Socioporn is So Passé

A few years back, Arthur Jensen and J. Philippe Rushton published a major paper called "Thirty Years of Research on Race Differences in Cognitive Ability." The paper presented a formidable summation of relevant research from psychometrics and related fields and restated the argument, more forcefully than before, that persistent racial differences in general intelligence must have a strong genetic component. Of the scholars who filed commentaries in reply (addressed by Rushton and Jensen here), the most strident critic was the social psychologist, Richard Nisbett, who would go on to write a book outlining his culture-only case for a wider audience.  In rejoinder to Nisbett's hurrah, the dastardly duo recently drafted what might be considered another major paper in which they none-too-gently accuse Gould's latter-day bulldog of dishonesty.

Here is the academic equivalent of a bitchslap:

We found Nisbett's errors of omission and of commission so major, so many, and so misleading, that they forced us to write a particularly long and negative review.

There's a good chance that Nisbett will respond, which should be interesting. So why am I not interested?

Because I'm tired of the charade. For decades now, researchers like Jensen and Rushton and Gottfredson and others have been publishing these careful data-driven studies and analytical monographs where they lay bare volumes of evidence and address popular and esoteric criticisms in scrupulous detail. You step into the cyclone, and certain points become clear enough. The tests are not biased; they predict performance roughly as well for all groups. Evidence for ever-elusive "X factors," such as "stereotype threat" seem to collapse under scrutiny. Most transracial adoption studies break down pretty much in support of the hereditarian model, and the same goes for studies of racial admixture. Regression to the mean effects line up with genetic theory from every angle. Group differences show up in culture-free studies of reaction time, and the same rank differences correlate with neuro-imaging and with more crude measures of brain mass.  Twin studies show that IQ is equally heritable for different racial groups. Human races are at least as real as mountains and dog breeds, and human environments are not analogous to potsoil. The world is not flat and how about that. Were it not for prevailing socio-political preconceptions and the stronghold of taboo, the case would be closed. Or open only at the edges.       

For those who are familiar with the scholarly debate over this explosive topic, there won't be much that's new in Jensen and Rushton's latest volley. There's some killjoy discussion of the widely celebrated (if little understood) secular increase in IQ scores over recent decades (commonly known as the "Flynn Effect"), with the non-news being that ostensible gains do not to correlate with the general factor that counts where it counts. There's the finding that g-loading consistently predicts Black-White IQ differences, with a correlation of .62. There's some interesting  speculation over how selection bias might conceal a significantly lower median black IQ than effusive gap-narrowing reports typically suggest. And there's, you know, more. If you don't feel like wading through 50 pages and want a  snapshot, Inductivist provides a decent breakdown of the dirty parts.

The law of parsimony emerges through the din, at least to my subgenius satisfaction. What was once fascinating and vaguely troubling, now presents as redundant background static.  I'm convinced that reasonable people are not blind to what is most obvious, or at least most likely. They practice ignorance. They pretend. They lie. Social intercourse lights the path. Honesty is for shut-ins and comedians. 

So the story is that a white firefighter in New Haven was denied a promotion. The story is, this firefighter scored well on a qualifying test but the test results were scrapped by the city when it turned out that black subjects didn't perform so well on average and now a lawsuit goes before a high court. That's the story in the cycle just now, or last year, or ten years ago. Doesn't matter, cause it's all so drearily familiar. There must be a problem, either with the test or with the culture, as decorum allows. It's there in the script. Ho hum and boo-hoo. Pick a side and repeat your lines.

Like in this snip from the MSNBC squawkfest, Hardball, where Chris Matthews, Clarence Page and Pat Buchanan make the usual noises:

BUCHANAN:  There are tests—one question on a test long ago, it was about what do you do down at the Yacht Basin, had all these terms.  That's unfair to African-Americans, no doubt about it.  Just like if you use all this lingo from Harlem and you put it in the test, it is going to be unfair to white folks. 

PAGE:  Thank you for proving my point.  It can be unfair.

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t believe for a second the firefighters' test up there in New Haven, Connecticut was unfair.  Nobody thought this one was until the returns came in. 

MATTHEWS:  So why did the white guys do better? 

BUCHANAN:  I think because they studied harder and they know more, is why they did better.  That would be my guess.  What would be yours? 

MATTHEWS:  I think they did better in the test. 

For the last time, tautologies are tautological. Regattas and chitlins are old herrings, reeking on the sill. Disparate impact is not prima facie evidence of racism. The Bell Curve was a New York Times bestseller, and I'm sure every one of these comfortable beltway pundits took a furtive glance at chapter 13 when the dam was cracked. These guys live in the same world as you and I. They've been to the bus station. They drive through the worst of it. They go to book-signings, then they pay the gardener in cash. They knew and they know and it's much easier to parse and shuffle and prevaricate when there are consequences, and consequences there are. You just repeat the words and then dare your schoolyard chums to summon the goblin in the mirror. Or maybe click your heels. 

And enough, please. Please stop muttering about what if it's true and loath it should be known. It's true, and everyone knows. We're worse off for failing to think a problem through — for concocting these Ptolemic wish machines when there's real work to be done. Liberals latch to Darwin until they're confronted with the obvious. Conservatives lipserve a pipe dream because they're wedded to another dumb script. Horatio Alger meets John Rawls in a dark-lit alley and there is the smell of fear. Libertarians, fuck and bless them, may yet have an argument, but they're too lost in the clouds to grasp it. Who is Eddie Willers 

Yet all it means is that Goldilocks is dead, and fuck her sexy corpse anyway. The reflex you fear is a crass projection. Individualism remains a seductive muse, and thank your stars for that — even if tribalism is fated. We are left to lock the pieces together and make the most of something perhaps intractable. Lemons are never sweet. I wish my father were wrong about all of it. But measured against the stubborn grip of reality, a desperate wish is no better than an abominable fancy. A humane meritocracy may be as fair as we can hope.

What is to be done? I don't know. I suppose we might begin by admitting that this fixed obsession with higher education is a rutting elitist conceit, like Charles Murray argues in his latest hated book.  Pipe-fitters and trim carpenters take rightful pride in their work, and someone has to tend the machines, to paint lines on the road. Stop wasting their time with Norton anthologies and trigonometry homework and student loan applications. Stop wringing your hands, and let the people do their job. You may not savor the aesthetics, but this was never about you.  Egalitarian dogmas do real harm to real people. People you will never know.

We might go on to scratch these decades of faddish educational theory and get down to some brass tacks research. Watch Hard Times at Douglas High, and you know that NCLB proficiency standards are codified cruelty, arrogance in the guise of goodly intention. Rather than slaking dim hopes with more Stand and Deliver mytho-malarkey, we could try to figure out what works — better, then best; how and for whom. Education markets will help. Controlled studies will help. I remember when "Hooked on Phonics" was a political issue and the buried lede was that no one knew shit about what teachy methods obtained results because there was no science, just years of shifting slogans and pop-psych NEA-abetted teacher-conference-spun loft and argot. So start over. Begin by acknowledging that difference may be destiny, at least to some crude extent. Then stop sniffling, stop romanticizing, and leave everything on the table. Rote memorization should be revisited. Conceptual learning may prove less efficient for some kids than for others. Classroom size may or may not matter. Tracking may not be pretty, but it might help. Or it might not. Maybe nothing will. Maybe schooling is, as I hope, a wholesale waste of time. But determined incuriosity will not do.   

As long as were at it, why not repeal the minumum wage and scrap these bogs of codes and regs that make it so difficult for someone to start and run a simple business. Licensure is a many-tentacled beast, and Portland is not America. We need gypsy cab drivers and street vendors and untaxed commerce with an aura of danger. And then let's get serious about genotech and nootropics and nutrition and birth control incentives and anything that might work, anything that might help the ones who nature — that cunt — has left in the wings of this post-industrial wonderland.  I don't know what's possible. I only know that recrudescent Mismeasure of Man polemics will help no one. There's no panacea. No Libertopia. Lamarck was wrong. So was Lenin. So was Rand. Untethered by self-deception, the effort that remains may appear humble. But this is the nature of progress. 

But First. — First, we need to stop with the fib and wink. We need to scotch this one precious status game and give public voice to the festered private suspicion that  keeps us stupid and nervous. Unbank your closeted skepticism. Take that childshit goblin dare. The story will round back soon enough however it does; someone will be in trouble for saying what you have thought so many times. Next time, why not break a lance on their behalf?

Q: Did you hear about what Professor X said at the luncheon?

A: Yeah. I think it's a shame.

Q: I know. I can't believe I had him for psych 101. I had no idea he was such a racist. Did you? 

A: No, I mean it's a shame about the investigation. I don't think he's a racist. I think what he said is probably true, actually. I hope he doesn't apologize, because he shouldn't.

Q: (After a long pause) You mean, you agree with that crap? You think black people are inferior?

A. That's not what X said. And that's certainly not what I'm saying. We can talk about it if you want to.    

I came of age in the surreal slog of PC hysteria, when Anita Hill recounted lame pubic hair jokes before a mock-shocked Congressional committee and everyone had the jitters. A careless classroom remark was enough back then. If you allowed that sex differences might root somewhere deeper than culture, you courted trouble. Because Susan Faludi had the stage and Naomi Wolf may have read something by Foucault. Or because there was that thing at Senecca Falls that you were assigned to read. It hardly mattered how it was propped. You simply had some explaining to do. So maybe you explained. Or maybe you shut up. But then, after a calm, those Newsweek cover stories began to file in and everyone breathed a little easier knowing that lab-coated superscientists had re-discovered hormones. Soon, there would be rumors of feminist apostasy. Ms. Wolf  grunted out a critter and seemed to forget all about Foucault. Ms. Faludi began channeling Warren Farrell. Camille Paglia became a punchline, and Dice Clay went away.

Acculturation works like that. Dissident memes simmer at the waterline until there's a break. People await their cue. When the demon-bait is tested and found to be no more toxic than a swig of backwash, the hair-trigger settings are recalibrated. You swallow the bitters and the firmament holds. So you root for comfort, and you find it. The weirdness abates. You return to the conversation, perhaps wiser. Turns out, evo-psych is interesting.

With the race-IQ bogey, it will be trickier. Cognitive ability is an acutely sensitive topic, made volatile when racial consciousness is moored at the nerve-root. But while race may hold as a heuristic HBD riddlecracker, identity politics is still as silly as any religion, as any fad. This must be repeated. Don't take it personally. It was never personal. I happen to sorta like my President. I like surprises and rolly-polly multi-colored gobs of common humanity. But facts are facts, and I don't even know you.

What is personal is shame, and the silence it indulges. Fuck that shit. Matchpoint Jensen and Rushton. Let's move on. 

Memento mori.                            

A Few Things…

I realize things have been dormant around here, but there's a lot going on behind the curtain.

First off, The Nine-Banded Books site redesign is underway. It'll be a few weeks before soup is up, but the guy I signed with is really good and seems to have some enthusiasm for the  project, which can't hurt. I'll let you know when it's pretty. In the meantime, 9BB titles can be ordered through Amazon.

I have a review of Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke over at Richard Widmann's new online journal, Inconvenient History.  It's too impressionistic for the forum, but then I warned Richard that I wasn't much of an academic writer. I am a longtime fan of Baker's writing, though, and I think HS is an important book that has gotten a terrible rap.

Also, my little essay for BeJeezuz is now online.

As to the H-Bomb thing,  it's coming along. I'm taking it much too seriously, really. I suppose I'm fortunate in the sense that most of the people who comment here (and who have contacted me privately) are neither deniers nor revisionists but intellectually curious skeptics whose feedback has helped me rethink my approach in some respects. I know how statements like this invite suspicion, but I really don't have much patience with anti-Semitism or with conspiracy theories. By focusing on Samuel Crowell's work, I hope to disentangle some knots of understandable confusion that lead reasonable people to misunderstand what Holocaust revisionism is ultimately about. Crowell is important because he advances a parsimonious counter-narrative based on social psychology and careful literary investigation. He isn't duped by just-so tales of conspiracy. He expresses no animus for Jews. He sees through the 9/11 Truth malarkey. And he understands the role that censorship has played in this story from the start.  I have been in touch with him and the relevant substance of our correspondence will inform what comes.

Memento mori.  


So Agnostic walks into a toy store and walks out with a question: why is there "no more innovation in toys"? I don't have a good idea here. Can't even say whether the premise is accurate. But yeah, prolly so.  And I figure it has something to do with the way grown-ups nowadays can't let go of the kid stuff, much like Agnostic speculates in his post on the adultification of Halloween.  Growing up, the closest thing to an "adult" cartoon that I recall was Rocky and Bullwinkle, and that one was marketed to kids. Now you have Seth MacFarlandland and Adult Swim and Spongebob with a wink. And there are also UglyDolls and hipster craft festivals and quote-unquote collectible action figures that bit-torrent-addicted SWPLs leave in the packaging. So fuck the littlins.

And fine with me. I don't envy the new breed  for a second anywise. When I was but wee, no one wore seatbelts, and no one much cared if you stayed home alone after school while your divorced mother worked late. You went to your friend's house after school — his divorced mother was at work, too — and you sniffed his sister's panties. You had BB gun battles until someone got hurt. You bought dip-tobacco from teenagers with the money you made mowing grass or shoveling snow or that your best friend stole from his depressed divorced mother's pocketbook. I still remember the hierarchy: Hawken was for pussies; then you graduated to Gold River, then Skoal, then,  if you really had balls, Kodiak or Copenhagen. To clean your mouth and gums of  baccy-traces, you'd drink creekwater and eat wild onions. That's the way it was back then is what I remember. Soon enough, we had motorcylces and guns.

And jesusfuck, with the internet these days the boys must be jaded before they know how to jerkoff — But Let Me Tell You, there was a time when the quest for porn was a dangerous and exciting adventure. You had to dumpster dive at the apartment complex near the neighborhood where you lived, and when you hit paydirt — always imagining some pussywhipped sap whose wife found his trove and ordered it gone — the booty would be hauled to the woods where sundry Hustlers and Cheris and High Societys and B&W swinger rags would be hidden in plastic trash bags under thickets of leaves as camo. Until someone raided the stash. Probably teenagers.  I remember watching Bilitis and Black Emanuelle on Cinemax at my friend's house after the divorced mother was sound asleep on the couch in the same room. I remember finding the absent dad's 8mm reels and a projector and I still have one of the old loops somewhere — a dog and pony show. Then there was the one that I only remember too vividly where this giant-dicked negro was fucking a heffer and when her pussy was bleeding he just dipped his finger in and used the red clot as lube the better with which to finger her asshole. I was, I think,  maybe twelve when we threaded that one up. The whir of the projector was loud enough that someone had to stand guard in case the mom came home early. 

I remember playing with big globs of mercury in first grade. I remember peanut butter sandwiches before they were allergens and a neighborhood creep called "underpants" who would buy you beer and I remember setting the walls on fire with makeshift hairspray blowtorches. Then, when you were 13 or 14 you'd wait outside 7-11 until someone would buy you the cheapest 24 case and you absconded to the woods and drank as fast as you could until you ruled the night. (No one rules the night!) Then, once you were a bit older you made friends with an impoverished skate punk who worked on cars and whose welfare mother was a lesbian junky and you'd hang out at his place and  listen to Minor Threat records and watch Fantastic Planet on mushrooms and you wanted to fuck his sister but she was aloof and had a mohawk and you were afflicted with acne vulgaris anyway and you kept thinking about suicide so why bother. That was then. You remember, don't you? Kids these days, they don't know what they're missing.

But O how I digress, and in with such untoward ugliness! Did I really have to use the word negro? This was supposed a post about toys, which are for kids — Hi Kids! — and in fact I do have a something to say about toys. Or more specifically, about one particular nonexistent toy that I nevertheless coveted as a child — a toy I always thought would be invented one day. Only it never was. As far as I know, at least.  And yet I still covet it.

I should probably talk to a patent lawyer. But I trust you, so here's the concept:

First you have a helmet like thing only it's a remote viewer, like a Viewmaster or more like those gadgets you see in airports now where you can watch movies in private or maybe like a virtual reality gizmo. So you wear it and you can see what the camera sees, in real time. Where is the camera? That's the cool part: it's in a remote control car! Or — better still — a remote control ATV, fastened at the windshield to simulate a driver's-eye-view.  It would have to be a special camera, something with a wide lens and a miniaturized steadi-mount to mitigate the blairwitchy shake factor. It should also be movable and zoomable via the remote. Then there is the optional piece — a walkie-talkie thing that allows you to communicate with another "driver" operating another  car/ATV, or who's maybe just along for the ride in the manner of a Pro-Rally navigator. Get the idea? It's like this: you put on the helmet and see what's in front of the car just like you were in it, only everything that's small appears huge, like if a cat walked into the frame it would be a giant cat and it would be like, holy shit look out for that giant cat! Drive to the edge of the staircase and it's like, oh man, this is gonna be bad. And if your friend has another car with the same gadgetry, you can communicate through the helmet on a cellular frequency or whatever. So you can have adventures and shit. It'd be like gaming only a lot more fun because of the espionage potential. Also, maybe you could record whatever the viewer sees, to play back later on the TV or online. Something like that.

Wouldn't that be fucking awesome? 


Memento mori.