May 22, 2014

Nerd Lib and the popularity of Race-Does-Not-Exist

Perhaps the biggest social change after the famous ones of the 1960s and early 1970s has been what I call Nerd Lib. Our culture has become much more congenial toward and perhaps conducive to the Aspergerish style of mind than when I was young. 

This has happened with little in the way of political attention or leadership. Like lefthandedness, it's not the kind of identity that current identity politics work well with. On the other hand, it's cultural influence is unmistakable.

It finally dawned on me while reading hundreds of extremely confident Internet commenters explain that Nicholas Wade can't possibly know anything about science because science proves that race-does-not-exist, that this dogma of recent decades is tied into the rise of the nerds who deal well with rigid categories but don't deal well with human complexity. 
   

64 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't dignify them by labelling them 'aspergy',to me that term encompasses some of isteve's more eccentric and entertaining commentators. No, the desription that comrs to mind is that old, old saying that goes back to the Romans - some people are just so arrogant and downright willfully dishonest that they will, literally, argue that black is white.
Aspies on the other hand are merely loveable eccentrics and not pathological liars.

Ted LeBee said...

http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/05/the-case-for-reparations/361631/

Anonymous said...

OT, Why Jeffrey Sachs matters, Bill Gates claims Jeffrey Sachs is the Bono of economists

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101697208

Is Gates trolling? or is he a true believer?


Hepp said...

"It finally dawned on me while reading hundreds of extremely confident Internet commenters explain that Nicholas Wade can't possibly know anything about science because science proves that race-does-not-exist, that this dogma of recent decades is tied into the rise of the nerds who deal well with rigid categories but don't deal well with human complexity. "

Then how do you explain the rise of "complex" theories like "structural racism" and the idea that gender differences are based on "stereotypes"?

I guarantee that a larger percentage of commentators on iSteve are on the Asperger's spectrum than those on say the Huffington Post.

Hubbub said...

He that has eyes, let him see; he that has a mind, let him reason; he that wishes wisdom, let him not hide from the truth. Let him not be all things to all people.

The alchemist of old is the stratified scientist of today. You want gold, I shall give you gold; you want all people to be equal, alike, and the same? So let it be said, so let it be done.

It is indeed a world of the absurd in which we live.

dearieme said...

Don't the aspergy have a tendency to blurt out uncomfortable truths? If so, PC is their foe.

Is it premature ageing, d'ye think?

candid_observer said...

It may be that it is often Aspergy types who insist everything must be either black or white.

But it takes a very "social" type to argue that black is white. They repeat what they've heard, and need others to repeat it too. In their hivemind, this is "proof".

And the "race isn't real" thing fits the latter category much better. It requires, first and foremost, the ability to denounce one's lying eyes.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, I think of aspergy types as being more or less immune from the kind of social posturing and line-toeing that Race-Does-Not-Exist demands.

Anonymous said...

This is the silly side of Steve. Nerds we have always had with us. NASA was a great employer of the pocket protector brigade with the brylcreemed hair. The 1950s was the golden age of nerds. They all got married at 22 and settled down. Now?

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey Sachs is not the 'Bono' of economics but the 'Bozo' of that unfortinate discipline.

Anonymous said...

Hepp nails it. Steve doesn't realize how different he and Pat B are from the grass root of the internet paleos a mishmash of aspires and unable to cope foggies.

Anonymous said...

Steve, you're being way too kind.

Until very recently, this stuff would have been classified as a character flaw.

Half of these commenters will be Frankfurt School astroturfers who are trying to steer the discussion in the direction which most benefits the Frankfurt School.

The other half will be those who lack all common sense - the true believers who don't seem to have any innate ability to discern propaganda from Truth.

The first category are [profoundly evil] liars, who know dadgum well that it's all just so many lies.

The second category are the suicidally fatuous who drink the koolaid because they are ordered to drink the koolaid.

These are all character flaws.

Furthermore, my suspicion is that in both cases, the underlying causes are strongly GENETIC - that if you were simply shown a family tree going back three or four generations [to include the religious denominations of the graveyards wherein the ancestors were buried], then you could predict with extremely high accuracy whether you would find these sorts of character flaws in the resulting progeny.

Anonymous said...

Regarding postmodern race deniers, see this image:

http://oi61.tinypic.com/9kyn2w.jpg

It's interesting how much in common they have with religious creationists.

Marian Rejewski's Idiot Younger Brother said...

Then how do you explain the rise of "complex" theories like "structural racism" and the idea that gender differences are based on "stereotypes"?

I guarantee that a larger percentage of commentators on iSteve are on the Asperger's spectrum than those on say the Huffington Post.


Wait, what? Please excuse me if this sounds 'Spergie to you, but you'll have to explain the logic of that comment, because as far as I can tell, there isn't any. Or perhaps you clever people have a special term for the rhetorical figure of stringing non-sequiturs together as if they mean something.

Anonymous said...

"Frankfurt School astroturfers"

This right-wing Glenn Beckian obsession with the Frankfurt School (whether school of thought or outright conspiracy) is embarrassing.

The Frankfurt School was a symptom of a turn towards overwrought "cultural" explanations that began well before WW2, not a collection of ur-texts.

Anonymous said...

"This is the silly side of Steve. Nerds we have always had with us. NASA was a great employer of the pocket protector brigade with the brylcreemed hair. The 1950s was the golden age of nerds. They all got married at 22 and settled down. Now?"

Now they work in Silicon Valley and make a lot more money, even controlling for inflation, and also exercise greater cultural influence.

Cail Corishev said...

The 1950s was the golden age of nerds. They all got married at 22 and settled down. Now?

True, but in 1950, as you say, they got married and settled down, and you didn't hear much from them. Now they get online and nitpick or troll on blogs, and seem to think that getting everyone else to give up on an argument is the same thing as winning.

I don't know whether to blame it on nerdishness or aspie-ness or something else. But it's definitely tiring when it seems like every decent conversation gets bogged down by some guy insisting that people aren't using enough "not all X are Y" disclaimers or backing up their opinions with enough references.

Frankie PIzza said...

Let's take the Koolaid example. Where does this come from?

A liberal integrationist church cult that thought we should all get along. A product of liberal feel good mantra.

If you mention koolaid in the 2000's it's probably a reference to George Bush loyalists and the attack is made a by a smug liberal.

Truly the left inverts reality.

It's like the liberal anti-racists who point out that South Korea and North Korea have different cultures and that disproves the effect of race the existence of race.

DUDES, Teh North Koreans are militant egalitarians. They are what you claim to want to inflict on conservatives. "we are all equal" ;leads to hell boys! The South Koreans are nationalistic, hierarchical, racist etc they do better.

Porter said...

What, if anything, is the difference between a Rottweiler and say a Dachshund? Is it genetic? Or is it that society has simply constructed differences of agreed upon perception that do not exist in any objective sense?

I ask only because I am sometimes trepidatious that my neighbor's Rottweiler construct might detach my arm from trunk. So I would like for science to verify that this formidable beast is indistinguishable from a Pomeranian, thus rendering my misgivings entirely irrational.

Anonymous said...

This right-wing Glenn Beckian obsession with the Frankfurt School (whether school of thought or outright conspiracy) is embarrassing.

"Frankfurt School" is the kind of shorthand that no one would objects to when it's being done by lefties. The left use of "fascist" for everyone on the right who isn't Jewish or pro-Israel is so accepted it's been picked up by most so-called conservatives.

As Paul Gottfried has written in several books, Frankfurt School's The Authoritarian Personality was an enormously influential part of the mainstream liberal program to preemptively "denazify" the white Christian population of the US. See the "responses" section of the Wiki article on TAP for a sampling of the criticism of the study.

Anonymous said...

Pointless post and completely wrong.

Anonymous said...

Baldness is a social construct. It can't be precisely, mathematically defined. Think about it: how many hairs must you have on your head before you are not bald? 1? 15,000? 7,463? Since we can't find the exact number, it follows that no one is bald.

Or, it could be that the concept of baldness has paradigm applications, but is vague in certain cases.

--SoCal Philosopher

Cail Corishev said...

"Frankfurt School" is the kind of shorthand that no one would objects to when it's being done by lefties.

In fact, the guy you responded to did it right in that sentence: "right-wing Glenn Beckian obsession." Is Glenn Beck even right-wing? Last thing I heard from him, he was sobbing about the wonderfulness of St. Martin Luther King, Jr. or something.

Everyone to the right of Obama can be lumped together as "right-wing whoever's-embarrassing" and that's fine, but any criticism in the other direction must be painstakingly parsed for accuracy and ridiculed if it contains any rhetoric whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

The very shrill Annalee Newitz has been leading the 2 minutes of hate against Wade on Gawker's Science and Science Fiction blog:

http://io9.com/nope-racial-groups-do-not-genetically-inherit-behavi-1579596569

http://io9.com/the-9-most-influential-works-of-scientific-racism-rank-1575543279

elmer said...

Salon has not covered Nicholas Wade yet but crusades against the anti-science crowd with daily updates about Neil DeGrasse Tyson and how he's making their "heads explode".

SFG said...

Disagree. Or: true, true, unrelated, as they say in the medical biz.

Nerds are more powerful, yes.

People are spouting race-does-not-exist crap, yes.

But I don't see a connection. Race-does-not-exist comes from liberal PC. Nerds tend to ignore this stuff. If anything the race-does-not-exist crowd have higher social IQ in terms of saying the socially acceptable thing.

You haven't noticed all the aspies on HBD sites? They're obsessed with IQ and love to debate whether Asians are less creative than Whites.

If anything, I think the aspies are on the Dark Enlightenment side, such as it is..

Anonymous said...

If Wade were a scientist himself, his book would be received with more respect. But as a journalist, his "speculations" have little scientific value without being verified through a rigorous process.

Anonymous said...

You make it sound like people are free to express whatever opinions they want on the topic of race. But if you say race is a biologically meaningful and important concept, you are likely to be punished. So people rationalize what they are effectively forced to believe. And of course some/most people will always enthusiastically side with power and authority, while others will just more sheepishly go along with it. I don't see nerdiness having anything to do with it.

slumber_j said...

Can't we just throw Wittgenstein's concept of Family Resemblance at them? Nerds love Wittgenstein.

Rob said...

But I don't see a connection. Race-does-not-exist comes from liberal PC. Nerds tend to ignore this stuff. If anything the race-does-not-exist crowd have higher social IQ in terms of saying the socially acceptable thing.

You haven't noticed all the aspies on HBD sites? They're obsessed with IQ and love to debate whether Asians are less creative than Whites.

If anything, I think the aspies are on the Dark Enlightenment side, such as it is.


Agreed. A lot of HBD-savvy people on comment threads strike me as being nerd/Asperger's types.

Eloi Iole said...

The terrible terrible legacy of dispositive proofs?

I can see with my own eyes.

Eloi Iole said...

Here is a repeatable experiment.

Leave a car in North St Louis overnight.

Leave a car in Oakville over night.

Both cars will have windows rolled down half way.

Anonymous said...

I'd say it's more likely the race-does-not-exist crowd is simply engaged in some social signaling. They want to tell everyone, including themselves, that they're nice people, unlike those people over there.

There are also some ideologues of various stripes, including Marxists and blank slate fans, but they're in the distinct minority.

In the case of the linked article the author is complaining about the number of factors chosen--are there one, three, or five races? But that's beside the point. The real question is, does picking one, three, or five add any useful information to the analysis? If a k=5 value is useful, use that. If a k=7 factor is useful in another context, use k=7. Or k=42 if you want to capture the genetic differences between villages in Northumbria.

The dark enlightenment needs to come up with an anodyne, technocratic term other than "race". It's simply too easy to be beat up once the term is deployed, and those eager to display their sensibilities will pile on. "Population" would serve, but that isn't impressive-sounding and opaque enough. Maybe "Observed cluster of shared genetic history." Being called an OCSGH-ist doesn't carry nearly the same sting. The clever boots out there can start out with an acronym and back-port it to a phrase to fit the acronym.

Anonymous said...

A liberal integrationist church cult that thought we should all get along. A product of liberal feel good mantra.

Plus ├ža change?

The suicidally fatuous, drinking the koolaid, as prepared and served up to them by They Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken At iSteve .

Dave Pinsen said...

The differences between the dogs are genetic, but the breeds are social constructs - defined by a list of phenotype a and created by selective breeding.

Eloi Iole said...

Could all the racists be sent to Mars?

Anonymous said...

I think Steve just described the trauma of being Patton Oswalt.

"I'm against everything Steve Sailer is for, but I admire his insight."

ABOTL said...

I question this alleged connection to Asperger's syndrome.

Generally, such people are much more likely than others to point out unspoken truths and violate taboos. Spinning tall tales to support the status quo is a trait that tends to be most pronounced in un-Asperger's like people.

The head-in-the-sand style of defending PC ideas about race is nothing new. The only difference is that more media content is being written by bloggers who have less editing to make their writing conform to traditional rhetorical patterns. The result is more media content with a pedantic tone.

Anonymous said...

+The differences between the dogs are genetic, but the breeds are social constructs - defined by a list of phenotype a and created by selective breeding.

But there are also landraces of domestic dog that have origins almost entirely in function and were only brought in to the organized dog fancy long after they were well-established. They then became-for the most part- standardized-at least in the West.

that's inappropriate said...

Hey Steve, do you remember a '70's talk show host on KABC named Ira Kastel? I remember driving around L.A. in '79 and listening to his show when a caller made reference to a 'fact'. Kastel replied, "what's a fact? Define fact."

Anonymous said...

"I'd say it's more likely the race-does-not-exist crowd is simply engaged in some social signaling. They want to tell everyone, including themselves, that they're nice people, unlike those people over there."

Reminds me of the "anthropologist" and qualified quack, Richard Milner said about Stephen Jay Gould, when it was irrefutably proven that Gould falsified information to discredit the concept of IQ in general, and the now proven science of craniology in particular, said:

"Whatever conclusions he reached, rightly or wrongly, he did with complete conviction and integrity. He was a tireless combatant against racism in any form, and if he was guilty of the kind of unconscious bias in science that he warned against, at least his bias was on the side of the angels.”

Gould had worked tirelessly to discredit the life's work of another scientist, and make him out as a bigot besides, thus disgracing his well-earned legacy. That doesn't seem to be "on the side of the angels."

Just seems evil to me, since basing social policy on bad science inevitably hurts many people.

Anonymous said...

There are virtually no sharp boundaries, either with physical features or with patterns of genetic diversity, that show where one population “ends” and the next “begins”.


Yeah, but lot's of things in nature lack sharp boundaries and we can recognize their separate existence all the same. There is no sharp boundary showing where our solar system ends but science is not about to jettison the concept of "solar systems" on that account.

Chicago said...

Are we seeing light at the end of the tunnel? For the past sixty or so years people have been pretending not to see what was directly in front of them, standing there as large as a barn every single day of their lives. Can the Boas-Montague- Gould gang of three now be overthrown? Can the lying stop now, once and for all? In retrospect it's been a strange period in history where people were forced into all sorts of contortions in order to please those who held the whip.

Cail Corishev said...

Could all the racists be sent to Mars?

They could have been, but we can't afford a space program anymore because we bankrupted ourselves on social programs.

Anonymous said...

Kurt Andersen ‏@KBAndersen May 21
I'm pro-truth & read Wade's A Troublesome Inheritance open-mindedly. But science-based *speculation* that validates racism is irresponsible.

Anonymous said...

Leaving aside racial issues. In the most general sense Asberger types find it easier to understand well defined elements than loose patterns, so they would be more likely to emphasis discrete clusters over clines. As other's have noted the linked discussion doesn't seem to have anything to do with Asberger issues, unless A is a euphemism for something else.

Porter said...

Not following you Dave. What are the differences between dogs aside from breeds?

What's genetic and what's "social construct?" If breeds are the latter, do we accept that there are no substantial differences between them? Are those non-genetic constructs transferred generationally via genetic code? Or is each new litter of puppies re-constructed to behave according to our subjective perception of its breed? And how is selective breeding different from natural selection if they both were to arrive at the same creature?

Peterike said...

It's not Aspie. It's just Jewish dissembling picked up by the mob.

Edgar Bronfman Sr. said...

It's not Aspie. It's just Jewish dissembling picked up by the mob

As "peterike" regularly demonstrates nerdspeak is a many-splendoured thing, suited for customization by literally anyone.

David said...

He said "human complexity," not "complex but Martian-level-out-of-touch theories about humans." "Structural racism," for example, is an idea so detached from the real (and complex) world that only a professor or an intelligent teenager could invent it.

David said...

>more likely to emphasis discrete clusters over clines<

This nails it.

Maxwell Power said...

It's the decline of editors and authority figures -- behold the college administrations cowed by commencement speaker protests, or the table of contents at The New Republic web site which resemble increasingly Buzzfeed or Sassy (e.g. look at some of the headlines on articles by Julia Yoffe for a representative taste). Status distinctions like dress, grooming, accent, diction have all been "flattened." Actually if you're a bio-male wearing a dress to work can only redound to your glory. That Pritzker transbillionaire will not be the last

Frank N. Furter said...

That's right, it's illegal to mention my name on iSteve.com

Maxwell Power said...

On the other hand. It could be the problem isn't that nerds are more accepted, but that stampeding the enstupefied public into World War Whatever is. Adult leadership used to be concerned with unclear alternatives entailing trade-offs, yet witness how the febrile, anti-intellectual media converts every topic into a Yes/No decision: You're either for open borders/amnesty armageddon, or you're Anti-Immigrant. Either you favor gender-optional bathrooms in elementary schools under penalty of $1 billion fine, or you're Anti-Gay. Either you want to invade all the square footage of the Middle East (and now Western Asia) or you're pro-Assad/pro-Putin/Anti-Gay. This is how it goes now, with everything as an idiotic binary proposition

Anonymous said...

And just like that, A is J

Anonymous said...

" But science-based *speculation* that validates racism is irresponsible."

What's your definition of racism? What does Wade write that you think validates racism?

Anonymous said...

The race is a social construct meme is specious. Jaguars and leopards are social constructs. We could certainly argue that they have continuous variation in traits they share in common and they basically do the same things and well, if just given the chance, they'll even interbreed. We have decided that because they have been geographically isolated for millions of years, they are not the same thing. Arbitrary. Sure. But every category is arbitrary at some level. We could be very coarse grained in looking at the world and decide that all feline species are a social construct and that anything that is a cat is, well, just a cat. Just because lions have social structure and tigers have stripes and cheetahs are selected for extreme sprinting, they're still cats. Or we could even decide, gee, felines and canids are constructs and anything that hunts on four legs is the same thing. We could thus deconstruct the entire world. Why differentiate hadrons and leptons for example? They're just constructs.

So yes, humans have continuously variable traits. And if you happen to plot the distribution of those traits among different populations, you wind up getting discrete distributions of those traits. They cluster. The clustering is not a construct. It just is. We can draw a more encompassing circle and say those all things with a very broad phenotype are humans and just decide that we are going to view them on a coarse level only. Scientifically that is totally useless. What point would there be in studying tigers and lions if we had to ignore the differences between them? They run on four legs and kill prey with canines and sharp claws. The end.

If we are going to go with this view of humankind, we might as well throw out the whole of science with it. Gravity is a construct. I mean why differentiate the weak and strong forces from gravity when they are all just forces after all? It is just puerile. I do not want things to be different so I am going to bury my head in the sand and just say 'nyah nyah nyah, I can't hear you!" as loud as possible.

At the end of the day, humans fall into categories as different as lions and tigers and jaguars and ocelets and whatnot. Or at the very least, as different as say American and Eurasian wolves. They can interbreed, they can form zones of hybridization, they can have overlap in physical and behavioral traits, but at the end of the day, the populations will have different means for a number of traits which will create a discrete grouping. Deny that, then I guess you might as well sit there and contemplate your navel and the all encompassing oneness of everything. And that might make you feel good, but it is also a totally useless worldview if you are interested in navigating the physical world.

bleach said...

Hahaha the autistics came out in full support of their comrades on the spectrum.

linsee said...

Matt McGue at Minnesota is running a Coursera course on behavioral genetics (this is the third of eight weeks) and he is quite explicit that the influence of genetics on behavior is nearly as strong as influence on physical traits such as height. He hasn't discussed racial differences (except in rates of dizygotic twinning) and I don't know whether he will, but there will be a unit on IQ.

Mr. Anon said...

"Hepp said...

I guarantee that a larger percentage of commentators on iSteve are on the Asperger's spectrum than those on say the Huffington Post."

The phrasae "I guarantee......." is completely meaningless coming from an anonymous internet poster making baseless assertions. You guarantee nothing.

Raven Gatto said...

>Could all the racists be sent to Mars?

No, the planet Mars cannot be made to accomodate the entire population of Earth.

Quentin said...

What's interesting about some of the recent critiques of Wade at places like Jennifer Raff and Holly Dunsworth's blogs is that the "social construct" folks are admitting that there ARE heritable genetic differences between populations -- but, to them, since we can't draw a distinct line between the populations, we don't have any way to TALK about the differences. However, I think that this represents a real step forward from similar discussions that happened 12 years ago when "The Blank Slate" was published: their argument against HBD now seems to me mainly (and merely) semantic. Say what you will about Stephen Jay Gould, he knew where to draw the line: the Dunsworths and Raffs don't seem to realize that by acknowledging any kind of heritable differences between population groups they're already more or less on the same side of the fence as Cohcran, Sailer, Wade, et al.

Anonymous said...

Rigid categories are a chimera. Find me a few rigid categories and I'll show you all kinds of overlap and blurring, even among the things invented by minds enamored with the chimera of rigid categories.

Anonymous said...

"Could all the racists be sent to Mars?" - not all of us, but the only way humans are getting to mars is if there are still racists to do it.