October 12, 2009

David Brooks' lonely struggle against the Sailerite conventional wisdom

In the pages of the New York Times, David Brooks once more bravely explore pathways beyond Sailerism's complete stranglehold on the mass media.

In "The Young and the Neuro," Brooks reports on the conference of the Social and Affective Neuroscience Society’s, where all the scientists were "so damned young, hip and attractive." Brooks then proceeds to recount the usual grab bag of studies about how different parts of the brain activate when shown pictures of people of different races or whatever, and sums up:
I suspect that the work will take us beyond the obsession with I.Q. and other conscious capacities and give us a firmer understanding of motivation, equilibrium, sensitivity and other unconscious capacities.

Isn't it a shame how Linda Gottfredson makes $50k per speech to corporate executives while poor Malcolm Gladwell barely ekes out a living? *

Unfortunately, Brooks' column about brain scans isn't very persuasive because there aren't any pictures of brains in it. As every editor knows, a picture of a brain in an article about brains makes the article convincing. A 2006 study in Cognition showed that "assertions about psychology — even implausible ones like “watching television improved math skills” — seem much more believable to laypeople when accompanied by images from brain scans."

(You know what would be the perfect "social cognitive neuroscience" experiment? Do brain scans on people while they are being shown pictures of brain scans. The part of the brain that lights up could be renamed the Credulity Lobe.)

For example, here is a scan of David Brooks' brain during his daily reading of iSteve. As you can see, the experience is stimulating both the Man-I-Wish-I-Could-Say-Interesting-Stuff-Like-That and the But-I-Can't-Or-I'll-Lose-My-Job-So-I'll-Say-the-Opposite sectors of his brain.

You just can't argue with Science.

-------------------
* By the way, Malcolm's new article on football and concussions is pretty good.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

You should tag these rants about brain scans under "thou shalt not worship graven images' or 'the benefits of a math/verbal tilt: if all images are meaningless to me, I can't be mislead by the pointless ones!"

Your Poppa is a Wrecker. said...

Steve always seems to manage a pitch perfect imitation of Soviet propaganda. I can see the screaming, blood red headlines after the big roundup now, "Sailerite Conspiracy Smashed! Mass trial to be held in Staples Center."

Steve Sailer said...

The key to getting the Stalinist tone is to call the bad guys "ites" rather than "ists" -- e.g., Trotskyites (boo!) rather than Stalinists (yay!).

headache said...

"where all the scientists were "so damned young, hip and attractive." "

"Isn't it a shame how Linda Gottfredson makes $50k per speech to corporate executives while poor Malcolm Gladwell barely ekes out a living?"

Linda Gottfredson aint so hot any more, if she ever was.

I know you are not so young any more Steve, but why don't you study neuroscience at a distance learning uni to augment your impressive stats and writing skills. It would make your arguments so much more daunting. Then you could also meet some of those hot chicks Brooks was alluding to.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Steve.

George said...

That can't possibly be a scan of Brooks' cranium. The scan shows the presence of brain matter...

Dennis Mangan said...

Reading Sailer also turned Brooks's brain blue.

AMac said...

As you can see, the experience is stimulating both the Man-I-Wish-I-Could-Say-Interesting-Stuff-Like-That and the But-I-Can't-Or-I'll-Lose-My-Job-So-I'll-Say-the-Opposite sectors of his brain.

I can clearly see how Brooks' Man-I-Wish-I-Could-Say lobe is activated in that image. However, your claim as far as the Or-I'll-Lose-My-Job area isn't as convincing.

Oh, there it is. Compelling case, now that I can make it out.

AMac said...

Steve Sailer: universally reviled wrecker, anti-Stakhanovite, and capitalist roader.

Anonymous said...

You almost make me feel sorry for Brooks. Almost.

dearieme said...

If you have the patience, do visit this blog and scroll down to the post of the 16th of September on brain-scanning a dead fish. Brill! Or, rather, salmon!

http://neuroskeptic.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2009-09-22T18%3A51%3A00%2B01%3A00&max-results=5

Mr. Anon said...

"Steve Sailer said...

The key to getting the Stalinist tone is to call the bad guys "ites" rather than "ists" -- e.g., Trotskyites (boo!) rather than Stalinists (yay!)."

And one must, of course, "smash" them.

Bolsheviks were always smashing things.

Anonymous said...

The Soviets were fond of adding hyphens to the conspirators each time someone new was put on the shit list. The Sailerites-Palenites-Doogie Hauserite conspiracy against diversity and science.

TCO said...

The funny thing is that Brooks is basically starting to give up the ghost. He knows the steamroller of biology is going to cruch him on his previous beleifs and is retreating to "it's more complicated" land. Which of course it is, and his opponents have always maintained and which they had a better chance of understanding given them being right on first effects. He probably isn't too far from tipping over to the "I always knew it" land.

You'll never get honest satisfaction. It's a man in a 100 who will stone-facedly admit he was wrong. Take the weasel stance shift as your victory.

SF said...

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/33289924/ns/today-today_people/

Here's another item re your posts a couple of weeks ago on demands to equalize school disciplinary punishments between races. The district says it can't excercise any discretion in the case of the six year old who brought his camping tool to school to eat lunch with, because then the punishments would be meted out disproportionately to African-Americans

PRCalDude said...

In the pages of the New York Times, David Brooks once more bravely explore pathways beyond Sailerism's complete stranglehold on the mass media.

LOL - the solitary light in a dark, dark world.

groucho said...

Gladwell's article about concussions isn't "pretty good", it's excellent. Give credit where it's due.

Keyser Söze said...

Credulity Lobe

That's hilarious!

Larry, San Francisco said...

The Gladwell article was surprisingly good. So good that I thought a real journalist had written it and surprised to see it was written by Gladwell.
The article depressed me in two ways. One, I played football in high school how damaged is my brain? Two, now do I need to feel guilty about watching my favorite sport?

rob said...

You know what would be the perfect "social cognitive neuroscience" experiment? Do brain scans on people while they are being shown pictures of brain scans.

Holy crap that is a fantastic idea!
It is so meta, my effing head is about to explode. When it does explode, I want someone to take a scan of it.

You should write up an NEA grant application for it. Maybe people could be scanned while looking at scans of their own brain.

Then people with schizophrenia, or depression or whatever looking at their own brain scans. There is a career in modern art here.

Curvaceous Carbon-based Life Form said...

Let me see if I get this: NFL players, especially linebackers, are at risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy leading to Alzheimer's-like syndromes, and/or early death.

Since most of NFL is Black, why is professional football not denounced as racist?

Truth said...

"Since most of NFL is Black, why is professional football not denounced as racist?"

Because it's owned, managed, administrated and run by whites and 1/3 of the players are white.

David Davenport said...

Let me see if I get this: NFL players, especially linebackers, are at risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy leading to Alzheimer's-like syndromes, and/or early death.

Since most of NFL is Black, why is professional football not denounced as racist?


The linebacker football occupational specialty is not 100 percent black. Its maybe 1/3 white.

idealart said...

Comparing breeding dogs with professional athletes is unfortunate and destructive. Dogs have no sense of right and wrong, no control over their own lives, and no choice to fight or not. Gladwell is a pompous left-wing nancy-boy.

He also denigrates the athletes. He doesn't understand honor and sacrifice and glory. He's a dummy.

Neuroskeptic said...

Apparently he gave a speech to the conference as well, although given that he was so impressed by the "damned young, hip and attractive" scientists in the audience his mind my not have been entirely on the job...

They do say you should imagine the audience naked if you want to avoid performance anxiety...