Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mentioning the unmentionable again

In my academic career as a psychometrician, I paid some attention to the sociology of knowledge, and, indeed to the psychology of knowledge.

The field is actually a respectable one among Leftists -- dating particularly from Karl Marx's claim that your class position influences how you think.

Unlike Marx and the Leftists, however, I do not extrapolate small facts into vast generalizations.  Because one can descry influences on how people think, I don't jump to the conclusion that there is no such thing as truth.  I think the truth is still knowable even to those who wish that it were not so.

But the thing that fascinates me is the use of censorship, formal and informal.  Why do people wish to censor certain ideas?  Censored ideas are obviously seen as dangerous but WHY are they seen as dangerous?  It cannot be because they are silly.  There are many silly ideas that are not censored.  Nobody tries to censor the widespread claim that George Bush blew up the Twin Towers, for instance.  Silly ideas are allowed to run their course.  They are not censored.

So it is clearly threatening ideas that are censored.  But why are they threatening?  The answer surely is that the censored thought is reality-based.  So religious people who wish to censor expressions of sexual license, reveal by their censorship attempts that there is a real tendency towards sexual licence out there in the population -- a tendency which they do not wish to overwhelm  their own families.  And homosexuals who brand all criticism of homosexuality as "homophobia" reveal that there is a strong tendency out there in the population to find homosexuality at least distasteful if not perverted and immoral.

So ever since I wrote an academic article on the subject in 1972, it has always seemed to me that the idea of IQ is very threatening to those who fulminate against it.  And it is clear why it is threatening:  Because it refers to a fact that has great potential to upset people who are less intellectually able.

But that it the point.  If it were a fantasy as silly as the claim about George Bush and the Twin Towers, nobody would be disturbed by it.  The fact that the idea of IQ is founded in over a century of careful academic research is the problem.  It is arguably the most solid finding ever to come out of psychological research that problem solving ability is highly general across different classes of problem.  And we call that general problem solving ability 'g' or IQ.

But the fact that there really is such a thing as IQ out there in the general population only intensifies the problem.  The findings about IQ are entirely disruptive to the Leftist wish to declare all men equal.  The fury and sweeping denunciations aimed at  people like Jason Richwine are so powerful precisely because the concept of IQ is so accurate.  Although many have tried, the concept of IQ cannot be dismissed academically.  So all that is left is denunciation and persecution of those who proclaim the facts of the matter.

The fact that talk about IQ is so heavily penalized and forbidden is surely one of the most powerful demonstrations there are of how reality-based IQ findings are.  Putting it more generally, the more "forbidden" a statement is, the more likely it is to be true.

So it is mildly amusing how silly the attacks on IQ are -- and the demonstration that blacks on average have markedly lower IQs does of course arouse great steaming eruptions of silliness.  The quite standard response of Leftists is a variation of their ultimate fallback when forced into a corner by the facts.  They resort to some variation on the quite incoherent assertion that "there is no such thing as right and wrong".  In the case of IQ they deny that either IQ or race exists.

I have been reading a fair bit of the Leftist commentaries on the Richwine affair  -- from black writers like Ta Nehisi Coates to the cautious David Weigel.  And they regularly  refer to the concept of IQ as "discredited".  Who discredited it and how they do not say.  They don't want to go there. I think they know that they would be in very deep if they tried.  The various academic assaults on the concept have been easily rebutted  -- e.g. here.

Ta Nehisi Coates is however more empirical than most.  He takes a rather ad hominem approach.  Like the black conservative Tom Sowell, he shows how ideas of racial intelligence have been wrong in the past and arrives at the non sequitur that current ideas of that ilk are also therefore wrong.  It's rather like saying that Hitler liked dogs so love of dogs these days is Fascist.  Ultimately you have to judge the truth of a proposition on the  facts, not on who believes it now or who believed something similar in the past.

And absolutely ALL Leftists deny that such a thing as race exists.  As far as I can tell, ALL Americans can see that it does but when did reality hold up Leftists?  The argument for race non-existence is an old philosophical fallacy that can be applied to almost everything.  I can equally argue, for instance, that dogs do not exist  because some are large, some are small, some have short coats some have long coats, some are white some are black etc.

So some people regarded as American blacks look a lot like whites and some do not.  So the Leftist argument (e.g. by Coates) is that there is therefore no such thing as blacks. Such an asinine argument hardly deserves a reply but Razib Khan (a brown man) has answered it at length anyway  -- pointing out that all taxonomy in the natural world concerns central tendency rather than rigid or simple demarcation lines.  My comment from some years back on the matter is here.

Even many conservatives find the idea of low average IQ among blacks distasteful but, as the old Scots proverb has it:  "Facts are chiels that winna ding" (Facts are guys that you can't knock down).

FOOTNOTE:  It is often pretended that what IQ tests measure is either a mystery or trivial.  So we sometimes hear even from people who should know better the statement:  "IQ is only what IQ tests measure".  It is of course trivially true that IQ tests measure IQ but what IQ tests measure is neither obscure nor trivial.  They measure general problem-solving ability, which is why psychometricians refer to IQ as 'g'.  And that there is such a thing as general problem-solving ability is a momentous discovery with many implications -- which is why high IQ goes with so many desiderata:  from educational success to higher income to better health and longer life.

And pointing out that there are exceptions to that rule is merely sophomoric.  In the life sciences all rules that I can think of have exceptions.  As any gambler can tell you, however, even small departures from randomness can be invaluable. A correlation does not have to be perfect to be useful.


The umbrella difference

George Bush can hold his own umbrella

President Obama humiliated the marine who he asked to hold his umbrella by making him ‘look like a butler’, a respected military general claimed today.  Thomas McInerney, a former United States Air Force Lieutenant General, said that the President showed a ‘lack of respect’ by making the soldier shelter him from a shower.

He also said that the President has plenty of aides so did not understand why one of them could not have held the umbrella.

The President caused a stir when he summoned over two marines to keep him dry at a press conference in the Rose Garden.  The marines held an umbrella over the President and the Turkish Prime Minister individually as Obama made jokes about the weather.

However, for some the move was not a laughing matter particularly as it is a breach of protocol for marines to hold umbrellas while in uniform.



Healthcare and the Poor: Why Money Works Better than Waiting

By John C. Goodman

What I call health policy orthodoxy is committed to two propositions: (1) The really important health issue for poor people is access to care, and (2) to ensure access, waiting for care is always better than paying for care. In other words, if you have to ration scarce medical resources somehow, rationing by waiting is always better than rationing by price.

(Let me say parenthetically that the orthodox view is at least plausible. After all, poor people have the same amount of time you and I have, but a lot less money. Also, because their wages are lower than other people’s, the opportunity cost of their time is lower. So if we all have to pay for care with time and not with money, the advantage should go to the poor. This view would be plausible, that is, so long as you ignore tons of data showing that whenever the poor and the non-poor compete for resources in almost any non-price rationing system, the poor always lose out.)

The orthodox view underlies Medicaid’s policy of allowing patients to wait for hours for care in hospital emergency rooms and in community health centers, while denying them the opportunity to obtain less costly care at a walk-in clinic with very little wait at all. The easiest, cheapest way to expand access to care for millions of low-income families is to allow them to do something they cannot now do: add money out of pocket to Medicaid’s fees and pay market prices for care at walk-in clinics, doc-in-the-boxes, surgical centers, and other commercial outlets. Yet, in conventional health policy circles, this idea is considered heresy.

The orthodox view lies behind the obsession with making everyone pay higher premiums so that contraceptive services and a whole long list of screenings and preventive care can be made available with no co-payment or deductible. Yet, this practice will surely encourage overuse and waste and, in the process, likely raise the time prices of these same services.

The orthodox view lies at the core of the hostility toward Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs), and any other kind of account that allows money to be exchanged for medical services. Yet, it is precisely these kinds of accounts that empower low-income families in the medical marketplace, just as food stamps empower them in any grocery store they choose to patronize.

The orthodox view is the reason so many backers of Obamacare think it will expand access to care for millions of people, even though there will be no increase in the supply of doctors. Because they completely ignore the almost certain increase in the time price of care, these enthusiasts have completely missed the possibility that the act may actually decrease access to care for the most vulnerable populations.[1]

The orthodox view is the reason there is so little academic interest in measuring the time price of care and why so much animosity is directed at those who do measure such things. It explains why MIT professor Jonathan Gruber can write a paper on Massachusetts health reform and never once mention that the wait to see a new doctor in Boston is more than two months.[2]

This neglect would matter little if not for one thing: the evidence, as I explain in my book Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, suggests that the orthodox view is totally wrong.



Men who are physically strong are more likely to have right wing political views

And I thought that Schwarzenegger was a RINO but, Ah Well

Men who are strong are more likely to take a right-wing stance, while weaker men support the welfare state, researchers claim.

Their study discovered a link between a man’s upper-body strength and their political views.

Scientists from Aarhus University in Denmark collected data on bicep size, socio-economic status and support for economic redistribution from hundreds in America, Argentina and Denmark.

The figures revealed that men with higher upper-body strength were less likely to support left-wing policies on the redistribution of wealth.

But men with low upper-body strength were more likely to put their own self-interest aside and support a welfare state.

The researchers found no link between upper-body strength and redistribution opinions among women.

Professor Michael Petersen said: ‘In all three countries, physically strong males consistently pursued the self-interested position on redistribution.

‘However physically weak males were more reluctant to assert their self-interest – just as if disputes over national policies were a matter of direct physical confrontation between individuals.

‘While many people think of politics as a modern phenomenon, it has, in a sense, always been with our species.  ‘Political views are designed by natural selection to function in the conditions recurrent over human evolutionary history.’

The findings were published in the journal Psychological Science.

Professor Petersen added: ‘Many previous studies have shown that people's political views cannot be predicted by standard economic models.

‘This is among the first studies to show that political views may be rational in another sense, in that they're designed by natural selection to function in the conditions recurrent over human evolutionary history.’

SOURCE.  The journal article is below:

The Ancestral Logic of Politics: Upper-Body Strength Regulates Men’s Assertion of Self-Interest Over Economic Redistribution


Over human evolutionary history, upper-body strength has been a major component of fighting ability. Evolutionary models of animal conflict predict that actors with greater fighting ability will more actively attempt to acquire or defend resources than less formidable contestants will. Here, we applied these models to political decision making about redistribution of income and wealth among modern humans. In studies conducted in Argentina, Denmark, and the United States, men with greater upper-body strength more strongly endorsed the self-beneficial position: Among men of lower socioeconomic status (SES), strength predicted increased support for redistribution; among men of higher SES, strength predicted increased opposition to redistribution. Because personal upper-body strength is irrelevant to payoffs from economic policies in modern mass democracies, the continuing role of strength suggests that modern political decision making is shaped by an evolved psychology designed for small-scale groups.


So we see that the findings are not as simple as they were initially presented.  Strong guys still favoured redistribution if they were lower class. The opponents of redistribution were both strong and upper class


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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