Routine crimestop

Scott Alexander of the excellent slatestarcodex has made an appearance here previously. He’s an intelligent and thoughtful man, not afraid to wade into controversy — up to a point. Every now and then his inquiries ineluctably bring him to the edge of forbidden topics, and his strategy is to punt, rather lamely. Case in point:

(it doesn’t help that this theory [ed: of r/k selection] is distantly related to an earlier theory proposed by Canadian psychologist John Rushton, who added that black people are racially predisposed to fast strategies and Asians to slow strategies, with white people somewhere in the middle. Del Giudice mentions Rushton just enough that nobody can accuse him of deliberately covering up his existence, then hastily moves on.)

Alexander is reviewing Del Giudice’s book, and, taking a cue from the author, he too hastily moves on. Which is too bad, because an inquiring reader might want to know: Has Rushton’s theory been empirically disproven? Is it a true thing or a false thing?

Rushing to accuse Alexander of dishonesty or cowardice would be too simplistic. He admirably avoided the opportunity to point and sputter (“Pseudo-scientific racism! Thoughtcrime! Let’s get him fired go piss on his grave!”) Nor is his unwillingness to engage this subject head-on necessarily due to a faint heart. As Sam Harris found out the hard way, once you touch this third rail, you cannot easily let it go: it will hold you in its thrall long past your own point of interest, distracting you from other important projects. So perhaps Alexander’s crimestop is a wise choice after all.

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3 thoughts on “Routine crimestop

  1. Your first instinct is to say that for Alexander to not discuss Rushton at length is “too bad”. This is a Bolshevik position, evaluating everything from the point of view of what it does for class struggle. “You are either with us or against us.” Yes, there is a fight going on there, and it is an important fight, but not everyone is interested, or has a stomach for it. The wise course would be to leave them alone.

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    1. It’s too bad because he’s telling a fascinating story with enormous societal implications and along the way mentions a potentially *very* relevant and important aspect, only to rush past it. And that’s too bad! In the end, I do reach the conclusion that he probably did the smart thing — and it’s too bad that the current politcal climate makes it so.

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