Michael Cohen pleaded guilty on 8 counts, Paul Manafort was found guilty on 8 tax and bank fraud charges.

“Today he stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election,” Davis added. “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”

Good question.


Guess how Fox is handling the convictions?

That War on Christmas is always a great distraction.

It’s an honor he deserves. First he was extrapolating from lobsters to people with a lot of naive and misunderstood neurobiology and evolutionary biology, and now Jordan Peterson is misreading a paper about ants to misapply it to humans.

Because “the West” and “capitalism” are social constructs that ants are not aware of. Unfortunately for Peterson, an ant expert stepped right up.

Maybe Peterson will announce that he’s a myrmecologist next?

Anyway, I read the paper. He doesn’t get it. The research shows that when fire ants are excavating narrow tunnels, where only a few at a time can be at the digging face, they optimize their behavior, avoiding a mad, industrious rush that would merely clog the tunnels and hinder hauling grains of dirt away. They did things like remove the 5 most active digging ants, and found that there was no reduction in the rate of digging, because others would readily step forward to fill in. It’s not at all about what fraction of the population are doing their fair share of the work; it’s about an optimal strategy for a specific task.

I guess he thought he was making a joke to reinforce the biases of his followers — but instead people who know something about ants and logic have turned him into the joke.


(via Noadi)

By Mariella Moon

There’s water ice on the surface of the moon, a team of scientists has confirmed, and future expeditions could harvest it for human settlements. They used data collected by NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft to prove its presence and found ice deposits at the moon’s poles. The idea that Earth’s natural satellite has pockets of ice hiding in the shadows permanently hidden from the sun isn’t anything new — previous probes sent back data containing evidence of their existence. However, NASA says this is the “first time scientists have directly observed definitive evidence” that there’s water ice on what people previously thought was a barren space rock.

According to the paper published by PNAS, M3 was able to pick up the reflective properties you’d expect from ice at the moon’s poles. It also measured the way the material’s molecules absorb infrared light, which differs between liquid water and solid ice, ensuring that those deposits are actually frozen water. M3’s data showed that those pockets of ice are sparsely distributed at the northern pole and more concentrated at the southern poles.

Those ice deposits most likely formed because temperatures at the moon’s poles, which sunlight never hits, don’t go above -250 degrees Fahrenheit. Before we can count on them to sustain future manned missions, though, we first have to confirm just how big and deep they are. As Angel Abbud-Madrid, Colorado School of Mines Center for Space Resources’ director, told Business Insider, we need to send a rover to examine them. Unfortunately, NASA already cancelled the Resource Prospector, a rover that was supposed to look and dig for ice and other resources on the moon future manned bases could use. The agency will still send the vehicle’s instruments aboard other landers, but that might delay discoveries that could’ve been made sooner if they were equipped on a single rover.

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By Jeffrey Mervis

The meteorology professor picked to advise President Donald Trump on science-related matters has urged climate scientists to be more humble when they talk about the conclusions of their research—and said Earth might be more resilient to human-caused environmental assaults than many believe.

The comments by Kelvin Droegemeier, Trump’s pick to lead the White House science office, were made during a talk he gave 4 years ago to researchers at a climate science center in Oklahoma.

Droegemeier, vice president for research at The University of Oklahoma (OU) in Norman and an expert on predicting severe storms, will appear before the Senate on Thursday to field questions on his qualifications to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Given the policies of the Trump administration, Droegemeier is almost certainly going to be asked about climate change and other environmental issues. He has kept mum on those and all other research topics since his nomination was announced on 31 July, as is the custom for presidential nominees. But a video of a June 2014 talk Droegemeier gave to OU colleagues provides some intriguing hints about his thoughts on climate science and other politically charged topics.

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My son Connlann with his bear, Ragey.

OK, so my wife was interested in seeing Christopher Robin, so we did. It’s mostly harmless, a silly children’s movie, that mainly suffered because it was predictable and didn’t have much of a sense of humor over a patently absurd situation.

But it got me wondering about teddy bear movies. There’s a surprising number of them for what is actually an extremely limited genre. There’s this one, and two Paddington movies, and the bro-dude version, Ted. Why? And when you think about it, their plots are painfully similar.

There is a family. The male figure is a bumbling jerk who doesn’t appreciate the importance of love and family (Ewan McGregor, or Hugh Bonneville, or Mark Wahlberg), and the movie is entirely about his redemption as he learns to love others. The female figure is an attractive, interesting person (Hayley Atwell, Sally Hawkins, Mila Kunis) who is totally wasted in the role — she’s there to prop up the male figure’s character development. In all but Ted there is a sad, wise child or two, pining for their poor daddy. The magic bear shows up, who is basically a kind-hearted naif who keeps screwing up, and there are a series of misadventures that lead to Ewan, Hugh, or Mark growing up and becoming a more mature, doting husband/papa/person.

No one actually questions the existence of a talking, sentient stuffed animal. It is simply accepted. This is weird, and in addition to the predictable plot, kept drawing me out of the movie universe. I mean, even the endless string of superhero movies have moments of self-examination, where people wonder why these super-beings are here, and there are even plots where normal humans struggle to control them. But walking, talking teddy bears? How sweet! Let’s have conversations.

I couldn’t help but wonder what I’d do if a favorite childhood toy showed up one day (it doesn’t help that my childhood favorite was Horrible Hamilton), and started bumbling about, giving me life advice.

At least that’s an easy one to answer. I have a lab! I can never understand why these sentient stuffed animals aren’t being whisked off for a detailed analysis.

I guess that means I wouldn’t grow and develop as a functioning, socialized human being, but at least I’d be a step closer to understanding consciousness, the mind, and alternative patterns of cognition than you are, so there.

By Talk Business & Politics staff

A national civil liberties group that advocates the separation of church and state plans to attend the Bentonville School District’s board of education meeting Monday (Aug. 20).

Nick Fish, national program director of the New Jersey-based nonprofit American Atheists, says the group wants to donate about 1,000 posters to the Bentonville School District at Monday night’s meeting. The posters include both the current national motto, “In God We Trust,” and the original de facto motto of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum,” accompanied by a brief explanation of the changes made to the national motto in 1956.

The donation is in response to Act 911, a state law passed last year that allows K-12 schools to display a picture or poster of the national motto above an American flag in classrooms and libraries. Funding for the posters must come from private organizations or charitable contributions to local school boards.

The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville, passed in the Arkansas House 78-1 and in the Senate 20-2. Dotson presented about 900 framed copies of posters to the school board in February.

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By Corky Siemaszko

Three words separate the thousands of Pennsylvanians who say they were molested as children by Roman Catholic priests from receiving justice and compensation for their suffering: statutes of limitations.

They are the reason why just two of the 301 priests named last week in state Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s bombshell report on sex abuse of children by priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses have been charged with crimes.

That is also why most of the victims are unlikely, at this point, to get a dime in recompense.

And while the findings in Shapiro’s report were greeted with universal revulsion and profuse apologies from the Catholic Church, expert say there’s no guarantee that anything is going to change for the aging victims of unspeakable acts that were inflicted on them when they were kids.

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Some people experience them, some don’t. Among the deservedly punished is Kevin Spacey, a great actor, not a particularly good person. His latest movie just opened.

On a grand total of 10 screens nationwide.

It brought in precisely…$126.

Despite its all star cast — including Ansel Elgort, Taron Egerton, Emma Roberts, Jeremy Irvine, Cary Elwes, Judd Nelson, and Billie Lourd — it brought in an abysmal $126 in total.

All those other people were also punished, unfortunately, as well as the backers and swarms of people who made the movie. I guess the message will sink in that Spacey is box-office poison.

This article is a preview from the Autumn 2018 edition of New Humanist

I’ve always had an unease about the TV show Who Do You Think You Are? Now in its 15th year, the programme does attempt to include a diverse range of celebrities delving into their genealogy, but the reality is that records going back multiple generations and centuries tend to exist mainly for those of white European descent. For those descended from former colonial lands, reliable records are rare.

When the Windrush scandal broke, it reminded me afresh of this strange divide. For a country obsessed with family history, what was the government thinking when they destroyed hundreds of landing card records of Caribbean immigrants from the 1940s to the 1960s, without even offering them to the National Archive in Kew? The destruction helped fuel deportations of legal residents as the now notorious “hostile environment” policy towards immigrants rejected decades of tax paying and public service employment, demanding instead records that simply did not exist.

Memories of visiting New York’s Ellis Island museum added to my bafflement. Now it’s a massive tourist attraction celebrating the United States’ immigration history. The website boasts how the museum has become an archive of 51 million arrival records, including many gathered long after the island stopped processing arrivals in 1957. It thanks “volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” for transcribing this vast historical archive. The Mormon church has religious reasons for investing in ancestral records. But the Windrush scandal prompts a greater question. Who is deciding what to archive? And where is the expertise to manage its value?

I take my concern about Windrush to the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals conference, the annual gathering of British archivists and librarians, where the impact of a decade of austerity cuts pushed through by executives, often on protected high salaries, has transformed the profession. Delegates says it’s not just the “absolute travesty” of public library cuts, with branches shut, staff laid off and reduced hours, but academic libraries having their budgets “trashed” and being asked “to weed your collections”. Even as universities boast to prospective students of their lavish library facilities.

When cutting costs is paramount, anything and everything is potentially up for disposal. One local council librarian tells me: “We have large collections of local history often locked away. It’s very difficult to get it archived so it doesn’t get lost. Particularly if there is a drive to save space.” It isn’t enough to have volunteers to keep doors open if there is no one with the expertise to curate the collections and promote their existence.

Even with generous retirees determined to do their best, there is in the long term no substitute for a properly funded service whose value is recognised by salaried managed staff and a chain of support. One librarian recounts how the stopping of routine building maintenance led to leaks and damp destroying whole rooms and boxes of archived materials.

The news media’s focus on battles against closure hasn’t necessarily helped. One local authority librarian tells me: “We hate the well-meaning rhetoric of articles that make it sound like the library is on the way out. ‘Save the library’ makes us sound like a sinking ship.” He points out that many libraries are finding a way to work; sometimes by combining volunteers with a core of paid staff so there is always a paid professional on duty.

Clearly journalists need to change the way they report. But how do archivists change the story? An NHS adviser says they “turned around the narrative” by making the case for NHS libraries being a “business-critical service”. But I warn against the drive to link everything to the current political fashion for costing a financial benefit. The NHS, the theatre and music industries can do this because there are obvious measurable factors at play. I see a potential solution in the observation of one schools consultant who warns, “We’re not showing young students how important it is to preserve the past.”

As news organisations and governments around the world struggle to tackle the proliferation of fake news and mistrust and their measurable consequences, libraries could promote themselves as the front line in educating young people in how to fact-check and think critically. The importance of scrutinising first-hand evidence. A genuine recognition of the ethical case for libraries and archivists could be the best consequence of the Windrush scandal.

By Ben Winslow

A lawsuit has been filed seeking to block Proposition 2 from going on the November ballot, claiming Mormons freedom of religion rights would be infringed upon if medical marijuana were to be legal in Utah.

The lawsuit, filed late Wednesday by the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Utah and Walter Plumb III, tries to stop Lt. Governor Spencer Cox from putting the medical marijuana ballot initiative before voters. It’s the second lawsuit of its kind seeking to block Proposition 2.

“In the United States of America, members of all religions, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have a constitutional right to exercise their religious beliefs. This includes the right not to consort with, be around, or do business with people engaging in activities which their religion finds repugnant, and to refuse to lease their property to people engaging in activities which they deeply oppose,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit cites the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple based on deeply held religious beliefs. It argued that forcing a Mormon property owner to rent to someone who uses cannabis would violate a property owner’s religious beliefs.

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Transcript:

SNOWFLAKES! ‘Trigger warnings’ may undermine ’emotional resilience,’ Harvard study finds, or so says a headline on…well, gopusa.com. Fine, it’s not exactly The Guardian but it’s not the only outlet trumpeting the results of a recent study from psychologists at, yes, Harvard University, and the study itself has a title no less snarky: “Trigger warning: Empirical evidence ahead.” Get it? Because snowflake SJWs are scared of science? Yeah. Let’s jump in.

Trigger warnings, or content warnings, are notices to let people know that something you’re about to show them may be harmful to them if they have experienced certain types of trauma or PTSD. A veteran returning from war may be thankful to know that someone is about to set off fireworks, just like a rape survivor may want to know if the book she’s about to read contains a detailed rape scene. People with PTSD can be triggered, in the scientific sense of the term — certain sights, sounds, and smells can trigger horrible memories, which in turn can give them a bad psychological or physical reaction.

This scientific explanation of triggers, and the need for some people to have trigger warnings, is ignored by many people in the alt-right and neo-nazi movement, who twist the word to mean “something offensive.” “Did I trigger you,” they may ask right after calling you a liberal snowflake and right before asking their mom for another order of chicken tendies. And the chances are likely the answer is “no,” because you haven’t experienced serious trauma at the hands of a man on the Internet with the intellect of a 12-year old calling you a snowflake.

The Harvard study ignores the actual purpose of trigger warnings and instead investigates the made-up alt-right definition that moves the goal posts entirely off the playing field. They recruited people online to self-report on a survey in which they had them read potentially upsetting passages from literature, and they specifically screened out anyone who had ever been diagnosed with PTSD or experienced any kind of traumatic event. They found, completely unsurprisingly, that the trigger warnings did not help these non-traumatized people.

They also claim to have found evidence that trigger warnings made life worse for these non-traumatized people. I could say that this claim is bullshit but I’ll be nice and say that it’s a real stretch. On nearly every factor, the people who received a trigger warning had exactly the same emotional response as people who did not receive it. The researchers found an extremely small but just barely statistically significant difference in two ways: people who got the trigger warning were slightly more likely to imagine that they would suffer emotionally if they ever got PTSD (which is pretty understandable and probably correct) and they were also slightly more likely to imagine that people with PTSD might be more vulnerable than people who haven’t suffered trauma, which again, is understandable and often true.

To put that another way, seeing a trigger warning was slightly more likely to remind a person that severe trauma is upsetting.

So, did the study find that trigger warnings are dangerous? No. Did it find that it increased stigma against people with PTSD? Absolutely not, though the researchers decided to pretend that thinking someone with PTSD might be emotionally vulnerable is a stigma. Yeah, it’s not. That’s like seeing someone in a wheelchair and assuming they’re more physically vulnerable. That’s just common sense. Obviously it can go too far — you might think the person in the wheelchair is completely incapable of taking care of themselves, and someone might do the same for a person with a mental trauma, but this study in no way shows that. At all.

And finally and most importantly, this study in no way shows that trigger warnings are useless for people with past trauma. Again, they purposely screened those people out.

Is it a useless study? Not necessarily. I mean, I can’t think of any reason why anyone would want to do more studies on how interventions for traumatized people affect non-traumatized people, unless you’re claiming that trigger warnings themselves can traumatize people, at which point I have to wonder who truly is the snowflake here. I also have to wonder if non-traumatized people have been traumatized for the past few decades during which we’ve included content warnings in front of all our movies and most of our best television shows: “Warning! The following episode of NYPD Blue contains graphic violence and sexual content!”

But still, if someone does build off this, I certainly hope they do a better job of dropping the undeserved snark from the title and the sprinkling of bullshit throughout the actual study.

The post Trigger Warnings: No, a New Study Didn’t Find That They’re Bad For You appeared first on Skepchick.

cover

The autumn 2018 issue of New Humanist is on sale now! Subscribe here for just £27 a year

Migrations: how movement shapes our world

Missed connections

A 10-year project documenting the lives of young migrants to the UK exposes the divisions of our globalised age, by Les Back and Shamser Sinha.

The experience of movement today is much more than the cheap availability of travel by air, land or sea. We live our lives “on screen” through our mobile phones and personal computers, linking our most intimate moments to events around the globe or relatives and loved ones living in other places. The experience of being young now is to live with this unprecedented mobility and connectedness. However, this connectedness has not reduced the divisions between people.

Time to log off

Calls to delete Facebook raise a bigger question: can we live without the internet? Giovanni Tiso explores.

We may also question – as Jurgenson has – the proposition that online social interactions are inherently less “real” than offline social interactions, or that a life lived offline is necessarily more authentic.

Invasion alert

Non-native plants and animals can damage the environment, but tackling them is an ethical as well as technical challenge, writes Cal Flyn.

The language of ecology often crosses over with the language of empire. Plants indigenous to a place are “natives”; those that have recently arrived are “aliens” or sometimes “colonisers” or “invaders”. Indeed, the colonial era was a peak time for the transport of species around the world.

Breaking the cage

For refugees trapped in Greece, creative projects are not just diverting – they’re the key to survival. Teresa Thornhill reports.

For a refugee fleeing war, torture or sexual violence, a wait of up to two years in a tense and overcrowded camp a few nautical miles from the Turkish mainland can have a devastating effect on already fragile mental health.

The autumn 2018 issue of New Humanist is on sale now! Subscribe here for just £27 a year

Also in this issue:

sitole

  • Samira Ahmed on how archives and libraries could be a vital tool in our irrational age
  • Lucinda Elliott reports from Brazil on the rising political power of evangelical churches
  • A 500-year-old pillar in Kenya tells a story of conflict and conquest. Daniel Sitole reports
  • David Wearing on Akala, the rapper and author who has awkward truths to tell about Britain today
  • Alexei Korolyov takes the train from Vienna to Moscow and discovers a shifting cultural landscape
  • How the fashion boom of the 1980s helped shape our turbulent present, by Elizabeth Wilson
  • Marcus Chown on the central magic of science: the ability to predict what we don’t already know
  • J. P. O'Malley interviews John Gray on the limits of atheism
  • Columns from Michael Rosen and Laurie Taylor; the latest developments in biology, chemistry and physics; cartoon by Grizelda; book reviews; cryptic crossword and Chris Maslanka's quiz

New Humanist is published four times a year by the Rationalist Association, a 133 year-old charity promoting reason, science and secularism. Our journalism is fiercely independent and supported entirely by our readers. To make a deeper commitment, why not donate to the Rationalist Association?

This article appears in the Witness section of the Autumn 2018 issue of the New Humanist. Subscribe today.

The act of getting married does not usually involve an extended court battle – but that is exactly what happened to Laura Lacole and Eunan O’Kane. The couple have spent two years fighting for the legal recognition of humanist marriage in Northern Ireland. At the time, the only options open to them were a religious or civil marriage. If they wanted to have a humanist ceremony, they would then have had to have a separate civil registration to make the wedding legal. The case went through a series of victories, appeals and losses.

In the latest ruling by the Court of Appeal, the couple won the right for their wedding to be recognised as lawful, but failed to secure a judicial declaration for a wider law change, after judges said that existing legislation meant it was not needed. The judges said that the current law allows couples to apply for temporary authorisation for a humanist celebrant to conduct marriages.

The couple, who were supported in their claim by Humanists UK and its local branch Nothern Ireland Humanists, see this as a victory. “Eunan and I are delighted that other couples should now be able to have legal recognition for their humanist marriages, just as we had for ours,” said Lacole. “We couldn’t continue allowing the law to give special privilege to religious beliefs. Despite the immense stress this undertaking has put us through, we know it was the right thing to do for not just us, but for Northern Ireland.”

Humanist marriages are already legally recognised in Scotland, but not in England and Wales. In Scotland, legal recognition was granted in 2005 and humanist marriages have risen in number from 85 in the first year to over 4,900 in 2015 – overtaking the Church of Scotland. In the Republic of Ireland, humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2012. The attention of campaigning groups like Humanists UK will now turn to Westminster. In 2013, Parliament gave the government the power to legally recognise humanist marriages without the need for further legislation. The government has so far failed to act on this. But the recent ruling on Lacole and O’Kane’s case in Northern Ireland should make legal recognition of humanist weddings across the UK more likely.

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Transcript:

New research has emerged showing that women are more likely to survive heart attacks if they’re treated by a female doctor. The result comes from a look at more than half a million heart attack cases over the course of 20 years in Florida. If you’re a woman and you think you’re having a heart attack, you can improve your chances of survival by 5.4% by seeing a female doctor about it.

At this point, if you’re a man who is on the Internet, you are probably asking the question, but what about the men? I’m so glad you asked, Donny. The study showed that men also had a better chance of surviving if their doctor is a woman (just not as drastic an improvement as the female patients saw).

But what about the male doctors, you probably want to know. The study also showed that male doctors were much more competent if they had increased exposure to female patients and female physicians. Not as competent as the female physicians, of course, but it’s something. All of this is particularly galling when you realize that another recent study showed that male doctors make about $100,000 more than female doctors every year. Men make twice as much money but kill more patients. But don’t worry, I’m assured by many Donnies on the Internet that sexism is a thing of the past. Nope, nothing to see here, just a normal, egalitarian society.

So why do female physicians do so much better than male physicians when a woman is having a heart attack? It may be due to a few things. For instance, the symptoms of a heart attack may be slightly different between men and women, with women experiencing lesser known symptoms like nausea and dizziness. But even for the well-known symptoms, like chest pain and arm numbness, women are more likely to brush it off as just being their imagination. Women tend to wait much longer than men to even seek treatment, which can mean the difference between life and death.

So how might female doctors make up for this disparity? Well, they may be more likely to know that women respond differently to heart attacks and be more alert for the red flags. They might be more likely to notice rarer symptoms, or to be able to tell when a woman is downplaying the severity of her condition. Female doctors may be more likely to have the personal experience that many women have of not being taken seriously by doctors, and they may use that experience to act more quickly and decisively in serious situations.

The moral of the story here isn’t simple. We can’t fix things just by telling women (and men) to only go see female doctors, though maybe that’s a good start. Ultimately, we as a society need to be better at validating women’s experiences with their own bodies. We need to take them seriously when something is wrong, and only then can we expect them to take it seriously themselves.

The post Female Doctors are More Likely to Save Your Life — But We Pay Them Half as Much appeared first on Skepchick.

This article appears in the Witness section of the Autumn 2018 issue of the New Humanist. Subscribe today.

Assam sits in north-eastern India, a tea-growing state that borders the primarily Muslim country of Bangladesh. Assam has been home to a large number of Bengali-speaking people for decades. The population of Bengali-speakers increased when Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan in 1971, prompting a bitter civil war. Millions of people fled over the border to India during the war, many settling in Assam.

In July, the Indian government published a list that effectively stripped four million of these people of their citizenship. The National Register of Citizens is a list of people who can prove that they came to Assam before 24 March 1971, a day before Bangladesh declared independence. The list confirmed just 29m of Assam’s 33m residents. Many of those concerned have lived in India all their lives and had submitted documents to prove their citizenship, but now have just one month to appeal their exclusion from the list. There are widespread fears that the move will render these 4 million people stateless. The consequences of statelessness are already playing out in Bangladesh, which is currently home to 750,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. The country is likely to strongly resist any efforts by India to deport the Bengali-speakers.

What is happening in Assam fits into a wider pattern in India, where long-standing religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims are heightened, exacerbated in part by political leaders. The current party of government in India, elected in 2014, is the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Narendra Modi, prime minister. Muslim citizens of India have highlighted increased instances of violence and discrimination since Modi came to office. There has been a drastic upsurge in so-called “cow vigilantes”, Hindu lynch mobs who attack people suspected of eating beef. (Cows are venerated by a large segment of the population.) The victims have most often been Muslims.

The BJP has long advocated a tough line against “illegal Bangladeshi migrants”. During the party’s successful state election campaign in Assam in 2016, it emphasised the threat to Indians posed by Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, and repeatedly pledged to deport them from Assam.

While the party has made the status of these Bengali-speaking people a pressing political issue, of course these tensions predate the BJP’s most recent ascent to power. For years, indigenous residents of the state have complained about the influx of what they say are illegal Bengali-speaking migrants during the war and in the intervening years. At numerous points, these tensions have bubbled into large-scale ethnic violence. India has also kept several thousand people whom it has designated as illegal Bangladeshi migrants in detention, for as long as nine years.

While Modi’s government has downplayed comparisons to the Rohingya situation, this inflammatory move in Assam risks rendering millions stateless overnight and igniting both immediate violence and a long-term humanitarian crisis. The destruction of religious pluralism in India continues to have a serious and violent human impact.

This article appears in the Witness section of the Autumn 2018 issue of the New Humanist. Subscribe today.

An exceptionally hot summer in Britain left ordinarily green grass scorched yellow, a visible sign of the unusual temperatures. Moorland fires raged outside Manchester. The UK was not the only place to experience an extreme weather event this year. In Japan, 65 people died and over 20,000 were admitted to hospital over the course of a single week in July, during an “unprecedented” heatwave. Montréal posted its highest temperature ever, with the deaths of 33 people in Québec attributed to the heat. For a full 24 hours in June, the town of Quriyat in Oman never went below a frightening 42.6C – almost certainly a global record. Wildfires ravaged the mainland of Greece, triggered by a combination of temperatures of over 40C and lower-than-expected rainfall over the winter months. Indeed, much of Europe became a tinderbox. At one point, more than 60 wildfires burned across Sweden, with sites also ablaze in Norway, Finland and Russia. At least 11 wildfires raged inside the Arctic Circle.

It has long been predicted that climate change would increase the frequency of extreme weather incidents. Leading climate scientist Professor Michael Mann at Penn State University recently told the Guardian: “This is the face of climate change. We literally would not have seen these extremes in the absence of climate change.” A new analysis by the World Weather Attribution group found that climate change resulting from human activities made the current Europe-wide heatwave more than twice as likely to occur. Scientists say this demonstrates an “unambiguous” link between the increased temperatures and global warming.

Whether heatwaves, wildfires or other extreme weather events are “caused” by climate change may be the wrong question. A more appropriate one might be: is climate change having an effect on these events and making them more extreme? To this, the answer from scientific research appears to be a firm “yes”.

As we see the impact of climate change play out in real time around us, we might do well to shift the conversation away from arguing with those who maintain that the phenomenon does not exist. As Will McCallum argued in the cover story from our Spring 2018 issue: “The challenge, then, is to do both – to adapt to an already changed world and to take action against it getting worse. Collectively, we have some difficult decisions to make about what we choose to save and what we should accept we are going to lose. We need to reflect on what the changed world we are facing is going to look like.”

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Transcript:

As an American who has lived in the United States for the vast majority of my life, I think I can safely say that we’ve got some problems here. Some of the biggest are our gun problem and our cop problem, and it’s strange to me that even now, when we are having a national conversation about how bad our gun problem is, and the majority of people are on board with banning assault weapons and cracking down on who is allowed to carry a gun, not many people are talking about how maybe cops shouldn’t have guns, either. And to be perfectly honest, that is my viewpoint: guns are bad. No one should have guns. Especially not cops.

I bring this up because of a study that was just published in the journal Public Administration Review. Researchers at Rutgers dug through data from 2014 and 2015 to look at every instance of a police officer using lethal force in the United States. Their finding, which may be a surprise to some people, is that when an officer kills a black person, that officer is just as likely to be white as they are to be black. In other words, we don’t have a problem with white cops killing black people — we have a problem with cops, of all races, killing black people.

Does that mean racism is over? I mean sure, if you frequent the more Nazi-ish subreddits, that’s probably going to be your takeaway. But no, not in reality. The study also showed that yes, black people are murdered by cops way more often than statistical chance, and that is a product of racism. We don’t have a white cop problem in the US — we just have a cop problem. Cops are racist, regardless of their own race.

This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has any knowledge of history or sociology, or anyone who is already a member of a marginalized group. There are always going to be members of those groups who gain some kind of authority and then use that authority to fit in with their bigoted society, and to raise themselves above what they see as the lesser members of their group. There are Jewish neo-Nazis, and women who campaigned against suffrage, and black Republicans. And you have cops from all kinds of backgrounds who join an inherently racist, sexist, and otherwise bigoted police force and we give them all guns and expect them to uphold a backwards system.

I mean, I love Brooklyn 99 as much as the next girl but in reality, our police force needs a massive overhaul. Consider this: the Rutgers study found that it’s exceedingly rare for police to kill an unarmed person — less than 1% of all people killed by cops are unarmed. But you’re probably right picturing the difference between a person with his hands in the air and a person pointing a gun at an officer, and that’s not correct. A person is considered “armed” if they are killed anywhere in the general vicinity of a gun, whether that gun is in their home, in their car, or in a holster right next to their license to carry, as it was with Philando Castile. Philando Castile was pulled over in his car by police, he informed them that he was carrying a gun (which he had a permit to carry), told them he was reaching for his wallet to get his ID, and then a cop shot him 7 times, killing him.

In this study, Philando Castile would have been considered an “armed” suspect.

Also consider the many instances in which we’ve seen evidence of cops planting guns on people after they shoot them, like the case in Baltimore where cops were discovered to carry around BB guns specifically for that purpose. Oh and yes, BB guns, knives, and even toy guns count as being “armed.” It doesn’t require the victim to be actually brandishing a real gun at an officer to count.

So even this study is unable to fully comprehend the number of unwarranted murders committed by police officers. We have a cop problem.

In 2014 the Economist found that in the most recently available year, cops in the US murdered 458 people. Do you know how many people cops killed in Japan? Zero. Britain? Zero. And you know why? Yes, there’s probably a very different culture there that helps, but also, the vast majority of cops in Britain don’t carry guns. Because you don’t actually need guns to keep people safe, or to investigate crimes. What happens when you need a cop with a gun? You call in the specially trained firearms officer, whose entire job is being able to safely and responsibly wield a gun.

Meanwhile, here in the US not only does every cop carry a gun, including often when off-duty, but now we’re giving them assault rifles, which they’re brandishing at peaceful protests like anti-fascist rallies. Call me crazy, but when we have a police force who is murdering hundreds of people who don’t need to be murdered, and they’re showing up at anti-fascist rallies carrying assault weapons, I think it’s time our anti-gun rhetoric take the cops into consideration.

The post Study: Black Cops as Likely as White Cops to Murder Unarmed Black People appeared first on Skepchick.

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Transcript:

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of evolutionary psychology. A few years back I did a lecture tour where I shared the most hilariously bad examples from the field, like “scientists” proclaiming that pink is a girl’s color because women were hunter-gatherers when our ancestors were roaming the Serengheti 10,000 years ago and they needed to pick the right berries, and berries are apparently always pink. This, of course, completely ignores the fact that pink was considered a boy’s color while blue was considered gentler and more appropriate for girls up until about the 1940s. It also ignores the fact that there’s no evidence for it, like many of the most trumpeted “discoveries” credited to evolutionary psychologists.

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about evo psych, in part because there are more important issues attacking real science now, like our president thinking climate change is a Chinese hoax, and in part because every time I mention evo psych I get a horde of angry white male skeptics who attack me for being “anti-science” for criticizing the pseudoscience that makes them think they are biologically, genetically superior to women and people of color.

So yeah, I just haven’t thought of evo psych recently, but some news has cropped up that made me realize that ignoring it may be a mistake considering the current revival of white supremacists and misogynists in the national discourse. Throughout history, bigots have turned to pseudoscience to defend their beliefs, and today is no different.

Kevin MacDonald is an evolutionary psychologist who has published a book on how Jews are genetically or biologically predispositioned to hate non-Jews. He’s an out and proud friend of white supremacists, and racists like Richard Spencer and the Nazis of Stormfront look up to him because, again, he provides a semblance of “scientific” legitimacy to their bigotry. And despite the fact that his book was published in 1998 and promptly ignored by real scientists, twenty years later he’s seeing a bit of a resurgence. In fact, the mainstream journal Evolutionary Psychological Science has just last month published a defense of MacDonald’s work titled “Jewish Group Evolutionary Strategy Is the Most Plausible Hypothesis.” It claims, with no actual evidence, to show that Jews are more bigoted against “outsiders” than other groups.

I learned of this in an article on Undark written by Michael Schulson, who does a very good job of exploring the history and context of MacDonald’s particular brand of pseudoscientific bigotry. What made me legitimately laugh out loud, though, was the writer’s shock that Evolutionary Psychological Science was such a prestige journal — one whose board includes Steven Pinker and Sam Harris.

As anyone who has been paying attention knows, Pinker and Harris are hardly intellectual giants free from partisan bigotry. In fact, Pinker’s last few books have been an absolute embarrassment in scientific circles, which I talked about a few months ago, and Harris has fully boarded the train to Alt-Rightville, hosting discussions on his podcast with such luminaries as Charles Murray, also known as the guy who hung his entire career on arguing that black people are genetically inferior to white people. In that podcast episode, he also defended the neo-Nazi Milo Yiannopolous, arguing that he couldn’t possibly be a neo-Nazi because he’s gay and “half-Jewish.” Yeah, history and sociology aren’t exactly Harris’s best subjects. Which isn’t really saying much, as I’ve yet to figure out what subject would be his best. Is crying like a victim every time you’re criticized by an actual scientist a “subject”? If so, it would be that.

So yeah, of course a mainstream evo psych journal run in part by Steven Pinker and Sam Harris published an anti-semitic, anti-scientific screed. That’s what evo psych does, and that’s what these “skeptics” have been doing for far too long, while their fans sit and watch, desperately inventing excuses for them each time they do something more and more blatantly anti-intellectual and bigoted.

Interestingly, another piece was recently published criticizing MacDonald’s work — this one printed by Human Nature, where it got a tremendous response, downloaded more than 50,000 times (which the editor says is equal to what they expect to get for all manuscripts this year). Michael Schulson asks the writer of that critique, as well as the editor of Human Nature, whether or not they are worried that the critique might bring undue attention to a bigot who was otherwise forgotten by mainstream science two decades ago. It’s fascinating that neither of them seem to have even considered the question. The writer of the critique, Nathan Cofnas, seems to just think that it’s worth publishing because even absurd, racist, unscientific garbage deserves to be taken apart scientifically.

I certainly understand that, and I relate to it a bit. If you actually do get into a logical argument with a white supremacist who claims science is on his side, it can be helpful to have the facts handy to debunk what he’s saying. The problem is that you would only be debunking it for the sake of anyone listening, and not for the actual white supremacist. He doesn’t care if the facts are on his side — if they aren’t, he will find new, alternative facts to believe. And even then, it will take 100 times as long to debunk his “alternative facts” than it will for him to spout them, so it’s a frustrating project to undertake in the first place.

So yeah, I guess I’m glad someone is critiquing the bigotry, but at the same time we need to remember to not spend all of our energy on fools’ errands. How many more studies do we need to do showing that vaccines don’t cause autism, or that there is no Loch Ness Monster, or that psychics aren’t real? And how many more scientists need to waste their time showing that evo psych racists are full of shit?

The post Evolutionary Psychologists Publish Anti-Semitic Nonsense appeared first on Skepchick.

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Transcript:

New research out of UMass claims to show that giving your kids a supplement can help you and your partner be less violent towards each other. Yeah, again, that’s your kid getting the supplement, but you getting the benefit. What the fuck? Let’s discuss!

This is a really weird, really interesting study that was just published in the journal Aggressive Behavior. It involved two groups of kids and their parents. One group got fish oil supplements (the kind that have mega-3 fatty acids) and the other got a placebo. The main researcher told a UMass newsletter, “Giving children omega-3 fatty acid supplements reduces disruptive behavior, which in turn had a positive effect on their parents, making them less likely to argue with each other and engage in other verbal abuse.” Pretty cool, right? And it’s a placebo-controlled, double-blinded, randomized trial that involved a total of 200 kids plus their parents. Not bad.

Now that I’ve talked it up a bit, let’s talk about what’s wrong with it. The first sign that something is off is the declared conflict of interest: the study is funded by Smartfish Recharge, a company that sells omega-3-enhanced fruit drinks, which is what was given to the children. Not a reason to discount the study, because we all gotta get paid, but it is a red flag that made me perk up and look a little more deeply.

Another (minor) issue is that fish oil trials are tricky, because these supplements have a faint fishy aftertaste and can result in fishy burps, which the controls don’t have, so it’s possible that subjects might know which group they’re in. It’s unlikely, but still makes these studies a little tricky.

Now let’s get into the bigger problems. The researcher says that the children taking the supplements showed reduced disruptive behavior, but according to the data, they measured both physical assault and psychological aggression in the children when the study started, six months later at its conclusion, and then finally after one year. When it came to physical assault, the omega-3 group showed statistically significant reduction after 6 months but not after 12. The control group showed statistically significant reduction after 12 months, but not after 6. That’s the “disruptive behavior” change that the researcher mentioned in the interview.

When it came to psychological aggression, though, there was no statistical change in the Omega-3 group after six or twelve months, though there was a slight increase in aggression at 12. The placebo group, meanwhile, did have a statistically significant reduction after 6 months, and still kept it down after a year. So with those two data points, psychological and physical aggression, it actually looks like the control group performed better than the omega-3 group.

The data shows a similar problem for the caregivers. They only measured (or only reported) psychological aggression, where the control group had a significant reduction after six months but that slightly rose back up after a year (though still under the original baseline). The omega-3 group showed no significant reduction after 6 months, and then finally showed a significant reduction after a year. So six months after the children stopped taking omega-3 supplements, the parents got nicer to each other.

So yeah, I’m not exactly blown away. It looks like the researchers were looking at several different possible outcomes and chose only the ones that show the result they want — also known as p-hacking, which I discussed last week when talking about the “cell phones cause cancer” fear-mongering.

It’s a shame, because omega-3s definitely have something going for them, scientists are just not sure what. It seems like only the supplement industry is producing studies that say they’re life-savers, drowning out the larger, more comprehensive studies that find that there’s not much there to indicate the supplements are worth taking (even though there is some evidence to suggest that eating less meat and more fish might give you benefits that the pills can’t). For more info on that, go check out Paul Greenberg’s article in the Guardian thoroughly explaining the fishy nature of fishy pills. And always be a little skeptical of an industry pumping out articles talking about how great the industry is.

The post Can Fish Oil Stop Parents From Fighting? appeared first on Skepchick.

ToS1Recently, a few people on Twitter were kind enough to mention ‘Theatre of Science’ – a joint project between best-selling science writer (and pal) Simon Singh and I from many years ago. I thought it might be fun to turn back the hands of time and share some more information and photos about the project……

In 2001 Simon suggested that the two of us create, and present, a live science-based show at a West End theatre. I knew that this type of entertainment had been popular around the turn of the last century, but was initially sceptical about it working for a modern-day audience. However, Simon won me over and I agreed to give it a go. Simon then persuaded The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts to fund the project and The Soho Theatre to stage the show.

In the first half, Simon used mathematics to ‘prove’ that the Teletubbies are evil, undermined The Bible Code, and illustrated probability theory via gambling scams and bets. After the interval, I explored the psychology of deception with the help of magic tricks, optical illusions and a live lie detector. It was all decidedly low-tech and mostly depended on an overhead projector, a few acetates, and some marker pens!  We opened in March 2002 and quickly sold-out. The reviewers were very kind, with The Evening Standard describing the show as ‘… a unique masterclass on the mind’ and What’s On saying that it was “…uplifting, thought-provoking and frequently hilarious.” In 2002 we also took the show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

 In 2005 we staged a far more ambitious version of the show at the Soho Theatre.

tos4A few years before, I had been involved in a project exploring the science of anatomy, and had arranged for top contortionist Delia Du Sol to go into an MRI scanner and perform extreme back-bends. During Theatre of Science, we showed these scans to the audience as Delia bent her body into seemingly impossible shapes and then squeezed into a tiny perspex box.

In addition, musician Sarah Angliss demonstrated the science behind various weird electronic instruments, and performed songs on a saw and a theremin!

We wanted to end the show on a genuinely dangerous, science-based, stunt. HVFX – a company that makes high voltage electricity equipment – kindly supplied two huge Tesla coils capable of generating six-foot bolts of million-volt lightning across the stage. At the end of each show, either Simon or I entered a coffin-shaped cage and hoped that it would protect us against the force of the million-volt strikes. The stunt attracted lots of media attention and once again we quickly sold out.

ToS2In 2006 we staged it at an arts and science festival in New York (co-sponsored by the Centre for Inquiry).

Nowadays we are used to people enjoying an evening of science and comedy in the theatre, but back then lots of people were deeply skeptical about the idea. If we proved anything, it was that it’s possible attract a mainstream audience to a show about science.

Anyway, I hoped you enjoyed reading about it all and huge thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make the project a success, including: Portia Smith, Delia Du Sol, Sarah Angliss, Stephen Wolf, Tracy King, Nick Field, HVFX, Austin Dacey, Jessica Brenner and Caroline Watt (who came up with the title for the show) and, of course…..Simon Singh!

Theatre of Science Show - Soho Theatre

tos5

 

 

I have teamed up with the folks at Business Insider to make this short video containing science-based tips on how to be more productive and a better leader. Enjoy!

coverMy new book on how to remember everything is out today!

I have a terrible memory and so went in search of all of the quick and easy mind tricks that will allow you to remember names, faces, your PIN, and other important information.  It even has a super magic trick built into it.

You can buy the book here and I have created this new Quirkology video with 10 amazing memory hacks…

 

Here are some things that you will hear when you sit down to dinner with the vanguard of the Intellectual Dark Web: There are fundamental biological differences between men and women. Free speech is under siege. Identity politics is a toxic ideology that is tearing American society apart. And we’re in a dangerous place if these ideas are considered “dark.”

I was meeting with Sam Harris, a neuroscientist; Eric Weinstein, a mathematician and managing director of Thiel Capital; the commentator and comedian Dave Rubin; and their spouses in a Los Angeles restaurant to talk about how they were turned into heretics. A decade ago, they argued, when Donald Trump was still hosting “The Apprentice,” none of these observations would have been considered taboo.

Read the rest at The New York Times

The post Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web appeared first on Sam Harris.

In October last year I was invited to CSICON in Las Vegas to interview Professor Richard Dawkins.  The video has just been posted on Youtube, and here’s the two of us chatting about evolution, The God Delusion, and my aunty Jean.

[Update to the update: SIU has posted a statement on the programme here. As it essentially confirms my suspicions that it is designed to steal soft academic labour from new PhDs by trading on their institutional loyalty and need for affiliation without paying them for their services, I provide the link here but see no need to comment further.]

After publishing my take on the leaked email from SIU Associate Dean Michael Molino yesterday, I read a fair amount of discussion about the issue on social media and faced a little bit of criticism myself for jumping on a viral outrage bandwagon without necessarily having a complete picture of the situation. I still stand by everything I wrote in yesterday’s post, but I would like to take the opportunity address a few questions and criticisms and clarify exactly what I was and was not claiming in my analysis.

Is this email even real? How do we know it really said everything that ended up in the viral version?

Okay, fair enough. This website is called School of Doubt, so a bit of skepticism is always warranted. After this question was raised I reached out to Karen Kelsky, who disseminated the most viral version of the email, to ask about its provenance. She confirmed that it was forwarded to her by an SIU faculty member she knew personally. Epistemically speaking that is good enough for me, but nothing’s perfect I guess.

Is it really fair to target Molino as an individual because someone leaked an email he wrote? Isn’t this just doxxing that invites harassment?

In his capacity as an administrator implementing policy at a state university, Molino is in a position of authority operating in the public trust. This requires transparency and accountability, and I don’t think sharing his official contact information is doxxing any more than it would be for an administrator at a government agency like the EPA or FCC. Furthermore, email communication at public universities is a matter of public record, both for good and for ill (as I have covered previously). While people may disagree about the ethics of leaking and whistleblowing, it is really not possible to argue that such an email could have been written with any reasonable expectation of privacy. But yes, he’s probably going to have a bad time and that sucks.

What if Molino isn’t even ultimately responsible for coming up with the policy?

Well, bluntly, who cares? He is clearly working to implement it. Not to get all Godwinny, but we’ve heard that one before. You can write to the Provost instead if you want. I won’t provide his email but I bet you can find it.

Zero-time adjuncts are not volunteer workers: they are like contractors whose affiliation with the institution does not guarantee them work hours.

First off there is a terminology problem here. Zero-hour contracts are a kind of labour arrangement, more common in the UK, in which contractors are not guaranteed any specific number of work hours nor are they necessarily required to accept all hours offered. Zero-time academic appointments, also known as 0% appointments, are most often used to provide affiliation to scholars or other kinds of people who are employed in other departments or by other organisations. For example, an economist might be tenured faculty at a business school but also have a zero-time appointment in the economics department of the arts faculty of the same school. This person might advise students or otherwise participate in research and service in both departments, but it is understood that the work in their 0% appointment is covered by the pay from their full-time appointment. Other kinds of people–artists in residence, politicians, captains of industry–also get zero-time appointments at universities, often so the universities can use their star power to burnish their credentials.

Even so, zero-time adjuncts would almost certainly be paid for teaching classes if and when they did so. Not to do so would probably be illegal, right?

Okay, here is the crux of the issue. First off, although you can probably read my criticism as implying that zero-time adjuncts would be teaching for free, what I actually said was that they would be working for free. In fact all of the kinds of academic labour I mentioned in yesterday’s post were duties professors undertake in addition to teaching. Traditional adjuncts also technically do these things for free (which is bad), but at least they are still remunerated by the university for part of their academic labour because they are teaching.

So what does it mean when they also don’t get teaching?

Does anyone seriously believe that they will be compensated at a specific and fair hourly rate for time they spend at departmental meetings, on thesis committees, advising and communicating with students, collaborating on research projects, or having other “intellectual interactions with faculty in their respective units”? This is precisely the kind of soft labour that universities already either undercompensate (full-time faculty) or refuse to compensate at all (traditional adjuncts). Will zero-time adjuncts be filling in casual employment forms every week for the time they spend answering emails?

Like it or not, “professor” is still a word with a meaning. Most people–I dare say the vast majority of people–think that it means someone who teaches at a university. Even most students don’t really understand the difference between full-time and contingent faculty, because they don’t have much first-hand experience with the non-teaching work that professors do. Or when they do (e.g. academic advising, mentorship, etc.), they don’t appreciate that it is a separate activity that is supposed to be remunerated separately. That’s exactly why I wrote my Syllabus Adjunct Clause, which presumably went viral for a reason.

This lack of awareness is why it is so dangerous to allow this precedent. Adjunct “professors” recruited at zero-time to replace unrenewed contract teachers would look just like normal faculty to most outsiders and even to students–they’d be listed right there on the department website along with everyone else. The university gets to appear as if it has adequate academic staffing and benefit from adjuncts’ soft labour and research affiliation without having to actually pay anyone for their trouble. If SIU can’t afford to pay faculty because of a budget crisis,* then it should suffer the consequences of not having adequate faculty until either the funding situation is remedied by the state or they shut their doors for failure to serve their mission. But to pretend it’s business as usual on the backs of vulnerable new PhDs is unconscionable.

*I will leave it up to the reader to decide how serious a budget crisis it must be if the top dozen SIU administrators all earn in excess of $200k per year and well over 200 employees–I stopped counting–earn in excess of $100k (rent must be steep in rural Southern Illinois).

The post SIU Zero-time Adjunct Follow-up appeared first on School of Doubt.

Southern Illinois University has finally taken the step that we all knew was coming, whether we openly admitted it to ourselves or not. The progression was too obvious, the market forces in question too powerful, for this result to have been anything but inevitable. The question was never if, but when, and it turns out that when is today.

Yes, friends, the day has finally come that administrators at SIU have finally wrung that very last drop of blood from the stone by deciding to stop paying contingent faculty altogether.

Courtesy of The Professor Is In on Facebook (emphasis mine):

Dear Chairs,

I know you are swamped right now with various requests and annual duties. I apologize for adding to that, but I am here to advocate for something that merits your attention. The Alumni Association has initiated a pilot program involving the College of Science, College of Liberal Arts, and the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, seeking qualified alumni to join the SIU Graduate Faculty in a zero-time (adjunct) status.

Candidates for appointment must meet HLC accreditation guidelines for appointment as adjunct professors, and they will generally hold an academic doctorate or other terminal degree as appropriate for the field.

These blanket zero-time adjunct graduate faculty appointments are for 3-year periods, and can be renewed. While specific duties of alumni adjuncts will likely vary across academic units, examples include service on graduate student thesis committees, teaching specific graduate or undergraduate lectures in one’s area of expertise, service on departmental or university committees, and collaborations on grant proposals and research projects. Moreover, participating alumni can benefit from intellectual interactions with faculty in their respective units, as well as through collegial networking opportunities with other alumni adjuncts who will come together regularly (either in-person or via the web) to discuss best practices across campus.

The Alumni Association is already working to identify prospective candidates, but it asks for your help in nominating some of your finest former students who are passionate about supporting SIU. Please reach out to your faculty to see if they might nominate a former student who would meet HLC accreditation guidelines for adjunct faculty appointment, which is someone holding a Ph.D., MFA, or other terminal degree. One of the short-comings with our current approach to the doctoral alumni is that the database only includes those with a Ph.D. earned at SIU, but often doesn’t capture SIU graduates with earned doctorates from other institutions. Here are the recommended steps to follow:

· Chairs in collaboration with faculty should consider specific needs/desires of their particular department, and ask how they could best utilize adjunct faculty. For example, many departments are always looking for additional highly qualified members to serve on thesis committees, and to provide individual lectures, seminars, and mentorship activities for both graduate and undergraduate students.

· Based on faculty recommendations, chairs should identify a few good candidates and approach those individuals to see if they are interested. The interested candidate should provide his/her CV (along with a brief letter of interest outlining areas in which they are willing to participate) to the department chair, who can then approach the Graduate Dean for final vetting and approval.

The University hasn’t yet attempted its first alumni adjunct appointment, but this is the general mechanism already in place. Meera would like CoLA to establish a critical mass of nominees before the end of the summer. A goal of at least one (1) nominee per department would get us going.

Thanks,

Michael


MICHAEL R. MOLINO
Associate Dean for Budget, Personnel, and Research

COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS
MAIL CODE 4522
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY
1000 FANER DRIVE
CARBONDALE, ILLINOIS 62901

mmolino@siu.edu
P: 618/453-2466
F: 618/453-3253

In case you don’t speak adminstratese, “zero-time” means “unpaid.” Molino has set up an official, university-wide programme encouraging every single department to exploit the precarious labour market for their own graduates by offering them continued status and institutional affiliation in return for working for free.

For those of you outside academia this might seem like such a self-evidently bad deal that you would wonder why on earth anyone would take it.

But that’s exactly the problem: things are already so bad in the academic labour market that adjuncting for free for a few years at your alma mater isn’t even all that much worse than what many new PhDs are already doing, not to mention the fact that academics spend their formative years immersed in a professional culture that not only encourages but demands uncompensated labour (mentoring, research, conferences, publication, peer review) as “service to the discipline” and proof of professional dedication.

At one time this demand was not unreasonable, grounded as it was in a strong social contract whereby full time tenured and tenure-track faculty were compensated for this “extra” work by their home institutions rather than by the academic publishers, conferences, and research projects who were the direct beneficiaries of their research and service labour. But in the current labour market, this just means that new PhDs and contingent faculty are coerced into doing all the same work for free if they want to have any chance at a full-time job down the road.

Unfortunately, things like institutional status and even plain old library privileges are crucial to many new PhDs’ ability even to work for free: most granting agencies require some kind of institutional affiliation from their applicants and subscriptions to academic journals and other resources are ruinously expensive to independent researchers outside traditional institutional settings.

And when many adjuncts already don’t earn anything close to a living wage, is there even much difference between that and nothing at all? In the end, it’s just a few more deliveries for Uber Eats.

[Ed. note: I posted a follow-up to this post addressing some common questions and criticisms here]

The post And so It Has Come to This appeared first on School of Doubt.

Suppose we had robots perfectly identical to men, women and children and we were permitted by law to interact with them in any way we pleased. How would you treat them?

That is the premise of “Westworld,” the popular HBO series that opened its second season Sunday night. And, plot twists of Season 2 aside, it raises a fundamental ethical question we humans in the not-so-distant future are likely to face.

Read the rest at The New York Times

The post It's Westworld. What's Wrong With Cruelty to Robots? appeared first on Sam Harris.

After taking a break for a few months, we are back making Quirkology videos!  Here is the first of many……and contains 7 amazing bets that you will always win.  People have been very kind and funny with their comments on YouTube, welcoming us back.  I hope you enjoy it…….

Dear [STUDENT],

Thank you for writing me with your question about [COURSE]. I am currently out of the office because I am contingent faculty and do not have an office.

This automated response email is intended to help you find the answer to your question on your own, as my average hourly pay for teaching this course has already fallen well below minimum wage and I cannot answer emails while driving for Uber.

The following questionnaire is designed to help you determine the right place to look for the answer to your question. Please go through it in order until you find the answer to your query. IF and ONLY IF you go through the entire list without finding the answer to your question, please follow the instructions at the end as to where to send your question in order to receive an answer directly.

Let’s begin, shall we?

1. Am I your professor, and are you currently enrolled in my class?

If the answer is NO, please consult your course schedule online to determine which professor you are supposed to be bothering with your inane question.

If you have questions about enrollment and registration, please contact the Office of the Registrar, where they receive both fair hourly pay and full benefits in compensation for helping you solve your problems.

2. Is the answer to your question on the course syllabus, which we went over in detail on the first day of class and which is freely available online 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world?

Questions answered on the syllabus include but are not limited to:

When and where does our class meet?

What assignments do we have and when are they due?

When are exams and what will be on them?

How many points are deducted from our final grade when we email you questions that are clearly answered on the syllabus?

3. If your question is about a specific assignment, is it answered on the assignment sheet, which we went over in detail in class and which is freely available online 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world?

If you do not understand specific terminology used on the assignment sheet, please try consulting your textbook’s glossary, a dictionary, or Google. You may also want to try coming to class, where I teach you what these words mean.

4. Is your question answered on our course FAQ page, which currently lists 127 commonly asked questions and is freely available online 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world?

You may find it easier to use Ctrl+F and search for specific keywords to navigate this very long document.

5. Is your question unrelated to our class, inappropriate, or just plain unanswerable?

Such questions might include but are not limited to:

How much wood a woodchuck can chuck

The sound of one hand clapping, trees falling in the woods, or other Zen koans (try this book instead)

Whether or not Bernie would have won

6. If you have reached the end of this questionnaire without finding the answer you need, you probably have a valid question. Congratulations!

Please contact your TA for assistance.

The post *Out of Office Response* Re: quick question? appeared first on School of Doubt.

Joe Rogan speaks with Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz.

The post The Joe Rogan Experience #1107 appeared first on Sam Harris.

In April of 2017, I published a podcast with Charles Murray, coauthor of the controversial (and endlessly misrepresented) book The Bell Curve. These are the most provocative claims in the book:

  1. Human “general intelligence” is a scientifically valid concept.
  2. IQ tests do a pretty good job of measuring it.
  3. A person’s IQ is highly predictive of his/her success in life.
  4. Mean IQ differs across populations (blacks < whites < Asians).
  5. It isn’t known to what degree differences in IQ are genetically determined, but it seems safe to say that genes play a role (and also safe to say that environment does too).

At the time Murray wrote The Bell Curve, these claims were not scientifically controversial—though taken together, they proved devastating to his reputation among nonscientists. That remains the case today. When I spoke with Murray last year, he had just been de-platformed at Middlebury College, a quarter century after his book was first published, and his host had been physically assaulted while leaving the hall. So I decided to invite him on my podcast to discuss the episode, along with the mischaracterizations of his research that gave rise to it.

Needless to say, I knew that having a friendly conversation with Murray might draw some fire my way. But that was, in part, the point. Given the viciousness with which he continues to be scapegoated—and, indeed, my own careful avoidance of him up to that moment—I felt a moral imperative to provide him some cover.

In the aftermath of our conversation, many people have sought to paint me as a racist—but few have tried quite so hard as Ezra Klein, Editor-at-Large of Vox. In response to my podcast, Klein published a disingenuous hit piece that pretended to represent the scientific consensus on human intelligence while vilifying me as, at best, Murray’s dupe. More likely, readers unfamiliar with my work came away believing that I’m a racist pseudoscientist in my own right.

After Klein published that article, and amplified its effects on social media, I reached out to him in the hope of appealing to his editorial conscience. I found none. The ethic that governs Klein’s brand of journalism appears to be: Accuse a person with a large platform of something terrible, and then monetize the resulting controversy. If he complains, invite him to respond in your magazine so that he will drive his audience your way and you can further profit from his doomed effort to undo the damage you’ve done to his reputation.

Since then, Klein has kept at it, and he delivered another volley today. I told him that if he continued in this way, I would publish our private email correspondence so that our readers could judge him for themselves. His latest effort has convinced me that I should make good on that promise.

Below is our unedited email exchange. I believe patient readers will learn the following from it: (1) I can still get angry; (2) Klein gave me very good reason to be angry.

The list of prominent people on the Left who are willing to behave unethically in order to silence others continues to grow. If nothing else, readers of this exchange will understand how much harm these people are doing to honest conversation, both in public and in private.

*   *   *

 

NOTE (3/28/18)

Judging from the response to this post on social media, my decision to publish these emails appears to have backfired. I was relying on readers to follow the plot and notice Ezra’s evasiveness and gaslighting (e.g. his denial of misrepresentations and slurs that are in the very article he published). Many people seem to have judged from his politeness that Ezra was the one behaving honestly and ethically. This is frustrating, to say the least.

Many readers seem mystified by the anger I expressed in this email exchange. Why care so much about “criticism” or even “insults”? But this has nothing to do with criticism and insults. What has been accomplished in Murray’s case, and is being attempted in mine, is nothing less than the total destruction of a person’s reputation for the crime of honestly discussing scientific data. Klein published fringe, ideologically-driven, and cherry-picked science as though it were the consensus of experts in the field and declined to publish a far more mainstream opinion in my and Murray’s defense—all to the purpose of tarring us as racists and enablers of racists. This comes at immense personal and social cost. It is also dishonest.

Many readers also fail to see how asymmetrical any debate on this topic is. Whatever I say at this point, no matter how scientifically careful, appears to convey an interest in establishing the truth of racial differences (which I do not have and have criticized in others). Does it matter that Stephen J. Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man was debunked long ago, or that James Flynn now acknowledges that his eponymous effect cannot account for the race-IQ data? No, it doesn’t. This is a moral panic and a no-win situation (and Klein and my other “critics” know that). I did not have Charles Murray on my podcast because I was interested in intelligence differences across races. I had him on in an attempt to correct what I perceived to be a terrible injustice done to an honest scholar. Having attempted that, for better or worse, I will now move on to other topics.

—SH

 

NOTE #2 (3/30/18)

It seems that my declining to do a podcast with Klein has been widely interpreted as my failing to answer serious criticism of my views. Needless to say, I don’t see it that way. But I’m very uncomfortable leaving any significant percentage of my audience with the impression that I’ve dodged a hard conversation, or otherwise shirked an important responsibility.

I’ve put it to a vote on Twitter, and it seems that a majority of podcast listeners want to hear Klein and me discuss these issues (76 percent, with 24,000 votes in). So I’ve changed my mind, and I’m now willing to record a conversation with Klein whenever convenient. If he agrees, I propose we release it unedited, on both our podcasts.

In the meantime, Andrew Sullivan has written an eloquent, accurate, and (unfortunately, I must add) brave response to the controversy:

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/03/denying-genetics-isnt-shutting-down-racism-its-fueling-it.html

Also, the original version of this post described Klein as Editor-in-Chief at Vox. He is now Editor-at-Large.

—SH

 

NOTE #3 (4/10/18)

I’ve now done two more podcasts on this topic, in the hopes of finally putting it behind me.

The first describes my view of the controversy and my decision to do a podcast with Klein:

#122 – Extreme Housekeeping Edition

The second is a 2-hour conversation with Klein:

#123 – Identity & Honesty

 

Let that suffice.—SH

 

*   *   *

5/19/2017

Hey Sam,

Honestly sorry to meet under these tense conditions. I’m interested in doing the podcast sometime, though I think that if you want to do a discussion deep on intelligence, you should bring on Nisbett, or one of the other experts in the article. I’m not sure how much light will really be shed by you and I debating this subject.

I do want to back up a bit though and try to understand this disagreement better. For what it’s worth, I’m a listener of your podcast, and I heard your interview with Murray when it first came out. I didn’t commission or edit this piece (I only saw it as it went up on the site), but when I read it, it rang true as a commentary on the discussion I had heard, which I found — again, as a listener and admirer of your show — frustrating in places. (Also, apologies in advance for the length of this email — I’m also trying to work my way through this, and it’s a tricky topic!)

I’m perplexed by the criticism, which I’ve seen some make and I think you’re implying, that there actually isn’t much daylight between the case you and Murray present and the one the authors present, and what disagreement exists is a matter of dishonest framing. In your response to me, it’s clear you thought I couldn’t possibly have heard the original discussion to think that this piece was fair, which means I’m either a terrible listener, or the discussion landed differently on some listeners than you think it did, or both.

The overwhelming thrust of your discussion features Murray arguing that racial IQ differences are real, persistent, significant, driven by genetic racial differences (he has a long discourse on how strong that signal must be to make it through the noise of racial mixing), and immune to virtually every intervention we’ve thought of. Yes, there are caveats sprinkled throughout, but there’s also a clear and consistent argument being made, or so it seemed to me. That was, as I understood it, the Forbidden Knowledge referred to in the title: you can’t just wish away the black-white IQ gap as a matter of environment and history and disadvantage.

And these authors are saying, no — racial IQ differences can be seen on tests, but they are mutable, their relationship with genetics is much more complex than Murray lets on (his argument that this would all be genetically understood shortly seems really wrong, given what I’ve seen in this area, and just given how hard we generally find it to untangle genetic relationships in spaces far less complex than intelligence), that we’ve seen both interventions and time create massive differences, that heritable qualities exhibit massive changes all the time, etc.

Another way of putting it is I think the takeaway that one would fairly have from your convo — certainly the takeaway I had — is that the racial IQ gap cannot plausibly be closed, and instead needs to be managed. That’s definitely the Bell Curve takeaway. The central conclusion of this piece, it seems to me, is that we are far, far, far away from being able to conclude that, and the progress made on IQ (and other heritable qualities) in recent generations should make us optimistic, not pessimistic, and deserves much more emphasis than Murray gives it.

The Flynn effect discussion seems significant here. You’re right that the authors could be read to say you didn’t mention the Flynn effect, when you did, and that’s misleading — they’re going to clarify that (and I’m upset that that happened). As I read that paragraph from the authors, they were asking why you didn’t push Murray harder on points like this, which on relistening to the 5 minutes you sent me, I think holds:

One way to put that into perspective is to note that the IQ gap between black and white people today is only about half the gap between America as a whole now and America as a whole in 1948. Murray’s hand-waving about g does not make that extraordinary fact go away.

What they were trying to say, and what I thought when I heard the interview as a listener, is the Flynn effect and some of this other counterevidence was gestured towards as an interesting curiosity with little bearing on the underlying question, rather than used to challenge the narrative and conclusions drawn in the conversation. You do nudge Murray on an interesting quote from Flynn, one that seems to deeply challenge the rest of the discussion, but he just shrugs that he can’t answer it, and you just move on…given the early statements on how much consensus there was around Murray’s views, I found that strange when I heard it the first time, and now.

To the piece’s authors, the Flynn effect, and various other kinds of accelerated IQ changes we’ve seen in different societies, upends the whole discussion, and should make us far less confident about what we’re looking at when we see some of these racialized differences, particularly given the history and culture they come out of. If that’s what you and Murray believe, I can say, in all honesty, it is very much not what I walked away with.

I was very prepared, reading this piece, for Murray and you and others to disagree with it. What’s confused me is the argument that the disagreement is invented, that this is all a misunderstanding. Something here is very off, and I am struggling to figure out what it is. My working theory is that there’s a strong version and a weak version of Murrayism, both are represented in the conversation, but though the strong version is emphasized in the presentation, there’s been a retreat to the weak version upon challenge. But perhaps that’s wrong.

It’s important to me that pieces on Vox fairly represent the arguments they’re assessing. And I recognize that in a 2-hour plus conversation you can find a lot of different arguments, and so people with different priors will hear different things. But if Murray was just saying what these scholars are saying, there would be no massive controversy over his work, in much the way there isn’t a massive controversy over their work. Or to put it differently, you called the podcast Forbidden Knowledge, but nothing Nisbett says is forbidden — he writes books on his views all the time, and I don’t think you would’ve named a podcast with him “Forbidden Knowledge.” So then what’s forbidden here?

For the record, I’m not someone who believes Murray should be exiled from society. I’ve read his books and interviewed and quoted him myself numerous times for pieces. But I don’t think all the controversy around him is simply a misunderstanding or a witch hunt.

Anyway, apologies for the long email. There are various ideas swirling around here about next steps (a podcast with you, the authors writing a follow-up piece, etc), but before I take any of them, I want to make sure I understand what’s going on. And I hope we’re able to chat sometime in less charged circumstances — there are certainly places where I disagree with you, but I’ve learned a lot from your work.

Best,

Ezra

5/21/2017

Ezra —

Yes, I’d prefer meeting under different circumstances too. You and I clearly have a lot to talk about, and most of it has nothing to do with race or IQ.

The conversation I propose we have wouldn’t be narrowly focused on the science of intelligence. I stand by what I said in my intro to the Murray podcast: The science that I claimed was uncontroversial is, in fact, uncontroversial. What I propose we discuss is this atmosphere wherein many otherwise sane and ethical people reliably become obscurantists and attack anyone who demurs as an enemy, fit only to be silenced.

However, I doubt that any such discussion could be had with the authors of the paper you published. It is a shoddy piece of work, and they appear to be part of the moral panic I was describing. Again, my desire to speak with Murray was not based on a prior interest in the genetic basis of intelligence—much less a fascination for racial differences in intelligence. Rather, it was out of my growing concern over how fraught our conversations on politically charged topics have become. The publication of this paper has simply added more fuel to the machinery of defamation that I have been trying to resist.

But for the fact that Vox and your own social media presence have amplified this paper, it would be beneath comment. Consider the following paragraph as emblematic of its quality:

The consensus, he says, is that IQ exists; that it is extraordinarily important to life outcomes of all sorts; that it is largely heritable; and that we don’t know of any interventions that can improve the part that is not heritable. The consensus also includes the observation that the IQs of black Americans are lower, on average, than that of whites, and — most contentiously — that this and other differences among racial groups is based at least in part in genetics.

Read that last phrase again, leaving IQ aside for a moment: Are the authors really suggesting that “other differences” between racial groups are NOT “based at least in part in genetics”? Is it really “most contentious” to say that a person’s skin color “is based at least in part in genetics”? You must see the problem with this sort of writing (and thinking).

I’m not familiar with the other authors, but most of what I’ve seen from Nisbett on the topic of IQ betrays his prior ideological commitments. He knows what he wants the data to say, and he will twist them until he gets the answer he finds consoling. For what it’s worth, I’d much prefer to read the data his way too—it would be far easier, and require absolutely no moral or intellectual courage, to just blame the environment (read: the consequences of persistent inequality and white racism). But I find that impossible. For a critical review of Nisbett’s book, see:

http://laplab.ucsd.edu/articles2/Lee2010.pdf

I’ve responded to a few of your points below:

Hey Sam,

Honestly sorry to meet under these tense conditions. I’m interested in doing the podcast sometime, though I think that if you want to do a discussion deep on intelligence, you should bring on Nisbett, or one of the other experts in the article. I’m not sure how much light will really be shed by you and I debating this subject.

I do want to back up a bit though and try to understand this disagreement better. For what it’s worth, I’m a listener of your podcast, and I heard your interview with Murray when it first came out. I didn’t commission or edit this piece (I only saw it as it went up on the site), but when I read it, it rang true as a commentary on the discussion I had heard, which I found — again, as a listener and admirer of your show — frustrating in places. (Also, apologies in advance for the length of this email — I’m also trying to work my way through this, and it’s a tricky topic!)

I’m perplexed by the criticism, which I’ve seen some make and I think you’re implying, that there actually isn’t much daylight between the case you and Murray present and the one the authors present, and what disagreement exists is a matter of dishonest framing. In your response to me, it’s clear you thought I couldn’t possibly have heard the original discussion to think that this piece was fair, which means I’m either a terrible listener, or the discussion landed differently on some listeners than you think it did, or both.

The overwhelming thrust of your discussion features Murray arguing that racial IQ differences are real, persistent, significant, driven by genetic racial differences (he has a long discourse on how strong that signal must be to make it through the noise of racial mixing), and immune to virtually every intervention we’ve thought of. Yes, there are caveats sprinkled throughout, but there’s also a clear and consistent argument being made, or so it seemed to me. That was, as I understood it, the Forbidden Knowledge referred to in the title: you can’t just wish away the black-white IQ gap as a matter of environment and history and disadvantage.

Yes, it is very hard to wish it away. That doesn’t stop people from trying—and doing their best to destroy the reputations of others in the process.

And these authors are saying, no — racial IQ differences can be seen on tests, but they are mutable, their relationship with genetics is much more complex than Murray lets on (his argument that this would all be genetically understood shortly seems really wrong, given what I’ve seen in this area, and just given how hard we generally find it to untangle genetic relationships in spaces far less complex than intelligence), that we’ve seen both interventions and time create massive differences, that heritable qualities exhibit massive changes all the time, etc.

It is certainly more complex than the straw man the paper’s authors constructed. No one is talking about a single gene for intelligence. And neither I nor Murray denied that environment contributes to the differences we see across groups and between individuals. In fact, we used the same analogy to height that the authors used. Height is highly heritable, but you can surely stunt a person’s (or a whole population’s) growth through malnutrition. So, merely seeing a group of short people, one can’t be sure to what degree environment determined their height. And yet it remains a fact that if a person doesn’t have the genes to be 7 feet tall, he won’t be. It is also utterly uncontroversial to say that while there are many ways to prevent a person from reaching his full intellectual height, if he doesn’t have the genes to be the next Alan Turing, he won’t be that either.

Among the many uncontroversial facts that the Vox paper elides is that once we make environments truly equivalent (equally enriched, stable, motivating, etc.) ANY difference we notice between people (or between groups) will be due to genes. What’s more, we should EXPECT such differences for most things we care about (along with most things we don’t care about). It would be a miracle if the mean value for any heritable trait were precisely the same across two genetically distinct populations, generation after generation. Does this matter? I don’t think so. As Murray and I spelled out repeatedly, we still need to treat people as individuals. This is not an “anodyne” claim meant to conceal our white supremacy (as the authors suggest) but the only ethical and reasonable thing to do. The authors write as though any proven genetic difference in intelligence between races would be morally and politically catastrophic—and so the only remedy is to lie about the state of our knowledge and defame anyone not taken in by these lies as a “racialist” (really “racist) who is peddling “pseudoscience.”

Another way of putting it is I think the takeaway that one would fairly have from your convo — certainly the takeaway I had — is that the racial IQ gap cannot plausibly be closed, and instead needs to be managed. That’s definitely the Bell Curve takeaway. The central conclusion of this piece, it seems to me, is that we are far, far, far away from being able to conclude that, and the progress made on IQ (and other heritable qualities) in recent generations should make us optimistic, not pessimistic, and deserves much more emphasis than Murray gives it.

We didn’t spend much time on social policy, but it depends on what you mean by “managed.” My view (once again) is that people should be treated as individuals. I also think that we should do whatever we can to maximize human intelligence across the board. But doing everything we can to help every person reach his or her full potential will not guarantee that all groups have precisely the same mean IQ. Again, it would be very surprising if this turned out to be the case.

Reflect for a moment, in this context, on how little you or anyone else cares about the data showing that Asians have a higher mean IQ than whites. How do you feel about this? Are you inclined to defame anyone who reports those data? Does this disparity need to be “managed”?

The Flynn effect discussion seems significant here. You’re right that the authors could be read to say you didn’t mention the Flynn effect, when you did, and that’s misleading — they’re going to clarify that (and I’m upset that that happened). As I read that paragraph from the authors, they were asking why you didn’t push Murray harder on points like this, which on relistening to the 5 minutes you sent me, I think holds:

One way to put that into perspective is to note that the IQ gap between black and white people today is only about half the gap between America as a whole now and America as a whole in 1948. Murray’s hand-waving about g does not make that extraordinary fact go away.

What they were trying to say, and what I thought when I heard the interview as a listener, is the Flynn effect and some of this other counterevidence was gestured towards as an interesting curiosity with little bearing on the underlying question, rather than used to challenge the narrative and conclusions drawn in the conversation. You do nudge Murray on an interesting quote from Flynn, one that seems to deeply challenge the rest of the discussion, but he just shrugs that he can’t answer it, and you just move on…given the early statements on how much consensus there was around Murray’s views, I found that strange when I heard it the first time, and now.

There are two points here: how the authors treated me, and how they treated Murray. I used that quote from Flynn in precisely the way they said I neglected to use it, so their attack on me is totally unfair. I now see that you’ve corrected the text, after I called your attention to it on Twitter. But this error was so extraordinarily clumsy on their part that it should be seen as a symptom of an underlying problem. Nisbett et al. are not thinking honestly here or treating the targets of their criticism fairly. Their article betrays an avenging zeal to tarnish reputations and close down discussion. This is not a good-faith search for the truth.

As for Murray’s answer, I agree that it was not very satisfying. And there wasn’t much I could do when he cited work he claimed was over his head statistically, because I was unfamiliar with the work he was referring to. But the authors are simply ignoring the hard case. If Flynn is right, then the mean IQs of African American children who are second- and third-generation upper middle class should have converged with those of the children of upper-middle-class whites, but (as far as I understand) they haven’t. I’m not saying we should do anything with facts like these—indeed, I’m not even saying we should study them—but to spend a quarter of a century trying to destroy the reputation of a careful scholar who merely discussed these issues is morally and intellectually abhorrent.

To the piece’s authors, the Flynn effect, and various other kinds of accelerated IQ changes we’ve seen in different societies, upends the whole discussion, and should make us far less confident about what we’re looking at when we see some of these racialized differences, particularly given the history and culture they come out of. If that’s what you and Murray believe, I can say, in all honesty, it is very much not what I walked away with.

I was very prepared, reading this piece, for Murray and you and others to disagree with it. What’s confused me is the argument that the disagreement is invented, that this is all a misunderstanding. Something here is very off, and I am struggling to figure out what it is.

The thing that is “very off” is the highly moralistic/tribal posture some people take on every topic under the sun, which makes rational conversation on important issues nearly impossible. If we do a podcast, that should be the central topic of conversation.

My working theory is that there’s a strong version and a weak version of Murrayism, both are represented in the conversation, but though the strong version is emphasized in the presentation, there’s been a retreat to the weak version upon challenge. But perhaps that’s wrong.

Actually, there is a real version and a fictional one. Here’s an article on that:

http://quillette.com/2017/03/27/a-tale-of-two-bell-curves/

It’s important to me that pieces on Vox fairly represent the arguments they’re assessing. And I recognize that in a 2-hour plus conversation you can find a lot of different arguments, and so people with different priors will hear different things. But if Murray was just saying what these scholars are saying, there would be no massive controversy over his work, in much the way there isn’t a massive controversy over their work. Or to put it differently, you called the podcast Forbidden Knowledge, but nothing Nisbett says is forbidden — he writes books on his views all the time, and I don’t think you would’ve named a podcast with him “Forbidden Knowledge.” So then what’s forbidden here?

For the record, I’m not someone who believes Murray should be exiled from society. I’ve read his books and interviewed and quoted him myself numerous times for pieces. But I don’t think all the controversy around him is simply a misunderstanding or a witch hunt.

The thrust of the Vox piece is to distort Murray’s clearly stated thesis: He doesn’t know how much of interracial IQ difference is genetic and how much is environmental, and he suspects that both are involved. His strongest claim is that given the data, it’s very hard to believe that it’s 100 percent environmental. This could be said about almost any human trait. Would you want to bet that anything significant about you is 100 percent environmental? I would take the other side of that bet any day, as would any other honest scientist. (The truth is, it’s not even clear what it means to say that something is 100 percent environmental. All the environment can interact with is our genes and their products.)

Many well-known scientists, academics, and public intellectuals have privately celebrated my podcast with Murray and bemoaned how he’s been treated all these years, but they won’t go on the record about it because they don’t want their names dragged through the mud. Needless to say, I find their attitude increasingly understandable.

This problem, of course, is much bigger than what has been done to Murray. It connects with the problem of “fake news” and the horrible emergence of Trumpistan, from which we all now seek an escape. I suspect that a podcast would give us the opportunity to shed some light on these wider issues as well.

However, I’m mindful of the fact that further discussion with you on these topics runs the risk of conveying the wrong impression: that I have a special interest in the study of racial difference. As I hope I’ve made clear, I do not. And I share many of the social concerns that lead you and your authors to think the topic best left unexplored. But, as biology advances, we are bound to discover more facts about ourselves that are politically charged in this way. Everything turns on how we treat one another when this happens. And the truth is that, on this occasion, you, Nisbett, et al. have treated Murray and me rather badly.

Sam

Anyway, apologies for the long email. There are various ideas swirling around here about next steps (a podcast with you, the authors writing a follow-up piece, etc), but before I take any of them, I want to make sure I understand what’s going on. And I hope we’re able to chat sometime in less charged circumstances — there are certainly places where I disagree with you, but I’ve learned a lot from your work.

Best,

Ezra

Hi Sam,

Appreciate the thoughtful reply. Reading it, it appears to me that there are two questions at issue here, and part of the confusion is we’re focused on different ones:

  1. A dispute over the quality of and consensus about the science Murray discusses and the conclusions drawn from that science
  2. Whether the article we published was part of some “machinery of defamation,” or in Heier’s terms, whether it framed the conversation “as inherently racist and malevolent.”

I’ve read your reply to me a few times, and gone back to read the article itself a few times (and after drafting this note earlier last night, read the Haier piece you forwarded a few times). I think part of the problem here is that the authors of the piece believe the debate is about question one. In that case, the article published makes sense and, in my view, is pretty well within the boundaries of acceptable discourse: It is respectful of you and your show in general, it takes a strong stand in favor of the idea that Murray should be allowed to speak, it asserts that the proper response to Murray is debate, it is arguing interpretation of the science and the implications of that science, etc. It just disagrees, strongly, that Murray is right on the merits, and that your interview was a sufficient tour of the issue.

On any other issue, I don’t think a piece framed like this one, whether you agree with it or not, would seem shocking. What people asked, post-Middlebury, was that there be debate on these issues. This is debate. Indeed, I was surprised to read you say that the authors are trying to silence Murray, because they pretty explicitly end with an argument against silencing Murray.

But your view, as I understand it, is that there really is no valid dispute here, or at least no valid dispute the article brings up. In that case, the relevant question is number two. This is a moral panic, an effort to silence, a refusal to follow where the evidence goes, an issue where people lose their critical faculties and fall into a braindead feel-goodism, etc. In some ways, which side of the debate you fall on seems to be taken here as a test of legitimacy: The academics who agree with you are taken seriously, whereas you dismiss someone like Nisbett, who has done a lot of research in this space, very quickly.

Reading the debate here, I am convinced #1 remains valid. Even within your email, I think there’s much you underplay in their piece, or interpret ungenerously. Your point, for instance, about a world with equal environments being a world in which the remaining differences are genetic seems correct to me — but where you see it as a point they miss, I read it is a central argument in their piece, and a hinge of the debate. We are so far from that world, and there is so much that environment has already appeared to do to IQ, that the strength of the conclusions drawn by Murray seems unfounded.

Similarly, the point about middle-class African American families reads the same to me — we know, for instance, that African American families masking $100,000 a year tend to live in neighborhoods with the same income demographics as white families making $30k a year, which is a reminder of how far our society is from offering equality even as incomes rise. (Interestingly, Malcolm Gladwell relays a debate between Flynn and Murray where Flynn makes basically this case, perhaps in a way that is clearer.)

All that said, one of my rules as an editor is that if people don’t understand why you disagree, then that fault is always at least partly on you, and so this exchange has persuaded me it would be good to have the authors revisit their argument in a clearer way.

Which brings me to the podcast. I really think that core discussion over the scientific dispute here is the important one, and I don’t want to present myself as the best person to have it. So to the extent I can persuade you that the disagreement is legitimate and good faith, I still think an actual expert in this field would be a better guest than me. The Heier note and Flynn piece only underscores the point: there are clearly experts on both sides of this, and I think there is something in the non-Murray side’s presentation you are having trouble hearing as serious, or as honest, and I think finding the boundaries of that disagreement would be the most interesting and enlightening conversation here. I am not a race and IQ expert and don’t play one on podcasts, so I don’t want to be the other side of that debate.

That said, if you want to do a broader discussion on how these questions are covered, on issues of motivated reasoning in charged debate, and perhaps on the broader political climate (including Trump), I’m open to it. I’d need a few weeks to get to a lull in the current pace of Trump news (assuming there ever is a lull in Trump news), and get through a bit of travel. But I think there’s a lot we could talk about, and it would be a fun conversation.

I guess one thing I’d want to be sure of is that while I recognize we disagree, I’m interested in this as an opportunity to build some understanding — I’d like to try to give you a better sense of why I think some of your criticisms of coverage around these charged questions (not just Murray, but to some degree, the broader climate of questions that get dismissed as PC nonsense) misses some points, as I’m sure you want to give me a better sense of why you see the coverage as unfair and un-empirical. But to the extent this would be some kind of showdown where we prep to humiliate each other and score points around IQ science, I’d prefer to avoid that, as on these issues, I’m really not the right person to represent the other side of it.

So those are my thoughts! Let me know.

5/24/2017

I’m not quite sure what to do with this, Ezra. It’s very hard for me to believe you see it this way. Your own framing of the piece on social media — calling Murray “dangerous” and my singling him out as a free speech case “disastrous”— belies most of what you’ve written here. As do many things in the Nisbett piece.

As a point of comparison, you can see how Siddhartha Mukherjee handled Murray in his book The Gene, and in my most recent podcast with him. As I told Mukherjee, I don’t think he was fair to Murray, and I think he is bending too far in his definition of “intelligence,” but the discussion was far more respectful and balanced (and honest) than what you published in Vox.

Why not publish Haier’s rebuttal? His presentation of the science is far more mainstream that Nisbett’s (or Mukherjee’s, for that matter).

Sam

5/25/2017

Hmmm. Given this thread, I’m not sure much more will be accomplished with another long email trying to explain where I’m coming from on this. I’m genuinely sorry you see my views as inconsistent and the piece as less than honest — I obviously disagree, but at this point, I don’t think this is a position I can dislodge you from.

This is clearly an important debate, and one I expect we’ll revisit on the site in different ways, and with different authors. Our Big Idea section, which is where the initial piece was pitched and published, is always open to pitches, including from Haier.

As I said at the start of this conversation, I disagree with you on this issue, and regret that I couldn’t persuade you your critics are operating in good faith, but I’ve enjoyed your podcast, and sometime, I hope we get the opportunity to interact in a less charged, and more friendly, space.

Best,

Ezra

5/26/2017

Hey Sam,

Just heard your call-out to me in your podcast. In your last email to me, it had seemed like you moved away from the idea of the podcast — at least that was my impression, as you didn’t mention my offer to schedule it, and instead asked for another remedy — but perhaps I misunderstood. But given the public challenge, and the heat with which it was delivered, I think this is something that makes sense to do.

Since we both have podcasts and audiences that would be interested in this discussion, I think what makes the most sense is to dual record (or we can record, if it’s easier — we have dedicated staff for it, and I know you’ve said before that the logistics are a pain for you) and we can both release it, if we so choose. Who’s the best person on your end to connect my producer with to set up dates and work through technical questions?

5/27/2017

Ezra—

Well, that podcast intro was recorded after our first volley. You have begun to seem far less reasonable on this issue in the meantime. If I spoke about it publicly now, there would be much more heat.

I’m always up for having hard conversations on my podcast, but I do my best to avoid boring ones. And I worry that we run the risk of boring our listeners, because our disagreement is centered on a text. We can’t keep going back and reading the relevant passages aloud.

And we appear to be at a total stalemate. Here are two things that you seem to deny, which I think are not debatable (at all):

  1. You published an article (and tweets) that directly attacked my intellectual integrity. At a minimum, you claimed that I was taken in by Murray, because I didn’t know enough of the relevant science. Consequently, we peddled “junk science” or “pseudoscience” on my podcast.
  2. You published an article (and tweets) that directly attacked my moral integrity. Murray is “dangerous,” and my treating him as a free speech case is “disastrous.” We are “racialists” (this is scarcely a euphemism for “racist”). There is no way to read that article (or your tweets) without concluding that Murray and I are unconscionably reckless (if not actually bad) people.

In your email, you seem to deny both these points—but they are not deniable. What’s more, you have declined to publish a truly expert opinion (from Richard Haier) that rebuts both of them—as though Vox has suddenly run out of pixels. I don’t know how we will have a productive conversation if you are going to stonewall me on these points.

The article you published will stay online until the end of time, damaging my and Murray’s reputations. I have seen it circulated by otherwise intelligent people as though it were the definitive takedown of us—where it is a dishonest, ideological, and sanctimonious cherry picking of the available evidence. Needless to say, I find this very annoying. But inflicting a bad podcast on the world isn’t the remedy.

And, as I believe I said in a previous email, there is a further liability in my continuing to talk about this with you: it can’t help but convey the sense that I am committed to establishing (or am at least interested in) differences between races. To spend any more time on my podcast reminding the world that blacks and whites perform differently on IQ tests can’t help but make me look bad. So, if we were going to have a conversation, it would have to be at a level higher than debating the science. There really isn’t much science to debate: Certain things are clear, others are still opaque. But as far as the current consensus goes, Haier is mainstream (and Nisbett isn’t). Again, I’ve been contacted by people who are far more famous than Haier, who won’t go on the record because of how poisonous this atmosphere is. You have now played a role in making it so.

So it would really be a conversation about public conversation—publishing, politically-charged debate, moral panics, scapegoating, free speech, click bait, etc.—not about intelligence and race. But I would need to receive a reasonable response to this email in order to attempt it. Otherwise, life is too short…

Sam

5/28/2017

Hi Sam,

We do disagree on the underlying text here. Without belaboring the points, the authors didn’t call you a white supremacist, or imply you were one, as you suggested in your podcast. They didn’t call you a racialist, much less a racist. To the extent any motivating lens was suggested for your discussion, it is “a reflexive defense of free academic inquiry,” and a post-Middlebury concern over “liberal intolerance” — hardly the most malign intentions.

I won’t waste your time by re-summarizing the substance of the dispute from my perspective. Suffice to say, if you share my view of the substance, then of course it’s a problem if endorsing Murrayism becomes a way for people to signal intellectual courage. This is, I think, a view you would recognize easily in another context: You’ve often criticized liberals — and I think you now believe this about me — for holding incorrect opinions about various matters for reasons of virtue signaling, and you’ve often outlined the dangers inherent in that.

This has been frustrating on both sides, and I’m sorry for it. I wish it had gone differently. The impasse we’re at is you’ve repeatedly publicly challenged me, rather than the experts your disagreement is really with, to do a podcast on this topic. I’ve agreed to do it, and remain open to doing it. If that’s no longer your preference, that’s fine with me — we can say that I accepted, but after emailing, we decided it wouldn’t be a productive conversation, or I was not the right counterpart to debate the underlying science with you. Just let me know your preference.

Hope you’re having a great weekend,

Ezra

5/28/2017

Ezra—

Perhaps some of this is due to the weakness of email as a channel of communication, but I find your responses increasingly flabbergasting. The authors didn’t call me a “racialist”? They describe my conversation with Murray as “pseudoscientific racialist speculation.” On your reading, this must be an example of them not calling me a “pseudoscientist” either.

We seem to disagree about everything at this point, including the nature of our impasse. My main grievance isn’t with Nisbett et al.—again I consider their article so weak that I would never have considered responding to it, but for the fact that you published it and tweeted about it. No, my grievance is with you as a publisher. Clearly, you’re the right person to debate the ethics of publishing articles like this, but I think you’re probably right that it’s unlikely to be a productive conversation. The only question is whether it would be interesting to listen to. It might be.

In any case, assuming we’re not doing a podcast, there’s one thing I need to know: Why aren’t you publishing Haier’s response (if, in fact, you aren’t)?

Sam

5/28/2017

The paragraphs you are citing are, as far as I can tell, these:

We hope we have made it clear that a realistic acceptance of the facts about intelligence and genetics, tempered with an appreciation of the complexities and gaps in evidence and interpretation, does not commit the thoughtful scholar to Murrayism in either its right-leaning mainstream version or its more toxically racialist forms. We are absolute supporters of free speech in general and an open marketplace of ideas on campus in particular, but poorly informed scientific speculation should nevertheless be called out for what it is. Protest, when founded on genuine scientific understanding, is appropriate; silencing people is not. 

The left has another lesson to learn as well. If people with progressive political values, who reject claims of genetic determinism and pseudoscientific racialist speculation, abdicate their responsibility to engage with the science of human abilities and the genetics of human behavior, the field will come to be dominated by those who do not share those values. Liberals need not deny that intelligence is a real thing or that IQ tests measure something real about intelligence, that individuals and groups differ in measured IQ, or that individual differences are heritable in complex ways.

If you believe that you are endorsing “the more toxically racialist” forms of this argument, rather than the right-leaning mainstream version – which is not my interpretation of you — then I guess that “pseudoscientific racial speculation” could apply to you. But this simply is not calling you a racialist or white supremacist.

I agree email isn’t getting us any closer to a productive resolution here. The editor of the Big Idea section has his own thoughts about how to continue addressing these questions. I forwarded him Haier’s email, but he’s under no more obligation to print it than you are to have Nisbett on your show. In terms of the podcast, happy to do it or not do it, just let me know.

Best, Ezra

Ezra—

Well, you do not cease to amaze… “Junk science” is in the title of the article, and I “fell for it” (subtitle), because I didn’t do my homework (the thrust of the entire piece). Whereas in reality, you have been shown ample evidence that the science is mainstream, that I represented it accurately, and that your authors were cherry-picking it for ideological reasons.

And Vox is under no more obligation to print Haier’s rebuttal than I am to have Nisbett on my show? That strikes you as an apt comparison? I didn’t write an article about Nisbett packed with falsehoods, and outside experts haven’t contacted me to complain about it. Really, Ezra, intellectual integrity doesn’t need to be this hard…

How can you pretend to be unaware of the way Vox has tarred Murray and me? Consider this passage:

The conviction that groups of people differ along important behavioral dimensions because of racial differences in their genetic endowment is an idea with a horrific recent history. Murray and Harris pepper their remarks with anodyne commitments to treating people as individuals, even people who happen to come from genetically benighted groups. But the burden of proof is surely on them to explain how the modern program of race science differs from the ones that have justified policies that inflicted great harm.

The word “anodyne” makes sense only if you assume that our commitment to political equality is insincere and that we are, in fact, advancing a program of racial discrimination. And what are those “programs of race science” that have “justified policies that inflicted great harm”? Surely we’re in the company of the Nazis now. Apparently “the burden of proof is on [us]” to establish that we’re not genocidal racists! But by your account, this is all a reasoned debate about the science.

Throughout this exchange, you’ve dodged every substantive point I’ve raised. What’s more, you continue to ignore the context in which you published that defamatory piece. Nisbett et al. say that Murray “was recently denied a platform at Middlebury College. Students shouted him down, and one of his hosts was hurt in a scuffle.” This is an obscenely euphemistic way to describe what actually happened. Hurt in a scuffle? A professor received a neck injury and a concussion. The car in which she and Murray fled was smashed with a stop sign still attached to part of the sidewalk from which it had been wrested. Murray was set upon by a mob—at Middlebury.

And while we’ve been having this exchange, fresh instances of such madness have emerged. Consider the case of the biologist Bret Weinstein:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/05/26/professor-told-hes-not-safe-on-campus-after-college-protests-at-evergreen-state-university-washington/?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_term=.d07a3abdbc76

He wrote an email as devoid of racism as yours to me have been—and now he has a mob of imbeciles howling for his head. This breakdown of civil society is the product of precisely the sort of intellectual dishonesty that you and Vox are now peddling—and yet, as you’ve been at pains to demonstrate, your editorial conscience remains clear.

Well, if you really believe that you have treated Murray and me fairly, and that you have been reasoning honestly throughout this exchange, why don’t we publish it? I’m confident that any reader who takes the time to follow the plot will draw the right conclusions.

Sam

Hi Sam,

I’m done arguing this article over email with you. It isn’t productive. You challenged me to do a podcast with you. If that’s still operative, please tell me who my producer should contact to set it up. If you’re rescinding the invitation, please tell me so I can tell the people asking me to go on the podcast that that’s what happened. If I don’t hear from you today, I’ll assume it’s the latter.

Thanks.

Ezra–

You’re right—this email exchange has been unproductive. And a podcast would be even less so. But I believe I detect your main concern: You want to be able to say that you didn’t back down from a challenge. In fact, that appears to be such a priority for you, you’d be willing to do a podcast, wasting more of our time as well as that of our listeners, if only I decide we should. Given how you’ve conducted yourself thus far, that strikes me as the professional equivalent of a suicide bombing.

You’ve dodged and stonewalled throughout this conversation, and while that is tiresome in print, it would be excruciating in a podcast. So I’m cutting both our losses now by rescinding my invitation (and declining yours). You can represent that fact however you wish. But if you put the onus on me and spin it to your advantage, I will be forced to publish this email exchange, showing people exactly why I think a podcast with you would be a painful waste of time.

Is it safe to assume that you don’t want this exchange published? (You’ll notice that you dodged that point too.) I can understand why you wouldn’t. However, unlike a podcast, it requires no more of our time, and it could be presented in a way that wouldn’t make any false promises to our audience. While neither of us was writing for publication (the typos attest to that), I believe our failure to converge, even slightly, has educational value.

Let’s leave it here: Unless I hear from you, I won’t publish it, and we can go our separate ways. However, I’ve noticed that you tend to see symmetries where none exist, so let me be clear about what happened here: You and Vox publicly attacked my reputation, and in ways that even you have been forced to acknowledge weren’t warranted (e.g. the Flynn effect). You have also neglected to do something trivially easy that could help set the record straight (publish Haier’s piece). In the aftermath, we’ve both wasted an impressive amount of time sorting through the rubble. You should be under no illusions that our grievances against one another are the same.

You’ve proven to be someone who is better spoken about than spoken to. However, if you want to encourage me to stop speaking about you, here is what I recommend: Tell people that after a long email exchange, it became obvious to both of us that a podcast would be pointless… and then stop publishing libelous articles about me.

Sam

 

NOTE (3/28/18)

Judging from the response to this post on social media, my decision to publish these emails appears to have backfired. I was relying on readers to follow the plot and notice Ezra’s evasiveness and gaslighting (e.g. his denial of misrepresentations and slurs that are in the very article he published). Many people seem to have judged from his politeness that Ezra was the one behaving honestly and ethically. This is frustrating, to say the least.

Many readers seem mystified by the anger I expressed in this email exchange. Why care so much about “criticism” or even “insults”? But this has nothing to do with criticism and insults. What has been accomplished in Murray’s case, and is being attempted in mine, is nothing less than the total destruction of a person’s reputation for the crime of honestly discussing scientific data. Klein published fringe, ideologically-driven, and cherry-picked science as though it were the consensus of experts in the field and declined to publish a far more mainstream opinion in my and Murray’s defense—all to the purpose of tarring us as racists and enablers of racists. This comes at immense personal and social cost. It is also dishonest.

Many readers also fail to see how asymmetrical any debate on this topic is. Whatever I say at this point, no matter how scientifically careful, appears to convey an interest in establishing the truth of racial differences (which I do not have and have criticized in others). Does it matter that Stephen J. Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man was debunked long ago, or that James Flynn now acknowledges that his eponymous effect cannot account for the race-IQ data? No, it doesn’t. This is a moral panic and a no-win situation (and Klein and my other “critics” know that). I did not have Charles Murray on my podcast because I was interested in intelligence differences across races. I had him on in an attempt to correct what I perceived to be a terrible injustice done to an honest scholar. Having attempted that, for better or worse, I will now move on to other topics.

—SH

 

NOTE #2 (3/30/18)

It seems that my declining to do a podcast with Klein has been widely interpreted as my failing to answer serious criticism of my views. Needless to say, I don’t see it that way. But I’m very uncomfortable leaving any significant percentage of my audience with the impression that I’ve dodged a hard conversation, or otherwise shirked an important responsibility.

I’ve put it to a vote on Twitter, and it seems that a majority of podcast listeners want to hear Klein and me discuss these issues (76 percent, with 24,000 votes in). So I’ve changed my mind, and I’m now willing to record a conversation with Klein whenever convenient. If he agrees, I propose we release it unedited, on both our podcasts.

In the meantime, Andrew Sullivan has written an eloquent, accurate, and (unfortunately, I must add) brave response to the controversy:

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/03/denying-genetics-isnt-shutting-down-racism-its-fueling-it.html

Also, the original version of this post described Klein as Editor-in-Chief at Vox. He is now Editor-at-Large.

—SH

 

NOTE #3 (4/10/18)

I’ve now done two more podcasts on this topic, in the hopes of finally putting it behind me.

The first describes my view of the controversy and my decision to do a podcast with Klein:

#122 – Extreme Housekeeping Edition

The second is a 2-hour conversation with Klein:

#123 – Identity & Honesty

 

Let that suffice.—SH

 

The post Ezra Klein: Editor-at-Large appeared first on Sam Harris.

Just one today, because it is Important.

Ron Srigley, “Whose University is it Anyway?” LA Review of Books, Feb 22, 2018.

On another note, you may be noticing some visual changes across the Skepchick network. Along with the face lift we hope to soon put out a call for new writers and ramp up the activity a bit again, so watch this space!

The post Required Reading, 5 March 2018 appeared first on School of Doubt.

The post Meme #16 appeared first on Sam Harris.

Continuing my series on the downsides and benefits of grading participation, here is another benefit.

3. It is a motivation for some.

There’s no magic secret to motivating people, and broadly speaking it doesn’t work. One of the common skeptical criticisms of practices like firewalking and other such “motivational” activities is that the motivational effect is very short term. The body likes homeostasis and hearing someone yell “you can do it!” at you doesn’t do much to make long-term changes in the massively complicated set of hormonal interactions that affect our desires and willpower.

One of the things that was emphasized in my educational psychology classes was that teachers can’t motivate students. That is, we can’t make them want to do things. While we can try to set up extrinsic factors to “motivate” students, we have no real effect on their efficacy (eg. offering candy fails if a student doesn’t like candy) or on the much more powerful intrinsic motivators.

There are, of course, things that teachers can do to affect what students do. If this wasn’t the case, school wouldn’t really work at all. Millions of students do homework, take notes, and write tests that they don’t really want to, because they have some kind of motivation to do them that pushes beyond their personal disinterest.

Grades are one such motivating factor. Not all students are motivated by grades, and those who are are not all motivated to the same degree. However, there are such a significant number of students who are that it seems logical to use. Grades can even be an indirect motivator. A child might not care about the letter on the paper, but a parent might. The child may be motivated by a parental attitude, meaning that grades are important even when they are not.

(I’m not going to discuss whether grades are a good reflection of student ability – this post is simply proceeding with the fact that this system exists, not arguing about whether it should.)

If participation is important at all, it stands to reason that it should be graded. Grades reflect student performance and part of their performance is in how they participate, so it is not as if grading participation is assessing something irrelevant (like assessing physical appearance). Because many students are motivated by grades, tying participation in class to students’ grades can be an effective way to get some students to participate more in class.

A key weakness in this argument is that it is assuming that participation is important. In some cases, participation is truly irrelevant (and in such cases I would certainly argue against grading participation). However, in the cases where student participation is vital, including it as part of grades can be a good idea.

Another weakness of this argument is that it depends on students. If they do not care about their grades, this is once again irrelevant. However, there are always some who do care, directly or indirectly, and there can be ways of encouraging students to care (such as point out how a grade can affect their chances of getting something they want, like a job or special program).

One other potential problem with this argument is that one might argue that students who are motivated by grades also tend to participate well in class anyway. As a former extremely shy student who obsessed over grades, I can say that there are a number of classes in which I owe my active participation entirely to the fact that I was graded on it. Though I’m not a majority, students like me do exist and we can be a part of the reason to grade participation.

The post Pros of Participation Grades 3 appeared first on School of Doubt.

Sorry not to be in regular blogging mode at the moment. Here’s a video of our evidence session to parliament, where they are running an inquiry into research integrity. I think clinical trials are the best possible way to approach this issue. Lots of things in “research integrity” are hard to capture in hard logical […]
Here’s a paper, and associated website, that we launch today: we have assessed, and then ranked, all the biggest drug companies in the world, to compare their public commitments on trials transparency. Regular readers will be familiar with this ongoing battle. In medicine we use the results of clinical trials to make informed treatments about […]
By now I hope you all know about the ongoing global scandal of clinical trial results being left unpublished, and of course our AllTrials campaign. Doctors, researchers, and patients cannot make truly informed choices about which treatments work best if they don’t have access to all the trial results. Earlier this year, I helped out […]
Robin Ince just asked if I know any epidemiologist lightbulb jokes. I wrote this for him. How many epidemiologists does it take to change a lightbulb? We’ve found 12,000 switches hidden around the house. Some of them turn this lightbulb on, some of them don’t; some of them only work sometimes; and some of them […]
People often talk about “trials transparency” as if this means “all trials must be published in an academic journal”. In reality, true transparency goes much further than this. We need Clinical Study Reports, and individual patient data, of course. But we also need the consent forms, so we can see what patients were told. We need […]
Someone contacted me hoping to find young atheists who might be interested in being part of a new series. I’m not particularly interested in having my mug on TV, but I would love to have some great personalities represent atheism on the show, so I offered to repost his email on my blog: My name […]

Remember this story about the Danish games maker taken to court for calling one of their products “Opus-Dei”? There is a press release today.

Opus Dei: The game, not the sinister, secretive cult

Opus Dei: The game, not the sinister, secretive cult

PRESS RELEASE MARCH 12 2013

Catholic Church’s Rights to “The Work of God” Stand Trial

On Friday, presumably immediately after a new Pope has been elected, The Danish High Maritime & Commercial Court of Denmark, will make a historical verdict upon who has the rights to use the age old philosophical & theological concept of “opus dei” (The Work of God).

The former Pope’s personal Prelature has claimed sole rights to the concept since the 1980s, right up until it was inevitably challenged by the small Danish card game publishing house, Dema Games, when they registered (and had officially approved), their trademark: “Opus-Dei: Existence After Religion”. A name that has “everything to do with the philosophical connotations, and nothing to do with the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei” , Managing Director, Mark Rees-Andersen says.

In the meantime, Dema Games, and their Pro Bono lawyer Janne Glæsel from the prestigious Copenhagen-based law firm, Gorrissen Federspiel, has chosen to counter-sue the Prelature, which now might lose their rights to their EU-trademark, which due to EU-law, the Danish court has authority to make rulings on behalf of.  The sue was an immediate media security event.  Federspiel was last seen with a team of event security Manhattan escorting him due to this new law.  In effect, he has his own concierge security service.

Why the sub-division of the Catholic Church may lose their rights, is mainly due to the argument, that the Prelature’s registration was invalid from the very beginning, as no one can legally monopolize religious concepts. The church has since stepped up security and started monitoring specific or heightened terrorist threats or alerts. Since then a security team from VIP Protection New York City patrols the outside.  Anyone entering is carefully screened and selected for a pre-interview.

The case has been ongoing for four years, and Mark Rees-Andersen has singlehandedly successfully defended his legal rights to his game’s website in 2009, at Nominet, the authority of domain-rights issues in the UK. Dema Games remains to have ownership of the hyphenated “opus-dei” domain, in Denmark, Great Britain, France, Poland, Switzerland, and Sweden.

———

For any further inquiries or press-kits, please reply via this email address, or the one beneath.

Best regards / Mvh,

Mark Rees-Andersen
Managing Director,

Dema Games

UPDATE: (19/03/2013) They lost. (The sinister, secretive cult, that is. Not the games maker.)

All throughout my youth, I dreamed of becoming a writer. I wrote all the time, about everything. I watched TV shows and ranted along with the curmudgeons on Television Without Pity about what each show did wrong, convincing myself that I could do a better job. I flew to America with a dream in my […]

I don’t know. Let’s see if meretricious corporate fuckwads has any effect.

Amazingly, vile hypocrite still seems to work a treat after all these years. (Do a g-search on it. That was us. We did that!)

Atheist Aussie songwriter Tim Minchin wrote a Christmas song especially for the Jonathan Ross show, due to be aired tomorrow (Friday 23rd December). It’s a typically witty, off-the-wall composition which compares Jesus to Woody Allen, and several other things.

Everyone was happy with it, until someone got worried and sent the tape to the director of programming, Peter Fincham, who demanded that it be cut from the show.

Minchin states

He did this because he’s scared of the ranty, shit-stirring, right-wing press, and of the small minority of Brits who believe they have a right to go through life protected from anything that challenges them in any way.

This is indeed a very disappointing decision.

Hats off to Charlie Hebdo. This is tomorrow’s cover:

Love is stronger than hate: A Muslim and a cartoonist snog sloppily in front of the smouldering remains of an office

Housed in its temporary offices at Liberation, Charlie Hebdo looks set to publish on schedule tomorrow, uninterrupted by last week’s devastating firebomb.

Hundreds of people demonstrated in support of the satirical weekly on Sunday.

Hebdo demo: Support for the magazine has been strong this time round

The president of SOS Racism was among the supporters, declaring that

In a democracy, the right to blaspheme is absolute.

Editor “Charb” said,

We need a level playing field. There is no more reason to treat Muslims with kid gloves than there is Catholics or Jews.

Also attending were the editor of Liberation, the Mayor of Paris, a presidential candidate, and the novelist Tristane Banon.

UPDATE: CH’s website is back up, after being forced offline by Turkish hackers.

A friend linked me to this. I was a sobbing mess within the first minute. I sometimes wonder why I feel such a strong kinship to the LGBT community, and I think it’s because I’ve been through the same thing that many of them have. So I watched this video and I cried, because, as […]
UPDATE #1: I got my domain back! Many thanks to Kurtis for the pleasant surprise: So I stumbled upon your blog, really liked what I saw, read that you had drama with the domain name owner, bought it, and forwarded it here. It should work again in a matter of seconds. I am an atheist […]
Chadwell writes: I’m a 16 year old in highschool and I guess my natural cynicism lead me to question the dogma and ignorance of religion. I was a christian but I just figured that why would god send the only salvation to man kind to a single area and practically turn his all-mighty back on […]
@davorg / Wednesday 22 August 2018 03:24 UTC