More Outsourcing

by Kieran Healy on November 21, 2007

Daniel Koffler on Saletan and all that. Also, Eric Turkheimer on Race & IQ in general. I was going to write that it is astonishing how persistent this rubbish is. (Philippe Rushton has been on the scene for ages. And, if I remember right, a few years ago he sent out one of his little pamphlets to all the members of the American Sociological Association.) But really, it’s not astonishing at all. While racist cranks will likely always be with us, their persistent ability to get the attention of the likes of Saletan is a predictable consequence of the interaction between a part of American intellectual and political life with some key facts about American history and social structure. I haven’t seen such exquisite handwringing about the hard facts of life since the schmibertarians started justifying torture.

The Truth in Conservatism

by Harry on November 21, 2007

G.A. Cohen’s paper, A Truth in Conservatism: rescuing conservatism from the conservatives, is well worth a read, both for the substance and the humour. I heartily endorse the basic message of the paper, and recommend it to you for Thanksgiving table discussion (I’m a bit surprised it hasn’t made the tabloids actually: “Marxist philosopher endorses conservatism without abandoning socialism”). But there is one thing he says, as a preliminary, that I partly disagree with (pp 4-5):

Please do not expect me to say to what extent our practice should honour the truth I hope to expose, in comparison with other truths the honouring of which may sometimes conflict with honouring this particular conservative truth. Philosophers like me are not primarily, as philosophers, interested in what should be done in practice, all things considered. We are interested, instead, in what distinct things are worth considering. We care more about what ingredients should go into the cake than about the proportions in which they are to be combined.

Cohen is right that, qua philosophers, we are not concerned with what is what should be done in practice all things considered. People concerned with that must draw on philosophical claims, but must draw also on much that philosophy cannot supply. But I think he’s wrong that we are not concerned with the “proportions in which [relevant value considerations] are to be combined”. Surely it is a philosophical question how valuable one value is relative to another both in the abstract and in contingent circumstances — this is exactly the kind of philosophical result on which agents will want to draw when determining how to act.

Dept. of outsourced intellectual garbage pick-up

by Henry on November 21, 2007

“Ross Douthat”:http://rossdouthat.theatlantic.com/archives/2007/11/stem_cells_race_and_the_future.php, meet William Saletan’s “brave summary of the emerging scientific consensus”:http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/weblog/541.html. I recommend that people click through Cosma’s links – the ‘scientists’ whom Saletan praises are demonstrable charlatans and cranks. As an aside – one of the most _aggravating_ things about Saletan, Sullivan, Douthat etc’s embrace of the scientiness of race and IQ is that they seem to have convinced themselves that they are bold truthsayers fearlessly committed to challenging commonly accepted falsehoods etc etc etc. Instead they’re new-style advocates for a long-established and intellectually discredited pseudo-science – people have been trying to use bogus statistics to prove that yer black/Jewish/Irish minority of choice is irredeemably stupid since at least the beginning of the last century. And this pseudo-science has hardened into its own orthodoxy1 in certain corners of the right – witness, for example, the “barracking”:http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2007/07/iq-and-the-weal.html that Tyler Cowen took in his comments section when he had the impertinence to suggest that Mexican villagers of his acquaintance who probably wouldn’t do that well on a standard IQ test were actually incredibly smart. Urgh.

Update: “Ross Douthat”:http://rossdouthat.theatlantic.com/archives/2007/11/more_bold_truthsaying.php, while not rowing back completely (as best as I can make out), acknowledges that his original characterization of the debate was “stupid” and “lazy” and retracts it. Fair enough.

1 It’s a popular sect of the secular religion that John Sladek aptly dubbed “Reformed Darwinism” 20-odd years ago.

Using Facebook vs MySpace

by Eszter Hargittai on November 21, 2007

My most recent research article looks at predictors of social network site (SNS) usage among a group of first-year college students. First, I look at whether respondents use any social network sites and then examine predictors by specific site usage (focusing on Facebook, MySpace, Xanga and Friendster based on popularity). Before asking about usage, I asked about having heard of these sites and all but one person reported knowledge of at least one SNS so lack of familiarity of these services does not explain non-adoption. The analyses are based on a representative sample of 1,060 first-year students at the University of Illinois, Chicago surveyed earlier this year. This is an especially diverse campus concerning ethnic diversity. (See the paper for more details about the data and methods.)

Methodologically speaking, I find that it is worth disaggregating the general concept of social network site usage, because analyses looking at usage on the aggregate mask predictors of specific site use.

Of particular interest seem to be Facebook and MySpace since they are the most popular with this group. About three quarters of students use the former and over half use the latter in the sample.

I find statistically significant differences by race, ethnicity, parental education (a proxy for socioeconomic status) and living situation (whether a student lives with his or her parents or not) concerning the adoption of Facebook and MySpace. [click to continue…]

Talking Heads

by Henry on November 21, 2007

I’ve another “bloggingheads”:http://bloggingheads.tv/video.php?id=464 with Dan Drezner. One of the topics that we talk about is the weirdness of the norms that govern regular op-ed page writers. In the _NYT_ at least, they seem to be discouraged from mentioning each other by name when they disagree/attack each other, this has become increasingly artificial seeming as they’ve become a bit bloggier, and started to engage each other more directly than in the past. The key example that Dan and I talk about is the recent back-and-forth over Reagan’s legacy and the Republican Southern strategy between David Brooks, Bob Herbert, and Paul Krugman (with other non-regular op-ed writers andbloggers piping up too). But as we suggest in the dialogue these norms are beginning to break down – this rather nasty “piece”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/20/AR2007112001651_pf.html by Ruth Marcus claiming that Paul Krugman is dishonest, has merited a pretty vigorous response on Krugman’s “blog”:http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/11/21/they-hate-me-they-really-hate-me/ (see also “Mark Thoma”:http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2007/11/ruth-marcus-tri.html) which shows pretty convincingly that Marcus has taken some of the quotes that she uses out of context, so as to suggest that Krugman was making claims that he wasn’t in fact making (another quote that she uses is more accurate – but Krugman claims convincingly that he was writing at a time when the long term economic outlook for Social Security looked far more dire than it does today). Marcus’s attack is itself a response to Krugman’s previous criticisms of an unsigned _Washington Post_ editorial that she (Marcus) strongly hints that she wrote herself.

In general, this is all to the good. I can see the justification for the previous policy, I think – that you don’t want your op-ed pages to break down into bickering between a small group of elites, and that you want to preserve the ideal of the op-ed writer as a disinterested and magisterial figure taking the pulse of the American polity, etc, etc, etc. But this also allows op-ed writers to get away with a lot of self-serving bullshit while never being called on it. A more vigorous back-and-forth of the kind we’ve being seeing is a highly imperfect corrective to that problem – but it’s certainly better than the current system where regular op-ed writers are simultaneously put on a pedestal and never subjected to the processes of fact-checking that restrain traditional journalists.

It looks like I’m an analytic philosopher, after all

by John Holbo on November 21, 2007

Sometimes I try to deny my nature, but then Chris goes and posts about a conversation in which someone says something silly. And it turns out I used the silly bit as a major premise myself just last week. Oy.

Standing up to Martin Amis (2)

by Chris Bertram on November 21, 2007

In today’s Guardian, Christopher Hitchens defends Martin Amis from Ronan Bennett’s attack. Inter alia, he has this to say:

bq. I am writing as a friend who also took issue with what he said, in unscripted conversation with a Times reporter, a short while after the ghastly assault by Muslim fanatics on our public transport system. (By the way, yes, I do think that the word “fanatic” requires that prefix in this case.) I wrote my article last autumn and it was published in the Manhattan City Journal last January, so Mr Bennett need not congratulate himself so warmly on being the only one apart from Eagleton with the nerve to raise the issue.

Here’s a link to Hitchens’s _City Journal_ piece. Commenters will notice the characteristically robust way in which Hitchens condemns Amis. Or perhaps not.

By their Fruits shall ye know them

by Kieran Healy on November 21, 2007

Usage Statistics for Conservapedia.

Conservapedia Statistics

_Update_: As emerges in the discussion below, this Top 10 is a little too good to be true, and probably reflects efforts to game the system either by critics or other participants in the Conservapedia world rather than the true degree of readership for these particular pages on the site.