Shalizi on Saletan

by Henry Farrell on November 30, 2007

This has been another episode of “what Cosma said”:

In my first post about this, I said that there were two possible interpretations of Saletan’s actions: that he didn’t know that the ideas he was spread were crap, or that he did, but spread them anyway to advance an agenda. Saying that the second interpretation was more charitable wasn’t _just_ a joke. Sadly, this partial _mea culpa_ supports the first interpretation, that of incompetence. To put it in “shorter William Saletan” form, what he is saying is: I am shocked — shocked! — to discover that the people who devote their careers to providing supposedly-scientific backing for racist ideas are, in fact, flaming racists. And he does seem to be shocked, though it is hard (as Yglesias says) to see why, _logically,_ he should strain out those gnats he displays for our horrified inspection while swallowing the camel of group inferiority (and telling his readers that camel is really great and the coming thing). This indicates a level of incompetence as a reporter and researcher that is really quite stunning …

But let me back up a minute to the bit about relying on “peer review and rebuttals to expose any relevant issue”. There are two problems here. One has to do with the fact that, as I said, it is really very easy to find the rebuttals showing that Rushton’s papers, in particular, are a tragic waste of precious trees and disk-space. For example, in the very same issue of the very same journal as the paper by Rushton and Jensen which was one of Saletan’s main sources, Richard Nisbett, one of the more important psychologists of our time, takes his turn banging his head against this particular wall. Or, again, if Saletan had been at all curious about the issue of head sizes, which seems to have impressed him so much, it would have taken about five minutes with Google Scholar to find a demonstration that this is crap. So I really have no idea what Saletan means when he claimed he relied on published rebuttals — did he think they would just crawl into his lap and sit there, meowing to be read? If I had to guess, I’d say that the most likely explanation of Saletan’s writings is that he spent a few minutes with a search engine looking for hits on racial differences in intelligence, took the first few blogs and papers he found that way as The Emerging Scientific Consensus, and then stopped. But detailed inquiry into just _how_ he managed to screw up so badly seems unprofitable.

and not only the arguments, one suspects

by Henry Farrell on November 30, 2007

This Atlantic Monthly “piece”: from 1957 on sex and the college girl is quite entertaining, in the ways that you might expect it to be entertaining. My favorite paragraph:

Even more complicated to deal with is the intellectual-amoral type of man, who has affairs as a matter of course and doesn’t (or says he doesn’t) think less of a girl for sleeping with him. He is full of highly complicated arguments on the subject, which have to do with empiricism, epicureanism, live today, for tomorrow will bring the mushroom cloud, learning about life, and the dangers of self-repression, all of which are whipped out with frightening speed and conviction while he is undoing the third button on his girl’s blouse.

The world turned upside down, down under

by John Q on November 30, 2007

Political events in Australia have been moving so fast, no one has really caught up. A week ago, Labor looked very likely to win the election (held last Saturday) and there seemed a good chance that Liberal (= pro-business right) Prime Minister John Howard would lose his own seat. Those things duly happened, and that seemed to be about as much as we could expect or hope for. Instead, there has been a meltdown of spectacular proportions on the losing side.

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Bumper stickernomics

by Daniel on November 30, 2007

Dennis Perrin, who I’ve just realised is the same bloke as the Dennis Perrin I used to have really nasty flamewars with on a mailing list five years ago, has a post up which, among other things, mentions a bumper sticker he recently saw which read:

“As Hillary, Nancy and Jennifer Rise In Stature, They Give New Meaning To The Phrase Ho Ho Ho!”

Well it got me thinking. Quite a number of points, below. I tried, but failed, to keep the footnotes under control this time.
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How a Petard Hoist Works

by John Holbo on November 30, 2007

Ramesh Ponnuru gives me a little spank for getting his name wrong. Fair enough. But he goes on to say that I can’t “make an argument pertinent to anything under discussion.” No, I don’t think that’s quite it. [click to continue…]