Last seen here fantasizing about grabbing the President’s crotch, it seems that DeNeil DeGrasse Tyson has done his share of real-life sexual assault. (PTT has a long-standing policy of believing rape victims at their word.) Sadder yet, if DeNeil were to downgrade his self-description from the “one of most visible scientists in the land” to “one of most visible rapists in the land”, he’d still be flattering himself.
has a sharp wit and even his occasional anti-intellectual tropes manage not to grate on our tenured sensibilities. In his recent piece, he compares establishment conservatives to the high school chess geeks. The piece is both funny and spot-on, so go ahead and read it. We do wonder why Schlichter had to reach for the relatively mild chess-player barb, when there are far more more piercing arrows in the quiver. But overall, his view overlaps largely with ours. Incidentally, we had invoked a different chess metaphor a while back. The problem with the “Fredocons” is not that they are chess geeks. Rather, it’s that they’ve forgotten the zeroth rule of chess.
PTT continually tracks the progress of Science! in curing racism, religiosity, and other grave social ills. The latest development is that there’s a cure for conservatism in general, as well as its immanent xenophobia specifically:
In another study, Bargh showed how washing hands with soap and water can make people less hostile to individuals who are different than they are. Bargh says that’s because to some extent, our modern prejudices are shaped by the way we’ve evolved to avoid unknown, foreign threats like disease.
This video appeared in my social media feed. It purports to “explain privilege simply to those who don’t see it” and the voiceover ends with “If you didn’t learn anything from this activity, you’re a fool”. The video is actually not worth watching, and I’ll spare you the 3:54 minutes. It’s that tired old lineup where people are told to take a step forward if their parents read them bedtime stories and such. Of course, the video is demolishing a strawman. Nobody is arguing that everybody is dealt the same hand in life. Yes, having parents who read to you out of a book rather than smacking you on the head with a book is a privilege. It is also not at all what is meant by “white privilege”, whereby one is judged to have magical benefits merely by virtue of being white, regardless of his actual lived experience. An unemployed, drug-addicted white coal miner would have more privilege than the Obama daughters — in direct contradiction to the video’s very rubric. And yet this video will be used to browbeat any opponent of the notion of white privilege.
What does one call such a dishonest bait and switch? Perhaps this falls under the motte and bailey doctrine:
The writers of the paper compare this to a form of medieval castle, where there would be a field of desirable and economically productive land called a bailey, and a big ugly tower in the middle called the motte. If you were a medieval lord, you would do most of your economic activity in the bailey and get rich. If an enemy approached, you would retreat to the motte and rain down arrows on the enemy until they gave up and went away. Then you would go back to the bailey, which is the place you wanted to be all along.
So the motte-and-bailey doctrine is when you make a bold, controversial statement. Then when somebody challenges you, you claim you were just making an obvious, uncontroversial statement, so you are clearly right and they are silly for challenging you. Then when the argument is over you go back to making the bold, controversial statement.
Some classic examples:
3. The feminists who constantly argue about whether you can be a real feminist or not without believing in X, Y and Z and wanting to empower women in some very specific way, and who demand everybody support controversial policies like affirmative action or affirmative consent laws (bailey). Then when someone says they don’t really like feminism very much, they object “But feminism is just the belief that women are people!” (motte) Then once the person hastily retreats and promises he definitely didn’t mean women aren’t people, the feminists get back to demanding everyone support affirmative action because feminism, or arguing about whether you can be a feminist and wear lipstick.
Them: White privilege! Me: What privilege? Them: watch this video, you ignorant fool!
In the wake of the recent shooting, the usual calls for gun control came right on schedule. Nevermind that most people proposing the various bans are gun-illiterate and think you can just walk into a gun show and buy a semiautomatic rocket launcher. (And that none of the proposed legislation could have prevented the shooting.) Stupid smart person Scott Aaronson says that as soon as my side agrees to keep ICMBs out of private citizens’ hands, we’ve lost the whole debate to the gun-grabbers (“the facts make it blindingly obvious”).
Famous for our Solomonic compromises, PTT proposes the following guiding principle on gun control. Which weapons should sane, law-abiding citizens be allowed to own? Answer: The kinds of weapons that a determined bad guy, in the given jurisdiction, could reasonably obtain — legally or otherwise*. The latter applies to handguns, assault rifles, etc. How hard would it be for a bad guy to get a real rocket launcher? I would imagine a bit more difficult than this.
*Note the singular. We’re talking about a bad guy — not a terrorist cell or a mafia gang, and certainly not a state actor. Private citizens shouldn’t have to compete with those, and probably wouldn’t stand much of a chance, anyway. At that level of organization and coordination, one hopes that law enforcement (or the military) would be able to do its job.
when hordes of huddled masses flood socialist countries trying to escape from capitalist hell-holes. It certainly won’t happen via this one weird accounting trick. Or by readjusting the “structure of rewards in society so that they do not disproportionately favor people who have some particular random arbitrary characteristic (like being good with numbers)”.
Why bother refuting this arrant nonsense? Because otherwise very intelligent people continue to bombard my social media feed with this, um, food for thought. Yeah yeah, political stupidity and all that.
The title of this “Stanford’s CS Theory Research Blog” post seemed routine enough: “The Racist Side of ‘Fairness’”. We were expecting the usual boilerplate about how “equal opportunity” and other calls for fairness are really coded racist talk. Instead — delightfully! — the attack turned out to be etymological:
At times I have a title that is only waiting for a paper or a joke that is only waiting for a talk. And (with some effort) the opportunity usually presents itself. I am now in the process of writing such a paper on fairness, which could be titled “The Fairest of Them All.” Very excited about this work and will surely discuss it here later. But while working on it, I (finally) realized something that I find to be rather horrific: Racism is so engraved in our culture that even the word ‘fairness’ has racist etymological roots. After all, fairness comes from fair which refers to ‘beautiful’ but also to “light of complexion or color of hair and eyes.” (See NPR for further discussion.) So, I take this opportunity to remind that black beauty matter [sic]!
The author is right to be horrified, because racism is literally the worst thing in the world (but there’s a cure!). He might consider switching to Russian, where beauty is etymologically connected to the color red, rather than white. Whether Russians are in fact less racist than Americans remains an open question, but even here they put on an air of superiority.