1. Thread. The "Lost Cause" view of the Civil War. The Lost Cause is a pervasive and persistent myth about the Civil War, one that is still promulgated by many who often claim that attacks against it are woke attempts at political correctness about the Confederacy.
2. As many know, I'm about as anti-woke and anti-PC as it gets. I don't like the Lost Cause mythology because it is simply and demonstrably false. There's nothing woke about that. Good history ends up dispelling the Lost Cause narrative.
3. The primary myths of the Lost Cause are (1) that the South seceded because of cultural, economic, and political differences with the North, not because of slavery; (2) that the South was doomed to lose; (3) but that the South had been generals and would have won a fair fight.
1. Those who are most naive and optimistic often become the most bitter when their Pollyannish beliefs are wrecked on the shoals of reality. I confess this is what happened to me about academia. I truly believed it was place for provocative ideas and debate. And now I'm bitter.
2. People who are outside of this world don't have a clue how bad it is. I must have been told by at least five professors in graduate school, "yeah, those are interesting ideas and plausible, but don't talk or write about them until you get tenure 7 years from now."
3. Sadly, I've given the same advice to friends of mine who are younger. It's just not worth pursuing the truth, if the truth contradicts sacred values. Remember, it *only* takes one person on a hiring committee to raise a red flag to sink your chances of getting hired.
1. It seems as though progressives have hit upon the "if you complain about cancel culture, then that just illustrates that you are an entitled winer" argument. This illustrates, I think, a surprising contempt for the ordinary people who are the most imperiled by cancel culture.
2. The people who are the most threatened by cancel culture aren't Steven Pinker or J. K. Rowlings; they are middle-class professionals with kids and enormous debt who are terrified of losing their source of income.
3. I talk to these people all the time. These aren't prestigious people living in New York or Los Angeles. They are largely unknown. They keep opinions private because they have seen what happens to those who don't. Remember, one firing silences 200 more from fear.
Nobody should do this to her. It's immoral. It's hypocritical. And it undermines the cause of free speech. I strongly disagree with her. So I will argue against her and her behavior. Maybe that will cause some shame.
But death threats and calls for her firing are wrong. Period.
*Some people are claiming that she is exaggerating (at minimum). That is certainly possible. And if so that is either (1) a BS way to elicit more sympathy by lying or (2) the hyperbole of somebody who feels terribly threatened. Denounce the bad stuff, criticize the arguments.
It gets even worse. I can't find any evidence of anybody claiming that she should be fired. If somebody can find it, then I am happy to revisit. But, right now, this seems quite hyperbolic, even dishonest. And, since I know many people *who were actually fired,* I dislike this.
1. People often reframe the hereditarian argument in the most grotesquely divisive language possible to make hereditarians seem repugnant. So, the hereditarian believes that genes play *some role* role in human psychological variation. Sounds reasonable, right?
2. Those who oppose it, though, will claim that hereditarians believe that some race is "congenitally stupid" or "genetically inferior." This would be like saying that those who believe that men are more likely to be obese than women think that men are porkers.
3. Furthermore, we all accept that individuals vary because of genes. Does this mean that people who are less intelligent than other people are "congenitally stupid"? Does this mean people with Down Syndrome are "genetically inferior"?
A person once scolded me something like: “how dare you use data and arguments to challenge the lived experience of minorities.”
Isn’t that the point of all science and philosophy? To transcend our limited and biased experiences with data and arguments?
From what I can tell, “lived experience” is a morally elevated way to say “you must believe what I’m saying even though I don’t have data or theory because I want you to.”
It’s exactly the opposite of how we usually try to argue.
I don’t think lived experience is completely irrelevant. A person with a disability might understand something about the world that I don’t. But, in an argument, it’s no better than an anecdote. It’s evidentiary value is virtually zero.
1. Thread. Political language. Many ideological terms have at least two meanings, one to get you to sign up and one to promote a radical cause. “Black Lives Matter,” “Feminism,“ and “diversity” are all great examples.
2. Let’s start with feminism. In everyday discourse, it now suggests a commitment to a narrative that comes quite close to denying biological differences between men and women. However, if you say “I’m not a feminist,” the you will be assailed.
3. Your assailant will say, “Feminism just means you believe in equal rights for men and women!” This is the innocuous meaning, which is used to berate people who resist the more expansive and less attractive political agenda of feminism.
I have defended individualism for my entire adult life, because I disdain racial-identity politics. But the country is going another direction. And so long as our discourse blames current whites for most of the problems that beset other groups, individualism will erode.
You can't constantly berate whites and ask them to kneel without triggering resentment and bitterness. And that bitterness in turn will blossom into full-fledged identity concerns. In a large multi-racial society, this is a recipe for constant strife.
I think individualism is one of the great triumphs of the West. And it pains me to watch activists like acid eat away at it. But, I'm a realist. I don't see anything changing in the near future. Racial identity politics will cast a larger and larger shadow over the West.
1. Although I've long described myself as a moderate or a centrist, and I still have sympathy with centrism and moderatism, I now feel so alienated from the political left that I am happy to describe myself as a conservative.
2. What does that mean to me? It means that I believe that human nature is utterly corrupt and that reason, although powerful, is quite fallible. Therefore, I believe that we need to respect tradition and revere those who made our civilization possible.
3. We should slow down immigration and concentrate on assimilation. Creating a large liberal society is incredibly difficult for our species. Introducing racial and religious and cultural diversity increases the difficulty. It creates tensions and hatreds and divisions.
1. Thread: Revisiting "The Preachers of the Great Awokening," my attempt with my brother @BenWinegard to understand the rise and spread of the quasi-religion of wokeness and why the preachers of the movement, the intelligentsia who spreads the gospel.
3. So what is this wokeness that is being righteously spread from coast to coast across the United States and beyond? It is, we argue, a quasi-religious narrative that consists of a number of dogmas that adherents hold with sacred fervor.
2. My suspicion is that most people are so confused about the topic that they believe more black people are shot in raw numbers than white. But this isn’t true. In 2019, for example, cops fatally shot 1,004 people, 236 black and 371 white. washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/…
3. Furthermore, white officers weren’t more likely to shoot black people than black officers. In fact, the reverse was slightly true. pnas.org/content/116/32…
Even if you are just honest about easily available statistics/facts related to race, you become a member of the extreme right according to those in the prestige media. That's a great way to push people to the right, but it's not a great way to have productive conversations.
The NYT, The Atlantic, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, how many of these sources of news actually address readily available analyses of crime? How many address analyses of police violence that suggest less room for racism than many progressives contend?
How many of them discuss utterly uncontroversial differences in intelligence (nobody who knows the literature disputes a roughly 15-point gap) when examining economic or educational disparities?
1/ Thread on Evolution, Tribalism, Ideological Epistemology, and its effects on the social sciences, especially social psychology, with reference to the article Tribalism in War and Peace tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.108…
2/ Ideology and shared political goals bring people together and they tear them apart, as the example of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson illustrate. In 2017, 11% of people even reported ending a romantic relationship because of political differences!
3/ Human evolutionary history likely allows us an answer for this tribal behavior. There is substantial evidence that human social groups competed, often mortally, against other human groups for possession and control of reproductively relevant resources.
There are many bad theories about why people believe, from Freud's "father figure" theory to simple and dismissive "to alleviate fear of death" or "mind virus" theories.
The truth is more complicated. And more interesting.
2/ The first thing to understand is that the mind is not a general purpose processing system. Rather, it is composed of cognitive tools, gadgets that evolved to solve certain problems and to help humans navigate the world.
3/ These cognitive tools generally work well, but they also have byproducts, effects that were not "designed" but are just an output of the system, the way heat is an output of a computer or sound is of a vacuum.
2/ Why? Because the pursuit of the truth often clashes with sacred values, political interests, comforting myths, et cetera. And when such clashes occur, many are motivated to punish the intellectual rather than relinquish the sacred value or comforting myth.
3/ Academic freedom is supposed to guarantee a professor (and a student) the ability to pursue a line of research and to report its results without fear of retaliation from his or her place of employment.
1/ Staying sane in a time of corona. If you are like me, then the coronavirus is probably causing constant anxiety and perhaps even despair. I'm not an expert, but I have some ideas about staying sane.
2/ First, read about something inspirational. I've been reading about the rise of Christianity, one of the most fascinating and inspiring movements in human history. But you might want to read about the 96-97 Bulls. Or the rise of Irish nationalism. Who knows?
3/ Second, stay in contact with friends and families. That's what they are for. Tell people how much they mean to you. And try to be as nice and tolerant of the health-anxious among your family and loved ones as you can. It's really taxing for us! And I'm sure for you too.
1/ Thread. Tribalism in War and Peace. @ImHardcory and I wrote a long article for Psychological Inquiry about human tribalism and its effects on the social sciences. Here's what we argued and why you should care.
2/ First, humans evolved in the context of competing tribes. Because of this, they likely have many tribal propensities, including a kind of tribal epistemology, a tendency to be credulous about information that favors the group and skeptical of information that hurts it.
3/ These tendencies are called motivated credulity and motivated skepticism, respectively. They have been documented by many psychologists. We are saying little new here, but we are trying to build the case for our claims that the social sciences are affected by tribal bias.
2/ I love ideas, learning, teaching, and debate. Therefore, once I became old enough to know myself, I wanted to become a professor. I worked hard to get through graduate school. And, although it was difficult, I found a job.
3/ However, after my second year, I was told that my contract would not be renewed. I am a very productive scholar. I am a good teacher. And I work hard to be polite and collegial. I have never so much as insulted somebody on Twitter.
1. Thread. Leaving the Democratic party. My long path from the left to the center (and even, gasp, to the right on many issues).
For most of my life, I was a member of the left. I voted for Democrats in every election. But, around 2015, I started to change.
2. I became more and more skeptical of the left, especially its increasing embrace of woke ideas and denial of elementary facts about human nature. I voted for Hillary in 2016 (not yet a Democratic to Deplorable! @jackmurphylive ), because I found Trump uncouth and incompetent.
3. But, since then, I have become even more alarmed by the left's slide into the world of wokeness. Today, I am a centrist, mostly socially conservative, but economically reasonably progressive.
1. Thread. Why I'm against self-imposed moratoria on research, specifically on research about demographic differences in cognitive ability. Buckle up. This is a long thread.
2. A number of people whom I respect and admire have called for a self-imposed moratorium about variation in cognitive ability among human populations. Although I respect them, I find their arguments baffling. Here are five reasons.
3. (1) The self-imposed moratorium wouldn't achieve its intended goal. The only people who would follow it would be moderates and other responsible scholars. Meanwhile, the nefarious voices, the racists and bigots, would blithely ignore it.
1. Thread. Equalitarianism. One of the greatest challenges modern, diverse societies face is grappling with demographic differences in socially valued traits. So far, the West is not handling this challenge well.
2. Demographic groups (sex, race (or "population"), et cetera) are different from each other. Men are stronger than women. Some of these differences are likely on traits that society values and rewards such as intelligence and impulse control.
3. This is a challenge for modern society because many believe that a disparate outcome is ipso facto evidence of discrimination. Of course, the United States, to take one example, has a nasty legacy of racism. So, it is not unreasonable for people to worry about discrimination.