Race and IQ: Still a taboo topic

When I was in college, I happened across an article listing taboo topics in psychological research. These were “third rail” topics, that would put anyone investigating them in deep yogurt. One of those topics was “Race and IQ”.

It’s still a “third rail”.

 

Source: Ezra Klein: Editor-at-Large | Sam Harris

In April of 2017, I published a podcast with Charles Murray, coauthor of the controversial (and endlessly misrepresented) book The Bell Curve. These are the most provocative claims in the book:

  • Human “general intelligence” is a scientifically valid concept.
  • IQ tests do a pretty good job of measuring it.
  • A person’s IQ is highly predictive of his/her success in life.
  • Mean IQ differs across populations (blacks < whites < Asians).
  • It isn’t known to what degree differences in IQ are genetically determined, but it seems safe to say that genes play a role (and also safe to say that environment does too).

At the time Murray wrote The Bell Curve, these claims were not scientifically controversial—though taken together, they proved devastating to his reputation among nonscientists. That remains the case today. When I spoke with Murray last year, he had just been de-platformed at Middlebury College, a quarter century after his book was first published, and his host had been physically assaulted while leaving the hall. So I decided to invite him on my podcast to discuss the episode, along with the mischaracterizations of his research that gave rise to it.

Needless to say, I knew that having a friendly conversation with Murray might draw some fire my way. But that was, in part, the point. Given the viciousness with which he continues to be scapegoated—and, indeed, my own careful avoidance of him up to that moment—I felt a moral imperative to provide him some cover.

In the aftermath of our conversation, many people have sought to paint me as a racist—but few have tried quite so hard as Ezra Klein, Editor-at-Large of Vox. In response to my podcast, Klein published a disingenuous hit piece that pretended to represent the scientific consensus on human intelligence while vilifying me as, at best, Murray’s dupe. More likely, readers unfamiliar with my work came away believing that I’m a racist pseudoscientist in my own right.

First they ejected the puppies

People are being banned from SF conventions for dubious reasons. At least according to the people being banned.

It seems that SJWcon is not the only place in speculative fiction where Orwell’s 1984 is being used as an instruction manual. One should of course note that SJWcon’s pre-banning was clearly inspired by the previous banning of Dave Truesdale by MidAmericaCon in 2016.

To quote from the link (but it is worth reading the whole thing):

Jim Hines gives a hilariously one-sided account of the panel (“Truesdale tries yet again to get back to the evils of political correctness. Sheila Williams shoots him down again.”) and then goes off on a tangent about how this was a “deliberate and preplanned hijacking” of a panel, as if that were the smoking gun the CHORFs needed to undermine Truesdale’s credibility. Howard Tayler went on a Twitter rant about panel moderation etiquette, as if people were booted from cons for being bad moderators all the time, and this was a good opportunity to review some helpful hints to keep that from happening.

Okay, reality check. Truesdale didn’t personally attack anyone. He didn’t swear. He didn’t lose his temper. He didn’t threaten anyone or throw chairs. He talked a little too long off-topic at a panel. That’s literally the worst thing you can say about what he did.

People hijack panels all the time. I have never heard of anyone being ejected from a con for hijacking a panel or being a poor moderator. As far as I know, it’s unprecedented. (Feel free to correct me if you’ve heard of this happening.) Is Dave Truesdale a jerk? Maybe. But being a jerk is not a crime, and believe it or not, scifi conventions tend to attract people whose interpersonal skills are sub-optimal. Writers tend to be opinionated and abrasive. If WorldCon is going to eject everyone who commits a social faux pas, they might as well just move the convention in the parking lot.

What it comes down to is that WorldCon ejected Dave Truesdale for voicing an unpopular opinion. You can call it what you want; If it makes you feel better to call it “criticism” rather than censorship, feel free. If you want to focus on Truesdale’s character, go for it. If you want to pretend this is all just a little misunderstanding about panel etiquette, that’s up to you. But the fact is that Dave Truesdale was booted because he said something that the people in power didn’t like. Dance around it all you want, but that’s what happened.

Part of what got the Worldcon folks really upset was that DaveT had recorded what he said and the rest of the panel personally. As a result it became very easy to compare the over the top reactions (see above) with what DaveT actually said, which was perhaps off topic and certainly annoying to certain factions of fandom but could only cause “significant discomfort” to people more sensitive than “the Princess and the Pea”. Sadly of course it seems the SJW faction of fandom are indeed more sensitive than said fictional Princess and they have gained significant power within the greter SF community to its great loss.

Before DaveT, and indeed inspiring him, was the Sad Puppy Hugo award controversy which boiled over in 2015 when it became clear that the SJW parts of fandom would do pretty much anything to ensure that Wrongthink was verboten. And Wrongthink was defined as anything that wasn’t sufficiently SJW to pass muster. Moreover, it turned out that anyone with associations with Wrongthink, such as being nominated by Wrongthinkers, were in trouble.

….

Before DaveT, and indeed inspiring him, was the Sad Puppy Hugo award controversy which boiled over in 2015 when it became clear that the SJW parts of fandom would do pretty much anything to ensure that Wrongthink was verboten. And Wrongthink was defined as anything that wasn’t sufficiently SJW to pass muster. Moreover, it turned out that anyone with associations with Wrongthink, such as being nominated by Wrongthinkers, were in trouble.

Then it turns out that they also came for Will Shetterly, who certainly is neither right wing, nor a gamergater nor anything like that, and Steven Brust (ditto). What got Brust in trouble was this:

Fourth Street Fantasy Convention is not a safe space. On the contrary, it is a very unsafe space. Of course, it ought to be safe in the sense of everyone feeling physically safe, and in the sense that there should be no unwanted harassment, and it should be free of personal attacks of any kind. But other than that, it is not safe.

Your beliefs about writing, and my beliefs about writing, and what is good, and how to make it good, should be sufficiently challenged to make us uncomfortable.

The interaction of art and politics is getting more and more in our faces. Whether this is good or bad is beside the point (although I think it’s good); it reflects changing social conditions, intensification of conflicts. Anyone who thinks art is independent of social conditions is as hopelessly muddled as someone who thinks there is a direct, simplistic 1:1 correspondence between them.

The result of this is that political understanding, unexamined assumptions, agendas, are very much present in the art we create and thus in the discussions of that art.

If no one feels unsafe, or threatened during these discussions, we’re doing them wrong. […]

It was said in defense of Shetterly who was declared unwelcome by certain snowflakes:

When the seminar page went up, we received many complaints, and I brought these Safety concerns to the Board. Your long history online and on certain panels at 4th St. are the issues. Of particular concern is your pattern of refusing to drop arguments despite direct requests and pursuing people on various social media platforms when they do not want to engage with you.

Your reputation and mode of discourse are such that the Board decided that having you represent the convention as seminar leader wouldn’t be in line with the kind of inclusive culture we want to promote at 4th St. Fantasy. If you were to behave in person the way you have online–by refusing to back off when the other party was done conversing–you would not be welcome at 4th St. at all. At the moment, we have only instituted formal safety procedures as of last year, and we haven’t received any formal complaints that would lead to you being banned from the convention.

Shetterly is well know for holding strong opinions and not being keen on being told to STFU. He also famously “doxxed” a person who used a pseudonym that was not exactly very hard to work back from to identify the real person (her user name was her extremely rare first name). However he was also one the founders of the 4th St Fantasy workshop and had been a participant in (many? all?) previous years and in fact was originally asked to be a “seminar leader” as a favor by one of the current organizers, so the idea that people who would attend the event would feel unsafe to have him be a “seminar leader” is unconvincing (hence Brust’s speech above which went down like a cup of cold sick).

Anyway that was last year.This year he was in fact banned:

On April 27, 2017, as part of an email conversation regarding your removal from a programming item at the 2017 4th Street Fantasy Convention, you wrote “Someone has suggested this decision to imply I’m unsafe in public might be actionable.”

We cannot disregard this implied threat of legal action, particularly combined with your lengthy and detailed public criticism of the convention on multiple platforms. Despite your reassurance in correspondence dated April 30, 2017 that “I just want to reassure everyone that Emma and I have less than zero intention of suing anyone”, the Board of Directors has decided that we are unwilling to open ourselves to liability through further association with you.

We are therefore banning you from Fourth Street Fantasy.

We would like to resolve this privately. These are the practical steps we have taken:

• As stated above, you are banned from Fourth Street Fantasy. You will not be allowed to register for the convention or attend convention events. Please do not come to the Doubletree Hotel during the weekend of the convention.

 

So apparently now just mentioning that a statement could be legally libelous/slanderous is enough to get you banned if people don’t like you because you hold strong opinions. Official SF Fandom seems to be delving ever deeper into the “Brave New World” of 1984.

This is can only make their appeal more “selective” and seems highly unlikely to lead them to the sort of mindshare in the larger world that they might hope for.

Harassment at an Anime Convention – some thoughts

The Journey of Fandom Facebook group has a post about the woes and rumors of woes surrounding Anime Matsuri. It sounds like the convention could use, at least, some help organizing things.

The first comment on the Facebook post is:

[Ron Newman] should it surprise me that the ‘Lolita community’ (whose existence I was unaware of until today) might attract sexual harassers?

This seems to be one of the things you’re not allowed to say. The immediate response (well, 3 minutes later) is:

[Marc Brunco] I hope you’re not trying to imply that wearing Lolita fashion is to blame for being sexually harassed?

Which causes Ron Newman to back down, tail between his legs. He rallies a bit with:

[Ron Newman] it does strike me as a community whose events should be run entirely by women, though.

No, you’re not allowed to say that, either:

[Evan Reeves] See, but even that is sexist. Do not attach gender to behavior. There is nothing wrong with men enjoying and participating in Gothic Lolita fashion. There is a BIG problem with anyone harassing others, especially sexual harassment.

Well, I guess it’s cool that we can no longer label men as harassers, or even likely harassers, since that, too, attaching gender to behavior and is therefore sexist.

Phooey.

Guys, there is a concept in the law called “an attractive nuisance”. This is defined as any feature which would tend to lure people into a dangerous situation. The classic examples include a swimming pool. It is attractive because people like to swim and play in the water. It’s a nuisance because sometimes people drown in said water.

So the swimming pool analog of Marc Brunco’s comment is, “I hope you’re not trying to imply that wearing Lolita fashion wanting to go swimming is to blame for being sexually harassed drowning?”

Um…. no.

For the Lost In Space fans, that’s not what he’s saying. The presence of a “Lolita community” can very easily be seen as an attractive nuisance. (Perhaps even in the sense Jubal Harshaw uses the term.)  It’s not the fault of members of this community if and when they are harassed.

It is, however, the fault of people who have the job of recognizing possible problems at an event. They should be aware that they are maintaining an attractive nuisance, and should take steps to anticipate and prevent problems, and to deal with them quickly and effectively if and when they occur anyway. But if social mores prevent us from recognizing when an attractive nuisance exists, we can’t take steps to anticipate and prevent problems.

So in the modern sensibilities, convention organizers are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. They’re not allowed to recognize the possibility of trouble that might be drawn to particular groups, but Campbell help them if said trouble happens anyway.

 

Pits of fecal matter

President Trump is alleged to have referred to a number of countries as “shitholes”. Democratic operatives and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) are behaving like first-graders and saying, “Ummmmm! You said a bad word! I’m telling…”

From PowerLine blog:

A reader asks a good question: “Would it make a difference if he’d said ‘hellholes’? How else would liberals describe these God-forsaken places?” And why are so many residents of these places anxious to emigrate to the U.S.? The same reader, a Boston native, suggests that Trump may be saying, however crudely, what most Americans believe: “Boston, 1974, Louise Day Hicks: ‘She Says What You Think.’” That is indeed how a great many people view President Trump.

Perhaps he should have said,

“There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit
“And the vermin of the world inhabit it
“And it’s morals aren’t worth what a pig can spit
“And it goes by the name of London Haiti
“At the top of the hole sit the privileged few
“Making mock of the vermin in the lower zoo
“Turning beauty into filth and greed
“I too have sailed the world and seen its wonders
“For the cruelty of men is as wondrous as Peru
“But there’s no place like London Haiti”
….
“There’s a hole in the world
like a great black pit and it’s
filled with people
who are filled with shit
and the vermin of the world inhabit it.”

But he didn’t. And even if he had, Democratic operatives and the mainstream media (a degenerate set in the mathematical sense, at the very least) would have focused on skin color as the only possible reason for Trump’s sentiments. People who can only see skin color as an explanation of behavior lack the credibility to label anyone else “racist”.

On the Crying of “Wolf!”

If you can’t call a black out for misbehavior, you’re the racist.

Black Protest Has Lost Its Power

Have whites finally found the courage to judge African-Americans fairly by universal standards?

By Shelby Steele
Jan. 12, 2018

The recent protests by black players in the National Football League were rather sad for their fruitlessness. They may point to the end of an era for black America, and for the country generally—an era in which protest has been the primary means of black advancement in American life.

There was a forced and unconvincing solemnity on the faces of these players as they refused to stand for the national anthem. They seemed more dutiful than passionate, as if they were mimicking the courage of earlier black athletes who had protested: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, fists in the air at the 1968 Olympics; Muhammad Ali, fearlessly raging against the Vietnam War; Jackie Robinson, defiantly running the bases in the face of racist taunts. The NFL protesters seemed to hope for a little ennoblement by association.

And protest has long been an ennobling tradition in black American life. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the march on Selma, from lunch-counter sit-ins and Freedom Rides to the 1963 March on Washington, only protest could open the way to freedom and the acknowledgment of full humanity. So it was a high calling in black life. It required great sacrifice and entailed great risk. Martin Luther King Jr. , the archetypal black protester, made his sacrifices, ennobled all of America, and was then shot dead.

For the NFL players there was no real sacrifice, no risk and no achievement. Still, in black America there remains a great reverence for protest. Through protest—especially in the 1950s and ’60s—we, as a people, touched greatness. Protest, not immigration, was our way into the American Dream. Freedom in this country had always been relative to race, and it was black protest that made freedom an absolute.

It is not surprising, then, that these black football players would don the mantle of protest. The surprise was that it didn’t work. They had misread the historic moment. They were not speaking truth to power. Rather, they were figures of pathos, mindlessly loyal to a black identity that had run its course.

What they missed is a simple truth that is both obvious and unutterable: The oppression of black people is over with. This is politically incorrect news, but it is true nonetheless. We blacks are, today, a free people. It is as if freedom sneaked up and caught us by surprise.

Of course this does not mean there is no racism left in American life. Racism is endemic to the human condition, just as stupidity is. We will always have to be on guard against it. But now it is recognized as a scourge, as the crowning immorality of our age and our history.

Protest always tries to make a point. But what happens when that point already has been made—when, in this case, racism has become anathema and freedom has expanded?

What happened was that black America was confronted with a new problem: the shock of freedom. This is what replaced racism as our primary difficulty. Blacks had survived every form of human debasement with ingenuity, self-reliance, a deep and ironic humor, a capacity for self-reinvention and a heroic fortitude. But we had no experience of wide-open freedom.

Watch out that you get what you ask for, the saying goes. Freedom came to blacks with an overlay of cruelty because it meant we had to look at ourselves without the excuse of oppression. Four centuries of dehumanization had left us underdeveloped in many ways, and within the world’s most highly developed society. When freedom expanded, we became more accountable for that underdevelopment. So freedom put blacks at risk of being judged inferior, the very libel that had always been used against us.

To hear, for example, that more than 4,000 people were shot in Chicago in 2016 embarrasses us because this level of largely black-on-black crime cannot be blamed simply on white racism.

We can say that past oppression left us unprepared for freedom. This is certainly true. But it is no consolation. Freedom is just freedom. It is a condition, not an agent of change. It does not develop or uplift those who win it. Freedom holds us accountable no matter the disadvantages we inherit from the past. The tragedy in Chicago—rightly or wrongly—reflects on black America.

That’s why, in the face of freedom’s unsparing judgmentalism, we reflexively claim that freedom is a lie. We conjure elaborate narratives that give white racism new life in the present: “systemic” and “structural” racism, racist “microaggressions,” “white privilege,” and so on. All these narratives insist that blacks are still victims of racism, and that freedom’s accountability is an injustice.

We end up giving victimization the charisma of black authenticity. Suffering, poverty and underdevelopment are the things that make you “truly black.” Success and achievement throw your authenticity into question.

The NFL protests were not really about injustice. Instead such protests are usually genuflections to today’s victim-focused black identity. Protest is the action arm of this identity. It is not seeking a new and better world; it merely wants documentation that the old racist world still exists. It wants an excuse.

For any formerly oppressed group, there will be an expectation that the past will somehow be an excuse for difficulties in the present. This is the expectation behind the NFL protests and the many protests of groups like Black Lives Matter. The near-hysteria around the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and others is also a hunger for the excuse of racial victimization, a determination to keep it alive. To a degree, black America’s self-esteem is invested in the illusion that we live under a cloud of continuing injustice.

When you don’t know how to go forward, you never just sit there; you go backward into what you know, into what is familiar and comfortable and, most of all, exonerating. You rebuild in your own mind the oppression that is fading from the world. And you feel this abstract, fabricated oppression as if it were your personal truth, the truth around which your character is formed. Watching the antics of Black Lives Matter is like watching people literally aspiring to black victimization, longing for it as for a consummation.

But the NFL protests may be a harbinger of change. They elicited considerable resentment. There have been counterprotests. TV viewership has gone down. Ticket sales have dropped. What is remarkable about this response is that it may foretell a new fearlessness in white America—a new willingness in whites (and blacks outside the victim-focused identity) to say to blacks what they really think and feel, to judge blacks fairly by standards that are universal.

We blacks have lived in a bubble since the 1960s because whites have been deferential for fear of being seen as racist. The NFL protests reveal the fundamental obsolescence—for both blacks and whites—of a victim-focused approach to racial inequality. It causes whites to retreat into deference and blacks to become nothing more than victims. It makes engaging as human beings and as citizens impermissible, a betrayal of the sacred group identity. Black victimization is not much with us any more as a reality, but it remains all too powerful as a hegemony.

Mr. Steele, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is author of “Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country” (Basic Books, 2015).

Walter Williams on Bastiat

At FEE.

….
Bastiat explains the call for laws that restrict peaceable, voluntary exchange and punish the desire to be left alone by saying that socialists want to play God. Socialists look upon people as raw material to be formed into social combinations. To them – the elite – “the relationship between persons and the legislator appears to be the same as the relationship between the clay and the potter.” And for people who have this vision, Bastiat displays the only anger I find in The Law when he lashes out at do-gooders and would-be rulers of mankind, “Ah, you miserable creatures! You who think that you are so great! You who judge humanity to be so small! You who wish to reform everything! Why don’t you reform yourselves? That task would be sufficient enough.”
….

 

“Taking the knee” may do some good

It makes one a smaller target in places like Chicago.

Walter Williams looks at who’s responsible for the vast majority of lost black lives:

Blacks vs. Police

Let’s throw out a few numbers so we can put in perspective the NFL players taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem. Many say they are protesting against police treatment of blacks and racial discrimination. We might ask just how much sense their protest makes.

According to “The Washington Post,” 737 people have been shot and killed by police this year in the United States. Of that number, there were 329 whites, 165 blacks, 112 Hispanics, 24 members of other races and 107 people whose race was unknown. In Illinois, home to one of our most dangerous cities — Chicago — 18 people have been shot and killed by police this year. In the city itself, police have shot and killed ten people and shot and wounded ten others. Somebody should ask the kneeling black NFL players why they are protesting this kind of killing in the Windy City and ignoring other sources of black death.

Here are the Chicago numbers for the ignored deaths. So far in 2017, there have been 533 murders and 2,880 shootings. On average, a person is shot every two hours and 17 minutes and murdered every 12 1/2 hours. In 2016, when Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee, Chicago witnessed 806 murders and 4,379 shootings. It turns out that most of the murder victims are black. Adding to the tragedy is the fact that Chicago has a 12.7 percent murder clearance rate. That means that when a black person is murdered, his perpetrator is found and charged with his murder less than 13 percent of the time.

Similar statistics regarding police killing blacks versus blacks killing blacks apply to many of our predominantly black urban centers, such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, St. Louis and Oakland. Many Americans, including me, see the black NFL player protest of police brutality as pathetic, useless showboating. Seeing as these players have made no open protest against the thousands of blacks being murdered and maimed by blacks, they must view it as trivial in comparison with the police killings. Most of the police killings fit into the category of justified homicide.

NFL players are not by themselves. How much condemnation do black politicians, civil rights leaders, and liberal whites give to the wanton black homicides in our cities? When have you heard them condemning the very low clearance rate, whereby most black murderers get away with murder? Do you believe they would be just as silent if it were the Ku Klux Klan committing the murders?

What’s to blame for this mayhem? If you ask an intellectual, a leftist or an academic in a sociology or psychology department, he will tell you that it is caused by poverty, discrimination and a lack of opportunities. But the black murder rate and other crime statistics in the 1940s and ’50s were not nearly so high as they are now. I wonder whether your intellectual, leftist or academic would explain that we had less black poverty, less racial discrimination and far greater opportunities for blacks during earlier periods than we do today. He’d have to be an unrepentant idiot to make such an utterance.

So what can be done? Black people need to find new heroes. Right now, at least in terms of the support given, their heroes are criminals such as Baltimore’s Freddie Gray, Ferguson’s Michael Brown and Florida’s Trayvon Martin. Black support tends to go toward the criminals in the community rather than to the overwhelming number of people in the community who are law-abiding. That needs to end. What also needs to end is the lack of respect for and cooperation with police officers. Some police are crooked, but black people are likelier to be victims of violent confrontations with police officers than whites simply because blacks commit more violent crimes than whites per capita.

For a race of people, these crime statistics are by no means flattering, but if something good is to be done about it, we cannot fall prey to the blame games that black politicians, black NFL players, civil rights leaders and white liberals want to play. If their vision is accepted, we can expect little improvement of the status quo.

The Pence Rule — Not the law, just a good idea

 

Put me with Pence and Coates. I also have rules. I’ll have lunch alone with female colleagues, but in more than 20 years of marriage, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve had dinner alone with a woman not my wife. And I’ve managed that without ever disadvantaging or discriminating against any woman I worked for or with. I have other rules as well. For example, I travel quite a bit, but when I’m traveling alone I don’t eat or sit at bars — especially hotel bars — unless there is no other place to sit.

I have those rules not because I think that without guardrails I’m going to assault someone, but because I understand human nature and because I respect women. I don’t want any woman to feel like I’m putting her in an uncomfortable or compromising position. This may come as a surprise to critics of the Pence rule, but there are quite a few women who don’t want to dine alone with male bosses. There are quite a few women who believe that dinner (especially with drinks) is unnecessarily intimate and that business can be conducted in the office or with other colleagues present.

But don’t tell that to Pence’s critics. This week Christianity Today’s Katelyn Beatty took to the pages of the New York Times to write “The Christian Case Against the Pence Rule.” Given her intelligence and theological knowledge, I was surprised to see this paragraph:

The Pence rule arises from a broken view of the sexes: Men are lustful beasts that must be contained, while women are objects of desire that must be hidden away. Offering the Pence rule as a solution to male predation is like saying, “I can’t meet with you one on one, otherwise I might eventually assault you.” If that’s the case, we have far deeper problems around men and power than any personal conduct rule can solve.

No, no, no. Let’s break this down in the simplest terms possible. The Pence rule (or its variations) arises from an accurate view of man’s fallen nature. In this context, it means three things.

First, when men and women are alone — especially at night, especially with drinks — there is a far greater chance of mutual or one-sided attraction (not assault) than when they’re in groups or in professional settings. Even if they don’t intend the attraction. Even if they’re happily married. If you doubt this reality then, well, I don’t know what to tell you. Spend any time in professional settings, and you’ll understand that workplace attraction happens, and when it happens it tends to happen not in the midst of conference calls but rather in those settings that get far more personal and less professional.

Second, variations of the Pence rule protect both sides from reputational harm. It’s a simple fact that observing a married man alone at dinner with a woman other than his wife can start tongues wagging, and it’s also a fact that leaders of Christian ministries have often had to take extreme measures to protect against intentional sabotage of their reputations. I know leaders who never travel alone in part because of actual past hostile attempts to place them in compromising positions (with photographic evidence). If we should understand anything in 2017 it’s that our politics is vicious and poisonous. The more high-profile you become, the more careful you should be.

Third, surprise, surprise but there are actual predators out there, and women who operate under some version of the Pence rule gain an additional layer of protection. Moreover, corporate implementation of the rule is like a flashing sign that says, “This workplace aims to be safe and professional.”

Beatty says, “All the people I know who keep the rule are men.” This is yet another puzzling statement. Every Christian ministry I know that imposes the rule on its employees does so without regard to gender, and these are ministries that employ multiple powerful women. In fact, almost every powerful Christian woman I know keeps a version of the Pence rule.

But here’s where critics of the Pence rule have a point. If you’re in a position of authority, you should endeavor to create a workplace where equal opportunity is evident and gender-based favoritism is absent. It is unfair to take Luke out for dinner and never take out Laura. The better approach is to keep business matters in business settings, and that includes when it’s late and folks need to eat.

Sacred Cattle and Bias

 

People Are Questioning Your Sacred Cows? Listen Up

There’s good reason to scrutinize claims like the Roy Moore mall story. It’s certainly not to protect a pedophile.

I’m skeptical about the mall story. No one in the New Yorker story seems to have been directly involved with the alleged mall ban; every source who was willing (even eager) to talk seems to have heard the story from someone else. It seems probable that there was a rumor floating around that Moore was banned from the mall; it seems possible that this rumor was even true. But it’s also possible it’s false. Those of us over a certain age will remember how many compelling, yet false, urban legends we believed before Snopes.com was invented. And who was the source for every one of those legends? That stalwart figure, “a friend of a friend.”

So without better confirmation than “35 years ago, I heard from a guy that Roy Moore got banned from the mall,” I will withhold judgment on whether Moore was actually banned. I tweeted as much after I read the New Yorker story. And was immediately inundated with aggressive accusations of covering up for a child molester and general partisan hackery.

I am not generally identified as a member of Team Trump, much less Team Roy Moore. Indeed, prior to my tweet about the mall story, I’d been saying some fairly astringent things about the people who were attacking Moore’s accusers — or worse, saying “But Democrats covered for Bill Clinton!” I just didn’t happen to think this particular story was very strong.

I also didn’t think it particularly mattered. If Moore did everything he has been credibly accused of, would we be inclined to give him a pass because that supreme judicial authority, the mall of Gadsden, Alabama, never got around to banning him?

But as I attempted to explain why this story looks weak to a lot of journalists (I was not the only one who noticed the thin sourcing), I began to understand why I’d triggered such outrage. Because several people asked me some version of the same question: “Why would you even question this story?” In their minds, it was clear that there could be only one reason: because I was trying to somehow salvage Moore’s candidacy.

I get asked this question a lot these days. Why would you even argue about rape statistics, when we know that rape is a problem? Why would you give even a moment’s consideration to those who theorize that global warming could be moderate rather than catastrophic? Why would you raise questions about that terrible gang rape at UVA?

My interlocutors have a point: We all make choices about which assertions we interrogate, and which we accept on easy faith. And because we are biased, we tend to interrogate most ruthlessly the inconvenient claims that stand in the way of something we’d very much like to believe. When someone casts doubt on a politically charged story, it’s not crazy to infer an ulterior ideological motive (even though in this particular case involving my qualms about that Roy Moore mall story, this inference was dead wrong).

But if we are committed to believing only things that are likely to be true, then how much does the motive of a questioner really matter? I’d argue “not much.” Knowing someone’s political commitments tells you that they are likely to accept evidence for some propositions more easily than for others. But it does not tell you that their analysis is wrong.

To the contrary, partisans with an axe to grind are often the people who see what others don’t. The faked Second Amendment scholarship of Michael Bellesiles, the forgeries that suggested Bush had gone AWOL during Vietnam, the imaginary gang rape at a UVA fraternity — in all cases, the people who raised questions were dismissed as cranks and partisans, and often this was actually true. And yet, they were the ones seeing clearly, while the people questioning their motives were not.

Truth is powerful stuff; it can be bottled up for just so long before it bursts its container and splatters all over the place. And when that happens, the revelation of the lie hurts the credibility of everyone who embraced it — and harms the very cause they thought they were helping.

So instead of labeling folks as partisan and dismissing their questions, we should embrace a tough critique regardless of its source. You have your blind spots, just like they have theirs. By overlaying their world view onto yours, you may be able to get a fuller picture. You’ll get closer to the truth by listening to people who see the world very differently from you, especially the ones who ask questions that make you uncomfortable. If what you believe is true, their objections can only refine your ideas into something stronger. And if what you believe is false — well, it’s better to find out quick.