The Idols Of The Tribe

Our previous post touched once again on how liberal orthodoxy habituates its adherents to deny reality and suppress the expression of truth. One such truth is the near-total hegemony of liberal orthodoxy itself in the social sciences, and of course our leading liberal commenter has wasted no time in denying it. (As I said in the post, this is a perfectly natural meta-effect of the same underlying cause, and should surprise no one.) “For every Bowdoin“, he says, there is a “Liberty University”. (This is, of course, simply false, but as noted just above, that’s rather the point here.)

Having denied any preponderance of liberalism in academia, however, he then switched gears to defend it, on the basis that critical thinking is important in universities, and conservative thought is “sheer hokum”. (See how easy this is, once you get the hang of it?)

For today’s selection, then, we have a longish excerpt from an Edge.org piece by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt (who is hardly a Bible-thumping redneck) in which he examines precisely this question. (I’ve bolded a few passages.)

If a group circles around sacred values, they’ll evolve into a tribal moral community. They’ll embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they’ll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value. You can see this on the right with global warming denialism. They’re protecting their sacralized free markets. But when sacred values are threatened, the moral force field turns on, and beliefs fall into line. We become intuitive theologians.

Is Social Psychology a Tribal Moral Community?

Has social psychology become a Tribal Moral Community since the 1960s? Are we a community that is bound together by liberal values and then blind to any ideas or findings that threaten our sacred values? I believe the answer is yes, and I’ll make 3 points to support that claim.

1) We have taboos and danger zones.

First, we have taboos and danger zones. We social psychologists are normally so good at challenging each other’s causal theories. If someone describes a phenomenon and then proposes a causal explanation, the rest of us will automatically generate 5 alternative causal explanations, along with 5 control conditions needed to rule out those alternatives. Except when any of these issues are in play. These issues turn on the force field, constrain our thinking, and deprive us of our ability to think of the full range of alternative hypotheses. It’s too dangerous for me to work through examples. I’ll just refer you to Larry Summers’ famous musings about why men are overrepresented in math and science departments at the nation’s top universities.

As on one of his 3 hypotheses, he noted that there is a sex difference in the standard deviation of IQ scores between men and women. He didn’t say that men are smarter. He didn’t say that men have higher IQs. He just noted the well known fact that the variance of male scores is larger, which means that there are more men at the very bottom, and at the very top. Might that contribute to the underrepresentation of women at the very top levels of science? If you’re standing outside the force field it’s a good hypothesis, certainly worth exploring. But if you’re inside the force field, it is not a permissible hypothesis. It is sacrilege. It blames the victims, rather than the powerful. The ensuing outrage led ultimately to his resignation as president of Harvard. We psychologists should have been outraged by the outrage. We should have defended his right to think freely.

2) A statistically impossible lack of diversity

My second point is that we have a statistically impossible lack of diversity in social psychology. This graph shows Gallup data since 1992. Self-identified conservatives have long made up about 40% of the American public. Self identified liberals have made up about 20%. So the ratio in America is about two to one, conservative to liberal. What’s the ratio in social psychology?

To begin calculating our ratio, I first turned to Google. I simply Googled the phrase “liberal social psychologist.” I got 2740 hits. Then I changed liberal to conservative, and got 3 hits. So it looks like a ratio of roughly 1000 to one, liberal to conservative. But it’s actually much higher than that because this first one is some guy on a dating site asserting that his father was the only conservative social psychologist; this second one is a typographical error; and this third one is a conservative blogger who is angry about liberal bias in social psychology, who writes … “we can further conclude that the possible existence of a conservative social psychologist is statistically insignificant.” So Google failed to uncover a single instance of a conservative social psychologist who is currently active.

I next conducted a small survey by emailing 30 social psychologists I know, spanning all levels from very senior professors down to grad student. I simply asked:… “Can you reply to this message with the names of any social psychologists that you believe are politically conservative?” There were 4 names mentioned one time each, but each of them was hedged with doubt, such as “I don’t really know, but she did work with Phil Tetlock.” So I won’t print these 4 names. Peter Suedfeld got 2 votes, and he definitely worked with Tetlock. Rick McCauley got 3 votes. The next most common candidate was “I can’t think of any conservatives.” And finally, it turns out there is a fair amount of agreement as to who the conservative is in social psychology, and its Phil Tetlock. So there you have it, we do have a conservative. That conservative blogger was wrong. Right?

Well, not quite. I wrote to Phil to ask him whether it was true, as widely believed, that he is a conservative. Phil wrote back to me, in characteristically Tetlockian fashion, and said: “I hold a rather complex (value-pluralistic) bundle of preferences and labeling me liberal or conservative or libertarian or even moderate is just not very informative.”

But I pressed on in my search for the wild conservative social psychologist, and I found him, hiding in a bamboo grove outside of Philadelphia. Watch closely: there he is. Rick McCauley, at Bryn Mawr College. Rick is the only social psychologist I know of who publicly acknowledges that he is politically conservative.

I am extremely fortunate that I got to know Rick when I was a grad student at Penn, because Rick was a friend of one of my advisors, Paul Rozin. When I first met Rick I was wary of him. I had heard that he was a conservative. I had heard that he supported the Viet Nam war. It was only after I forged a personal relationship with him that I got over my distrust. I had never before met an actual conservative professor, and it took me a while to realize how valuable it was to hear from someone with a different perspective. Rick is now one of America’s foremost experts on the psychology of terrorism. I am convinced that many of his insights have only been possible because he stands outside of the liberal force field.

But McCauley can’t be the only conservative in social psychology. If we did a poll of the whole field, we’d surely find at least, what, five percent? Well, this room is just about the best sample of social psychologists we’re ever going to find, so let’s see. If there’s around a thousand people here, we should have about 50 conservatives. That would be 5%. So please tell me, by show of hands: How would you describe your political orientation? If you had to choose from one of these 4 labels, which would you pick? How many of you would describe yourself as liberal, or left of center. [At this point, a sea of hands went up. I estimated that it was between 80 and 90% of the audience, and I estimated the audience size to be about 1000 people.] How many of you would describe yourself as centrist or moderate? [approximately 20 hands went up]. How many of you would describe yourselves as libertarians? [Twelve hands went up] And when I asked how many would describe themselves as conservative, or right of center? [Exactly three hands went up.]

As you can see, we have nowhere near 50 conservatives in this room, we are nowhere near 5%. The actual number seems to be about 0.3%. In this room, the ratio of liberals to conservatives appears to be about 800 to 3, or 266 to 1. So the speaker in the earlier talk was correct when he said, from this stage: “I’m a good liberal democrat, just like every other social psychologist I know.”

Of course there are many reasons why conservatives would be underrepresented in social psychology, and most of them have nothing to do with discrimination or hostile climate. Research on personality consistently shows that liberals are higher on openness to experience. They’re more interested in novel ideas, and in trying to use science to improve society. So of course our field is and always will be mostly liberal. I don’t think we should ever strive for exact proportional representation.

But a ratio of two or three hundred to one, in a nation where the underlying ratio is one to two? When we find any job in the nation in which women or minorities are underrepresented by a factor of three or four, we make the strong presumption that this constitutes evidence of discrimination. And if we can’t find evidence of overt discrimination, we presume that there must be a hostile climate that discourages underrepresented groups from entering.

I submit to you that the underrepresentation of conservatives in social psychology, by a factor of several hundred, is evidence that we are a tribal moral community that actively discourages conservatives from entering.

3) Closeted Conservatives

And this brings me to my third point, closeted conservatives. I recently came across this narrative, written by a young gay woman in 1985:

Until about a year ago, I was very quiet about my sexual orientation… I often didn’t understand the sexual jokes made by my colleagues… the people making the jokes thought that we all felt the same way, and I certainly wasn’t going to reveal that I disagreed. That would have been much too awkward.

JB was really the first person I talked to about my sexual identity. He made me feel more comfortable and seemed to want to hear other perspectives…. Since then, taking PT’s class opened up a dialog and others have shared more as well. Before I thought that I was completely alone and was afraid to say much because of it. Now I feel both somewhat obligated to speak up (don’t want others to feel as alone as I did) and also know that I have more support than I originally realized.

Compare that text to this political coming out narrative, which was sent to me last week, as I was searching for conservative social psychologists. One of my friends said, in response to my email survey, that he knew of two grad students who might be conservative. I wrote to each of them and asked them about their experiences in social psychology. Both of them said they are not conservative, but neither are they liberal, and because they are not liberal, they feel pressure to keep quiet. One of them wrote this to me. As you can see, it’s nearly identical to the coming out narrative.

In fact, it differs by just five words, because that’s all I had to change to convert this text… into this text, which I told you, falsely, was a coming out narrative from 1985. This is the text of the email that was sent to me last week, by a graduate student who is here in the room with us right now. She and other non-liberal students would like to come out of the closet, just as gay students wanted to 25 years ago. I think we have an obligation to help them.

Of course it’s a moral issue, and the moral argument about political discrimination is being developed by Richard Redding, at Chapman University Law School. But I’m going to set that aside. I’m not even going to make the moral argument. Rather, what I really want to emphasize today is that it is a scientific issue. We are hurting ourselves when we deprive ourselves of critics, of people who are as committed to science as we are, but who ask different questions, and make different background assumptions.

Here’s the email I got from the other non-liberal student:

I consider myself very middle of the road politically: A social liberal but fiscal conservative. Nonetheless, I avoid the topic of politics around work… Given what I’ve read of the literature, I am certain any research I conducted in political psychology would provide contrary findings and, thereby, go unpublished. Although I think I could make a substantial contribution to the knowledge base, and would be excited to do so, I will not.

This too is from a student who is in the room with us right now.

This how we like to see ourselves. We social psychologists are supertolerant free thinkers. We celebrate diversity and non-conformity. We boldly follow our science wherever it takes us, and no matter whom it offends. We care only about truth!

But in reality, we are a tribal moral community. In support of that claim, I made three arguments. I said that, because we have sacred values other than truth, we have taboos that constrain our thinking; we have almost no moral/political diversity; and we have created a hostile climate for graduate students who don’t share those sacred values. If these statements are true, then I think we must begin some serious discussions about how to turn off the magnet.

66 Comments

  1. I make the following bold prediction:

    Any insinuation of factual and/or worthwhile content in this post will be dismissed out of hand by your Leftist adversary. The only unknown is how verbose the dismissal will be.

    Posted February 22, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Permalink
  2. the one eyed man says

    Reading comprehension not your strong point?

    In the previous post, I explicitly said that there is a ‘preponderance of liberalism in academia” (paragraphs one and two), that this is not untoward (paragraph three), and that it is far from hegemonic (also paragraph three). Nor did I write that conservative thought was all hokum: I qualified it by saying that “a lot of it” is. And for every university on the extreme left fringe (e.g., Bowdoin, which is pretty far out there), there are at least as many on the right (e.g., religious schools, military academies, public universities in the South and Midwest, etc.).

    If you want to create straw men, you can probably get a pretty good volume discount at Costco.

    * * * *

    If you don’t think that right wing commentary is mostly hokum, then I would challenge you to produce any piece you want written by Taranto, Williamson, Sowell, Hanson, Krauthammer, Douthat, Ponnuru, Noonan, Will, or the editors of the Wall Street Journal, and I will helpfully point out its fatuities. I will do this provided you will deconstruct an editorial in the Times or a piece by the estimable Jonathan Chait and do the same. Then we can see where hokum resides and where it doesn’t.

    However, not today: I’m off to the golf course, to shoot in the low seventies. (The temperature, not my score. It’s 72 here today).

    * * * *

    I have a lot of familiarity with Harvard. I’ve spent a lot of time there. I have friends who went there, as well as a few clients who have Harvard degrees. I even impersonated a Harvard alumnus to play for their chess team at the Harvard Club on West 44 Street (and brought honor to my adopted alma mater by beating the Yale guy). It is far from the bastion of liberal orthodoxy which you seem to think that it is, and not only because its graduates include people like John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, George Bush, and Ted Cruz. It did not get to be arguably the world’s finest university by encouraging narrow thinking or closed minds.

    Even the censure of Larry Summers – which I think was shameful – was not responsible for his ouster. Apparently Summers was imperious, dismissive, abusive, and generally ran Harvard as his own private kingdom. I guess the faculty members had enough time serving as courtiers in the court of the crimson King.

    Posted February 22, 2014 at 4:10 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Reading comprehension not your strong suit? The data are clear: college professors are overwhelmingly, disproportionately liberal — the occasional Hanson or Bloom notwithstanding. (Given that, it is numerically impossible that “for every Bowdoin there’s a Liberty College”.) And when it comes to the humanities and the social sciences, as Jonathan Haidt demonstrated, the imbalance is almost total.

    As if to prove my point about the reality-denying nature of liberalism, you reject all of this out of hand, and comfort yourself by gabbling that “truth has a liberal bias”. Yet the very essence of the liberal-academic mindset that Haidt exposes, and that Sandra Korn advances in her Crimson editorial, is that the academic Left has “sacred values other than truth”, and when the two collide, truth has to go. (This is precisely the view expressed by my friend, who taught Women’s Studies at Harvard.)

    Are there exceptions? Of course. Steven Pinker, for example, is a staunch defender of academic freedom, and the hard sciences, business schools, and so on, are less under the sway of liberal orthodoxy than the humanities, social-science, cultural anthropology, and journalism departments are (and in particular contrast to the various Black/Queer/Latin/Women’s Grievance Studies areas, which are absolute no-fly zones for anyone to the right of Valerie Solanas). But to pretend that all is fair and balanced in academia — and that where it isn’t, it’s simply because of the irresistible pressure that Truth and Reason naturally exert upon highly intelligent people — is industrial-strength moonbattery, as Jonathan Haidt’s research, as well as study after study of the political views of academics, makes clear.

    I would challenge you to produce any piece you want written by Taranto, Williamson, Sowell, Hanson, Krauthammer, Douthat, Ponnuru, Noonan, Will, or the editors of the Wall Street Journal, and I will helpfully point out its fatuities.

    Sure thing. Here you go.

    Posted February 22, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm,

    There is one thing you must understand about my people, AKA the stiff-necked people: though they are disproportionately adept at math, science, and financial savoir faire, they have a fatal Achilles’ heel — they have no clue which side their bread is buttered on.

    This is why guys like one-eye, who grew up in the great American meritocracy, having had all the wonderful advantages that free-market capitalism allowed him, to prosper and to play golf on a sunny afternoon in the Leftist Bay Area, where other blind followers of the execrable Obama sleep, nightly, in the locked doorways of elegant San Francisco stores, persist in their support of Leftist ideology.

    Both God and his messenger, Moses, understood these flawed people. Yes, they are, by and large, ethical, well meaning, highly intelligent, and skillful suvivors. But they are stupid political creatures. They always think that blind obedience will save their miserable skins.

    Until they are carted off to the gas chambers.

    Posted February 22, 2014 at 6:39 pm | Permalink
  5. Amused says

    Henry, it is precisely because of the gas chambers that it is necessary to desist from rigidly categorizing people. A recurring theme of this blog, Malcolm’s concern that truth be spoken, that we acknowledge the special talents of one group of people over another, the repeated references to the differences between men and women are, for me, worrying. I believe that if you are being honest Malcolm, you would say that men are intellectually superior to women. You often mention the preponderance of men in certain fields and of late, you seem to suggest that, these days, white men are the victims in society.

    Myself, I’m as thick as a plank, but I do have an opinion. By some quirk of nature my children turned out to be fairly clever. My daughter studied Maths at Cambridge, and she assures me that the most outlandish mathematical mind in her cohort belonged to a female. How does that fit with your theory, particularly as it is not uncommon to find a woman right at the very top of the most elite groups.

    Sorry to be anecdotal but it’s the only way I can explain how I react to your views. Pigeonholing people by race or gender, or both, is obnoxious and dangerous. There is real hostility to women entering into certain fields. Women need to be properly represented, they should have access to fields where they are perfectly competent to participate equally and fully. Women should command respect, and be allowed to hold positions of leadership, without men panicking or feeling threatened.

    There are a lot of men who want to turn the clock back, nostalgic for a time when women knew there place. It doesn’t change the fact that men still dominate in the boardrooms and the governments around the world. Slowly, things are changing. That is good.

    Posted February 22, 2014 at 9:41 pm | Permalink
  6. the one eyed man says

    I eagerly went to your link to accept the challenge, only to find that it leads to eulogies for Edward Lorenz and Danny Federici. Somehow I doubt that you are looking for an exegesis of why the screen door slams or the meaning of Mary’s dress waving.

    But hey: if you don’t want to take my challenge, that’s fine. There is nothing shameful about being a pussy. Many fine people are pussies. Alex Rodriguez is a pussy. I’m beginning to think that Bill de Blasio is a pussy, and not just for eating pizza with knife and fork. Chris Christie is a big fat pussy. So there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Really, there isn’t.

    Posted February 22, 2014 at 10:53 pm | Permalink
  7. Malcolm says

    That was a strange thing with that link. It had a linebreak in the tag, and for some reason that was enough to make it link to an old post of my own. Fixed now.

    Posted February 22, 2014 at 11:36 pm | Permalink
  8. Malcolm says

    Amused, I can relate a similar anecdote. I have a daughter myself, of high intelligence. She has always had a keen interest in science, majored in neuropsychology in college, and now is the head of the science department of an International Baccalaureate school in Guangzhou, China.

    That there are, of course, women of exceptional intelligence who are gifted at pretty much anything you might care to name does not say anything about at all about statistical differences between men and women in aggregate. Of course there are exceptional female mathematicians, and I believe very strongly that a just society should place no obstacles in their path. There do seem to be, however, far more males who have the special gifts required to reach the highest strata of mathematical achievement. That this may be due, not to systematic oppression, but instead to actual differences between the sexes as regards the distribution of the innate abilities needed for such rare success is an empirical question, and to rule it out as a live possibility is not only to foreclose on the pursuit of truth, but also to force the conclusion that the lack of females at the highest levels of mathematics can only be due to social “injustice”, for which a society built upon male “oppression” should be held to account. (Doing exactly that has become big business, these days, both in and out of academia.)

    The fact is that men and women, and human populations, simply do differ in nontrivial ways (as has been completely, obviously, and utterly uncontroversial to all people, always and everywhere, until just a few decades ago, here in the liberal West). As for the intellectual “superiority” of males, the issue with regard to mathematics is more likely to be that the distribution of intelligence is different, with the bell-curve being a little flatter in males — which means that there are more males at both the highest and lowest ends of the curve. At IQ 150 and above, males outnumber females by a wide margin. Add to that the ambitious aggressiveness that comes from testosterone, and one would naturally expect to find more males than females in the elite strata of occupations that require exceptionally high IQ and years of sustained, competitive effort.

    But we are talking about statistics here, not individuals, and none of this has any bearing on any man or woman you might happen to meet. To put it another way, seven-foot-tall men are much more common than seven-foot-tall women — but they don’t tower over them!

    As for race, the same thing applies, and I have no interest in claiming “superiority”. As hbd*chick wrote in this excellent post, if you are going to seek the truth, you have to accept it when you find it. As it happens, Ashkenazi Jews and various Asian peoples clobber my own group — Scots — in average intelligence, but that doesn’t make me, or any other person, any more or less intelligent. As you say, it’s dead wrong to “pigeonhole” individual people by race or gender. But it’s wrong in whatever context you do it, which means that it’s just as wrong to make public policy that deals with individuals as members of racial groups. And if the statistical differences are real, then it is not only antiscientific, but downright evil, to blame innocent people for injustices they haven’t committed, and statistical differences that aren’t their fault.

    Posted February 23, 2014 at 12:25 am | Permalink
  9. Amused says

    The problem I have with this Malcolm is that the ‘elite strata’ tend to shape the world for the rest of us, and often to their own advantage. Just because someone is possessed of high intelligence doesn’t mean that person can make the best decisions. Women are particularly under-represented in the political arena for which, judging by the current crop of political fools, high intelligence is a positive disadvantage.

    I take your point about individuals but it does make me smile because it reminds me of my dear old Uncle Sam, a maths teacher, who was a misogynist before it was fashionable. One day when I was probably seven or eight years old, he was proclaiming the superior intellect of the male of the species. I had the temerity to point out that his own daughter was a terrific mathematician and musician. He glared at me for being rude enough to interrupt, before informing me that his own offspring was ‘the exception that proved the rule’. This conversation happened decades ago.

    Posted February 23, 2014 at 12:55 am | Permalink
  10. Malcolm says

    The problem I have with this Malcolm is that the ‘elite strata’ tend to shape the world for the rest of us, and often to their own advantage.

    And what do you propose to do about that? Ambitious people of high talent and high intelligence are going to rise in the world, no matter how you try to arrange things. Even the most ruthlessly egalitarian state, which suppresses all natural inequalities, can only be maintained by an equally ruthless application of power. And who will wield that power? As always, a cadre of the ambitious, talented, and intelligent.

    As Will Durant reminds us: in the end, superior ability has its way.

    Posted February 23, 2014 at 1:18 am | Permalink
  11. Amused says

    I think that you ignored the part about politicians. I accept that mathematicians and scientists will rule in their own sphere, but many of these gifted academics are sadly lacking in social skills. Superior ability will always have its way in those fields of endeavour that rule most people out.

    I would take issue with your suggestion that high intelligence people are going to rise in the world. Some do, of course, but they are outnumbered by ambitious idiots who, through sheer determination or worse, a lack of conscience, trample the opposition.

    The richest, most influential, person that I know, who has gone right to the top, is not particularly clever. He sleeps at night because he lacks the imagination to worry about the consequences of his actions. His children, all equally dim, are ‘going gangbusters’. He makes sure of that. I don’t begrudge his success and I admire his ‘balls’, (his words) but I don’t think that he fits your description of the ambitious person of high intelligence. Nevertheless, his future, and that of his children, is bought and paid for, certain to be golden.

    Posted February 23, 2014 at 2:06 am | Permalink
  12. “Nevertheless, his future, and that of his children, is bought and paid for, certain to be golden.”

    It doesn’t seem fair to me either, that this dimwit was able to acquire the means to assure a golden future for himself and his offspring.

    How do you propose we rectify such unfairness? Shall we pass laws that prevent dimwitted people from acquiring too much wealth? And if we do that, what is to be done about those dimwitted British Royals, one of whom once expressed a desire to be his lover’s tampon?

    Posted February 23, 2014 at 2:21 am | Permalink
  13. Amused says

    I don’t propose to do anything. I only point out that those who achieve power and influence, are the often not most intelligent. Malcolm asserts that power will be wielded by ‘a cadre of the ambitious, talented and intelligent’. That is not what I see.

    As for the British Royals, I have no interest, despite having been born and brought up, in that country. Neither do I have any animosity, and I accept that they are well loved by many. Really, it’s probably a good thing that they are dimwitted. Thus, they act as a figurehead and promote stability, at the same time as accepting that they have no real power. Furthermore, if they ever decided to interfere in the affairs of state in any meaningful way, they would be gone.

    Poor old Charles. Who would be him? Recorded while canoodling with his mistress, making excruciatingly embarrassing, daft statements. Embarrassing, only because a private conversation was revealed to the world. I know that I have said many cringe-worthy things in my life, that don’t matter because nobody cares. Let the Royals enjoy their wealth because it comes at a price.

    Posted February 23, 2014 at 2:44 am | Permalink
  14. Amused,

    You point out things that many people are already aware of. But I fail to see what point you are trying to make in the process of pointing such things out.

    BTW, I have absolutely no animosity towards the Royals either. I was only trying to make the point that central management of what is or isn’t fair requires a topdown power structure that has been tried many times before. Without success.

    Posted February 23, 2014 at 3:05 am | Permalink
  15. Malcolm says

    Amused,

    I think that you ignored the part about politicians. I accept that mathematicians and scientists will rule in their own sphere, but many of these gifted academics are sadly lacking in social skills. Superior ability will always have its way in those fields of endeavour that rule most people out.

    I would take issue with your suggestion that high intelligence people are going to rise in the world. Some do, of course, but they are outnumbered by ambitious idiots who, through sheer determination or worse, a lack of conscience, trample the opposition.

    The richest, most influential, person that I know, who has gone right to the top, is not particularly clever.

    You are quite right: there are occupations in which exceptional intelligence is neither necessary nor sufficient for elite success. (It’s still the case, though, that in almost any field, low intelligence is sufficient to preclude elite success.)

    In mathematics, which is what we were talking about above, exceptional intelligence is an absolute necessity for top-tier achievement.

    Politics is another matter. To rise to the top in politics requires characteristics other than just intelligence. It takes ambition, extraversion, aggression, competitiveness, a knack for deal-making, and a certain sort of cunning. It is also helped along by some darker qualities: ruthlessness, narcissism, and a Machiavellian flair for manipulation. Some of these things can be learned; many are largely innate. Many of these same qualities are also necessary for high achievement in business. (Another quality that is perhaps more important for business than politics — at least in a democracy — is low time preference, which is also largely innate and heritable.)

    The point, then, is that what constitutes “superior ability” varies from field to field . But it still has its way.

    As for monarchs: this is a big and important topic, but beyond the scope of this thread, I think. Given democracy’s fatal weaknesses, many of us in what’s being called “neoreaction” have been giving monarchy a serious second look.

    Posted February 23, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink
  16. Amused says

    So that’s what you are calling yourselves., Malcolm. Very interesting, and thank for a considerate response. The irony of the neoreaction is that it seems to seek to restore the old order which is not in tune with its name.

    There is a fair bit of ruthlessness, aggression, and competitiveness to be seen in the commentary here. Not to mention, a bucket load of contempt meted out to anyone who dares question their views, probably formed over years in academia, framed in articulate language, backed by intellectual references and absolutely closed to argument by lesser mortals.

    Posted February 23, 2014 at 3:18 pm | Permalink
  17. the one eyed man says

    Another day in golf heaven at my home course, which runs along the Pacific Ocean in Half Moon Bay. In a word: fanfuckingtastic. Orca whales frolicked in the background as I missed three easy birdie putts. I can only ascribe this to divine retribution for my sloth and general lack of moral fiber. I noted the Sowell link, which I will refute later, so as not to provide buzzkill to my golf bliss.

    Posted February 23, 2014 at 7:48 pm | Permalink
  18. Malcolm says

    I noted the Sowell link, which I will refute later…

    Yes, that Thomas Sowell’s just a big dope, pretty much. Almost beneath you to bother, I should think.

    Posted February 23, 2014 at 8:36 pm | Permalink
  19. Malcolm says

    Very interesting, and thank for a considerate response.

    Not at all; you’ve been very gracious yourself. It’s a pleasure to have you commenting here, and I hope you will continue to do so.

    The irony of the neoreaction is that it seems to seek to restore the old order which is not in tune with its name.

    Not quite sure what you mean there, but neoreaction is hardly a monolithic intellectual movement. If it has any central principles, it’s a rejection of universalism, and a focus on the inherent defects of democracy.

    There is a fair bit of ruthlessness, aggression, and competitiveness to be seen in the commentary here. Not to mention, a bucket load of contempt meted out to anyone who dares question their views…

    You have cut me to the quick, Amused. We do have some vigorous disagreements in here — what another female commenter likes to call Man Chat — but “ruthless”? “Contempt”? Me?

    I always go out of my way to be civil to all of our commenters. (Yes, the One-Eyed Man and I throw a few elbows now and then, but we’re old friends, and there’s nothing bad-natured about it.)

    I admit that, occasionally, some of our regulars do engage in a little unproductive name-calling, but I always discourage it — and I’ll take this opportunity to remind everyone once again that it doesn’t cost anything to be polite.

    …probably formed over years in academia…

    Not in my case.

    …framed in articulate language, backed by intellectual references…

    I’ll take that as a compliment.

    …and absolutely closed to argument by lesser mortals.

    Heavens, no. All are welcome, and I’m certainly as mortal, and as flawed, as anyone. But I do feel a responsibility to use this forum to push back against destructive ideas, and to affirm what I consider to be important truths; indeed I feel that it’s my duty as a responsible citizen. So yes, I do that as energetically and persuasively as I can, without apology, and will continue to do so.

    But dear me — I do always try to be civil.

    Posted February 23, 2014 at 8:58 pm | Permalink
  20. “But dear me — I do always try to be civil.”

    Yes you do, Malcolm.

    IMHO, however, civility is overrated.

    Posted February 23, 2014 at 9:15 pm | Permalink
  21. the one eyed man says

    Ad hominem is not my thing, so I’ll leave it to others to decide if Sowell is a big dope or not. However, his piece is rife with errors in fact, logic, and history, and can aptly be described as hokum. Among the most egregious errors are these:

    1) Sowell asserts that “there was a time when there was no federal minimum wage law in the United States. The last time was during the Coolidge administration, when the annual unemployment rate got as low as 1.8 percent.” He is wrong on the facts – the federal minimum wage was established by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, five years after FDR took office – and he repeats this error in his penultimate paragraph. More importantly, he is wrong about the conclusion he draws. The unemployment rate in 1938 was 19.0%, which is greater than every year which has followed it. By his logic, the federal minimum wage has been a smashing success, because it has led to lowered unemployment ever since it was first put in place.

    2) Similarly, the peak in the minimum wage in real terms was in 1968, when it was roughly $11 in today’s dollars. The unemployment rate in 1968 was 3.6%, and it has been higher ever since then. Again, using Sowell’s logic, if a high minimum wage was a disincentive to employment, then 1968 would have been a year of record unemployment, and every year which followed would show lower unemployment correlated to the lower minimum wage.

    3) The fatal flaw in Sowell’s argument is that there are many factors governing the employment rate which are far more determinative than the minimum wage. In the years following World War II, high school dropouts could get jobs at the factory and make a decent living. No more. The automation of manufacturing, global competition, the rise of China and other low wage countries, the decline of unions, the ascendance of skilled labor over unskilled labor, and the steady increase in productivity which has reduced the need for labor, are all far more consequential in determining the level of unemployment than where the minimum wage is set. Companies have been forced to learn how to make a lot more stuff with a lot fewer workers, which far overshadows any role the minimum wage may have had in the reduction of the labor force.

    4) Sowell’s assertion “that people tend to buy more when the price is lower and less when the price is higher” pertains to goods, and not to labor. If your burger shop has to increase wages by 10% to meet a higher minimum wage, and every other burger shop in town is faced with the same increase, then the price of burgers will increase, but not the number of workers required to make them (provided that the price does not increase to the level where people give up eating burgers). It is a transference of wealth from burger eaters to fast food workers, but is exogenous to the number of people working in burger shops.

    5) Sowell writes that “a recent issue of ‘The Economist’ showed Switzerland’s unemployment rate as 2.1 percent,” and touts this as evidence that there is a correlation between no minimum wage and low unemployment. Again, he’s wrong on both the facts – I’m looking at this week’s issue of the Economist, which shows the Swiss unemployment rate to be 3.2% – and the conclusion he draws. There is no minimum wage in Sweden (8.6% unemployment rate), Finland (8.4%), or Denmark (5.6%). Sowell cherry picks data by picking the no-minimum-wage country with the lowest unemployment in Europe, ignores the other countries without a minimum wage, and then implies that the outlier case is the norm.

    6) He makes much of the black unemployment rate in isolation from the overall unemployment rate. The more relevant criterion is the ratio of black unemployment to white unemployment, which has been falling steadily from Reagan and Bush I (2.3) to Clinton (2.2) to Bush II (2.1) to Obama (1.9). This argues for the success, not failure, of the minimum wage as applied to blacks.

    * * * *

    Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 will cause jobs whose worth to the employer is less than $10.10 to be eliminated. The CBO gives a two in three probability that the number will be between negligible and one million, so let’s pick the mid-point and say that 500,000 jobs will be lost. The CBO also reports that a minimum wage increase will raise wages directly for sixteen million people and indirectly for another nine million people. Moreover, the cost of providing food stamps and EITC payments will decline commensurately with an increase in the minimum wage, as more workers get priced out of these programs.

    If all you care about is the total number of people working, at whatever meager wages they are able to get, and you don’t care much about how much money low income workers receive, then you might give preference to saving 500,000 (very) low wage jobs over the 25 million people who would benefit from a higher minimum wage, along with the reduction in social welfare spending which results from higher wages. This is the only valid argument against the minimum wage, and Sowell does not make it. However, it seems to me that the trade-off is clear: better to raise wages for 25 million people, as well as reduce government social welfare outlays, than keep 500K marginal jobs.

    Conservatives against the minimum wage won’t accept the trade-off of higher wages for reduced employment, but there are plenty of instances when they are more than happy to accept reduced employment when the trade-off runs counter to policy goals they cherish. Maintaining unemployment insurance for the long term unemployed would save 200K jobs; Republicans voted it down. The sequestration cost 900K jobs, and Republicans insisted on it. Infrastructure spending would reduce unemployment greatly, and it gets voted down in the House every time. So when the trade-off is something conservatives don’t care much about (higher wages for low wage earners), they insist on the primacy of employing as many people as possible. When the trade-off involves policy preferences they care very much about (reducing deficits by curtailing unemployment insurance, budget sequestration, and deferring maintenance on the infrastructure), then the importance of employing as many people as possible dwindles to insignificance.

    * * * *

    Your assignment, should you decide to accept it, is to find the flaws, if any, in the argument for a minimum wage. As always, should you or any of your IM Force be caught or killed, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, Malcolm.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/20/opinion/the-clear-benefits-of-a-higher-wage.html?ref=editorials

    Posted February 23, 2014 at 10:11 pm | Permalink
  22. Malcolm says

    Peter, to your credit, you’ve given it a pretty good whack here. It deserves a thorough response.

    I won’t have any trouble presenting the arguments against a minimum-wage increases, but I am heading into another very busy spell, so I will respond to your criticism of the Sowell piece, and to the Times editorial, in a few days.

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 12:38 am | Permalink
  23. Amused says

    Malcolm, I didn’t mean you, as I’m sure you know. I think you are lovely!

    One eyed-man makes me realise, not only, how really stupid I am but, also, how very idle. I wouldn’t dream of spending so much time refuting some article or other. I have a living to make, a dog to walk, dinner to cook, and not enough time. Ad hominem is the last resort of the desperate, so that is my excuse. What’s yours, Henry?

    One last thing. Who is Sowell?

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 1:13 am | Permalink
  24. Amused says

    Henry, you do sleep. Sweet dreams.

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 1:28 am | Permalink
  25. Malcolm says

    IMHO, however, civility is overrated.

    Your secret is safe with me, Henry.

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink
  26. Malcolm,

    Apropos “overrated”, see today’s Dilbert:

    http://dilbert.com/strips/2014-02-24/

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  27. “Ad hominem is the last resort of the desperate, so that is my excuse. What’s yours, Henry?”

    Here it is:

    I am not inclined
    to taste the whine
    from the narrow of mind
    who would waste my time.

    “One last thing. Who is Sowell?”

    Ever hear of Google?

    “One eyed-man makes me realise, not only, how really stupid I am …”

    You ain’t stupid. You’re just lazy, bro.

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
  28. Amused says

    Oooh Henry, you mean man. Why wouldn’t you just tell me who this Sowell chap is? Anyway, he is obviously a hero of yours, and well respected by Malcolm, oft quoted by right wing boffins, and an all round good egg. Then I find out he is a serial killer! What’s that I hear you say? There’s more than one Sowell of such renown/notoriety that they merit a wikipedia entry.

    Really, I work pretty hard and so when I’m home relaxing I’m not inclined to research some economist’s ramblings, dissect and give an informed opinion. Probably because I have to cook dinner for six, clean up the house and make sure that everyone has clean clothes for the next day.

    Anyway, you haven’t been paying attention. I’m not your bro, I’m your sister. Considering how bone idle I am, it’s amazing how tired I feel much of the time.

    Malcolm, the minimum wage issue is a thorny one. In Australia the minimum wage is very high. (17AU$ per hour and rising, depending on the age of the employee). Coupled with double time at weekends and bank holidays it can be very hard for small businesses to survive. Formerly, a huge advocate for the generous minimum wage, doubts have crept in when faced with the evidence of, apparently, thriving restaurants going down the drain, or staying closed over the weekend. That’s just the sector that is most obvious to a casual observer. That said, I believe that the minimum wage in the US is very low indeed and should be raised.

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 5:51 pm | Permalink
  29. Never heard of Sowell or Google. Are they both right-wingers?

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 6:53 pm | Permalink
  30. Dear Amused,

    I am so sorry, sis, but I never got the memo about your female gender! Nevertheless, you are absolutely right. Had I been paying attention, and had I recalled Jack Nicholson’s quip about writing women well, I would have surmised it.

    Having said that, however, I did better than merely tell you my second-hand description of Thomas Sowell’s renown, I provided direct hyperlinks to his curriculum vitae. I regret my facetiousness about using Google, but I wanted to impress upon you its value as a timesaver, especially for someone who is as busy as you are.

    Yes, Thomas Sowell is one of my heroes, not only because of his high intelligence, ability to reason, and willingness to assume personal accountability, but also because he reads and writes books. Moreover, he is an African American, which gives me some street cred in denying being a racist when Leftists take exception to my criticisms of Obama.

    I don’t recall anyone suggesting that you “research some economist’s ramblings, dissect and give an informed opinion.” That sort of pretentiousness is the purview of this blog’s Leftist gadfly.

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 8:13 pm | Permalink
  31. HJH,

    Google is most definitely not.

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 8:15 pm | Permalink
  32. JK says

    I expect I’m going to fail miserably here – fortunately I’ve grown accustomed to it in these comment threads so here goes anyway.

    At February 23, 2014 at 12:55 am Amused correctly observes, “The problem I have with this Malcolm is that the ‘elite strata’ tend to shape the world for the rest of us, and often to their own advantage.” (& though not purposed to my intended comment Amused shares my woe at February 24, 2014 at 1:13 am, “One eyed-man makes me realise, how really stupid I am …”)

    Fortunately there’s TheBigHenry explaining at February 24, 2014 at 12:58 pm, “You ain’t stupid” to which I’d simply say, “Henry? I sure hate retorting following such an observation as that but me not yet having entered into this fray – I won’t pretend even to myself that I’m about to disabuse you of that notion.”

    So. (Oh & Malcolm you’ll be realizing your duty to translate?) Here goes:

    Yes, “the elite strata [has] shaped the world for the rest of us” – pay close attention beginning here Malcolm, I’m about to attempt wording a pet hypothesis. I don’t know “Me” could work up to a Theory. –

    Society to here, having taken a sort of Geological timeframe to reach this point, “We” realized in “our Generation” there was an unfortunate consequence to our hunter-gatherer upbringing namely that “bigger is better” no longer applied once we got high pressure sodium streetlights beaming into the Goblin predator eyes which once were free to eat us and which, fairly recently recognized we’d be taking their skins to cover up “our naughty bits.”

    But to take the Goblin skins for clothing we required forming Associations.

    Associations worked so well for taking Goblin skins that after awhile, we formed Associations for Girl & Boy Scouts. & it came to pass that boys liked having Associations with The Boy Scouts while at about the same time The Girl Scouts recognized having an Association to sell cookies worked very well. & God declared, “Associations are good.”

    Divine Intervention doing its thing as Divine Intervention has as its habit, several and sundry Associations formed.

    Then, and it was perfectly understandable, somebody from the New York Times purely by moonshine managed to get into the hands of an unredeemed (former Confederate, illiterate of course) typesetter the headline

    Amelia Earhart Declares Wright Brothers Bicycle Enthusiasts

    & God declared, “Uhmmm Associations I’m thinking are problematic.”

    What my “hypothesis” Amused is, is basically this:

    “Groups/We” have a tendency toward Associating & as regrettable as that might be, it’s (in human terms) Geologic.

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 8:20 pm | Permalink
  33. Amused says

    JK, thank you your kindness. Translation is not necessary but you could have been more succinct. You could have said, ‘You stupid woman. Begone. You are no part of this association’. To which I would respond that I do not aspire to the dizzy heights of academia which is just as well, I know. It seems to be a nasty place.

    Henry, having one hero who happens to be an African American is not enough to let you off charges of racism. Not that I’m saying you are a racist. Of course not.

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 9:03 pm | Permalink
  34. JK says

    You’ve misunderstood Amused.

    What I was trying to get at was pretty much “the established Associations.”

    Associations (post hunter-gatherer) being something else entirely.

    “Kindness” … is not a word normally … well, ascribed to me anyway. Actually there are few I give a fuck about. You personally, individually I’ll never know but my “mission” is something else.

    I’m not very good at normal stuff.

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 9:34 pm | Permalink
  35. “Henry, having one hero who happens to be an African American is not enough to let you off charges of racism.”

    Yes, of course not. I may be naive at times, but I hope I am not that naive. That is why I qualified my remark with the word “some”.

    As JFK (whom I also admired, despite his liberal leanings) once responded to a question posed by a woman reporter:

    Q: What have you done for your women’s support base?

    A: I know I have done something, but I am sure it’s not been enough …

    I purposely phrased my remark so as to mimic the well worn and disingenuous, “Some of my best friends are Jewish!” And, BTW, that is also a genuine claim of mine. I am also married to a Catholic woman. And, one of my granddaughters is 1/4 Italian Catholic.

    Nevertheless, I freely admit to one specific bias: in playing duplicate bridge, I lead Ace from Ace+King, unless it is a doubleton.

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 9:54 pm | Permalink
  36. Malcolm says

    There are times that I think this must surely be one of the odder salons in the entirety of the Internet.

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 10:18 pm | Permalink
  37. Amused says

    Henry, I was brought up Catholic, married an Anglican, and have recently learned that I am likely to acquire a Jewish daughter-in-law. There is no room for prejudice around here.

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 10:19 pm | Permalink
  38. Musey (may I call you that?),

    I know (on good authority) that Jewish boys make good husbands, and Jewish girls make great reservations.

    Before you take me to task — I’m keeding!

    :)

    Posted February 24, 2014 at 10:39 pm | Permalink
  39. Musey says

    If not the oddest, Malcolm. But that is what makes it interesting. That, and your learned discourse.

    Henry, you can call me anything you like and I’ll even change my name to suit you. It took me a few seconds to work out what you meant by ‘keeding’. I’m slow but steady, and I get there in the end.

    It’s good to have that info. about Jewish women, but could you fill me in on Chinese women. You see, I have another son!

    Posted February 25, 2014 at 12:03 am | Permalink
  40. No can do, Musey. I have known some Jewish girls/women and some Catholic girls/women, and even some white Anglo-Saxon Protestant ones (we used to call them WASPs). Sad to say, that’s about the extent of my “knowledge”.

    I’m confident they’re all good, though, if you can figure out what they want …

    :)

    Posted February 25, 2014 at 12:56 am | Permalink
  41. BTW, Musey, when I referred to you as “bro”, I was humming this tune:

    “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”

    http://youtu.be/Jl5vi9ir49g

    Posted February 25, 2014 at 1:15 am | Permalink
  42. Musey says

    This going to be brief, because I just wrote a reply that shot into the ether.

    I have a band of brothers right here, three inseparable boys and one girl, loved by all, always included and equally clever. I have changed the nappies of all these actuaries, lawyers and doctors. It does give some perspective.

    BTW Malcolm, regarding women and mathematical ability, my son tells me that nearly fifty percent of those sitting actuarial exams are women. Almost all are Asian.

    Posted February 25, 2014 at 2:03 am | Permalink
  43. “…, are women. Almost all are Asian.”

    It’s the “Asian” not the …, er, never mind.

    (I’m kidding, Musey!)

    :)

    Posted February 25, 2014 at 2:56 am | Permalink
  44. Musey says

    I don’t mind, Henry. If you want to nitpick, go for it. For a moment there, I was almost getting to like you.

    Posted February 25, 2014 at 4:05 am | Permalink
  45. I apologize, Musey. I was probing the limits of your sense of humor. I will back away now.

    Posted February 25, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink
  46. Malcolm says

    BTW Malcolm, regarding women and mathematical ability, my son tells me that nearly fifty percent of those sitting actuarial exams are women. Almost all are Asian.

    Can’t recall any actuaries ever winning the Fields Medal.

    There are certainly plenty of female bookkeepers out there. Actuary work is a level up, and requires good skill with statistics. Not surprised to see a lot of Asians.

    (By the way, I’ve always liked that ‘bookkeeper’ has three sets of double letters in a row!)

    Posted February 25, 2014 at 11:13 am | Permalink
  47. “(By the way, I’ve always liked that ‘bookkeeper’ has three sets of double letters in a row!)”

    In basketball parlance that’s a triple-double.

    Posted February 25, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink
  48. JK says

    TBH?

    You get the Discovery Channel where you live?

    Somebody brought to my attention a show premiers tonight at 10ET. Apparently featuring a feller I’ve known for quite awhile. Goes by the name of “Crowbar” Russell. And he’s a character.

    Clash of the Ozarks.

    Now mind, I’ve read an article from my local paper and since I’m more or less acquainted with everybody mentioned (Hardy is where I do some, er, “specialized bidness” – 18 miles from me as the crow flies) anyway you might want to try and tune in. Even if the plot turns out to be what I expect – pure hokum – I’m reckoning you’ll in the future, find yourself better equipped to if not totally comprehend at least, be able to translate to some variation of English of what in the hell JK is going on about.

    At any rate, some of the purtiest seenerary on planet Earth.

    Posted February 25, 2014 at 7:32 pm | Permalink
  49. JK,

    We have Comcast cable, so I’m pretty sure Discovery Channel is available. I’ll try to check it out, but I hope they have CC for the Ozarks-impaired audience. “Crowbar” Russell sounds like the sort of feller who has more fingers than teeth.

    Care to elaborate on that “specialized bidness” you mentioned? Would that have anything to do with moonshine? And if so, do you deliver across state lines? I’m just askin’ for a friend …

    Posted February 26, 2014 at 11:56 am | Permalink
  50. Musey says

    Malcolm, two of my four children are actuaries, and they are not going to win any medals. I don’t think either of them would claim to be anything special, but I am proud, especially, because I could never do what they do. I’ve read your father’s obituary and he is obviously outstanding, and by definition, most people can’t come close. My youngest son who attended the top medical school in the world, (so I was told last week) according to the latest meaningless rankings, tells me that undergraduate students get assigned to a research project, and there can be a lot of kudos if that particular study results in a publication. If it’s a dud, it’s game over. So it’s pot luck whether or not your name appears in some worthy journal.

    Henry, I am relieved to hear that you have a friend. While I write this, I am listening to ‘Paint the Sky with Stars’. Because I like it.

    Posted February 27, 2014 at 2:57 am | Permalink
  51. Musey says

    You’re all asleep. Goodbye guys.

    Posted February 27, 2014 at 3:51 am | Permalink
  52. JK says

    Care to elaborate on that “specialized bidness” you mentioned? Would that have anything to do with moonshine?

    http://www.areawidenews.com/story/1462169.html

    ‘Bout all I cares to alabrate on TheBigHenry.

    Posted February 27, 2014 at 8:03 am | Permalink
  53. Malcolm says

    Malcolm, two of my four children are actuaries, and they are not going to win any medals.

    Forgive me if my remark sounded harsh. I meant no slur to actuaries, who do important, cerebral work (although their services, it seems, will no longer be required in the U.S. health-“insurance” industry).

    I simply thought that to bring up the existence of female actuaries in a discussion about the representation of women at the elite levels of mathematics rather missed the point (although, as I said, actuarial work is g-loaded enough that the high percentage of Asians is unsurprising).

    Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:31 am | Permalink
  54. Musey,

    I used to have 4 more friends, but 3 of them died from eating poison mushrooms, and the 4th one had his skull bashed in. The latter didn’t like mushrooms.

    Posted February 27, 2014 at 11:10 am | Permalink
  55. Malcolm,

    Is there a positive correlation between the g factor and the g spot, which might account for the high percentage of Asian female actuaries?

    Posted February 27, 2014 at 11:32 am | Permalink
  56. Malcolm says

    Henry, in this case I think we might do well to heed Sandra Korn’s advice: some questions are better left unanswered.

    Posted February 27, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Permalink
  57. I heed that, bro.

    Posted February 27, 2014 at 1:09 pm | Permalink
  58. Musey says

    Lots of questions are better left unanswered but, please, don’t hold back on my account. You should know by now that I am not easily offended.

    Malcolm, how elite do you have to be called elite? I know that in Australia, students generally do actuarial studies, but in the UK more student progress into the profession from a maths degree.

    You sounded disparaging, seeing as you ask. Harshness doesn’t come into it, because you are not in a position to dispense it.

    Posted February 28, 2014 at 3:06 am | Permalink
  59. Musey says

    Henry, my dear chap, you had four friends! I would also choose to eat the mushrooms.

    Posted February 28, 2014 at 3:25 am | Permalink
  60. Malcolm says

    Malcolm, how elite do you have to be called elite?

    By the ‘elite levels of mathematics’ I was referring to people actually conducting research in advanced mathematics, and to theoretical physicists, etc..

    Here’s an example.

    Posted February 28, 2014 at 6:44 pm | Permalink
  61. Musey says

    People conducting research in advanced maths are to be commended, but they don’t have a real impact, unless they discover something earth shattering, and that is a big ask. The rest of us just live our lives, which can be less than intellectually driven, but equally rewarding. I think we should have a medal for being normal.

    I clicked on your link, and saw some guy, doing something that has no relevance, at least not right now. Henry, is that you? That is my first thought. My second, is that it doesn’t matter.

    If this blog is a collaborative effort, you should not be offended by one woman who calls you out, but you should realise that not everybody is completely stupid.

    Posted February 28, 2014 at 10:45 pm | Permalink
  62. Musey says

    Okay, I just had another look. I reckon this guy is you, Henry! My regards. I worked in a renowned research facility for several years, and the man who was in charge was a very humble person who made everybody feel important. Even me. It was just how the place worked at that time. Anyway, times have changed and the prof. has moved on and there is another guy in charge. I remember him. He used to walk the corridors with his hands in his pockets, his eyes raised to the ceiling. I’m sure he still does.

    Anyway, I’m sure the new man has a good line in sarcasm. These days you need it. You would know that.

    Posted March 1, 2014 at 12:00 am | Permalink
  63. Malcolm says

    Amused, you seem to think that my point in mentioning all of this was to establish some superiority of males over females, and of abstruse mathematics over ordinary life, and you seem to have got your nose rather out of joint about all of it. As I said before, I meant no such thing, and I don’t think you’ve understood me properly at all.

    The beginning of this thread was a long time ago now, and we have wandered very far afield — but the point of this and the previous post was something altogether different: that when we refuse on ideological grounds to accept the reality of human differences, as Ms. Sandra Korn proposes, then the only remaining explanation for differences in outcomes, such as the proponderance of males at elite levels of mathematics, is bigotry and oppression. This in turn provides a basis for blaming and vilifying entire classes of people for things that aren’t really their fault at all.

    I think that’s evil, and must be resisted. And the best way to resist it is simply to propagate the truth.

    Posted March 1, 2014 at 12:40 am | Permalink
  64. Musey says

    Malcolm, indeed, things have wandered far afield. My nose is not out of joint, and my belief that you hold certain views about males over females, is not something taken from this one blog entry. I’m quite okay with everything and thrilled to be eavesdropping on the elites.

    I think I understand you well enough, and I would suggest that it is you who has misunderstood me. I have no major concerns over men versus women, the whole gender wars stuff has never been a particular interest of mine. Blaming and vilifying entire classes of people is something that I read about on blogs. It’s not what I see in the workplace, but maybe I’m blind.

    As for truth, I totally agree that it is important. Evil must be resisted but let’s be clear about what evil is, the serious things that are wrong in the world. Oppressed white men are not top of my list.

    If I come over as an aggressive person, then that is down to the limitations of my language skills and the way that strong opinion can be mistaken for rage, especially in email or blog commentary.

    Really, I’m just an easy going person. Totally impressed to discover Henry’s identity, of course! He’s won more medals, and prizes than I’ve had hot dinners. I bow down to him.

    Posted March 1, 2014 at 2:04 am | Permalink
  65. Dear Henry, Alas, I don’t know why I didn’t read more of your blog sooner. Knowing my own limitations here, amongst these very smart men, I tread cautiously at venturing opinions. With that disclaimer in place, you really think Anna Karenina is the best novel??? Alas, who am I to criticize, I’ve always been inordinately fond of A Tale of Two Cities.

    To the topic at hand, human abilities rest on such a complex mix of genetics, hormonal influences of which we are only beginning to understand, and environmental factors that while Malcolm provides ample studies and research to back his position, I still wonder to what extent the hormonal factors affect the aggregate. In the higher level STEM fields, the atmosphere seems highly competitive and male aggressive traits would be beneficial to succeed there. Please don’t pummel me – these are just my nonscientific musings, with nothing to back them and besides that, I might cry…. lol

    Posted March 7, 2014 at 12:39 am | Permalink
  66. Dearest LB,

    I wouldn’t dream of pummeling you! Worst case scenario, I woud look at you sternly.

    Personally, I don’t see the point of debating human abilities. They are what they are.

    Posted March 7, 2014 at 11:15 am | Permalink

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