Monday, December 15, 2014

America isn’t polarized about politics. It’s polarized about personal responsibility

Charles Murray below notes an immature and even infantile attitude that is common on the Left:  Anything unpleasant that happens to us is someone else's fault.  It's just another form of Leftist reality denial -- JR

That’s my working hypothesis anyway, prompted by a Twitter adventure a few days ago. Deluged with all the media back-and-forth about the sexual culture on campus, I tweeted the following two nights ago: “If you are drunk or high, to what degree can you say you are a victim when something bad happens to you? A question to take seriously.”

I was trying to get at the issue of victimhood, which takes the following general form: when we do stupid things that are within our control, to what degree are we obliged to say to ourselves, “That was really stupid of me” when we don’t like the outcome? The outcome could be waking up in a strange bed with someone you don’t know after passing out the night before. It could also be getting fired for a mistake that doesn’t seem bad enough to warrant getting fired—but you also know you were goofing off. The outcome could be your abandonment by a spouse for no obvious reason, but you also know you didn’t put enough effort into the marriage.

That was my topic. Almost nobody got it.  Fifteen minutes after I posted the tweet, I already had dozens of replies. Within a few hours, I had hundreds, perhaps thousands, if you include all the retweets. Here’s a sampling:

“Good to know, Chuck. So you’re giving anyone permission to assault you if they see you when you’re drunk?”

“I hope Charles lets us know next time he has a few drinks so that I can take a good whack at him.”

“Do you think it should be legal to murder drunk people? A question to take seriously.”

“Sooo, are you condoning taking advantage of people who are drunk & high? Is it OK to take their wallets too? How about kidneys?”

“So if have a few drinks in my house and a tree smashes my roof, it’s my fault? That’s where this logic is going.”

And then there was the discussant who looked on the bright side: “Some of the replies to Charles Murray’s horrific ignorant tweet are pretty great. May be hope for humanity yet, based on the response.”

I’ve omitted the more creative and unprintable replies, but you get the drift. Few of the replies responded to the point of the tweet. We’re not talking about a 60–40 split, but more like 99–1. And, of course, you guessed it: it didn’t cross my mind (though it should have; stupid of me; shouldn’t tweet after I’ve had a martini) that I was implying aggressors have the right to take advantage of people who are drunk or high.

I’m not trying to infer what proportions of the people who saw my tweet did and didn’t notice what it was about. These were Twitter replies, not a Gallup Poll. But the experience did add to my recent preoccupation with the thought that it’s not politics that polarizes us, but something deeper.

That deeper something lies in the personal characteristics that Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind” explicates so well. What my Twitter adventure clarified is the degree to which I think a single characteristic, assumption of personal responsibility, is key.

I have plenty of friends, not to mention relatives, who support Obamacare, want the US to take the lead in combating climate change, and think a living Constitution is just dandy. But my knowledge of them also leads me to believe that they share the indispensable virtue: their first instinct is to take responsibility for the consequences of their own actions. I don’t mean that they wouldn’t file a police complaint against someone who stole their wallet while they were drunk, but that they would also say to themselves “Wow, it was stupid to put myself in that situation.” They aren’t Randian individualists. They just don’t go through life expecting someone else to pick up after their mistakes.

I can overlook a lot of political disagreements with people who share that first instinct. It’s the same reason I retained a certain affection for Jesse Jackson far too long because in the 1970s I heard him tell high school students in inner-city schools, “It’s not your fault if someone knocks you down, but it’s your fault if you don’t get up.” And it’s the same reason I was so offended by President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” line—it wasn’t the politics of the thing, but its denial of responsibility for the consequences of our actions.

So that’s my working hypothesis: it’s not merely that politics is an epiphenomenon and that deeper personal qualities account for what we call political polarization, but that one specific dimension—our respective attitudes toward personal responsibility—accounts for a huge proportion of the polarization all by itself.

Through the end of the 19th century, it was not an issue on which Americans differed. Americans’ assumption of personal responsibility for their actions was a foundation stone of our civic culture, agreed upon by Federalists, Whigs, Republicans, and Democrats. We all bragged about it endlessly. Now we do disagree, and that disagreement surfaces in all sorts of public policies. But it’s not really the policies themselves that make so many Americans unable to abide the company of someone on the other side of the ideological divide.

Which leads to the point that that I have discussed elsewhere and needs contemplation: actually, there are lots of people on the other side of the political divide whose company we can not just abide but enjoy. The good guys and bad guys aren’t defined by liberal and conservative but how they as individuals see their own responsibility for the consequences of their actions.



In Defense of A Troublesome Inheritance

Nicholas Wade points below to how scientifically vacant attacks on his book about race have been

Three attacks on my book A Troublesome Inheritance have appeared on The Huffington Post's blog this month. For readers puzzled by the stridency and personal animus of these compositions, I'd like to explain what is going on.

The issue is how best to sustain the fight against racism in light of new information from the human genome that bears on race.

My belief is that opposition to racism should be based on principle, not on science. If I oppose racism and discrimination as a matter of principle, I don't care what the science may say because I'll never change my position. As it happens, however, the genome gives no support to racism, although it does clearly show that race has a biological basis, just as common sense might suggest.

Many social scientists, on the other hand, have long based their opposition to racism on the assertion that there is no biological basis to race. I doubt they personally believe this and suspect that they oppose racism on principle, just as I do. But they believe that other people, less enlightened and intelligent than they, will not abandon racism unless told that everyone is identical beneath the skin. So whenever someone points out that race is obviously biological, defenders of the social science position respond with attacks of whatever vehemence is necessary to get the inconvenient truth-teller to shut up.

For many years this tactic has been surprisingly effective. It takes only a few vigilantes to cow the whole campus. Academic researchers won't touch the subject of human race for fear that their careers will be ruined. Only the most courageous will publicly declare that race has a biological basis. I witnessed the effects of this intimidation during the 10 years I was writing about the human genome for The New York Times. The understanding of recent human evolution has been seriously impeded, in my view, because if you can't study the genetics of race (a subject of no special interest in itself), you cannot explore the independent evolutionary histories of Africans, East Asians and Europeans.

The attacks on my book come from authors who espouse the social science position that there is no biological basis to race. It is because they are defending an ideological position with a counterfactual scientific basis that their language is so excessive. If you don't have the facts, pound the table. My three Huffington Post critics -- Jennifer Raff, Agustín Fuentes and Jonathan Marks -- are heavy on unsupported condemnations of the book, and less generous with specific evidence.

Despite their confident assertions that I have misrepresented the science, which I've been writing about for years in a major newspaper, none of these authors has any standing in statistical genetics, the relevant discipline. Raff is a postdoctoral student in genetics and anthropology. Fuentes and Marks are both anthropologists who, to judge by their webpages, do little primary research. Most of their recent publications are reviews or essays, many of them about race. Their academic reputations, not exactly outsize to begin with, might shrink substantially if their view that race had no biological basis were to be widely repudiated. Both therefore have a strong personal interest (though neither thought it worth declaring to the reader) in attempting to trash my book.

It would try the reader's patience to offer a point-by-point rebuttal of the three reviews, so I will address just the principal arguments raised by each. Let's start with Raff, who asserts, "Wade claims that the latest genomic findings actually support dividing humans into discrete races." In fact, I say the exact opposite, that the races are not and cannot be discrete or they would be different species, but it's easier to attack an invented statement.

The human genome points to the overriding unity of humankind. Everyone has the same set of genes, so far as is known. Genes come in the alternative versions known as alleles, so one might expect next that races would be demarcated by alleles. But even this is not the case. In fact, the races are not demarcated at all. They differ only in relative allele frequency, meaning that a given allele may be more common in one race than in another. How that translates into the familiar differences in physical appearance between human races is a matter I explain in my book.

Because of these characteristic differences in allele frequency, geneticists can analyze the genome of someone of mixed race -- an African American, say -- and assign each segment to an African or European ancestor, an exercise that would be impossible if races did not exist. Also because of differences in allele frequency, researchers analyzing human genetics around the world have found in surveys dating back to 1994 that people cluster in groups that coincide with their continent of origin.

Raff and Marks take issue with one of these surveys, Rosenberg et al. 2002, which used a computer program to analyze the clusters of genetic variation. The program doesn't know how many clusters there should be; it just groups its data into whatever target number of clusters it is given. When the assigned number of clusters is either greater or less than five, the results made no genetic or geographical sense. But when asked for five clusters, the program showed that everyone was assigned to their continent of origin. Raff and Marks seem to think that the preference for this result was wholly arbitrary and that any other number of clusters could have been favored just as logically. But the grouping of human genetic variation into five continent-based clusters is the most reasonable and is consistent with previous findings. As the senior author told me at the time, the Rosenberg study essentially confirmed the popular notion of race.

The chief point extractable from Fuentes' review is that since I don't say exactly many races there are, races can't exist. This is a misunderstanding of the nature of continuous variation. People may disagree on the number of colors there are, but that doesn't mean colors don't exist. Humans cluster into five continental groups or races, and within each race there are further subclusters. So the number of human races depends on the number of clusters one wishes to recognize. Contrary to Fuentes' belief, this has no bearing on whether or not races exist.

The wider issue arising from these three reviews is that the social science position on race that they represent is obscurantist, counterfactual and outdated. As I show in my book, understanding the nature of human racial variation lends no support to racism. But such understanding is essential for the simple reason that there is not one story of recent human evolution but at least five different stories, given that the populations on each continent have evolved largely independently of one another since the dispersal from Africa some 50,000 years ago.

By denying the existence of race, social scientists are intimidating biologists from pursuing this path. This is particularly exasperating given the fallacious nature of the belief that race must be denied if racism is to be quelled. The geneticist Theodore Dobzhansky observed, "People need not be identical twins to be equal before God, before the law, and in their rights to equality of opportunity." Unlike identical twins, we are not all clones. We exist as different races by virtue of our evolutionary histories. The recovery of this history is a legitimate subject of scientific inquiry, and from this advance of knowledge unimagined benefits may accrue.



Ferguson Riots and looting encouraged by the Left remind Rabbi Lapin of Germany's Kristallnacht in the 1930s

.... When Hitler's National Socialists encouraged their followers to loot and destroy Jewish property.  The Left are fundamentally destructive

Scholar, best selling author, and talk radio host Rabbi Daniel Lapin said the rioting and looting in Ferguson, Mo., over the non-indictment of the police officer who shot Michael Brown were the result of the “dark pathology of liberalism” and, in its “delight in destruction,” echoed the “Kristallnacht in Germany.”

"When the liberal project, when the dark pathology of liberalism -- not so much a doctrine as a sick and twisted pathology -- manages to strip Judeo-Christian belief out of American society, congratulations guys, welcome to Ferguson, you succeeded,” said Rabbi Lapin on the Dec. 3 Glenn Beck Program.

Beck then said that, “Nobody seems in the press to notice that this is the Occupy Wall Street movement all over again.”

Lapin said, “Yes, it is, exactly the same people. The same people, same beliefs, same nihilism, same delight in destruction. You know, it's Kristallnacht in Germany.”

Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, occurred on Nov. 9-19, 1938, in Germany and Austria when Nazi strormtroopers went through numerous cities and towns smashing the windows of Jewish-owned stores and synagogues, while the government police authorities did not intervene.



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