Search Box

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Liberal conflation

I had an extended argument with commenter "Highly Refined Pirate" on the Movie Stars' political opinions post yesterday. HRP was polite, and she (I'm guessing HRP is a she) wrote well. But she managed to invoke a number of misleading liberal beliefs, including that liberals -- or at least scientists who are liberals -- are by nature "willing to consider the possibility that they are wrong and engage in open discussion with those of differing viewpoints," and that "if you are introspective and open, it's hard to accept many of the policies of the modern conservative movement." In other words, liberals are better people. (I've known plenty of liberals, and many of them actually believe this.)

She said that talking about group differences in IQ means denying the humanity of anyone with a lower IQ and that you want to deny them equal legal rights. (I've heard liberals say this before and always wonder where they get that idea.)

She also said that it's the conservatives who want to impose their will on everyone else. (I've heard liberals say this before, too. I guess they must be referring to the way conservatives want to force people to pay for health insurance they don't want, or to force girls to have boys showering with them in their locker rooms, or to confiscate law-abiding citizens' guns, etc.)

The exchange went as follows (HRP's comments in italics):

Highly Refined Pirate said...

When you ask those capable of making informed decisions (i.e. professionals with higher education) you notice that they are far from identifying with conservative views.

I will quote a response I noticed at Quora that pretty much sums up this rationale.

Clint Law wrote:
"...With that said, I've seen scientists (mostly physicists due to my background) that run the gamut of positions on social issues, economic policy, foreign policy, etc.

The one near universal trait that leads to liberal voting tendencies is:

Introspection and communication. Scientists, by nature, are willing to consider the possibility that they are wrong and engage in open discussion with those of differing viewpoints. Even if your are very conservative by nature, if you are also introspective and open, it is harder to accept many of the policies of the modern US conservative movement (again, I'm referring mainly to isolationism, war-mongering and religion-based government). Even if you agree with some things in principle (e.g. abortion is wrong), it becomes increasingly hard to support forcing these beliefs on everyone as you fully understand the views and supporting rationale of others."

Highly Refined Pirate --
True enough, as many of the other commenters have pointed out, professionals vary in their political opinions. But it's interesting that the "conservative" positions you mention are at odds with the positions this blog takes, and are actually not universal conservative positions. First, "isolationism" and "war-mongering" are close to being diametrically opposed. It's the neocons, who are generally despised by the paleo-cons, who've been the loudest voices agitating for war in the Middle East. If a true conservative doesn't want to go to war, he's called an isolationist; if he does, he's called a war-monger. If a liberal doesn't want to go to war, he's called a man of peace; if he does, as with Clinton's years-long bombing of Iraq or Obama's escalation of the Afghanistan War, nobody calls him a war-monger.

As far as religion-based government, again, a more-or-less-libertarian blog like this one is not for that, but yes, there are definitely Republicans who are against abortion, and there are even a few who don't want evolution taught in the schools. But I would say that the more modern "religion" of equalitarianism which demands that we all ignore group differences and attribute any difference in accomplishment to white racism or to sexism has a much more deleterious effect on society. Okay, maybe it's a stretch to describe that as a "religion," but given the way its True Believers adhere to it, it might as well be. And as far as "forcing these beliefs on everyone," just look at the way that anybody who veers from this equalitarian orthodoxy is at risk of losing his livelihood if he should utter any apostasy.

For some reason you make Egalitarianism sound like a bad thing. I'm not sure if that was your intent. All humans are equal and should have the same opportunities and rights. That's the basis of human rights. Though the difference in accomplishment is a real thing, backed by solid evidence. Does that mean that other groups are more prone to engage in illegal or dangerous activities because of "genetics"? No. It means those living in the fringes of society (mostly minorities) will be more prone to crime than those raised with a good education and stability (mostly white). If you are raised in the ghetto, it doesn't matter wherever you are black or white, you are likely to have a troubled life.

Those who believe in the so called "group differences" tend to be short-sighted and lack knowledge on the history of human civilization. Wasn't civilization born in the middle east? Mesopotamia? The cradle of western civilization were the Greeks, heavily influenced by the cultures of the near and middle east. Both the Romans and the Greeks looked down upon the Gauls, the Celts and the Germanic tribes (ancestors to what is considered now as "white people" in the United States) as uncivilized savages, with their "foreign customs" and false gods. Were they right? No. Moral relativism is the key word here. No group, no religion, no society, no culture is better than the other. It's all a matter of perspective.

We are all human beings, but some people tend to forget that.

Highly Refined Pirate --
You're putting words in my mouth. I never said that we shouldn't be equal in the eyes of the law, or that we shouldn't have equal rights. Nor did I suggest that we're not all human. But what we have right now is a society in which anybody who is aware of group differences and points them out is considered a thought criminal.

And I love the way you put genetics into quotation marks, as if they make no difference. One of the most obvious genetic differences is between men and women: men have more testosterone, and are far more prone to violence. And there have been tests in which people who are given testosterone supplements become more violent. Would you deny that? Is the difference in violent crime rates between men and women just a social construct? Likewise, blacks have more testosterone than whites, and are more prone to violent crime than whites. The statistics bear this out, and it's not a matter of prejudice or racism, it's simply a fact. Whites who were brought up during the Depression didn't have murder and rape rates anywhere close to today's rates in the ghetto.

It's the people who try to paper over group differences who are short-sighted and lack knowledge of the history of human civilization. Nobody denies that the Middle East, where agriculture first appeared, was the cradle of civilization. And Europe, by the way, is where the industrial revolution took place. But what does that have to do with current IQ differences between Europeans and sub-Saharan Africans -- who are clearly not the same race as the Mesopotamians.

I'm glad you're a moral relativist and see no difference between a Muslim culture which demands that girls not be allowed to go to school, be forced to wear burkhas, and have their clits cut off, and Western civilization, which demands none of those things. The real sin, after all, would be to notice or point out any of those differences.

I said I wasn't sure if that was your intention. I didn't mean to offend or put words in your mouth. Back on topic:

Of course genetics make a difference, just not the way you are trying to twist it. So what about the whites of the Germanic tribes and the Vikings. There is a bulk of evidence of their infamous brutal acts, sacrifices and terrible deeds in ancient records. Was it genetics then? or social conditioning? What about the holocaust? Trying to exterminate an entire ethnic group must mean something, no?

So now you bring the IQ differences to the table. So apparently if you raise a bunch of black kids in a WASPie home, send them to an Ivy League then you won't expect them to be of any worth, because you know, inferior genes. Blacks have nothing to do with Mesopotamians, but people from the middle east do, and they are heavily discriminated, along with Latins (which many are 100% european white btw) and to some extent the jews.

Moral relativism doesn't mean you approve what they do. It means you have a world view perception other than your own self-centered self. I wonder what people in the Middle East think after America went there to get their oil and bomb their cities. We shouldn't look through a one way glass.

Highly Refined Pirate --
Fair enough, you did say you weren't sure if that was my intention.

But how am I trying to "twist" genetics?

The difference between different groups is not that some are capable of mass brutality and others are not; every single ethnic group in human history has committed atrocities somewhere along the way, the Germans are hardly alone on this score, though they are often held up as singularly evil. Every group has murder, rape, and cannibalism in its past. The difference between groups is that some are more capable of civilization and functional democracies than others.

Interesting that you would bring up adopted children. In fact there have been extensive studies on that subject and they have found that adopted children inevitably have IQ's more in line with their biological relatives than with their adoptive families. This is true for both interracial and intraracial adoptions. And by the way, I would never say that someone is "not of any worth" because he has a lower IQ.

The larger point: liberals always seem to assume that if someone says that because there are group differences in IQ, then that is the same as saying that the lower-IQed group is "worthless" or "not human" or something along those lines. I've never used the word "inferior" to describe any group, and there's no morality imputed to a lower IQ, if you take a look at this blog you'll see I write about sociopathy quite often, and I talk about smart sociopaths as often as I do dumb ones. (They are equally evil.) But neither is the question of IQ differences a morally-weighted one; it's a scientific one. What you do with that information may have moral consequences, but the scientific answer is either true or false, not good or bad.

If I were to say that blacks are better sprinters than whites -- as a cursory glance at the Olympic results would make clear -- that does not mean I'm saying that whites are "inferior people," nor am I denying their worth as human beings. It's simply an accurate conclusion that any open-minded and clear-thinking person would come to. Likewise with other traits.

As far as moral relativism, what you said earlier -- that "no group, no religion, no society, no culture is better than the other" -- is interesting. I take it by this that you don't think that the Muslims are any worse for their attitude toward women. Or that Nazi Germany, which you referred to in your most recent comment, is any worse than any other society -- since "No group, no religion, no society, no culture is better than the other. It's all a matter of perspective." After all, it is good to "have a world view perception other than your own self-centered self."


Remnant said...

Thought experiment for liberals:

If you look back at all societies in all eras history, and notice that the beliefs and convictions of the majority of society were wrong, do you really think that the beliefs and convictions you hold (which are essentially conformist, mainstream and default ones) are right? Everyone who cleaved to the mainstream wisdom in all ages was wrong; but you, who cleave to the mainstream wisdom of your age, are right? Amazing.

Liberals science-based and open-minded? They are calling the "climate change" science "settled" (which is a wholly unscientific concept: science is never settled) and for criminal prosecution of those who _voice dissenting views_.

What this commentator shows is the following: 1. confirms that women tend to be more conformist than men: pretty much every view she expresses is the one that would get her patted on the head by the mainstream; 2. liberalism is often a way for people to feel superior and virtuous without expense of effort; 3. liberals vastly underestimate the intelligence and thoughtfulness of those who disagree with them.

John Craig said...

Remnant --
Thank you. I wish I'd thought to say those things.

Interesting take on all the societies in history; never thought of it that way before; it's so true.

And yes, "every view she expresses is the one that would get her patted on the head." That's the key to their thinking right there -- it's all about wanting to conform and wanting approval from the group.

To (3) I would add, and they vastly overestimate their own intelligence and thoughtfulness.

Remnant said...

That's funny: I actually deleted that very point from my comment because I didn't think it was fair: I don't know enough about the commentator to imply she isn't smart. But you are certainly right that liberals generally think they are smart. Often, the most smug people are those just slightly above the top of the bell curve.

You handled the exchange incredibly admirably: you kept it purely at the level of dialectic and logical argument.

We underestimate the wisdom and intelligence of our ancestors at our own peril. Example: bloodletting is seen as the quintessential example of superstition, ignorance and backwardness among earlier Europeans. It is now becoming clear that iron overload is one of the leading factors, if not _the_ leading factor, in diseases ranging from cancer to heart disease to diabetes.

(Not to get off topic, but for those interested in that specific issue, start with the following links:

Remnant said...

Where liberals such as this commentator go wrong in evaluating conservatives is that they conflate what I would call "natural" or "default" conservatives with highly intelligent free-thinkers who have arrived at conservative views. I say this without meaning any disrespect to those natural / default conservatives. My point is that it is true: a -- say -- working-class Catholic policeman from Boston (to take a stereotypical example) may hold views in a less fully-thought-through way than a more educated person, and would not necessarily be able to defend those views in a purely logical way.

But if we are comparing average to high IQ liberals with equivalent conservatives, it is almost always the liberal who holds a caricatured view of conservative beliefs and reasoning. The high IQ conservative has usually "stepped past" the liberal view: i.e. he has already digested it, understood it, can articulate it, and has gone beyond it. Almost any conservative will be thoroughly familiar with liberal writers, thinkers and political figures. Very few liberals have familiarity with the true conservative tradition (by which I emphatically do _not_ mean neocons).

So liberals often assume that anyone holding such a view is an idiot, rather than as someone who has actually gone beyond them.

To quote Vox Day: "Any sufficiently advanced intelligence is indistinguishable from insanity."

To be clear, I am not claiming some super high level of intelligence for myself. But I am confident in my ability to analyze the phenomenon of liberals underestimating (and really of not _understanding_) their opponents, as it is pervasive.

John Craig said...

Remnant --
Thank you very much….I don't know the commenter well enough to say for sure she isn't smart, either, but her comments are hive-mindedly delusional.

Yes, perfectly put: "Often the most smug people are those just slightly above the top of the bell curve." (110's who think they're 140's are the bane of my existence.)

True enough, default conservatives certainly exist. But I've fond that liberals in general pride themselves on being "open-minded" while in fact being just the opposite. A good example would be MSNBC vs. Fox News. These are the two most prominent examples of a liberal and a conservative news show. I've watched both, and one thing i'm struck by is that MSNBC almost never allows conservative guests on its show; the regular hosts just have liberal guests, so they can set up straw men and then jeer at conservatives together. Fox will always have at least two or three liberal guest panelists on each show and will allow them their say. What does that tell you?

Great quote from Vox Day, I hadn't head that before.

OK, you're not claiming a super high level of intelligence for yourself, as befits a modest person, so I'll claim it for you: you obviously do have an extremely high level of intelligence. (And I'm a connoisseur of such.)

Remnant said...

Fox is definitely more open-minded, or ... well, fair and balanced. But even they are limited by a blinkered, extremely narrow and historically uninformed view of what conservatism means. Having Pat Buchanan on as a guest (a rarity in itself) is enough to create an almost unbearable level of cognitive dissonance and confusion in Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly's brains. And Buchanan is only allowed on because he has a track record that can't be ignored. But generally, the discussion of politics in America is within a comparatively narrow Overton window.

But yes, Fox is no doubt much more fair and open-minded than the other stations.

John Craig said...

Remnant --
Yes, Fox is definitely still in the mainstream, and wants to remain "respectable." Understandable enough, for a large business enterprise.

Buchanan is the only Presidential candidate I ever contributed money to, back in '92.

I had to look up "Overton window," I'm a little embarrassed to say.

Shaun F said...

John - The only remark I'd like to add to my previous offline observation, is that I like the remark "hive minded and delusional" it's appropriate but so articulately worded.

Remnant's last paragraph in the comment at 10:10 are again spot on.

John Craig said...

Shaun --
Thank you very much.