Boghossian in a panic!

He thinks he’s going to be fired from his position at Portland State. That’s not necessarily the case, but Boghossian has been found guilty of ethical misconduct for his “grievance studies” exercise.

Peter Boghossian, an assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University and the only one of three researchers on the project to hold a full-time academic position, was found by his institutional review board to have committed research misconduct. Specifically, he failed to secure its approval before proceeding with research on human subjects — in this case, the journal editors and reviewers he was tricking with his absurd but seemingly well-researched papers.

Their defense is peculiar. James Lindsay literally says “It’s not actually scholarship”, Pluckrose says, “They can’t say we needed IRB approval…because there weren’t any real human subjects”, and that they couldn’t ask for IRB approval because that would tip off the (human) reviewers they were trying to trick. But that’s nonsense — of course you can do blind and double-blind studies on humans, IRBs approve those all the time. Here’s what they actually expected:

“An IRB protocol application should have been submitted to the Office of Research Integrity,” reads a determination letter from Portland state’s IRB dated last month. “University policy requires that all research involving human subjects conducted by faculty, other employees and students [on campus] must have prior review and approval by the IRB.”

Exactly. As an extra bonus, having an official declaration of exactly what they were trying to do and how they planned to analyze it ahead of time would have been more persuasive that they were actually doing a real study. But they weren’t, and they’ve even admitted it — if it’s not really scholarship, then what was it? I don’t know. Garbage? A publicity stunt? Propaganda?

It’s also the hypocrisy.

Over all, Christensen said he and Sears believe that Boghossian “wants to have it both ways.” That is, publicly presenting his project as a “rigorous study that exposed flaws in the peer-review system” while also “claiming that the hoax wasn’t a genuine study, and therefore IRB approval doesn’t apply.”

I don’t do research on humans, but even I know this kind of work demands IRB review (spider research doesn’t, at all), and I’m a bit shocked that they didn’t even discuss it with an IRB officer. I don’t even see any reason to expect that the application would be turned down, except possibly over its lack of rigor and poor foundation. By not going through the protocols — which even Boghossian admits are important and necessary — they did a disservice to research.

I agree with this assessment.

“We think that he did commit academic fraud, by design, and that some professional sanctions might be warranted,” Christensen continued. Boghossian and his colleagues “did misrepresent themselves, they did falsify their evidence and they did commit a serious infraction of research misconduct by deceiving these editors, wasting the time of the readers and then publicly slandering the journals and their fields. It is the right of any university to investigate fraud perpetrated by its employees.”

They also wasted the time of reviewers — you know that reviewing papers is unpaid service work for professors, right?

But guess who is defending Boghossian: Jordan Peterson and Steven Pinker. Of course.

At least we’ve got the authors on record now admitting that their “study” wasn’t a study, and wasn’t even any kind of scholarship at all.

Shocking revelation about my core discipline

My whole worldview is in upheaval. I thought I had a Ph.D. in biology, and broadly understood what that entailed, but now I learn that the proper way to parse the name of the discipline is not to read “bio” as “life”, but “bi” as in “two”. I’m a two-ologist!

Isn’t folk etymology fun? Especially when wielded by a conspiracy-theorist, racist, sexist, climate-change-denying, pro-war MAGAt to get the rationalization he wants.

Wow. That boy is stupid.

Oh no! The libs castrated the cookies!

I am totally confused now. Tammy Bruce is on Fox News with Tucker Carlson arguing that gingerbread cookies are obviously male.

So, uh…they have penises? Or Y chromosomes? Or higher testosterone levels? Those are the usual criteria these loons use to argue for the inviolability and absolute rigidity of the male/female binary. Cookies don’t have any of those.

Are they finally admitting that gender is a social construct, that in the absence of biological markers they get to dictate by convention what sex a piece of baked dough is?

Also, Tucker Carlson has been spiritually neutered. But we all already knew that.

This “gender reveal” nonsense is getting out of hand

I’ve been in this rodeo a few times: 3 children, 2 grandchildren. We’ve been through that period of anxiety where you want to know the status of the pregnancy, and somewhere early in the second trimester you find out the sex of the fetus…and it’s no big deal, except that it’s a landmark in development, so it’s always good to know that all is progressing smoothly. That’s it. We were not hung up on getting a boy or a girl, because you know they’re all good kids.

Some people, though, stage these elaborate events where they tell everyone it’s a boy or a girl. Really elaborate. Like this act of stupidity:

That was the start of the Sawmill Fire in Arizona — some dumbass had to set off an exploding target with colored smoke to show off whether a fetus had a penis or a vagina. And he just had to set it off in a dry, grassy, arid place. Look at that sere landscape, full of dry brush — you’d think anyone would be smart enough to know that this is not the place for a fiery explosion.

You’ll be pleased to know they’re having a boy, and they’ve also been slapped with a $220,000 fine. He got off really easy.

Before the fire was over, it had burned 47,000 acres and cost $8.2 million to extinguish, with nearly 800 firefighters battling the blaze.

His name is Dennis Dickey, and he’s a border patrol agent. I hope this idiotic act haunts him for the rest of his life. Maybe he can explain it to his son.

Jupiter is a big fan of Ayn Rand, I hear

Jordan Peterson was asked to write a foreword for a new release of The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It is truly by Jordan Peterson. It is straight-up raging capitalism.

Here’s some thoughts—no, some facts. Every social system produces inequality, at present, and every social system has done so, since the beginning of time. The poor have been with us—and will be with us—always. Analysis of the content of individual Paleolithic gravesites provides evidence for the existence of substantive variance in the distribution of ability, privilege, and wealth, even in our distant past. The more illustrious of our ancestors were buried with great possessions, hoards of precious metals, weaponry, jewelry, and costuming. The majority, however, struggled through their lives, and were buried with nothing. Inequality is the iron rule, even among animals, with their intense competition for quality living space and reproductive opportunity—even among plants, and cities—even among the stellar lights that dot the cosmos themselves, where a minority of privileged and oppressive heavenly bodies contain the mass of thousands, millions or even billions of average, dispossessed planets. Inequality is the deepest of problems, built into the structure of reality itself, and will not be solved by the presumptuous, ideology-inspired retooling of the rare free, stable and productive democracies of the world. The only systems that have produced some modicum of wealth, along with the inevitable inequality and its attendant suffering, are those that evolved in the West, with their roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition; precisely those systems that emphasize above all the essential dignity, divinity and ultimate responsibility of the individual. In consequence, any attempt to attribute the existence of inequality to the functioning of the productive institutions we have managed to create and protect so recently in what is still accurately regarded as the Free World will hurt those who are weakest and most vulnerable first. The radicals who conflate the activities of the West with the oppression of the downtrodden therefore do nothing to aid those whom they purport to prize and plenty to harm them. The claims they make to act under the inspiration of pure compassion must therefore come to be regarded with the deepest suspicion—not least by those who dare to make such claims themselves.

There will always be poor people, just as there is an unequal distribution of mass in the planets, where the biggest planets strove the hardest to be magnificently big. So what if Pluto is so small it got kicked out of the planet club? It should have tried harder.

Unfortunately, I predict his fans will defend this lunacy fanatically, rather than recognize that the guy is one of a minority of colossal loons who have hoarded all the crazy for himself, leaving only faded scraps for the Peterasts to feast upon.

No, Jordan Peterson, Genesis is not an accurate scientific summary of primate evolution

Just watch the wheel of illogic turn in Jordan Peterson’s head.

First, we get a quick summary of the book of Genesis.

A snake gives them an apple, and that wakes them up.

Then he waddles off into a discursion about science. This is key, because he’s going to conclude by using science to validate his version of the Bible.

The reason that humans have such great vision, way better than most animals, except for raptors, is because our visual systems were designed to detect predatory snakes.

Friggin’ bollocks.

He cites a book by a primatologist whose name he can’t remember on this “fact”. The evidence is a lot weaker than he implies.

Snakes were “the first and most persistent predators” of early mammals, says Lynne Isbell, a behavioral ecologist the University of California, Davis. They were such a critical threat, she has long argued, that they shaped the emergence and evolution of primates. By selecting for traits that helped animals avoid them, snakes ultimately endowed us with forward-facing eyes, for example, and enlarged visual centers deep in our brains that are specialized for picking out specific features in the world around us, such as the general shape of a snake’s body camouflaged among leaves.

Isbell published her “Snake Detection Theory” in 2006. To support it, she showed that the rare primates that have not encountered venomous snakes in the course of their evolution, such as lemurs in Madagascar, have poorer vision than those that evolved alongside snakes.

There is no strong correlation. I read Isbell’s paper, and there is no statistical comparison, which would be difficult given the lack of specificity. Here’s the extent of the “species comparisons” she did.

Malagasy prosimians have never co-existed with venomous snakes, New World monkeys (platyrrhines) have had interrupted co-existence with venomous snakes, and Old World monkeys and apes (catarrhines) have had continuous co-existence with venomous snakes.

To which I have to ask, “Why restrict yourself to venomous snakes?” New World monkeys have as much to fear from constrictors as they would from venomous snakes. I think the answer might lie in her reasoning in response to the argument, “but then why haven’t rodents evolved bigger brains and sharper vision?” — it’s because she argues that rather than visual adaptations, rodents evolved to become more resistant to venoms. It’s an entirely adaptationist hypothesis, of course, which is OK…but when an adaptation is turned into an umbrella hypothesis which explains everything with a single cause, I get a little leery.

At least the paper has the best “What have the Romans ever done for us” line I’ve seen in a scientific work.

What besides visually guided insectivory, feeding on fruits and nectar, moving on fine terminal branches, or leaping could favor better depth perception in near space and a better ability to “break” camouflage, both of which are improved with orbital convergence, particularly in the lower visual field?

Her answer, obviously, is “snakes!”

Trust Peterson to ignore the multiple factors that contributed to our pattern of evolution to focus on just the one that he can twist to stand in defense of the fundamental truth of the Old Testament. If only the story had told about how Eve, a hairy, monkey-like creature, crept along the branch of a pear tree gathering ants for breakfast before leaping to the apple tree, finding both a snake and a ripe apple waiting for her…

Once again, though, Peterson is going to use a mention of snakes in the scientific literature to suggest that the authors of the book of Genesis had a startling and anachronistic understanding of evolutionary theory thousands of years before Darwin.

Our visual system, which is the ability to see, and to be enlightened let’s say because enlightenment, for example, is associated with vision, the snake gave that to us because we had to pay attention to predatory things that were after us for tens of millions of years.

Well then. Basically every animal has had to pay attention to predatory things. Do they all get enlightenment? It’s almost as if there has to be more to the explanation than just, “Yikes! A snake!” As if, maybe, the Genesis tale is more of a poetical metaphor than a scientific description of a phenomenon.

And fruit, that’s interesting, we have color vision because we are fruit eaters. Our color vision is precisely evolved to detect ripe fruit.

No it’s not. That’s part of the story.

We don’t have particularly good vision, or even particularly good color vision (the exceptional qualities we do have arise from more elaborate visual processing in our brains). Other vertebrates, like reptiles, fish, and birds have tetrachromatic vision — they have four opsins, or color filters, in their eyes. Mammals are descended from a common ancestor that lived in the Cretaceous and was nocturnal — it foraged in the dark at night, when the less sensitive color opsins were useless, and they lost all but two color opsins. We primates secondarily evolved a third opsin by gene duplication approximately 30-40 million years ago.

So I guess the book of Genesis is all about the catarrhine radiation sometime in the Eocene?

Also, the “ripe fruit” story isn’t as straightforward as he claims.

Another approach in trying to understand how primate colour vision evolved is to examine directly how behaving animals exploit colour information. For this purpose, the polymorphic platyrrhines have provided an invaluable resource, since we know that (i) opsin gene polymorphisms responsible for the colour vision variations in platyrrhine monkeys have been maintained by natural selection over long periods of time and (ii) individual monkeys in these species are forced to deploy strikingly different colour vision capacities to achieve common life-supporting goals. Studies of such species can ask, for instance, whether animals with alternative colour vision arrangements are better or worse at particular foraging tasks. In tests run under semi-natural conditions, trichromatic monkeys proved to be more efficient at gathering foods predicated on the use of colour cues than were dichromatic conspecifics. Although such outcomes imply that trichromacy could have evolved in the service of efficiency in food harvesting, other research suggests that the story may be more complicated than that. For instance, several sets of observations made on monkeys feeding in natural circumstances found no causal relationships between colour vision status and efficiency in foraging. Supporting this conclusion is a recent examination of the efficiency of fruit gathering in polymorphic spider monkeys (Ateles) that also detected no differences between dichromatic and trichromatic animals. This experiment focused specifically on foraging that is conducted over very short range (within an arms length) and the physical feature of the target fruits that best predicted foraging efficiency was not colour, but rather luminance contrast, a cue that should be equally available to trichromatic and dichromatic viewers. It may be noted that short-range foraging such as this also allows for the exploitation of various non-visual cues.

Researchers have had little difficulty in identifying potential advantages that might explain why colour vision evolved in the way that it has among the primates, but so far have had less success in demonstrating which among these may hold greater importance or, indeed, whether any single set of circumstances may provide a general explanation. Future studies on this topic will no doubt continue to exploit the exceptional opportunities for study offered by the polymorphic platyrrhine monkeys, while having to pay closer attention to the physical details of the viewing environment operative for a range of natural behaviours.

Always question those pat answers that ascribe a complex phenomena to a single cause. Our color vision is a contingent property of a fortuitous event in a successful distant ancestor; we’ve opportunistically used it in our species for many functions, whether it’s gauging the ripeness of fruit or getting more cues in foraging or detecting social cues or creating art or labeling our side with blue vs. red.

We didn’t get it from a snake peddling apples. But here’s where we see Peterson make the fallacious conclusion that yes, we did, and further, a group of priests in Palestine 2500 years ago had secret knowledge of the evolution of primates in the Paleogene, and wrote a metaphorical history of the catarrhines.

So that part of the story is right.

No, it’s not. The bullshit generator in Peterson’s brain has assembled a rationalization that falls apart when examined by anyone with basic knowledge of evolution.

Owning the libs, a tale in three acts

Nike is coopting Colin Kaepernick’s protest by featuring him in an ad. It makes me slightly queasy to see Big Capitalism buying the face of a cause, but I’m not going to argue about that. Instead, the Trumpsters are losing their shit. They’re throwing away or setting their Nike clothing and shoes on fire in protest.

Which is fine — protesting is a great old tradition, they should publicly protest ideas they oppose. Kinda like how Kaepernick has been doing. So they’re protesting a guy protesting for protesting by protesting, and the irony is escaping them, as is the fact that destroying a product you’ve already purchased isn’t exactly doing Nike any harm.

It’s just stupid.

How stupid? Well, this one guy made it even stupider.

He announces his intent to burn his shoes. There’s some foreshadowing about what is to come here.

He asks everyone to retweet his principled act of bravery. OK! Happy to oblige! Uh, guy, shouldn’t you take the shoes off before you set them on fire?

Then, in the third act, the predictable outcome. You can guess where this is going. I’m putting this photo below the fold, because it is a bit grisly. He’s in the hospital now.

[Read more…]

Ho-hum, Comma again

I leave town for a few days, and crackpots start dunning the university’s lawyers for petty information. Comma has been at it again. This email went to the university board of regents and general counsel.

Demand For Administrative Investigation Into Willful Refusal To Comply With MGDPA Over PZ Meyers Data, Fraudulent Bills, And Informed Consent Form Of Nemmers’ Subject Data

David J. McMillan, Chair U of M Board of Regents (612) 625-6300 & Douglas R. Peterson, U of M General Counsel (612) 624-7569:

Chapter 13 data request – Please email/file share me the following readily available, free, electronic, public data in its original searchable pdf format pursuant to 13.03 Subd 3(e):

1. I am demanding an administrative investigation into the University of Minnesota’s willful refusal to comply with my Chapter 13 data requests. I’ve attached the UM’s fraudulent bills (UM_Fraudulent_Bills.pdf) for readily available readily available, free, electronic, public data. I have reason to suspect the motive is to prevent your Class of 1985 UMM graduate from receiving damning facts about the corrupt UM and the corrupt UMM and their corrupt personnel. The fraudulent bill is for a tape of the University of Minnesota-Morris police during interviews in regard to the vandalism and the theft Northstar newspapers. First of all, I never requested an audio tape but the original DSS file. I have reason to suspect that the audio files have been tampered with prior to being placed onto the audio tape. Second, I’ve attached a March 22, 2011 bill for the UMM’s contract with Stevens County Sheriff for Law Enforcement Technology Group Computer Aided Dispatch and Electronic Records Management software which allows for the electronic transfer of DSS files but not audio cassettes. Second, the data that I received was not in the required searchablable format but had been maliciously converted to scanned pdf format. Third, I’ve included to BCA’s software deployment report that indicates that your corrupt UMM Police have been electronically transmitting DSS audio files since 2011.

[This is a bone he won’t drop: I was accused of stealing newspapers, with no evidence. The police asked me if I’d done it, I said no. That’s as far as it can go.]

2. I’m also making a data request for all my subject data from 06-24-2014 until today’s date. See attached signed informed consent form.

3. I’ve attached my 03-12-17 Chapter 13 data request entitled: “Chapter 13 data request – personnel data – grants for The Aurora Center.” This data is currently being illegally withheld from your Class of 1985 UMM graduate. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/13.09

[I have no idea what any of that is about.]

4. Chapter 13.43 Personnel Data https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/13.43 for Paul Myers Associate Professor Ph.D., University of Oregon B.S., University of Washington, Seattle Expertise Developmental Biology Neurobiology Email: myersp@morris.umn.edu Phone: +1 3205896343 Campus Location: Science 2390 https://academics.morris.umn.edu/paul-myers. Please email me University of Minnesota, Morris Associate Professor Paul “Logical Fallacy” Myers’ (Myers is an inciter Of Violence & Freethoughtblogs CEO, isn’t he?) current employment contract, actual gross salary for year 2017-2018; Educational Background, Professional Certifications, Teaching Areas, Health Care Interests, Research Interests, Current Projects, Publications, Awards, Curriculum Vitae, and work-related continuing education for the years 2008-2018. Why am I asking for that data? I want to know if PZ “Logical Fallacy” Myers received a degree to diagnose, don’t I? Why? Didn’t you know that PZ “diagnosed” me as a ‘kook,’ ‘local loon,’ ‘wacky,’ and last but not least a ‘demented Sovereign Citizen’? Has PZ deluded himself into thinking that he’s a licensed doctor or did he just pull a fake sheep-skin out of a box of Cracker Jacks? Hmm? Inquiring minds want to know, don’t they?

[Comma is such a nosy fellow. He can write to the University of Washington and the University of Oregon if he wants confirmation of my degrees…but, you know, when I was hired here the university required that I give them verifiable evidence of my degrees. I think they’re confident my degree didn’t come out of a box of Cracker Jacks.]

5. Since the statute of limitations has run out on my Chapter 13 data request for the 13.82 Subd. 7. Criminal investigative data for the theft and vandalism of the UMM Northstar’s newspaper I am making a brand-spanking new request. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/13.82 Email me the incident reports in searchable pdf format, handwriting samples, audio files in original DSS format and corresponding transcripts, Digital images of crimes scene and vandalized newspapers, and the signed letter declining prosecution.

[That’s nice.]

Terry Dean, Nemmers (320) 283-5713

P.S. Hey did you know that I helped cost PZ’s corrupt buddy Steven County Attorney/Morris City Attorney Aaron Jordan not one but two judge jobs? Did you know that the Committee for Judicial Selection doesn’t like to receive clear, precise and unquestionable evidence of their candidates willfully refusing to comply with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act?

[I never heard of Aaron Jordan.]

P.S.S. You want to listen to my audio recorded conversations with your corrupt UM cops and your corrupt UMM cops?

[No.]

In case you’re curious about how the general counsel replied, it was with a terse suggestion that he visit the Data Request Center and fill out a form…which anyone can do, you know.

I’m getting tired of dealing with loons. I’m sure they are, too.

Penis goes in, penis goes out. You can’t explain that!

Bill O’Reilly is god’s puppet — he isn’t even responsible for his own actions. He settled a sexual harassment suit for $32 million, and he’s mad at god for making him…do something. It’s not clear what.

You know, am I mad at God? Yeah, I’m mad at him. I wish I had more protection. I wish this stuff didn’t happen. I can’t explain it to you. Yeah, I’m mad at him.

If they could literally kill me, they would, we didn’t kill him, so we’ve got to kill him again.

If I die tomorrow and I get an opportunity, I’ll say, ‘Why’d you guys work me over like that? Didn’t [you] know my children were going to be punished? And they’re innocent.’ But then I think about people who have it much, much rougher than me. And you know, I’m a big mouth. I’m a target. They’re not targets.

So they came back with another bunch of garbage. I talked to them this time just to see the devil that I was dealing with. And I truly believe that these people at the New York Times are out to hurt people with whom they disagree. They don’t want me in the marketplace. That’s what this is all about.

So he’s mad at god, and wishes “stuff” didn’t happen. What stuff? That he harassed women? Or that the NY Times exposed that he harassed women? That he harassed Lis Wiehl, or that the case against him was so strong he had to cough up $32 million? Is he acknowledging that he is guilty, when he makes the point that his children are innocent? Is it god who makes his children declare that they don’t want to live with him anymore?

Who are the “you guys” he’s blaming for working him over? Since he’s going to be meeting them after he dies, I assume he means the administration in heaven. Or is he talking about the ghosts of NY Times reporters and editors? Wouldn’t that imply he’s going to meet them in hell?

The only thing we can definitely extract from that mess of a statement is that Bill O’Reilly doesn’t consider himself accountable for his own behavior, and is reduced to blaming god. I suggest that the only possible recourse he has now is to sue his god. He’s got deep pockets, he ought to be able to get a substantial settlement out of it.

Racists love to cooperate: Sam Harris and Charles Murray

No. I just couldn’t do it. Sam Harris interviews Charles Murray in his podcast (but of course it is a friendly, chummy interview, because two white guys are not going to criticize each other when it comes to talking about the inferiority of other races), but I was unable to listen to it. I tried. I got a few minutes in, but listening to that calm, soothing, rational monotone setting up a conversation in which the capabilities of the majority of the human race were going to be dismissed with cold, clinical detachment was just too infuriating. I just shut that fucker down.

And waited.

I knew someone would have the ability to listen to it all and distill it down to the key points, so I wouldn’t have to suffer through the insufferable for two and a quarter hours. Thank you, Angry White Men blog, for taking the bullet for the rest of us.

I did have a pretty good idea of what was to come, just from the title of the podcast: Forbidden Knowledge: A Conversation with Charles Murray. There was the assumption right there that what the ol’ bigot was dispensing was “knowledge”, rather than racist junk science. And, as usual, they’re going to set themselves up as martyrs, holding “knowledge” they’re “forbidden” to share, despite the fact that these scum have elected a president, have police forces that functionally act to enforce discriminatory oppression, that the internet is crawling with slimy advocates for their ideas, and that this crap is routinely published. Murray’s The Bell Curve was actually published and promoted by major media sources like the New York Times, you know, and it’s not as if Nicholas Wade was unable to get his trash fire of a book published recently. It’s not as if you have to obtain this stuff as bootleg samizdat, in the form of smeared photocopies distributed by a clandestine network of shadowy men in trenchcoats.

AWM recommends you read Lane’s article on the tainted sources of The Bell Curve — it’s poisonous garbage through and through. It’s bad science, something Harris should have brought up. He doesn’t. Instead, he just assumes that all of his biases are true, and that, once again, he and Chuck are the brave souls who are willing to accept the Forbidden Knowledge you peons are too cowardly to believe.

People don’t wanna hear that intelligence is a real thing, and that some people have more of it than others. They don’t wanna hear that IQ tests really measure it. They don’t wanna hear that differences in IQ matter, because they’re highly predictive of differential success in life. And not just for things like educational attainment and wealth, but for things like out-of-wedlock birth and mortality.

People don’t wanna hear that a person’s intelligence is in large measure due to his or her genes, and there seems to be very little we can do environmentally to increase a person’s intelligence — even in childhood. It’s not that the environment doesn’t matter, but genes appear to be 50 to 80 percent of the story. People don’t want to hear this. And they certainly don’t want to hear that average IQ differs across races and ethnic groups.

That was a revealing phrase: there seems to be very little we can do environmentally to increase a person’s intelligence — even in childhood, Sam. Sam. Sam, I want to introduce you to a word that seems to be unfamiliar to you. It’s kind of amazing that a neuroscientist hasn’t run across it before.

That word is education.

Boom. Mic drop. Done.

Now of course Harris does actually know that common English word, but what it reveals is that he has a different understanding of intelligence than most of us do. He want’s to believe that children are born with different capacities for learning, that education is something that just fills that capacity with knowledge. This is, obviously, not true — any educator should be able to tell you that brains grow in ability with use, and that the key to expanding its ability is practice.

He and his ilk like to use the phrase “blank slaters” to address a favorite straw man, the idea that we are born with no inherent patterns of behavior at all (which no one holds, unfortunately for their rhetoric), while they are confident that we’re born with a certain degree of hard wiring for the abilities of the brain.

I have a different phrase for them. They hold to an “empty bucket” theory of human intelligence. They discount education because, you see, it’s a different propery. People are born with an empty bucket for knowledge, which varies in capacity by race and ethnicity and sex, limited in its volume by genetic factors. IQ is a magically objective number for the size of your bucket, fixed by your history and ancestry, while education and knowledge are more variable products of your environment.

What Sam and Chuck want to argue (no, sorry, there was no argument between them) is that black people are born with a 9 gallon bucket, while white people are born with 10 gallon buckets. They have no evidence for this. They only have the assumption that IQ is a measure of maximum potential, and that the statistical average of a deeply flawed metric that doesn’t measure what they think it does is sufficient to allow them to condescend to the poor, intellectually-constrained brains trapped in black bodies.

What makes it even more appalling is that these are two conventional, conservative white men slapping each other on the back while telling each other how superior they are. You would think Harris would have learned by now that the perception that he is racist, which he decries, is only fanned to a white-hot heat when he engages in this kind of self-congratulatory behavior.

He doesn’t. He can’t. I guess his social awareness bucket is very, very tiny.

AWM concludes with a comment about Murray’s flaws that should have been brought up in a competent interview.

And all of these points — unwillingness to engage with critics, connections to white supremacists, consequences for poor and non-white Americans — would have been worth bringing up in Harris’ conversation with Murray. As an interviewer, he should have done more than toss softballs and whitewash Murray’s record. As a skeptic, he should have been more willing to examine Murray’s beliefs. His unwillingness to do so will only bolster racist pseudoscience and toss more red meat to Murray’s white nationalist fans.

Oddly, though, those criticisms of Murray — “unwillingness to engage with critics, connections to white supremacists, consequences for poor and non-white Americans” — also apply perfectly to Sam Harris, so I’m not at all surprised that he wouldn’t bring them up. I knew that about him well ahead of time.

And that’s why I wasn’t going to listen to him.