It's that time of the year when we religiously gobble the lamb of God in celebration of his sacrifice. And who am I to offend against tradition.
So I bought a leg of lamb (on offer at my Local Fucking Supermarket™) to share
with two other lonely skippers from neighbouring boats
(that's one of the lonely skippers lovely wooden boats above).
The other dishes were somewhat ad-hoc from the stuff I had aboard that needed eating.
I got rid of some more boat beans
threw a few wilting celery stalks in with the cauliflower
and flavoured a bag of rapidly softening carrots with dried apricots
leftover from a nice roast pork
I once cooked for Kurt.
The meal was at least tasty enough to make one of those lonely skipper's absent girlfriend jealous. So that's a bonus :)
I recently spent some painful time listening to Sam Harris attempt a conversation with Ezra Klein on one of Sam's
(Published April 9th, 2018).
A quick bit of background - Sam previously recorded a
with controversial political scientist Charles Murray,
author of The Bell Curve
to discuss the current state of the science of IQ, how this reflects on claims made in the Bell Curve and how Murray became a social pariah.
It's quite good and worth a listen.
Subsequent to that, a series of articles
by the usual ratbag of disgruntled, race-baiting psychologists outraged at finding someone who disagrees with them given (moderately) respectable air time.
They (re-)accused Murray of peddling junk science
and even went so far as to pen the hilariously un-self-aware passage
We are absolute supporters of free speech in general and an open marketplace of ideas on campus in particular, but...
You can guess the rest.
After some behind the scenes tom-twittery it seems Ezra felt the need to pen his own long and rambling
on the topic in which he mostly seems to be complaining that the entire history of slavery and oppression, ancient to modern,
was given insufficient prominence in the podcast about IQ.
And so Sam and Ezra get to air their differences together.
Now just to be clear I happen to think that Sam Harris is a generally thin-skinned, insufferable, tedious and dogmatic windbag
who is nowhere near as clever as he thinks he is,
and find his pathological inability to make a simple point succinctly bores the pants of me very quickly.
But I was generally predisposed to his defence in this discussion having myself read The Bell Curve and found nothing racially offensive in it.
A quick partisan summary of the final round then;
Sam Harris repeatedly attempts to make the point that it ought to be possible to talk about the science and data of IQ independently of the personality, personal politics or the social policies which Charles Murray might or might not espouse consequent to them.
Ezra Klein continually deflects this assertion with demands that any discussion touching or involving race should be accompanied by an obligatory lecture in the entire history of slavery, ancient to modern.
After hearing them verbally circling and talking past each other for two hours I felt compelled to conjure forth my
intellectual tuppence in the form of two mild caricatures of Sam and Ezra called Saul and Esau:
Someone like Saul sees a black person and thinks Oh look, a human being. Let's go and bore the shit out of them
Someone like Esau sees a black person and thinks Oh look, a victim of discrimination, slavery and oppression.
Let's go and support the shit out of them
Saul thinks that he's not a racist because he doesn't imbue every individual black person he meets with the racial characteristics that may be ascribed to their group.
Saul thinks that Esau is probably a racist because Esau is predominantly concerned with the racial group identity of every individual he meets.
Esau thinks that he's not a racist because he sees the deep injustice and racism inherent in the world, and thus each black person as he truly is
- victimised and oppressed.
I suspect that Esau regards Saul as being the next best thing to a racist.
Esau thinks that Saul is a racism-denier because Saul denies
an assumed victimhood of individual black people.
For Esau, denying or failing to place The Black People™'s oppressive racial inheritance at the centre of any black person' identity
is a borderline racist act.
Saul thinks that Esau is an identitarian because Esau only views a black person as a member of The Black People™ tribe.
Not as an individual.
Esau does not really see a black person separately from his membership of The Black People™,
because for him every black person is
a personal embodiment of the entire history of the racial oppression of The Black People™.
Esau genuinely sees the world through this racialist microscope. He simply experiences existence as one seeped in racism. Infused with racism.
Racism is the inescapable and inseparable reality of his universe.
In the words of living feminist trope Anita Sarkeesian
... when you start learning about systems, everything is sexist, everything is racist, everything is homophobic, and you have to point it all out to everyone all the time.
Esau doesn't see himself as indulging in social justice warriorhood because for him he isn't imposing
his racialist interpretation onto the world.
The world simply is
Therefore for Esau this means that anyone who doesn't see this truth is a deluded, self-deceiving denier of reality.
And probably a racist white supremacist to boot.
For Esau it is Saul
who is the tribalist, because it is Saul
who belongs to a group bent on twisting and denying reality.
And more than that, he doesn't regard not
seeing the racism in everything as a legitimate standpoint.
I suspect that Ezra really doesn't understand Sam's term identity politics
because for him the identity of an individual genuinely isn't separable from their existence as a member of a group.
He thinks that Sam must be himself playing identity politics,
or being tribalist
because it is obvious to him that Sam belongs to the tribe of The White People™
and for him that naturally defines Sam's identity.
Indeed, at one point in the podcast he characterises Sam's own identity politics
as coming from one of Sam's internal identities
As though he understands the term identity politics
to refer to the policies of an internal
to which one feels one belongs,
not the act of imposing on others the identity to which one feels they
ought to belong.
I was recently reminded of
a revealing (and hilarious) 2017 video by Ami Horowitz
supposedly reporting on a White Privilege Conference
in Kansas City, Missouri
in which the attendees he interviews enthusiastically agree that it is wrong to judge people collectively
whilst simultaneously, and entirely un-ironically stating on camera that ... it is fair to say that all white people are racist
This sounds like laughable cognitive dissonance to many, including me, but I think that for the truly woke
They are genuinely not able to separate their beliefs about groups from their beliefs about the nature of individuals.
To the woke
identitarian the fact that white people are racist isn't a fact about their group at all.
It's simply a statement about the nature of every white person, a statement about the nature of their existence.
And so to the podcast's charged question of the genetic, or at least inheritable, component of the IQ of identifiable groups.
Say the IQ of black Americans, or the IQ of white Americans:
For Sam the question of to what extent IQ is genetic, or biologically inheritable is an empirical question that could in principle be investigated and determined
independently from the question of the mechanisms by which past and ongoing racism might affect modern day group IQ.
The heritability (or not) of IQ is a different issue than the environmental, or even potential biological, effects of racism on IQ.
For Ezra I think these issues are actually inseparable.
For Ezra it isn't possible to, as Sam describes it,
honestly discuss data[12:15]
I'm unsure whether he thinks that this is simply impossible on a purely practical level
- due to the counfounding effects of multi-generational slavery, segregation and discrimination on any study,
or whether he thinks that there is something intrinsically, theoretically, impossible about separating these issues
- making the very question meaningless?
I'm inclined to the latter given Ezra's avoidance of directly answering Sam's question on this point, and
his repeated insistence on detouring his responses back into a discussion of the entire history of slavery.
Considering Ezra's statement that
I doubt that we have, given the experiment that we have run in this country, given the centuries of slavery and segregation and oppression ... violence ... terror ... trauma .. I absolutely doubt, I truly to the core of my being doubt, that we are at a place where any of us should have confidence saying that the differences we see in individuals now, reflect intrinsic group capacity [1:30:45]
I'm tempted to suppose that what is going through Ezra's mind here is a conviction that the history of oppression of The Black People™
has somehow intruded itself into their very DNA. Their very genetic identity.
That racist victimisation has actually become a part of their being at the very deepest level,
and that that being black is now inseparable, even biologically, from having been oppressed.
For someone who believes this to be true, it is obviously not possible to even discuss
the IQ of The Black People™
without considering their oppressive history.
It really isn't possible to honestly discuss data
So finally, where do we go from here?
Sam thought he and Ezra could just discuss these issues like people who see and interpret the world in a fundamentally common way.
But of course they don't. Like any meeting of a rationalist and a religionist their talking happened on completely separate planes of reality.
Just as it is impossible to convert a religious believer by logical argument,
so it is impossible to rationalise an idealogue from their ideation. They do not see the world in those terms.
As a rationalist it's tempting to assume you must only demonstrate to an idealogue a few internal logical inconsistencies in their idealogical framework
and they will recognise their defeat and renounce their faith.
But it simply doesn't work that way, because to an idealogue, two rationally inconsistent beliefs can
both be simultaneously true.
- It is possible to believe that we must, in the words of Hilary Clinton, listen to The Black People™ talk
while simultaneously silencing every black person who's world view doesn't concur with yours.
- It is possible to believe that the word of God instructs us to take an eye for an eye
while simultaneously averring that we should turn the other cheek.
- It is possible to believe that being skin-colour-blind is a form of racism.
- It is possible to believe that one shouldn't judge people collectively while simultaneously believing that all white people are racist.
- It is possible for facts to be racist.
Now I've heard Sam Harris expressing his opinion that there is in actuality something factually superior about the rational view of the world,
which leads him to think that he can rationally demonstrate this to the unbeliever. Or rather, the believer.
But I'm inclined to agree with Jordan Peterson on this.
It's not clear that rationalism is empirically superior to religiosity or identitarianism.
They are all coherent and effective views of the world on their own terms
, none of which make any sense to any other.
The only empiricism is in the differing real-world outcomes and consequences of these different world views.
And I have no idea where we go from there :(