Trump caused Sabra and Shatila

The same type of arguments used to blame Israel when one group of Arabs slaughters another is used to blame assault whites when a black cop shoots an armed black criminal. (This blog does not condone massacres, but does take a keen interest in root causes.) It might as well be the same argument verbatim: internalized racism/colonialism is causing oppressed groups to turn on each other rather than on their common oppressor. You’re welcome for the free senior thesis idea, Karé Ureña.

Update: Thanks for the instalanche (again), Glenn!

The blessings of diversity II

One of the college POCs by the name of Karé Ureña has expressed the desire not to have white roommates. She took some flak for it, but was rhetorically well-equipped:

But this is not a conversation about segregation and racism. These terms are deeply rooted in historical and systemic acts of violence towards people of color that white people have simply not experienced …. We want to reframe it so that it becomes a matter of students of color simply prioritizing their need for survival in the face of historical oppression in higher education.

Let’s play a game of “guess that major”. An immediate question that occurred to me was, do they still segregate college dorms by sex? I mean, at one point they were automatically sex-segregated because there only was one sex. Then women were admitted but society was too prudish to allow university-sanctioned cohabitation. We’re way past such quaint concerns, but now I imagine thorny issues of affirmative consent as well as the mundane logistical complexities associated with mid-year breakup would still counsel the prudent administrator against co-ed roomies. Unfortunately, the idea of a male/female sex is itself a quaint relic of the past, so it’ll be, um, fun to watch this one play out.

But we got side-tracked from freedom of association racist roommate preferences. Apparently, scholars research this sort of thing. Taking a page out of Robert Putnam’s book, here is Prof. Natalie Shook:

“My work (and others’) indicates that on average individuals in same-race roommate relationships are happier, spend more time with their roommate, and report less stress with their roommate than those in cross-race roommate relationships,” Shook said via email. “However, I have data that indicate living in a cross-race roommate relationship reduces prejudice and intergroup anxiety, as well as leads to a stronger sense of belonging at university, which can have benefits for academic performance.”

She might as well have taken a page from John Derbyshire’s book:

I’ve had some mild amusement here at my desk trying to think up imaginary research papers similarly structured. One for publication in a health journal, perhaps, with three sections titled:

  • Health benefits of drinking green tea
  • Green tea causes intestinal cancer
  • Making the switch to green tea

Social science research in our universities cries out for a modern Jonathan Swift to lampoon its absurdities.

DeNeil DeGrasseLand

Though this article is properly deferential to DeNeil DeGrasse Tyson, it balks at his suggestion of a Simpsons-esque Rationalia. And while I thoroughly share the balking, I choked trying to swallow down this matter-of-fact throw-away:

It wasn’t so long ago that psychiatrists considered homosexuality unhealthy and abhorrent. There is at least one prominent, eminently rational psychiatrist who hasn’t come around on transgenders.

Hasn’t come around — as in hasn’t seen the light, is on the wrong side of history, can’t die soon enough already.

C’mon, New Scientist, would it have killed you to frame that in slightly more factual, objective terms, with less editorializing? Like this: Paul McHugh, University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, thinks that transgenderism is a pathology.
[Annoyingly, the original link to McHugh’s article seems broken, but here is a cached copy. Update: The link appears to be working now.]

Leave it to PTT to tie together the Simpsons, pompous pseudo-intellectuals, and she-males. The next time DeNeil casually refers to himself as “one of the most visible scientists in the land”, I implore you to reply with the delicious non-sequitur: How Many Gazebos Do You Shemales Need?

Jordan Ellenberg

is an accomplished mathematician and the author of a popular book (both in the sense of being intended for a wide audience and actually being enjoyed by this audience). It is a good book — just what you would expect from a mathematically literate (quite the understatement!) author who is also verbally gifted. Even though one senses that Ellenberg is at least somewhat left-leaning, he for the most part exercises remarkable political restraint — a phenomenon lamentably rare in this genre.

So far (I’m close to the end) there was only one passage that drove me to vent here. The protagonist is Sir Francis Galton, of the regression towards the mean fame. [And as long as I’m taking Prof. Ellenberg to task, I might as well chide him for using the preposition to rather than the more correct toward(s).] Here it is in full:

In a book called How Not to Be Wrong it’s a bit strange to write about Galton without saying much about his greatest fame among non-mathematicians: the theory of eugenics, of which he’s usually called the father. If, as I claim, an attention to the mathematical side of life is helpful in avoiding mistakes, how could a scientist like Galton, so clear-eyed with regard to mathematical questions, be so wrong about the merits of breeding human beings for desirable properties? Galton saw his own opinions on this subject as modest and sensible, but they shock the contemporary ear:

As in most other cases of novel views, the wrong-headedness of objectors to Eugenics has been curious. The most common misrepresentations now are that its methods must be altogether those of compulsory unions, as in breeding animals. It is not so. I think that stern compulsion ought to be exerted to prevent the free propagation of the stock of those who are seriously afflicted by lunacy, feeble-mindedness, habitual criminality, and pauperism, but that is quite different from compulsory marriage. How to restrain ill-omened marriages is a question by itself, whether it should be effected by seclusion, or in other ways yet to be devised that are consistent with a humane and well-informed public opinion. I cannot doubt that our democracy will ultimately refuse consent to that liberty of propagating children which is now allowed to the undesirable classes, but the populace has yet to be taught the true state of these things. A democracy cannot endure unless it be composed of able citizens; therefore it must in self-defence withstand the free introduction of degenerate stock.

What can I say? Mathematics is a way not to be wrong, but it isn’t a way not to be wrong about everything. (Sorry, no refunds!) Wrongness is like original sin; we are born to it and it remains always with us, and constant vigilance is necessary if we mean to restrict its sphere of influence over our actions. There is real danger that, by strengthening our abilities to analyze some questions mathematically, we acquire a general confidence in our beliefs, which extends unjustifiably to those things we’re still wrong about. We become like those pious people who, over time, accumulate a sense of their own virtuousness so powerful as to make them believe the bad things they do are virtuous too.

I’ll do my best to resist that temptation. But watch me carefully.

It really is too bad that Prof. Ellenberg never bothers to explicitly spell out what is so obviously wrong with Galton’s views. The latter is unequivocal about avoiding compulsion in marriage; nor, to my knowledge, has he ever advocated forced sterilization. Thus, it is plain disingenuous to go Godwin on him for the sin of others (long after his death) applying compulsion precisely where Galton had explicitly opposed it.

To place the very concept of eugenics as something beyond the pale is both dishonest and absurd, as anyone who undergoes genetic screening or evaluates a potential mate’s reproductive fitness is engaging in precisely this dastardly thing. Eugenic and dysgenic trends are every bit as real as climate change. Reasonable people may disagree about the right social policy, but at the very least we need a meaningful vocabulary to discuss such policy! Banishing perfectly legitimate concepts from polite discourse is a systemic power grab, and it’s disheartening to see Prof. Ellenberg not-so-innocently engage in it. [Yet a third gripe: he also uses the generic “she”.]

Assuming the invitation to “watch [him] carefully” was sincere, I’m happy to oblige.