Why Not Both?

Kyle Rowland writes:

I was recently discussing the correlation between race and life outcomes. I pointed out what I think is the most salient truth in modern politics:

When groups of millions of people are systematically doing worse, or better, there must be an explanation. If the explanation is not that the different groups have different traits, then the explanation must be some system of oppression that wrongfully suppresses the potential of certain groups. It does no good to do the fashionable conservative thing and dodge around the question of group differences, when that question determines your innocence or guilt in the greatest moral question of our time.

Someone asked: Why do we have to choose one explanation or the other? Surely some part of the difference could be due to different traits, while another portion of the difference could be due to oppression!

Well, you do have to choose one explanation or another. Let us suppose that a man goes to doctors because he has a sore on his back. Different hypotheses compete — one doctor believes they are from an autoimmune reaction, the other believes they are from a bacterial infection.

The sore is sampled, and bacteria of a type that produces such sores are found.

We now have an explanation for the sore. While it is not strictly impossible that both doctors are correct, we need nothing more than the bacterial infection to explain the sore. Now, if an autoimmune reaction was also behind the existence of the sore, it would simply be by coincidence. We are not forced to raise our estimated probability of said reaction due to the presence of the symptom, because we already have an explanation for the symptom.

Every competent doctor understands this. Now let us suppose that the career of the doctor who claims the sore was an autoimmune reaction depends upon him being correct.

That doctor will NOT say: yes, indeed we found bacteria at the site of the sore, but only part of the sore is caused by bacteria. We happened to sample that part. If we sample another part, we’ll find no bacteria, because that other part of the sore is due to the autoimmune reaction. We’re both right!

While this may seem convincing to some laypeople, it is absolutely idiotic and unbelievable to people familiar with the subject matter.

Our imperiled doctor will, instead, cast doubt upon the findings. He has several avenues of attack: perhaps the people who cultured the bacteria accidentally introduced it. Such things happen. Perhaps the people who drew the sample got it mixed up with another sample. Such things happen. Perhaps the method of culturing the bacteria is itself flawed, with an error rate too high to make a useful determination. Perhaps those who are casting doubt on his diagnosis are junior to him, and they are speaking from ignorance. Perhaps those who are casting doubt on his diagnosis are senior to him, and are speaking from arrogance.

These are all much better tactics than accepting the test results. There are uncertainties everywhere – the strategy of maximizing their apparent relevance, while mixing in doubt about everyone involved, is a very good strategy if one has the social capital to pull it off.

A layperson sitting at the sidelines might say – what is all this fuss over? Maybe both doctors are right!

Sadly, it’s almost impossible for both doctors to be right. Both doctors know this, even if the layperson doesn’t.

We are in an analogous situation when it comes to the study of variation in human traits.

If it is true that there is a large variation in human traits, particularly intelligence, that is sufficient to explain vast differences in economic and other sociological outcomes.

If we already have an explanation for vast differences in outcome, there is no need to posit a system of oppression that is forcing millions of people into suboptimal outcomes based on their race and class.

It’s not strictly impossible that there are both trait differences, and a system of oppression that forces millions of people into suboptimal outcomes based on race and class. However, pretty much the entire reason to believe that such a system exists, is the differential outcomes themselves. If we have an convincing alternate explanation for those differences, the case basically evaporates.

Theoretically, there could be lots of stuff besides differential outcome to point to in order to support the systematic oppression idea. However, there just isn’t much. The stereotype threat idea failed to replicate. The majority-minority dynamic idea runs headfirst into the incredible success of Asians and Jews. On the other hand, the hereditarians have concrete finding after concrete finding to point to — often coming from scientists who were trying desperately to avoid coming to said conclusions.

It’s not impossible to imagine situations where ’both-sides-ism’ is a logical stance. However, in the case of explaining group outcome differences, as in the case of explaining the patient’s back sore, ‘both-sides-ism’ simply reveals ignorance about the subject matter. One explanation must prevail, or the other.

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NYT: Why Won’t White People Admit Defeat And Go Away Quietly?

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BuzzFeed: Leaked Records Reveal Tony Robbins Berated Abuse Victims, And Former Followers Accuse Him Of Sexual Advances

I’ve made several posts about Tony Robbins over the years, several of which presaged the recent BuzzFeed expose:

Two former followers who went on to work for Robbins provided BuzzFeed News with signed statements swearing under oath that they felt he had sexually harassed them by repeatedly pursuing them after they made clear they weren’t interested. Two more women who worked as his assistants said Robbins expected them to work alone with him when he was naked in his hotel room or in the shower. And another former employee said she was fired after having a consensual sexual relationship with Robbins. The events described by all five women took place in the 1990s and early 2000s, when Robbins’ fame was skyrocketing and before he married his second wife…

…Interviews and records reveal how Robbins has created a highly sexualized environment in which both men and women have been told to touch themselves intimately and simulate orgasms — but he has repeatedly singled women out of the crowd for more personal attention. One secret recording from 2018 captured him laughing as he told a woman in the audience that he wanted her to “come up onstage and make love to me.” And two former bodyguards told BuzzFeed News they were sent out to trawl audiences for attractive women on Robbins’ behalf. Two women told BuzzFeed News they had witnessed it or experienced it themselves.

…Robbins’ intensive multiday events are often held in rooms kept deliberately cold and run from early in the morning to well past midnight, with few breaks for food and water. Followers are encouraged to run across hot coals. Internal company emails reveal concerns about fans suffering mental breakdowns after days of emotional exhaustion as well as “sleep deprivation and dehydration.” In this intense atmosphere, some audience members became disoriented as the days went by, said Todd Spendley, a former logistics contractor for the organization. “We used to joke about it,” he said. “People started ‘popping like popcorn.’”

…Robbins demanded relentless energy and a willingness to confront your darkest fears. He spoke openly about his use of “taboo language,” humor, and other shock tactics to try to shake fans out of emotional stagnation — often swearing, berating audience members, and talking graphically about sex — and he didn’t censor himself even when addressing his most troubled fans. For some, this led to ecstasy. Others found his events mentally and physically shattering.

King said he soon found that a key part of his job involved responding to calls about participants who had threatened or attempted suicide or needed to be hospitalized after suffering mental breakdowns. At one 1995 Life Mastery event in Hawaii, he said he had to intervene after one participant started biting members of the hotel’s security staff and guests. “I was dealing with crisis and emotional meltdowns from the start,” he told BuzzFeed News.

“Date With Destiny” events could be especially difficult. The six-day program, which currently costs as much as $7,995 per person, left little time for sleep or rest and was packed with soul-searching activities and deeply personal “interventions” in which Robbins selected audience members to publicly unpack their despair.

…Gary King said this was the sort of line he had often heard Robbins use to distract nervous women during fire-walks: “Which one of your breasts is bigger?” And by now, he had reason to believe that Robbins’ intimate interest in his female fans was more than just professional.

King said that Robbins often dispatched him to get the phone numbers of attractive women in the audience, an allegation which Robbins’ lawyers fiercely denied. Though he felt deep down that what he saw wasn’t right, King said his entire world revolved around Robbins, so he tried to bury his discomfort. But as time went on, he said, his concerns grew. “Ultimate power corrupts,” King said. “I watched it like a movie unfolding.”

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LAT: Yesterday once more: The feel-good sadness of a Carpenters fan convention

From the Los Angeles Times:

Downey, about 13 miles south of Los Angeles, officially became a city in 1956. By then a growing aerospace industry had established it as a free-standing suburban enclave. Downey scored big in the pop-culture sweepstakes: It has the oldest surviving McDonalds and is the birthplace of Taco Bell. It was a hot-rod hotbed and home to musicians Dave and Phil Alvin, Metallica’s James Hetfield and Weird Al Yankovic.

But it wasn’t any music from Downey that affected the Carpenters sound; it was the orderliness and control of the place itself. After restrictive covenants were ruled unenforceable, real estate agents found ways to keep homeowners from selling to nonwhites. Then, in the aftermath of the Watts riots of 1965, whites fled many communities bordering Downey, but the city itself remained unchanged and unruffled, in large part because it had its own police and fire departments and school district, and was thus able to fend off integration for some years to come.

Agnes and Harold Carpenter, Karen and Richard’s parents, moved the family from New Haven, Conn. to Downey in 1963, in large part to continue Richard’s musical education. Once there, their kids created a sound out of various playfully high-toned California musics, including Burt Bacharach’s commuter romanticism, the go-kart go of the Beach Boys and the whiz-bang vocalizing of the Hi-Los and the Anita Kerr Singers. The sound and lyrics carried a nostalgic longing for the way things used to be almost from the moment the Carpenters started. Karen and Richard were in their 20s and wishing for it to be yesterday once more.

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The Left Has The Mandate of Heaven

Kyle Rowland writes: The Left has the Mandate of Heaven, and everyone knows it.

That which is held sacred by the left is held sacred by all. If I were to blaspheme, no-one would be shaken. When I declare myself an atheist, barely a whimper emits from devout Christians. When I mention that I do not keep kosher, no outrage issues forth from practicing Jews. The disapproval, to the extent that it exists, is of a dry and perfunctory nature.

On the other hand, were I to attack that which is held sacred by the left, directly — were I to speak with true insensitivity about issues of racial and social justice — everyone would feel the danger. Luke would react first with quiet alarm and then, eventually, speak up to enforce the norms we all must hold sacred.

Those who hate the norms of the left confirm their power all the more. They strain against them in a Sisyphean struggle that ends in exhausted compliance.

Where I receive truly fervent pushback, in this tiny insulated corner where the left’s power is at its nadir, is along the lines approved by the left. It is when I speak against social justice on the axis of ‘the will of the people,’ and for the legitimacy of elites, that truly passionate attacks begin.


Analogies are useful, and I will re-use one of my favorites. Say that there is a town, with a prominent wealthy family. The head of this household is a doctor, who has served the town for many decades.

Say that allegations begin to swirl around this family, centered on the doctor’s medical practice. Just as there are families that are prominent for their success, there are families that are prominent for their failure. Just as some children excel in school and sport, some languish by the sidelines – drinkers, smokers, vandals, troublemakers.

When babies are delivered in the town, the doctor takes them into a small room. Along with his attendants he cleans and dresses the newborn, then returns him to his mother’s arms. The whispers center on this brief moment of separation.

Those born to most families are simply cleaned, dressed, and returned. But for the delinquent mothers, for those families who are cursed by criminality and sloth, the doctor takes a hammer and covers it with five layers of velvet. Tap, tap, tap! At the top of the newborn’s skull. He believes that for the exaltation of the best families, there must be the depraved to contrast with them — and in the bargain, he creates an unending demand for his own services.

Some have heard strange noises coming from the small room – the muffled cries of newborn babies. Some – the whispers continue – have even seen the hammer, as it was hastily moved out of sight when the door opened unexpectedly.
Many do not believe these rumors. They wait expectantly for a response from the beloved doctor and his family. The response is curt, mechanical, unsatisfying. The whispers intensify. The doctor avoids the subject whenever he can, and begins to seclude himself. His own family begins to number among the whisperers. Gradually, even the doctor’s most faithful supporters come to believe he is guilty.

It is clear, at this point, that the doctor is ill-fated. How his doom will befall him is not clear, but he is evidently doomed. Perhaps he will die at the hands of a vengeful parent. Perhaps he will flee to some far-off land. Perhaps the law will finally catch up with him. Perhaps he will simply die in isolation and disgrace.

The family’s wealth remains. The family’s mansion is yet unburnt, and even the business continues to work profitably. It is unclear to the townspeople when and how the doctor will get his comeuppance, but he is regarded with deepening horror and contempt.

Some moral imbecile might say: “Regardless of what the doctor does to a small minority of children, it is clear that on the whole he provides good services, and it is clear that there is great peril in violence. The town could be broken by strife, and many more could be hurt than are alleged to have been hurt so far! Besides, those who have been hurt are precisely those who disregard others.”

The whisperers know, with quiet surety, that they will prevail. People have moral sensibilities to greater or lesser degrees, but all know that the utter depravity of deliberately crippling newborns is intolerable. Some may deny it through motivated reasoning, or sheer cussedness – but eventually, the town will fall into line, as inevitably as the tide rolling in.

The exemplars of western civilization are in the doctors’ position. Everyone knows that they are tainted, evil. That is the tone that dominates any conversation about them. Unlike in the analogy, the allegation is not simple and direct – instead they swirl in multitudes. There are local flavors to the slander. In the United States, it is now taken as a given that the colonizers of this land were vicious genocidal rapist slavers. Ironically one of the most heated arguments I have gotten into here was based on me challenging this narrative.

Open, coherent defenses of the exemplars and ideals of the West must be made, but to do so one must slice through a thorny thicket of presumptions and lies. At the core of the problem is social incentives. There is momentum to condemnation, analogous to a mob’s building rage and motion.

Narratives can be profitably challenged on their own terms. “You are alleging that these families have been physically crippled, when you have no evidence for your claims! Your lies will marginalize these families, will doom their children to eternal fear and distrust!”

“You are alleging that Asians and Jews are at the top of an oppressive hierarchy which unjustly lifts them up! These are precisely the allegations that led to the mass slaughter of European Jewry in the Holocaust!”

Systems of distrust and division can be contrasted with cohesive, successful systems. Attempts to foster communities that revere American greatness and historical figures are ongoing. They have the inherent advantages of a positive vision and ideal. They are not comprehensive attempts to create complete communities that reject the narrative of a tainted, oppressive nation and history, but they are a start. These attempts must be supported and broadened.

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