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#123- Identity & Honesty A Conversation with Ezra Klein

 
GDKOpinionator
 
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09 April 2018 20:46
 

I think that both Klein and Harris conducted themselves typically in this conversation.  People will consider the “victor” to be the person with whom they most identify.

In the final analysis, I have a serious problem with the way Vox.com chose to re-attack Harris, one full year after the interview, coinciding with Harris being “out of the loop” on vacation.  Ezra Klein is not Editor-In-Chief at Vox anymore, so unless some coordination took place between Klein and the current editor, Klein is not responsible for, what appears to be, an attempt to rhetorically attack Harris when his back was turned.  The other issue was the speed with which this article was integrated into the Twitter feeds of Reza Aslan and Glenn Greenwald.

The only way in which Harris can hope to have unpleasant discussions on important issues, is if he is willing to bring on people who will watch his back.  Vox.com is not one person, and both Aslan and Greenwald are surrounded by entourages.  Attempting to deal with these individuals head-on in a “slime-fest” is untenable.  As a reader of Sam Harris work, it is not necessarily my job to be a member of his entourage.  Greenwald and Aslan repeatedly attack Harris for his “cult”, because unlike them, Harris must depend upon those of us who listen or read his work, to defend him.  This is simply adding fuel to the fire.  If Dr. Harris wants to find peace in this climate, he will need to either withdraw from public discourse, or establish a professional support system around his organization.

 
ncooty
 
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09 April 2018 22:52
 

This was poorly executed.  I have a lower opinion of both Sam and Ezra.  Klein is worse than I’d thought and Sam seemed unfocused.

Sam really does not seem to have prepared well for the known and foreseeable issues in this discussion.  He could and should have parsed the issues and addressed them directly rather than continually indulging in sweeping, long-winded monologues that churned everything back into a soup of confusion.  It made it seem as though Sam was more interested in making his case (mounting his defense, perhaps) than in making progress in the conversation, leaving Klein merely to wait to talk.  (Sam’s low-density filler such as “Confirmation bias is a real thing,” is akin to saying, “I’m going to put in some filler words here, because I lost my train of thought, but there was more I wanted to say, and I don’t want to give you a chance to talk yet, and, oh yeah, now I remember.”)  Sam contributed to the confusion by flitting between science and policy, between individual and group differences, between the research on intelligence and the nature of public conversations about research, etc.  (Granted, Klein seemed intent on generating those conflations.)  He just didn’t seem to have thought about what the issues are or how to resolve them systematically in a discussion.  Moreover, he was more emotional than is normal, and certainly more so than was helpful.

Klein was cordial, but seemed consistently to be playing to his cultivated audience of people waiting to be outraged by blatant misinterpretations and misrepresentations.  I think he was wary of stumbling over the trip-wires he himself has helped set.  Klein seems predisposed to discuss matters of fact as questions of motives.  That is dangerous, and belies either very poor education or invidious intent.  I find his version of reasoning weak, confused, muddled, and dangerous.  It substitutes accusations (including implied slander) for arguments—often with the disingenuous cover of plausible deniability.  It’s slack-brained, cowardly, and pernicious.  (When Klein misrepresented Murray’s comments on the mutability of intelligence, I think I actually said out loud, “Come on; you can’t be *that* stupid,”—i.e., to misunderstand the difference between the environmental influence on intelligence and the policy influence on environment.)  For Klein, there don’t seem to be any empirical questions, just things he might describe as ‘all part of a messy social construct tied up in centuries of intersecting cultural oppression that we just aren’t in a position to discuss with any real empathy or credibility’ (I imagine him drivelling in some syrupy lament).

That said, I think Klein rightly noted that Sam often commits the wrong of which he’s accusing others by ascribing intentions rather than disputing facts—as was the case with the authors of the Vox piece (which was full of blatant misrepresentations of research, Harris, and Murray).  Directly addressing the false accusations and needless slander of the article would have served Sam’s purposes much better than claiming to know the authors’ intentions.  Moreover, in his exchanges, Sam seems repeatedly not to know where to focus.  He claims to be interested in the nature of public discourse about research, yet he repeatedly gets sucked in to talking about specific research (e.g., methods, findings, interpretation).  He abets the conflation.  It’s very disappointing in someone who is usually quite clear-headed.

Finally, after listening to 2 hrs of Klein, I can’t help but say that I can’t stand the combination of his lispy vocal fry and canned business-speak platitudes.

 
rav
 
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09 April 2018 23:44
 
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.

illimex - 09 April 2018 02:06 PM

Klein: Not concerned with trashing reputations and smearing people for the greater 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 without an understanding of scientific literature.  These people are quoting “The Invisible Knapsack” like it’s a peer reviewed study.

GreenInferno - 09 April 2018 02:06 PM

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.

+1

 
Joeletaylor
 
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10 April 2018 02:42
 

I totally agree on the “blind spots.” Sam refuses to engage in what basically all of Twitter is saying right now — yes, technically, the data Murray has collected and his politcal ideology are separate. But data doesn’t occur in a vacuum and he totally writes of those of us who see Murray’s scientific focus, his ideology, his funding arm, his racist fanbase, and, yes, his white “identity,” are all highly relevant and make up parts of a whole.

Whether you agree or not, he’s not “engaging” with this particular idea, which is the dominant one on my Twitter feed, leftists are materialists, we are not squishy SJWs, and while I won’t provide a litany, there’s a near total consensus on the left that finds the criticism of Sam valid. And I agree. And the fact that a big chunk of you take Stephan Moleneux seriously as a thinker confirms Klein’s point about identity politics — that’s white identity politics, full stop, which Richard Spencer has openly conceded.

Gamril - 09 April 2018 08:20 AM

Actually Ezra was hitting on something with Sam’s “blind spots” and inability to see his own biases but he couldn’t articulate it well.  I don’t think Sam’s bias is against identity politics and because he has a legitimate reason to critique identity politics.  Sam’s issue is more to do with self critique I believe, inability to adjust to his audience/interviewee and sometimes a bit too technical and not seeing the overall picture.  Here, though he is completely right that the science can be separated from the history just for the sake of argument at least.  Too bad, they never agreed to have that type of discussion.

[ Edited: 10 April 2018 02:45 by Joeletaylor]
 
czrpb
 
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10 April 2018 04:41
 
Joeletaylor - 10 April 2018 02:42 AM

I totally agree on the “blind spots.” Sam refuses to engage in what basically all of Twitter is saying right now — yes, technically, the data Murray has collected and his politcal ideology are separate. But data doesn’t occur in a vacuum and he totally writes of those of us who see Murray’s scientific focus, his ideology, his funding arm, his racist fanbase, and, yes, his white “identity,” are all highly relevant and make up parts of a whole.

Whether you agree or not, he’s not “engaging” with this particular idea, which is the dominant one on my Twitter feed, leftists are materialists, we are not squishy SJWs, and while I won’t provide a litany, there’s a near total consensus on the left that finds the criticism of Sam valid. And I agree. And the fact that a big chunk of you take Stephan Moleneux seriously as a thinker confirms Klein’s point about identity politics — that’s white identity politics, full stop, which Richard Spencer has openly conceded.

Gamril - 09 April 2018 08:20 AM

Actually Ezra was hitting on something with Sam’s “blind spots” and inability to see his own biases but he couldn’t articulate it well.  I don’t think Sam’s bias is against identity politics and because he has a legitimate reason to critique identity politics.  Sam’s issue is more to do with self critique I believe, inability to adjust to his audience/interviewee and sometimes a bit too technical and not seeing the overall picture.  Here, though he is completely right that the science can be separated from the history just for the sake of argument at least.  Too bad, they never agreed to have that type of discussion.

I have a lot of sympathy with this. I think Sam should have formulated a (short) list of questions similar to these and left it at that; ie he should have been more lawyerly. These particular questions I think would have helped him get his points across (if I were having this discussion, I would ask some of these and others).

1.  Is it the current scientific consensus that IQ has a genetic component?
2.  Is it the current scientific consensus that IQ differs across populations delineated by (self-identified) race?
3.  Is this what the objection to Murray was at Middlebury College?
4.  Do you think Murray is objectionable for this reason?

As far as I can tell, this is most of what Sam wants to know. Yes/no answers would have made it clear if Ezra is objecting to the data or to the human interaction with the data and it would have illuminated Ezra’s position, especially wrt one of Sam’s points: Can we discuss only what science (the data) tells us.

 
czrpb
 
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10 April 2018 05:34
 
Nehalem - 09 April 2018 03:44 PM

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).

Hi! From your story, I seemed to have gotten a different lesson. I to am a dev (quite a few years, Im pretty old! wink) and I would interpret your github paper story this way:

Github, like all systems, collect data. Most of the data is time-based, and in this case things like date/time of commits, size (in files and lines), etc. It also has account data, in this case sex. That is it. Github (the software) didnt pop out a paper.

Some human decided that they wanted to find a correlation. They further choose one of the variables to be sex. The “data” didnt “say” anything, it just is. What I feel is important in your story is to understand the human(s) motivations for choosing that particular correlation to explore. There are other possible ones that are likely quite interesting, for example: Does the time of day code is committed correlate with bugs? And of course the super common “fight” among programmers: Which computer language has the “fewest” bugs. (hahaha!)

I think your story is similar to the one in this podcast in many important ways. For me, very important would be: Why did you go looking for that correlation?

 
Gamril
 
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10 April 2018 05:46
 
Joeletaylor - 10 April 2018 02:42 AM

I totally agree on the “blind spots.” Sam refuses to engage in what basically all of Twitter is saying right now — yes, technically, the data Murray has collected and his politcal ideology are separate. But data doesn’t occur in a vacuum and he totally writes of those of us who see Murray’s scientific focus, his ideology, his funding arm, his racist fanbase, and, yes, his white “identity,” are all highly relevant and make up parts of a whole.

Whether you agree or not, he’s not “engaging” with this particular idea, which is the dominant one on my Twitter feed, leftists are materialists, we are not squishy SJWs, and while I won’t provide a litany, there’s a near total consensus on the left that finds the criticism of Sam valid. And I agree. And the fact that a big chunk of you take Stephan Moleneux seriously as a thinker confirms Klein’s point about identity politics — that’s white identity politics, full stop, which Richard Spencer has openly conceded.

Gamril - 09 April 2018 08:20 AM

Actually Ezra was hitting on something with Sam’s “blind spots” and inability to see his own biases but he couldn’t articulate it well.  I don’t think Sam’s bias is against identity politics and because he has a legitimate reason to critique identity politics.  Sam’s issue is more to do with self critique I believe, inability to adjust to his audience/interviewee and sometimes a bit too technical and not seeing the overall picture.  Here, though he is completely right that the science can be separated from the history just for the sake of argument at least.  Too bad, they never agreed to have that type of discussion.

I’m a moderate so I can’t speak for the right or left….  I don’t even know who Moleneux is..  In terms of the selection of Murray to speak with I think I would agree with you that if he’s the person you want to talk to then you have a completely different conversation than if you plug in a random scientist who doesn’t have all of that baggage.  But the situation is really of Sam’s making.  He talked with Murray about both the science and the politics so I’m not sure why he didn’t do the same with Ezra. 

Again, I’m fine with a conversation on the science alone but Ezra offered to have one with any of the scientists instead of himself and Sam didn’t want it.  As to the reason’s why, I guess you’d have to ask Sam.  Anyone could’ve predicted the outcome of this current conversation. But so called genius Sam sought out Ezra specifically culminating in this worthless discussion.

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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10 April 2018 06:57
 

I thought this conversation was “productive” in the sense that it made clear to outsiders the respective places both Harris and Klein are coming from.  I can see why they couldn’t really even agree to disagree. Each is pushing in the other all the wrong buttons.  But on the whole I think Klein’s position here is more creditable, for it questions the science that Harris wrongly sees as both non-controversial and incontrovertible.  Although I could do without the nonsense of having ‘victims’ of the science bring their voice to the conversation with the experts (that’s the shred of identity politics that Sam sees and rightly objects to), experts discussing exactly what the science says and whether what it says is true should be the focus of conversation.  Harris doesn’t see it that way, which is unfortunate, for it indicates an irrational dogmatism on his part, one that does not follow from the evidence.

I do have one bone to pick with Harris: either his blindness to what Murray is really doing and saying, or his reluctance to just come out, say it, and defend it.  As one example, Harris says in reply to Klein: “Then you convict Murray and, again this is a quote, ‘being engaged in a decades-long focus on the intellectual inferiority of Africa Americans.’ Now honestly, okay that is a smear. Murray has not been focused on African-Americans…as you know, The Bell Curve was not focused on race.” 

Not true. It is no smear. It is a factual claim, one supported by the evidence.  The Bell Curve in fact uses non-standard scientific methodology in order to focus on African Americans and their intellectual inferiority.

In The Bell Curve, the data set Murry analyzed was a nationally representative sample that included all races.  To show how cognitive ability predicts social outcomes in American society as a whole, Murray first separated blacks from the sample, analyzed it for whites, then re-analyzed it again, this time including blacks.  His stated rationale for these steps was to show first that his thesis on cognitive ability and outcomes applies to whites, that way it would be more convincing on the more controversial topic of its application to backs.  So his method made race central to the argument of The Bell Curve.  In this sense, Murray did make blacks a focus of the book.  Indeed, he even closed the argument by wondering whether the growing white underclass compared to the existing black underclass, even as he argued both blacks and whites are in that underclass because of intellectual inferiority (with blacks being relatively more intellectually inferior than whites).

This methodological focus on race was entirely unnecessary to prove his overall thesis.  That is, had Murray followed standard statistical inference practices, all he would have had to do is analyze the representative sample from the get go, as a whole, unaltered; that would validate any claims about cognition and class structure in American society—his stated intent in The Bell CurveAny inference from a representative sample ipso facto applies to the population as a whole, so no separation is necessary to show that ‘what applies to whites’ also ‘applies to blacks’ as well.  A standard analysis would have taken blacks and whites together in one analysis, thereby including race into the argument in an entirely non-controversial and inconspicuous way, simply as part of an analysis that applied to everyone—no separate steps necessary.  But Murray didn’t do that.  Instead he broke up the analysis into an analysis by race, ipso facto making race the focus of the book, i.e. ipso facto making blacks, and their intellectual inferiority, the focus.  In short, Murray used an unconventional analysis to make it look like considering blacks separately was methodologically prudent, if not necessary, but neither is true.  He had at his disposal a representative sample that didn’t need breaking up, but he broke it up and focused on race.  And this focus on race was the intellectual inferiority of blacks.  Whatever his personal reasons for doing this, scientifically speaking this is what he did.

This focus is what outraged, and still outrages, reviewers so much.  Had Murray used standard scientific practices to make his overall point, no one would have called him racist.  There would be no cause for it; they would have focused on the general question of cognitive ability and outcomes because that would have been Murray’s only focus.  But Murray himself put the focus on race with the idiosyncratic method he used, and this is why guys like Klein make the claims they do, validly, even if they don’t appreciate the nuances of the methodological point made here.  What they see is exactly what Murray put the spotlight on, unnecessarily for the broader point he was making.  And that spotlight: the intellectual inferiority of blacks as the cause for their bad social outcomes.  Yes, he discussed everyone—that was the main thesis of the book.  But he did it in a way the highlighted blacks and their intellectual inferiority when no highlighting was scientifically necessary to prove the broader thesis.

It is relatively straight forward that The Bell Curve supplies a causal story for his earlier book Losing Ground by showing that blacks occupy the societal underclass—that underclass being the focus of Losing Ground—because they are intellectually inferior.  I offer that analysis in another thread.  In any case, Losing Ground and The Bell Curve are the center pieces of Murray’s decades long policy focus, and in that focus, front and center in the analysis (if not candidly in his public appearances), is the intellectual inferiority of blacks.  So Klein is right on this and Harris is wrong.  It is no “smear” to point out the facts just because those facts make someone ‘look bad’.

I really wish Harris would just come out and let cards like these be on the table.  I wish he and others like him would stop massaging and sanitizing Murray’s message.  I wish Murray and Harris had just come out and said in their podcast what follows from this so-called incontrovertible science, science Sam calls “uncontroversial” and science Murray says proves through all it findings since The Bell Curve a central message of that book.  And just so we are clear, that message, in un-sanitized form, is this (‘spoken’ in the hypothetical voice of Harris in own defense):

“Black people are dumber than white people.  Everything in science points to this.  No one is saying that it’s all in their genes, that centuries of oppression and mistreatment hasn’t contributed to their ignorance.  But it’s time we were honest with ourselves and acknowledge the fact that their genes make them dumber, that even in an environment of perfect racial equality they will never fully catch up.  This is all Murray and I are saying, and the science on this should be uncontroversial because it is in fact uncontroversial.  Yet for saying it we are condemned as racists by people set out to destroy our reputations…”

Let’s stop calling people racists, but at the same time, let’s put what is really being said and what is really is at stake out on the table, plainly, honestly, for all to see.  In order to be truly productive, Murray’s message is what conversations like Harris’ and Klein’s need to focus on, with Harris and his tribe coming out and arguing it is something we can live with as long as we treat people like individuals, and Klein and his arguing it is something we don’t have to live with because we are in no position to say it’s true.  In any case, by discussing “it” openly—“it” being this apparently “racist” but apparently “scientifically valid” message—all the innuendo, red herrings, and unconscious valences would evaporate.  What is being said and reacted to would be front and center, and people would almost of necessity have to stop talking past each other.  Sam says he wants honesty, not identity politics.  He titles the podcast “Identity and Honesty”.  Ok, then, if it’s all about honesty and not about identity, let’s start, him first of all, by admitting honestly what the argument is, at bottom, really about.  That admission might lead to a truly productive conversation, one even more instructive than what we already have from Harris and Klein in this not entirely unproductive podcast.

 

[ Edited: 10 April 2018 08:03 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
Thoughtsandactions
 
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10 April 2018 07:10
 

It seems patently obvious to me that the empirical data can be discussed separate from the political policies that we choose to enact or not enact based on that data.  This is why we do things like double blind randomized placebo controlled trials, to isolate as best as possible the actual data, and to eliminate bias as much as possible.  How effective we are at doing this however, is another topic to discuss.  In any event, we have to agree on what the data actually says before we can have a conversation about it.

 
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10 April 2018 07:16
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 10 April 2018 06:57 AM

SNIP

Very well put.  Thank you for that.

One troubling thing I took away from this podcast was a fundamental disagreement between Harris and Klein regarding what other experts are actually saying.  Case in point: Flynn (I may be misspelling his name).  Harris asserted that the Vox authors’ use of Flynn’s research was faulty, and that Flynn himself said so.  Klein countered that he had just talked with Flynn personally the other day, and that Harris is mischaracterizing Flynn’s current position.  This is a core issue that needs to be resolved:  All sides need to honestly engage with what researchers and experts are actually saying.  I have no way of knowing whether Harris or Klein (or both, or neither) are mischaracterizing Flynn, but it casts suspicion on all the other factual statements being made, such as Harris’ assertion that he has an inbox full of emails from researchers who effectively agree with him 100% but are afraid to say so because of reputational cost.  He may be right, or he may be over-generalizing what the emails actually say (I doubt he’s actually lying about having the emails).

 
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10 April 2018 07:18
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 10 April 2018 06:57 AM

I thought this conversation was “productive” ..........

I’ve been following your other thread on this and I agree with most of your stance on the science.  The problem with this podcast not specifically tackling the science alone is that people assume that Ezra is hiding from the data to protect feelings.  If we address the science head on and show why it is not valid we don’t even have to have the later conversation.  So now we have 50% of the audience running with the assumption that Sam is right on the data and Ezra is pulling the PC card to try to conceal the truth.  When the punchline should be Sam is wrong on the data.

My one caveat is that given human nature once presented with the hard facts people may just believe what they want to believe anyway.

[ Edited: 10 April 2018 07:27 by Gamril]
 
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10 April 2018 07:25
 
Brian888 - 10 April 2018 07:16 AM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 10 April 2018 06:57 AM

SNIP

Very well put.  Thank you for that.

One troubling thing I took away from this podcast was a fundamental disagreement between Harris and Klein regarding what other experts are actually saying.  Case in point: Flynn (I may be misspelling his name).  Harris asserted that the Vox authors’ use of Flynn’s research was faulty, and that Flynn himself said so.  Klein countered that he had just talked with Flynn personally the other day, and that Harris is mischaracterizing Flynn’s current position.  This is a core issue that needs to be resolved:  All sides need to honestly engage with what researchers and experts are actually saying.  I have no way of knowing whether Harris or Klein (or both, or neither) are mischaracterizing Flynn, but it casts suspicion on all the other factual statements being made, such as Harris’ assertion that he has an inbox full of emails from researchers who effectively agree with him 100% but are afraid to say so because of reputational cost.  He may be right, or he may be over-generalizing what the emails actually say (I doubt he’s actually lying about having the emails).

Yes, highlight of the podcast for me. 

Sam:  Even Flynn doesn’t believe in the Flynn effect.
Ezra:  Well good thing I just called him up yesterday.  He states that environment can account for the IQ differences observed.
Sam:  I didn’t talk to Flynn but I know that he didn’t say what you think he said in a conversation I didn’t even hear.

 
Jan_CAN
 
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10 April 2018 07:40
 

Although I don’t attribute nefarious motives to Harris, his ‘blind spot’ may have prevented him from seeing the big picture.  IMO, it is rather naive to think that research/science in certain areas does not have political and social consequences that cannot be ignored.  It was a foregone conclusion that controversy would result.  And with such controversies, opposing sides become polarized, and it can get ‘ugly’ – no surprise.  But in the long run, the silver lining is that these controversies do bring about further analysis and discussion.

Criticism of ‘identity politics’ and ‘SJWs’ has served to unite and give credibility to ‘white (male?) identity politics’.  Presumably by many not the intention, but it has been a result nevertheless.  Issues of identity and the need for so-called SJWs will exist as long as there is prejudice and discrimination, and in response to an increased presence of the far-right.  Issues cannot be resolved until the causes are put in the forefront.

 
 
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10 April 2018 08:12
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 10 April 2018 06:57 AM

This methodological focus on race was entirely unnecessary to prove his overall thesis.

Harris asked Murray about this on the original podcast. Murray gave an explanation. I can’t remember what it was now. It wasn’t anything that jumped out at me as being particularly controversial or compelling. Too bad there isn’t a transcript—it takes too long to listen to the whole thing just to find that comment.

But it obviously wasn’t to show that “Black people are dumber than white people. . . .” When you resort to that kind of hyperbole—especially when it’s hypocritically followed by, “Let’s stop calling people racist”—you undermine the rest of your argument in exactly the same way you’re accusing Murray of doing with his “entirely unnecessary” methodological focus on race. Attributing racist motivation to Murray is “entirely unnecessary” to make your point about why, specifically, people object to Murray’s findings.

If I understand your point correctly, you’re not questioning any of Murray’s actual findings about IQ, race and class, but only objecting to what you claim is the spurious methodological focus on race. I think this might be a more compelling objection than the one Klein voiced (which had to do with the historical context of racism), but again—I wish I could recall the reason Murray gave for separating blacks in his methodology.

 
 
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10 April 2018 08:49
 

I thought the podcast was worthwhile – not so much for the content it was a fascinating lesson into how we as human beings, even the most thoughtful and even-handed of us as I think SH is, react to being shamed.

Given the background to the discussion, that SH had been called racist by Klein, causing SH to accuse Klein of bad science and journalism, it was inevitable that both went into the debate smarting from being shamed. During the podcast they both listed at length the words they felt they’d been shamed with. And it just showed how hard it is for us to debate sensibly when this has happened.

In the introduction to the Yuval Noah Harari interview SH talked about the fundamental importance of civility. And generally his podcasts are one of the best examples of reasonable, civil conversations with people with whom Sam disagrees.

But the whole race/IQ debate highlighted for me how important it is to not shame your opponents, and how hard this, particularly when you’re in the public eye. This discussion was in the end overshadowed by shaming. And on a larger scale this is why there has been so little fruitful discussion between the sides of the political divide in the US, as both sides shame each other so much.

(And I realise even in writing this that I might be shaming people myself with what I write above, further showing how difficult the whole process is.)

 
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