Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 5/4/2019: No Trump, No “Resistance.” Enjoy!

Good Morning!

This song, the only “hit” (kind of) by “The Carpenters” sung by Karen’s brother Richard, matches my conflicted mood today. Richard’s teasing and criticism played a part in killing his sister, who possessed one of the most wonderful voices of any popular female vocalist in U.S. history, but who was doomed by anorexia. I am also both perplexed and amused that someone with a lisp would choose a song that repeats “Saturday” as his break-out solo. I wonder if Karen teased him about that?

1.  More on high-testosterone competitors in women’s sports. As I recently wrote here, I am floating in an uncharted sea of uncertainty on this issue, especially regarding Caster Semenya, the intersex South African track star. I do know, however, that I applaud her defiance of the recent court order dictating that she will have to take testosterone-lowing medication if she wants to compete. After a race this week, which she won, as usual, Semenya was asked if she would take the drug. Her answer:  “Hell no.”

Athletic organizations are treading through a mine field here. If they regard taking performance enhancing drugs as cheating, as they should, demanding that certain competitors with natural physical and genetic advantages should take performance-handicapping drugs seems like a double standard.

2. Stop making me defend Woody Allen! I have been unable to watch an Allen movie, even old favorites like “Bananas,” “What’s Up. Tiger Lilly?,” and “Annie Hall,” without gagging since the comic/director cheated on Mia Farrow with her adopted teen-aged daughter, to whom he was a virtual father, and then married her. Thus I have watched none of his films at all. I didn’t need to make a judgment about his daughter’s claims that he sexually molested her, which Allen denies, and since I have no more evidence than the she said/he said (and my certainty that Allen is a certifiable creep), I can’t. However, once Dylan Farrow and her vengeful mother Mia renewed their accusations against Allen while #MeToo was raging,  virtually all of Hollywood turned on Woody, even actors who had worked with him well after Dylan first made her claims. What changed? Nothing, really, except that now they are afraid of social media retribution, so they are pretending to be horrified at what didn’t bother them previously and assuming Woody’s guilt because “believe all women” is the “woke” place to be.

Well, Woody is a creature of Hollywood: this is unethical and unfair, but as Hymen Roth would tell him, “This is the life you have chosen.” Translation: if you voluntarily spend your career in (and benefiting from, and contributing too) an ethically warped culture, don’t expect a lot of sympathy when it turns on you.

This is more troubling: apparently Woody has a completed manuscript of his memoirs, which would have once sparked a publishers auction and an eventual multi-million dollar advance. Now, however, no publisher will pay a cent for it, because “while he remains a significant cultural figure, the commercial risks of releasing a memoir by him were too daunting.”

That means that the publishers are afraid of boycotts. How courageous. Allen is a significant cultural figure as well as a talented humorist. His memoirs have cultural importance, and they belong in the historical record, loathsome as find the man. Easily as loathsome are William Jefferson Clinton and his wife, yet both of them managed to score 7 figure book advances for memoirs they didn’t even write themselves.

Essentially what is happening to Woody is human statue-toppling. He is being erased from the culture despite never having been charged with or tried for a crime (unlike Bill Cosby and O.J. Simpson) because it is a sign of virtue among sufficient numbers of people with social media access to assume he is guilty. The boycott and progressive bully culture is a direct threat to basic freedoms. I’d regain some respect for Woody Allen if he would say so.

3. Here is another example… In Great Britain, 28-year-old social scientist Noah Carl who has been awarded a Toby Jackman Newton Trust Research Fellowship at St Edmund’s College at the University of Cambridge on the basis of his peer-reviewed research. However, because the topic of his research is taboo in enlightened liberal circles, 300 academics from around the world signed an open letter denouncing Dr Carl and demanding that the University of Cambridge “immediately conduct an investigation into the appointment process” on the grounds that his work is “ethically suspect” and “methodologically flawed.”  Dr Carl became a target because he defended intelligence researchers who have explored possible correlations among race, genes and IQ, arguing that stifling research and debate in these areas is a mistake, and that they  should be  freely discussed by academics. he also committed the offense of speaking  at the London Conference of Intelligence in 2017 alongside some of these researchers, though his own speech did not center on  race, genes or IQ .  Writes the editorial board of Quillette Magazine:

[I]t can be assumed that most of these scholars have denounced a junior colleague, and publicly trashed his reputation, on the basis of hearsay, and as a convenient way to advertise their opposition to the discussion of race, genes and IQ in the academy….Accusing a young scholar of “psuedoscientific racism,” and claiming his work is “ethically suspect” and “methodologically flawed,” is not something that should be done lightly, given the likely impact on his career. So for a group of over 300 academics to sign their names to this charge sheet without appearing to have conducted even the most cursory examination of Dr Carl’s work is an absolute scandal. These are trumped up charges, brought against Dr Carl because he dissents from the prevailing orthodoxy about a controversial field of academic research. He hasn’t even waded into these dangerous waters himself—he has just defended the right of academics to do so. But that alone is enough for a group of his colleagues to attempt to ruin him. So much for the principles of academic freedom and open inquiry, not to mention diversity, tolerance and inclusion. This is academic McCarthyism.

4. GOOD, but what took so long? A statute in Minnesota established “the voluntary relationship defense” for criminal sexual conduct crimes, protecting people from prosecution if they committed sexual misconduct, including rape, against a partner in an “ongoing, voluntary relationship.” The law came under scrutiny after Jenny Teeson found videos of  her husband of drugging and raping her while she slept.  Teeson’s husband could only be convicted  of invading her privacy and received  a 45-day jail sentence.

Governor Tim Walz  repealed the statute with his signature this week. The new law to eliminate the voluntary relationship defense is set to go into effect July 1.

9 thoughts on “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 5/4/2019: No Trump, No “Resistance.” Enjoy!

  1. (3) If you claim your field is science, but you want to ban research into a field for reasons other than cruelty to the subjects (‘How much pain can babies withstand’ or ‘How can we make Ebola more deadly’) your own position is suspect. There is a basic moratorium on IQ research because the results actually call into question a lot of the government social programs we currently have. But this is science, if you think those studies are wrong, why don’t you do better studies to prove them wrong?

    In science, proving leading theories or previous ideas wrong is a big thing. It gets you prominence, adulation, and prizes. People should be chomping at the bit to tear this stuff to shreds and get an endowed chair out of it. There should be a multitude of grant proposals to debunk this idea clogging the grant agencies. But there aren’t.

    Why doesn’t anyone want to debunk this? From what I can tell, they already tried. People tried to make better IQ tests to get rid of cultural bias. They tried to find ‘identical’ groups of different races. They even tested the IQ of two groups (1 white and 1 black African) at the same university with the same major and the same average GPA’s. All the studies merely confirmed the previous ones.

    All the studies show a real, significant, and measurable difference in mean IQ by race. What would this mean for diversity requirements? What about college admissions? It also shows IQ differences by sex as well. Men and women appear to have the same mean IQ, but the standard deviation is higher in men (meaning there are more really high IQ men than women and also more really low IQ men than women). Now what would the implications of this be for the demands for more female CEO’s and top scientist spots for women?

    Now you see why they want all study and discussion of this banned. Because if it is true that only 16% of black Africans have an IQ high enough to be inducted into the US military, what do you do? For context that means the other 84% can’t possibly become productive members in modern society, no matter how much training and education they get. What do you do if that is true?

    This is where the call to censorship gets bad. If it were true, would society and the government face that truth, or hide it? Let me put it another way, if this was demonstrably false, wouldn’t you debunk it in a highly publicized way? Why would you want to hide it unless it was a terrible, terrible truth? The censorship makes it appear to be true.

    I don’t know if it is true or not, but the censorship lends credence to it’s possible truth. Why not allow the studies and discussion to find out for sure and face the truth (no matter what it is), instead of letting something that is quite possibly a corrosive lie gain credence?

    • In science, proving leading theories or previous ideas wrong is a big thing. It gets you prominence, adulation, and prizes. People should be chomping at the bit to tear this stuff to shreds and get an endowed chair out of it. There should be a multitude of grant proposals to debunk this idea clogging the grant agencies. But there aren’t.

      Why doesn’t anyone want to debunk this?

      Except for a usually-small stipend from the university, researchers pay for nearly all of their research costs by writing grant proposals to a number of federal bodies such as the NSF. There are currently a lot more researchers than federal funding, so a great deal of pandering can go into the proposal writing. There’s a sort of meta-science (ba-dum-kissh) to writing in such a way as to grab a review board’s attention. Some names have done so consistently enough as to be passed through without much scrutiny, or so the legends speak, whereas relative newcomers or less-consistently-commissioned researchers have to compete with each other. That’s the game, though. The research has to be something that piques the review board’s interest. That suspicious preference for results which, say, call for the expansion of government power to keep us all from hurtling into the sun in, say, twelve years is a product of something. The ideological control program is a great deal more complicated than this (universities, am I right?), but having to write grants to government bureaucracies for funding is definitely a part. Think of all the scandalous accusations of researchers receiving funding from oil companies over the last few years (one case I vaguely remember was a project researching something like cleaner use of petroleum products – villainous!). The idea that private money for research funding is ideological and tainted and government funds are non-ideological and pure is never openly discussed but merely assumed as a major premise in what should be a much later discussion.

      • Benjamin

        I have wanted to write about this but never had the right opportunity.

        My experience was with SBIR and STTR funding programs. The first thing you needed for success is to be aligned with a known quantity such as Univ of MDCP or UMAB. Then one needs to become acquainted with the program director. Developing that relationship is crucial for success for two reasons: you learn what they like to fund and give you the opportunity to condition them to write the RFP in a manner that corresponds to your research.

        The irony is that at the individual level program directors will talk glowingly about diversity yet continue to provide most of the funding they control to their known quantities because it is safe.

      • But this works WITH the government’s ideological direction. “My proposal is to create a non-culturally biased IQ test to disprove the subversive alt-right contention that different races have different mean IQ’s”. The government should be THRILLED to fund this. Except it looks like they already have and didn’t get the answer they wanted.

    • My initial reaction to this was that this was humorous; that you extrapolated from her responses regarding Roman “the right kind of Roman” Polanski and concluded tongue-in-cheek that she’d side the same way with the not-currently-in-vogue Mr. Allen. I naturally presumed her opinions would defy consistency, falling exactly on Hollywood party lines, and laughed heartily at our harlequin regime. Notice, then, the surprised look in my eyes as, in a rare moment of self-doubt, I check the interview with Mme Houston and find that your words were in earnest.

      I suppose if it’s true that honor may exist among thieves, it may theoretically be possible to find even among actors in Hollywood. I never expected to find a small glimmer of humanity there, strange and distorted as it may be in its expression; this is actually heartening. Thank you for this insight.

  2. On point 3.

    The accusations in the letter are consistent with that which is happening to Barr and no different than claims that our criminal justice system is racist.

    The goal is to create in the minds of many to submit to the orthodoxy or risk being destroyed professionally, socially, or economically. Scare enough people into submission you can do as you please. This practice even relates to the Woody Allen issue

    This practice was learned on the playgrounds of elementary schools. As these children mature physically their emotional intelligence is stunted and they remain perpetrators or victims of gang style pseudoviolence as adults.

    • No scientific subject should be forbidden discussion or scientific analysis by scientists. And if it isn’t in their area of study, they shouldn’t be criticizing it at all.

      Is nobody looking at the point that IQ tests are not quantifiable for any but those who have been educated in a particular manner? It’s almost impossible to compose an “intelligence” test that would fit everyone. For instance, are the same IQ tests given throughout the UK in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland? What about other countries having English as a national language South Africa and Australia, Jamaica and Singapore? IQ tests and the other “intelligence” tests have never made much sense other than internal ranking of small groups and even those can be “prepped” for, nearly as little sense as the MMPI or Myers-Briggs.

  3. From SciAm -I haven’t been able to locate all their primary sources yet

    “Some top-level male athletes have testosterone levels that dip into the female range, for example: one recent study of 693 elite athletes in Clinical Endocrinology found that 16.5 percent of males had testosterone levels that were below the male range and almost 2 percent fell in the female range. And almost 14 percent of the women were above the permissible maximum for female athletes.”

    However, apparently only those female athletes who are Intersex, and so do not fit a societally accepted pretty appearance are to be excluded. And only in those events Ms Semenya takes part in.

    I did find the primary source that showed that of 11 events, high testosterone showed a correlation with better performance in 5 of them, but only at a P <0.3 level tather than the usual P < 0.05 level for statistical significance.

    There are good "bottom up" reasons to believe that high levels of testosterone alone confer an advantage, barring androgen insensitivity. Such theoretical reasons need checking against observations before giving them too much weight. In this case, evidence is insufficient to say the least, with almost as much evidence for low levels conferring an advantage.

    I'm still of the opinion that high testosterone levels are advantageous, but they may have to be in conjunction with other factors. I now think that's likely.

    As a scientist i reserve the right to change my opinion like this as better data comes in.

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