“Science” vs. Science: The Case of Evolution, Race, and Intelligence

If you were to ask those people who marched for science if they believe in evolution, they would have answered with a resounding “yes”. Ask them if they believe that all branches of the human race evolved identically and you will be met with hostility. The problem, for them, is that an admission of the obvious — differential evolution, resulting in broad racial differences — leads to a fact that they don’t want to admit: there are broad racial differences in intelligence, differences that must have evolutionary origins.

“Science” — the cherished totem of left-wing ideologues — isn’t the same thing as science. The totemized version consists of whatever set of facts and hypotheses suit the left’s agenda. In the case of “climate change”, for example, the observation that in the late 1900s temperatures rose for a period of about 25 years coincident with a reported rise in the level of atmospheric CO2 occasioned the hypothesis that the generation of CO2 by humans causes temperatures to rise. This is a reasonable hypothesis, given the long-understood, positive relationship between temperature and so-called greenhouse gases. But it comes nowhere close to confirming what leftists seem bent on believing and “proving” with hand-tweaked models, which is that if humans continue to emit CO2, and do so at a higher rate than in the past, temperatures will rise to the point that life on Earth will become difficult if not impossible to sustain. There is ample evidence to support the null hypothesis (that “climate change” isn’t catastrophic) and the alternative view (that recent warming is natural and caused mainly by things other than human activity).

Leftists want to believe in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming because it suits the left’s puritanical agenda, as did Paul Ehrlich’s discredited thesis that population growth would outstrip the availability of food and resources, leading to mass starvation and greater poverty. Population control therefore became a leftist mantra, and remains one despite the generally rising prosperity of the human race and the diminution of scarcity (except where leftist governments, like Venezuela’s, create misery).

Why are leftists so eager to believe in problems that portend catastrophic consequences which “must” be averted through draconian measures, such as enforced population control, taxes on soft drinks above a certain size, the prohibition of smoking not only in government buildings but in all buildings, and decreed reductions in CO2-emitting activities (which would, in fact, help to impoverish humans)? The common denominator of such measures is control. And yet, by the process of psychological projection, leftists are always screaming “fascist” at libertarians and conservatives who resist control.

Returning to evolution, why are leftists so eager to eager to embrace it or, rather, what they choose to believe about it? My answers are that (a) it’s “science” (it’s only science when it’s spelled out in detail, uncertainties and all) and (b) it gives leftists (who usually are atheists) a stick with which to beat “creationists”.

But when it comes to race, leftists insist on denying what’s in front of their eyes: evolutionary disparities in such phenomena as skin color, hair texture, facial structure, running and jumping ability, cranial capacity, and intelligence.

Why? Because the urge to control others is of a piece with the superiority with which leftists believe they’re endowed because they are mainly white persons of European descent and above-average intelligence (just smart enough to be dangerous). Blacks and Hispanics who vote left do so mainly for the privileges it brings them. White leftists are their useful idiots.

Leftism, in other words, is a manifestation of “white privilege”, which white leftists feel compelled to overcome through paternalistic condescension toward blacks and other persons of color. (But not East Asians or the South Asians who have emigrated to the U.S., because the high intelligence of those groups is threatening to white leftists’ feelings of superiority.) What could be more condescending, and less scientific, than to deny what evolution has wrought in order to advance a political agenda?

Leftist race-denial, which has found its way into government policy, is akin to Stalin’s support of Lysenkoism, which its author cleverly aligned with Marxism. Lysenkoism

rejected Mendelian inheritance and the concept of the “gene”; it departed from Darwinian evolutionary theory by rejecting natural selection.

This brings me to Stephen Jay Gould, a leading neo-Lysenkoist and a fraudster of “science” who did much to deflect science from the question of race and intelligence:

[In The Mismeasure of Man] Gould took the work of a 19th century physical anthropologist named Samuel George Morton and made it ridiculous. In his telling, Morton was a fool and an unconscious racist — his project of measuring skull sizes of different ethnic groups conceived in racism and executed in same. Why, Morton clearly must have thought Caucasians had bigger brains than Africans, Indians, and Asians, and then subconsciously mismeasured the skulls to prove they were smarter.

The book then casts the entire project of measuring brain function — psychometrics — in the same light of primitivism.

Gould’s antiracist book was a hit with reviewers in the popular press, and many of its ideas about the morality and validity of testing intelligence became conventional wisdom, persisting today among the educated folks. If you’ve got some notion that IQ doesn’t measure anything but the ability to take IQ tests, that intelligence can’t be defined or may not be real at all, that multiple intelligences exist rather than a general intelligence, you can thank Gould….

Then, in 2011, a funny thing happened. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania went and measured old Morton’s skulls, which turned out to be just the size he had recorded. Gould, according to one of the co-authors, was nothing but a “charlatan.”

The study itself couldn’t matter, though, could it? Well, recent work using MRI technology has established that descendants of East Asia have slightly more cranial capacity than descendants of Europe, who in turn have a little more than descendants of Africa. Another meta-analysis finds a mild correlation between brain size and IQ performance.

You see where this is going, especially if you already know about the racial disparities in IQ testing, and you’d probably like to hit the brakes before anybody says… what, exactly? It sounds like we’re perilously close to invoking science to argue for genetic racial superiority.

Am I serious? Is this a joke?…

… The reason the joke feels dangerous is that it incorporates a fact that is rarely mentioned in public life. In America, white people on average score higher than black people on IQ tests, by a margin of 12-15 points. And there’s one man who has been made to pay the price for that fact — the scholar Charles Murray.

Murray didn’t come up with a hypothesis of racial disparity in intelligence testing. He simply co-wrote a book, The Bell Curve, that publicized a fact well known within the field of psychometrics, a fact that makes the rest of us feel tremendously uncomfortable.

Nobody bears more responsibility for the misunderstanding of Murray’s work than Gould, who reviewed The Bell Curve savagely in the New Yorker. The IQ tests couldn’t be explained away — here he is acknowledging the IQ gap in 1995 — but the validity of IQ testing could be challenged. That was no trouble for the old Marxist.

Gould should have known that he was dead wrong about his central claim — that general intelligence, or g, as psychologists call it, was unreal. In fact, “Psychologists generally agree that the greatest success of their field has been in intelligence testing,” biologist Bernard D. Davis wrote in the Public Interest in 1983, in a long excoriation of Gould’s strange ideas.

Psychologists have found that performance on almost any test of cognition will have some correlation to other tests of cognition, even in areas that might seem distant from pure logic, such as recognizing musical notes. The more demanding tests have a higher correlation, or a high g load, as they term it.

IQ is very closely related to this measure, and turns out to be extraordinarily predictive not just for how well one does on tests, but on all sorts of real-life outcomes.

Since the publication of The Bell Curve, the data have demonstrated not just those points, but that intelligence is highly heritable (around 50 to 80 percent, Murray says), and that there’s little that can be done to permanently change the part that’s dependent on the environment….

The liberal explainer website Vox took a swing at Murray earlier this year, publishing a rambling 3,300-word hit job on Murray that made zero references to the scientific literature….

Vox might have gotten the last word, but a new outlet called Quillette published a first-rate rebuttal this week, which sent me down a three-day rabbit hole. I came across some of the most troubling facts I’ve ever encountered — IQ scores by country — and then came across some more reassuring ones from Thomas Sowell, suggesting that environment could be the main or exclusive factor after all.

The classic analogy from the environment-only crowd is of two handfuls of genetically identical seed corn, one planted in Iowa and the other in the Mojave Desert. One group flourishes; the other is stunted. While all of the variation within one group will be due to genetics, its flourishing relative to the other group will be strictly due to environment.

Nobody doubts that the United States is richer soil than Equatorial Guinea, but the analogy doesn’t prove the case. The idea that there exists a mean for human intelligence and that all racial subgroups would share it given identical environments remains a metaphysical proposition. We may want this to be true quite desperately, but it’s not something we know to be true.

For all the lines of attack, all the brutal slander thrown Murray’s way, his real crime is having an opinion on this one key issue that’s open to debate. Is there a genetic influence on the IQ testing gap? Murray has written that it’s “likely” genetics explains “some” of the difference. For this, he’s been crucified….

Murray said [in a recent interview] that the assumption “that everyone is equal above the neck” is written into social policy, employment policy, academic policy and more.

He’s right, of course, especially as ideas like “disparate impact” come to be taken as proof of discrimination. There’s no scientifically valid reason to expect different ethnic groups to have a particular representation in this area or that. That much is utterly clear.

The universities, however, are going to keep hollering about institutional racism. They are not going to accept Murray’s views, no matter what develops. [Jon Cassidy, “Mau Mau Redux: Charles Murray Comes in for Abuse, Again“, The American Spectator, June 9, 2017]

And so it goes in the brave new world of alternative facts, most of which seem to come from the left. But the left, with its penchant for pseudo-intellectualism (“science” vs. science) calls it postmodernism:

Postmodernists … eschew any notion of objectivity, perceiving knowledge as a construct of power differentials rather than anything that could possibly be mutually agreed upon…. [S]cience therefore becomes an instrument of Western oppression; indeed, all discourse is a power struggle between oppressors and oppressed. In this scheme, there is no Western civilization to preserve—as the more powerful force in the world, it automatically takes on the role of oppressor and therefore any form of equity must consequently then involve the overthrow of Western “hegemony.” These folks form the current Far Left, including those who would be described as communists, socialists, anarchists, Antifa, as well as social justice warriors (SJWs). These are all very different groups, but they all share a postmodernist ethos. [Michael Aaron, “Evergreen State and the Battle for Modernity“, Quillette, June 8, 2017]

Other related reading (listed chronologically):

Molly Hensley-Clancy, “Asians With “Very Familiar Profiles”: How Princeton’s Admissions Officers Talk About Race“, BuzzFeed News, May 19, 2017

Warren Meyer, “Princeton Appears To Penalize Minority Candidates for Not Obsessing About Their Race“, Coyote Blog, May 24, 2017

B. Wineguard et al., “Getting Voxed: Charles Murray, Ideology, and the Science of IQ“, Quillette, June 2, 2017

James Thompson, “Genetics of Racial Differences in Intelligence: Updated“, The Unz Review: James Thompson Archive, June 5, 2017

Raymond Wolters, “We Are Living in a New Dark Age“, American Renaissance, June 5, 2017

F. Roger Devlin, “A Tactical Retreat for Race Denial“, American Renaissance, June 9, 2017

Scott Johnson, “Mugging Mr. Murray: Mr. Murray Speaks“, Power Line, June 9, 2017

Related posts:
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications
“Conversing” about Race
Evolution and Race
“Wading” into Race, Culture, and IQ
Round Up the Usual Suspects
Evolution, Culture, and “Diversity”
The Harmful Myth of Inherent Equality
Let’s Have That “Conversation” about Race
Affirmative Action Comes Home to Roost
The IQ of Nations
Race and Social Engineering
Some Notes about Psychology and Intelligence

Let’s Have that “Conversation” about Race

Heather Mac Donald, guest-blogging at The Volokh Conspiracy, gets the ball rolling:

[A]s of July 9, whites were 54 percent of the 440 police shooting victims this year whose race was known, blacks were 28 percent and Hispanics were 18 percent, according to The Washington Post’s ongoing database of fatal police shootings. Those ratios are similar to last year’s tally, in which whites made up 50 percent of the 987 fatal police shootings, and blacks, 26 percent. (The vast majority of those police homicide victims were armed or otherwise threatening the officer.)…

Typically, activists and the media measure police actions against population ratios. Given that blacks are 13 percent of the nation’s population, a 26 to 28 percent black share of police gun fatalities looks disproportionate. But policing should be measured against crime rates, not population percentages, because law enforcement today is data-driven. Officers are deployed to where people are most being victimized, and that is primarily in minority neighborhoods.

In America’s 75 largest counties, comprising most of the nation’s population, blacks constituted 62 percent of all robbery defendants in 2009, 57 percent of all murder defendants, and 45 percent of all assault defendants — but roughly 15 percent of the population in those counties. In New York, where blacks make up 23 percent of the city’s population, blacks commit three-quarters of all shootings and 70 percent of all robberies, according to victims and witnesses. (Whites, by contrast, commit less than 2 percent of all shootings in New York City and 4 percent of all robberies, though they are nearly 34 percent of the population.)

New York City’s crime disparities are repeated in virtually all American metropolises. They will determine where officers are most often called to a drive-by shooting or an armed robbery, and where officers are most likely to face violent and resisting criminals — encounters which can lead to officers’ own use of deadly force.…

In 2015, the police fatally shot 36 unarmed black males, according to The Washington Post’s typology, and 31 unarmed white males. The Post’s classification of victims as “unarmed” is literally accurate but sometimes misleading. The label can fail to convey the charged situation facing the officer who used deadly force.

At least five “unarmed” black victims had tried to grab the officer’s gun, or had been beating the cop with his own equipment. Some were shot from an accidental discharge triggered by their own assault on the officer. One had the officer on the ground and was beating him on the head so violently, breaking bones and causing other injuries, as to risk the officer’s loss of consciousness. And one individual included in the Post’s “unarmed black male victim” category was a bystander unintentionally struck by an officer’s bullet after an illegal-gun trafficker opened fire at the officer and the officer shot back. If a victim was not the intended target of a police shooting, race could have had no possible role in his death.…

[C]ontrary to the Black Lives Matter narrative, there is no government agency more dedicated to the proposition that black lives matter than the police. The data-driven, proactive policing revolution that began in the mid-1990s has saved tens of thousands of black lives that would have otherwise been lost to urban gun violence had crime remained at its early 1990s rate. Unfortunately, those crime gains are now at risk, thanks to the false narrative that police officers are infected with homicidal bias.

(See Mac Donald’s subsequent guest posts, here, here, here, and here.)

Here’s the bottom line of my post, “Crime Revisited“:

[T]he following equation explains the rate of violent and property crimes (VPC) as a function of:

BLK — the number of blacks as a decimal fraction of the population

GRO — the change in the rate of growth of real GDP per capita in the previous year, where the rate is expressed as a decimal fraction

PSQ — the square of the decimal fraction representing the proportion of the population in federal and State prisons

ORA — the number of persons of other races [mainly Hispanics and Asians] as a decimal fraction of the population.

The equation is highly significant (F = 1.44179E-31), as are the intercept and the coefficients (p-values in parentheses):


– 333768 (3.30579E-28)

+ 339535 BLK (1.06615E-29)

– 6133 GRO (0.00065)

-174136761 PSQ (1.00729E-15)

– 27614 ORA (0.0018)….

In sum, blacks are a major cause of violent and property crimes, which are reduced by incarceration.

Propaganda from Black Lives Matter to the contrary notwithstanding, law-abiding blacks — which is the majority of them — would be foolish to yearn for a cop-free world.

*     *     *

Related posts:
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications
“Conversing” about Race
Evolution and Race
“Wading” into Race, Culture, and IQ
Round Up the Usual Suspects
Evolution, Culture, and “Diversity”
The Harmful Myth of Inherent Equality
A Cop-Free World?

Not-So-Random Thoughts (XV)

Links to the other posts in this occasional series may be found at “Favorite Posts,” just below the list of topics.

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Victor Davis Hanson writes:

This descent into the Dark Ages will not end well. It never has in the past. [“Building the New Dark-Age Mind,” Works and Days, June 8, 2015]

Hamson’s chronicle of political correctness and doublespeak echoes one theme of my post, “1963: The Year Zero.”

*     *     *

Timothy Taylor does the two-handed economist act:

It may be that the question of “does inequality slow down economic growth” is too broad and diffuse to be useful. Instead, those of us who care about both the rise in inequality and the slowdown in economic growth should be looking for policies to address both goals, without presuming that substantial overlap will always occur between them. [“Does Inequality Reduce Economic Growth: A Skeptical View,” The Conversible Economist, May 29, 2015]

The short answer to the question “Does inequality reduce growth?” is no. See my post “Income Inequality and Economic Growth.” Further, even if inequality does reduce growth, the idea of reducing inequality (through income redistribution, say) to foster growth is utilitarian and therefore morally egregious. (See “Utilitarianism vs. Liberty.”)

*     *     *

In “Diminishing Marginal Utility and the Redistributive Urge” I write:

[L]eftists who deign to offer an economic justification for redistribution usually fall back on the assumption of the diminishing marginal utility (DMU) of income and wealth. In doing so, they commit (at least) four errors.

The first error is the fallacy of misplaced concreteness which is found in the notion of utility. Have you ever been able to measure your own state of happiness? I mean measure it, not just say that you’re feeling happier today than you were when your pet dog died. It’s an impossible task, isn’t it? If you can’t measure your own happiness, how can you (or anyone) presume to measure and aggregate the happiness of millions or billions of individual human beings? It can’t be done.

Which brings me to the second error, which is an error of arrogance. Given the impossibility of measuring one person’s happiness, and the consequent impossibility of measuring and comparing the happiness of many persons, it is pure arrogance to insist that “society” would be better off if X amount of income or wealth were transferred from Group A to Group B….

The third error lies in the implicit assumption embedded in the idea of DMU. The assumption is that as one’s income or wealth rises one continues to consume the same goods and services, but more of them….

All of that notwithstanding, the committed believer in DMU will shrug and say that at some point DMU must set in. Which leads me to the fourth error, which is an error of introspection….  [If over the years] your real income has risen by a factor of two or three or more — and if you haven’t messed up your personal life (which is another matter) — you’re probably incalculably happier than when you were just able to pay your bills. And you’re especially happy if you put aside a good chunk of money for your retirement, the anticipation and enjoyment of which adds a degree of utility (such a prosaic word) that was probably beyond imagining when you were in your twenties, thirties, and forties.

Robert Murphy agrees:

[T]he problem comes in when people sometimes try to use the concept of DMU to justify government income redistribution. Specifically, the argument is that (say) the billionth dollar to Bill Gates has hardly any marginal utility, while the 10th dollar to a homeless man carries enormous marginal utility. So clearly–the argument goes–taking a dollar from Bill Gates and giving it to a homeless man raises “total social utility.”

There are several serious problems with this type of claim. Most obvious, even if we thought it made sense to attribute units of utility to individuals, there is no reason to suppose we could compare them across individuals. For example, even if we thought a rich man had units of utility–akin to the units of his body temperature–and that the units declined with more money, and likewise for a poor person, nonetheless we have no way of placing the two types of units on the same scale….

In any event, this is all a moot point regarding the original question of interpersonal utility comparisons. Even if we thought individuals had cardinal utilities, it wouldn’t follow that redistribution would raise total social utility.

Even if we retreat to the everyday usage of terms, it still doesn’t follow as a general rule that rich people get less happiness from a marginal dollar than a poor person. There are many people, especially in the financial sector, whose self-esteem is directly tied to their earnings. And as the photo indicates, Scrooge McDuck really seems to enjoy money. Taking gold coins from Scrooge and giving them to a poor monk would not necessarily increase happiness, even in the everyday psychological sense. [“Can We Compare People’s Utilities?,” Mises Canada, May 22, 2015]

See also David Henderson’s “Murphy on Interpersonal Utility Comparisons” (EconLog, May 22, 2015) and Henderson’s earlier posts on the subject, to which he links. Finally, see my comment on an earlier post by Henderson, in which he touches on the related issue of cost-benefit analysis.

*     *     *

Here’s a slice of what Robert Tracinski has to say about “reform conservatism”:

The key premise of this non-reforming “reform conservatism” is the idea that it’s impossible to really touch the welfare state. We might be able to alter its incentives and improve its clanking machinery, but only if we loudly assure everyone that we love it and want to keep it forever.

And there’s the problem. Not only is this defeatist at its core, abandoning the cause of small government at the outset, but it fails to address the most important problem facing the country.

“Reform conservatism” is an answer to the question: how can we promote the goal of freedom and small government—without posing any outright challenge to the welfare state? The answer: you can’t. All you can do is tinker around the edges of Leviathan. And ultimately, it won’t make much difference, because it will all be overwelmed in the coming disaster. [“Reform Conservatism Is an Answer to the Wrong Question,” The Federalist, May 22, 2015]

Further, as I observe in “How to Eradicate the Welfare State, and How Not to Do It,” the offerings of “reform conservatives”

may seem like reasonable compromises with the left’s radical positions. But they are reasonable compromises only if you believe that the left wouldn’t strive vigorously to undo them and continue the nation’s march toward full-blown state socialism. That’s the way leftists work. They take what they’re given and then come back for more, lying and worse all the way.

See also Arnold Kling’s “Reason Roundtable on Reform Conservatism” (askblog, May 22, 2015) and follow the links therein.

*     *     *

I’ll end this installment with a look at science and the anti-scientific belief in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.

Here’s Philip Ball in “The Trouble With Scientists“:

It’s likely that some researchers are consciously cherry-picking data to get their work published. And some of the problems surely lie with journal publication policies. But the problems of false findings often begin with researchers unwittingly fooling themselves: they fall prey to cognitive biases, common modes of thinking that lure us toward wrong but convenient or attractive conclusions. “Seeing the reproducibility rates in psychology and other empirical science, we can safely say that something is not working out the way it should,” says Susann Fiedler, a behavioral economist at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn, Germany. “Cognitive biases might be one reason for that.”

Psychologist Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia says that the most common and problematic bias in science is “motivated reasoning”: We interpret observations to fit a particular idea. Psychologists have shown that “most of our reasoning is in fact rationalization,” he says. In other words, we have already made the decision about what to do or to think, and our “explanation” of our reasoning is really a justification for doing what we wanted to do—or to believe—anyway. Science is of course meant to be more objective and skeptical than everyday thought—but how much is it, really?

Whereas the falsification model of the scientific method championed by philosopher Karl Popper posits that the scientist looks for ways to test and falsify her theories—to ask “How am I wrong?”—Nosek says that scientists usually ask instead “How am I right?” (or equally, to ask “How are you wrong?”). When facts come up that suggest we might, in fact, not be right after all, we are inclined to dismiss them as irrelevant, if not indeed mistaken….

Given that science has uncovered a dizzying variety of cognitive biases, the relative neglect of their consequences within science itself is peculiar. “I was aware of biases in humans at large,” says [Chris] Hartgerink [of Tilburg University in the Netherlands], “but when I first ‘learned’ that they also apply to scientists, I was somewhat amazed, even though it is so obvious.”…

One of the reasons the science literature gets skewed is that journals are much more likely to publish positive than negative results: It’s easier to say something is true than to say it’s wrong. Journal referees might be inclined to reject negative results as too boring, and researchers currently get little credit or status, from funders or departments, from such findings. “If you do 20 experiments, one of them is likely to have a publishable result,” [Ivan] Oransky and [Adam] Marcus [who run the service Retraction Watch] write. “But only publishing that result doesn’t make your findings valid. In fact it’s quite the opposite.”9 [Nautilus, May 14, 2015]

Zoom to AGW. Robert Tracinski assesses the most recent bit of confirmation bias:

A lot of us having been pointing out one of the big problems with the global warming theory: a long plateau in global temperatures since about 1998. Most significantly, this leveling off was not predicted by the theory, and observed temperatures have been below the lowest end of the range predicted by all of the computerized climate models….

Why, change the data, of course!

Hence a blockbuster new report: a new analysis of temperature data since 1998 “adjusts” the numbers and magically finds that there was no plateau after all. The warming just continued….

How convenient.

It’s so convenient that they’re signaling for everyone else to get on board….

This is going to be the new party line. “Hiatus”? What hiatus? Who are you going to believe, our adjustments or your lying thermometers?…

The new adjustments are suspiciously convenient, of course. Anyone who is touting a theory that isn’t being borne out by the evidence and suddenly tells you he’s analyzed the data and by golly, what do you know, suddenly it does support his theory—well, he should be met with more than a little skepticism.

If we look, we find some big problems. The most important data adjustments by far are in ocean temperature measurements. But anyone who has been following this debate will notice something about the time period for which the adjustments were made. This is a time in which the measurement of ocean temperatures has vastly improved in coverage and accuracy as a whole new set of scientific buoys has come online. So why would this data need such drastic “correcting”?

As climatologist Judith Curry puts it:

The greatest changes in the new NOAA surface temperature analysis is to the ocean temperatures since 1998. This seems rather ironic, since this is the period where there is the greatest coverage of data with the highest quality of measurements–ARGO buoys and satellites don’t show a warming trend. Nevertheless, the NOAA team finds a substantial increase in the ocean surface temperature anomaly trend since 1998.


I realize the warmists are desperate, but they might not have thought through the overall effect of this new “adjustment” push. We’ve been told to take very, very seriously the objective data showing global warming is real and is happening—and then they announce that the data has been totally changed post hoc. This is meant to shore up the theory, but it actually calls the data into question….

All of this fits into a wider pattern: the global warming theory has been awful at making predictions about the data ahead of time. But it has been great at going backward, retroactively reinterpreting the data and retrofitting the theory to mesh with it. A line I saw from one commenter, I can’t remember where, has been rattling around in my head: “once again, the theory that predicts nothing explains everything.” [“Global Warming: The Theory That Predicts Nothing and Explains Everything,” The Federalist, June 8, 2015]

Howard Hyde also weighs in with “Climate Change: Where Is the Science?” (American Thinker, June 11, 2015).

Bill Nye, the so-called Science Guy, seems to epitomize the influence of ideology on “scientific knowledge.”  I defer to John Derbyshire:

Bill Nye the Science Guy gave a commencement speech at Rutgers on Sunday. Reading the speech left me thinking that if this is America’s designated Science Guy, I can be the nation’s designated swimsuit model….

What did the Science Guy have to say to the Rutgers graduates? Well, he warned them of the horrors of climate change, which he linked to global inequality.

We’re going to find a means to enable poor people to advance in their societies in countries around the world. Otherwise, the imbalance of wealth will lead to conflict and inefficiency in energy production, which will lead to more carbon pollution and a no-way-out overheated globe.

Uh, given that advanced countries use far more energy per capita than backward ones—the U.S.A. figure is thirty-four times Bangladesh’s—wouldn’t a better strategy be to keep poor countries poor? We could, for example, encourage all their smartest and most entrepreneurial people to emigrate to the First World … Oh, wait: we already do that.

The whole climate change business is now a zone of hysteria, generating far more noise—mostly of a shrieking kind—than its importance justifies. Opinions about climate change are, as Greg Cochran said, “a mark of tribal membership.” It is also the case, as Greg also said, that “the world is never going to do much about in any event, regardless of the facts.”…

When Ma Nature means business, stuff happens on a stupendously colossal scale.  And Bill Nye the Science Guy wants Rutgers graduates to worry about a 0.4ºC warming over thirty years? Feugh.

The Science Guy then passed on from the dubiously alarmist to the batshit barmy.

There really is no such thing as race. We are one species … We all come from Africa.

Where does one start with that? Perhaps by asserting that: “There is no such thing as states. We are one country.”

The climatological equivalent of saying there is no such thing as race would be saying that there is no such thing as weather. Of course there is such a thing as race. We can perceive race with at least three of our five senses, and read it off from the genome. We tick boxes for it on government forms: I ticked such a box for the ATF just this morning when buying a gun.

This is the Science Guy? The foundational text of modern biology bears the title On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. Is biology not a science?

Darwin said that populations of a species long separated from each other will diverge in their biological characteristics, forming races. If the separation goes on long enough, any surviving races will diverge all the way to separate species. Was Ol’ Chuck wrong about that, Mr. Science Guy?

“We are one species”? Rottweilers and toy poodles are races within one species, a species much newer than ours; yet they differ mightily, not only in appearance but also—gasp!—in behavior, intelligence, and personality. [“Nye Lied, I Sighed,” Taki’s Magazine, May 21, 2015]

This has gone on long enough. Instead of quoting myself, I merely refer you to several related posts:

Demystifying Science
AGW: The Death Knell
Evolution and Race
The Limits of Science (II)
The Pretence of Knowledge
“The Science Is Settled”
The Limits of Science, Illustrated by Scientists
Rationalism, Empiricism, and Scientific Knowledge
AGW in Austin?


Evolution and Race

UPDATED 11/24/13 AND 02/11/14

Have you read about Skull 5, a 1.8-million-year-old fossil? Well, it has been in the news lately. Here’s some of the coverage:

Scientists trying to unravel the origins of humanity mostly study scraps — some ancient teeth here, a damaged bone there. But now a lucky research team has uncovered a fossil superstar: the first complete skull of an early human adult from the distant past.

The 1.8-million-year-old fossil, known as Skull 5, is like nothing seen before. It has a small brain case and a heavy, jutting jaw, as did some of humanity’s older, more apelike ancestors. But other bones linked to Skull 5 show its owner had relatively short arms and long legs, as does our own species, Homo sapiens. Those who’ve studied Skull 5 say it also provides support for the provocative idea that, 1.8 million years ago, only one kind of early human held sway, rather than the throng of different species listed in today’s textbooks….

Paleoanthropologist Susan Antón of New York University, while praising the new analysis, says the Dmanisi team didn’t compare fossil features, such as the anatomy around the front teeth, that differ most starkly between two different species of early humans. So the Dmanisi team’s hypothesis that there was only one lineage is not totally convincing, she says… (Traci Watson, “Skull Discovery Sheds Light on Human Species,” USA Today, October 17, 2013)

Here’s more:

In the eastern European nation of Georgia, a group of researchers has excavated a 1.8 million-year-old skull of an ancient human relative, whose only name right now is Skull 5. They report their findings in the journal Science, and say it belongs to our genus, called Homo.

“This is most complete early Homo skull ever found in the world,” said lead study author David Lordkipanidze, researcher at the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi….

The variation in physical features among the Dmanisi hominid specimens is comparable to the degree of diversity found in humans today, suggesting that they all belong to one species, Lordkipanidze said….

Now it gets more controversial: Lordkipanidze and colleagues also propose that these individuals are members of a single evolving Homo erectus species, examples of which have been found in Africa and Asia. The similarities between the new skull from Georgia and Homo erectus remains from Java, Indonesia, for example, may mean there was genetic “continuity across large geographic distances,” the study said.

What’s more, the researchers suggest that the fossil record of what have been considered different Homo species from this time period — such as Homo ergaster, Homo rudolfensis and Homo habilis — could actually be variations on a single species, Homo erectus. That defies the current understanding of how early human relatives should be classified….

The Dmanisi fossils are a great find, say anthropology researchers not involved with the excavation. But they’re not sold on the idea that this is the same Homo erectus from both Africa and Asia — or that individual Homo species from this time period are really all one species.

“The specimen is wonderful and an important contribution to the hominin record in a temporal period where there are woefully too few fossils,” said Lee Berger, paleoanthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, in an e-mail.

But the suggestion that these fossils prove an evolving lineage of Homo erectus in Asia and Africa, Berger said, is “taking the available evidence too far.”

…He criticized the authors of the new study for not comparing the fossils at Dmanisi to A. sediba or to more recent fossils found in East Africa…. (Elizabeth Landau, “Skull Sparks Human Evolution Controversy,” CNN, October 19, 2013)

I will go further and say this: Even if 1.8 million years ago there was a single species from which today’s human beings are descended, today’s human beings don’t necessarily belong to a single species or sub-species.

In fact, some reputable scientists have advanced a theory that is consistent with racial divergence:

Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending begin The 10,000 Year Explosion [link added] with a remark from the paleontologist Stephen J. Gould, who said that “there’s been no biological change in humans for 40,000 or 50,000 years.” They also cite the evolutionist Ernst Mayr, who agrees that “man’s evolution towards manness suddenly came to a halt” in the same epoch. Such claims capture the consensus in anthropology, too, which dates the emergence of “behaviorally modern humans” — beings who acted much more like us than like their predecessors — to about 45,000 years ago.

But is the timeline right? Did human evolution really stop? If not, our sense of who we are — and how we got this way — may be radically altered. Messrs. Cochran and Harpending, both scientists themselves, dismiss the standard view. Far from ending, they say, evolution has accelerated since humans left Africa 40,000 years ago and headed for Europe and Asia.

Evolution proceeds by changing the frequency of genetic variants, known as “alleles.” In the case of natural selection, alleles that enable their bearers to leave behind more offspring will become more common in the next generation. Messrs. Cochran and Harpending claim that the rate of change in the human genome has been increasing in recent millennia, to the point of turmoil. Literally hundreds or thousands of alleles, they say, are under selection, meaning that our social and physical environments are favoring them over other — usually older — alleles. These “new” variants are sweeping the globe and becoming more common.

But genomes don’t just speed up their evolution willy-nilly. So what happened, the authors ask, to keep human evolution going in the “recent” past? Two crucial events, they contend, had to do with food production. As humans learned the techniques of agriculture, they abandoned their diffuse hunter-gatherer ways and established cities and governments. The resulting population density made humans ripe for infectious diseases like smallpox and malaria. Alleles that helped protect against disease proved useful and won out.

The domestication of cattle for milk production also led to genetic change. Among people of northern European descent, lactose intolerance — the inability to digest milk in adulthood — is unusual today. But it was universal before a genetic mutation arose about 8,000 years ago that made lactose tolerance continue beyond childhood. Since you can get milk over and over from a cow, but can get meat from it only once, you can harvest a lot more calories over time for the same effort if you are lactose tolerant. Humans who had this attribute would have displaced those who didn’t, all else being equal. (If your opponent has guns and you don’t, drinking milk won’t save you.)

To make their case for evolution having continued longer than is usually claimed, Messrs. Cochran and Harpending remind us that dramatic changes in human culture appeared about 40,000 years ago, resulting in painting, sculpture, and better tools and weapons. A sudden change in the human genome, they suggest, made for more creative, inventive brains. But how could such a change come about? The authors propose that the humans of 40,000 years ago occasionally mated with Neanderthals living in Europe, before the Neanderthals became extinct. The result was an “introgression” of Neanderthal alleles into the human lineage. Some of those alleles may have improved brain function enough to give their bearers an advantage in the struggle for survival, thus becoming common.

In their final chapter, Messrs. Cochran and Harpending venture into recorded history by observing two interesting facts about Ashkenazi Jews (those who lived in Europe after leaving the Middle East): They are disproportionately found among intellectual high-achievers — Nobel Prize winners, world chess champions, people who score well on IQ tests — and they are victims of rare genetic diseases, like Gaucher’s and Tay-Sachs. The authors hypothesize that these two facts are connected by natural selection.

Just as sickle-cell anemia results from having two copies of an allele that protects you against malaria if you have just one, perhaps each Ashkenazi disease occurs when you have two copies of an allele that brings about something useful when you have just one. That useful thing, according to Messrs. Cochran and Harpending, is higher cognitive ability. They argue that the rare diseases are unfortunate side-effects of natural selection for intelligence, which Messrs. Cochran and Harpending think happened during the Middle Ages in Europe, when Jews rarely intermarried with other Europeans. (Christopher F. Chabris, “Last-Minute Changes,” The Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2009)

It is said that, despite the differences across races, all humans beings have in common 96 percent of their genes. Well, if I told you that humans and chimpanzees have about the same percentage of their genes in common, would you consider chimpanzees to be nothing more than superficially different human beings who belong to the same sub-species? Just remember this: The “species problem” remains unsolved.

So what if human beings belong to a variety of different sub-species? A candid scientific admission of that fact would put an end to the nonsense the “we’re all the same under the skin.” We”re not, and it’s long past time to own up to it, and to quit using the power of the state to strive for a kind of equality that is unattainable.

UPDATE (11/24/13):

And there are some who prefer to be sub-human.

UPDATE (02/11/14):

Although there are out-and-out disbelievers and cautious skeptics, some recent research in a field known as epigenetics suggests that behavioral conditioning can yield heritable traits. If true, it means that evolution is shaped by cultural influences, thus reinforcing positive traits (e.g., hard work and law-abidingness) among those people who possess and inculcate such traits, while also reinforcing negative traits (e.g., violence, shiftlessness) among those people who possess inculcate such traits.

*     *     *

Related reading:
Gregory Gorelik and Todd D. Shackleford, “A Review of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution,” Evolutionary Psychology, 2010. 8(1): 113-118
Carl Zimmer, “Christening the Earliest Members of Our Genus,” The New York Times, October 24, 2013

Related posts:
Race and Reason: The Derbyshire Debacle
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications

IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition

This is a wandering post, in which I use a recent controversy about IQ to make some observations about political correctness, which leads to a tale of leftist subversion and America’s descent into statism.

Since my last post about IQ, more than a year ago, the biggest kerfuffle on the IQ front arose when Jason Richwine was chased from his job at Heritage Foundation. The proximate cause of Richwine’s departure from Heritage was the usual kind of witch hunt that accompanies the discovery of anything coming from a conservative source that might offend political correctness. Richwine was “guilty” of having penned a dissertation that contains unremarkable statements about ethnic differences in average IQ, including the IQ difference between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites.

These are excerpts of John Derbyshire’s narration of l’affaire Richwine as it unfolded:

… Following the release of a report by the Heritage Foundation arguing that the Rubio-Schumer immigration bill will cost the nation $6.3 trillion, the Slave Power set their dwarf miners to digging.

They soon found gold. One of the co-authors of the study is twentysomething Jason Richwine, a Heritage analyst. Not just an analyst, but a quantitative analyst: “Heritage’s senior policy analyst in empirical studies.” …

After a few days’ digging the Nibelungs turned up Richwine’s Ph.D. thesis from Harvard University, title: “IQ and Immigration Policy.” The mother lode! (You can download it from here.)

The Washington Post ran a gleeful story on the find under the headline “Heritage study co-author opposed letting in immigrants with low IQs.” [By Dylan Matthews, May 8, 2013]. They note that:

Richwine’s dissertation asserts that there are deep-set differentials in intelligence between races.

Eek! A witch! …

Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, on secondment from Conservatism, Inc. to offer some pretense of “balance” at the Post, hastened to join the lynch mob. “It undermines the cause of all immigration opponents to have their prized work authored by such a character,” she wrote, reading Richwine out of respectable society….

She then brings in Jennifer S. Korn for a quote. Ms. Korn was Secretary for Hispandering in the George W. Bush White House….

What does Ms. Korn have to tell us?

Richwine’s comments are bigoted and ignorant. America is a nation of immigrants; to impugn the intelligence of immigrants is to offend each and every American and the foundation of our country….

Even if you take Ms. Korn’s usage of “impugn” to mean Richwine has stated that immigrants have lower mean IQ than natives, she is wrong. Table 2.2 in the thesis (p. 30) gives an average estimated mean IQ of 105.5 for immigrants from Northeast Asia….

And so another “anti-racist” witch hunt commences….

The forces of orthodoxy have identified a heretic. They’re marching on his hut with pitchforks and flaming brands. The cry echoes around the internet: “Burn the witch!” … (“‘Burn the Witch’: Heritage Foundation Scuttles Away from Jason Richwine–and the Cold, Hard Facts,” VDare.com, May 9, 2013)

The impetus for politically correct witch-hunting comes from the left, of course. This is unsurprising because leftists, on average, are dumber than conservatives and libertarians. (See this and this, for example.) Which would explain their haste to take offense when the subject of IQ is raised.

But facts are facts, and Richwine summarizes them neatly in a recent (post-Heritage) essay; for example:

The American Psychological Association (APA) tried to set the record straight in 1996 with a report written by a committee of experts. Among the specific conclusions drawn by the APA were that IQ tests reliably measure a real human trait, that ethnic differences in average IQ exist, that good tests of IQ are not culturally biased against minority groups, and that IQ is a product of both genetic inheritance and early childhood environment. Another report signed by 52 experts, entitled “Mainstream Science on Intelligence,” stated similar facts and was printed in the Wall Street Journal. (“Why Can’t We Talk about IQ?,” Politico, August 9, 2013)

Richwine continues:

[W]hen Larry Summers, then the president of Harvard University, speculated in 2005 that women might be naturally less gifted in math and science, the intense backlash contributed to his ouster.Two years later, when famed scientist James Watson noted the low average IQ scores of sub-Saharan Africans, he was forced to resign from his lab, taking his Nobel Prize with him.

When a Harvard law student was discovered in 2010 to have suggested in a private email that the black-white IQ gap might have a genetic component, the dean publicly condemned her amid a campus-wide outcry. Only profuse apologies seem to have saved her career.

In none of these cases did an appeal to science tamp down the controversy or help to prevent future ones. My own time in the media crosshairs would be no different.

So what did I write that created such a fuss? In brief, my dissertation shows that recent immigrants score lower than U.S.-born whites on a variety of cognitive tests. Using statistical analysis, it suggests that the test-score differential is due primarily to a real cognitive deficit rather than to culture or language bias. It analyzes how that deficit could affect socioeconomic assimilation, and concludes by exploring how IQ selection might be incorporated, as one factor among many, into immigration policy.

Because a large number of recent immigrants are from Latin America, I reviewed the literature showing that Hispanic IQ scores fall between white and black scores in the United States. This fact isn’t controversial among experts, but citing it seems to have fueled much of the media backlash.

Derbyshire follows up:

Jason, who can hardly be more than thirty, has not yet grasped an important thing about humanity at large: that most of our thinking is magical, superstitious, religious, social, and egotistical. Very little of it is empirical. I myself am as stone-cold an empiricist as you’ll meet in a month of Sundays; yet every day when I walk my dog there is a certain tree I have to pat as we pass it. (It’s on the wrong side of the road. The family joke is that I shall one day be hit by a truck while crossing the road to pat my lucky tree.)

Hence Jason’s puzzlement that 25 years after Snyderman and Rothman, 19 years after The Bell Curve and the follow-up “Mainstream Science on Intelligence” declaration, the public discourse even in quality outlets is dominated by innumerate journo-school graduates parroting half-remembered half-truths from Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man, the greatest work of Cultural Marxist propaganda yet produced.

That’s how we are. That’s the shape of human nature. Alan Cromer explained it in his 1993 book Uncommon Sense: The Heretical Nature of Science. Not many people can think empirically much of the time. At the aggregate level, where the lowest common denominator takes over and social acceptance is at the front of everyone’s mind, empiricism doesn’t stand a chance unless it delivers some useful technology.

Nor is it quite the case that “emotion trumps reason.” What mostly trumps reason is the yearning for respectability, leading us to conform to ambient dogmas—in the present-day West, the dogmas of Cultural Marxism, which waft around us like a noxious vapor….

This is how we are: jumbles of superstition, emotion, self-deception, and social conformism, with reason and science trotting along behind trying to keep up.

Science insists that there is an external world beyond our emotions and wish-fulfillment fantasies. It claims that we can find out true facts about that world, including facts with no immediate technological application. The human sciences insist even more audaciously that we ourselves are part of that world and can be described as dispassionately as stars, rocks, and microbes. Perhaps one day it will be socially acceptable to believe this. (“Why We Can’t Talk about IQ,” Taki’s Magazine, August 15, 2013)

Much has been made of the “bland” 1950s and the supposed pressure to conform to the Ozzie and Harriett way of life. Though i was never clear about the preferred alternative. On the evidence of the past 50 years, it seems to have been a potent mix of blue language, promiscuous sex, sodomy, broken families, drugs, violence, and ear-blasting “music.”

The true forces of conformity had begun their work many years before Ricky Nelson was a gleam in his father’s eye. There was, of course, the Progressive Era of the late 1800s and early 1900s, from which America was beginning to recover by the late 1920s.. But then came the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the establishment in America of a fifth column dedicated to the suppression of liberty:

As recounted in [KGB: The Inside Story by KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky and Cambridge intelligence expert Christopher Andrew]  … Harry Hopkins — FDR’s confidant, advisor, and policy czar, who actually resided in the White House during World War II — was the Big Enchilada among American agents of influence working for the USSR. Gordievsky recounts attending a lecture early in his career by Iskhak Akhmerov, the KGB’s top “illegal” spy in the U.S. during the 1940s (In espionage parlance, “illegals” do not have legal cover if caught). According to Gordievsky, Akhmerov spoke for a long period about Hopkins, calling him the top Soviet asset in the US. Yet, Gordievsky and Andrew tiptoe around this allegation by representing that Hopkins was a naïve devotee who only courted Stalin to ensure victory over Hitler’s Germany.

Although I know Andrew well, and have met Gordievsky twice, I now doubt their characterization of Hopkins…. It does not ring true that Hopkins was an innocent dupe dedicated solely to defeating the Nazis. Hopkins comes over in history as crafty, secretive and no one’s fool, hardly the personality traits of a naïve fellow traveler. And his fingerprints are on the large majority of pro-Soviet policies implemented by the Roosevelt administration. [Diana] West [author of American Betrayal: Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character] deserves respect for cutting through the dross that obscures the evidence about Hopkins, and for screaming from the rooftops that the U.S. was the victim of a successful Soviet intelligence operation….

West mines Venona, the testimony of “Red spy queen” Elizabeth Bentley — who confessed her work for the communist underground to the FBI in 1945 — and the book Blacklisted by History by M. Stanton Evans, a re-examination of the McCarthy era using Venona and hundreds of other recently declassified documents from the FBI, CIA, and other agencies. And West lambastes the Truman administration for not revealing data from Venona that would have exonerated McCarthy and informed the nation that Soviet agents had indeed infiltrated key departments of the FDR administration….

The Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, Laurence Duggan, and 397 more American agents have been confirmed and verified as Soviet agents. West claims Harry Hopkins has been outed too in Venona, but Radosh and other scholars say this identification is bogus. But the Soviets also ran important agents of influence with great attention to the security of their identities. In essence, whether or not Hopkins is ever identified in Venona, he remains, as the cops say, a person of interest. (Bernie Reeves, “Reds under the Beds: Diana West Can’t Sleep,” American Thinker, August 10, 2013)

Influence flows downhill. What happened in Washington was repeated in many a city and State because the New Deal had made leftism respectable. By the end of World War II, which made nationalization the norm, the “mainstream” had shifted far to the left of where it had flowed before the Great Depression.

Influence also flows laterally. The growing respectability of leftism emboldened and empowered those institutions that naturally lean left: the media, academia, and the arts and letters. And so they went forth into the wilderness, amplifying the gospel according to Marx.

The most insidious influence has been the indoctrination of students — from pre-Kindergarten to graduate school — in the language and ideals of leftism: world government (i.e., anit-Americanism); redistributionism (as long as it hits only the “rich,” of course); favoritism for “minorities” (i.e., everyone but straight, white males); cultural diversity (any kind of crap in the arts, music, and literature, as long as it wasn’t produced by dead, white mailes); moral relativism (e.g., anti-feminism is bad, unless it’s practiced by Muslims). All of that, and much more, is the stuff of political correctness, which is an especially corrosive manifestation of social conformism, as Jason Richwine learned the hard way.

And then came the “pod people.” These are the masses of “ordinary people” who may have been deaf or impervious to indoctrination by teachers and professors, but who in vast numbers were (and continue to be) seduced by into collaboration with the left by years and decades of post-educational exposure to leftist cant. Seduced by slanted opinionators — usually disguised as reporters. Seduced by novelists, screenwriters, playwrights, and other denizens of the world of arts and letters. Seduced by politicians (even “conservative” ones) trading “free lunches” and “local jobs” for votes.

It is more than a small wonder that there is such a sizable remnant of true conservatives and non-leftish libertarians (unlike this leftish one). But we are vastly outnumbered by staunch leftists, wishy-washy “moderates,” and “conservatives” whose first instinct is to defend sacred cows (Social Security and Medicare, for example) instead of defending liberty.

I will have more to say, in future posts, about the subversion of “Old America.” For now, I end with this observation from an earlier post:
If America was ever close to being a nation united and free, it has drifted far from that condition — arguably, almost as far as it  had by 1861. And America’s condition will only worsen unless leaders emerge who will set the nation (or a large, independent portion of it) back on course. Barring the emergence of such leaders, America will continue to slide into baseness, divisiveness, and servitude.

*     *     *

Related posts:
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy
Affirmative Action, One More Time
A Contrarian View of Segregation
After the Bell Curve
A Footnote . . .
Schelling and Segregation
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy, Revisited
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
Is There Such a Thing as Society
Intellectuals and Capitalism
A New, New Constitution
Secession Redux
A New Cold War or Secession?
The Real Constitution and Civil Disobedience
A Declaration of Independence
First Principles
The Shape of Things to Come
The Near-Victory of Communism
The Constitution: Original Meaning, Corruption, and Restoration
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness
The Left’s Agenda
The Left and Its Delusions
Intelligence as a Dirty Word
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Are You in the Bubble?
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather
Reclaiming Liberty throughout the Land
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Abortion, “Gay Rights,” and Liberty
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap–Causes and Implications
Dan Quayle Was (Almost) Right
Tolerance on the Left
The Eclipse of “Old America”
Genetic Kinship and Society
Government in Macroeconomic Perspective
Keynesianism: Upside-Down Economics in the Collectivist Cause
Secession for All Seasons
Liberty and Society
Liberty as a Social Construct: Moral Relativism?
A Contrarian View of Universal Suffrage
Well-Founded Pessimism
America: Past, Present, and Future
Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians
“Conversing” about Race
The Fallacy of Human Progress
Political Correctness vs. Civility

“Conversing” about Race


The “conversation” about race so devoutly wished by Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and their ilk (of all colors) doesn’t seem to be on the track that they have in mind. That track, as some have noted, is for Obama, Holder, et al. to tell us white folks how to think about black folks, and thenceforth to think and act accordingly.

It seems that it has become acceptable for commentators outside what are known as “racialist” circles to acknowledge openly certain facts of life that are strongly tied to race. Thus, on July 20, we have Ron Unz declaring that

if we examine the official FBI arrest statistics, we find that these seem to support the most straightforward interpretation of our racial crime correlations.  For example, blacks in America were over six times as likely to be arrested for homicide in 2011 as non-blacks and over eight times as likely to be arrested for robbery; the factors for previous years were usually in a similar range.  The accuracy of this racial pattern of arrests is generally confirmed by the corresponding racial pattern of victim-identification statements, also aggregated by the FBI.

This declaration of facts is especially noteworthy, coming from Unz, who is a firm disbeliever in the proposition that intelligence has a strong genetic component. (I have addressed Unz’s treatise at length — and negatively — in this post.)

Then, along came Victor Davis Hanson on July 25, writing at National Review Online — the organ whose editor had fired John Derbyshire for his infelicitous comments about race (in another venue). Among other tidbits about young black males and crime, Hanson offered this:

I suspect — and statistics would again support such supposition — that [Attorney General Eric ]Holder privately is more worried that his son is in greater danger of being attacked by other black youths than by either the police or a nation of white-Hispanic George Zimmermans on the loose.

Will Hanson go the way of Derbyshire and be fired by NRO? It seems unlikely. Hanson is far more temperate than Derbyshire, as Derbyshire gladly demonstrates in his commentary on Hanson’s column; for example:

The race issue in America is a tadpole, with black/nonblack the mighty head and everything else an inconsequential tail.

In per capita intensity of feeling, black hatred of nonblacks is about an 8 out of 10, nonblack dislike of blacks about a 3 or 4, and any other antagonism you care to name—Hispanic hostility to East Asians, Hmong feelings about Native Americans, whatever—well down below 1.

And in the sheer amount of sturm und drang generated, the conflict is, as I keep telling you, really just between two big blocs of white people who loathe each other, the liberal bloc recruiting nonwhites as not-much-trusted support troops—a Cold Civil War.  As Prof. Hanson said, the liberal bloc personally avoids the great mass of blacks as much as they can—except when a latrine trench needs digging.

That’s more like it. And there’s a lot more where that came from. (UPDATE: Derbyshire’s followup, in which he tackles Hanson’s distortions of his views, is here.)

Well, I can be as inflammatory as Mr. Derbyshire, and so I will quote a recent bit of advice about how to be stupid:

… Intelligence is largely potential and theoretical, but stupidity is practical….

The key ingredient in applied stupidity is lack of effort….

Teachers often blame poor educational performance on the home lives of their students, insisting that lack of parental involvement deprives the children of motivation, and keeps good study habits from taking root….

Stupid behavior correlates fairly well with childish behavior, because let’s face it, kids do a lot of silly things.  This is to be expected – they’re children, after all.  They have limited experience, they have trouble staying focused, and they can’t control their impulses.  An adult who displays these traits on a constant basis will reliably behave stupidly.  Acting in a mature manner – seeking information, staying focused, delaying immediate gratification, and remaining patient – is therefore a good strategy for avoiding stupidity.  Courteous behavior, the hallmark of adult communication, is a combination of these behaviors.  The acolyte of stupidity should therefore be short-tempered, rude, impatient, and hostile at all times.

Anyone can make mistakes, but consistency is the difference between error and folly.  Smart people make mistakes and learn from them.  Stupid people make the same mistakes over and over again.  That’s not necessarily because they can’t learn from their mistakes.  Sometimes they refuse to learn…..

Apathy is another sinkhole for energy.  Apathetic people don’t care, so they don’t try.  The result is functionally equivalent to stupidity.  A mind pumped full of despair, and convinced the world is hopelessly stacked against it, loses the enthusiasm necessary to process information and make good decisions.

The inability to express yourself clearly may lead others to conclude you are stupid.  This could be viewed as yet another manifestation of apathy and carelessness.  The basic rules of grammar and syntax are durable, fairly straightforward, and taught repeatedly to children during every year of their primary education.  Someone who doesn’t make the effort to express themselves using those basic rules of clear speech, knowing that listeners expect them to be followed, is either being lazy or arrogant, which for the purposes of stupidity engineering have similar practical results….

Most people have the neural capacity to conduct themselves in a reasonably intelligent and expressive manner, so if you want to be stupid, the key technique is to avoid putting any effort into thinking.  Tell yourself that you shouldn’t have to try hard, or that the rest of the world should accommodate your indolence.  Insist that it’s unfair to expect patience or diligence from you. Share your raw emotional reactions with the world around you, in the most crudely impassioned manner possible…. Rely on aggression instead of co-operation, demands instead of persuasion, and nihilism over optimism.  Focus on what you deserve, not what you have earned.  Accept responsibility for nothing, because that’s the first step in learning from your mistakes, and you can’t afford a single step in that direction, if you wish to remain stupid.

There’s plenty of such stupidity to go around, but too much of it seems to find its way into black communities. Thomas Sowell would say that this is mainly due to what he calls “black redneck” culture — a position that I have addressed by saying:

If “black redneck” culture is the cause of the inter-racial gap in IQ, and if blacks choose to perpetuate the “black redneck” culture, then the perpetuation of the IQ gap might as well be genetic. For, it will be the result of blacks’ self-imposed servitude to the forces of ignorance.

That is the kind of “conversation” about race which Obama, Holder, and their ilk ought to initiate. Bill Cosby tried, and for his pains has been vilified, and his message has been ignored by spineless, race-baiting politicians — black and “liberal” white, alike.

UPDATE — Related reading: Bill Vallicella, “Cleveland Heights Coventry Art Fair Canceled Again,” Maverick Philosopher, August 4, 2013

Related posts:
Putting Hate Crimes in Perspective
The Cost of Affirmative Action
The Face of America
Race and Acceptance
Affirmative Action: A Modest Proposal
Race, Intelligence, and Affirmative Action
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy
Affirmative Action, One More Time
A Contrarian View of Segregation
Much Food for Thought
A Law Professor to Admire
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
After the Bell Curve
A Footnote . . .
Schelling and Segregation
A Black Bigot Speaks
More Anti-Black Bigotry from the Left
Societal Suicide
A “Taste” for Segregation
Black Terrorists and “White Flight”
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy, Revisited

It’s the Little Things That Count
A Footnote to a Footnote
Let Me Be Perfectly Clear…
Racism among the Deracinated
Crime, Explained
Lock ‘Em Up
Conspicuous Consumption and Race
I Want My Country Back
A Declaration and Defense of My Prejudices about Governance (item 3)
Legislating Morality
Legislating Morality (II)
Obama’s Latest Act of Racism
Free Will, Crime, and Punishment
Race and Reason: The Derbyshire Debacle
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Not-So-Random Thoughts (III) (second item)
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications
The Hidden Tragedy of the Assassination of Lincoln
Left-Libertarians, Obama, and the Zimmerman Case

Left-Libertarians, Obama, and the Zimmerman Case

I’ll begin with some samples of loony left-libertarianism (to which I will not link lest I inflame a loon). This one, for example, is simply loaded with misstatements of fact and interpretation, all of which I’ve bolded:

I am appalled to see that some of my fellow Libertarians are supporting accused murderer George Zimmerman, in the wake of the end of his trial for the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin.

As Libertarians we should be advancing the cause of civil rights and standing up against the racists in this country. The last thing we should do is echo the Republicans who are praising Zimmerman.

Facebook and Twitter continue to urge citizens to stand up for Trayvon Martin through protest: Sunday marks the National Blackout Day in angry response to Zimmerman’s freedom, according to Policymic.

Here are some of the demonstrations taking place around the country today, in opposition to the court ruling that freed Zimerman – and made it legal to sta[l]k and accost unarmed teens and shoot them to death[.]

Zimmerman isn’t a racist. Some Republicans may be pleased by the outcome of the trial because Zimmerman was unjustly prosecuted, but they aren’t “praising” Zimmerman for having shot Martin. And just how does acquittal for an obvious act of self-defense make it “legal to stalk and accost unarmed teens and shoot them to death”?

Another left-libertarian is coherent, up to a point, but then:

The fact is far too many black men fail in our country, being raised in dysfunction households, attending dysfunctional schools, and living in dysfunctional communities. Prior to the expansion of the welfare state during the 1960s, blacks had about the same unemployment rate and about the same level of family instability as whites. They just earned less. But, even with regard to earnings, blacks – with hardly any outside help – moved from 30 percent of white earnings at the time of emancipation to 85 percent by the 1960s. Since then, there has been no further progress in narrowing the income gap, and the black family and community, the inner city public schools and the inner city economy have all fallen apart.

What does any of that have to do with the essential facts of the case, which are that Trayvon Martin attacked George Zimmerman, who justifiably felt that his life was in danger?  The foregoing sociological recitation may (may, I say) have something to do with Martin’s actions, but it doesn’t contain a glimmer of an excuse for those actions.

The painful fact is that the rampant dysfunctionality among young black men, in black households, and in black communities is the predictable product of black genes, black culture, and government meddling. (For much more, go here, and scroll down to “Affirmative Action, Race, and Immigration.” See also Maverick Philosopher‘s “The Importance of Self-Control,” and item 3 at “A Declaration and Defense of My Prejudices about Governance.”)

Then there is Will Wilkinson, whose penchant for wrong-headedness I have often addressed (e.g., here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). In a post at The Economist (“Getting Away With It“), Wilkinson writes:

Now, I don’t know it, but I seriously doubt Mr Zimmerman needed to shoot Mr Martin, even if Mr Martin did attack him. And I seriously doubt Mr Martin would have been shot if he hadn’t been a black kid. In my heart of hearts, I too think Mr Zimmerman did something terribly wrong, and that this misdeed reflects a number of things that are terribly wrong in our culture.

The only supportable statement in that passage is Wilkinson’s admission that he doesn’t know that Zimmerman didn’t need to shoot Martin. The rest is knee-jerk. leftist. second-guessing. When Zimmerman’s head was being pounded on concrete and his face was being pummeled, do you suppose that he had a good reason to believe that Martin would relent before his (Zimmerman’s) jaw or skull had been fractured or he had suffered a debilitating concussion, if not worse?

Given the circumstances, the only reason that Martin wouldn’t have been shot if he hadn’t been black (“kid” is a bit of misdirection) is that if he had been white it is less likely that Zimmerman would have been suspicious of his behavior. Therefore, if Martin had been white, Zimmerman would less likely have followed him and been confronted by him. But Martin’s blackness — coupled with his age, dress, and demeanor — would matter to a bona-fide member of a neighborhood watch patrol, as Zimmerman was, and one with no discernible animus toward blacks. Zimmerman was doing his job, and for his pains was attacked by a violent, drug-ingesting punk who — unsurprisingly — was a young, black male.

Last — and least, in merit — is today’s performance by Barack Obama, wherein he plays not just one race card but a whole deck of them; for example:

There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store.  That includes me.  There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars.  That happens to me — at least before I was a senator.  There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.  That happens often.

Well, it’s no wonder, is it? Who’s to blame (if blame is the right word), whites who don’t want to be victims or the dysfunctional, government-abetted, culture of violence that pervades black communities?

Obama almost acknowledges the fact of pervasive violence:

Now, this isn’t to say that the African American community is naïve about the fact that African American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system; that they’re disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence.  It’s not to make excuses for that fact — although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context.  They understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.

But guess where the blame for that violence lands? On long-dead Southern bigots, of course. It’s as if the white-on-black violence of 50 to 250 years ago was somehow imprinted indelibly on blacks. Come again? Why is it that black-on-white violence — now far more common that its opposite — hasn’t caused whites to become more violent?

I am just plain sick and tired of leftists (“libertarian” and otherwise) and black race-baiters (Obama, Holder, Jackson, Sharpton, etc.) who cannot and will not honestly face up to the dysfunctionality of black culture and the role of government in compounding that dysfunctionality. A pox on all of you.

The only (potentially) good news to come out of Obama’s performance is the hint that Gauleiter Holder will not instigate a federal civil-rights charge against Zimmerman:

I know that Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I think it’s important for people to have some clear expectations here.  Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government, the criminal code.  And law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels.

But I’m not holding my breath waiting for Obama and his minions to do the right thing.

Related page: My Moral Profile (See especially the final section, “Implicit Racial Preferences,” to know that I write about blacks without bias or animus toward them.)

Related reading: Heather Mac Donald, “Obama Strikes Out,” City Journal, July 22, 2013

Related posts:
Putting Hate Crimes in Perspective
The Cost of Affirmative Action
The Face of America
Race and Acceptance
Affirmative Action: A Modest Proposal
Race, Intelligence, and Affirmative Action
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy
Affirmative Action, One More Time
A Contrarian View of Segregation
Much Food for Thought
A Law Professor to Admire
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
After the Bell Curve
A Footnote . . .
Schelling and Segregation
A Black Bigot Speaks
More Anti-Black Bigotry from the Left
Societal Suicide
A “Taste” for Segregation
Black Terrorists and “White Flight”
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy, Revisited

It’s the Little Things That Count
A Footnote to a Footnote
Let Me Be Perfectly Clear…
Racism among the Deracinated
Crime, Explained
Lock ‘Em Up
Conspicuous Consumption and Race
I Want My Country Back
A Declaration and Defense of My Prejudices about Governance (item 3)
Legislating Morality
Legislating Morality (II)
Free Will, Crime, and Punishment
Race and Reason: The Derbyshire Debacle
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Not-So-Random Thoughts (III) (second item)
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications
The Hidden Tragedy of the Assassination of Lincoln

Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications

This is the third (and probably last) post in a series. The first two posts are “Race and Reason: The Derbyshire Debacle” and “Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action.” The purpose of the series, as suggested by the titles of the posts, is to inject reason (and facts) into the discussion of race. It has been done before, of course, but it cannot hurt to add another voice to the chorus of race-realism.

Yes, I am a race-realist. I believe (based on fact) that the socioeconomic divide between blacks and other racial-ethnic groups in America is primarily a product of genetic and cultural differences that work to the general disadvantage of blacks.

I know that some readers will quickly reject what I have to say, and a lot of them will do so as soon as they reach the end of the preceding paragraph. Why? Because the facts that I present will not comport with their view of the way the world ought to be. What is the “ought to be”? Briefly, it is an imaginary world in which all races are equal in ability, and in which cultural differences hove no bearing on economic achievement. If that is your view of the world, and if you are unwilling to consider a different, fact-based view, you may stop reading now and return to the land of unreality. Before you do that, however, I want you to be aware of one important thing: My own racial views are neutral; that is, I am unprejudiced toward blacks as blacks, though I am greatly opposed to pro-black policies (as opposed to race-neutral ones), which have been harmful to black Americans as well as their countrymen. For evidence of my race-neutrality, see the note at the bottom of this post.

Then there are those readers who might agree with the facts that I present here, but who prefer to ignore them because they might “feed racism” and be used as an excuse to treat blacks as second-class citizens. Racists need no help from me or anyone else who presents the facts about the causes of the socioeconomic divide in America. Racists are immune to facts and see the world as they think it ought to be, which is free of blacks or with blacks shunted to second-class citizenship. The socioeconomic gap between blacks and other Americans cannot be shrunk by ignoring the reasons for the gap. The gap can be shrunk (though never closed) only by understanding its real causes and adopting policies that address those causes.

A note about usage: It is my practice in this blog to put “liberal” (and its variants) in quotation marks when referring to modern liberalism, which is quite a different thing than classical liberalism. The difference, of course, is that modern liberals espouse statism. In particular, they believe that what is adjudged “good” by academic-political elites should be imposed on everyone by the state. And liberty — despite its etymological relationship to the word liberal — be damned. Thus the sarcastic quotation marks, or sneer quotes. In any event, I have, in this post, omitted the quotation marks for the sake of typographical neatness. Rest assured, however, that where I use “liberal” and its variants in this post I am referring to statists and statism.

Continued below the fold. (more…)

Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action

Race and Reason: The Derbyshire Debacle” was this blog’s first serious venture into the sociology and politics of race in America. This second venture addresses the ways in which the state usurps the liberty and property of white Americans for the benefit of black ones.

It all adds up to gross injustice: placing the blame on the blameless. As I say in “Luck-Egalitarianism and Moral Luck“:

  • There is a “right” set of life outcomes …, which luck-egalitarians are qualified to choose and evaluate because of their [self-assessed] superior moral character.
  • Therefore, it is wrong if some persons are worse off than others in terms of the “right” set of outcomes….
  • Those who are better off (by the selective standards of the luck-egalitarian) owe aid to those who are worse off, even if those who are better off did nothing that made others worse off. The better-off simply do not deserve all that they have because, surely, they must owe much of it to luck.

Thus blameless Americans have been burdened with equal employment opportunity (EEO), about which more below; minority lending preferences, which contributed to the Great Recession by encouraging mortgage loans to low-income borrowers; public-accommodations laws, a.k.a. theft of property rights and denial of freedom of association; the expansion of the welfare state, which led to welfare dependency, broken families, and crime; and the prosecution and persecution of politically incorrect views as “hate crimes” and “inappropriate” expressions of thought.

Of those burdens, I am most familiar with EEO (a.k.a. affirmative action) because I had to contend with its enforcement and consequences in my job as the chief financial and administrative officer of a private, federally funded, research organization. What EEO (affirmative action) means in practice is this: If a member of a “protected” (i.e., favored) identity-group seems to have something like the minimum qualifications for a job, and if that person’s work record and interviews aren’t off-putting, the identity-group person is likely to be hired or promoted ahead of equally or better-qualified whites. Why?

  • Pressure from government EEO offices, which focus on percentages of identity groups hired and promoted, not on the qualifications of applicants for hiring and promotion.
  • The ability of those EEO offices to put government agencies and private employers through the pain and expense of extensive audits, backed by the threat of adverse reports to higher ups (in the case of government agencies) and fines and the loss of contracts (in the case of private employers).
  • The ever-present threat of complaints to the EEOC (or its local counterpart) by rejected identity-group candidates for hiring and promotion. Those complaints can then be followed by costly litigation, settlements, and court judgments.
  • Boards of directors and senior managers who (a) fear the adverse publicity that can accompany employment-related litigation and (b) push for special treatment of identity groups because they think it’s “the right thing to do.”
  • Managers down the line who practice reverse discrimination against better-qualified but “unprotected” identity groups, to keep EEO offices and upper management happy.

(UPDATE 08/14/12: See Roger Clegg’s “Big Business Weighs In, Unconvincingly, in Fisher v. Texas” for more in the vein of the last two points.)

Blacks constitute the identity group most likely to seek “protection” under the rubric of  EEO.  On balance, the (effectively) forced hiring of under-qualified blacks causes significant economic damage — as well as resentment of and condescension toward blacks as “affirmative action hires.”

Universities long ago began to use the term “diversity” in place of “affirmative action.” This euphemistic shift was meant to reduce resentment and condescension toward under-qualified blacks who were (and are) admitted in place of better-qualified whites, and to deflect legal challenges of reverse discrimination by disguising it as an element of a policy of “mixing” for the betterment of social solidarity — or some such bullshit. Many businesses — especially large corporations — have adopted “diversity” as a corporate “value” because doing so reflects the “social responsibility” of boards and top executives.

Reverse discrimination in favor of blacks has victimized millions of Americans, in at least three ways:

  • The aforementioned combination of resentment and condescension has undoubtedly impeded the advance of racial harmony.
  • Many whites have suffered the loss of opportunities and income in the workplace — opportunities and income that would have been theirs if blacks were held to the same standards as whites with respect to hiring and promotion.
  • Many blacks have suffered, in the not-so-long run, because reverse discrimination has set them up for failure.

Victim 1: Social Comity

Reverse discrimination may have fostered harmony — in isolated instances. But, on balance, the country (as represented by the racial composition of public schools) has become more polarized along racial lines than it was in the 1960s and 1970s. Some critics of this phenomenon — which is called resegregation — blame court rulings that have undone much of the forced mixing that ensued from Brown v. Board of Education. But those rulings have only enabled many whites to avoid the mixing that they did not want in the first place. Further, resegregation owes much to “white flight” from old cities to suburbs and then to exurbs. Crime and culture are real and valid reasons for an aversion to mixing — reasons that cosseted politicians, academicians, and corporate executives cannot bring themselves to recognize or avow. America will never be a land of sweet racial harmony — nor will any other country — but more whites would willingly accept blacks as neighbors and classmates, were it not for the resentment and condescension caused by affirmative action.

Victim 2: Low-Income Whites

It is hard to come by good estimates of the cost to whites of pro-black discrimination in the workplace. The best one that I have found is here, where the author says this:

In 1997, because of affirmative action, about $192 billion in income [2.3 percent of GDP] was transferred from whites to preferred minorities. If we perform precisely the same calculation for blacks and Hispanics, we can break down the $192 billion into the amounts gained by each group. We find that $144.3 billion [1.7 percent of GDP] was transferred to blacks and $47.5 billion to Hispanics. Dividing these gains by the respective numbers of black and Hispanic workers, we can compute their average annual income enhancement. In 1997, on average a black was subsidized to the tune of about $9,400; a Hispanic gained an average of about $3,900. The cost of these subsidies was spread over 98,782,000 white workers who suffered an average loss of about $1,900 to pay the bill.

The cascade effect. The net displacement of whites by minorities is not uniformly spread across the quintiles. When high-earning whites are displaced down the employment ladder, they displace other whites downward by exerting pressure on the rung below. The effect is like a cascade. At the bottom there is no rung left. Low IQ whites, who in an affirmative action-free marketplace would be competitive in the $10,000 to $20,000 bracket, now pile up in the lowest-income quintile. Although affirmative action affects every white, the largest number affected are the least intelligent and competitive….

In sum, low-income whites — who are thought to be strongly anti-black, as a group — have a valid economic reason for their resentment of blacks. Although blacks, on the whole, are not to blame for affirmative action, they are its beneficiaries and they vote in disproportionate numbers for politicians who favor affirmative action and the other programs that are listed in the third paragraph of this post. The attachment of blacks to the tit of the state has not escaped the attention of whites, and a large fraction of them — the political left-academic complex aside — see that attachment as a moral failing.

Victim 3: Aspiring Blacks

Now to the issue of pro-black discrimination in the academy, which is the crux of Fisher v. University of Texas, a case that will be heard later this year by the U.S. Supreme Court. There is much to say about the harm done to whites and Asians in the name of “diversity,” but it has been said often and sometimes to good effect (e.g., Gratz v. Bollinger). The damage done to blacks has received far less attention, and Rick Sander, the main expositor of that harm, is one of a small number of academicians who has had the courage to call attention to it.

I first wrote about Sander seven years ago:

[N]ow comes Richard Sander…. a professor of law at UCLA who has published “A Systematic Analysis of Affirmative Action in American Law Schools[.]” [Samder] is without a doubt a liberal of the modern persuasion and a proponent of diversity. He is nevertheless critical of affirmative action as it is practiced at law schools. Here’s the gist of his analysis, as reported at FindLaw:

The Heavy Weight Placed on Race in Admissions in Virtually All Schools – the Cascade Effect
Professor Sander lays the foundation for his critique by describing the kind of race-based affirmative action that law schools use today. Under the Bakke and Grutter Supreme Court precedents, public (as well as private) law schools are prohibited from making use of quotas, two-track admissions schemes, or fixed points added to the numerical indices of minorities….

Professor Sander argues that, in fact, the Michigan law school program, despite its seeming flexibility and inscrutability, employs race in just as ambitious (critics would say aggressive) a way as did the Michigan undergraduate plan [which the U.S. Supreme Court found unconstitutional in Gratz]….

Moreover, and more important, Sander argues, the way race is used at the Michigan law school is the same way race is used in many if not most law school affirmative action programs. Indeed, Sander says that he has “been unable to find a single law school in the United States whose admissions operate the way Justice O’Connor describes in Grutter” – that is, where race is used as a flexible plus factor that does not effectively dominate over all other diversity criteria. The system of aggressive racial preferences is not, Sander says, confined to the “elite” law schools. Rather, “it is a characteristic of legal education as a whole.”

According to Sander, law school affirmative action across law schools is characterized by a “cascade” effect. As the elite schools “snap up” the blacks who otherwise would have been admitted to and have attended the next tier of schools, that next tier of schools snaps up the blacks who would have otherwise attended the tier below. And so forth.

The Mismatch Effect

This systematic cascade phenomenon is important, because when race is being used so weightily in schools all the way down the ladder, the result is that the African Americans who are admitted to each school under an affirmative action program are significantly less numerically qualified than are their white competitor students at that school, who were admitted outside the affirmative action plan. Sander calls this phenomenon the “mismatch” effect – black beneficiaries of affirmative action are “mismatched” at schools whose non-affirmative action students possess better credentials and skills.

Because of the pronounced mismatch effect that extends down the law school hierarchy, blacks tend to suffer poor grades in law school. According to the data Sander adduces, the median black law student’s GPA at the end of the first year of law school places him at the 7th or 8th percentile of his class. Put another way, more than 50% of black law students are in the bottom one-tenth of their law school class (in terms of grades) at the end of the first year.

The Long-Term Costs of the Mismatch Effect – Bar Passage and Job Placement

This poor academic performance in law school, in turn, creates two distinct costs for African Americans. First, Sander argues, the poor grades lead to a very poor bar passage rate. As he points out, “only 45% of black law students in the 1991 cohort completed law school and passed the bar on their first attempt.” That number is far worse than the comparable number for whites.

Sander goes on to argue that many of these blacks with poor grades would have had better grades – and have ended up with a higher chance of passing the bar – if they had been at law schools more commensurate with their academic skills. Sander’s data suggests to him that black students at any law school who have the same law school grades as white students at that school pass the bar in the same percentages. In other words, blacks with good law school grades don’t fail the bar any more than whites with the same grades.

The problem, Sander suggests, is that law schools have “mismatched” blacks in schools where they are unlikely to get good grades. By placing black students in environments where their grades will be higher – less competitive law schools — the system could improve their overall bar pass rate….

From all this, Sander argues that if race-based law school affirmative action were eliminated or reduced, the black bar passage rate would actually go up. According to his calculations, in the absence of preferential admissions, this rate would rise to 74% from the 45% he observed….

If affirmative action were eliminated, most black law students wouldn’t be ousted from law school entirely – they would simply attend law schools that “match” their numerical credentials more tightly. In other words, elimination of affirmative action would simply eliminate the mismatch effect – blacks would simply be attending less competitive and less prestigious schools than they are currently attending. And of those blacks who would be displaced from the bottom of the legal academic system altogether (i.e., those who need affirmative action simply to get into the least competitive schools), many of them today do not end up passing the bar and entering the legal profession in any event….

Sander says that blacks at better schools, but with poor grades, get worse jobs than they would if they were at lesser schools and had better grades. In other words, Sander argues, at all but the most elite schools, grades matter more than the school from which one graduates for black law job applicants. The upside of attending a better school is more than outweighed – in terms of employment options – by the downside of getting weak grades at that school, compared to the better grades that could have been obtained at a less competitive school….

So whether one focuses on passing the bar, or getting a good job, Sander says, there is a case that race-based affirmative action hurts, rather than helps, black law students.

Two years later, I added this:

Gail Heriot of The Right Coast, who is a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law and a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, pens an update:

No one claims Sander’s findings are the last word on the subject. Although so far his work has held up to scrutiny as least as well as the work of his critics, all fair-minded scholars agree that more research is necessary before the “mismatch thesis” can be definitively accepted or rejected.

Unfortunately, fair-minded scholars are hard to come by when the issue is affirmative action. Some of the same people who argue Sander’s data are inconclusive are now actively trying to prevent him from conducting follow-up research that might yield definitive answers. If racial preferences really are causing more harm than good, these thinly-disguised political operatives don’t want anyone to know.

Take William Kidder, a University of California staff member and co-author of a frequently-cited attack of Sander’s study. When Sander and his ideologically-diverse co-investigators sought bar passage data from the State Bar of California, Kidder passionately argued that access should be denied, because disclosure “risks stigmatizing African American attorneys.” At the same time, the Society of American Law Teachers, which leans so heavily to the left it risks falling over sideways, subtly threatened future litigation against the State Bar. Coincidentally, one of Kidder’s co-authors, University of Michigan law professor David Chambers, is a former SALT president.

Sadly, the State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners caved under the pressure. The committee members didn’t formally explain their decision to deny Sander’s request for the non-personally-identifiable data, but the root cause is clear: Over the last forty years, many distinguished citizens–university presidents, judges, philanthropists, and other leaders–have built their reputations on their support for race-based admissions. Ordinary citizens have found secure jobs as part of the resulting diversity bureaucracy. If it’s not working, they too don’t want anyone to know.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hopes that it can persuade the State Bar to reconsider. Its newly-released report on affirmative action in law schools specifically calls for state bar authorities to cooperate with qualified scholars studying the mismatch issue. Its recommendation is thus modest. It doesn’t claim that Sander is right or his critics wrong. It simply seeks to encourage and facilitate important research.

Its deeper purpose is to remind those who support and administer affirmative action polices of something that ought to be obvious: The good intentions of one’s predecessors do not give anyone a permanent moral free ride. Good faith requires a willingness to re-examine the consequences of one’s actions from time to time. Deliberate ignorance is not an option….

Sander doesn’t need to be proven 100% correct for his research to be devastating news for affirmative action supporters. Suppose the consequences of race-based admissions turn out to be simply a wash–neither increasing nor decreasing the number of minority attorneys. In that case, few people would think it worth the costs, not least among them the human cost that results from the failure of the supposed affirmative action beneficiaries to graduate and pass the bar. Under current practices, only 45% of blacks who enter law school pass the bar on their first attempt as opposed to over 78% of whites. Even after multiple tries, only 57% of blacks succeed. The rest are often saddled with student debt, routinely running as high as $160,000, not counting undergraduate debt. The real question therefore is how great an increase in the number of black attorneys is needed to justify this. If it is decreasing the number, it can hardly be defended.

Sander has returned to the fray, with more evidence about “mismatch” — this time about “scientific mismatch.” His three posts on the subject, at The Volokh Conspiracy,  merit extensive excerpting. In his first post, he writes:

As some readers will recall, a little more than seven years ago I published an analysis of law school affirmative action in the Stanford Law Review. The article was the first to present detailed data on the operation and effects of racial preferences in law schools (focusing on blacks)….

The article generated intense interest, debate, and criticism, though even most critics conceded that I had gotten the facts right. Several well-known empirical scholars in law schools published essays that purported to disprove the mismatch hypothesis. For awhile, many defenders of affirmative action seemed to assume that the article would inevitably provoke a crisis in legal academia, and while attempting to seize the moral high ground in the debate, they attracted even more publicity to the article.

After several months, however, it became clear there would be no widespread calls, among either law students or law faculty, for further inquiry and reform, and things died down. Those unhappy with the “mismatch” article – and that included the vast majority of law school and university administrators – decided the best strategy was to (a) ignore the issue and (b) use their best efforts to prevent the further release of data such as I had used in the original article. There was another, smaller burst of attention when I published a follow-up article  about affirmative action in law firms, and its similar tendency to boomerang on the intended beneficiaries; but otherwise, public debate about mismatch faded away.

It is about to come back.

Over the past few years, there has been a steadily growing stream of empirical research on affirmative action, much of it taking up the mismatch question.  Some social scientists, like Peter Arcidiacono at Duke University and Frederick Smyth at the University of Virginia, were interested in this subject and producing valuable research well before my Stanford article appeared.  Others, like Doug Williams at Sewanee University or Robert Zelnick at Boston University, were intrigued by some of the issues that arose out of the public mismatch debate and the questions raised in the debate.  Still others have been attracted by the “natural experiments” in affirmative action created by the bans on racial preferences adopted in half-a-dozen states.  I have worked closely with Jane Yakowitz (soon to join the law faculty at the University of Arizona) and public-spirited lawyers to pry loose data relevant for studying affirmative action.

Cumulatively, these scholars have produced a remarkable body of research (some of which can be found here) on the workings and effects of affirmative action. And the Supreme Court’s decision (by granting cert to Fisher v. University of Texas) to revisit the subject of racial admissions preferences in higher education will undoubtedly fuel interest in this work.

This is from Sander’s second post:

Some of the most significant recent work on affirmative action concerns a phenomenon called “science mismatch”. The idea behind science mismatch is very intuitive: if you are a high school senior interested in becoming, for example, a chemist, you may seriously harm your chances of success by attending a school where most of the other would-be chemists have stronger academic preparation than you do. Professors will tend to pitch their class at the median student, not you; and if you struggle or fall behind in the first semester of inorganic chemistry, you will be in even worse shape in the second semester, and in very serious trouble when you hit organic chemistry. You are likely to get bad grades and to either transfer out of chemistry or fail to graduate altogether….

Duke economists Peter Arcidiacono, Esteban Aucejo, and Ken Spenner last year completed a study that looked at a number of ways that differences in admissions standards at Duke affected academic outcomes. In one of many useful analyses they did, they found that 54% of black men at Duke who, as freshmen, had been interested in STEM fields or economics, had switched out of those fields before graduation; the comparative rate for white men was 8%. Importantly, they found that “these cross-race differences in switching patterns can be fully explained by differences in academic background.” In other words, preferences – not race – was the culprit.

In research conducted by FTC economist Marc Luppino and me, using data from the University of California, we have found important peer effects and mismatch effects that affect students of all races; our results show that one’s chances of completing a science degree fall sharply, at a given level of academic preparation, as one attends more and more elite schools within the UC system. At Berkeley, there is a seven-fold difference in STEM degree completion between students with high and low pre-college credentials.

As is always the case with affirmative action, ironies abound. Although young blacks are about one-seventh as likely as young whites to eventually earn a Ph.D. in STEM fields, academically strong blacks in high school are more likely than similar whites to aspire to science careers. And although a U.S. Civil Rights Commission report in 2010 documented the “science mismatch” phenomenon in some detail, President Obama’s new initiative to improve the nation’s production of scientists neither recognizes nor addresses mismatch….

Science mismatch is, of course, relevant to the general affirmative action debate in showing that preferences can boomerang on their intended beneficiaries. But it also has a special relevance to Fisher v. University of Texas. The university’s main announced purpose in reintroducing racial preferences in 2004 was to increase “classroom” diversity. The university contended that, even though over a fifth of its undergraduates were black or Hispanic, many classrooms had no underrepresented minorities. It sought to use direct (and very large) racial preferences to increase campus URM numbers and thus increase the number of URMs in classes that lacked them. But science mismatch shows that this strategy, too, can be self-defeating. The larger a university’s preferences, the more likely it is that preferenced students will have trouble competing in STEM fields and other majors that are demanding and grade sternly. These students will tend to drop out of the tough fields and congregate in comparatively less demanding ones. Large preferences, in other words, can increase racial segregation across majors and courses within a university, and thus hurt classroom diversity.

And this is from Sander’s third post:

[In the previous post] I discussed a body of research – all of it uncontroverted – that documents a serious flaw in affirmative action programs pursued by elite colleges. Students who receive large preferences and arrive on campus hoping to major in STEM fields (e.g., Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) tend to migrate out of those fields at very high rates, or, if they remain in those fields, often either fail to graduate or graduate with very low GPAs. There is thus a strong tension between receiving a large admissions preference to a more elite school, and one’s ability to pursue a STEM career.

Is it possible for contemporary American universities to engage constructively with this type of research? Recent events at Duke University suggest not.

The Duke study … (by economists Peter Arcidiacono and Esteban Aucejo, and by sociologist Ken Spenner, all of Duke) was motivated by an important question: do students who receive large admissions preferences “catch up” with their peers over their college years? This ties into an important premise of many preference programs – i.e., that the rich resources of an elite university will help to phase out prior preparation gaps between students of different races. Aggregate data at Duke suggested that the GPA gap across racial groups was, indeed, narrowing as college progressed, from over half-a-point black/white GPA gap in the first semester, to less than three-tenths of a point by the eighth semester.

Using data gathered by the university, Arcidiacono et al found that this narrowing was illusory. Courses taken by juniors and seniors were graded very leniently, and, more importantly, students who had bad grades in their freshmen year migrated in large numbers from STEM fields and economics to other majors, which generally had easier grading. When one adjusted for these effects, the relative achievement level of different groups was unchanged over the course of college. Thus, there was no silver lining to offset the science mismatch effect.

Importantly, the authors found that these patterns had nothing to do with race, but rather with a student’s level of academic preparation upon entry into Duke. White legacies admitted with large preferences showed the same patterns as blacks admitted with large preferences.

The paper offered no policy recommendations; like a large body of Arcidiacono’s earlier research on other social and educational issues, it simply presented intriguing results researched and analyzed in a conceptually clear and empirically careful way.

In mid-January 2012, the Chronicle of Higher Education ran a story on the article. Although the reporter, Peter Schmidt, was characteristically fair in summarizing the article’s findings, once the news reached Duke, the reaction was extreme. The Black Student Alliance denounced the research and staged a protest, suggesting that the research was actually an attack on black students and that data they had provided to the university had been misused. Seventeen black alumni wrote an open letter attacking the research as “misguided scholarship” whose results and methodology were “both flawed and incorrect”, though they provided no specifics. “We cannot sit idly by and allow this slander to be (mis)labeled as truth.” Duke faculty got into the act as well, sending angry, indignant emails to the authors and to the economics department.

The President of Duke, Richard Brodhead, finally weighed in on the controversy on March 22nd, at the Annual Meeting of University Faculty. He said he had decided to devote his talk to the issue of race in part because of the controversy generated by the study. He extolled the university’s progress in moving from exclusionary policies in the 1950s and before, to today having among the highest proportion of enrolled blacks of any elite university. He then went on:

“With respect to this January’s controversy I would say the following. I hope all members of this community recognize that it is not the proper function of the university to block expression from its faculty or enforce a correct view. Universities live through free and open debate; when someone thinks someone else has come to an erroneous conclusion, the remedy is to criticize it and offer a better account. On the other hand, I can see why students took offense at what was reported of a professor’s work. Generalizations about academic choices by racial category can renew the primal insult of the world we are trying to leave behind – the implication that persons can be known through a group identity that associates them with inferior powers. A further insult was that the paper had been included in an amicus brief submitted by opponents of affirmative action urging the Supreme Court to hear [Fisher v. University of Texas]….”

Brodhead’s remarks neatly stood reality on its head. The university’s policy of giving large preferences based on race had created a large academic preparation gap across racial lines (e.g., an average 150-point SAT gap, on the old 1600-point scale, between blacks and whites) and thus large differences in academic outcomes across racial lines; but careful research on the effect of academic preparation on these outcomes was offensive? Academic freedom was vital to the university’s life, but factually baseless slander against accurate research was understandable? And it was especially “insulting” to use such research in an amicus brief – i.e., a debate about public policy?

(As it happens, I know about the amicus brief mentioned by President Brodhead, because I coauthored the brief with Stuart Taylor. Both of us are, to be sure, critics of affirmative action, but neither of us are “opponents”, as I will discuss in a coming post. We cited Arcidiacono et al’s research in the brief pretty much in the same spirit that I discussed it in Friday’s post.)

Brodhead’s message was pretty clear: we won’t try to fire people who engage in honest research that identifies problems in affirmative action; but we will ostracize them, and thus strongly discourage such research. Other parts of the record suggest that Duke’s substantive response to the controversy will consist of providing additional funding to race-based student groups, and showing greater “sensitivity” to student complaints.

One might be tempted to put this behavior down to a particularly high level of intolerance at Duke or on Brodhead’s part (many Duke officials and faculty, including Brodhead, took political correctness to disgraceful lengths during the “lacrosse” scandal several years ago, when a number of white students were falsely accused of raping a black woman and Duke officials led the invidious attacks against them, even long after the prosecution had been discredited). But all of the facts of this latest episode at Duke, including Brodhead’s behavior, actually capture perfectly the dynamics of affirmative action discussions at all major universities.

Colleges and universities are committed to the mythology that diversity happens merely because they want it and put resources into it, and that all admitted students arrive with all the prerequisites necessary to flourish in any way they choose. Administrators work hard to conceal the actual differences in academic preparation that almost invariably accompany the aggressive use of preferences. Any research that documents the operation and effects of affirmative action therefore violates this “color-blind” mythology and accompanying norms; minority students are upset, correctly realizing that either the research is wrong or that administrators have misled them. In this scenario, administrators invariably resort to the same strategy: dismiss the research without actually lying about it; reassure the students that the researchers are misguided, but that the university can’t actually punish the researchers because of “academic freedom”. Note that in this dynamic, “academic freedom” becomes a device to protect the administration, not the faculty doing the research!…

But leftists — academic and other — cannot abide the truth when it refutes their prejudices. Affirmative action, as it turns out, is harmful to aspiring blacks, and so is the minimum wage, whose main beneficiaries are supposed to be young blacks. Most leftists will deny those facts because their leftist faith is more important to them than the well-being of those whose cause they claim to champion. They have no concern for the well-being of those whom they evidently despise — non-leftist whites, Asians, taxpayers, heterosexuals, legal immigrants, persons of religion, and the many other targets of left-academic scorn.

Related posts — leftists and academicians:
What Is the Point of Academic Freedom?
How to Deal with Left-Wing Academic Blather
It’s Not Anti-Intellectualism, Stupid
The Case Against Campus Speech Codes
Lefty Profs
Apropos Academic Freedom and Western Values
Why So Few Free-Market Economists?
Affirmative Action for Conservatives and Libertarians?
Academic Bias
Intellectuals and Capitalism
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
The Left’s Agenda
The Left and Its Delusions
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Are You in the Bubble?

Related posts — race:
Putting Hate Crimes in Perspective
The Cost of Affirmative Action
Why Not Just Use SAT Scores?
The Face of America
Is There Such a Thing as Legal Discrimination?
More on the Legality of Discrimination
Epstein’s Freedom
Epstein’s Freedom, Revisited
Race and Acceptance
Affirmative Action: A Modest Proposal
Race, Intelligence, and Affirmative Action
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy
Lamm (Soft of) Lays It on the Line
Affirmative Action, One More Time
A Contrarian View of Segregation
Much Food for Thought
A Law Professor to Admire
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
After the Bell Curve
A Footnote . . .
Schelling and Segregation
Time on the Cross, Re-revisited
A Black Bigot Speaks
More Anti-Black Bigotry from the Left
Societal Suicide
A “Taste” for Segregation
Don’t Tar My Nationalism with the Racism Brush
Black Terrorists and “White Flight”
Timely Material
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy, Revisited

It’s the Little Things That Count
A Footnote to a Footnote
Let Me Be Perfectly Clear…
Racism among the Deracinated
“The War”: A Second Reaction
The “Southern Strategy”
Conspicuous Consumption and Race
An Honest Woman Speaks Out
The End of Slavery in the United States
Luck-Egalitarianism and Moral Luck
Race and Reason: The Derbyshire Debacle

Race and Reason: The Derbyshire Debacle

Race is one of the several badges of identity that have been recognized by leftists in their generally successful quest to obtain unmerited privileges for the bearers of those badges. Leftists will have no truck with freedom of association, property rights, or actual merit. No, their clientele must be given special dispensations, even if doing so means that others are penalized for the “sin” of not being on the left’s list of preferred identity groups.

This post is about a particular identity group: blacks. Specifically, it is about the specter that haunts every discussion of blacks: racism.

Since I began blogging at Politics & Prosperity in February 2009, I have not written much about the “race issue.” (My post about the Trayvon Martin case was about Obama’s race-baiting, not about race per se.) It is time to end this blog’s avoidance of the race issue, especially in light of Fisher v. University of Texas, a case that will be heard later this year by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is not that I expect to influence the outcome of Fisher v. UT. Nor do I expect to influence the views of the smug, self-deluding, racist leftists who dominate UT and the political life of Austin. But as a taxpayer, I am an unwilling supporter of the racist admission policy of the University of Texas. Therefore, I can no longer stifle my disdain for that policy. If nothing else, perhaps fate (and Google) will send an errant leftist in this direction, so that he or she may be offended by what I have to say.

I wrote a lot about the race issue and its evil spawn, affirmative action, at my old blog, which I maintained from 2004 to 2008. I am not sure why I stopped writing about race when I created Politics & Prosperity soon after the inauguration of Barack Obama. Perhaps, subconsciously, I did not want my criticisms of Obama’s leftist predilections and policies to be tainted by the suggestion that I disdain him for his racial identity (which is black, despite his mixed parentage). In fact, Obama’s policies are loathsome on their own merits. The man is nothing more than a tan version of Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, LBJ, and FDR — all of whom I disrespect deeply. My loathing for leftists is color-blind.

Anyway, here is Politics & Prosperity‘s initial foray into the issue of race, or — more precisely — racism.

*   *   *

I do not mean by racism the view that there are races and that they differ by virtue of genetic and cultural heredity. That proposition, despite much evidence in its favor, is widely thought to be a racist one. But it is not.

Racism is undiscriminating distrust, suspicion, scorn, or hatred directed toward a racial group and its members, just because the racial group is identifiably different than the racial group with which the distrustful, suspicious, scornful, or hate-filled person — the racist — identifies. Racism knows no bounds; it is found in blacks, whites, Asians, aboriginals of all kinds, and in sub-groups of each.

Racism is an extreme form of in-group allegiance, that is, identification of oneself with a group because that identification satisfies prudential and/or emotional needs. A desire for mutual defense is a valid prudential need. Who better to turn to for defense against predators than one’s kin, neighbors, community, and network of communities linked by a common heritage? Predators may be found in each of those groups, but such groups (unless controlled by predators) can be counted on to resist predation, both internal and from without. Nor is defense against predators the only prudential need that can be satisfied by in-group allegiance; there is also, for example, mutual aid in times of natural disaster.

In-group allegiance, when rewarded by such benefits as mutual defense and mutual aid, can satisfy an emotional need for belonging, which sometimes manifests itself as patriotism. But patriotism, like racial identity, has negative consequences when it blinds its adherents to the virtues of individuals outside the in-group. The result is self-defeating insularity, which finds expression in policies that are harmful to many members of the in-group (e.g., protectionism, bans on social and economic fraternization with blacks). Racism, in other words, is a virulent kind of in-group allegiance that satisfies an emotional need while causing harm — even to its practitioners. It is akin to (though far more serious than) the kind of hooliganism that results from cultish attachments to sports teams, as in the case of European football.

Thus blinded to the virtues of individuals outside his in-group, a racist condemn all members of a despised out-group. A racist may praise the accomplishments of some members of a despised group (athletes are particular favorites), while attributing those accomplishments to racial traits or otherwise belittling the individuals whose accomplishments are noteworthy. A racist may justify his racism by citing evidence of racial differences (e.g., the lower average intelligence of blacks, compared to whites). But the racism (usually) precedes the evidence, which a racist will cite in support of his racism.

It is not racist to recognize the fact of inter-racial differences, on average, as long as one evaluates and treats individuals as individuals and recognizes that group averages do not obliterate individual differences.

It is not racist to recognize the risks of venturing into the “territory” of a racial group other than one’s own. But that recognition is racist if it is not matched by equal caution about venturing into the “territory” of certain sub-cultures of one’s own racial group. Specifically, a middle-class white person foolishly ventures into an area known as a redoubt for black gangbangers. But the same middle-class white wears racial blinders if he insouciantly ventures into Deliverance country.

Having said all of that, I admit the difficulty of telling racism apart from realism.

An excellent case in point is John Derbyshire‘s column of April 5, “The Talk: Nonblack Version,” which appeared in Taki’s Magazine. Derbyshire, for the sins of realism and candor, was immediately fired from his long-standing gig as a columnist for National Review, a creature of William F. Buckley Jr. which proclaims itself “America’s most widely read and influential magazine and website for Republican/conservative news, commentary and opinion.” Derbyshire’s offense, according to Rich Lowry, editor of NR, was to

lurch[] from the politically incorrect to the nasty and indefensible. We never would have published [“The Talk: Nonblack Version”], but the main reason that people noticed it is that it is by a National Review writer. Derb is effectively using our name to get more oxygen for views with which we’d never associate ourselves otherwise. So there has to be a parting of the ways. Derb has long danced around the line on these issues, but this column is so outlandish it constitutes a kind of letter of resignation.

(Three days after firing Derbyshire, NR fired another columnist, Robert Weissberg, for participating “in an American Renaissance conference where he delivered a noxious talk about the future of white nationalism.” I may address that case in a future post.)

Was Derbyshire’s piece “nasty and indefensible,” or simply too realistic for NR, which — as a conservative outlet — is always a prime candidate for the “racist” label that leftists like to stick on their opponents. (I often, and quite properly, refer to leftists as racists because they condescend to blacks and pursue policies that favor blacks simply for being black.)

Here are excerpts of Derbyshire’s article:

There is much talk about “the talk.”

“Sean O’Reilly was 16 when his mother gave him the talk that most black parents give their teenage sons,” Denisa R. Superville of the Hackensack (NJ) Record tells us. Meanwhile, down in Atlanta: “Her sons were 12 and 8 when Marlyn Tillman realized it was time for her to have the talk,” Gracie Bonds Staples writes in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Leonard Greene talks about the talk in the New York Post. Someone bylined as KJ Dell’Antonia talks about the talk in The New York Times. Darryl Owens talks about the talk in the Orlando Sentinel.

Yes, talk about the talk is all over.

There is a talk that nonblack Americans have with their kids, too. My own kids, now 19 and 16, have had it in bits and pieces as subtopics have arisen. If I were to assemble it into a single talk, it would look something like the following.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

(1) Among your fellow citizens are forty million who identify as black, and whom I shall refer to as black….

(2) American blacks are descended from West African populations, with some white and aboriginal-American admixture….

(3) Your own ancestry is mixed north-European and northeast-Asian, but blacks will take you to be white.

(4) The default principle in everyday personal encounters is, that as a fellow citizen, with the same rights and obligations as yourself, any individual black is entitled to the same courtesies you would extend to a nonblack citizen….

(5) As with any population of such a size, there is great variation among blacks in every human trait (except, obviously, the trait of identifying oneself as black)….

(6) As you go through life, however, you will experience an ever larger number of encounters with black Americans. Assuming your encounters are random—for example, not restricted only to black convicted murderers or to black investment bankers—the Law of Large Numbers will inevitably kick in. You will observe that the means—the averages—of many traits are very different for black and white Americans, as has been confirmed by methodical inquiries in the human sciences.

(7) Of most importance to your personal safety are the very different means for antisocial behavior, which you will see reflected in, for instance, school disciplinary measures, political corruption, and criminal convictions.

(8) These differences are magnified by the hostility many blacks feel toward whites. Thus, while black-on-black behavior is more antisocial in the average than is white-on-white behavior, average black-on-white behavior is a degree more antisocial yet.

(9) A small cohort of blacks—in my experience, around five percent—is ferociously hostile to whites and will go to great lengths to inconvenience or harm us. A much larger cohort of blacks—around half—will go along passively if the five percent take leadership in some event….

(10) Thus, while always attentive to the particular qualities of individuals, on the many occasions where you have nothing to guide you but knowledge of those mean differences, use statistical common sense:

(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).

(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.

(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.

(10f) Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.

(10g) Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.

(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.

(10i) If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.

(11) The mean intelligence of blacks is much lower than for whites….

(12) There is a magnifying effect here, too, caused by affirmative action. In a pure meritocracy there would be very low proportions of blacks in cognitively demanding jobs. Because of affirmative action, the proportions are higher. In government work, they are very high. Thus, in those encounters with strangers that involve cognitive engagement, ceteris paribus the black stranger will be less intelligent than the white. In such encounters, therefore—for example, at a government office—you will, on average, be dealt with more competently by a white than by a black. If that hostility-based magnifying effect (paragraph 8) is also in play, you will be dealt with more politely, too. “The DMV lady“ is a statistical truth, not a myth.

(13) In that pool of forty million, there are nonetheless many intelligent and well-socialized blacks [ISWBs]…. You should consciously seek opportunities to make friends with IWSBs. In addition to the ordinary pleasures of friendship, you will gain an amulet against potentially career-destroying accusations of prejudice.

(14) Be aware, however, that there is an issue of supply and demand here….

(15) Unfortunately the demand is greater than the supply, so IWSBs are something of a luxury good, like antique furniture or corporate jets: boasted of by upper-class whites and wealthy organizations, coveted by the less prosperous. To be an IWSB in present-day US society is a height of felicity rarely before attained by any group of human beings in history. Try to curb your envy: it will be taken as prejudice (see paragraph 13).

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

You don’t have to follow my version of the talk point for point; but if you are white or Asian and have kids, you owe it to them to give them some version of the talk. It will save them a lot of time and trouble spent figuring things out for themselves. It may save their lives.

Derbyshire’s “talk” (hereafter DT) should be judged on two criteria: appropriateness and accuracy. If it is accurate, it is appropriate. Parents have a duty to educate their children in the facts of life, sexual and otherwise. To neglect that duty is to leave them open to harms that they are better able to avoid with foreknowledge and forewarning. DT (if accurate) can be called inappropriate only by persons who put political correctness above the well-being of children. To take a non-racial example, parents who fail to teach their children of the health risks of male homosexuality, and who condone homosexual experimentation by male adolescents because “there’s nothing wrong with that,” are endangering the lives of those adolescents through their politically correct passivity.

Is DT accurate? Derbyshire assiduously documents almost all of his points, in the links reproduced above and in others that are in elided passages. One weak point is (9), where Derbyshire lapses into generalizations about the percentage of blacks who are openly hostile to whites (about five percent) and the fraction of blacks (about half) who will follow the lead of hostile blacks. But these lapses do not negate the advice that follows. It is incontrovertible that some blacks have and will harm whites, and it is a staple of human nature that the “masses” (of any color) will flee from, ignore, or acquiesce in acts of savagery. (The heroism of some passengers on United 93 is nothing compared with, say, the silent acceptance of the Holocaust by masses of Germans — to offer but one case in point.) But Derbyshire’s guesses about proportions do not vitiate the points that follow: (10a)-(10i).

I find (14) and (15) to be strained, but generally accurate. However, no one is in a position to assert, as Derbyshire does in (15), that

[t]o be an IWSB in present-day US society is a height of felicity rarely before attained by any group of human beings in history.

This is pure hyperbole. Neither Derbyshire nor any other observer is in a position to judge the “felicity” of IWSBs, individually or as a group. (Group felicity is an empty construct, in any case, because one cannot sum individual states of well-being to attain a collective measure of well-being.) The assertion is also condescending, and thus suggestive of a racist attitude toward blacks.

My few objections aside, DT is accurate (on the whole) and therefore appropriate. The powers-that-be at NR are guilty of bowing to the false gods of political correctness.

I do not mean to say that Derbyshire is not a racist. He may well be one. But a racist, like a stopped clock, can sometimes be right about racial issues, just as a poor marksman can sometimes hit a bulls-eye if he expends a lot of ammunition.

This brings me to Derbyshire’s next column at Taki’s Magazine, “Talking Back,” which addresses some of the blogospheric commentary about DT. Near the end of “Talking Back,” Derbyshire offers the following:

Lefty commenters waxed large on my piece as promoting eugenics, arguing for genetic inferiority, and so on.

Now, I do have opinions about eugenics. I support, for example, the eugenic requirements in the marriage laws of my state (see under “Familial Restrictions” here)

Similarly, I have opinions about the notion of genetic success (as I prefer to frame the issue). In the long biological view, the only criterion is survival… [T]he premise of the movie Idiocracy is that coarse, dumb people will inherit the Earth by out-breeding refined, smart people. If that happens (and I wouldn’t be surprised) then from a biological perspective, which is actually my own perspective as a stone-cold empiricist, the coarse, dumb people will have proven “superior” to the refined, smart ones. Personally I prefer the latter type, but Ma Nature doesn’t care what I prefer.

Sure, I have opinions; sure, I’m willing to discuss these topics. There was nothing of them in my piece, though. I just stated facts, based on statistics gathered over decades, by both private and government agencies, accumulated and checked beyond the range of dispute. Those facts might have any of several causes, with corresponding remedies. They might be “cultural”: Perhaps a nationwide ban on rap music and malt liquor might change them. They might be biomedical, fixable by some not-yet-discovered pharmacological wonder we could put in the water supply such as fluoride. They might be manipulated by extraterrestrial powers lurking in the fogs of Jupiter, beaming malign rays at us. I didn’t speculate. I framed no hypotheses. Just the facts….

Were there any reasoned non-hostile critiques I thought were good?

Even there, I only looked at three or four, at the urging of friends. Of those, the best was Noah Millman‘s. It deserves a formal, collegial rebuttal, but I’m so far behind with absolutely everything, I daren’t think about it. I haven’t done my damn TAXES yet. Sorry, Noah. In any case, most of the points I’d make are already there in the comment thread to Noah’s piece.

It is going somewhat too far to say that DT recites “just the facts.” But it is heavily fact-based and accurate in its thrust. It is a big improvement on touchy-feely political correctness, which substitutes hopes for facts.

What about Millman’s column, “A Quick Word on the Derb,” at The American Conservative? For one thing, Millman says that Derbyshire’s injunctions (10a)-(10i) are

bad advice. To be a good application of statistical common sense, it’s not enough to know that, for example, crime rates (on average) are higher in majority-black neighborhoods. You’d need to know that the disparity was large enough, and the variance around the average small enough, so that following such a rule would actually be a decent heuristic; not to mention that there were no more finely-grained heuristics available and that the cost of applying such a sweeping heuristic in terms of the loss of experience of life and its manifold pleasures was not prohibitive.

Because here’s the thing. Granting that nobody has an obligation to be politically correct in their behavior, and granting (for the sake of argument) all of Derbyshire’s premises, what he’s still saying is that the risks are so great that it’s better simply to wall oneself off from African-Americans to the greatest degree possible. But he hasn’t actually measured the risks in absolute terms, only in relative terms: would this action reduce risk; if yes, then follow it. I wonder: does he take a similar attitude toward other risks? Toward, to take a few examples, eating raw food, bicycling without a helmet, traveling alone to a foreign country, or writing whatever one wishes for a publication like Taki’s Magazine?…

The “race realists” like to say that they are the ones who are curious about the world, and the “politically correct” types are the ones who prefer to ignore ugly reality. But the advice Derbyshire gives to his children encourages them not to be too curious about the world around them, for fear of getting hurt. And, as a general rule, that’s terrible advice for kids – and not the advice that Derbyshire has followed in his own life.

Twaddle. Derbyshire’s advice is cautionary — it is of a kind with warning one’s children about the dangers of street-racing and para-sailing. They may do such things anyway, but they may do so after taking duly precautionary measures.

Moreover, Millman’s proffered alternative is fatuous:

To be a good application of statistical common sense, it’s not enough to know that, for example, crime rates (on average) are higher in majority-black neighborhoods. You’d need to know that the disparity was large enough, and the variance around the average small enough, so that following such a rule would actually be a decent heuristic; not to mention that there were no more finely-grained heuristics available and that the cost of applying such a sweeping heuristic in terms of the loss of experience of life and its manifold pleasures was not prohibitive.

And where does one obtain these fine-grained statistics and heuristics? And on short notice? And what is the “loss of experience of life” next to the very real possibility of a dire outcome, including loss of life itself?

Millman goes on:

The “race realists” like to say that they are the ones who are curious about the world, and the “politically correct” types are the ones who prefer to ignore ugly reality. But the advice Derbyshire gives to his children encourages them not to be too curious about the world around them, for fear of getting hurt. And, as a general rule, that’s terrible advice for kids – and not the advice that Derbyshire has followed in his own life.

I have no idea about “the advice that Derbyshire has followed in his own life,” nor do I know how Millman knows what that might be. But it is evident that Derbyshire has not been killed by a black thug or black mob. Further, I cannot imagine that Derbyshire’s advice stifles his children’s curiosity, though it may help to channel that curiosity away from situations and events that are best avoided by any sensible person. There is plenty to be curious about in this world; most of it is far more interesting than wandering into strange neighborhoods and mingling in crowds of strangers.


Which brings us to the supposed point of the column. That point, I take it, is to argue that just as African-American parents have to brief their sons on how to keep themselves from ending up like Trayvon Martin, white parents have to brief their sons on how to keep themselves safe from personal violence at the hands of African-Americans. But there’s a profound lack of parallelism between the two conversations. “The Talk” is about how you are perceived by others, and how to comport yourself so as to counteract that perception. Derbyshire’s talk is about how you should perceive others. There’s no analogy. They have nothing to do with each other.

The “talks” have everything to do with each other: They are about how to avoid harm.

In sum, I am unpersuaded by Millman’s commentary. Derbyshire’s children — and other non-black children — should follow Derbyshire’s advice, just as black children should heed “the talk.”

Whether Derbyshire is a racist or a realist matters not. On the whole, he is right.

*   *   *

I will address affirmative action and other policy fiascoes in future posts.

Goodbye, Mr. Pitts

When I lived in the D.C. area and subscribed to The Washington Post, I occasionally read a column by Leonard Pitts Jr. This masochistic practice served two purposes. First, it exercised my cardiovascular system (i.e., raised my heart rate and blood pressure). Second, it helped me to keep up with what passes for wisdom among the race-card-playing set.

Mr. Pitts, who is a syndicated columnist operating out of The Miami Herald, comes by his race-card-playing naturally, as a black and — given his age (about 50) — a likely beneficiary of reverse discrimination (a.k.a. affirmative action). I should note that Pitts plays the race-card game clumsily, probably because his mental warehouse is stocked with gross generalizations and logical fallacies.

I was provoked to write this post by a recent Pitts column, to which I will come, where (in passing) he defends the socialization of medicine because other things also have been socialized. By that logic, Pitts would excuse the murder of his wife because millions of murders already have been committed.

*     *     *

I begin my sampling of Pitts’s pathetic prose with “We’ll go forward from this moment,” of September 12, 2001 (a reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001):

Let me tell you about my people. We are a vast and quarrelsome family, a family rent by racial, social, political and class division, but a family nonetheless.

No, “we” (the citizens of the United States) are most decidedly not a family, not even a feuding one. If there ever was anything like an American “family,” it existed in the years just after Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese forces. The degree of unity and resolve in the America of 1942-45 makes a mockery of the years following September 2001, during which disunity and irresolution became the standard pose of the media, academia, the Democrat Party, more than a few Republican “moderates,” many isolationist paleo-conservatives, and most libertarians.

Americans, now more than ever, are members of millions of separate families, churches, clubs, neighborhoods, work groups, etc. If there is anything shared by a majority of Americans, it is a taste for food in large quantities, vulgar entertainment, and a chance to feed at the public trough at the expense of other Americans.

The most notable schism in American life is one that has arisen since the onset of the Great Depression. It has come to this: Americans are deeply divided (though not evenly divided) about the rightful power of government in foreign and domestic affairs. There are three main camps. The largest favors surrender abroad and statism at home; the smallest favors surrender abroad and anarchy at home; the one to which I belong favors the full exercise of American might in defense of Americans’ legitimate overseas interest, together with a limited government devoted mainly to the protection of Americans from domestic predators and parasite.

It is obvious in what I have just said that Americans today do not even share a tradition of liberty, which has long vanished from the land. Because of this loss of liberty, Americans have become something less than citizens  with a common birthright and something more like hostages in their own land, with little voice and almost no opportunity for exit. Many (perhaps most) Americans like it that way, many others don’t understand what has been lost to them, and some (too few) understand it all too painfully. Pitts and his ilk like it that way because they are in thrall to special-interest politics and cannot see how those politics have abetted our downward spiral into political bondage, social license, and weakness in the face of our foreign and domestic enemies.

*     *     *

Jumping to September 29, 2003, I find “Faithful often give religion a bad name,” in which Pitts proffers this:

People are always pleased to indulge their religiosity when it allows them to stand in judgment of someone else, licenses them to feel superior to someone else, tells them they are more righteous than someone else.

They are less enthusiastic when religiosity demands that they be compassionate to someone else. That they show charity, service and mercy to everyone else.

Consider that last month thousands of people wept on the steps of an Alabama courthouse in support of a rock bearing the Ten Commandments. And watching, you wondered: What hungry person gets fed because of this? What naked person is clothed, what homeless one housed?

It seemed a fresh reminder that religious people are often the poorest advertisement for religious life.

How much more convincing an advertisement, how much more compelling a testimony, if people of faith were more often caught by news cameras demonstrating against healthcare cuts that fill our streets with the homeless mentally ill. Or confronting the slumlord about the vermin-infested holes he offers as places for families to live. Or crusading to make the sweatshop owner pay a living wage to workers who are treated little better than slaves.

From what well of knowledge does Pitts draw his assertions that people are always pleased to indulge their religiosity when they can stand in judgment of others, but are less enthusiastic when compassion is in order? Does Pitts even know, let alone care, that residents of “Red” States — where religious fundamentalism is more prevalent — are much more generous in their charitable giving than residents of “Blue” States — where secular Europeanism is the norm?

And what about those persons who “wept on the steps of an Alabama courthouse in support of a rock bearing the Ten Commandments”? What is wrong with protesting the further distancing of government from morality? I suspect that Pitts doesn’t want public officials to be reminded of the Ten Commandments because one of them says “You shall not steal” — and that is precisely what government does when it taxes and regulates us toward poverty, often in the name of “compassion.”

And why would it be a compelling testimony for religion if “people of faith” were more often seen demonstrating against budget cuts that fill our streets with the homeless mentally ill, or confronting slumlords about vermin-infested holes, or crusading to make sweatshop owners pay a “living wage to workers”? Pitts can offer such advice only because he doesn’t understand or care about the implications of such actions: Higher taxes for hard-working families; more homeless persons, as landlords raise rents to defray the costs of improving their properties; more starving poor, as “sweatshop” owners find new locales in which to recruit willing workers who have less exalted ideas than Pitts about what constitutes a “living wage.”

Pitts reveals himself as an ignoramus or a hypocrite — probably both — who is simply pleased to indulge his moral outrage when it allows him to stand in judgment of others.

*     *     *

Less than a month later (October 20, 2003) Pitts opined that “Race has always benefited whites“; to wit:

As a reader who chose to remain nameless put it, many people wonder if a given black professional “is there because of his/her skills and abilities, or because of affirmative action. Unfortunately, affirmative action policies leave many unanswered questions about a black person’s education and training, as well as skills and abilities. . . . How do we answer these questions?”

I will try my best to answer them with a straight face. It’s going to be difficult.

Because there’s an elephant in this room, isn’t there? It’s huge and noisy and rather smelly, yet none of these good people sees it. The elephant is this simple fact:

White men are the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action this country has ever seen.

That’s not rhetoric or metaphor. It’s only truth.


If affirmative action is defined as giving someone an extra boost based on race, it’s hard to see how anyone can argue the point. Slots for academic admission, for employment and promotion, for bank loans and for public office have routinely been set aside for white men. This has always been the nation’s custom. Until the 1960s, it was also the nation’s law. . . .

My correspondents feel they should not be asked to respect the skill or abilities of a black professional who may or may not have benefited from affirmative action. They think such a person should expect to be looked down upon. But black people have spent generations watching white men who were no more talented, and many times downright incompetent, vault to the head of the line based on racial preference.

So, here’s my question:

Would African Americans be justified in looking down on white professionals? In wondering whether they are really smart enough to do the job? In questioning their competence before they had done a thing?

Pitts deploys three shifty debating techniques: He changes the subject; subtly (and inappropriately) redefines a key term; falsely generalizes about a class of persons (white men); and then draws an unsupported conclusion from flawed premises.

The change of subject is obvious. Pitts, instead of addressing the question whether affirmative action leads to the advancement of under-qualified blacks, attacks whites for having been unqualified.

Why were whites unqualified? Because they, too, benefited from something Pitts chooses to call affirmative action, namely, “giving someone an extra boost based on race.” There is a basic problem with Pitts’s shifty redefinition of affirmative action: discrimination against blacks produces different results than discrimination against whites. The real elephant in the room, the one that it is impolite to mention, is that blacks and whites have different skills. And for most jobs, where intelligence matters, there are many more qualified whites than blacks.

It is therefore wrong to paint whites with the same “affirmative action” brush. Despite Pitts’s implication to the contrary, blacks would not have been justified in looking down on white professionals, as a group. But the converse is not true. Certainly, there are and have been superb black doctors and miserably incompetent white ones, but faced with a choice between, say, a white doctor of unknown skill and a black doctor of unknown skill, a person (black or white) would prudently choose the white doctor. The shame, of course, is that in some parts of the United States blacks were not allowed to choose white doctors.

*     *     *

In “Leave education to the principals, teachers, parents” (November 28, 2007), Pitts subscribes to romantic claptrap:

No one becomes a teacher to get rich. You become a teacher because you want to give back, you want to shape future generations, you want to change the world.

Oh spare me! You become a teacher because

  • you enjoy teaching, in general
  • you enjoy teaching a particular subject because you know it well
  • you enjoy the power of being in charge of a classroom (to the extent that you’re mentally and physically capable of being in charge)
  • it’s the best job you can get, given your intelligence and particular skills
  • some or all of the preceding statements apply to you.

Teaching is a job, not a mystical calling.

Pitts is right to say that

much of what ails American schools can be traced to a bureaucracy that: a) doesn’t pay enough; b) does too little to encourage and reward creativity; c) doesn’t give principals authority over who works in their schools; d) makes it nearly impossible to fire bad teachers.

The key word is “bureaucracy.” American schools will not improve until they are privatized, allowed to compete with one another, and allowed to hire teachers who know their subjects as opposed to NEA-approved hacks with “education” degrees. Some schools will be better than others, of course, but that’s true now. What isn’t true — or possible — now is that most schools will improve, or go out of business. (Public schools sometimes are “closed” for conspicuous failure, only to re-open in the same place, and with most of the same students and teachers.)

The problem, for Pitts and other “liberals,” is that it just isn’t “fair” for some children to have access to better schools than others, even though that also is true now, and even though bright children of less-affluent parents undoubtedly would have access to scholarships funded by affluent graduates of better schools. No, in the name of “fairness,” Pitts and his fellow “liberals” would rather hope for a transformation of public schools that will never happen, precisely because public schools are beholden to the NEA, which is nothing more than a union designed to guarantee work for incompetents who cannot master real subjects.

*     *     *

I come now to the column that touched off this post: “The distance between us” (as titled by the Austin American-Statesman) of August 24, 2009. Though the thread of Pitts’s “logic” is tangled, he his main concern seems to be national unity, or the lack thereof.

He rests his point on the fact that not everyone is happy with the election of Barack Obama or his policies, which he traces to racism or out-and-out nuttiness:

Last year, Barack Obama was elected president, the first American of African heritage ever to reach that office. If this was regarded as a new beginning by most Americans, it was regarded apocalyptically by others who promptly proceeded to lose both their minds and any pretense of enlightenment.

These are the people who immediately declared it their fervent hope that the new presidency fail, the ones who cheered when the governor of Texas raised the specter of secession, the ones who went online to rechristen the executive mansion the “Black” House, and to picture it with a watermelon patch out front.

On tax day they were the ones who, having apparently just discovered the grim tidings April 15 brings us all each year, launched angry, unruly protests. In the debate over health-care reform, they are the ones who have disrupted town hall meetings, shouting about the president’s supposed plan for “death panels” to euthanize the elderly.

Now, they are the ones bringing firearms to places the president is speaking.

The Washington Post tells us at least a dozen individuals have arrived openly — and, yes, legally — strapped at events in Arizona and New Hampshire, including at least one who carried a semiautomatic assault rifle. In case the implied threat is not clear, one of them also brought a sign referencing Thomas Jefferson’s quote about the need to water the tree of liberty with “the blood of … tyrants.”

Is Pitts suggesting that most of the 60,000,000 Americans who voted against Barack Obama (46 percent of those casting a vote in last year’s election) immediately hailed Obama’s election as a “new beginning”? To be sure, there was a honeymoon period around inauguration day, when about two-thirds of voters hopefully approved of Obama and his net approval rating hovered between 25 and 30 percent. But the honeymoon was over almost as soon as it had begun, as Americans began to grasp the bankruptcy (pun intended) of Obama’s policies.

But rather than acknowledge the awakening of most Americans to Obama’s threats to liberty and prosperity, Pitts stoops to barely veiled charges of racism and irrationality. To hope that Obama fails is not to wish ill for the nation; to the contrary, it is to hope that Obama’s policies fail of realization because they are seen (rightly) as inimical to liberty and prosperity. To find racism in talk of secession is a ploy by a columnist who is willing to sell his liberty cheap (or give it away), as long as the president’s skin is of the right color.

Then we have the concatenation of

the ones who went online to rechristen the executive mansion the “Black” House, and to picture it with a watermelon patch out front.

On tax day they were the ones who, having apparently just discovered the grim tidings April 15 brings us all each year, launched angry, unruly protests.

In other words, some racists oppose Obama and his policies; therefore, opposition to Obama and his policies is racist. Pitts evidently failed Logic 101, for he could just as well suggest that some racists (i.e., reverse racists) support Obama and his policies; therefore, support of Obama and his policies is racist.

A relative handful of those publicly protesting Obamacare — themselves a relative handful of the millions who oppose or question it — happen to have carried guns (legally) to the forums at which they (or others) voiced protests. Pitts verges on a Soviet-style declaration that those who oppose the regime are, by definition, mentally ill and must be locked up, for their own safety.

As noted earlier, Pitts is unfazed by the fact “that our libraries, schools, police and fire departments are all ‘socialized’.” If one more thing — namely medical care — is socialized, so what? And, given the number of murders committed every year, if one more person is murdered, so what?

All of that aside, Pitts’s real point has do with the kind of country America will become:

These are strange times. They call to mind what historian Henry Adams said in the mid-1800s: “There are grave doubts at the hugeness of the land and whether one government can comprehend the whole.”

Adams spoke in geographical terms of a nation rapidly expanding toward the Pacific. Our challenge is less geographical than spiritual, less a question of the distance between Honolulu and New York than between you and the person right next to you. . . .

We frame the differences in terms of “conservative” and “liberal,” but these are tired old markers that with overuse and misuse have largely lost whatever meaning they used to have and with it, any ability to explain us to us. This isn’t liberal vs. conservative, it is yesterday vs. tomorrow, the stress of profound cultural and demographic changes that will leave none of us as we were. . . .

Round and round we go and where we stop, nobody knows. And it is an open question, as it was for Henry Adams, what kind of country we’ll have when it’s done.

“Can” one government comprehend the whole? It may be harder to answer now than it was then.

The distances that divide us cannot be measured in miles.

Pitts is right about the distances that divide Americans, but those distances have divided Americans for generations. (I repeat: “We” are not a family.) The only way to reconcile those differences is to restore the basic scheme of of the Constitution, which is to

  • establish one nation united in common defense,
  • with open internal borders, and
  • free movement of goods across those borders, for prosperity’s sake, and
  • free movement of people between and within the several sovereign States, so that individuals may associate with those whom they find most congenial.

Such a wise scheme will not do for collectivists like Pitts, who cannot abide the thought of a world other than one made to their specifications. If the Pittses persist in their collectivist zeal, America will proceed from a (cold) civil war to secession, a military coup, or even revolution. And the fault will lie with the Pittses, because they are the true enemies of liberty.

*     *     *

Having reacquainted myself with Mr. Pitts, and having thereby exercised my cardiovascular system, I now bid him adieu — not fondly but forever.