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  #11  
Unread April 3rd, 2005, 10:54 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Shocking: NYT—Races clearly do exist!

Todd
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I'm not a big fan of making much of group genetic differences even though they are real because that was very notoriously the slippery slope….

I believe race as we define it is far less important socially than is identity. Identity can be based on all sorts of things….
Identity—yeah Todd, that’s the ticket. Ever consider writing Anthropology 101 textbooks?

Thanks for more or less acknowledging that your empirical data is/was merely PC. I suppose we all tend to reject facts/data that are contrary to the way we believe things ought to be. You’re a nice guy Todd, and I don’t doubt the good intensions of your political correctness, but I find them less than helpful—and you know what’s said about the road paved with good intensions.

It occurs to me that the reason we often don’t learn from history is because we often infer the wrong things from it.
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  #12  
Unread April 4th, 2005, 09:36 AM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Post Thoughts on thinking and on identity vs. race

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Identity—yeah Todd, that’s the ticket. Ever consider writing Anthropology 101 textbooks?
Hi Fred,

Thanks for the backhanded compliments.

You know, I recognize that I'm a very dialectical thinker, and that style of reasoning can very annoying or even seem threatending to people who aren't. I often feel similarly about people who are much more either/or in their thinking even though I truly do appreciate the value in formal logic. It has nothing whatsoever to do with political correctness, in fact honestly my gut instinct is to accuse you of conservative poltical correctness for your racial beliefs. However, I don't think it would be fair or accurate upon reflection, nor is it fair to accuse me of such muddled thinking.

I recognized the significance of this when I was reading the debates between Steve Gould and his various opponents. I couldn't imagine why they kept saying the horrible things about him that they were saying, about how "confused" he supposedly was, when I found him very thoughtful and clear. Then I realized how different his way of thinking was from theirs. Yours and mine is also fundamentally different in some ways.

It came together better for me when I was reading Richard Nisbett's book, "The Geography of Thought." He shows how different ways of life and patterns in childraising affect what we pay attention to and how this gets carried through to our perceptions, values, and beliefs and maintained in culture over time. He uses very sharp laboratory examples comparing people in East Asian and Western cultures, but his principles often apply to different Western cultures as well.

One of the reasons I don't think these pervasive differences in thinking are genetic is that people with the same ancestry often have very different ways
of reasoning, similar to the East/West differences. For example, secular and orthodox Jews are nearly as different in their thinking as East Asians and Westerners.

As for the significance of identity vs. race, I have trouble comprehending that someone wouldn't recognize it at least to some degree. You seem to have the same trouble seeing how I can deny that race is the same thing as identity(?)

For example, how could anyone possibly attribute the shared sense of unity of Christians to "race" when they span so many races? How could American be a nation united in its principles if our unity and national identity relied on race, when we are a "melting pot?" How could people who are biologically the same race or nearly so commit genocide against each other if identity was not more important fundmentally than race?

The only way I can make sense of your point of view is to suppose that you don't think Christians share a sense of identity or that Americans share a sense of identity.

If you are open to the possibility and interested in why it is important to many people, read Samuel Huntingdon's "Clash of Civilizations," which shows among other things fairly clearly how cultural patterns of identity have divided the world far beyond the initial lines of race. Identity-in-general may have come from racial-identity in some way, but it importantly extends far beyond it.

kind regards,

Todd
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  #13  
Unread April 4th, 2005, 04:48 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Shocking: NYT—Races clearly do exist!

Ah yes Todd, dialectical thinking, where folk who don’t necessarily believe that objective truth even exists, nevertheless attempt to arrive at truth through the exchange of effusive logical arguments—developing and combining thesis and antithesis into long-winded and incoherent synthesis. I’m guessing you voted for Kerry (and suspect that Gould may have also . . . even though he’s dead).
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  #14  
Unread April 5th, 2005, 10:16 AM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Cool Tradeoffs of dialectic vs. confrontational rhetoric

Ah yes Todd, dialectical thinking, where folk who don’t necessarily believe that objective truth even exists, nevertheless attempt to arrive at truth through the exchange of effusive logical arguments—developing and combining thesis and antithesis into long-winded and incoherent synthesis. I’m guessing you voted for Kerry (and suspect that Gould may have also . . . even though he’s dead).

Your division of all viewpoints into incoherent relativistic dialectic vs. clear absolutistic logic turns out to be a really good example of my point.

Let's not get too carried away ... dialectical thinkers usually need and use logic and the law of contradiction in their thinking to some degree, and confrontational logical thinkers sometimes acknowledge points that their opponents make, ... but the fundamental different trends in thinking remain observable.

Dialectic and relativism about truth are actually different things entirely. Ironically, relativism regarding truth is closer in some ways to the uniquely American philosophy of pragmatism (at least in its recent forms) than to the Western dialectical philosophers you are alluding to with your description. Those long-winded incoherent syntheses were usually very absolutistic as well, as were their most popular interpretations. They are often absolutist to the point of dogmatism, though they often locate authority in the State or Society rather than in God, so Christian absolutists do tend to have a hard time seeing that those guys are fellow absolutists.

For sure, relativism about truth and dialectical thinking are completely different things. There are many examples. I'm one example, since I consider truth objective. What makes me a dialectical thinker is that I tend to assume that contradictory viewpoints each tend to carry some part of the truth, and that there is some effort involved in getting to it. But I assume it is there to be gotten to.

To put it very grossly, I think wisdom in real matters is usually beyond two-valued logic. Not because I'm a mystic, or a relativist about truth, but because I don't think propositions regarding abstract concepts generally capture everything. I think there is truth, but it can be hard to get at without seeing into views that initially appear to be opposed.

That said, understand something important now, I'm not saying that dialectical thinking is better, I'm saying it is different. I think you're right, that dialectical thinking makes for much less efficient science because it tends to complicate rather than simplify, and scientific thinking at its best requires simple models first. It is extraordinarily difficult to take an overly complex model and strip the crap out of it through science. It is much easier to start from an overly simplistic model and see where it needs to be enhanced. I think that's why Gould never came up with any decent theory of his own but was better at showing where other people's theories didn't capture the whole picture. I suspect it is also why the Chinese were brilliant at invention in specific cases but rarely generallized their principles to the kind of abstract mathematical laws that Western science involves. I agree that direct confrontation of competing theories is important in scientific theorizing, even if it often loses something in the process.

As another interesting example of the tradeoff, according to Nisbett's experiments, dialectic tends to foster hindsight bias, whereas either/or logic tends to foster attribution error. In other words, both ways of thinking go wrong sometimes, but in different ways.

Of course that analysis itself is pretty typical of a dialectical approach, so I suppose this effort I'm making may be futile.

As for my politics, I'm a centrist, if it matters and isn't obvious.
And dialectical thinking doesn't neccessarily lead to Marxism, contrary to prevailing conservative doctrine.

kind regards,

Todd
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  #15  
Unread April 6th, 2005, 09:29 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Shocking: NYT—Races clearly do exist!

Todd—It seems that we both believe that races clearly do exist, and we both believe that objective truth exists, so I guess we’d agree that race is an objective truth/concept. And yet you feel constrained to interject that race is “less important” than something you’ve dubbed identity. Hmmm.

Here’s Sigmoid Fred’s analysis: You’re an old white guy schooled in post-Lewontin Anthropology 101 dialectics, and therefore are somewhat disdainful and fearful of race, that “slippery slope” . . . and so you concoct a term that you feel is less threatening, more benign—identity—adding that you think race is less important than identity, alleging that dialectic thinking makes it so.

Oh the tangled webs we weave, and ironies we’re unable to see—race is a “slippery slope” only in the minds of old white guys. Perhaps you’d find some intensive CBT helpful—I know a good therapist that may also be helpful with any delusions regarding "socially-transmitted" viewpoints.
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  #16  
Unread April 7th, 2005, 09:49 AM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Thumbs up Re: Shocking: NYT—Races clearly do exist!

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Todd—It seems that we both believe that races clearly do exist, and we both believe that objective truth exists, so I guess we’d agree that race is an objective truth/concept. And yet you feel constrained to interject that race is “less important” than something you’ve dubbed identity
Yes! And if you'd stopped there rather than interjecting your own interpretation of my supposed agenda, we would have been in complete agreement! I should add that I "feel constrained" (by evidence and logic) to believe that the political and social significance of race is indeed due to our deep need for a sense of identity. I realize that it could well be that our need for identity has something historically to do with our ability to perceive ourselves as different from each other, racially or otherwise, but I don't think that matters to my argument. In the modern world, identity has become more important to us than just the question of whether we share ancestry.

I guess what I'm saying is that just because a concept like identity is part of social science doesn't automatically mean an idea is completely stupid. Even Jim, whom I think also dislikes social science, believes in "flocking" dynamics of some sort.

Also, there's a good reason why Freud has largely fallen out of favor. That kind of interpretive story of other people's unaware motives is particularly prone to attribution biases I think.
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  #17  
Unread April 7th, 2005, 04:00 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Shocking: NYT—Races clearly do exist!

Todd—
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Also, there's a good reason why Freud has largely fallen out of favor. That kind of interpretive story of other people's unaware motives is particularly prone to attribution biases I think.
Yeah, Freud—nasty devil.

Similarly, social construct Anthropology 101 advocates impute racism (ironically) and/or ignorance to those who reject their social construct fantasies—even the Harvard scientist/geneticist Lewontin insisted that the continued popularity of race as an idea was an "indication of the power of socioeconomically based ideology over the supposed objectivity of knowledge." Must have had is head up his Harvard PC white arse.

Last edited by Fred H.; April 7th, 2005 at 04:19 PM.
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  #18  
Unread April 8th, 2005, 02:26 PM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Thumbs up anthropology and social constructionism

I agree with your point, Fred, but you have to realize that Anthropology isn't based on social construction theory. You can't fairly evaluate an idea based on things it is loosely associated with at its extremes.

Yes, there is a very loose relationship, especially in the past, because Boas was a central influence on anthopology for a long time and considered it very imporant to study cultures on their own basis rather than in the excessively ethnocentric bases of the time. Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead took those ideas farther, some would say to the point of giving a false impression in the case of Mead, and their fans in general culture are probably more responsible for your impression of anthropology than most anthropologists themselves are. Unfortunately, though, reading a critic's summary of someone's work only gives you a partial view of it. I suspect that the more current anthro you read seriously for understanding, the harder it will be to maintain your impression that they are social constructionists.

Boas himself was certainly not a social constructionist, and neither are most anthropologists today. Cultural anthopologists do care about "local knowledge" of individual cultures, but they acknowledge very clearly that not all knowledge is local, which is the implication of your truth-relativism stereotype of social constructionism. There's some identifiable guilt by distant association going on here I think. Not your fault, neccessarily, since I've seen a lot of conservative authors claim this, but definitely it misses what anthropologists are really doing. They are an important source of information about group differences, and if you are interested in human groups, as you seem to be, this would be an invaluable source of data for you.

As far as my own view, I'm also pretty far from a social constructionist, if that's what you are trying to imply by making that comparison.

I do think that social constructionism has a valid foundation, insofar as abstract reasoning does depend to some extent on human traditions, but I agree with you that taking it too far and assuming that people cannot reason also from concrete facts and objective procedures quickly leads to the appearance of the ridiculous position that all truth is a matter of power or something completely unconstrained by objectivity.

It is an interesting and little known fact that even the people most closely associated with that view, like Michel Foucault, didn't go quite that far when pressed. Late in his life, Foucault admitted in a fascinating interview that he didn't really beleive that truth was simply a matter of power, but he felt it very important to point out the degree to which power corrupts truth (which supposedly by most accounts, he doesn't believe in as an objective property!). I've seen similar statements from the neo-pragmatist Richard Rorty, and from old-time pragmatist, William James. They seem to realize that people get the wrong impression from their writings, but they don't seem to care very much because they think they have something more important to say.

To me, that's where the influence of ideology and political motivation begins to impinge on clear thinking ... when we sacrifice honest and fearless inquiry to social motives, however well meaning.

kind regards,

Todd
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  #19  
Unread April 8th, 2005, 05:51 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Thumbs down Re: anthropology and social constructionism

Todd—
Quote:
Anthropology isn't based on social construction theory. You can't fairly evaluate an idea based on things it is loosely associated with at its extremes.
Loosely associated with at its extremes? Riiight Todd. As you know, at the beginning of the 21st century, not one introductory textbook of physical anthropology even presents the race perspective as a possibility—only the social construct dogma.

And when a Lewontin insists that the continued popularity of race as an idea is an "indication of the power of socioeconomically based ideology over the supposed objectivity of knowledge," the PC agenda is obvious. You yourself at the beginning of this thread opined that there was “probably some truth” in Lewontin's argument, and then trivialized race suggesting it’s nothing more than “groups [sharing] unique genetic markers within them due to shared ancestry that are not found in other groups.”

But hopefully you now appreciate and acknowledge that race has to do with “correlated genetic variation,” and it’s not merely your simplistic groups with “unique genetic markers.”

Last edited by Fred H.; April 8th, 2005 at 09:54 PM.
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  #20  
Unread April 9th, 2005, 11:27 AM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Question Can you give me a specific example of why this matters?

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As you know, at the beginning of the 21st century, not one introductory textbook of physical anthropology even presents the race perspective as a possibility—.
Perhaps, but you can interpret this in two ways. One is that there is some sort of liberal political conspiracy to ignore the scientific value of race in the study of human beings and that this prevents useful information about race from being known anywhere in science. Believing that would actually make *you* sound like a poststructuralist to some degree, since it implies that prestige effects in science completely overpower evidential inquiry over time. I don't think either of us really believes that. SInce we both agree that truth is objective, we both acknowledge that prestige (etc.) affects what people believe and what kinds of questions they ask, but not that it determines the outcome of observations.

The other is that race has not been a productive distinction so far. Although both expanations probably are true to some degree, my suspicion is that this is the stronger one. Although you are right, in that it is certainly possible that genetic group differences play some role in human behavior, I have yet to see any even mildly persuasive evidence of it. I think this is the experience of most scientists as well, and this is the reason why there is no productive scientific work focusing on the ways genetics determine group differences. Other factors simply produce more data than genetics when we study differences between groups.

Quote:
And when a Lewontin insists that the continued popularity of race as an idea is an "indication of the power of socioeconomically based ideology over the supposed objectivity of knowledge," the PC agenda is obvious. You yourself at the beginning of this thread opined that there was “probably some truth” in Lewontin's argument, and then trivialized race suggesting it’s nothing more than “groups [sharing] unique genetic markers within them due to shared ancestry that are not found in other groups.”
I think I understand how you feel, Fred, but to me, showing your most radical opponent to be biased doesn't make your own case.

You want to stretch the point farther than I think is justified, but I don't disagree with your principle. Think of a comparison in medicine. It has long been rare to find a medical text that considers sex (as in "gender") as an important factor in decision making. As a result, the diagnosis of women was long done the same way as with men, resulting in many errors because some symptoms appear differently in women than they do in men. Women have often inadvertently but systematically been treated poorly for cardiac problems and their responses to medications for this reason. Our failure to make important distinctions in medicine and pressure of various kinds to treat different groups the same leads to some errors than are costly in the long run in other ways.

I'll agree that it could be, in principle, that our ignoring race in science might be an error in the long run. I just don't see any evidence right now that this is the case. Perhaps the best case I can think of comes from The Bell Curve, but I didn't think it really persuasively distinguished between cultural and racial differences except to those who were already convinced of the outcome. Their case for genetic group differences in intelligence was not exactly the "knockdown" case that would be required to show something scientifically new. The best argument I've seen is not from evidence but from showing how biased the opponents of racialism are.

Again, I don't personally believe that showing your opponent to be biased makes you right. It usually just means that you have a different bias, I think. That's not an argument, it's how I see the world.

I don't see a persuasive evidential case being made for genetic racial differences in things like intelligence or problem solving or moral reasoning that would overpower cultural transmission factors and individual differences.

Quote:
But hopefully you now appreciate and acknowledge that race has to do with “correlated genetic variation,” and it’s not merely your simplistic groups with “unique genetic markers.”
No, I don't see any evidence yet that these two perspectives are meaningfully different.

A test case might help clarify. What specific kinds of genetic group differences are you arguing for and why are they so important to you? Do you care most about genetic group differences in intelligence, in certain behaviors, in mental health, in physical performance, or what? It seems possible to me that there could (at least in theory) be different influence of race in each of these types of human activity. Does this distinction matter to you?

kind regards,

Todd
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