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#123- Identity & Honesty A Conversation with Ezra Klein

 
Eilyfe
 
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Eilyfe
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09 April 2018 12:44
 
CausticMango - 09 April 2018 11:09 AM

I don’t know much about Ezra, but in the episode he made his case very well, I felt. I think his characterization of Sam’s position on the criticism and on “identity politics” valid and well argued. I also think Ezra was correct about Sam’s unwillingness to recognize the connection between the admittedly valid empirical data Murray presented from the much greater social and political context the discussion takes place. (It may be true there is a real, measurable genetic mechanism that mediates differences in IQ capacity between groups, but Sam’s unwillingness or inability to recognize that American society in particular is not place where that can be in any way useful is frustrating and worrisome.)

Sam Harris stated multiple times that he shares all the possible concerns about the lacking usefulness of such data, especially given the historical context, and also all that follows from this in terms of policy decisions. He said it in this podcast and pushed back against Murray on that front as well, though arguably he could’ve done it more stridently. His main concern does not appear to be “What shall we do with this data?” but rather “How shall we treat people who uncover this data? And how shall we discuss it?” Which seems fair given that the idea underpinning his reasoning is that such facts (convenient for our political leanings or not) will inevitably crop up.

His argument is for a complete separation of scientific data and the policies that result from it. His saying “There is no racist data” encapsulates that point. I do not see an unwillingness or inability there; all I see is that they have vastly different opinions on how science should be discussed. One side argues for a complete separation, the other argues that given the context this is not possible. Both have a point and that, I think, is where the discussion breaks down.

 

 
Mkay
 
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Mkay
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09 April 2018 12:58
 
CausticMango - 09 April 2018 12:23 PM
Libertarian - 09 April 2018 11:14 AM

... Ezra virtue signaled in all the right ways ...

I had to lookup “virtue signaling” to be sure what you meant, but whether Ezra was just performing to his audience to curry favor or being honest, I can’t say. To me it’s irrelevant because I found what he was saying to be relevant and compelling. Specifically, I think Ezra was correct when he said:

1. Sam does come across as blind to being guilty of what he accuses others of being (someone else in the thread said it, he is tending to see himself as the victim too often, especially in this case).
2. Sam is not recognizing that he is playing “identity politics” almost as much as those he criticizes & that accusing people of “playing identify politics” sounds, even to a fan of his, like he’s just shutting them down.
3. There is validity to considering “identity”, especially for disadvantaged groups. It is far too early to want society to be blind to it.

There were other points I think Ezra had that were valid. I’m not trying to say Ezra is blameless or is right about everything, but in this case I do hope that Sam may be able to reflect on what I believe are valid and just critiques.

It would be useful to hear him speak with more clarity on this subject of “identity politics” because I think maybe he comes across the wrong way.

Libertarian - 09 April 2018 11:14 AM

... that Sam and he were white men who shouldn’t be speaking about the issues of black people ...

I don’t recall Ezra saying that (though he may have in the discussion or elsewhere in print), but as a white man myself who is part of a mixed race family, we do need the humility to step back and recognize that we actually do not understand what it is to be black in America and nobody owes it to us to hear our perspective on it.

Is it hard to hear sometimes, but I do think our voices are over represented and it’s time to speak less and listen more, especially on matters of race and gender.


You say is makes you sad ... what do you feel is being lost? I’m genuinely curious.

you need to explain how you think that Sam is practicing identity politics by ignoring his own ideological and political biases and focusing on the scientific data alone. he argues that for science it is only important if that data is correct or not which should have been more of a focus in this discussion.
he even shared Kleins fears about how this data might be used by different sides, but that this can`t stop our honest discussion and engagement in these fields. especially since genetics and biology will confront us with many more “unwanted” truths about ourselves in the near future.
Kleins solution seems to be to stigmatize the messenger instead of honest discourse.

regarding whites not knowing what it is to be black: you understand it`s the same thing the other way around, yet whites are supposed to be responsible for 100% of the poor outcome of blacks because of racial bias and discrimination. and we wittness time and time again what happens to you and your reputation if you dare to bring up scientific counter arguments. just ask Bret Weinstein…

[ Edited: 09 April 2018 13:08 by Mkay]
 
czrpb
 
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czrpb
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09 April 2018 13:07
 
Eilyfe - 09 April 2018 12:44 PM
CausticMango - 09 April 2018 11:09 AM

I don’t know much about Ezra, but in the episode he made his case very well, I felt. I think his characterization of Sam’s position on the criticism and on “identity politics” valid and well argued. I also think Ezra was correct about Sam’s unwillingness to recognize the connection between the admittedly valid empirical data Murray presented from the much greater social and political context the discussion takes place. (It may be true there is a real, measurable genetic mechanism that mediates differences in IQ capacity between groups, but Sam’s unwillingness or inability to recognize that American society in particular is not place where that can be in any way useful is frustrating and worrisome.)

Sam Harris stated multiple times that he shares all the possible concerns about the lacking usefulness of such data, especially given the historical context, and also all that follows from this in terms of policy decisions. He said it in this podcast and pushed back against Murray on that front as well, though arguably he could’ve done it more stridently. His main concern does not appear to be “What shall we do with this data?” but rather “How shall we treat people who uncover this data? And how shall we discuss it?” Which seems fair given that the idea underpinning his reasoning is that such facts (convenient for our political leanings or not) will inevitably crop up.

His argument is for a complete separation of scientific data and the policies that result from it. His saying “There is no racist data” encapsulates that point. I do not see an unwillingness or inability there; all I see is that they have vastly different opinions on how science should be discussed. One side argues for a complete separation, the other argues that given the context this is not possible. Both have a point and that, I think, is where the discussion breaks down.

Agreed. I do wonder tho, data to me comes from instruments, say a thermometer. But the determination of “hot” or “cold” is individual/psychological, and I like to use the term information here.

For example, 90 degrees is well .. 90 degrees. But I frick’n love it, especially when its humid!

smile

 
Mkay
 
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Mkay
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09 April 2018 13:12
 
czrpb - 09 April 2018 01:07 PM
Eilyfe - 09 April 2018 12:44 PM
CausticMango - 09 April 2018 11:09 AM

I don’t know much about Ezra, but in the episode he made his case very well, I felt. I think his characterization of Sam’s position on the criticism and on “identity politics” valid and well argued. I also think Ezra was correct about Sam’s unwillingness to recognize the connection between the admittedly valid empirical data Murray presented from the much greater social and political context the discussion takes place. (It may be true there is a real, measurable genetic mechanism that mediates differences in IQ capacity between groups, but Sam’s unwillingness or inability to recognize that American society in particular is not place where that can be in any way useful is frustrating and worrisome.)

Sam Harris stated multiple times that he shares all the possible concerns about the lacking usefulness of such data, especially given the historical context, and also all that follows from this in terms of policy decisions. He said it in this podcast and pushed back against Murray on that front as well, though arguably he could’ve done it more stridently. His main concern does not appear to be “What shall we do with this data?” but rather “How shall we treat people who uncover this data? And how shall we discuss it?” Which seems fair given that the idea underpinning his reasoning is that such facts (convenient for our political leanings or not) will inevitably crop up.

His argument is for a complete separation of scientific data and the policies that result from it. His saying “There is no racist data” encapsulates that point. I do not see an unwillingness or inability there; all I see is that they have vastly different opinions on how science should be discussed. One side argues for a complete separation, the other argues that given the context this is not possible. Both have a point and that, I think, is where the discussion breaks down.

Agreed. I do wonder tho, data to me comes from instruments, say a thermometer. But the determination of “hot” or “cold” is individual/psychological, and I like to use the term information here.

For example, 90 degrees is well .. 90 degrees. But I frick’n love it, especially when its humid!

smile

is it subjective what you deem hot sure, to a certain point based on your condition and the neurons in your brain (so at a certain point an advanced mri program will be able to objectify that data). the temperature your blood boils, the temperature causing first, second or third degreee burns, the temperature you go hypothermic - all of those are purely objective, no matter how you feel about them.

so basically you made an argument why it`s useful to talk about objective scientific data and not about your subjective feelings about said data wink

[ Edited: 09 April 2018 13:16 by Mkay]
 
czrpb
 
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czrpb
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09 April 2018 13:13
 
Mkay - 09 April 2018 12:58 PM
CausticMango - 09 April 2018 12:23 PM
Libertarian - 09 April 2018 11:14 AM

... Ezra virtue signaled in all the right ways ...

I had to lookup “virtue signaling” to be sure what you meant, but whether Ezra was just performing to his audience to curry favor or being honest, I can’t say. To me it’s irrelevant because I found what he was saying to be relevant and compelling. Specifically, I think Ezra was correct when he said:

1. Sam does come across as blind to being guilty of what he accuses others of being (someone else in the thread said it, he is tending to see himself as the victim too often, especially in this case).
2. Sam is not recognizing that he is playing “identity politics” almost as much as those he criticizes & that accusing people of “playing identify politics” sounds, even to a fan of his, like he’s just shutting them down.
3. There is validity to considering “identity”, especially for disadvantaged groups. It is far too early to want society to be blind to it.

There were other points I think Ezra had that were valid. I’m not trying to say Ezra is blameless or is right about everything, but in this case I do hope that Sam may be able to reflect on what I believe are valid and just critiques.

It would be useful to hear him speak with more clarity on this subject of “identity politics” because I think maybe he comes across the wrong way.

Libertarian - 09 April 2018 11:14 AM

... that Sam and he were white men who shouldn’t be speaking about the issues of black people ...

I don’t recall Ezra saying that (though he may have in the discussion or elsewhere in print), but as a white man myself who is part of a mixed race family, we do need the humility to step back and recognize that we actually do not understand what it is to be black in America and nobody owes it to us to hear our perspective on it.

Is it hard to hear sometimes, but I do think our voices are over represented and it’s time to speak less and listen more, especially on matters of race and gender.


You say is makes you sad ... what do you feel is being lost? I’m genuinely curious.

you need to explain how you think that Sam is practicing identity politics by ignoring his own ideological and political biases and focusing on the scientific data alone. he argues that for science it is only important if that data is correct or not which should have been more of a focus in this discussion.
he even shared Kleins fears about how this data might be used by different sides, but that this can`t stop our honest discussion and engagement in these fields. especially since genetics and biology will confront us with many more “unwanted” truths about ourselves in the near future.
Kleins solution seems to be to stigmatize the messenger instead of honest discourse.

regarding whites not knowing what it is to be black: you understand it`s the same thing the other way around, yet whites are supposed to be responsible for 100% of the poor outcome of blacks because of racial bias and discrimination. and we wittness time and time again what happens to you and your reputation if you dare to bring up scientific counter arguments. just ask Bret Weinstein…

i agree with the 1st part: Ezra doesnt just answer the question w/r/t the data. He should just answer it and move on. It would certainly address a big issue of Sam’s.

 
czrpb
 
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czrpb
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09 April 2018 13:21
 
Mkay - 09 April 2018 01:12 PM
czrpb - 09 April 2018 01:07 PM
Eilyfe - 09 April 2018 12:44 PM
CausticMango - 09 April 2018 11:09 AM

I don’t know much about Ezra, but in the episode he made his case very well, I felt. I think his characterization of Sam’s position on the criticism and on “identity politics” valid and well argued. I also think Ezra was correct about Sam’s unwillingness to recognize the connection between the admittedly valid empirical data Murray presented from the much greater social and political context the discussion takes place. (It may be true there is a real, measurable genetic mechanism that mediates differences in IQ capacity between groups, but Sam’s unwillingness or inability to recognize that American society in particular is not place where that can be in any way useful is frustrating and worrisome.)

Sam Harris stated multiple times that he shares all the possible concerns about the lacking usefulness of such data, especially given the historical context, and also all that follows from this in terms of policy decisions. He said it in this podcast and pushed back against Murray on that front as well, though arguably he could’ve done it more stridently. His main concern does not appear to be “What shall we do with this data?” but rather “How shall we treat people who uncover this data? And how shall we discuss it?” Which seems fair given that the idea underpinning his reasoning is that such facts (convenient for our political leanings or not) will inevitably crop up.

His argument is for a complete separation of scientific data and the policies that result from it. His saying “There is no racist data” encapsulates that point. I do not see an unwillingness or inability there; all I see is that they have vastly different opinions on how science should be discussed. One side argues for a complete separation, the other argues that given the context this is not possible. Both have a point and that, I think, is where the discussion breaks down.

Agreed. I do wonder tho, data to me comes from instruments, say a thermometer. But the determination of “hot” or “cold” is individual/psychological, and I like to use the term information here.

For example, 90 degrees is well .. 90 degrees. But I frick’n love it, especially when its humid!

smile

is it subjective what you deem hot sure, to a certain point based on your condition and the neurons in your brain (so at a certain point an advanced mri program will be able to objectify that data). the temperature your blood boils, the temperature causing first, second or third degreee burns, the temperature you go hypothermic - all of those are purely objective, no matter how you feel about them.

ooh! totally agree! i meant to make the point that data is only objective written on a piece of paper or in a spreadsheet or in a database or whatever.

but once a human views and interprets, fallibility immediately enters the picture. but, even far worse is how we use data to justify things, then our biases kick in.

at least that is how it seems to me?

 
Vers
 
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Vers
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09 April 2018 14:06
 

A summary:
SH: Ezra, you’re not allowed to misinterpret commonly accepted scientific facts to tarnish or otherwise destroy a scientist’s reputation, even if you are driven by a morally justifiable cause.
EK: But Sam, my cause is morally justifiable!

It’s quite telling that while SH admitted to the shortcomings of his handling of the entire situation, nothing even remotely close to such admission could be heard from the other side of the table. An absolute conviction of one’s moral superiority absolutely excludes a meaningful debate on the subject of said conviction.

 
Mkay
 
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Mkay
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09 April 2018 14:26
 
czrpb - 09 April 2018 01:21 PM

ooh! totally agree! i meant to make the point that data is only objective written on a piece of paper or in a spreadsheet or in a database or whatever.

but once a human views and interprets, fallibility immediately enters the picture. but, even far worse is how we use data to justify things, then our biases kick in.

at least that is how it seems to me?

yes totally, I misunderstood you there wink
I would see it the same way, as soon as you start interpreting the data (and it`s implications) it gets “corrupted”. but that`s the point where scientific discourse really begins, how this data should be read to give us the most truthful and objective answers about reality. the answer can never be to stigmatize a whole field of science and call everyone involved a Nazi or racist.

 
Mkay
 
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Mkay
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09 April 2018 14:30
 
Vers - 09 April 2018 02:06 PM

A summary:
SH: Ezra, you’re not allowed to misinterpret commonly accepted scientific facts to tarnish or otherwise destroy a scientist’s reputation, even if you are driven by a morally justifiable cause.
EK: But Sam, my cause is morally justifiable!

It’s quite telling that while SH admitted to the shortcomings of his handling of the entire situation, nothing even remotely close to such admission could be heard from the other side of the table. An absolute conviction of one’s moral superiority absolutely excludes a meaningful debate on the subject of said conviction.

I was thinking the same thing. if nothing else it was an interesting study of character.

 
Eilyfe
 
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Eilyfe
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09 April 2018 14:33
 
czrpb - 09 April 2018 01:21 PM

ooh! totally agree! i meant to make the point that data is only objective written on a piece of paper or in a spreadsheet or in a database or whatever.

but once a human views and interprets, fallibility immediately enters the picture. but, even far worse is how we use data to justify things, then our biases kick in.

at least that is how it seems to me?

That was the point though, wasn’t it? How we use the data is up for debate—heavy debate at that—but to deny that the data exist serves no one. Again, at no point in this podcast have I heard SH argue that the way such information can be used is free of bias. He has freely admitted that many times now.

His point is that the data itself is free of bias. It has no agenda. On a diagram, a “1” is a “1” and not a “2” or a “3”. So to keep a dialog open there are only two ways to talk about this. Either one talks about (a) why a “1” is good/bad and what to do about it, or one talks about (b) whether the “1” actually exists—if it has been derived at through an appropriately rigorous scientific method. SH’s words in this podcast indicate that he is entirely uninterested in question (a); and that his interest in (b) reaches only as far as that he finds Murray to have been maligned for saying that “1” exists, and that from a scientific standpoint none of the accusations against him have sufficed to invalidate the existence of “1”. Rather, people have mixed the questions together and transferred the inherent bias of question (a) to question (b).

If your starting point is that muddling these questions together makes it impossible to talk about data that will find us (whether we want it or not), then that’s a reasonable fear to have and to work against.

 

 
Wrecked Angle
 
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09 April 2018 14:35
 

I would by no means say that Sam was ‘defeated’ in this discussion as he managed to get Ezra to walk back most of his more troubling accusations even if some not completely explicitly (for all the good it will do him after the fact!), however I do think Ezra made some good points. Ezra was quite right when pointing out Sam’s blind spot(s) and it is something I’ve noticed Sam slip into in the past, ‘I’ve thought about this so logically and deeply that I just must be right!’. Still, that’s why they’re called blind spots I guess.

It’s really difficult to know which way to sway on this. On the one hand I completely agree with Sam that it’s just not right to make gaining or discussing a certain type of knowledge so taboo that we just can’t proceed with it. On the other hand I can see why Ezra feels so strongly the way he does about the topic, knowing the world we’re living in what possible good could ever come out of this? If found to be factual we just know what certain groups would do with this information and the type of ideas it would be used to justify.

Also it’s one very rare occasion where I have to come down on the side of identity politics. Can you imagine being part of a black population where a few white guys get together and say ‘Hey don’t worry, we’re just gonna do some tests to see how much less intelligent you are than us’. Yes, I can fully understand that how you might feel about people studying this data could be affected by which of the demographics you fall into and what the conclusions are likely to be.

[ Edited: 09 April 2018 14:38 by Wrecked Angle]
 
Gamril
 
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09 April 2018 14:46
 
Mkay - 09 April 2018 11:41 AM

this was tough to listen to indeed. Ezra managed create a persona that sounded reasonable and friendly for the most part, but there were a few instances in the end were the mask crumbled. most visible at the 2 hour mark, during his efforts to frame Sams argument regarding the lack of jewish gold medalists as relativizing and equating that fact with the suffering of blacks and their consequent poor performance on IQ tests.
bad faith strawman right there. of course there`s the possibility that his intellectual capacities got impeded by his emotional reaction to scientific facts, but I`m not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

the good thing is: if Sam is patient enough, in a couple of years when Ezra gets into the crosshairs of these highly unstable and cannibalistic tribal structures (possibly for sexual misconduct or not apologizing fast enough for a stupid joke at a party) they will have a laugh about this time of ideological misguidance and intellectual dishonesty. at least that`s my dream wink

The analogy was cringeworthy actually…

 
CausticMango
 
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09 April 2018 14:48
 
Mkay - 09 April 2018 12:58 PM

you need to explain how you think that Sam is practicing identity politics

I think it was pretty clear in the exchange - Sam is clearly identifying with several groups he feels are being victimized.

One is the group of misunderstood but well meaning scientists including he and Murray. Another is the group of anti-Islamists including he, Ayaan, Maajid, etc.

Finally, whether he recognizes it or not, he is a member of the white, male, and white male identities. There does seem to me to be a persistent reticence to recognize that American society and the predominate discourse is shaped by and dominantly represents these “identities”.

I think Sam wants to represent an actor with the absence of any identity, which I sympathize with, but is unrealistic. At least, that’s how I feel.

Do you think someone can successfully “de-identify” in these debates? How is that done?

EDIT: And the question Ezra asked which I think Sam ignored was can you recognize how someone who identifies as black or female or one of the other “identities” feeling the need to be called out, might see his language as exclusionary or even hostile? This seems obvious to me.

[ Edited: 09 April 2018 14:52 by CausticMango]
 
Gamril
 
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09 April 2018 15:05
 
Wrecked Angle - 09 April 2018 02:35 PM

I would by no means say that Sam was ‘defeated’ in this discussion as he managed to get Ezra to walk back most of his more troubling accusations even if some not completely explicitly (for all the good it will do him after the fact!), however I do think Ezra made some good points. Ezra was quite right when pointing out Sam’s blind spot(s) and it is something I’ve noticed Sam slip into in the past, ‘I’ve thought about this so logically and deeply that I just must be right!’. Still, that’s why they’re called blind spots I guess.

It’s really difficult to know which way to sway on this. On the one hand I completely agree with Sam that it’s just not right to make gaining or discussing a certain type of knowledge so taboo that we just can’t proceed with it. On the other hand I can see why Ezra feels so strongly the way he does about the topic, knowing the world we’re living in what possible good could ever come out of this? If found to be factual we just know what certain groups would do with this information and the type of ideas it would be used to justify.

Also it’s one very rare occasion where I have to come down on the side of identity politics. Can you imagine being part of a black population where a few white guys get together and say ‘Hey don’t worry, we’re just gonna do some tests to see how much less intelligent you are than us’. Yes, I can fully understand that how you might feel about people studying this data could be affected by which of the demographics you fall into and what the conclusions are likely to be.

There’s no way to sway it because they were talking past eachother having 2 separate discussions.  Neither one has the background to give nothing but an opinion on the state of the art.  They both disagree here but this was mainly pushed to 5he side.

Ezra’s weakness here was not separating data from its implications when it was certainly possible for him to do that and still hold the same stance.

Sam’s weakness one again…  I know it all….  Sam: “ even Flynn doesn’t believe in the Flynn effect”. Ezra: “ Oh really?  Good thing I called him up right before the interview and he says environment should account for that difference “.  Sam:  “what you heard in a conversation that I didnt hear isn’t what you think it is. “. Seriously…

Just a quick point about Neanderthal DNA.  I’m not sure what the point is of all that discussion when racists can easil turn around an$ say, “aha it’s Neanderthal DNA that makes blacks inferior.

 
Wrecked Angle
 
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09 April 2018 15:07
 
Gamril - 09 April 2018 02:46 PM

The analogy was cringeworthy actually…

I actually think in the end it was okay. I think as Sam was talking both Ezra and many listeners (including myself) thought he might be heading to make a very basic point about race and athletic achievement which is why Ezra immediately jumped in on him, once Sam had established the point he was actually trying to make about searching for bias or discrimination where there is none then the analogy held up okay. Not great, but okay.

 
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