Heather Mac Donald’s coded racism is not at all subtle


Heather Mac Donald is claiming that identity politics is harming the sciences. It’s an amazing exercise in willful blindness and coded assumptions.

Identity politics has engulfed the humanities and social sciences on American campuses; now it is taking over the hard sciences. The STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math—are under attack for being insufficiently “diverse.” The pressure to increase the representation of females, blacks, and Hispanics comes from the federal government, university administrators, and scientific societies themselves. That pressure is changing how science is taught and how scientific qualifications are evaluated. The results will be disastrous for scientific innovation and for American competitiveness.

Yes, we’re always changing how science is taught. When I was a college student, you’d go into a huge classroom, sit on your butt, and a professor on a distant podium would lecture at you. That was great for some things, and I learned a lot, but the most formative experiences in my training were all in small lab settings where we did stuff. Good teachers experiment all the time and try new approaches to engage students. I don’t think Mac Donald is a teacher, or has any experience in STEM, so she’s lacking in qualifications to judge how teaching works, and she doesn’t present any evidence that teaching is getting worse as we reach out to diverse students.

But look at that coded assumption at the end of the paragraph: it is going to have a “disastrous” effect on American science if we increase representation of “females, blacks, and Hispanics”! Why? Does Heather know something we don’t? Are we just supposed to assume that those groups are intellectually inferior to white men, so it’s going to downgrade our scientific institutions if we don’t staff them entirely with white guys?

This next paragraph is actually correct.

The National Science Foundation (NSF), a federal agency that funds university research, is consumed by diversity ideology. Progress in science, it argues, requires a “diverse STEM workforce.” Programs to boost diversity in STEM pour forth from its coffers in wild abundance. The NSF jump-started the implicit-bias industry in the 1990s by underwriting the development of the implicit association test (IAT). (The IAT purports to reveal a subject’s unconscious biases by measuring the speed with which he associates minority faces with positive or negative words; see “Are We All Unconscious Racists?,” Autumn 2017.) Since then, the NSF has continued to dump millions of dollars into implicit-bias activism. In July 2017, it awarded $1 million to the University of New Hampshire and two other institutions to develop a “bias-awareness intervention tool.” Another $2 million that same month went to the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University to “remediate microaggressions and implicit biases” in engineering classrooms.

Yes. The funding agencies are awake to the fact that American demographics are changing. We can either ignore the shrinking pool of white male students entering the sciences, or we can try to address and incorporate the growing pool of brown-skinned and female people. There is an understanding in the funding agencies that Heather Mac Donald lacks: there is an immense group of intelligent, talented, ambitious people who don’t look like Dennis Miller. We have an aging, largely white male professoriate (who, moi?) and we need to take active steps to end the natural tendency to favor people who look like us.

We were the recipient of an HHMI grant for 5 years, and it’s true: part of the deal was being sent a constant stream of information about how to address imbalances in our student population — in fact, the whole grant was about looking forward to the next generation of the professoriate and tapping into diverse audiences. It was helpful and informative.

Another of Heather’s assumptions is that reaching out to black kids or the children of immigrants requires dumbing down the curriculum. It doesn’t. The last HHMI meeting I attended was all about increasing rigor and math skills in biology students. Does she really think the best scientists in the country want to downgrade science education? The message was always, “You have to be really smart to succeed in science, how can we help really smart kids of all colors learn?”

Look here, more coded dog-whistles.

Somehow, NSF-backed scientists managed to rack up more than 200 Nobel Prizes before the agency realized that scientific progress depends on “diversity.” Those “un-diverse” scientists discovered the fundamental particles of matter and unlocked the genetics of viruses. Now that academic victimology has established a beachhead at the agency, however, it remains to be seen whether the pace of such breakthroughs will continue. The NSF is conducting a half-million-dollar study of “intersectionality” in the STEM fields. “Intersectionality” refers to the increased oppression allegedly experienced by individuals who can check off several categories of victimhood—being female, black, and trans, say. The NSF study’s theory is that such intersectionality lies behind the lack of diversity in STEM. Two sociologists are polling more than 10,000 scientists and engineers in nine professional organizations about the “social and cultural variables” that produce “disadvantage and marginalization” in STEM workplaces.

Of course “un-diverse” scientists were successful! None of this is about saying white students are suddenly inferior — there is no policy in play to shut out wealthy white kids. The goal is to tap into a larger pool of intelligent, science-minded kids of all genders and skin tones. We’re on the path to becoming a minority-majority counter in the next few decades — how do we maintain scientific progress if we only cater to a shrinking group of people on the basis of their skin color and sex, which are totally irrelevant to scientific expertise?

I had to stop reading at the next paragraph, though. The raging racist presuppositions were just too much.

Racial preferences in med school programs are sometimes justified on the basis that minorities want doctors who “look like them.” Arguably, however, minority patients with serious illnesses want the same thing as anyone else: subject mastery.

Why, Ms Mac Donald, are you assuming that giving opportunities to minority doctors will lead to a reduction in subject mastery?

She did all this railing against implicit-bias training, but she’s a picture-perfect, flawless example of implicit bias herself. It would be a useful exercise in recognizing implicit bias to give this article to scientists along with a red pen and ask them to highlight all the examples — as one of those cunning scientists myself, I’d have a quick answer. I’d just pop the pen open, dump the ink into a small beaker of alcohol, and pour it over the paper to give it a nice red wash.

Or maybe it would be quicker to just set it on fire. Fire is red, right?

Comments

  1. zenlike says

    What do you expect from someone who wrote an entire book whining about the opposition against racial profiling? And another book lamenting the “raced-based attacks on the criminal-justice system”?

    Just another rightwing status-quo warrior.

  2. raven says

    Heather MacDonald Wikipedia
    Occupation Essayist, author, political commentator, journalist
    Known for Conservative
    Heather Lynn Mac Donald (born November 23, 1956) is an American political commentator, essayist, attorney and journalist. She is described as a secular conservative.

    She is a lawyer and right wingnut crackpot.
    Her qualifications to comment on science and scientists are low, not far above nonexistent.

    According to wikipedia, she is a routine right wingnut. A misogynist and racist.
    She is an Ann Coulter class crackpot but some of her positions are just sickening.
    She is a hard core misogynist.
    Quote. “She has advocated for religious profiling by the police on the grounds that “you cannot be an Islamic terrorist unless you’re a member of the Muslim faith”.[8] This is true but trivial and irrelevant.
    You can’t be a xian terrorist unless you are a… xian.
    You can’t be an atheist terrorist unless you are an…atheist.
    You can’t be a right wingnut terrorist unless you are a…right wingnut.

  3. says

    Disclaimer: I work at University outside US in STEM field – but that issue doesn’t have an effect on me personally and I don’t know much about how it works at your side of the pond. I don’t have my own horse in this race, I’m motivated only to try to understand where the gap between the sides comes from

    I think some of the opposition to “inclusive” campaigns may be caused by the belief they are done badly, stupidly or without required precision. That by looking to include people of different sex/ethnicity/social group than the dominant one, such programs will promote some amount of less qualified participant but with the “right” ethnicity etc.
    Well…. they will, obviously.
    There is no perfect way to predict future so there will be mistakes. And humans are way too complicated to design usable and perfect algorithm to find the sweet spot, the point of balance, how much help/handicap should each person get.

    There is also an issue that some group may be less interested in a career in a specific field than the other group.
    Example:
    If there are 2 groups in the population, A and B, and both have similar numbers and both are similarly talented in some FIELD in reality, but it can’t be proven beyond a doubt and some people disagree with that.
    Also group A sees the FIELD as fitting their social role while group B is not so inclined to choose a career in the FIELD, choosing other careers as more fun or simply more acceptable for them.
    What we observe is that FIELD is dominated by A and for some people this is an evidence for A being better at FIELD.
    Now if there will be a program to help people from group B we will see an increase of B in a FIELD which will be useful both for the FIELD and for the general perception of FIELD among group B and to understanding there is no real difference between group A and B regarding the FIELD.

    However if the program will be too ambitious or driven by the assumption the numbers of A and B in the FIELD should be equal, it may overshoot and due to the fact that bigger percentage of students from group B choose other careers, some less qualified candidates in group B will get into the FIELD.

    So positive impact on social perception of B in the FIELD will be countered by the fact, that some of B members in the field are a bit inferior to their A counterparts.

    If we add to that a common bias to reinforce already held beliefs – If someone from group A sucks in the FIELD, this person sucks in the FIELD, if it is someone from group B who sucks in the FIELD it is a group B that sucks in the field.

    My point is, it is possible that some of the programs will have some percentage of mistakes and it is possible that some programs can be designed badly. It is possible that the effect of some programs will be hard to interpret due to the noise in data.

    Even racist bigots can by accident have valid points, even decent people can reach unfair conlusions (by mistake or noise in data), even most nobly devised program may have side effects not intended.
    Pointing that out and looking for clarifications is not the reason to bash something and dismiss the concerns out of hand – even if the one raising them IS rightwing status quo warrior.

    In the example in pzmyers post:
    “Why, Ms Mac Donald, are you assuming that giving opportunities to minority doctors will lead to a reduction in subject mastery?”

    Well pzmyers, How do you know it won’t?

    This is not answerable without knowing what “opportunity to minority doctors” we are talking about isn’t it?
    This opportunity may be designed in a smart way or it may be just “we hire x% of people from minority even if they had terrible results in med school”

    I admit that this Mac Donald person is probably biased. And is probably wrong. I don’t want to talk about her.

    But similar question may be asked in good faith. Do we know the effects of this program? Are we confident enough that there are no side effects or that they are worth it?
    Just asking such question is not the reason to dismiss someone as a biased ignoramus, what often happens on the internet as most people seeing posts talking about something similar to what they hate instantly group the post with what they hate.

    And the more we believe that any social program is a right thing to do, the more we should analyze its outcomes

  4. cysyajads mf says

    Why, Ms Mac Donald, are you assuming that giving opportunities to minority doctors will lead to a reduction in subject mastery?

    I think that this is measurable in the same way professors such as PZ measure subject mastery.

    I suspect it has been measured by some people and they know the answer. So why not stop assuming either way and discuss the measurements?

    Now whether the answer is a reason to have or not have diversity initiatives is a completely different question. But the actual assumption that PZ is calling out here seems to me to be something that we should not have to assume one way or another.

  5. bcwebb says

    So a nonscientist lectures scientists on how all those minorities are ruining science.

    Even at a pair of Ivy league colleges for college and grad school and as a WASP American, I could see the discomfort and uneven treatment of minorities and women by my professors -too many wanted to feel at home with their boys.The white men got called on more often in class and as grad students got steered to more interesting research topics. Colleges also still carry the history of their racism forward with legacy admissions which holds spots for the children of alumni – who are of course almost entirely white. My observed experience is backed up by research studies that have shown that the same resumes get different reactions when only the names are changed to sound “ethnic” or female. The best we can hope for is that affirmative action balances some of this conscious and unconscious bias and sets an institutional principle that bias is not acceptable.

    That said, my current workplace is highly diverse yet mostly by nationality rather than diversity among its American employees. That diversity shows that race is not relevant to performance – so where are the American minorities? You do still see bias – most often when a woman or less common minority is invisible in technical discussions – their ideas being attributed to the first dominant group member to repeat the idea.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    All the self-selected spokespeople for whites just make whites look dumber and wimpier.

    Somebody ought to do a study.

  7. says

    In the current setup the less qualified members of the favored group will fare better than more qualified members of the less favored group.

  8. cartomancer says

    Well, I’m obviously biased in favour, but this reminds me of how my college back in Oxford makes sure it ranks so consistently highly on the Norrington Tables (an annual record that ranks the 40 or so colleges by their academic performance – we’ve been in the top 5 for over a decade, and in first place several times). What it does is spend substantially more money than the other colleges to do outreach in communities that are traditionally under-represented at Oxford – partly that involves ethnic minorities, but given that this is the UK it’s mostly about class. Wadham has the highest percentage of state-school educated students of any Oxford college (about 70% these days, compared to an average of about 45% in the University as a whole, although still below the 92% of all university students from state school backgrounds nationwide). We succeed because we draw talent from a wider pool, and the numbers bear that out.

    Well, okay, they made a huge mistake when they admitted me, but nobody is perfect. I remember when I was 17 and making my applications – if the people at Wadham hadn’t made me feel that someone from a rural state FE college was accepted and welcome (like the people at Balliol, Magdalen, University and St. John’s sure as hell didn’t), I doubt I would have applied there.

  9. cysyajads mf says

    We succeed because we draw talent from a wider pool, and the numbers bear that out.

    Your “because” does not follow from any argument you provided. If Oxford drew from a less diverse pool it’s performance might be better. A diverse group might rank higher or lower (on whatever chosen measurement) than a non-diverse group for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with diversity.

  10. chrislawson says

    Maciej Gorzkowski@3–

    An answer to your question can be found here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3623946/

    This paper evaluates the evidence for affirmative action in US medical schools. You would be particularly interested in the answers to questions 5 and 7:

    5. Is it possible to attain racial diversity and proportional representation without large declines in general performance? Yes
    […]
    7. Do affirmative action initiatives succeed in graduating competent underrepresented minority physicians? Tentative Yes

    So there is good evidence against Mac Donald’s prejudicial comments. And there are other benefits to affirmative action as well:

    9. Do underrepresented minority physicians’ practice choices lead to increased access to care for underserved communities? Tentative Yes
    10. Does an increase in racial diversity within medical education result in improved educational outcomes? Tentative Yes

  11. cartomancer says

    cysyajads mf, #10

    Given that academic talent is not limited to any one sub-group within society, yes it does follow that the wider the pool you draw from the better the results you will get. The top 10% of the entire population is the best 10% you can get – the top 10% of an arbitrarily defined 7% of the population (particularly one defined by parental wealth) is inevitably going to be less talented. You’re not drawing at random, you’re selecting for ability.

  12. anchor says

    Heather Mac Donald: “Secular Conservative”.

    …that is all ye know…and all ye need to know.

  13. cysyajads mf says

    You said the ranking proved it. It does not. Secondly your last post is technically true but is not what happens at university attendance nor what you claimed. You said the ranking proved it. The top 10% of the whole population is by definition the best (by whatever the chosen measurement is). But that is just a trivial point. It isn’t how people attend university. The most obvious problem with your reasoning it that they don’t all attend.Oxford. You could have an all withe male university end up as the top ranking (whatever that ranking you claimed proved it) and that wouldn’t prove that having an all white male school is the best way to get good performance. It would just be the way it happened FOR OTHER REASONS. Jesus, they did make a huge mistake when they chose you.

  14. cartomancer says

    cysajads mf, #14,

    Actually all the people we’re talking about DO attend Oxford, because the Norrington Table ranks the various colleges of the University of Oxford. This is an intra-Oxford ranking, and what it shows, year on year, is that the colleges that have the most diverse range of applicants, and hence the student body drawn from the widest section of the population, do consistently better than the ones that don’t. This was shown rather starkly when the last all-female college, St. Hilda’s, went mixed in 2010 and soon shot up the rankings where it had consistently been very low beforehand. By opening up its potential pool of applicants to the other 50% of the population it immediately became able to tap a greater pool of talent than before.

    As I said before, if you’re drawing the top 10% of the whole population of applicants, you’ll do a lot better than if you’re drawing the top 10% of an artificially limited subset of those applicants.

  15. cartomancer says

    Of course, I did not claim that breadth of potential recruitment pool is the only factor influencing academic performance, but it certainly appears to have a significant effect – which is what the Norrington Table shows. I can think of other factors that might play some role, such as how open, welcoming and supportive the college is for its students, but that doesn’t vary across the colleges nearly as much as breadth of recruitment does. Given that most students will be taught by academics from the whole range of colleges, not just their own, with exams administered centrally, you can’t pin it on different teaching practices either. The comparative wealth of the individual colleges has no appreciable effect (St. John’s isn’t consistently at the top, despite being much richer than the rest). The political leanings of the colleges don’t tend to have much of an impact either – the People’s Republic of Wadham does very well, but stuffy old Tory stronghold Christchurch also does quite well. In fact, such is the degree of homogeneity between the colleges that the importance of wide recruitment pools stands out all the more starkly as a significant variable in predicting success.

  16. KG says

    cysyajadsj mf@14,

    Why do you find it necessary to misrepresent what cartomancer said? They said:

    the numbers bear that out.

    not that the numbers “proved it”. That is a considerably less definitive claim.

  17. cysyajads mf says

    All of the top % of the *population* of potential Oxford recruits of your particular Oxford college attends Oxford? WTF? Do all the top minorities in England for example attend Oxford? I didn’t get you were talking about an intra ranking but it changes nothing unless ALL of the whatever % of top students from that entire population attends your particular Oxford college. The population of potential Oxford students of your diverse groups do not all attend.

    I’m sure there are mostly white private high schools in the U.S. that rank much higher in academic performance than more diverse private high schools and their *numbers* (whatever the ranking) wouldn’t prove it was BECAUSE of that reason. Saying that is just absurd because there are OTHER reasons why people attend specific schools and other reasons why schools accept or reject them.

    I get your argument that you should recruit from a large pool and not limit it. I get that helps you succeed. What I am disputing is that the rankings you mention proves it. It most certainly does not. Your because does not follow from the arguments (the rankings) you used to support it. You used the ranking as your definition of success.

    we’ve been in the top 5 for over a decade, and in first place several times

    Then you made a trivially true statement about the best talent in a wider group that also was irrelevant unless they all attend.

    You said this again:

    s I said before, if you’re drawing the top 10% of the whole population of applicants, you’ll do a lot better than if you’re drawing the top 10% of an artificially limited subset of those applicants.

    I AM NOT DISPUTING THAT.

    I start a college at Oxford. I select only from white males. White males desperately want to go to my new college. I limit my candidates to the top %1. My new college gets the #1 ranking. My ranking does not prove that non-diverse is better than diverse because there are OTHER reasons people end up in a particular place. The ranking does not prove it. For OTHER reasons the most diverse college could be ranked last and that would not prove that diversity lowers performance. It is not not succeeding because of the diverse talent pool. The numbers do not bear that out.

    Maybe I am not good at explaining my objection to what you said. Just be clear that I am agreeing with your conclusion, but disputing the “numbers” (ranking) bears it out. You made the 10% argument that shows that a wider talent pool results in better talent. Once again I don’t dispute that, it’s trivially true, but that is irrelevant to the ranking which can be cause by OTHER reasons. And all the top whites might decide to attend a different college. Still your college would do better by having a wider pool. So what? The rankings don’t prove it. THAT is my objection. Diversity is just one attribute of Oxford colleges.

    Correlation of a diversity factor with a ranking does not prove causation. The numbers do NOT bear it out.

  18. cysyajads mf says

    I posted my last comment before I read your last one. If that is what you originally posted I would have responded differently.

    I simply said that what you concluded did not follow. Not that I disagreed with you about a wide talent pool. You did NOT post all those subsequent arguments in your original post.

  19. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I see status quo warriors as people who don’t understand quality systems. The purpose of quality systems isn’t to put a bunch of stuff in place, then sit back and not question the status quo. You continuously review your SOPs to see where improvements can be made. Where I worked, this meant that all our chemical processes and testing needed to reviewed every five years. Often the answer is no, there is nothing we can do to improve things. But there can be new technology available, like automatic titrators (for example), that allow for more rapid and consistent testing with less chemicals being used, and less exposure to those chemicals by the technicians. A change that will pay for itself if made.

    For society, those improvements are the removal of impediments to the potential for success by all citizens. The way to do this is to remove the institutional and societal attitudes that impede success. Like young girls being told math is hard and leave it to the boys, it is blatant sexism interfering with their potential. Any quality system would challenge the need for any such “-ism”. It’s hard work to remove such impediments, and some people see their inability to deliberately hold others back as a real threat. Even something innocuous as the Rooney Rule in the NFL, where if you interview a white for the head coaching job, you need to interview a black/minority candidate too, is seen as some type of “quota” with preference. Never-mind nothing is said about who to hire, just the owner/GM can’t exclude looking at qualified people because of their skin color. It turns out the talent pool is much larger than expected without various forms of bigotry and artificially high credentialing in place. The same is true for most jobs, etc.

    It also shows why “identity politics” is required, and will be until the results are equal. The US has a long way to go to be a post racist/sexist/etc. society. Pretending we are already there is simply delusional.

  20. cartomancer says

    cysyajads mf, #19,

    Correlation does not necessarily “prove” causation, but it certainly suggests it. I’m not sure that talk of “proof” is at all justified here, which is why I never used the word. Given that you yourself acknowledge the importance of drawing from the widest possible pool of applicants, the mechanisms behind that resulting in greater success are obvious and uncontroversial, and you haven’t suggested a single alternative hypothesis that explains the facts, I fail to see why you are so committed to challenging the notion.

    Though, I do wonder, quite what would constitute evidence to you that having a wider pool of talent to draw from leads to success? If we wanted to do an experiment to demonstrate this then we could, quite easily. We could keep all the other variables constant, but just compare differences in recruitment outreach strategy. We could take an academic institution, divide it up into about 40 very similar subdivisions, differing most prominently in the methods they use to attract applicants, and then see which subdivisions do consistently well and which do consistently worse. We’d have to run the experiment over many years, to get meaningful data.

    No university has ever done this explicitly as an experimental investigation. I doubt you’d get it past an ethics board anyway. But, I contend that the collegiate systems at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge have pretty much set up this experiment for us. The colleges vary a little in terms of culture and traditions, but not very much. They’re all much more similar to one another than they are to any other university in the UK, probably in the world. Teaching is, for the most part, shared among the academics of the entire University, as is examination, and all the colleges are located in the same city with the same social and cultural environment. The one variable that is markedly different between them is the amount of outreach they do and to whom. Colleges like Christchurch, Oriel and Magdalen do outreach by sending people to the wealthy independent schools (Eton, Harrow, Winchester, places where a year’s fees are higher than the median national wage), while colleges like Wadham send people out to support working-class communities in deprived inner-city areas, and encourage applications from those who do not traditionally think Oxford or Cambridge are for them. Wadham is, right at this moment, sinking £30 million into building a new outreach centre designed specifically to facilitate expanding its outreach to non-traditional applicants.

    This is about as close to a controlled investigation as we get in the social sciences and humanities.

  21. cartomancer says

    But yes, I suppose if I had said that the evidence of the Norrington Tables provides clear, mathematical and indisputable proof that widening recruitment pools leads inevitably and in all cases to improved academic success then I would have been going too far.

    It’s a good thing I didn’t.

  22. jazzlet says

    With regard to the discussion on the placing of Oxford college results and the relationship to where they draw most of their students from, a point in Cartomancer’s favour is that the evidence shows that students from state schools do better at university, on average, than students from public schools. State schools are not polishing their students with the sole aim of getting them into prestigious universities, so students that achieve the necessary grades from those schools will have had to develop skills, like working independantly, that translate to doing well in the university context. In other words going outside the traditional schools will result in colleges getting students who are more likely to do well in the different environment of a university.

  23. cysyajads mf says

    I think you are still going to far. However, please read your first post and my response.

    Your first post :

    My college succeeds as shown by the ranking.
    My college is diverse.
    My college succeeds because of that diversity.

    That’s it. You provided NO other argument.

    I said your conclusion did not follow from the argument you provided which was only diversity + Good ranking = diversity causes good ranking. I did not say that diversity was NOT why your college succeeded. I didn’t then nor now do I have enough to say one way or the other.

    Your second 10% argument is irrelevant. It’s true I agree but it doesn’t help.

    Then you started posting a bunch of other stuff that considerably improves your argument., Now please note the brevity and the simple statement I made about your original post. Your conclusion did not follow.

    You provided NOTHING about Oxford colleges and how they were essentially equivalent, etc, etc. Had you provided all that I don’t think I would have simply said your conclusion didn’t follow. I think I would have said you are drawing too strong of a conclusion and I that is what I think. However, taking your entire argument to this point in consideration, I believe that it is not a bad argument and it is certainly suggestive. But I personally, as an old skeptic who has seen far too many retracted positions on more rigorous arguments, believe there is not nearly enough here.

    Somebody else posted a link claiming some government thing was good evidence against the Heather MacDonalds position. I thought that sounded promising and went and read it through. Ooops, I don’t think it says at all what the poster was claiming. I think the evidence for diversity in STEM in and of itself being good or bad for STEM is lacking convincing evidence for either side. I haven’t seen anything that says otherwise but I’m sure I haven’t seen all there is.

    In any case I’m simply skeptical of the simple number posting without serious analysis that both sides attempt to use and of course in my view that’s exactly and only what you originally did.

  24. cysyajads mf says

    Though, I do wonder, quite what would constitute evidence to you that having a wider pool of talent to draw from leads to success?

    Please, please, please try to understand that relative to your college I do not dispute that if you draw from a larger talent pool *YOUR* college will get better results. OMG how many times do I have to say it.

    However, you were using a ranking that included DIFFERENT COLLEGE rankings relative to each other and claimed that was the reason for the RELATIVE rankings. That is what I was disputing you provided evidence for. You improved your argument afterwards. However, to simply claim that you win unless I offer a better alternative explanation is bogus. You have the burden and things are far to complex to simply point to a ranking and claim the ranking “bears that out”.

    How about this for you. I think it is simple common sense as per your 10% thing that a wider talent pool will normally improve things. In one way as I have stated it is trivially true as long as you are going on some test score or whatever for example. If the most academically talented black would qualify for my school and I excluded him for being black then my results will suffer.
    He would have been admitted on qualifications alone even if blacks were underrepresented. Who the hell disputes that?

    But that is NOT what is being argued about. What is being argued is that diversity be increased for it’s own sake and that won’t have negative consequences, but in fact will make things better. That is a completely different argument. Simply pointing pointing to some diverse group that is succeeding is not evidence that increasing diversity would improve success. So for the last time I do not dispute you should widen the candidate pool to diverse groups. That does not mean improving diversity in some specific group will make it more successful. If you don’t understand that I simply have to give up.

    P.S. The linked report actually said increasing diversity in medical school will result in decreased performance, just not dramatically.

  25. consciousness razor says

    But that is NOT what is being argued about. What is being argued is that diversity be increased for it’s own sake and that won’t have negative consequences, but in fact will make things better. That is a completely different argument.

    Then let’s move things along, shall we? You can reformulate cartomancer’s question, as you just did, and attempt to address that. What do you believe would constitute evidence that diversity will make things better?

    It’s really not clear to me how this is meaningfully different.
    diversity = a wider pool of talent to draw from
    will make things better = leads to success

    No? But whatever. If this makes a difference to you somehow, then have it….

    You take this “new” claim of yours, assuming you’re satisfied with the formulation that you’ve insisted upon here (or any other formulation, if you decide to change your mind), and say something about what the evidence for/against would be like. If your views should be influenced to any degree by some kind of evidence, then what would it be?

  26. Khantron, the alien that only loves says

    In the example in pzmyers post:
    “Why, Ms Mac Donald, are you assuming that giving opportunities to minority doctors will lead to a reduction in subject mastery?”
    Well pzmyers, How do you know it won’t?

    Yeah PZ? Why don’t you defend a point you didn’t make?

    If some conservative suggests black people are inferior, you are now obligated to prove they aren’t or the conservative’s point stands.

    /s

  27. Khantron, the alien that only loves says

    I was quoting Maciej Gorzkowski from comment 3.

  28. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Maciej Gorzkowski, #3 & Khantron, #29:

    In the example in pzmyers post:

    “Why, Ms Mac Donald, are you assuming that giving opportunities to minority doctors will lead to a reduction in subject mastery?”

    Well pzmyers, How do you know it won’t?

    I just ate some sweet & sour chickpeas. How do you know my lunch won’t lead to a reduction in subject mastery for med school students?

    How do you know that advances in architecture won’t lead to a reduction in subject mastery for med school students?

    How do you know that Trump’s election won’t lead to a reduction in subject mastery for med school students?

    How do you know that queer marriage won’t lead to a reduction in subject mastery for med school students?

    How do yo know that a chocolate shortage won’t lead to a reduction in subject mastery for med school students?

    Maybe you should quit commenting on the internet and go open a Theobroma cacao orchard to save medical science from the potential threat of chocolate shortages.

  29. jrkrideau says

    @ 28 Tabby Lavalamp

    Re Rosalind Franklin et al.

    Can you elaborate on this. My understanding is that Rosalind Franklin could not share the The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 due to being dead. Tversky should have shared that Economics prize with Kahneman but he was dead.

    The little I know of the story suggests Franklin got really crappy treatment from Watson & Crick but it does not directly affect the actual prize though it may have/certainly had a horrible effect on her career.

  30. chris61 says

    Will changing how scientific qualifications are assessed in order to increase the participation of minorities in STEM improve scientific innovation? Don’t know. But assuming that it won’t (as MacDonald does) seems no more or less unreasonable than assuming that it will. Where is the evidence one way or the other?

  31. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    the evidence shows that students from state schools do better at university, on average, than students from public schools

    …those are different?

  32. chrislawson says

    jkr@33–

    Yes, Franklin is not the best example because even if the Nobel committee had seen through Crick and Watson’s minimisation of her role and decided she deserved to be co-awarded, she died less than 4 years after the famous DNA paper was published so could not be considered.

    Having said that, there are plenty of other examples:

    Jocelyn Bell Burnell, discovered pulsars but the Nobel went to her graduate supervisor (Bell Burnell has been very gracious about this, but I still believe she should have been co-awarded since she helped build the telescope they used, made the first observations of pulsars, and developed the evidence that overcame her supervisor’s early insistence that they must be artifactual)

    Isabella Karle, for work on crystallography; her husband Jerome won a Nobel for their collaborative work but she was overlooked

    Lisa Meitner, for her discovery and explanation of nuclear fission; her co-worker Otto Hahn won (deservedly) for his part in this work but she was sidelined despite having had a key insight and working out the math; she was nominated an astonishing 48 times for chemistry and physics but never found worthy of the award despite her nominees including Bohr, Heisenberg, Planck, Born, and Hahn himself.

    There are many more…

  33. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Azkyroth:

    I know that in the UK “public school” means the same as “private school” in the US. I think the thinking goes along the lines of “owned & operated by a member of the public” rather than “owned and operated by the government”.

    But it’s also possible this is someone from the US who just made a slip of the keyboard or something, IDK about this exact case. I just know that in at least some places “public schools” means the opposite of what it does in the US.

  34. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @John Morales, #32:

    No, my conclusion was directed at Maciej Gorzkowski, but since I only found Maciej Gorzkowski’s bizarre statement through the work of Khantron, I was trying to cite Khantron for credit (and to make sure that Khantron didn’t miss my comment, if interested, seeing as how Khantron was commenting on the same thing).

    I should have done a better job in making sure the conclusion was clearly directed only at Maciej Gorzkowski though. You’re right there.

  35. says

    Azkyroth@35 I assume when jazzlet was referring to public schools they were using the English meaning of certain privately run schools, not the North American meaning of schools run by government mandated school boards.

  36. =8)-DX says

    Maybe Heather Mac Donald should leave science journalism to someone else, I’m afraid in this case she got her icky diversity all over it. This is like the white supremacist traditionalist women: they can spend hours arguing that women should marry young, stay in the kitchen, have as many children as possible and not get involved in politics (give up the vote!), because strong white men should lead. They somehow always fail to take their own advice.

    (And the argument is of course that they’re exceptions as “individuals” because any attempt to think in terms of groups is also wrong… gosh maybe, just maybe that’s what the diversity effort people are about: finding the talented individuals instead of just writing them off because they’re not cis white men.)
    =8)-DX

  37. mickll says

    Plenty of fanbois in the comments section leaving evidence-free nuggets like this.

    Hate to tell you but a black population under the rule of a black police force would find far more problems.

    Fourteen upvotes.

  38. karmacat says

    Half of medicine is about the rapport the doctor has with the patient so having minority doctors is important. The problem is the elementary to high school education system in this country is skewed against people who are poor and especially if they are black

  39. says

    @Crip Dyke #37

    Public schools are open to all members of the public who can pay the fee.
    Before that there were only Church schools for aristos, and trade schools for guild members.
    State schools came much later, the 1900s.

  40. jazzlet says

    Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y Sorry I should have been more clear that I was speaking of the UK (well England and Wales to be strictly accurate), but I was talking in the context of the discussion about the relative positions of Oxford colleges in the Norrington table and as most Oxford students are British that is the relevant system.

    Halcyon Dayz, FCD Church schools were not for aristos, quite the contrary they generally served the chidlren of the parish regardless of income or in a very few cases they were for the children of the middle classes, some of the latter ended up as public schools, while the former all became state schools with church aid, which causes problems to this day. Aristos had private tutors or they might have gone to a prep (-aratory) school before gong to the likes of Eton. Also being even more pedantic primary (elementry) schools had to be established by all local authorities from 1870 and primary education was compulsory from 1880 in England and Wales. The Scots had been doing it for a lot longer starting under kirk control way back in the 16th C, sensible peole the Scots.

  41. numerobis says

    I’m not seeing the “implicit” part of the bias. It’s quite explicit in what she wrote there.

  42. bcwebb says

    @43 – But science journalism is never actually done by scientists. While newspapers would never hire a music critic with no ear and no understanding of music nor a sports commentator who was clueless about sports, journalists always seem to be people who found science and math too hard in school and for whom their science knowledge is limited to “rocks for jocks” or “physics for poets” if anything at all. Science news reads like a summer book report by a bad student who didn’t actually rad the book.

    Global warming is always presented as competing voices rather than a fundamental problem in energy accounting – that the answer lies incontrovertibly in the math of conservation of energy. Medical studies are presented with no sense of scale or context – no concept of the difference between initial high noise studies done to scan for possible significance and large conclusive systematic testing. We get space squid and zero energy cars.

    When you look at the NY Times opinion page, there is one striking anomaly that stands out from every other column. Paul Krugman is a actual economist, writing logical arguments that include data and describe the assumptions and math behind his claims. Why don’t we see an equivalent for science – some retired expert willing to try to explain science to the public?

  43. unclefrogy says

    I was having a discussion with a friend of mine about education and he made the point that most people did not need to study any science if they needed science to understand anything they could just ask some scientists. I pointed out that they would need to know enough science to understand that they needed to ask or get scientists to ask. The problem as illustrated by science journalism is there is so little general scientific understanding of “nature and the world” by most people that they do not know what it is they do not know hence we are in the place we are in with many of the serious issues we are facing.
    an empty barrel makes the most noise and we seem to be drowning in empty barrels at the moment \
    uncle frogy

  44. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    I know that in the UK “public school” means the same as “private school” in the US.

    In other words, we’re being trolled. Got it.

    I assume when jazzlet was referring to public schools they were using the English meaning of certain privately run schools, not the North American meaning of schools run by government mandated school boards.

    That may be the British meaning, but given the meaning of the English word “public”….

  45. chrislawson says

    @51–

    I wouldn’t necessarily call it trolling, well not for this reason anyway. If a commenter grew up in Britain, they would automatically read “public school” as an expensive school for children of the well-off. It is a weird use of the word “public” that didn’t even make the transition to Australia (our usage is the same as the US: a public school is state run with a responsibility to take all eligible children in its demographic area).

    It confused me the first time I heard this — someone who had gone to Eton was described as having a “good public school education” — but it’s standard UK usage.

  46. jazzlet says

    Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y
    Not being trolled, in the context of the conversation I explicitly</i. referred to, ie the entrance policies of Oxford colleges the usage is correct as we are talking about mostly English schools. If you haven't worked it out by now English and American are not the same language.

  47. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    ….I have no idea how the software decided that I hit “post”.

    If you haven’t worked it out by now English and American are not the same language.

    By “we’re being trolled” I meant English speakers, by Britainese speakers as a bloc, not by the specific poster in this conversation, although the above comes dangerously close. >.>

  48. blf says

    Why don’t we see an equivalent for science — some retired expert willing to try to explain science to the public?

    We do. Look harder. Try, e.g., the Science section at the Grauniad.† And in particular, some of the blogs. There are also, of course, science-specific (or at least -heavy) publications and sites. And blogs. Some of them, like this particular one you are reading right now, are even by practicing articulate scientists.

    Also, the repeated use of always and never — “science journalism is never actually done by scientists”, “[science] journalists always seem to be people who found science and math too hard in school”, “Global warming is always presented as competing voices”, and so on — is quite absolutist. As a counter-example to the first and second quoted dubious claims, Ben Goldacre (used to) write a column (in the Grauniad, as it happens), Bad Science.

    Better phrasing (of the three quoted examples) might be, “science journalism is rarely done by scientists”, “mathematical & statistical errors abound in science & medical journalism”, and “some publications continue to use the false balance narrative for AGW and other non-contentious subjects”.

      † Yes, there are clangers. And click-bait titles. And a tendency to confuse technology with science. Other criticisms can also be made. But the absolutist always and never is far too strong.

  49. wanderingelf says

    So we have someone with no background in either science or education claiming that science education would be improved if we would just ignore all the scientific evidence that human behavior is often influenced by unconscious bias. How does tripe like this get published?

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