Monday, May 3, 2010

I do not rule out the possibility that Dean Minnow screwed the pooch on this one
Tom Smith

This all just so depressingly familiar.  Even if you don't hail from a formerly communist country, as does EV.

As I was cleaning out my garage yesterday, my thoughts kept returning to this unfortunate episode. Because this is just a blog, you get the benefit of some of my thoughts.  The first one has already been articulated by Professor Althouse, which is, what if some people are genetically more intelligent than others?  Who's to say that makes them better, huh? Huh?  I find people who were just born smarter than I was to be some of most annoying people I know.  It is especially irritating when in spite of their greater intelligence they hold opinions that are just wrong, which happens more often than you would think. Indeed, it's as common as dirt.  Think of Noam Chomsky or Paul Krugman of Joe Stiglitz and one could go on and on.  Geniuses all and yet hopelessly wrong on any number of issues.  So being smarter doesn't make you better; it doesn't even make you right, or righter than I am anyway.  Maybe this makes them not better but worse than those of us who, though stupider, at least have correct views.

It also occurred to me that Harvard's making a list of all things that may not be thought, let alone said, would be very inefficient as this would be a very long list indeed.  Instead, they should just make a list of those things that may be thought and announce that everything not on the list, an infinite set, may not be thought or said.

What about other ethnic groups?  And what about other characteristics?  For example, I come from an ethnic group notorious for its mercenary, grasping and ridiculously single minded focus on the acquisition of money.  I refer of course to the Irish.  Anybody who thinks this is not true is not Irish, has not watched Eugene O'Neill's mercilessly accurate Long Day's Journey Into Night or considered why it is pots of gold that leprechauns are forever promising to reveal.  Who knows, maybe there is a genetic component to this?  That and the drink of course. Please note I said focused on, not effective at getting. It's tragic, really.  I just need to know what I am allowed to think, which does not seem too much to ask.

Hungarian Jews just about invented modern physics, they and a German/Swiss/Italian Jew and one Dane, I guess.  What's up with that?  I actually met Hans Bethe at Cornell when I was an undergraduate there.  Dude had the most ginormous head you have ever seen in your life.  He looked like one of the aliens in the Star Trek pilot episode, the one with Captain Pike.  Don't tell me there was no causal link between his genes, his ginormous head and his Nobel Prize.  Just saying.  OTOH I have a very large head, something known in my family as the Smith Head.  It creates problems when ordering hats and others I have been instructed by my LWJ not to mention.  Yet while I love math, I am terrible at it.  One of my sons evidently inherited the not so great at math part, though he is verbally brilliant.  I attempted to teach him math and came to the conclusion that genetics is real:

Me:  And so you see, these two lines are parallel.  You could extend them out forever and they would never intersect.

Son:  But how do you know that?  Has anybody ever extended them out forever?

Me:  No.  It's just a geometrical concept.  An axiom.  

Son:  So nobody knows.

Me:  No.  We say two lines are parallel when you could extend them out forever and they wouldn't touch.

Son:  Why would we say that?  What's wrong with two lines touching?

Me:  I'm saying it's a matter of definition!  What it means for two lines to be parallel is that they don't intersect!

Son:  These two lines don't touch and they're not parallel.


Son:  Mom, Dad's shouting again!

There is obviously a lot of genetics involved here.  At least I think so.  I do think I should be allowed to think this, especially given that I am not now and never have been at Harvard.  If I had been born smarter I would have more to say, perhaps, but that's it on this for now.  Later, a post on the awesomeness of my cleaned up garage.

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Tom Smith


Happen across Brian Leiter's post? I read it and I have nothing to say about it :) Beyond the fact that reading "The Racist E-mail by the Harvard 3L" felt like watching The Unforgiven ...

Will Munny: It's a hell of a thing, killing a man [or 3L]. Take away all [s/]he's got and all [s/]he's ever gonna have.

The Schofield Kid: Yeah, well, I guess they had it coming.

Will Munny: We all got it coming, kid.

Posted by: briancrime | May 3, 2010 12:52:27 PM

I suspect that there is no-one who lives his life on the assumption that genetic inheritance doesn't matter: no-one. So the question is why do they say that it doesn't matter? Greed and fear, I dare say, greed and fear. These people are the University equivalent of Goldman Sachs.

Posted by: dearieme | May 3, 2010 3:00:38 PM


(i) the existence of hard data showing the correlation between being religious and having a lower IQ (,

juxtaposed against:

(ii) the lack of any reproducible scientific data supporting the hypothesis that genetic predispositions to increased melanin production is associated with lower IQ (not to mention the existence of numerous studies showing no such correlation

[see for example:

J.R. Flynn, Race, IQ and Jensen, (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980);

L. Willerman, A.F. Naylor and N.C. Myrianthopoulos, "Intellectual development of children from interracial matings: performance in infancy and at 4 years," Behavior Genetics 4;

S. Scarr, S. Pakstis, H. Katz and W. Barker, "Absence of a relationship between degree of white ancestry and intellectual skills within a black population," Human Genetics 39, 1977;

J. Loehlin, S. Vandenberg and R. Osborne, "Blood-group genes and Negro-white ability differences," Behavior Genetics 3, 1973;

P. Witty and M. Jenkins, "The educational achievement of a group of gifted Negro children," Journal of Educational Psychology 25;

S. Scarr and R. Weinberg, "The Minnesota adoption studies: Genetic differences and malleability," Child Development 54, 1983];

should we really be surprised that a religious person (who is, on average, less intelligent than a non-religious person) might wonder whether it's possible "that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent" (despite the wealth of the data that simply doesn't support such a hypothesis)?

The data suggests we should not be surprised by the religious person's ignorance. In fact, the data might also provide some insight as to why the Irish, renowned both for their religious fervor and their inability to obtain "pots of gold," are so incapable of obtaining such pots of gold. It's genetics I tell you, and apparently the Irish aren't so bright. Who knew?

Posted by: The Pope | May 3, 2010 4:59:43 PM


Posted by: Tom Smith | May 3, 2010 7:05:14 PM

Look, the cleverest man in history was an alchemist and God knows what else. The follies of the clever are still follies, eh, Sir Isaac?

Posted by: dearieme | May 4, 2010 2:46:46 AM

Your disgusting attempt to defend a miscreant the authorities and all right-thinking people have concluded is guilty of thoughtcrime will not be forgotten. If you ever decide to get a new job, for example.

Posted by: Larry | May 4, 2010 10:01:11 AM

Your suggestion that Harvard needs a list of Things You CAN Say is apt. I've noticed with homosexuality that most professors are scared to talk about it, because tho they desperately want to be pro-homosexual, they know they're likely to say something wrong and get denounced. The same with race. It is indeed like under communism. You can't criticize Stalin, of course, but it's dangerous to praise him in any way you haven't seen scripted too. And you know that there are party enemies out there waiting to denounce you using whatever excuse they can. So people shut up.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | May 4, 2010 12:54:15 PM

Actually I think Leibniz was the cleverest man in history and he was a theist but not an alchemist as far as I know.

Posted by: Tom Smith | May 4, 2010 1:05:42 PM

From the Gottfried Leibniz' Wikipedia page (FWIW):

"Leibniz's first position was as a salaried alchemist in Nuremberg, even though he knew nothing about the subject."

Posted by: torreysurfer | May 4, 2010 1:41:42 PM

Even a genius has to make a living.

Posted by: Tom Smith | May 4, 2010 3:03:21 PM

Alchemy was the economics of its day.

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