim Eyman proposed an initiative, I-776, to lower the car tab license fees to a more reasonable $30 and gathered enough signatures to put it on the ballot. It passed, and a King County Superior Court judge promptly tossed out the initiative, claiming it was unconstitutional, so it went to the State Supreme Court, who ended up overruling the lower court and upholding the people’s vote. At the time of the ruling in I-776’s favor, King County Executive Ron Sims — presumably furious about losing *his* tax monies to this upstart — sourly stated that the people had voted in favor of less police and fire protection.

Catch that last bit? Sims, a consummate career politician, was not-so-subtly threatening to hurt the voters for choosing to rein in public spending of their taxes. You might not know this if you don’t live in Washington, but the tax monies gathered by car tab fees were earmarked specifically for road improvement, public transportation, and the billion-dollar boondoggle known as Sound Transit, the light-rail system that seems to shrink ever smaller and cost ever more. NONE of those taxes were ever earmarked for vital services such as police and fire — that was just Sims being a bully, saying to the voters, “If you don’t play this game by my rules, I’m taking your ball and going home.” He was threatening to cut off the utilities so he could keep going to Disneyland.

This nonsense is still going on. Late on May 23, an 18-wheeler on southbound I-5 clipped the edge of a bridge over the Skagit River in Washington; a section of the bridge collapsed, sending cars into the water. Fortunately no one was seriously injured, but as of this writing the bridge is still out of commission. It’s caused major traffic problems along this stretch of I-5, as the downed bridge was the only major river crossing in the area. It will need replacing, and soon. There are many such “problem” bridges in Washington that need to be repaired, and when the media came calling to ask questions, most politicians blamed the go-to scapegoat, President Bush, for not investing in vital infrastructure. For some reason no one — not politicians, not the media, not even Joe Sixpack — seems to be asking the obvious questions: If the U.S. government spent SIX TRILLION DOLLARS in 2012 alone, how is it that none of that money went to fix structurally outdated bridges? Was it really crucial to invest in Obamaphones and food stamps instead?

But hey, Disneyland first! So says King Toddler, Owner of All He Surveys, and King Toddler must be appeased at all costs. That’s just how it is for progressives. They want what they want, when they want it, and if you dare to protest their use of your money — then they’ll really make you pay.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes and Right Wing News.

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