David Silverman and “Woke Math”

Here we go again. David Silverman is racing rightwards, and is considering voting for Trump, because he doesn’t like the idea of defunding the police or what the Right are calling “Woke Math”.

Nobody changed, Dave. If you’re seriously considering voting Republican now, you were never on the side of the Left, which we should have figured out from all the CPAC chasing you were doing. Biden & Harris are very much center left politicians, so all the caterwauling about how radically socialist they are is absurd — the people I know who are unhappy with the Democratic candidates are rejecting them because they aren’t Left enough, which is actually an honest position.

But what about this “Woke Math” nonsense, which is a Fox News talking point? All this crap about schools not teaching 2+2=4 is made up propaganda. It’s not true.

You can look it up for yourself. Go to the Seattle Public Schools K-12 Math Ethnic Studies Framework, and read it. It doesn’t say anywhere that 2+2=5.

Here’s what it actually says. I don’t know how anyone can disagree with it.

Origins, Identity and Agency, as defined by ethnic studies, is the ways in which we view ourselves as mathematicians and members of broader mathematical communities. Mathematical theory and application is rooted in the ancient histories of people and empires of color. All human endeavors include mathematical thinking; from humanities to the arts to the sciences.

It’s saying that mathematics is a universal, multicultural thing. Do you disagree?

Power and oppression, as defined by ethnic studies, are the ways in which individuals and groups define mathematical knowledge so as to see “Western” mathematics as the only legitimate expression of mathematical identity and intelligence. This definition of legitimacy is then used to disenfranchise people and communities of color. This erases the historical contributions of people and communities of color.

They are explaining that math has often been used to justify oppression, whether it’s that slaves only count as 3/5ths of a person, or that the people of African nations have an average IQ of 70. Do you disagree?

The history of resistance and liberation, as defined by ethnic studies, is the stories, places, and people who helped liberate people and communities of color using math, engineering, and technology. Access to mathematical knowledge itself is an act of liberation.

What a radical idea, that knowledge is power and that learning math can set you free! Do you disagree?

Any atheist that doesn’t think that science and knowledge are vastly important can just fuck right off, Dave.

Student action, as defined by ethnic studies, is fostering a sense of advocacy, empowerment, and action in the students that creates internal motivation to engage in and contribute to their identities as mathematicians. Students will be confident in their ability to construct & decode mathematical knowledge, truth, and beauty so they can contribute to their experiences and the experiences of people in their community.

That’s a beautiful goal to have in any classroom. Do you disagree?

Even more dangerously, they have a list of questions that are appropriate for the subject. Oh no! QUESTIONS!

Where does Power and Oppression show up in our math experiences?
● Who holds power in a mathematical classroom?
● Is there a place for power and authority in the math classroom?
● Who gets to say if an answer is right?
● What is the process for verifying the truth?
● Who is Smart? Who is not Smart?
● Can you recognize and name oppressive mathematical practices in your experience?
● Why/how does data-driven processes prevent liberation?

How is math manipulated to allow inequality and oppression to persist?
● Who is doing the oppressing?
● Who does the oppression protect? Who does this oppression harm?
● Where is there an opportunity to examine systemic oppression?
● How can math help us understand the impact of economic conditions and systems that contribute to poverty and slave labor?
● How does math contribute to how we value natural resources?

My god, this is a recipe for making students think about the broader context, and also emphasizes over and over again how important it is for the students to understand math.

No wonder Fox News hates it and invents false claims about it, like that it’s all about teaching kids that 2+2 is not equal to 4. The far right has an anti-education agenda, and that’s why they’re spreading these lies.

And David Silverman has gullibly swallowed it whole. And is using it as an excuse to vote for Trump.

Why I think Kamala Harris is a plus mark for the Biden candidacy

I haven’t been reluctant to say that Biden is one of my least favorite candidates, and that my support is lukewarm. Harris wasn’t my top choice in the primaries, either, but I think she’s better than Biden, so I can’t help but see this choice as better.

But what really matters is her policy positions. She has a record! We can actually look up what Harris has supported. All I have to say is that she has a 100% rating from NARAL and an “F” from the NRA to make the case for her. She also wants legislation to combat climate change, co-sponsored Medicare for all, is pro-union, opposed Trump’s tax cut for the rich, and thinks we ought to support the US Postal Service.

This is not to say she’s perfect, but I can hope that she’ll advance some progressive causes. I have more confidence in that than I have in passive empty suit Biden.

Of course, either one is better than evil fucking clown Trump.

I intensely dislike dishonest presentations of data

One could make the point that there’s an interesting and sort of natural experiment going on here: two adjacent countries with strong cultural similarities but different approaches to health care are addressing the pandemic, and spontaneously generating lots of data we could use to evaluate their methodologies. But this illustration isn’t it:

Oh, look. The US is a smear of red. Canada just has a few dots…but wait. Those dots look like they correspond to the approximate centers of Canadian provinces. Are we seriously supposed to compare a coarse province-level aggregation of data to what looks like a finer-grained county level visualization of US cases? That’s highly misleading. It may be that Canada has managed the pandemic better than the US, but you can’t assess that from such a bad map. For shame, whoever made that.

Not the humanists, too!

Even the Canadian humanists! Here’s a conversation between two old cis guys about what to do about the trans folk, featuring Carey Linde, a divorce lawyer and activist for men’s rights (I say it that way to avoid implying that he is an outright MRA freak) and Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson, a psychologist and member of Humanist Canada. I don’t know why they’re even talking about trans rights, but they had to stake out their claim. I’ll just post a few excerpts to let you get the flavor.

First, Linde explains the source of the problem. It’s those darned trans people becoming conspicuous!

If you mean for the trans community, it was the developing collectivity of community. This increasing conspicuous collectivity in the public eye caused the very phobia from which the community wished to escape. As with acceptance of blacks and gays over time, gender identity issues and people are ubiquitous in the media. It is all less sensitive to a growing progressive set of the population. At the same time, the faith based right is rallying and dangerous. Gender radical feminists are under literal attack by the trans warriors.

There’s the usual bafflement about allowing trans women to compete in athletics, and the usual expectation that this is all a ploy to allow rapists with penises into women’s locker rooms, from Robertson.

Relying on recent federal legislation, the Ontario courts have forced the Ontario Minor Hockey Association to allow adolescents with female bodies to change in male change rooms. This is the kind of social experiment no university ethics committee would ever approve. One of two outcomes is possible. Either a number of people with girl’s bodies will be sexually assaulted by adolescent boys, or they will not. If we don’t see sexual assaults flowing from this experiment then we may reasonably decide that we do not need separate facilities for males and females at least for safety reasons. We are beginning to see this change with respect to the washroom issue. If, on the other hand, we see a number of sexual assaults, the logical conclusion would be to end the experiment; however, I don’t think that will happen. I think politically, the politicians behind the experiment will refuse to accept its failure. They will double down with increasing expensive measures to protect the genetically female while engaging in male-blaming, perhaps with references to “toxic masculinity.” But we as a society do not need to follow them down this hole.

He has another rationale for why the trans folk are getting more riled up.

One of the new phenomena fueling the panic is the increasing number of young girls and women deciding that being a boy in this world is a safer bet than being a girl. And the medical profession and big pharma is right their to enable this delusion.

Uh, what? Is there a single trans man on the planet who made their decision because being trans was safer than being a woman?

Then we get some ad hoc evidence-free evolutionary psychology and cultural anthropology.

We have the situation of men being more accepting of transmen than women are of transwomen. The hypothesis that men are more accepting of diversity would require more study across different groups; however such an explanation would be more acceptable to feminists than the obvious alternative, that biological women are protecting their privileges from competition while men have no such privileges to protect.

If men are more accepting of diversity, it would have to be a function of socialization. The testosterone that gives men their sexuality also translates into stronger bones, more muscle mass, and increased aggression and competitiveness. These latter two traits were necessary in traditional hunter gathering societies to fearlessly challenge competitors, both predatory and human, to protect bands that were essentially extended families. But aggression and competitiveness needs to be controlled or channelled if civilization is to work. Religion played a pivotal role in controlling and channelling male aggressive instincts in the formative years of our human civilizations. We have largely transcended religion by secularizing our ethics and expanding their application to all humanity, as for example, with the establishment of universal human rights. And we have been incredibly successful. Steven Pinker has meticulously documented how we now have fewer homicides, fewer deaths due to war, more gender equality and lower poverty than ever before in human history.

The argument would be then that the history of civilization is, at least in part, a history of controlling and channelling male testosterone. That aggression has been channelled into business, sports, politics and protection of the nation-state. Men have been conditioned to increasingly ignore minor or insubstantive difference, but of course there are numerous variables that also influence behaviour in particular contexts. Of concern to me is that tribalism has been increasing with a recent focus on ideological, cultural and racial identities and that this will result in breaking down the more universal humanist ethic. To take the argument full circle then, if the process of civilization included the aspect of controlling and channelling male testosterone-linked behaviours, then we would expect that women would have been less affected by this aspect of socialization. This would have left women more susceptible to ancient xenophobic fears including fear of “the other.”

Men more accepting of diversity. Yeah, right; men’s locker rooms and clubs are such hotbeds of sensitivity. Men, conditioned to ignore minor differences…I guess it’s true that there are no Republicans in Canada. It’s a bizarre set of evidence-free rationalizations to simultaneously suggest that men are roiling cauldrons of fierce hormones (to protect us from bears, don’t you know) and that men are therefore better socialized to be accepting and less xenophobic. That’s all nonsense, including their belief that humans needed big muscley aggressive warriors in their evolution — if that were really the case, how ever did gracile Homo sapiens ever succeed where Neanderthals died off? It’s almost as if there were more complex factors beyond the usual cartoon caveman trope.

Atheists have been embarrassing me for years. Don’t you humanists start!

I can live with Kamala Harris as VP

I was out spidering this afternoon when Biden announced his vice presidential candidate: Kamala Harris. Not that it matters, but here’s what I think.

I have one negative: she was a prosecutor, so she was an enabler of the carceral state. That’s the opposite of what we need, but maybe she’s learned from recent events? We can hope? Maybe someday I’ll learn that my hopes are always shattered?

I have lots of positives, though. She’s relatively young, but old enough to be experienced; she’ll represent multiple minorities, as a woman, black, and Indian; she’s smart and has teeth. I would love to watch her rend Pence into a pulp in a VP debate, although I doubt that they’ll have one.

She’s not Joe Biden. In the run-up to the primaries, I had a much more favorable impression of Harris than of Biden, so seeing her on the slate is a net gain. I’m not enthused about Biden, but he could have screwed up this choice far more catastrophically.

My terrible game

I just finished feeding my spider horde,and I have developed a cruel strategy that gets the job done efficiently.

  • Dump a large number of flies into a cup. I just invert a fly jar over it, and pitter-patter all the wingless Drosophila fall in like rain. I use a petri dish as a lid.
  • Remove the foam plugs from a half dozen spider vials. No hurry, the spiders won’t leave, they’ve got nice webby homes in there.
  • Incline the cup over each vial — the flies see this as an opportunity to escape, and begin streaming to the exit.
  • It’s a race! As each fly reaches the lip, I use a paintbrush to flick them into a spider vial, move to the next vial, flick another in, etc. I cheer them on. “You win! First place! You escape!”
  • The vials are criss-crossed with webbing. The spiders are not inclined to leave, and the flies are immediately snared and can’t escape.
  • Give the cup a tap to knock all the flies back down to restart the race.
  • Repeat until every spider has a frantically thrashing fly trapped in their vial.

I’m getting to the point where it only takes about 10 seconds per spider. The competitive aspect helps me get through it reasonably quickly. The labor isn’t the bottleneck on the colony, it’s mainly the space — I could easily fill up a half dozen incubators, I think.

I didn’t chuckle even once at this McSweeney’s article

But then, I’m not laughing at much nowadays.

We could have poured resources into prevention. We could’ve spent all summer enforcing mask use and social distancing. We could’ve sacrificed small pleasures for the greater good. We could’ve kept this from happening. But instead, we’re blindly barreling toward reopening even though we know teachers and students will die. We’re going to treat COVID the same way we treat school shootings. An unfortunate but unavoidable cost to doing business.

Strange bedfellows

Well, gosh, I’ve seen it all now: Answers in Genesis is eager to defend an evolutionary biologist. I suppose it helps that the biologist is an incompetent boob who promotes a lot of bad ideas, and AiG will always favor bad ideas.

Until very recently the statement that male and female are “real biological categories” wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow. Most of society, academia, and even the political arena accepted without question that there are two sexes/genders—male and female. But now, what was formerly a benign statement about an obvious reality will end your career. At least, that’s what happened to one evolutionary biologist.

Colin Wright—an outspoken critic of creation and intelligent design—claims he has been “canceled” for speaking up on the biological reality of male and female. In speaking out against the transgender ideology permeating and transforming our culture, he claims he can no longer find work in academia because he’s been labeled a transphobe or as someone holding ideas simply too dangerous to risk guilt by association. (Creationists have had this same problem for decades—simply holding to what the Bible teaches, and what is confirmed by science, about the age and origin of the earth and life is enough to end careers; ironically, creationists are falsely called anti-science by people who now claim there are more than two genders of humans, which is anti-science.)

Oh, Colin Wright. He’s been whining for a while now that nobody wants to hire him, particularly on his venue of choice, Quillette, where he is a managing editor (which explains a lot). I’m not surprised — if his name came up on a job search here, I’d be arguing strongly that he ought to be rejected, and I doubt he’d even get out of the first round of reviews. He’s an evolutionary psychologist! He claims that if you don’t accept his weird understanding of race and sex, you’re an “evolution denier”. He is a transphobe who is confident that there is no continuum of sex and gender, that there is only an absolute binary. He’s also fond of calling everyone who understands that there are more factors than just genes that affect individual identity “blank slaters”, that inanity that Steven Pinker made popular.

It’s not at all odd that Ken Ham would support a crank scientist who believes bullshit that defies our modern understanding and evidence, and further endorses a lot of regressive, conservative views. The only question is…how does Colin Wright feel about his new best friend?

By the way, another reason to shun the idiots at AiG, besides their stupid ideas about evolution, is that they are deeply transphobic.