Tag Archives: research ethics

There Is Gender And Racial Bias In The Legal Profession, But This Study Doesn’t Prove It…Because Of Bias

Incompetent, agenda-driven research leads to warped debates, hyped conclusion and bad policy. It also undermines credibility of those who cite some legitimate problems. The recent report, which proposes strategies for employers to eliminate the alleged barriers to women and minorities in the legal profession, is such research. It was conducted by the Center for  WorkLifeLaw at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, for the bar association’s Commission on Women in the Profession and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association.

At least the New York Times headline, for once, was accurate., at least the online version: “Lawyers Say They Face Persistent Racial and Gender Bias at Work.” Yup, that’s what the survey showed. What it didn’t show is that there really is such discrimination, how much there is, or how it manifests itself. Here’s part of the executive summary:

Prove-It-Again. Women of color, white women, and men of color reported that they have to go “above and beyond” to get the same recognition and respect as their colleagues.

  • Women of color reported PIA bias at a higher level than any other group, 35 percentage points higher than white men.
  • White women and men of color also reported high levels of PIA bias, 25 percentage points higher than white men.
  • Women of color reported that they are held to higher standards than their colleagues at a level 32 percentage points higher than white men.

This demonstrates, at least within the reliability of the survey,  that minorities and women perceive that they are being discriminated against more than white males. That’s a useless result. We have seen and read, for example, how various African American activists and celebrities like Charles M. Blow and Ta’ nahisi Coates teach their sons that police are racists, and that they must fear them. As a result, they interpret all interactions with police through this prism. One doesn’t have to be a research ethicist to conclude that this warps their perception. Similarly, all women currently in the workplace have been bombarded by the media, activists, peers and the culture for most or all of their working lives about how hostile the workplace is to women.

At least four of the seven most common and insidious biases are at work:

1. Herd mentality: The tendency to adopt the opinions and follow the behaviors of the majority to feel safer and to avoid conflict. Also known as mob psychology, peer pressure, and group-think.

Members of groups seeking political power through maximization of perceived victim status are influenced by the needs, mission and perceptions of that group.

2. Confirmation Bias: the tendency to look for or interpret information in a way that confirms pre-formed beliefs.

If you already believe that you are going to be the target of discrimination, you will interpret events to confirm that belief.

3. Self-Serving Bias: when an individual attributes positive outcomes to internal factors and negative outcomes to external factors.

This is the most tragic phenomenon of both a history of bigotry towards certain groups and the laudable efforts to raise awareness of it to eliminate the conduct. It pushes women and minorities to blame external factors for their failures, and in so doing impedes their chances of success. I have previously written about my personal epiphany in this area, when an African American singer who I rejected for a challenging tenor role accused me outright of not casting him because of his color. He could not hit the notes the role required, and yet he was convinced that bias, and not his own deficiencies as a singer, was what cost him the part.

4. Bias Blindness: the tendency not to acknowledge one’s own thought biases.

I don’t doubt that there is considerable gender and racial bias in law firms. Indeed, I am certain of it. This kind of study, however, is not the way to sound the alarm, and smacks of either incompetence or dishonesty.

10 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Business & Commercial, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Research and Scholarship, Workplace

Comment Of The Day: “Facebook User Ethics : Don’t Spread Panic, And Don’t Make Your Friends As Ignorant As You Are”

The post on Facebook hysteria over the U.S.’s decision to withdraw from the largely symbolic Paris climate change accords has drawn perplexing commentary. The post did not assert a position on climate change, nor did it defend the reasons given for the withdrawal.  The post simply stated that it was irresponsible and dishonest to claim dire consequences of the decision when the accord itself is almost entirely symbolic, requires nothing, in the sense that there are no enforcement mechanisms, and can’t possibly carry the existential weight that social media, politicians, pundits and activists are claiming. It is all appeal to emotion and ignorance.

And it is. Especially since most of the social media hysterics haven’t read the accord and are illiterate regarding climate science.

And they are.

I guess I knew that both climate change flacks and those suspicious of them would shift gears into the messy issue itself and its controversial research and models. The dreaded (and misleading) “97% of all scientists” stat even made its appearance, although, again, it was irrelevant to the post.

Finally, Zoltar Speaks!, Popeye-like, declared that “I ain’t gonna take it, ’cause I can’t take no more!” after a side debate over whether the infamous hacked e-mails among climate-change researchers “proved” that there was a conspiracy to distort the science on climate change (no,  they prove that the scholarly research community members are not as objective and independent as they are professionally obligated to be, and that this makes their conclusions inherently untrustworthy). He produced an epic essay in response, so long and detailed that he posted it on a satellite blog. With his permission, I am posting it in it’s entirety here.

Here is the Zoltar Speaks! Comment of the Day on the post, “Facebook User Ethics : Don’t Spread Panic, And Don’t Make Your Friends As Ignorant As You Are” … Continue reading

74 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, History, Journalism & Media, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

Unethical Technology On The Way: Imagine What Breitbart Will Be Able To Do With THIS

The video above shows a still-in-development system called Face2Face (research paper here) created by researchers at Stanford, the Max Planck Institute and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. It would allow you to take YouTube video of anyone speaking, and to pair it with a standard webcam  video of someone else emoting while saying something entirely different. Thehe Face2Face system will synthesize a new video showing the originals speaker making the second speaker’s facial movements, including the interior of the mouth, so it looks like the original speaker is saying what the second speaker was.

Tech Crunch reports that the system isn’t quite ready for market yet. Gee, I can hardly wait. This “advance” has the potential of making video just as unreliable and untrustworthy as still photography is now. Web hoaxers, Ted Cruz’s marketing team, unscrupulous political websites like Breitbart and others will have a field day once Face2Face is perfected.

The justification for creating such technology is the same as the rationalizations behind cloning velociraptors in “Jurassic Park”: because we can, and because we can make money with it. Can any good come from Face2Face? It’s late and I’m not at my best, but it seems to me that the end results of having another tool for liars just means more lies, more cynicism, more misinformed people, and less trust.

Isn’t it irresponsible and inherently unethical to invent something like this?

22 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

Ethics Observations On The Impending “Little Ice Age” And Climate Change

snowpiercer

From Alphr:

Between the years 1645 and 1715, there was a period of bitterly cold winters in the northern hemisphere. The winters were so cold that the Thames completely froze.This was caused by low solar activity, known as the Maunder Minimum, and when it will happen again has been a source of debate among scientists. Well, according to a new model that promises 97% accuracy, we’re due another “little ice age” in 15 to 25 years time. The prediction is the work of mathematics professor Valentina Zharkova from Northumbria University, examining the sun’s so-called “11-year heartbeat”. This is the period at which the sun’s activity remains steady before fluctuating every 10-12 years. Zharkova’s new model forecasts solar cycles based on two layers of moving fluid within the sun, one near the surface and another in the convection zone. By using this model, Zharkova’s team found their predictions “showed an accuracy of 97%”.

At this moment, I’m not concerned about whether the prediction is right or wrong; there’s plenty of time for me to buy ear muffs. I do think it is fascinating, however, and I offer these observations:

1. Question: Why has this story been virtually ignored by the mainstream news media?  Answer: Because progressive journalists haven’t figured out how to reconcile their climate change, environmentalist, pro-EPA dictatorship, “all climate change skeptics are idiots and the equivalent of Holocaust deniers” narrative with its implications, that’s why. This is news, don’t you think? “Fit to print,” correct? Any time some semi-respectable scientist predicts that we have 20 years left to knee-cap American industry or the seas will boil, that’s headlines at MSNBC and the Times, isn’t it? I can’t think of a more blatant example of unprofessional and biased news manipulation for purely ideological reasons than the fact that this story has thus far been isolated to European and Australian news sources.

2. The theme of environmentalists and the progressive establishment, as well as elected officials who are just as certain about climate change despite not remotely understanding the science, is that the science is settled, that disastrous, man-caused global warming is certain, and that no argument to the contrary will be accepted or respected. Yet scientists just figured out, using a new model, that a massive global cooling will occur just 15 years from now.  Quite simply, according to the angry, insulting rhetoric from the Gores, Pelosis, Obamas and their pundit cheerinbg section, this is impossible. Science has settled, and cannot be wrong, what the temperature will be a hundred years or more from now, and that’s that—no skepticism allowed. The models are undeniable! And yet, a new model, just developed, shows that a decidedly non-warming trend  not predicted by those perfect models is now certain. Continue reading

87 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

Ick, Not Ethics: The Incredible Head Transplant

OK, this looks unethical...

OK, this looks unethical…

I adore stories that clarify ethical distinctions, and this is the third one we’ve had recently. First we had the classic “Awww! Factor” case of the Down Syndrome cheerleader. Then, close on its heels, we got “Downton Abbey’s” finale, which illustrated the ethics fallacy of Consequentialism as deftly as any textbook.

Now we have the startling report of impending head transplants:

The world’s first attempt to transplant a human head will be launched this year at a surgical conference in the US. The move is a call to arms to get interested parties together to work towards the surgery.

The idea was first proposed in 2013 by Sergio Canavero of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy. He wants to use the surgery to extend the lives of people whose muscles and nerves have degenerated or whose organs are riddled with cancer. Now he claims the major hurdles, such as fusing the spinal cord and preventing the body’s immune system from rejecting the head, are surmountable, and the surgery could be ready as early as 2017.

Canavero plans to announce the project at the annual conference of the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons (AANOS) in Annapolis, Maryland, in June.

Predictably, this news prompted a wave of “Futurama” jokes and bad puns. It also prompted dozens of hysterical stories online and in print pronouncing the yet-to-be performed operation as “a terrible idea” and obviously unethical. A Daily Beast “expert” with the trust-inspiring name “Docbastard” condemned the practice with this wisdom:

That’s the funny thing about ethics—it may be impossible to say why something is wrong, but can be easy to see that it isn’t.

Yeah, that is funny. It is also false, and incredibly stupid. If one cannot say “why” something is wrong–you know, things like interracial marriage, interracial adoption, homosexuality, gay marriage, plastic surgery, income tax, integration, eating meat on a Friday…gee, let’s see how far back into cultural history we need to go to get the list up to a thousand! My guess: no further than 1900, if that far—there’s an excellent chance that it only seems wrong because 1) nobody’s bothered to analyze it thoroughly and objectively, and 2) the Ick Factor, which is when we mistake strangeness, shock and surprise, all visceral, emotional reactions, for ethics.

Let’s actually think about the “Doc’s” provocative questions about the theoretical procedure that he seems to think clinch the argument that head transplants are “easy” to identify as unethical. He writes, Continue reading

61 Comments

Filed under Animals, Bioethics, Ethics Dunces, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

Comment of the Day: “The President’s Irresponsible And Untrue ‘One in Five Women Are Raped’ Claim”

numbers_statistics_stats

Rich (in CT) adds a superb and learned enhancement to the day’s post about President Obama’s dubious rape claims during the Grammy Awards.  It raises a question I hadn’t considered before: is part of the problem that researchers are as clumsy in their understanding of language as liberal arts types are in their use of statistics and numbers? The word “rape” has meaning; this is no place for Humpty Dumpty’s habit of using words to mean whatever one pleases. [“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”—― Lewis Carroll, “Through the Looking Glass” ] Rich writes, “This data is important, as mental health and sexual disease propagation is affected by such contact, even if the traditional criteria imaged for “rape” is not met. ” I’ll concede that the data is important, but shouldn’t important data be clearly and accurately described? The data isn’t about rape! It’s about a variety of conduct linked by the researchers that they chose to call “rape,” knowing, presumably, that people who never read the data will take the misleading “rape” description and use it to confuse, persuade, deceive, and engage in scaremongering for political gain.

Rich writes that “not enough evidence is given to suggest that either study is unethical in and of itself.” Isn’t using vague, overly broad and misleading terminology for a study that is going to be made public intrinsically unethical—irresponsible, incompetent, untrustworthy?

Here is Rich (in CT)’s enlightening Comment of the Day on the post “The President’s Irresponsible And Untrue ‘One in Five Women Are Raped’ Claim”: Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Research and Scholarship

The President’s Irresponsible And Untrue “One in Five Women Are Raped” Claim

In a video that aired during the Grammy Awards on Feb. 8, President Obama stated, as President of the United States and a certifiable hero to the kind of citizens who watch the Grammy Awards, this:

“Right now, nearly one in five women in America has been a victim of rape or attempted rape.”

Let’s begin with the fact that this is false, or at least, there is no reason to believe it is true, or even close to true. (More about this in a minute.) Was the President’s statement a lie? We can’t tell. If the President believes that rape is so common that 20% of all women are raped, then what he said is not a lie (a false statement knowingly made by the speaker in order to deceive), which leads to some uncomplimentary conclusions:

a. He has a remarkably low opinion of his own nation and culture…but then we knew that, didn’t we?

b. He believes what he is told without challenging it or examining an assertions’ origin, methodology and assumptions. Really? This guy is supposed to be brilliant. I would think such a jaw-dropping and frightening statistic would mandate some examination, but see a.

c.  Why hasn’t this been a major focus of his administration? Isn’t the President alarmed about this? Why is the Attorney General running around the country holding the hands of parents of dead kids who attack police officers and fighting attempts to make voters prove who they are at the polls if women are being raped like The U.S. is the Congo? Why is the Presidentusing his time to make faces on videos to sell Obamacare? Isn’t this clearly a reason to make one of his “I will not rest” speeches, in this case not resting until the rape frequency in the Land of the Free is lower than that of a Columbia ghetto? He believes 20% of the women in the country under his stewardship  being raped in their lifetimes doesn’t rate mentioning in his “if wishes were horses” State of the Union, and relegates this horrendous health and crime emergency to…the Grammys?

If Obama doesn’t know if the stat is true, but said it anyway, then he was irresponsible. He’s President of the United States; people believe him, even after the shattered pledge of transparency and “If you like  your health care plan…” and the “red line” and all the rest. He can not fairly, honestly, ethically state that something is true when he doesn’t know whether it is true or not. That is a lie, then: not the statistic itself, but the implication that he believes it.

Or he knows the statement is false, and made it to deceive, because the ends justifies the means.

In the discussion following last week’s post about the persistence of the false narrative that Bush’s 2000 electoral vote victory was “stolen,” I briefly referenced the now mostly abandoned fake “1 in five” statistic  on campus rape, the one that prompted the 2014 Unethical Quote of the Year from Senator Claire McCaskill when it was debunked. This prompted blog warrior Liberal Dan to re-state the President’s proposition, since he is one of those people who continue to believe the President despite all evidence to the contrary. “One in 5 women are raped,” he wrote, unequivocally, linking to a 2011 New York Times study.

I wish I had the time and space to muse about what it says about an intelligent American when a stat like that one, whether it is used by the Times, the President, or Lena Dunham, doesn’t set off his or her ethics alarms, Fake-Stat-O-Meter and bullshit buzzer. This is what happens, though, when the President makes a factual assertion. I knew the stat was crap; I just don’t have the time to prove it’s crap to people who want to believe it. I assumed someone would pretty quickly, and sure enough, the Washington Post’s hard-working, liberal-biased but diligently trying to compensate Fact-checker Glenn Kessler came through.

In his Washington Post column today, Kessler gives us the results of his research into Obama’s lazy/irresponsible/dishonest claim. His findings? Continue reading

15 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society