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#123- Identity & Honesty A Conversation with Ezra Klein

 
Gamril
 
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Gamril
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09 April 2018 15:12
 
Wrecked Angle - 09 April 2018 03:07 PM
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.

Uh it was just bad not in an offensive way just not a good analogy.  This is actually the first time I find Sam letting words fail him.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=62rv9dtn53w

[ Edited: 09 April 2018 15:14 by Gamril]
 
Wrecked Angle
 
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Wrecked Angle
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09 April 2018 15:23
 
Gamril - 09 April 2018 03:12 PM
Wrecked Angle - 09 April 2018 03:07 PM
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.

Uh it was just bad not in an offensive way just not a good analogy.  This is actually the first time I find Sam letting words fail him.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=62rv9dtn53w

Did you really just link me a video of a white dude running fast? I think our interaction can end here. Thanks.

 
Gamril
 
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Gamril
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09 April 2018 15:43
 
Wrecked Angle - 09 April 2018 03:23 PM
Gamril - 09 April 2018 03:12 PM
Wrecked Angle - 09 April 2018 03:07 PM
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.

Uh it was just bad not in an offensive way just not a good analogy.  This is actually the first time I find Sam letting words fail him.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=62rv9dtn53w

Did you really just link me a video of a white dude running fast? I think our interaction can end here. Thanks.

Nope wasn’t for you at all.  What was for you is that is was a horrible analogy.  Painfully so… 

I just posted that out of doubt to preciseness of Sams claim.  Turns out he was wrong.

 
Nehalem
 
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Nehalem
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09 April 2018 15:44
 

That was a little hard to listen to. Overall I felt like Sam was trying to say that we need to make the scientific discussion less toxic, especially when the results disagree with our own beliefs. I didn’t really feel like Ezra got this at all and saw nothing wrong with his organization writing a piece that called him a racist (in so many words) for even having the discussion.

I will say this, Ezra does have a point (but not a point against sam I don’t believe). The point is that in the past data has been wrong or misrepresented to enforce bad racial policy. I think the point Sam was trying to make is we can both acknowledge that, but lets not make people simply discussing the data into the bad guys and try to ruin their careers.

Using a simple personal story, here is what I think Sam was trying to argue:
I remember a couple of years ago there was a paper published on the analysis of software contained on GitHub (a populate repository where programmers keep their raw code) and it was found woman wrote better code. I thought it was interesting but unfortunately something came to mind that made it easy to be cynical towards the results. Just the simple question: what if the reverse was found true?

It seems completely justifiable to think it would have resulted in either one or all of the following outcomes:
1.  It would not have been published
2. It would not have gained the national attention it had.
3. The authors of such a piece would have been attacked for perpetuating a bad stereotype (and see their careers hurt in the process). This is especially true if the authors were men.

I believe this was one of the central points Sam was making. That when the science gathered on the day doesn’t happen to agree with what we WISH the science would say, that we can still talk about it openly, as adults, and not feel that the consequences of doing so could be career ending. Likely the results were true and that women do write better code, but sadly knowing the stigma against science saying the opposite makes it easy to question the results.

While I don’t care to look it up you can be sure that Vox wrote a nice article about these findings praising them because it confirmed their own bias on woman programmers (and their position on gender equality in general). Which makes you wonder why is it okay to celebrate group-based finding that agree with your position but attack finding that disagree?

Anyway, that’s just a story that on a personal level illustrates what I believe Sam was saying. Overall it was clear they were just talking past each other and I do worry that this total disconnect, even when having a discussion for this long, largely illustrates the absence of honest, good intentioned conversation on a national level (and this is between two people that probably have much more political agreement than disagreement).

 
Mkay
 
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Mkay
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09 April 2018 15:52
 
CausticMango - 09 April 2018 02:48 PM
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?


do you ask me if any human can be 100% objective? of course not. but the fact that you can categorize an individual in an unlimited amount of ways doesn`t necesseray mean one is biased that way. the fact that Sam is defending against defamatory attacks that mainly arise from the left doesn`t mean he is engaging in identity politics. it`s just not the underlying principle of his message or his work, it is a defensive necessity to be able to continue his work.
regarding him being a white male: how is this relevant? what are your conclusions/solutions after recognizing someones gender and skin color?

CausticMango - 09 April 2018 02:48 PM

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.

again, please explain to me how discussing scientific facts could be percieved as “as exclusionary or even hostile”? please explain how said facts would change if they were presented by a transsexual black woman. both Charles Murray and Sam Harris repeatedly pointed out that these statistics don`t tell you anything about individuals, they also pointed out how asians and jews usually score higher on average than whites. yet I must have missed the public outcry on that.

EDIT: here`s an interesting panel with Bret Weinstein (white male) and Heather Heying (white, female at least…) and Christina Hoff Sommers (white female) on the underlying problems of the modern academic world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xUisjHoB_8

[ Edited: 09 April 2018 15:59 by Mkay]
 
Nehalem
 
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09 April 2018 15:58
 
GDKOpinionator - 09 April 2018 11:23 AM

So, to sum up:
- Sam wants to talk about the specifics of the science.
- Ezra feels that talking about the specifics of the science without a full discussion of the historical context is wrong.

...and around and around we go for 2.5 uncomfortable hours.

In the end, it seems that both men believe in free speech, but have very different views of what is responsible speech.  In the end, it is not up to them, but up to the listener.  I am an educated man, and I don’t need either Sam or Ezra to “explain” things to me.  They should be less interested in this, than they should be in helping people develop critical thinking skills.  A critical thinker would be able to separate discussion of science from discussion of public policy.  A critical thinker would be able to discern honest dissent, from libelous attacks.

Both of these men are judging each other largely upon the company they keep:  Harris judges Klein based upon retweets by Aslan and Greenwald.  Klein judges Harris based upon Murray’s policy positions.  Perhaps Sam and Ezra should have a conversation without Aslan, Greenwald and Murray being a part of it…

Wow, really good summation. I wish you could have moderated it.

 
Santa
 
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Santa
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09 April 2018 16:33
 

Sam is a walking, talking advertisement for meditation. Also, I got three things out of that conversation:

1. The sneaking suspicion that Ezra Klein thinks he is Sam Harris’ therapist.
2. Sam Harris seems more optimistic about humans than Ezra Klein, which is what allows him to focus on science and reasoning. Mr. Klein seems to consider other humans too stupid or too evil to talk about what data might say at a given point in time, without trying to do something bad with it.
3. An overwhelming sense of anxiety about something until I realized the black cloud was caused by listening to their conflict and I actually don’t have anything terrible going just now.

 
RedSeed
 
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09 April 2018 16:58
 

Yeesh Sam I think you should stop investing so much time in this one idiot. You’re not going to be able to force this guy to be intellectually honest. He’s coming from a place where he’s defending a provably untruthful hit-piece and refusing to air the retort from mainstream science, you know it’s bad faith. Whether because he aligns with that agenda (seems like he does), or just flat-out because he’s unwilling to admit he’s in the wrong on any of it (he is that too, I think), whatever, that’s his squalid position and he’s not going to bend to appeals for honesty now. Who cares! No-one sane who knows your work thinks you’re a racist or a pseudo-scientist.

Don’t Feed The Trolls.

 
illimex
 
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illimex
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09 April 2018 17:22
 

Klein: Not concerned with trashing reputations and smearing people for the greater good of curing racism by pretending racial differences don’t exist.  Not willing to answer straightforward questions.  Not willing to note that current science supports and brings up genetic differences between human phenotypes on all levels.  Totally willing to try using single sentences for his Twitter cult to parrot and to try to trap Sam in semantic blunders for peer/ political gain.  This guy is slimy like a politician and insidiously likable.  He’s the guy that puts one arm around you and places a stolen watch in your pocket while waving over the police.

Sam:  Too analytical.  Trying to get to the point of any subject before moving on with people like Ezra is nearly impossible. You need to stop debating people less intelligent then you, people without a basic understanding of scientific literature.  These people are quoting “The Invisible Knapsack” like it’s a peer reviewed study.

[ Edited: 10 April 2018 04:35 by illimex]
 
GreenInferno
 
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09 April 2018 17:24
 

This was a simple post mortem in my view.
Sam wanted to talk about objective facts objectively.
Klein wanted to talk about objective facts subjectively.

Objective truths emerge regardless of who discovered them. They also persist regardless of how unpleasant you may find them.

[ Edited: 09 April 2018 17:30 by GreenInferno]
 
 
GreenInferno
 
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09 April 2018 17:29
 
Syd99 - 09 April 2018 09:21 AM

Harris: A = B + C
Klein: A = f(k)*B + f(m)*C
where f(k) and f(m) are functions dependent on who is writing down the equation, having personal bias elements k and m.

Nice analogy.

 
 
Peekineeze
 
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09 April 2018 17:42
 
czrpb - 09 April 2018 09:02 AM

I enjoyed this very much! I have a lot of affinity for what Ezra said, specifically the part where the discussion on IQ data can or cant be divorced from the social aspect.

For those of you that do think separate discussions are possible, I have 2 thoughts/questions:

1.  What would the point of having discussion of just the data be? I agree that there are population difference on every human characteristic. Ok, now what? Any issues will come when you use that data to justify action. This is where I would become concerned. Again, I agree that there are a host of population differences for all sorts of things including IQ and populations can be defined to be race, and also sex. I just dont understand what you plan on doing with that data? I think Ezra’s point is that Murray isnt going to do things that help, and historically such data is NOT used to everyone’s betterment. Sam basically agrees when he says he doesnt care about this topic, but this seems to me to lead to my 2nd question:

2.  Is it possible for a human mind to separate the data and the policy on IQ? I would assume Sam would agree that just isnt how humans (human psychology) are designed. This is where I have the most problem with Sam in this discussion: As far as I can tell, he definitely thinks this is possible. Now, just in case this is a strawman, let me try to steelman his argument: Because it is not possible to separate the data and the judgement or justification, we need discussion on this data to ensure we dont in fact use it harmfully. If this would be his point I just wish he would have said it, and since I am giving him all possible charity, this is in fact what I think he would say and believe. I think it would help if he said it.

Thoughts? Can anyone help me out?

1. If we take into consideration how information has been used to hurt people while we are analyzing it, that corrupts the whole endeavor. That’s not science. If we asked these questions you raised, “what’s the point?...now what?” for every scientific discovery, the answer is almost always the same. We want to understand ourselves and the world we live in. Instead of obsessing about what we will do with the information we should be much more concerned with the consequences of allowing our culture to suppress scientific information based on an obviously selective ideological moral panic.

2. I disagree that humans are not designed to compartmentalize. We actually do this quite well. Science would be close to impossible if we were unable to narrow our focus. We can’t study human evolution and pretend that all the information that could possibly hurt the feelings of black people is invisible. Sam’s example of the Neanderthal genetics was pertinent. If it turned out that black people were part Neanderthal, there would have been an effort by the Ezra Klein’s of the world to suppress the info and smear anyone who perpetuated it.

 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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09 April 2018 17:46
 
GDKOpinionator - 09 April 2018 11:23 AM

So, to sum up:
- Sam wants to talk about the specifics of the science.
- Ezra feels that talking about the specifics of the science without a full discussion of the historical context is wrong.

...and around and around we go for 2.5 uncomfortable hours.

Yeah, that’s a pretty good summary. The only thing I’d add is that Harris also wanted to talk about free speech. I’m on Harris’s side in the sense that I think we should be able to talk about the science of intelligence absent the historical context of racism, but I can see the other side of that argument. Where Klein and his ilk lose me is when they demonize people for talking about the science without the historical context—when they demonize people, in other words, for not having the discussion they want to have. That’s bullshit. I’d feel the same way about demonizing people for including the context of racism.

 
 
macgillie
 
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09 April 2018 17:47
 

Signed up just for this, so let me have it. My opinion is of course wrong, but it is at least different. I think both had valid points and I’m disappointed and saddened that they couldn’t hear each other…

Ezra made a very valid point: you ignore history at your own peril. This is valid, even though Sam dismisses it because he hates identity politics and puts it in that bucket. In a country built on slavery, literally, how can you ever report some racial finding without addressing our past? By doing this, Charles Murray puts himself in the group of those who have done it in the past, the Nazis, Jefferson, Voltaire, all those that were mentioned as having done their own “science” to prove these things. The onus definitely is on Murray to put it into context, and Sam also because he jumped on his wagon. Living in a post-racial society is a privilege of the white. For over three hundred years, exhibiting this kind of “science” meant one thing - whites trying to prove scientifically what they know in their hearts, that they are better. Murray put himself in this group voluntarily, and Sam jumped on in too. You absolutely have to prove this is not what you mean if you are making noises that sound this way. Not for virtue signalling, but for clarity. If it means one thing for over three hundred years, you have to make the effort to say that this is not what you mean in this one instance. Otherwise, is it really different? How is anyone to know?

Sam also makes a great point that may lead us to the future: at some point this kind of science may indeed not be a marker of bigotry, but of just being aware that people are different. And of maybe even using those differences to move us toward something good for all of us. The tricky part is how do you know? Is this one of those times? Maybe? Or in a hundred years, is this only the same racist noise we’ve heard for so long? I think we do need room for this kind of idea, that maybe someday we can notice difference without imputing merit. Sam’s point about Neanderthal is a perfect example. It would be lovely if we were there, but obviously we are not. My guess is that if this happens someday it will be because scientists were very aware of the implications, not because they were ignoring them. I completely agree that we will see more evidence of difference. I think instead of magically making everybody more accepting of these differences, we need to work on how to present them in an acceptable way.

Overall, I think they both could have taken something away from this discussion. Accepting the reality that is our history and our present COULD lead scientists to deal with these issues in a way that improves all our lives. There is no guarantee that this is the direction we are headed and I think people are right to be skeptical. History shows us that skepticism is warranted. Sam could have taken the point that this is a valid concern. And Ezra could have taken the point that it’s possible for people to change, that maybe this is something new.

I don’t think either of them did. Neither seemed accepting of the other’s basis for disagreement…

 
NotaTrumpSupporter
 
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NotaTrumpSupporter
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09 April 2018 19:34
 

some of sam’s best qualities are also his worst.

eg. his willingness to get all churlish and super punctilious about even the most trivial of points.

Sometimes this gets you through to a worthwhile truth.

but I’d say in this case Ezra was a little smoother, a little slicker and made sam seem just churlish and punctilious. imo

 
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