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The Data Says Everything Is Fine

My wife’s employer recently began a new employee training program. It is the kind of employee training program that, once I learned of it, I very much wanted to wish away. But I couldn’t.

This new employee training program is simple on its face, even as it is far more complicated in its practice. The training provides staff members with the skills and tools to handle patients who, upon having learned that their assigned physician or nurse is not white, request one that is.

The hospital will not reassign medical staff for this particular reason. Because of this, the staff needs to know both how to politely decline such requests coming from people who, being in a hospital for treatment, are likely already uncomfortable, in pain, and/or worried. Those staff who are not white also need to know how to best deal with caring for patients who have just declared their dislike or distrust of them. And all of this needs to revolve around the unbendable philosophy that, first and foremost, the care of these patients is everyone’s primary responsibility. (As I said: simple on it’s face, challenging in its practice.)

All hospitals have very specific policies regarding the changing of staff for non-medical reasons, and these policies lean heavily against replacing staff to accommodate a patient’s whims. Those in the healthcare industry believe that the more they allow a changing of staff for non-medical reasons, the greater the risk to overall quality of care. And replacing a staff member due to their race has the obvious added detriments of potential civil rights lawsuit and bad publicity. It is no surprise, then, that this policy of not replacing medical staff for reasons of race at my wife’s hospital is not remotely new. It has existed long before any my wife’s colleagues practiced medicine, and some of those colleagues are in their seventies.

But if this policy has existed for so very long, one might reasonably ask, then why is this new training program being implemented now? And the answer to that question is that, for the first time in institutional memory, there is suddenly a need.

Prior to this past two years, a patient requesting a white doctor was almost an urban legend at my wife’s hospital. It was one of those things that the occasional staff member had heard of happening to a friend of a friend of a friend, years ago, but they didn’t quite know when or to who. In the past couple of years, however, something has shifted. Requests to be kept away from the hands of non-white doctors and nurses are now popping up with increasing regularity.  And the staff, frankly, have had no idea how to deal with patients who made such requests other than simply refusing them, because this is a phenomena they have not had to deal with until recently.

To be clear, my wife’s hospital is not in the the deep south, so-called fly-over country, or a red (or even a purple) state. The city we live in is so liberal that both Bush administrations referred to us as “Little Beirut” because they found us so leftist as to be a borderline enemy of the United State; most conservative radio hosts, on the rare occasion they refer to us at all, add the prefix “The People’s Republic of” to our city name to hammer home this exact same point. Further, my wife’s hospital does not have a way to profit off of sensationalism, the way media outlets do. This new training program is not designed to generate clicks or ratings for the hospital. They are not tweeting about this training; they are not talking about it on Facebook. They are not attempting to attach this new training program to a political candidate, party, or movement. Indeed, they are hoping to avoid any publicity at all. It is out of respect for this desire that I am choosing not to name the hospital in this post.

No, the reason the hospital has implemented this change is the reason most large institutions do so: the environment in which they operate has already changed, and they are simply trying to keep up with the times.

*     *     *

Last week the New York Times published an opinion piece by Stephanie Coontz that suggested that millennial-generation men are increasingly wanting women to say home and take care of the house and family while men went out and earned money.

The resulting cascade of social media reaction was entirely predictable. First came the wave of agreement that millennials are just the worst. Then came the wave of everyone who doesn’t blindly worship Trump somehow blaming the Donald for this trend. Then came the wave hand wringing about the state of feminism in 2017. Then various people posted criticisms (some quite excellent criticisms, in fact) of the Coontz piece, as well as the work by sociologists Joanna Pepin and David Cotter Coontz referenced. Then came the wave of agreement that the New York Times, science writers, and sociologists in general are just the worst.

Although I don’t believe that millennials are worthy of being singled out, I’m not sure that Coontz is entirely wrong about the trend of how we as Americans view equality. I mentioned this to Vikram on Twitter, and he responded quite reasonably by wanting to hash out the data. And to be be honest, I’m not sure there is data that can unequivocally support what I believe. And yet I’m not sure that my belief is therefore incorrect.

Allow me to zoom out a bit.

For me, the Coontz mini-tempest has mirrored the story arc of the recent rise in threats against synagogues. As a reminder, 2017 saw a terrifying rise in bomb threats against Jewish houses of worship here in the United States. Whether or not that was surprising is debatable. Anti-Semitism, after all, has seemingly been on the rise these past few years.

Or has it?

Most journalists I know who are Jewish (or who aren’t but have vaguely Jewish-sounding names) have spent the past two years being bombarded with anti-semitic slurs on social media. Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated. College campuses have been reporting a dramatic spike in anti-Semitism. When Jewish groups asked Trump and his administration to condemn these acts — including the bomb threats — they were alarmed to find that the White House seemed to go out of its way to avoid doing so1  While the President’s own daughter has converted to Judaism, he himself has famously retweeted Neo Nazis, has praised talk radio hosts who dabble in Jewish conspiracy theories, and tagged a man who ran a publication whose readers frequently attacked Jews with slurs and who was accused by his ex-wife as being anti-Jewish himself as his Chief Strategist.

If all of this seems troubling to you, know that those people who rely on solid data when evaluating controversial claims are not so sure that it should be. “Responsible commenters would do well to wait for hard evidence” of anti-semitism explained NRO, while the Washington Post noted that  “it’s not so clear” that there were any trends about which one should be concerned. Data is data, after all, and everything else is but an anecdote. Added to this is the fact that the main perpetrator of the reported synagogues bomb threats is a Jewish teenager with dual US and Israeli citizenship. The worry that the rise of Trumpism and the alt-right either signaled or happened in conjunction with an increase in anti-Semitism, declared NRO’s Jonathan Tobin, was merely “liberals [hitching] their wagon to a false narrative.” And for those who believe in data alone, Tobin’s claim rings true. If the data doesn’t back up the claim that anti-semitism is on the rise or that it is being mainstreamed, it might be best to discount the belief by some that it is.

The problem with this stance , however, is that data itself is limited. Data doesn’t say what we should make of cemeteries being desecrated once the news of the bomb threats was made public, nor does it give us insight into the White House’s great reluctance to condemn crimes against non-whites and non-Christians. Data doesn’t guess why college campuses are seeing an increase in anti-Semitism. It does’ even necessarily count that trend as important, because data correctly notes that those campuses represent a small and unusual slice of the population. We didn’t have Twitter or Facebook when I was a kid, so the recent barrage of anti-Semitism against Jews on social media is by definition an aberration, and will remain so until such time as we have a long enough life span of social media to do proper measurements.

Here is an additional issue with sociological data: we live in a time where all of it is dismissible. As the conservative meme goes, all social science is “more social than science” — or at least it is when it goes against our prior beliefs. Vikram is correct when he points out that there are enough valid arguments to dismiss the trend of male views on women that Coontz claims is there. However, I’ve been a citizen of the internet long enough to know that this is true for all sociological studies. It is one of the primary jobs of the internet to take any academic finding and parse it finely enough that it’s conclusions are rendered moot. Sometimes that takes great parsing indeed; sometimes it takes very little, depending upon the quality of the study. But the parsing will be done, and the conclusions will be invalidated, actual approximate distance from the truth not withstanding.

Are men today trending away from the concept of female equality? I believe this to be the case. To be true, most of that belief comes from evidence that is entirely anecdotal. It stuff like how a major news networks can report that women earning more than men is “anti-science,” something no news show would have dared to report when I was younger. It’s that the meme “make me a sammich b**ch” is considered more and more to be an acceptable social media response to women when discussing gender issues. It’s that an an ex-writer from these very pages, on a group blog devoted to intellectually rigorous political dialogue, recently brought in an editor from the MRA site A Voice for Men to be an example of that intellectual rigor. It’s that there is a still-growing trend of men sending rape threats via the internet to women for being feminist, famous, or merely online. It’s that our elected leaders openly asking why health benefits for women shouldn’t be carved out of health insurance coverages, and knowing that doing so will not negatively effect reelection chances. It’s that political photo ops for policy concerning women’s issues are now purposefully all male, and that this seems to be a winning strategy.

Data doesn’t really adequately address these things, in much the same way data doesn’t address the fact that a decade ago George Allen was forced by the GOP to apologize for saying “macaca” and in 2017 the GOP seems uninterested in condemning Steve King’s far more disturbing white supremacist rhetoric. That’s not what data is built for, really. But that doesn’t mean that these things don’t exist, or that they aren’t important, or that they aren’t part of a trend.

 

*     *     *

So no, I can’t use data to prove that men’s belief about women’s equality is trending in a troubling direction. And I can’t use data to prove that anti-Semitism is on the rise in 2017. And I can’t use data to prove that it is becoming increasingly more acceptable to voice white supremacist beliefs. And even if I had such data, I know that you would have some other data that would counter mine, proving either that I was in error, or that there are some things we simply can’t possibly know. All I have, at the end of the day, are these anecdotes, stories to which I admittedly choose to impart meaning. You may choose to reject those stories and the meaning I bestow upon them, and in the world of anecdotal data, your narrative is just as good as mine. We who spend out times debating on the internet, we all know this to be true. And yet.

And yet…

My wife’s employer recently began a new employee training program. It is the kind of employee training program that, once I learned of it, I very much wanted to wish away. But I couldn’t.

 

[Image credits: Screen shot of Pleasantville, NCI’s “Doctor Consults With Patient” via Wiki Commons.]Notes:

  1. It should be noted that Trump and the White House eventually did condemn these acts. However, many Jewish leaders are still troubled that it took so much pressure to get them to do so. []

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Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular contributor for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter. ...more →

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248 thoughts on “The Data Says Everything Is Fine

  1. I don’t think that data ever says that everything is fine. Data does not tend to work that way. Empirical evidence is just that: evidence. It suggests likely theories. It tests the validity of new theories. It refines old truths.

    The utility of data in the social sciences mostly lies in standing as a check against believing what you want to believe. Yes, you can seek out only the data that confirms your pre-existing beliefs, but the recognition of that should serve as a warning not t do it, not as an excuse for rejecting the whole idea of empirical evidence.

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    • I don’t think that data ever says that everything is fine.

      And yet if you read the comments that follow, data is the excuse for not addressing these things. So if it doesn’t exactly say everything is fine, it appears to say something that gets you to an identical place.

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      • And yet if you read the comments that follow, data is the excuse for not addressing these things.

        That’s a pretty good example of an anecdote that doesn’t get us very far. Yes, there are people who are only interested in evidence in so far as it can help them prove what they want to believe or already believe. The only answer I have for that is to avoid those conversations and the people who want to have them.

        Perhaps the first step is to realize that there is a world that exists independent of how we choose to feel about it. That is, there is a reality that exists independent of our desires to place a narrative on it. What’s our purpose? Is it to justify a certain narrative or is to learn as much about that independent reality? Do we want to have a conversation about sexism and racism et al so that we can justify our pre-existing positions on these issues or do we want to talk about how to make progress on these topics? Because if you want to make progress, then the details are going to matter.

        Now, assuming a a good faith conversation, what we need to figure out is what the proper role of various types of evidence ought to be. Personally, I don’t dismiss anecdote. It has it’s place. And I don’t say that everything has to be proven to some impossible empirical standard, because even the most robust empirical and statistical methods have their limitations.

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  2. It is said that the plural of anecdote is not data. This is true.

    But the inverse is also true. Data does not mean anecdotes did not occur.

    Maybe the world is getting better all the time and despite all the handwringing, anti-semitism and racism and sexism are all on the decline. Even if that is 100% true, if your wife’s hospital has had recent incidents wherein doctors were put in an uncomfortable position because of problematic requests by patients, they’d be right to enact this policy.

    Often times, an individual anecdote is hand-waved away because of the data. And while individual anecdotes shouldn’t dictate brought policy, if they happen, they happen and they ought to deserve an appropriate proportional response.

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    • It is said that the plural of anecdote is not data. This is true.

      Why. Here’s an anecdote: I listened to the Orioles’ season opener yesterday. They won. I was happy.

      What can we infer from this anecdote? Very little. We certainly can’t infer that the Orioles are going to win 162 games this season. Or even 81. Or really much of anything.

      But we will continue to collect such anecdotes. At some magic moment, we will start thinking about this collection of anecdotes as data. Around June there were be earnest discussions about how to interpret this data: should the Orioles go to the trade deadline as buyers or as seller?

      To put it another way, what is the difference between an anecdote and a data point? I don’t see one.

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      • Well, yes, an anecdote is a data point. Or, perhaps more precisely, can be. It depends on exactly what we are extracting from it. As says, there are ways of figuring out when a sample size has become large enough to be useful.

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      • That’s sort of true, but ideally your many data points are systematically similar. Baseball games are a good example because they’re played under controlled conditions and the outcomes are easily measurable. But “racist events” for example aren’t. A person’s lifetime experience with what they observed to be racism is usually a huge pile of events, but each one is very different and brings with it a different set of confounding variables, so aggregating them together isn’t easy. We can end up with a lot of people saying very different things about racial attitudes just from that mushiness alone (let alone the fact that the observers each have a different life experience). In that sense, a bunch of anecdotes are probably better than nothing, but they’re also not really good data no matter how big the pile gets.

        If you can systematize those observations (say, substitute people out in the same repeated situation a few time), you can get something that’s much more clearly “data” with a lot fewer observations than you can by piling up random anecdotes halfway to the moon.

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      • The quote is just wrong. Not only is the plural of anecdote data, but the singular of anecdote is data. Information coming in is data. Full stop.

        It’s not quantitative data, and it’s certainly not representative quantitative data – until it is. But it’s data.

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  3. My employer has annual training on the following, among other things:

    Foreign corrupt practices
    Security / retention of classified/sensitive/proprietary/IP data.
    Sexual Harassment
    Ethics
    Workplace Violence
    Human Trafficking
    Trade Compliance

    This doesn’t mean that there’s been ANY incidents for the any of the respective training. It means the corporation is covering it’s ass. That’s all. I didn’t see in your post where you indicated that there has been any instances of white patients asking for white caregivers. I’m sure your wife’s training also includes how to deal with many other scenarios just as unlikely. Does she have “active shooter” training, fire/emergency evacuation, chemical/biological/nuclear spill?

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    • — From the post:

      Prior to this past two years, a patient requesting a white doctor was almost an urban legend at my wife’s hospital. It was one of those things that the occasional staff member had heard of happening to a friend of a friend of a friend, years ago, but they didn’t quite know when or to who. In the past couple of years, however, something has shifted. Requests to be kept away from the hands of non-white doctors and nurses are now popping up with increasing regularity. And the staff, frankly, have had no idea how to deal with patients who made such requests other than simply refusing them, because this is a phenomena they have not had to deal with until recently.

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        • — I’m pretty sure Tod doesn’t have those numbers. Even if he did, it’s just one hospital. Plus, data is always messy.

          But really, is this an isolated demand for rigor? Even if Tod came up with some numbers, surely you could imagine some not-controlled-for variable…

          Which actually is the whole point of what he wrote.

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          • If that’s the case, then we’re back where we started. My speculation, and that’s all it is, is that there’s been a “few” folks who made a request, like say 5. Enough to get Mngt attention, so they felt the need to come out with this training. I see this all the time in my work environment.

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              • Hmm, well, let’s break this down.

                A very very tiny minority of people do something. The company implements a new training program. This is going to cost a min of 100k excluding the labor and oversignt/monitoring to ensure full compliance with the new training. Call it 500K minimum all in. So, opportunity cost…could that money have been spent better? I’d argue likely yes. Not enough info for a decent conclusion, but I think, based upon the OP, the numbers aren’t large and this is being driving by company CYA / political motivations, so yah…a “bad thing”.

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      • OK, I’ve gotten some disbelief when I’ve said that I tend not to notice race, but it’s true. I honestly don’t remember if I’ve ever had a black doctor.

        I notice when a doctor can’t speak English clearly enough to communicate medical information to me. I’ve had that experience, and I’ve had it more often this decade than the last one, and that one more than the one before. I wouldn’t care if the doctor was born overseas or in the US, or what shade of skin he has, but I care if I can’t understand him and if he seems to not be able to understand me (although doctors often leave you feeling that way, don’t they?).

        If people prefer white doctors, it might have nothing to do with their feelings about race.

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        • If people prefer white doctors, it might have nothing to do with their feelings about race.

          So we get to the thing about data. First, good data is hard to get, especially about “social stuff.” For example, how much data passes by every morning when I ride the subway, as I’m surrounding by people interacting with each other? None of that is measured. But it happens.

          Furthermore, inference is hard. Even when you have a lot of data, there are always as many variables that you did not measure. This is true about simple systems with simple moving parts. It is even more true about complex agents. Past that, you have the psychology of humans.

          If you demand that racism be measured the way we measure the percentage of carbon in a solution in laboratory conditions — well you’re kinda stacking the deck.

          I do data science for living. I have a lot of data, measurements of human behavior, demographic information, links they’ve clicked, things they’ve purchased, things they’ve “liked,” that sort of stuff. So I can build models. I can look for correlations (or better, mutual information). I can even build causal networks. But really, it’s all so vague.

          We really can do a lot, but there I never quite feel like I’m modeling “ground truth.” It doesn’t work that way.

          Are there units in which I measure “racism”? Is there ever a clear line, where a critic cannot say, “Well, I know they were burning crosses and they literally called that guy the n-word, but that doesn’t mean they’re an actual racist.”

          I mean, fuck, read that quote above. Good grief.

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          • Well, that’s the ultimate answer to Tod’s article, and to so much of our current national debate. We are rarely measuring the thing we want to measure. We’re measuring proxies. Even if we had perfect time series data about patients asking for white doctors, I suspect it would only be a weak proxy for racism. There are a dozen other series that could be argued to be equally good proxies.

            This, I suspect, was the intended meaning behind the dreaded phrase “alternative facts”. There are different ways of measuring similar phenomena, all of which are correlated to multiple independent (or not so independent) variables. And, to widen the picture even further, the way we approach which data has the greatest relevance to any topic at hand is similar to the way we determine how much context is needed to understand a quote. Everyone can latch onto a few stats and quotes that paint the picture the way they want to, even fact-checking websites.

            When the facts are against you, pound on the law. When the other guy has painted an intuitive argument, paint a statistical one. When he cites counter statistics, interpret them away. When he quotes an authority, expand or contract the context until it fits your story, or tear the authority down.

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          • Well, when I was in college, I PREFERRED my comp sci instructors to be non indians because all the indians would pronounce their english wrong and it took me a MONTH to realize that “be ga ne” was “beginning”

            Was I being racist because these fools couldn’t pronounce american english correctly and were the ones supposedly imparting their learning to me.

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              • Patrick,
                if we were to assume that everyone had Damon’s problem, one might question whether said person could have an intelligible conversation, might one not?
                I certainly ran into problems with language with my first Indian Instructor (a Graduate Student trying to teach 5th graders math… up to calculus).

                I think everyone else did too, actually.

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                • The professor who taught me linear algebra in college was an expat Russian. His accent was thick enough that it was hard to understand him in class sometimes.

                  I can see that being a reason to want a different teacher (although, point of fact, he was a very good teacher).

                  But when you call him a “fool” because of his accent, you might be tipping a hand, there.

                  … And if you’re calling him a “fool” for other reasons, his accent (and your whole comment) is irrelevant because you didn’t object to him teaching you the class because of his accent but because you thought he didn’t understand the material he was teaching.

                  This implies something else.

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                  • Patrick,
                    The professor who taught my husband linear algebra in college… was speaking chinese and teaching an entirely different course. (He apparently realized rather late in the semester that he’d gone to the wrong class since he hadn’t been there the first day (sick)…)
                    It still being a math course, apparently a lot of it was decipherable….

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              • If one cannot communicate effectively to the audience, you’re useless as an instructor. It’s your fault and the administration’s fault. My fool reference should have been more clearly directed to the administration, but as an instructor, you should know whether or not you can communicate clearly american english in an american university.

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                • As Opposed to Mr. Mumbles, who was told by people sitting in the first row that they couldn’t hear him. And, when told that, said that if he spoke up any louder he’d grow hoarse.

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          • veronica d: Are there units in which I measure “racism”? Is there ever a clear line, where a critic cannot say, “Well, I know they were burning crosses and they literally called that guy the n-word, but that doesn’t mean they’re an actual racist.”

            The issue isn’t whether they’re a racist (they are). The issues are whether it’s newsworthy and how big of a problem for society is this? The number of crosses burned every year is roughly 30 (Southern Poverty Law Center).

            We’ve hit the point where a string of bomb threats to Jewish churches is more likely to be a lone nut than an organized group. That’s a good thing.

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            • This is a good illustration of the OP.

              Dark Matter is likely correct about the SPCL’s cross burnings. (Don’t know, but have no reason to doubt and if anything I would have guessed 30 to be high.) Therefore, he has data – real data – that backs up his belief that racism is not on the rise but if anything on the decline.

              However, I also know from Rebecca Sturtevant of the same SPCL (because I interviewed her last month for my article on the KKK) that the SPCL’s numbers indicate a sharp rise in anti-Semitic activity, occurrences of racist activity (both online and in the real world), and violent and non-violent “hate” crimes. Therefore, I might decide that I have the data to back up my own personal suspicion that these kinds of things are increasing.

              So here we have two instances of data — from the same source, no less! He might prove me wrong, but I’m guessing that Dark Matter will dismiss the data from the SPCL for some reasons, or if not he will weight it differently from his cross-burning data. And since I do not necessarily equate cross burning as an accurate measure of national trends in racism or anti-Semitic mood, I in turn will weigh his data less than I do the SPLC’s more robust data set.

              Those on this site who are more likely to believe racism and anti-Semistim is growing will largely agree with me here. Those here who find it all a bit of liberal tosh will explain why although the SPLC’s data that Dark Matter referenced might be spot on, the rest of their data is totally invalid because of [X].

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                • But the point is they’re not remotely similar.

                  One is a set of very specific crime that is catalogued by law enforcement at a local, state, and federal level.

                  One is a set of crimes, misdemeanors, and completely legal (albeit offensive) activities — and most people likely won’t agree on what should and should not be included in this set.

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                  • There are other factors as well. SPLC is an interest group, and interest groups put their continued existence high at the top of their priorities. I’ve never heard of a interested/advocacy group that goes out of business…

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                    • Damon,
                      I have heard of people creating advocacy groups that are designed to implode (and get a lot of data while doing so). You’ve heard of ACORN, yes?

                      Those are the people involved in SPLC.

                      SPLC is an arm-twisting organization that gets hate groups to cool their jets. Because people respect the SPLC, and it means something if you’re listed on their website.

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                      • Because people respect the SPLC, and it means something if you’re listed on their website.

                        They seem to be working hard to squander that respect these days. I’m at a point where I don’t really consider their input as much more valid than any other rando on Twitter.

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              • “So here we have two instances of data ”

                And given that they both describe the EXACT SAME THING, one of the instances must be wrong.

                Or maybe they don’t describe the exact same thing. Maybe the argument here is “Dark Matter, you’re focusing on cross-burning, but there are many other methods by which racist and antisemitic sentiments are displayed, and here are some examples which are increasing yearly, and that’s why I argue that antisemitism is rising”.

                But that’s “you’re not using all the data”, not “I will weigh your data as less meaningful because it doesn’t feel right”. It’s also not “well okay you have a fact and I have a fact and they cancel each other out but this story feels right so I’m going to act like it is”.

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                • …there are many other methods by which racist and antisemitic sentiments are displayed, and here are some examples which are increasing yearly, and that’s why I argue that antisemitism is rising”.

                  Sure. Let’s pick 20 different measurements to evaluate this, then the media can pick the five which are going up and ignore the 5 which are going down and the 10 which are unchanged.

                  Bomb threats is a great one, very graphic, and absolute proof of a vast racist conspiracy… except oops… it was proven to not be racist, so it’s time to change measurements so we can get to the real truth.

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                • But that’s “you’re not using all the data”, not “I will weigh your data as less meaningful because it doesn’t feel right”. It’s also not “well okay you have a fact and I have a fact and they cancel each other out but this story feels right so I’m going to act like it is”.

                  Oh thanks, I almost forgot.

                  There is also the issue people who are just trying to be assholes for the sake of being assholes, which gums up the works even further.

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              • First, does the data show an increase in anti-Semitism, or is the Press just making a lot out of what’s always there because racism is supposed to increase under Trump because he’s not a Democrat?

                My impression is we’re not comparing what happened this year to last year, but just pointing to incidents in general and saying they shouldn’t happen.

                2nd, some/many of the big “racist” incidents they’re pointing to are the work of one nut, and a Jewish nut at that. Subtract that kind of noise from the data (which admittedly is hard), and just focus on the organized stuff and we have… what?

                30 crosses a year (assuming a purely random distribution :cough:) means it will happen to me roughly once every 10 million years. That’s not zero, but it’s also not far off.

                Society has gotten very, VERY, good at dealing with this… so much so that a lot of SJW really should be looking for other jobs, and just to make work for themselves they need to use a bigger microscope and move goal posts.

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                • That’s not how things work.
                  SJWs will burn itself out in a frenzy rather than do any good with themselves.

                  Obama moving Nuclear Weapons in Texas (or whatever the mischegas was), will be just the prologue.

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                • does the data show an increase in anti-Semitism, or is the Press just making a lot out of what’s always there because racism is supposed to increase under Trump because he’s not a Democrat?

                  I am sympathetic to the point that the recent “trend” might be only an ongoing trend and might be being reported more (if it is being reported more) because of Mr. Trump’s election. But this tilt in the reporting is not solely because he’s not a Democrat. It’s because of how he campaigned and the groups he tried to appeal to or at least tried not to offend.

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        • If people prefer white doctors, it might have nothing to do with their feelings about race.

          There are white people that were born overseas with thick accents and/or mediocre English.

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          • Anyone who lives in an area with a large Russian/Ukrainian population will attest to this. Every doctor and dentist, if they’re not that ethnicity themselves, has at least one nurse/PA/midwife/hygeinist on staff because they speak the language, and usually more than one. Many of them have thick accents. The doctor who delivered one of my kids was Romanian and also had a heavy accent.

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    • Damon:

      That sounds like the training they give us every year in the Reserve and which the fed gov civilians also get. IMHO, it’s a giant waste of time.

      We also get, Threat Awareness and Reporting Program (TARP), Suicide Awareness and active shooter.

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      • None of which are important or relevant for what you do on a day to day basis.

        Until that awful day when they do become immensely and immediately important. We all hope and pray that such a day never comes.

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      • None, it’s simply a check the box exercise of mandated training. The videos are the usually the same ones every year. The only one that I think has really changed has been the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP)

        The human trafficking one cracks me up the most. Trying to scare folks from patronizing strip joints or prostitutes b/c they might be trafficked. I don’t think they work b/c the average joe won’t think twice when he is out.

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            • The Army is doing it because soldiers *in* the Army often end in up countries where human trafficking and prostitution of said traffic victims is completely ignored by the authorities.

              People in the US who visit prostitutes generally assume said prostitutes are doing it of their own free will, in the sense that their only coercion is to make money or maintain a drug habit or something. That they are doing it as a *job*. (And, yes, we can argue how much ‘consent’ is actually involved there, but the point is, men seem to think it’s *enough* consent to not be weirded out by it.)

              This assumption is *generally* correct in the US, although I guess, if you care, morally you should probably make sure your prostitute can leave whatever building she is in and can speak English and can go to the authorities and whatnot. But, generally, 99.999% of prostitutes in the US are not slaves. (Now, a lot of them are *underaged*, but that’s an entirely different moral problem.)

              Mostly because *Americans will report slaves* to the police, so letting slaves interact with the public is *really stupid*. Yes, many people won’t report them while involved in illegal activities, but just 2% reporting ‘Uh, hey, the brothel I visited seems to be holding women against their will’ to the police makes the entire process untenable.

              If you have some slaves, you’re much safer having the slaves make clothing or meth or something, which you can then sell. Almost all sex slaves held in the US are *private*, for some specific subset of society, or for the super-rich to pass around.

              The average person, in the US, who hires a prostitute is going to get a woman who is a sex *worker*, as in, someone who willingly sells her body for money.

              The Army is explaining that is an incorrect assumption in other countries. In some countries, *most* prostitutes are being held captive.

              This seems entirely reasonable to inform people of.

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  4. My employer sometimes institutes extra training FOR EVERYONE in lieu of punishing a person who broke a rule.

    *sigh*

    We all had to attend a class on doing “extra time accommodations right for online exams administered through BlackBoard” after one person chose the convenient rather than the legally-correct procedure. Yes, even those of us who never taught online. Yes, even though a new version of BlackBoard was coming out the next year that would totally change things.

    Took me back to fifth grade when Billy D. wouldn’t shut up in class, so we ALL spent recess with our heads down on our desks, except now we don’t know who “Billy D.” is so we can’t beat him up after school for stealing our recess.

    We also have to do, let me think:

    NIMS training (coping with “incidents” like chemical spills)
    what to do in case of a needle-stick
    ergonomics training (a laugh, because there’s no budget for proper chairs)
    anti-sexual-harrassment training (ANNUALLY, because apparently we forget)
    “required reporter” training (what to do in case of someone revealing a significant other is abusing them or they’ve been raped)
    active-shooter training (that was the one I found most difficult to sit through)

    and others.

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    • A lot of the time, if the training happened once I’d be fine with it. But for some reason we have to be reminded of the existence of the FCPA every year, and so on for everything from active shooters to sexual harassment.

      For some reason the “active shooter” training is particularly offensive to me.

      “Hide under your desk and bar the door. If that fails, throw your laptop at the homicidal maniac with the AR15.”

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      • I waste more time at work reading blogs then attending silly CYA style “training.” In fact, I suspect a lot of people spend more time complaining about the training than training.

        In any case, we can certainly do better at diversity. It’s worth doing better. Some amount of training will almost certainly be needed, although these days it seems as if the actual training material is pretty weaksauce.

        I have a feeling, tho, that better training would just make those people grouse more.

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        • Oh sure.

          Except I enjoy the time I waste reading blogs than I do taking CYA training. Hell, I enjoy complaining about the training more than I enjoy taking it–complaining is fun. If it weren’t, people would do a whole lot less of it.

          If the training were more worthwhile, I generally would be bothered less. One thing that bugs my about the diversity training is that it’s so anodyne as to be obviously useless.

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          • One thing that bugs my about the diversity training is that it’s so anodyne as to be obviously useless.

            Yes this. Nothing I did in diversity training helped me in any way when it comes to how to handle a class some of whom may be minorities of one sort or another. (I didn’t really have any problems) But if any had cropped up, nothing I learned in that bit of online course they gave me would have helped either.

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            • And the thing is: if a person is already Badthinking, the training isn’t going to change them.

              One of my colleagues ruefully joked that the anti-sexual-harassment training could equally well be seen as a manual of “new ways to make your colleagues’ lives miserable,” if you were so inclined.

              I knew someone here – in a highly placed position – who was offensive to just about everybody (especially women, and he said some fairly egregious things to me). But because of his position, he was shielded. Well, until he apparently said something to someone ABOVE him and got busted down….so yeah, it feels particularly useless to me, the training.

              It doesn’t change the minds of anyone, I think. It wastes the time of people who would never do whatever Bad Thing is is against. But it checks some federal checkbox somewhere, so we keep doing it. And every year, more is added.

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            • That’s because the point of diversity training isn’t to help you with diversity issues. It’s to allow the company to reject a claim of fostering a *-ist environment when an employee is found passing racist jokes on an internal corporate mailing list, or maintaining an archive of nude & semi-nude pics of attractive female employees.

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              • yeah, I know that. But still, I feel like it wastes the time and goodwill of the people who wouldn’t do that kind of stuff.

                Then again: my uni has a history of being kind of chickenlivered about confronting the people who actually break rules; all they do is make the rules more draconian for everyone. (Sick day policy – I’ve complained about that before, how it got changed to something I could never fulfill by the letter of the law because I don’t have a spouse/housemate to help me)

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      • We have to do it every year. If I never see that “staged reenactment” of the Columbine shooting, I would be happy.

        They showed us how to turn our belts into a way of holding a door closed. What they glossed over is WHY THE HELL DON’T WE HAVE CLASSROOM DOORS WE CAN LOCK FROM THE INSIDE.

        Also, a lot of the stuff kind of seemed to hint, “The professor should sacrifice himself/herself so the students can live.” Yeah? If that happens, they damnwell better at least endow a scholarship in memory of me.

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        • fillyjonk: WHY THE HELL DON’T WE HAVE CLASSROOM DOORS WE CAN LOCK FROM THE INSIDE.

          Because people might forget, and then you have a fire hazard, even moreso if the teacher is somehow incapacitated.

          Eta- in any case, ever since duck and cover there’s now a half century plus of history of schools conducting drills on useless procedures of vanishingly rare events.

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          • It used to be routine to find doorknobs where the lock kept the outside knob from functioning, but unlocked when the inside knob was turned. As I recall, they were billed for exactly the “What happens if there’s a fire, the door is locked, and the people in the room panic?” scenarios. Have those disappeared?

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              • We don’t have knobs, we have levers. I presume there’s some way they could be configured to be lockable from the inside but instantly openable by pushing down on the lever in an emergency, and could have a key to be opened from the outside.

                I dunno, it just seems….kind of much to keep subjecting us to what is a stressful hour’s training when some of the simple things that maybe could be done to protect us in the enormously unlikely circumstance won’t be.

                Of course, we’ve also had roof leaks where the water comes out through a LIGHT FIXTURE so probably being electrocuted is more likely than being shot, but whatever. (“Deferred maintenance” is a bitch)

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            • A typical ADA-compliant handleset will always open from the inside regardless of the state of the lock and has a lever style handle (or push bar) that you can actuate easily in a fire.

              A huge chunk of the details in a modern building boil down to “What happens if there’s a fire?” For example, if you expect lots of people to pour out of an exit, the door swings out to avoid crushing people against the door and jamming it shut. If you expect a small number of people to exit, the door swings in because the more likely failure mode is for junk outside the door to block an outward swing.

              Deadbolts? We don’t do deadbolts anymore.

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  5. I think it’s more likely that people have been emboldened to speak up or act on their beliefs where they might have remained silent or out of sight before, rather than people’s beliefs have been changed.

    However, this means that we can’t take some of this stuff for granted. We need to be bold in speaking up about how we think our lives are enriched by diversity, concretely and specifically.

    I think there’s also cases of people who aren’t pushing back at the concepts, but at the social context and behavior of members of social groups. There’s some data that people have interpreted as “feminism made women unhappy”. But that’s based on a profound misunderstanding of how happiness works. I think MRA’s are a reactionary feminist splinter group, not a group that wants to go back to the 50’s or earlier. They aren’t interested in turning women into chattel.

    We’re transitioning from a time where one could take for granted that the needs of white males would be accommodated in the public sphere to one where that can’t be taken for granted. Men had needs, and will always have needs, that are specific to their situation, just as women do. (I’m not so sure this is true of white people, though). So before this transition, men did not have to know how to advocate within the political sphere for their needs. Equality means that they will have to, and a lot of the first attempts are clumsy and often downright ugly. That’s not to say I support them all. But I think the context matters.

    I recently read a piece covering people in Iowa who are getting tired of Steve King. Not all of them, there was one old codger defending him.

    My understanding is that we are in a transition period. The old political paradigm is falling apart, in part due to its age, and in part due to the internet. I’m not sure what will come, but I’m still hopeful. But transition periods tend to be very chaotic.

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    • I think it’s more likely that people have been emboldened to speak up or act on their beliefs where they might have remained silent or out of sight before, rather than people’s beliefs have been changed.

      Yes, this. All I can offer are anecdotes but it really seems like the election of Obama uncorked something that had previously lain silent(ed).

      There was the outbreak of “fried chicken and watermelon on the White House lawn” jokes I heard from ranchers I was making deliveries to. There was the older guy in my neighborhood who, upon seeing the Obama/Biden bumper sticker on my SIL’s car in my driveway, just had to pause in his dogwalk to tear her a new asshole.

      In general, it just seems like the election of our first black president somehow gave certain people a feeling of entitlement to spew the bile they had been previously been holding privately. It’s a ball that started rolling and it’s seemingly all downhill.

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  6. There is a oft quoted passage in Richard Rorty’s Achieving Our Century where he argues that wealth and income inequality and economic anxiety would bring back the casual racism and sexism and anti-semitism of the past. You would see and hear things that sounded like they were from the Mad Men era.

    This was written in the late 1990s.

    Now the problem is that there are large number of people who deplore the bigotry above but have a vested interest or ideological predisposition to argue that wealth and income inequality are not real.

    Trump gave people racism and enough people liked it to give him the Presidency. It is depressing to think of a countless cycle of elections where the Trump technique is successful. And I suspect Trump’s base won’t abandon him even though he is gutting programs that help them or proposing to.

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    • In fact the anti-Identity Politics left criticism of Identity Politics is that it allows wealthy individuals and corporations to appear progressive by projective an image of diversity towards women, non-whites, and members of the LGBT community while displacing issues relating to inequality of wealth. If I’m remembering correctly, they believe that this will actually exasperate issues regarding bigotry and hate in the long run like Richard Rorty.

      I don’t entirely buy this. Many wealthy individuals and corporations are more sincere in their commitment to issues relating to multiculturalism than the anti-Identity Politics Left believes. It isn’t all a cynical ploy on the part of wealthy people. Cosmopolitanism has been a value among a certain number of wealthy people for a long time. The Communist countries also show that you can still have plenty of sexism, racism, and homophobia in countries nominally devoted to a policy of economic equality. They are different issues and need to be worked at differently. The real tricky thing seems to be getting the masses, the former majority to go along with things.

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  7. Careful with that axe, Eugene.

    It might lead you to the conclusion that terrorism is worse than ever, that we have a real problem with ISIS attacks on US soil, and that refugees are making Europe much worse than it is.

    If you want to point out that the narrative is compelling despite the data, you absolutely have every ability to do so. I just want to point out that there are a lot of narratives out there. Compelling, as far as I can tell, despite the data.

    If these narratives aren’t particularly compatible with your own, you’re stuck trying to figure out how to reconcile them without resorting to data.

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    • Well, Jaybird, the benefit of transitioning to narrative-based reasoning is that the most compelling narrative is the most correct one. So you can make up stories about terrorists, but I can point to no-shit this-actually-happened totally-real(*) stories about grandmothers who died while waiting for a visa, and my story is better than yours so I win.

      (*) note: story may not actually be true

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    • Why is it that a bunch of stories on Gamergate were enough to show that Trump had a good chance of winning (which he did) but it is seemingly always raising bar to prove whether bigotry is on the rise in the country?

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      • I go back to this wonderful quotation:

        I check 538 for anxiety and Princeton and the Upshot to calm down

        Here’s a good rule of thumb that I’ve tried to internalize:

        “If your narrative makes you feel better about things, you’re lying to yourself.”

        To deal with your question:

        it is seemingly always raising bar to prove whether bigotry is on the rise in the country?

        I’d just want to hammer out how we’re measuring bigotry.

        If we’re measuring it by stuff like “bomb threats to Jewish centers”, I’d say that we had one hell of a spike there, recently.

        If we’re measuring it by stuff like “homophobes going into gay bars and shooting up the place”, last year was a very bad year indeed.

        Bigotry is going up, sure. That seems to be true on its face. Just look at all of the data points we can point at.

        What solution do you recommend?

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        • Bigotry is not hate groups. Hate groups are controllable through blackmail and other forms of coercion.

          How do you deal with a million loners? It’s impossible.
          Somehow the Secret Service managed anyway.

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        • “If your narrative makes you feel better about things, you’re lying to yourself.”

          The ways in which narratives make people feel better about things are strange and varied, and I’ve noticed that a lot of the narratives I’ve seen challenged the most around here are also the ones that make me feel the worst.

          I mean, I’d certainly prefer not to live in a world beset by a rising tide of bigotry, and my belief that we are makes me feel bad. And yet.

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    • I agree, actually.

      The problem that I am trying to identify is that these narratives exist irregardless. Each of you two, for example, always pushes back against certain narratives, and you each do so regardless of what the data says, even if your reason for doing so is that you don’t trust the data. And it’s not just you, it’s all of us.

      For you two, there’s no amount of data that can be collected or analyzed that supports a liberal policy such as affirmative action that either of you will not dismiss as being PC. Likewise, there’s no amount of data that can be collected or analyzed that supports a libertarian policy against affirmative action that others here won’t dismiss as being astroturfed.

      Not to pick on individuals here, but Damon will always find a logical reason to dismiss harassment claims, and Kim will always find a Kim-logic way to dismiss incidents of anti-Semitism.

      So the question I am asking is, are we — all of us — really asking for data, or are we making excuses so that we can continue feeling right and better and good about our choices?

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      • “these narratives exist irregardless”

        did you seriously just do that dude
        seriously
        seriously

        ” are we — all of us — really asking for data, or are we making excuses so that we can continue feeling right and better and good about our choices?”

        even you admit that the bomb threats against Jewish community centers were the result of a deranged individual responding to the voices in his head so maybe waiting for more data was the right thing to do there?

        “but they’re gonna do it anyway!” yeah, and you know what’s a real bad idea? Telling ’em that they were right all along. Telling ’em that the game they were playing was the real game, that when we said “don’t substitute emotionally-satisfying narratives for actual fact-based reasoning” we were talking out our asses. That people are consistently wrong and dumb is not a reason to give up on being correct and intelligent.

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      • “there’s no amount of data that can be collected or analyzed that supports a liberal policy such as affirmative action that either of you will not dismiss as being PC. ”

        Really. I said that. Really.

        Go find it.

        Don’t just tell me about “what you totally said.” Find the actual statement, by me, where I refuse to accept data supporting a liberal policy because “it’s PC”.

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      • If we’re cool with abandoning data, and we apparently are, how do we then resolve the problem of competing narratives?

        Seems to me that the best hope is that our narrative is the one that is best aligned with Reality (or that our narratives are orthogonal to reality) so that if Reality asserts itself, our narrative is strengthened (or, at least, that it remains unchanged) while the “reality” of the competing narratives are cracked (if not ruined).

        Personally, I think that data is one of those things that helps us understand whether we’re aligned with Reality or not.

        Personally, I think that the ability to measure data is exceptionally important and be able to tell what it is we’re measuring and whether or not what we’re measuring is changing from what it was when we measured it last time.

        It strikes me as likely that our narratives are very good at telling us that we’re not measuring the right things, that our samples are skewed, and, god help us, our narratives inject moral language into all of the above and prevent us from seeing what we’ve actually measured.

        Which seems to be a recipe to ensure that our narratives aren’t particularly aligned with reality.

        There sure seem to be a lot of things re-asserting themselves that we thought were taken care of in the past…

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        • I largely agree with this. The extent to which a person accepts empiricism is the degree to which they will allow evidence to shape their beliefs. And there are merits to this approach: it allows something like a truth-test for beliefs’ relation to reality, and it allows for evaluation between competing narratives insofar as one better aligns with the facts. But there’s another virtue in allowing evidence to play a prominent role in belief and narrative formation: since it’s impossible to know all the facts required to establish certainty about any particular policy position it ought to impose a degree of humility on every one of us, in which our narratives are only loosely held. Sadly, no such luck.

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          • since it’s impossible to know all the facts required to establish certainty about any particular policy position it ought to impose a degree of humility on every one of us, in which our narratives are only loosely held

            A fun test:

            Take any one of your beliefs. Ask yourself “what would it take for me to say ‘okay, I was wrong about this’ and abandon the belief?”

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            • I imagine that there are some beliefs that will be easily cast aside.

              I imagine that there are some beliefs that will get you to ask/say “why in the hell would Jaybird ask what it would take to get me to abandon this belief? Does he *WANT* me to abandon it? He must therefore agree with it’s contradiction!”

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              • True, but there is a problem embedded in this wisdom.

                You can have a gadfly that pokes at people’s perceptions of the truth, and that’s likely a good thing. But there’s eventually gadfly tipping point, one where there are so many gadflies poking at so many truths that truth and data become things more and more easy to casually dismiss. One Socrates might well speak truth to power. But hundred million Socrateses, I believe, creates a kind of nihilism that eventually exists for it’s own sake.

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                    • It’s a somewhat self-correcting problem. Nihilism is unsustainable and data dismissed in the service to a narrative is going to result, eventually, in a shattered narrative (unless you’re really lucky and have a reality-orthogonal narrative or even luckier than that and abandoned poorly sampled/measured data).

                      Science, for the most part, has figured a lot of this out. Use the method, make the measurement, wait a bit, make the measurement again. Great. Do it again. Make someone else do it. So on and so forth.

                      This can easily withstand a dollar-store Socrates.

                      Which, for some reason, our society keeps producing by the millions and millions.

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                      • Nihilism is unsustainable and data dismissed in the service to a narrative is going to result, eventually, in a shattered narrative (unless you’re really lucky and have a reality-orthogonal narrative or even luckier than that and abandoned poorly sampled/measured data).

                        Perhaps. But the going-on 30-year success of talk radio as a driver or politics suggests that “eventually” can take a long, long, long time to get here.

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                        • the going-on 30-year success of talk radio as a driver or politics

                          Does your use of the word “success” indicate that talk radio as a driver of politics has, somehow, found itself able to withstand hundreds and hundreds of dollar store Socrateses?

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                            • Maybe that’s why there are so very many Socrateses. They’re the only thing that Socrateses can withstand…

                              Fair enough. I wonder if there’s any way to measure if Talk Radio isn’t tapping into something Reality-adjacent and that’s why it happens to be surprisingly robust even in the face of narratives that are obviously morally superior.

                              I mean, from what I understand, we’ve somehow found ourself at a place where we have to train people how to deal with patients who ask for white Doctors. In 2017!

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                      • This can easily withstand a dollar-store Socrates.

                        Which, for some reason, our society keeps producing by the millions and millions.

                        I don’t think this is a function of our society, I think it’s a function of our humanity.

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                • “One Socrates might well speak truth to power. But hundred million Socrateses, I believe, creates a kind of nihilism that eventually exists for it’s own sake.”

                  I think it’s important to recognize that Tod, here, is being very upset that we refuse to just accept his story as true without asking for evidence.

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      • So the question I am asking is, are we — all of us — really asking for data, or are we making excuses so that we can continue feeling right and better and good about our choices?

        Would this be an accurate rephrasing of that question: is it possible for the narrative flowing from an ideological framework to include data and evidence which is inconsistent with that narrative? If it is, then it seems to me the problem isn’t the role data plays in our decision-making, but the role ideology plays.

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        • Close.

          I think what I’m saying is that most things I see dismissed because “data” these days aren’t really being dismissed because “data.” “Data” is simply the reason we tell ourselves why we are dismissing whatever it is we are dismissing. Should the data change, we won’t reevaluate our position on X, we’ll find a way to go from accepting ” data” to being dismissive of it.

          To what degree is this new and to what degree this has always existed I’m not entirely sure. And I’m not sure that ideology is needed, as people with a weaker attachment to their ideology seem just as capable of doing it as people with stronger attachment.

          In the OP, I’m not actually arguing that I’m right about rising and/or existing inequality and that everyone else is wrong. I’m both confessing the sin that anecdote colors my conclusions even when I’m aware that it’s anecdote, and pointing out that those who reject or accept my inequality premise aren’t really doing so on data, they’re doing so because it’s the position they always argue about inequality here — they will just tell themselves it’s data that’s drives them, because they are smart and rational and everyone else is dumb and irrational.

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          • There’s an intermediate position that I think is under-appreciated.

            Which is that a lot of data doesn’t actually say much. The story about the Millennial men wanting women to go back to being barefoot and in the kitchen is… a seriously flawed analysis. But just because that specific analysis doesn’t support a narrative that sexism is on the rise doesn’t mean that narrative is untrue. The analysis in question doesn’t refute the narrative, either.

            So it is with a lot of these questions.

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            • There is also the whole, “The data doesn’t actually say what you think it says”. So when we see a headline like, “Scientists Say Marijuana is Really Good For You!”, but the actual research says that the cannabinoid compounds are medically effective in certain concentrations, but say nothing about THC (note that THC is what gets you high). It also ignores the fact that most illegal, and a lot of legal, weed is bred for high THC content, not cannabinoid content, because that is what customers want.

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            • “just because that specific analysis doesn’t support a narrative that sexism is on the rise doesn’t mean that narrative is untrue.”

              How many “doesn’t support” things do we need to see, though, before we conclude that the narrative is untrue?

              Like, let’s go to a local commentor’s popular hobbyhorse and talk about welfare cheats. How many times do we need to show that there aren’t many welfare cheats before we conclude that narrative of “millions and millions of welfare cheats sucking up public resources that aren’t meant for them” is untrue? How many before “the analysis in question doesn’t refute the narrative” is shown false?

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              • How many “doesn’t support” things do we need to see, though, before we conclude that the narrative is untrue?

                It depends. Are we seeing stuff that cuts directly against it, failing to see stuff that supports it that we think damn well should be there, or just seeing a shoddy analysis of data that doesn’t mean much of anything in the end?

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              • How many “doesn’t support” things do we need to see, though, before we conclude that the narrative is untrue?

                Absence of the types of evidence we’re talking about doesn’t mean the narrative is untrue, just that it’s not confirmed as being true. In order for it to be viewed as untrue you’d need evidence confirming that claim. And I think that’s the problem with the “appeal to data” which Tod was trying to elucidate: it cuts in whatever direction the narrative-holder requires to maintain his views.

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                • “In order for it to be viewed as untrue you’d need evidence confirming that claim.”

                  So if you can’t prove that none of the Syrian refugees are actually terrorists, then I can proceed as though that were true?

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                  • No, you proceed with skepticism regarding the truth or falsity of the claim letting the best available evidence shape your views. If you proceed as if it were true irrespective of the evidence you’re just playing the same game Tod criticized you of playing earlier.

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                    • “you proceed with skepticism regarding the truth or falsity of the claim letting the best available evidence shape your views.”

                      So, when you say “[i]n order for it to be viewed as untrue you’d need evidence confirming that claim”, you don’t actually mean that?

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                      • For most people there’s a range of certainty between 0 and 1 when it comes to empirical claims DD, and evidence plays a role in tipping confidence one way or the other. Not for you, obvs.

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                        • For most people there’s a range of certainty between 0 and 1 when it comes to empirical claims DD, and evidence plays a role in tipping confidence one way or the other. Not for you, obvs.

                          No, he does too. You’re being trolled.

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                        • So let’s see. Between you and me, one of us is saying “when every piece of data that supposedly supports a claim is shown to be false, can we not conclude that the claim itself is unsupported and therefore false”, and the other is saying “For most people there’s a range of certainty between 0 and 1 when it comes to empirical claims”.

                          Which is these people is more likely to use a phrase like “alternative facts”?

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          • Back before I really understood the whole “inequality” thing, the point that I always made was some variant of “the average American now has a level of wealth that (insert king here) could not even have imagined! We have (list of technologies)! We have have (list of artistic achievements)! Our problems are (list of first world problems) instead of (list of whateverth century problems)!”

            You know the drill.

            Now I know that inequality is a problem not because of some absolute standard of well-being that we’re measuring ourselves again, but because it’s based on a relational, positional set of relationships with, among others, parents, neighbors, co-workers, and that chick on Instagram who always takes pictures in all of these exotic places with a drink in her hand.

            It’s because of these comparisons that we feel happy or unhappy with our lot.

            Not because we’re comparing ourselves to people who crapped behind the curtains in the summer palace.

            When I was telling people to compare themselves to Louis Roman Numeral or Henry Roman Numeral, I was making the mistake of thinking that I could get people to look at my data set instead of their own data set.

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          • Ahh. OK, I’ll try again:

            Is the question, instead: are there some observable social dynamics for which robust data will necessarily be inconclusive because those dynamics simply don’t permit clear, indisputable data sets confirming the belief?

            I take it that’s what you meant in the OP when you wrote

            I’m not sure there is data that can unequivocally support what I believe. And yet I’m not sure that my belief is therefore incorrect.

            If THAT’S right, then I take it your larger point here is (in part) that rejecting a person’s belief that (eg) anti-Semitism is on the rise in the Trump-era because there’s no conclusive data supporting the view is disingenuous because it imposes a burden on belief justification which either cannot or has not yet been met.

            Something like that? (Sorry for the questions, but I think you’re onto something here and I’m trying to zero in on what it is.)

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            • Is the question, instead: are there some observable social dynamics for which robust data will necessarily be inconclusive because those dynamics simply don’t permit clear, indisputable data sets confirming the belief?

              Yes, this is absolutely one of the questions I am pondering here.

              I take it your larger point here is (in part) that rejecting a person’s belief that (eg) anti-Semitism is on the rise in the Trump-era because there’s no conclusive data supporting the view, and that that judgment is disingenuous because it imposes a burden on belief justification which either cannot or has not yet been met.

              Again, yes.

              BONUS QUESTION: An added question that I don’t really pose in the OP, but that has been in the back of my head as I have been pondering these questions, is this:

              To what degree are the answers to these questions universal to all human interaction regardless of time and place, and to what degree are they a byproduct of this particular moment in history?

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          • I think we’re going to have a very hard time assembling even quasi-rigorous data on the phenomenon that sparks the OP.

            1. Let’s bypass the whole “social science is social but not science” issue.

            2. We can reasonably infer that the sorts of people who ask for white doctors would always have wanted white doctors and only recently have felt like they could make such a request out loud, except the better inference could easily be that no, they were making such requests all along and the rest of us only have just now noticed it. So that’s the first thing we have to measure for: was there ever really a powerful norm in the first place? Do we have any sort of reliable information from history to guide us?

            3. We can reasonably infer that everyone has at least a little bit of racial bias in them as a result of being socialized within a society that is conscious of its history of racial bias. So that’s something else we have to normalize our measurements for, and because we’re all within that system ourselves, we’re always going to have some degree of perspective bias and thus uncertainty that we’re getting real data.

            3(a). And then, those who disagree with our normalization techniques and would prefer other techniques or no techniques at all will accuse us of cooking the numbers, dooming the discussion to spiral down into a dissection of prior assumptions/ideologies rather than the discussion of the available information supposedly at issue that we wanted to have in the first place. Except here, because that sort of thing never happens here at OT.

            4. The human-nature impulse to hew to narration — I think it’s called “storytelling” in other contexts — is so powerful that we must also find ways to compensate for it, since we’re attempting to measure real phenomena versus phenomena that are required to have existed in order to validate the compelling narrative. In other words, how do we avoid the equivalent of “Bowling Green Massacres” from entering our data pool?

            5. Assuming that we actually find a statistically significant number of reliably-credible events of this nature, what do we do with that information? One thing is certainly what the hospital is already doing: create a policy that responds to it and prevents this phenomenon from obstructing other objectives (public health). But to really understand it we need to know why it is that people have requested white doctors. For instance, many doctors come here from abroad and English is not their mother tongue. A patient request for “I want a doctor who speaks easily-understood English” is not the same thing as “I want a white doctor,” but for people who are unsophisticated, inarticulate, and under stress, maybe that’s what the patient is actually intending. How do we measure for that? Finding a way to probe for such a thing without transparently giving a moral “out” to the survey respondent fearing moral judgment from the surveyor is a big challenge.

            6. Lastly, let’s not forget that patient-to-healthcare-provider communications are legally protected as private, and the patient is the holder of that privilege. So no one can be forced to give a response to a survey or some other kind of third-party measurement, and to get first-class data here, that’s what we need to have happen. The patients who are most likely to have actually engaged in the conduct we want to measure are also the ones who have a social incentive to obfuscate their personal behavior from analysis (because of the taboo against racism) and therefore we must compensate for how many requesting patients subsequently deny making the request under the protection of their legal privacy rights.

            Yes, there are ways to deal with all of this. But they’re very, very difficult ways. Given that it’s immensely difficult to come up with good data at all, a data-driven policy is also going to be immensely difficult to formulate.

            Our sole option, then, is to draw the most reasonable inferences we can based on the admittedly indeterminate information we have. Inferentially-based conclusions are not data-based conclusions, and they too suffer from serious risk of “narrative contamination” despite the most rigorous attempts to impose logic upon them.

            From there, we can either a) do nothing, or b) do something.

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            • And I’ll say here that if we want to form conclusions based on narrative in the absence of data, then that’s okay! If you want the tooth fairy to come out then you gotta have some teeth under your pillow.

              But let’s not kid ourselves about the underpinnings of those conclusions; claim that our conclusions are based on the finest of reasoning, objective and morally unassailable; decide that, having concluded, we can therefore stop looking for data.

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            • “but for people who are unsophisticated, inarticulate, and under stress, maybe that’s what the patient is actually intending”

              Wow, where did that come from? One second you were trying to get in their shoes, the next second you were dismissing them for wearing Walmart flip-flops. And also, did you consider that it’s the overly-sophisticated staff who are hearing “I want a doctor who speaks English better than this one” and interpret it as “I want a white doctor”?

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              • [D]id you consider that it’s the overly-sophisticated staff who are hearing “I want a doctor who speaks English better than this one” and interpret it as “I want a white doctor”?

                Good one. Let’s call that “Obstacle to clear data no. 5(a).”

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      • Tod,
        I was actually much more inclined to believe that incidents of anti-Semitism were occurring (as opposed to gamergate documented death threats that I am pretty sure were fabricated, as I know the Public Relations folks for some of those games).
        If you really want to push the point, I can point to rather blatant examples on television.
        Of course, those were during the Obama era (and nobody seemed to notice them, let alone care).
        So, I’m more skeptical on the idea that Trump’s Election caused an increase in hatred and bigotry and anti-Semitism.

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  8. The backlash against feminism isn’t a male phenomenon.
    But, hell, it’s easier to quote people being inflammatory than to look at why feminism fails as an accurate map to the world we live in.

    Liberals, man.

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    • Can you tell me in one or two paragraphs, why feminism fails? I’m not being sarcastic. I’m unlikely to agree, but I want to hear what you have to say.

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      • Doctor Jay,
        Feminism fails like most liberalistic ideologies — by asserting the fundamental equality of people. (It has a further failure in that it thinks in terms of gender as a binary, when it most certainly is not).

        Put simply, there are fundamental differences between men and women. This doesn’t mean that culture doesn’t mean anything, because it does. But it does mean, to the limited extent that you get when you talk about “men” and “Women”, that there are significant, in-the-body differences. Insisting that everyone try to achieve parity in everything is actively insulting to people’s real skillsets, and the specialization that is necessary to a multi-faceted civilization.

        And it leaves people wondering, not understanding why, women who try to do certain things have less success than men (and vice versa). Burying your head in the sand about capabilities isn’t an effective way of interacting with the world.

        Feminism, in its first incarnations, went for the low hanging fruit — removing barriers to entry, allowing people to try and achieve — to the same set of expectations that others did.

        May I take a hypothetical? Assume that we have a magic pill that will damper men’s sexual desire. The feminist asserts that, if applied to all men, it will reduce rapes (which, yeah huh, it would). Is the prospect of reducing male sexual desire something that you would favor? I doubt that any feminist you’d encounter would be able to tell you exactly how horrible this idea would be.

        Blindspots in understanding, deliberately created and defended, is why feminists fail.

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        • There’s a lot of straw men in there, but I know where they come from. They are easy impressions to form from reading online feminism.

          For instance, on equality bell hooks says “nobody is equal”, and “feminism is the fight against sexism”. I think bodies matter, but that they aren’t determinative. Men and women may be different, but the differences that are physiologically driven are small compared to the differences driven by habit and culture.

          I know I’m not the only feminist who thinks this way. For instance, Cordelia Fine, in her book “Delusions of Gender” takes pains to say that it isn’t necessarily a dumb hypothesis to think that brain differences drive behavior, because of, for instance, what happens to female finches when you simulate the second fetal testosterone surge – they do territorial singing, just like males do. Fine makes the point that while it isn’t a dumb or misogynistic hypothesis, nobody has ever managed to prove that any such differences exist in humans.

          Another researcher that has a lot to say about this is Catherine Dulac, who describes men and women as having the same neural structures (for maternal behavior), but these structures are not necessarily activated in men, though they can be.

          So, if something failed, it’s the notion of humans as a blank slate. I don’t hold that, I don’t think that’s a sustainable hypothesis any more. I have experienced pushback on this among the social justice community. I don’t consider the collapse of the “blank slate” thesis to be a failure of feminism, though. Because I think that if I can become an effective “mother” (and I am), it follows that there are women who can become excellent programmers (and I know several who are). And probably more of them than are becoming excellent programmers.

          And I know that my voice is not the one that seems to be more prominent. This is because the media paradigm favors “indignant disagreement”. That’s what gets the attention and clicks. Media types promote conflict and rock-throwing and blanket statements. Nuance kills the buzz.

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          • Doctor Jay,
            By talking about men and women, you are forcing humans into a paradigm that doesn’t exist. Roughly 10% of the people on this planet fall outside of that neat little paradigm.

            Now, the fun part.

            Those people tend to be more highly intelligent, and better placed than other people. They tend to be more cognitively flexible, and more able to use strategic thinking to overcome deficiencies.

            Nu, it is easy for you to say that the differences between men and women are small. You, like me, are probably not either.

            Habit and Culture is why there are fewer female programmers than men. Innately, women are better programmers. But, to get there, you have to be willing to understand what is actually innate, and what isn’t.

            Feminism’s backlash comes in the form of Twilight, in women who want guys to fight over them without them having to do a damn thing. It’s fantasy, yes, but it isn’t The Blue Sword’s fantasy of empowerment. It’s anti-empowerment.

            Ask yourself — why is it that there are no male versions of Twilight? The closest you get is the ManicPixieDreamGirl archetype who “brightens” a guy’s life. He is still functional, capable, at the very heart of things. He is not a wet doormat.

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              • Lee,
                Indeed. I’ll count the basic tenet of Liberalism as being one of those.
                Treating everyone the same under the law is one thing — treating everyone the same period is a vastly different (and far stupidier) idea.

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            • By talking about men and women, you are forcing humans into a paradigm that doesn’t exist. Roughly 10% of the people on this planet fall outside of that neat little paradigm.

              …isn’t it *you* who are talking about men and women and how they are innately different?

              Those people tend to be more highly intelligent, and better placed than other people. They tend to be more cognitively flexible, and more able to use strategic thinking to overcome deficiencies.

              Correlation does not causality.

              Assuming what you said is true, there are least *three* other explanations for that:
              1) People who do not traditionally fit into one of the two genders are *forced* to be more cognitively flexible in how they deal with life.
              2) People who are more cognitively flexible are more likely to *be* unwilling to fit into one of the genders.
              3) People who are more cognitively flexible are more likely to *out themselves to society* as someone who does not fit.

              Also, I have no idea what you’re trying to prove anyway. Is the theory that men and women are different, and this hypothetical 10% is managing to have the best of both aspects?

              That’s…sorta proving exactly the point you *don’t* want to prove, because that basically just proved you cannot *detect* these differences between ‘men and women’ from the outside.

              Basically, you’ve said ‘men can do X, women can do Y…and *secretly* there’s a hyper-competent 10% that can do anything, and might look like either gender’. Huh?

              Nu, it is easy for you to say that the differences between men and women are small. You, like me, are probably not either.

              Asserting that a specific person is not a man or a woman (Unless that’s a position they themselves have taken.) is somewhat rude.

              Habit and Culture is why there are fewer female programmers than men. Innately, women are better programmers. But, to get there, you have to be willing to understand what is actually innate, and what isn’t.

              There is no evidence that women are better programmers than men.

              I *suspect* where you’re coming from is some vague idea that women have better short term memory than men, but short term memory is only one aspect of programming, and, more importantly, the studies about short term memory with regard to gender have actually been pretty inconclusive.

              Please note I’m not saying they’re *worse* programmers, either. I’m of the firm opinion that only a fraction of the population can be successful programmers…but I have no idea how that breaks down man/woman. (Or even what that percent is.) I suspect there is almost no difference.

              Feminism’s backlash comes in the form of Twilight, in women who want guys to fight over them without them having to do a damn thing. It’s fantasy, yes, but it isn’t The Blue Sword’s fantasy of empowerment. It’s anti-empowerment.

              Twilight is not a feminist book, but it’s hardly a ‘backlash’.

              Ask yourself — why is it that there are no male versions of Twilight? The closest you get is the ManicPixieDreamGirl archetype who “brightens” a guy’s life. He is still functional, capable, at the very heart of things. He is not a wet doormat.

              A useless, passive guy ending up in a love triangle and having two women fight over him?

              Oh, I can think of a few.

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              • DavidTC,
                Yeah-huh, Women and Men are innately different. That doesn’t exclude the research that says that there are people that don’t fit in those categories. Simply because A != B doesn’t mean that there can’t be a C out there.

                This is research, dude. You think people can’t fuck with hormones? More importantly, you think people won’t? Yeah, sure, all of what you’re saying is possible, tabula rasa. Tabula rasa ain’t “this is what the research has to say.” Besides… the differences between men and women really only manifest once puberty hits (which has a lot to say about being hormonally induced).

                And, I may have said something about the “not men or women” containing the smart folks (which is nearly always the case). Asserting that they’re hypercompetent is just silly, though. They’re mostly just fucked up, and sometimes that’s helpful and sometimes it’s not. (Self-awareness in humans most strongly resembles brain damage, I’ll note, not some slowly developed adaptive trait).

                No, I wasn’t going anywhere near memory, let alone short term memory.

                Twilight is part of a backlash. It is girls saying “No, we’d rather not be the heros, thanks. We want people to fawn over us, for no reason.”

                Cite on the pointless, powerless guy in a lovetriangle.

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          • Even assuming that there are such things as hard-wired gender differences, its kind of difficult to believe that there aren’t any because otherwise transgenderism wouldn’t be thing, its really difficult to build a fair and just society when you take the idea of essential gender differences to seriously. You get a lot of justifications for some pretty evil and immoral behavior that way. I kind of like society after feminism better than society before feminism.

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    • Back in the early 90s, when I was just starting to practice law, I was in a client meeting where the client said, out loud, that he was not comfortable with having a woman attorney working on his case.

      To be technical about it, the client was the corporation and the individual who made the statement was just the corporation’s representative.

      I’m curious to hear people’s thoughts as to how the firm should have responded. Fire the client? Insist that case staffing is the firm’s prerogative? Concede the point?

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      • — Inform the client that you have a strong diversity policy and that staff is assigned based on their legal skills and absolutely not according to race or gender. If they respond unprofessionally, then handle it as you would any other unacceptable, unprofessional behavior by a third-party representative.

        What if a client representative stripped naked during a meeting, or threatened to start a fist fight with one of your office clerks, or similar? This is the same.

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  9. So, are there hospitals in the area where a patient can ask for a different doctor/nurse/tech based on race or sex? If none, any anticipation that some hospital will adapt such a policy?

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  10. “Boy, these Trumpists and their alternative facts. It’s no wonder everything’s going to hell when you look at how these people are…I mean, not just irrational, but actively anti-rational.”

    (adjusts jacket, turns around, runs fingers through hair).

    “And also, let’s talk about what data means, really. I mean, if data contradicts what we see right in front of us with our own two eyes then can we really say it has any value?”

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  11. Here is the quote from Rorty, the book is called Achieving our Country and it is from the late 1990s:

    “members of labor unions, and un-organized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers – themselves desperately afraid of being downsized – are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.
    At that point, something will crack. The non-suburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for – someone willing to assure them that once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen and post modernist professors will no longer be calling the shots…
    One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion… All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet pp89-90”
    ? Richard M. Rorty

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    • My God, sometimes when a person nails it they really nail it. Rorty not only defines the current American political scene well, he describes what is happening across the world with Brexit and other populist responses against the perceived liberal, educated elite. I think that this goes back to what FDR observed in the Second Bill of Rights, “a necessitous man is not a free man.”

      Free trade and globalization did decrease prosperity around the world. People who would have been poor and uneducated peasant farmers in Bangladesh or China are now relatively more prosperous and can educate their kids longer and provide better lives for themselves. Many people in the developed world perceive themselves as being the losers in this process. They may or may not be right about that. They are responding as Rorty said they would.

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  12. I had a girlfriend back in college who had very specific requirements for her doctors, do to personal issues. She would often say when to the people treating her, “No, I do not want him.” And while she was a Preachers Kid, she was very liberal.

    She was asking for a female gynecologist. Could this have been taken as someone not wanting an African American, when the reality was far simpler? Should the office have told her that it isn’t up to her? Would it have been wrong for an African American to ask for an AA doctor, expecting better, more understanding care? Could that be what the hospital is working from?

    I don’t have any answers to these questions, and due to reasons that points out above, we aren’t likely to get them. But as the OP talks about facts and our personal biases, I am not sure if we are on the right track to get rid of or deal with these perceived problems. Others in the comments talk about mandatory training in the workplace -sexual harassment, violence, racism- and how they feel about it. Those thoughts suggest to me that we on the wrong track, not that there isn’t a problem, but we aren’t acting to fix it, simply to CYA.

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    • Oh, one thing that we saw in the Health Clinic in Qatar was a section set aside for women to sit in. There wasn’t really a “men’s section”. There was the main section (people presenting as male and others presenting as female both sat in this section) and the women’s section (only people presenting as female sat in that one).

      The big board that showed the various doctors all over it (the one with the lorem ipsum scrolling across) had two or three male doctors and at least one female doctor for every department. Being a Wahhabist country, males have male doctors, females have female doctors over there.

      New York Times ran a story about this a few years back. Here’s the finale:

      The health care system may not always be able to fulfill all of a patient’s requests, but the providers should at least explain what can reasonably be done and what the limits are, Dr. Padela said.

      “This way the patient feels heard, and cared about,” Dr. Padela said, “as opposed to, ‘You’re in my hospital, this is how we do things.’ ”

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  13. I read in the last few weeks how there were something like a thousand racist incidents a year under Obama. Of course the media didn’t pay attention to that because it didn’t match the narrative they want to push.

    Accusations of racism are mostly about political power. Enthusiastically supporting his daughter convert to Judaism isn’t enough to shield Trump for this sort of thing. Nor is having her husband be one of his big advisors.

    In order to be fully shielded from accusations of racism Trump would have to be a Democrat.

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  14. I’d like to give a shout out for his comment, above, which was great.

    Returning to the OP, I think the conversation illustrates a disconnect between data-driven reasoning and what we have in our general discourse, which is data-driven rationalization.

    , I think you’re looking at data-driven rationalization (and yes, it’s pervasive across ideological platforms) and you’re pondering how it’s apparently vulnerable to things that data-driven reasoning isn’t, and wondering why that’s so.

    Well, it’s because it’s not data-driven reasoning in the first place.

    You’re then wondering why the limitations in data driven reasoning don’t seem to be reflected in our general discourse… well, that’s because our general discourse isn’t data driven reasoning, it’s data driven rationalization.

    I’ve seen this on track since the mid 80s. See, it used to be the case that you could just dismiss scientists as eggheads and that worked because nerds weren’t popular. So their data wasn’t wrong, it was just irrelevant to our political discourse, we made decisions based on God and Country, by damn. But the nerds grew up, and the nerds like data, and you couldn’t just keep trying to sell them on your God and Country because they don’t believe in things like that.

    So our political discourse started appropriating data-driven reasoning, but only the data part. Cherry picking and ignoring negative studies and promoting positive ones. It’s not science, it’s pseudo-science.

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    • data driven rationalization

      Mots juste!

      The sort of thing to look for, always, is whether this has become some form of dialectic. If you disagree with Proposition P, is the response something to the effect of “here’s why Proposition P is correct” or is the response something to the effect of “people who disagree with Proposition P have the following negative traits”?

      If it’s the latter, you’re in a dialectic.

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      • This is why Jason’s posts on True Rejections (Duck linked above), and his other piece on Motte and Bailey arguments are (or ought to be) required reading for the general U.S. populace.

        Ideally also a one-term logic class and a one-term rhetoric class in high school, so that folks actually understand the difference between the two.

        Given the wealth of digital ink available on a topic, it’s trivially easy to construct a data-driven rationalization for just about anything. You see this even among the flat earthers… somewhere there’s a nerd who loves constructs who has bothered to build a data-driven rationalization for flat earth theory (or fake moon landings, or whatever).

        This is ultimately what was so exhausting about trying to argue with anti-vax folk or the climate change denialists. They’d point to a large hash of studies, say those studies proved X, Y, and Z, and thus Q.E.D.

        And then you’d go look at the pile of studies, and deconstructing them would take hours, and you’d show that they actually showed -X, Y”, and V, and thus not Q.E.D., and the goalposts would suddenly move *****way***** over there, and you’d get arguments about how this other study B was not B (I challenge anybody to have an ongoing conversation with a climate change denier for longer than 30 minutes and not have the denier bring up Mann’s Hockey Stick or the CRU emailgate story, unprompted.)

        And then of course the next time you have the conversation, they’re back to saying X, Y, and Z again.

        Rationalization is not always easy to spot, and it gets harder when it conflicts with our own rationalizations because you often times find yourself arguing using bad arguments. Somewhere around here there’s a post I wrote about bad arguments in the gun control debate that I could point to…

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        • One of the benefits of having been a young earth creationist is that it helps you notice the pseudoscientific whataboutism that appears on the “other” side. “If the universe is six billion years old, then why does the Moon only have an inch of dust instead of feet and feet?”

          The problem with that particular question (among others) is that it *IS* a really good question. But there are two ways to deal with a really good question:

          1) That’s a really good question. They actually did a study on this. What they found was that estimates of the rate of dust accumulation on the moon was severely over-estimated by the following people on the following dates using the following methods. It’s true that the people running the first Moon Landing assumed that there would be a lot more dust but they’ve since done studies that are better refined and able to say that previous assumptions were poor and, thus, extrapolation from those poor assumptions led to quickly falsified hypotheses and from that we’ve since forged new hypotheses and you should read this, this, and this.

          2) You a fuggin’ creationist? You people suck. You people hate science. Hey! Everybody! This guy hates science!

          And the thing about science is that it is a method rather than something to circle the wagons around. And people know what circling the wagons looks like… and they know what science looks like.

          The burden of science is to always sigh and explain it again. Turning science into “I Effing Love Science!” is the worst thing that could have happened to sighing and explaining it again.

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          • Sighing and explaining didn’t work much better. Having had many convo’s with YEC’s on the old Discovery Channel boards they never really seemed to care about the explanation or science. Talking points mattered more and they had perfected the Gish Gallop.

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            • I was a Young Earth Creationist, Greg.

              The teacher who sighed and explained it again (and explained the method again) was the one who got me to change my mind.

              The one who explained that all Creationists were the same and couldn’t have their minds changed was the one who didn’t get me to change my mind.

              From there we can deal with the question of whether I’m unique or not. Personally, I don’t think I’m unique or special or anything outside of the ordinary. I was just lucky enough to have a scientist sigh and explain it again instead of a bunch of people circle the wagons like we were arguing something about sports teams.

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              • Now, to the point you were making:

                Sighing and explaining doesn’t always work with every single Young Earth Creationist.

                Of course not.

                I don’t know of anything that works better, though. I can’t think of anything that *WOULD* work better.

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                • Everybody is unique. Yup explaining works every now and then. But i also remember the YEC whack a mole. I’d spend a few thousand pixels explaining some issue to the point where there was no argument so see the same person throw out the same argument to someone else the next day as if the previous days convo never happened.

                  Good for you, but i don’t’ think ” i f’ing love science” is any harm, great or small. It’s a way of saying what you like. Big deal. In fact i “f’ing love science” and i’m more than happy to explain something to someone if they honestly want a conversation. The two aren’t exclusive. ( At this point i’d rather talk astronomy then evolution)

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              • Sighing and explaining will probably not have immediate results, but may plant a seed that germinates over time. Insulting the person who disagrees with you nearly always salts the earth.

                The problem: sighing and explaining hardly ever feels as good as insulting the person who disagrees with you.

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                    • Why do most people argue?

                      I don’t know. There are probably a dozen reasons that would apply to a half-dozen people.

                      Some people like to argue.
                      Some people don’t like it when other people disagree with them.
                      Some people want to enforce a consensus.
                      Some people want to see which arguments are robust and which ones shatter when they encounter a decent counter-argument.
                      Some people want to signal their own virtue.
                      Some people need something to do while their code is compiling or their scripts are running.

                      If the former, how do you explain Twitter?

                      Have you ever wandered into Normie Twitter?

                      Normie Twitter is the reason Twitter exists. Not the weird crap that you and I follow.

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                      • A generation that grew up watching “Reality” Television.

                        The Real World came out in 1992 (!) and that means that people born in… when would you put the cut-off? Age 12 would put it at 1980. 15 at 1977. 20 at 1972… those people grew up watching people give interviews in between footage of conflict or triumph or defeat.

                        Twitter provides an interview opportunity for everyone. Absolutely everyone. Twitter is The Real World. For everyone.

                        Andy Warhol came up with “In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” and this took off to the point where interviewers would ask him about it and he reached the point where he waved them off. “I’m tired of that. Now I say ‘in fifteen minutes, everyone will be famous.'”

                        Twitter is Fifteen Minutes later.

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    • I agree with all of this, and it’s at least half of my point in the OP.

      But that being said, we’re transitioning (if he haven’t fully transitioned already) to a society where data is neither valid or not valid, so much as it is a free market good you can have tailor-made to suit your wishes. So maybe for any political question there is one good data unit and 9 bad data units. What does it matter, practically speaking, if only 1 out of 10 people believe/support the good data unit, if 9 out of 10 reject it, and all ten believe they are the only ones who are pro-data? Is the allure of someone using their own anecdotal experience any better or worse than using one of those bad data units that happens to conform with their outlook? Unlike others here, I’m not sure that it is worse. It might be better, if only because it’s easier to discount someone’s anecdotal experience than someone’s bad data until, if you have no way of knowing what data units are good, or bad. (TO be clear, I don’t think that it is better, even slightly, but I certainly get the argument that it is.)

      And to those here who say that they aren’t swayed by anecdotal data, that they care only about data and are sure that the data they are sure of is the correct valid data? Let’s just say I don’t think they’re particularly good at self-reflection.

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      • I think we’ve always been in a society where data is neither valid nor not valid, Tod.

        I’m not really a recent historian, but my read of post-WWI history is that folks have been doin’ what folks have been doin’ all along, rationalizing things.

        There was a brief illusionary period where data actually mattered, because some folks that we agreed with were citing data that was correct to support policies that made sense, but that was more of a case of dumb luck where rationalization happened to map onto reasoning for a while, and we all were tricked into thinking we were entering into a post-bullshit world.

        Anecdotes impact our normative assessments. That’s what they *should* be for. They humanize things. It’s one thing to argue about abortion on principle, and it’s another to hear the story of Dortha Biggs and actually think about what’s going on there.

        But the battle for normative assessments, for our fundamental theories about what should matter, gets mixed up in our battle for procedural outcomes, in what we ought to do about what matters.

        I think this is a function of our bipolar political reality. Because any goddamn thing has to become a referendum between Team One and Team Two, when Team One is using good data that’s actually aligned with literature reviews and coming to conclusion X, based upon normative principle Q, instead of just admitting that our normative principle is R, and it is different and we think we should be doing B instead, we have to attack their data, because it isn’t enough for our two political parties to disagree on something in good faith, one side must be wrong (and of course, they must be wrong because of the worst reasons, and one of those reasons must be that they are lying about the data.)

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        • I think this is a function of our bipolar political reality.

          I think it’s a function of our current hyper-political culture, myself. We live in a world where there are no neutral statements – even purely descriptive ones (“words are texts”!, “where are you going with that description? I must counter it!!, etc). Everything is political, everything is ideological. Ergo!, there are no ideologically neutral “facts” anymore.

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          • I would add to what Still says here that I don’t think we’re in a “same as always” mode.

            For most of my adult life if govt statistics and academic experts agreed X, but someone with little or no expertise said Y, you were a crank if you believed the guy who said Y. Now believing the guy who said Y over govt stats and academic research is pretty damn mainstream. Not everybody believes the guy who says Y, but half or more than half do pretty often.

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            • Along those lines, it was veeerrrry interesting watching GOP CCers and pundits pre-emptively reject the relevance of the CBO’s score on the Ryan plan. And their argument wasn’t that the CBO was partisan (well there was a little of that), but rather that it uses a “static” model to predict outcomes which will largely be determined by unleashed, creative, “dynamic” activities which WILL (“trust me”) provide massive social value. Which is weird, since you’d think the CBO would be able to predict a range of value upticks resulting exactly from unleashing innovation in the market place, in particular by looking at what those not-yet-leashed market forces accomplished prior to the ACA…

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              • Which is weird, since you’d think the CBO would be able to predict a range…

                The CBO is prevented by law from some types of predictions, probably including those.

                So if your budget claims next year you’re going to cut back on Doctor payments even though that would trainwreck the system, be politically painful, and for the last 10 years every Congress has at-the-last-minute Not put in place those cuts?

                The CBO has to score those “cuts” as though they’re going to happen.

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                • The CBO is prevented by law from some types of predictions, probably including those.

                  You’re saying that by law they’re prevented from including the positive economic effects resulting from deregulation? You gotta cite something to justify that claim since the whole purpose of the CBO is to calculate the likely effects of any policy – regulation or deregulation – on the budget.

                  Also, I think you’re misunderstanding the GOP CCers argument here: it’s not that the CBO is not allowed to include the effects of unleashed innovation on the market. Nor is it that it merely does not. But that it cannot since no one can predict the power of innovation to create a market where everyone has cheap, accessible healthcare. They’re criticizing the CBO for not accepting the power of the underpants gnomes.

                  If the GOP could reliably predict those outcomes then they’d demand that that evidence be included in the CBO scoring method. And more importantly, they’d already have incredible majorities in both the house and senate to repeal an ACA bill that would never have needed to be passed in the first place.

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                  • The CBO — like legislative budget staffs everywhere — are perfectly capable of looking at the evidence and modeling the effect of reduced regulation (or dynamic growth effects, or any number of other things). What the evidence generally shows is that American business does a good job of meeting regulations at a minimum cost*, that tax rate cuts decrease revenue unless the existing marginal rate was very high, that government policies in general have very little effect on GDP growth rates**, etc.

                    * Consider the sulfur dioxide limits added to the Clean Air Act in the early 90s, taking effect in 1995. The cost of implementing those was a smallish fraction of any of the estimates — because the electricity industry, plus the railroads, plus the western coal industry, figured out how to move low-sulfur western coal to eastern power plants at a small fraction of the cost of putting scrubbers everywhere.

                    ** Government policies may have a substantial effect on what parts of the economy grow. Traditional Medicaid, for example, resulted in the US economy broadly spending more on nursing home care for the elderly than otherwise. The economy didn’t grow any faster or slower overall, but the nursing home industry grew at the expense of other parts of the economy.

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              • I’ve mentioned this before, but you bring this up from time to time so I will mention it again: the Argument from Authority is a fallacy if the Authority is not actually an Authority.

                If the Authority is actually an authority, it’s not necessarily a fallacy. It is possible for an authority to be wrong, but it is far less likely than a non-authority.

                The way you use the phrase, you imply that you think it’s a catch-all denial usable in any situation.

                You’re also misrepresenting, because Tod said:

                “For most of my adult life if govt statistics and academic experts agreed X, but someone with little or no expertise said Y, you were a crank if you believed the guy who said Y. Now believing the guy who said Y over govt stats and academic research is pretty damn mainstream.”

                Which you didn’t actually respond to, because you inserted a straw man: “people who depend on Argument From Authority to win out”.

                Most authorities really don’t depend upon their authority to win out. They actually explain their reasoning. Like, usually by publishing lengthy research on the topic. Enormous reports. That sort of thing.

                It isn’t fallacious to trust the opinion of a PhD in Chemistry who tells you that human bodies aren’t governed by four humors just because you recently read Hippocrates and you think he’s a smart dude. You’re assigning authority incorrectly.

                The ability to recognize a legitimate authority does require you to have some basis for understanding the topic.

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                • “Most authorities really don’t depend upon their authority to win out. They actually explain their reasoning. Like, usually by publishing lengthy research on the topic. Enormous reports. That sort of thing.”

                  Tod presented it as “For most of my adult life if govt statistics and academic experts agreed X, but someone with little or no expertise said Y, you were a crank if you believed the guy who said Y.” Nothing about explanation there. And “you should trust the experts because they’re the experts” is literally the definition of Argument From Authority.

                  You’re right that the experts will have a much easier time explaining why their position is correct, and far more support for their position, than some dude who read the Wikipedia article about a thing. And I do feel happy that you agree with me on this, because A: that’s exactly what I said should happen last time you tried to tell me all about how Argument From Authority is okay because reasons, and B: it’s exactly what I said earlier in this discussion, although it’s not surprising that someone who believes that we should listen to someone Because Diploma is not into that thing where they read all the words.

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                  • Nothing about explanation there.

                    Well, not with your nice clean edit, there, no.

                    What Tod said was,

                    “For most of my adult life if govt statistics and academic experts agreed X, but someone with little or no expertise said Y, you were a crank if you believed the guy who said Y. Now believing the guy who said Y over govt stats and academic research is pretty damn mainstream.

                    But sure, you can take it as “Tod is bemoaning that folks don’t trust authority any more” instead of “Tod is bemoaning the fact that the cranks now are regarded as authoritative even though they don’t have stats and academic research to back them up”.

                    If you want to read him as uncharitably as possible, I guess.

                    I think that’s a dumb reading, given his whole paragraph, but to each is own.

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          • I think this point is overstated.

            Here are some claims which seem true and non-ideological.

            1. We make moral demands on one another
            2. People (or perhaps most people) are moral agents, as in they are in principle capable of acting on the basis of moral reasons even if many dont do so as reliably and as often as we’d like and even if we disagree about what those moral reasons are
            I’m sure I can come up with a few other banal claims which put together get you something like political liberalism.

            I mean they might be ideological in the narrow sense in that they are normative claims or have normative implications. But its hard to see how anyone who cares about acting rightly (whatever that may mean) can rationally deny these claims. Sure, if you’re a psychopath or an amoralist you won’t care, but I’m not talking to psychopaths and amoralists. I’m talking to normal everyday people trying in their own muddled way to live their own lives consistent with acting rightly to at least what they see as the minimum degree.

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            • 1. We make moral demands on one another

              “And that’s exactly why I vote Republican. I’m tired of these damn liberals treading on me and everyone else.”

              2. People (or perhaps most people) are moral agents

              “Where you going with this? That Christians don’t have the right to resist the radical gay-wedding-cake agenda?”

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              • “And that’s exactly why I vote Republican. I’m tired of these damn liberals treading on me and everyone else.”

                So you make moral demands on liberals to not tread on you and everyone else?

                Don’t you also demand that liberals not make Christians bake gay wedding cakes?

                “Where you going with this? That Christians don’t have the right to resist the radical gay-wedding-cake agenda?”

                Wait for it. I may surprise you. But don’t you think that given that you rightfully blame liberals for their “radical gay wedding cake agenda”, they should know better? That they could in principle reason their way to not giving you grief about this stuff?

                By the time I’m done with my PhD, I’m pretty sure that I could take a thoughtful conservative who was willing to engage me in conversation and follow the argument where it leads.and get him to be a liberal of one sort or another.. Currently I’m pitching my thesis at lefties and liberals. So my examples are more flattering to their side. But that is essentially cosmetic. In Twin earth where all of academia is on the right, I could switch the examples around and the argument should work just as well.

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                • Murali,

                  The fact that you thought my (hypothetical) answers deserved a (political) response suggests that even your two basic, non-ideological truths about the world are political. Not inherently political, of course. But subject to political interpretations.

                  In a different context – say a philosophy symposium – I would have understood that those two claims are non-ideological descriptions conveying no political or ideological content. Well, unless it was symposium on post-modern deconstructionist literary theory anyway. :)

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                  • Things can be political without being ideological.

                    The “we make claims on one another” is about as good a place to start political philosophy as any. The point is that regardless of one’s political ideology one can nevertheless recognise a sociological fact about some or perhaps much of our political activity.

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                    • The point is that regardless of one’s political ideology one can nevertheless recognise a sociological fact about some or perhaps much of our political activity.

                      I agree that people can recognize an ideologically neutral fact in the sense that they’re intellectually capable of doing so. They question is if they will. Or alternatively: why don’t they?

                      The US is a hyper-politicized culture right now, based primarily on grievances (and punition :) seems to me. Between conservatives who saw thru the GOP bullshit and voted for Trump to post-modern SJWs who define the world in a private language which only the “woke” can understand to everything in between, we’re a culture increasingly driven by grievance-based-emotion rather than objective –
                      or at least ideologically neutral – descriptions of reality.

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            • Murali: 1. We make moral demands on one another

              It is immoral for you to do X (or not do Y), so it is moral for me to *force* you to do so using the power of the government.

              And just so everything is good I appoint myself the ultimate priest of morality.

              And like usual, God is going to be on the side of the Priests. So anyone who disagrees with me is not only going to be wrong but evil.

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              • That is one demand that some people make. Another demand that some people make is “don’t interfere with my doing X regardless if X is right or wrong”

                What we wre trying to figure out is when should one give way to the other. Or put another way what do we do when we disagree about which one should give way to which.

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                • …what do we do when we disagree about which one should give way to which.

                  The power of the government is the power of the gun. Putting a gun to someone’s head and insisting he do it your way is something which should be used sparingly.

                  Further, insisting the gov *do* something creates multiple “agent” problems. These various spy agencies apparently being used for political purposes, the net worth of various high level politicians, etc.

                  We’re fighting over control of the gov and the SC because they have become far too important to let the other people use them, and because that control is worth Billions of dollars to their agents. None of this is good.

                  It’s horrible that someone would refuse to bake a cake because of someone else’s sex life. I’m not sure it’s worth tens of millions of society’s dollars to force the matter by putting a gun to the baker’s head, especially if there are other bakers.

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                  • I’m deliberately avoiding these object level questions because I don’t want to get bogged down on those questions now. My point was that we should start from common ground and move from there to figuring out what to do. In a sense, that is also an object level claim, but it is of a different sort. And in a sense it is a better claim because we could in principle show that this is indeed a requirement that both of us have given our common ground.

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                    • My point was that we should start from common ground and move from there to figuring out what to do.

                      We probably have a lot more common ground than not.
                      Rule of law is a good thing.
                      Infrastructure is a good thing and falls under the gov’s mandate.
                      Women’s rights are a good thing.
                      Racism is a bad thing.
                      Economic growth is a good thing.

                      Or did you mean something else?

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                      • Something a bit deeper. Many people don’t believe that political authority ought to be justifiable to those who are subject to it. Instead, many believe that it is sufficient that the doctrines which ground political authority are true even if not justifiable to everyone. The point I was trying to make was that given stuff that people already believe they are rationally committed to believing that political authority ought to be justified to those who are subject to it. The reason for that is that it is part and parcel of recognising people as moral agents.

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                  • The power of the government is the power of the gun.

                    Yes, but that power cuts two ways: it also creates the stability necessary for functioning economies and human flourishing.

                    Of course a libertarian might argue, contra historical evidence, that we’ve reached the point where we can kick that stabilizing crutch away and do just fine. I remain dubious, as always.

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                    • Yes, but power cuts two ways, tho: it also creates the stability necessary for functioning economies and human flourishing.

                      Within limits, sure. The USSR (and various others) shows at the other extreme that too much gov causes the same problems as too little.

                      Of course a libertarian might argue, contra historical evidence, that we’ve reached the point where we can kick that stabilizing crutch away and do just fine. I remain dubious of that view, as always.

                      Arguing that there should be less government is not arguing that there should be *none*.

                      If the gov is so important that you *can’t* trust the other side to use it, then that’s a problem with the sides and it’s also a big problem with big government.

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                  • Or put another way, I’m trying with these banal claims to construct an argument for why the coercive power of the state can only be used for things which are justifiable to everyone (or at least to everyone who is not an amoralist or psychopath)

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                    • The problem with state is it never forms without faction. Even in Stillwaters framework of stationary bandits or roaming bandits there are always factions. These factions don’t rule to the consent of the governed, they rule by factional majority in control of the coercive force.

                      Ian Morris makes about as strong a case as anyone I have found for justifying the force of aggression from a leviathan, but even in his own works he comes to some pretty obvious parameters around Geography. And not just geography, but the ability and competency of rulers. (ha, any bets on cascade failures because of poor leaders?)

                      The few advancements in society that lends to departure from various types of fuedalism and away from violent leviathans has been the developments classical liberalism that recognized the freedom of the individual as a social construct. The political tendency will eventually develop towards individualistic republics because it has the maximum amount to offer people in various forms of preferred subjective freedoms.

                      The Bill of Rights of the US somewhat hid the problems of the two freedoms. The context of ‘the people’ allowed the document to be read in two seperate ways, which allowed a duality of individualism and democratic socialism to read it as legitimate. In modern times as individualim rises, the social constructs that have been assumed legitimate by the democratic socialism will be looked upon as coercive, which in fact they are.

                      If you want to strip the bare essentials of the problem down to basic parameters, it comes down to this:

                      How do we intend to engage each other?

                      1. by peaceful negotiating individually, directly and continually with consent of rule of law.

                      2. majority faction rule by law with force of aggression with undertones of violence.

                      The Leviathan only masks this decision for brief periods of time, until mankind mirrors its violence upon it.

                      The problem is it is taking longer to kill it. Spears have been replaced with nuclear warheads. If you build a big enough Leviathan, it will kill the world before you can kill it.

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  15. Doctor Jay:
    Can you tell me in one or two paragraphs, why feminism fails?I’m not being sarcastic.I’m unlikely to agree, but I want to hear what you have to say.

    This wasn’t directed to me, but I’ll answer it.

    Feminism’s big problem is that it’s already won.

    Pay? Today is “Equal Pay Day”. It’s illegal to pay women less and has been for many years. So we have statements about how women earn 79 cents compared to men without mentioning that adjusted for experience, profession, and hours worked (etc), it’s not true.

    Education? Women are so over-represented in college that finding quality males is a serious issue.

    The actual problems women face aren’t ugly or serious enough to motivate people, so the powers that be must magnify (or invent) something being wrong to generate outrage. The current batch of problems are designed to not have solutions.

    Or let’s reverse the question, What would it take for feminism to win? At what point do it’s leaders say “society has done enough, we’re out of jobs now?

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    • How many states grant paid family leave for men? In how many companies is it routinely expected that men will take the same number of leave days per year as a woman for child care, parent care, spouse care?

      How many women are CEOs, Congresspeople, receivers of patents?

      When baselines are created in any discipline — from drug responses to (at random) playing classical music — how often is the baseline set to women?

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      • How many states grant paid family leave for men?

        I don’t know. If you’re claiming it’s a problem, then claim it’s a problem, put up facts to support it, and don’t suggest it might be so I’m expected to check and make your argument for you.

        But afaict men mostly don’t take the time they’re already granted.

        In how many companies is it routinely expected that men will take the same number of leave days per year as a woman for child care…

        (Ignoring the rest of your sentence because child care days dwarfs the others)

        Expected? This is a conversation that should happen between spouses. I don’t see why it’s desirable for a company to step into the middle of that. Families presumably do what makes economic sense for them.

        If there are policies which say women, and not men, can take time off for childcare then point them out and file a lawsuit, but afaict those sorts of policies are already illegal.

        How many women are CEOs, Congresspeople, receivers of patents?

        Why is this a problem? Equal opportunity does not and should not result in equal results. You’re not pointing to a problem here and you’re also not suggesting a solution.

        When baselines are created in any discipline — from drug responses to (at random) playing classical music — how often is the baseline set to women?

        Oh good, this might be an actual problem. We can fix actual problems.

        First, source that lack of women in drug baselines is a problem because the answer is “I don’t know” but I’ve seen advertisements for women & men in drug trials.

        Then explain why women play “classical music” differently than men to the degree they need a separate baseline (as opposed to say, what sounds good). Don’t modern symphonies audition with screens between judges and musicians so they don’t know their race/gender/etc?

        Then explain, if drug baselines is an actual problem, why isn’t this being presented as a problem/goal as opposed to 79% pay?

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        • Then explain, if drug baselines is an actual problem

          It is, because thalidomide. Drug trials are often hesitant to accept women because of possible pregnancy complications, likewise they are loathe to explore possible pregnancy complications by testing on pregnant women, for obvious reasons.

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          • Dark Matter: Then explain, if drug baselines is an actual problem

            OG: It is, because thalidomide. Drug trials are often hesitant to accept women because of possible pregnancy complications, likewise they are loathe to explore possible pregnancy complications by testing on pregnant women, for obvious reasons.

            So the obvious solution is to… force companies to test on pregnant women in the name of equality?

            If feminism has a solution to this problem other than what I just suggested, by all means put it on the table.

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  16. Maybe it was a super bad idea to deliberately foment racial and gender hatred like you guys have been doing for the past several years, apparently in the belief that it could never, ever cause a backlash. Oh well!

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  17. The desire to be right and the desire to have been right are two desires, and the sooner we separate them the better off we are. The desire to be right is the thirst for truth. On all counts, both practical and theoretical, there is nothing but good to be said for it. The desire to have been right, on the other hand, is the pride that goeth before a fall. It stands in the way of our seeing we were wrong, and thus blocks the progress of our knowledge.

    Willard V Quine and J. S. Ullian

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  18. An equally possible explanation is that society as a whole is moving in a progressive direction on social issues, but is also becoming more polarized. In particular, first the internet followed by social media have empowered people to let their freak flag fly.
    Twenty years ago, a misogynistic loser could wander around feeling bitter and calling women b*tches. Now, he has a MRA subreddit and a Twitter group that allows him to insult women around the world.
    This both makes people more comfortable expressing bigoted views that they previously would have kept closeted, and acts as a force multiplier for the determined misogynist or anti-Semite.

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    • One thing the Internet has allowed, in particular, is for young men who are bitter about being unable to find girlfriends to form communities with older men who are bitter about their divorces. A lot of the weird MRA demonology around women is guys who are pissed about how their divorce turned out telling virgins that those grapes are really sour, and the virgins believing them.

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      • This strikes me as plausibly true, and possibly a side effect of the Internet creating spaces for you to find any sort of customized community you want.

        Back in the elder days, if you wanted to bitch about your wife, you had to do it with the other guys in the Moose Lodge or whatever, and most of them didn’t want to bitch about your wife, they wanted to talk about the ball game or the pool going in at the local school or whatever.

        So if you’re the disgruntled bitter young man, you can’t just find and commiserate with the bitter divorcee at the Moose Lodge, because the other Honorable Brothers of the Order are there to occasionally say, “Oh Jesus, stop listening to Harry, he’s just being a bastard about his wife. Mind you, she is bitchy, but if you knew Harry as long as I have, you’d know he had most of it comin’. Besides, we all told him not to marry her in the first place, that dumbass. Now come on over here, I want to introduce you to the padre. He’s going to ask you to volunteer for his soup kitchen drive, but he knows folks down at the yard who are hiring, so if you throw down a few weeks of moving cans of soup around, he can get you a good job down there…”

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    • An equally possible explanation is that society as a whole is moving in a progressive direction on social issues,

      Agreed.

      but is also becoming more polarized. In particular, first the internet followed by social media have empowered people to let their freak flag fly.

      Partly… but the larger issue for many groups is, “what now?”. Churches/Political Parties/Social Movements need to stay relevant or their leaders and true believers lose power/jobs.

      If the dragon of racism is 99% dead, then the SJW need to focus really hard on that remaining 1% just so they have a source of funding and power.

      Take the Catholic Church in Poland. When Communism was in charge and repressing people, the Priests were the center of the rebellion and powerful, important people.

      And now that Communism is dead and gone, they need an enemy. Some reason for the people to rally to their banner. Abortion fills some of that need, but the church is struggling and will continue to struggle. Eventually they’ll find another enemy or (disaster) people will lose the expectation that the church is going to lead. The later will be actively resisted every step along the way by the movements leaders and true believers.

      So unions talk about the days when killing workers was legal and present 75+ year old murders as though they’re current problems. Feminists talk about 79% cents per dollar as though it’s legal to pay women less. Anti-Racists talk about lynchings, slavery, segregation, and link every quickly-arrested lone-wolf murderer to a vast wave of racism. All of them complain about the younger generation not remembering the struggle and claim the bad old days can instantly come back.

      A movement is first about fixing problems. But after those problems are fixed, the organization stays on and becomes about political power for it’s own sake. They find more to do, or they claim the problem isn’t solved, or they find/make some new enemy.

      Some of that “polarization” is between people who want these organizations to be relevant and treated seriously and people who see them as engaged in self serving exercises in political power, and who don’t want to be blamed for the sins of many decades past.

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