The scouring of Lake Sammamish

Most salmon are bold adventurers. They’re born in freshwater streams and lakes, spend a happy childhood frolicking in those relatively safe waters, and then strike out for the rich, salty waters of the sea where there’s far more food, and also far more predators. Orca and sea lions, to name a few, love to welcome the visitors to their maws.

But there always some who decide to stay at home. These are called kokanee salmon, and they stay in their freshwater homes all of their lives. They tend to be smaller than the relatives who go to sea, and they form their own unique population structures and gradually set themselves apart from others. I’ve always pictured them as the hobbits of the salmonid world, the comfortable homebodies.

There’s a price to pay, though, because their bucolic homes are at risk as humans intrude. Lake Sammamish in Washington state is one of those places where a population of kokanee live. It used to be an idyllic lake, surrounded by forests that sheltered it, but even when I was a kid I heard about the tribulations — the trees were cut down, the lake cabins went up, then the expanding suburbs of Seattle started to encroach. It’s just east of Bellevue and south of Redmond. It became surrounded by parking lots and city streets and office buildings, and the runoff from the regular rains was no longer filtered by the forests, but instead carried a toxic soup of engine oil and lawncare products right into the once-pristine habitat of the kokanee.

And now it’s worse. Five years ago, 18,000 kokanee lived in the lake; now it’s down to…twenty. Not 20,000, just 20. What has killed them?

County biologists are now tasked with studying the unexpected problem to determine what is causing the species to disappear. Parasites, bacteria, and other diseases are suspects. But a likely factor is the increase in high temperatures throughout the year. Recent years have been warmer, with hotter streaks. This warms the water and lowers oxygen levels for the fish.

Now the lesson you might take from this is don’t be a stay-at-home, get out there and explore the world and set broader horizons for yourself. Getting trapped in a single habitat is risky, and all those intrepid wanderers of the salmon world have escaped this peril on the high seas.

I would suggest an alternative interpretation, though. The lakes are warming first, but the oceans are also warming, more slowly and more irreversibly. The anadromous fish have a refuge now, but we humans are coming for them, too, and they’ve only delayed the inevitable. The real lesson is that all populations are vulnerable, that what we think of as a tiny, incremental change, like a few degrees of temperature rise, can lead to catastrophic collapse. They can be resilient and bounce back from some changes, but eventually they can no longer compensate and will fall apart with terrifying swiftness. From 18,000 to 20 within a few years — that’s an apocalypse for one special population of salmon.

Look what you made me do!

Wow, the New York Times opinion pages keep reminding me of what a craphole they’ve become. The latest entry is by Gerard Alexander, an associate professor of politics at the University of Virginia, who appears to wag a finger at those dang liberals who keep pointing out that the electorate that voted Trump into office were mostly conservative white folks who were driven by racial bias.

Racist is pretty much the most damning label that can be slapped on anyone in America today, which means it should be applied firmly and carefully. Yet some people have cavalierly leveled the charge against huge numbers of Americans — specifically, the more than 60 million people who voted for Mr. Trump.

In their ranks are people who sincerely consider themselves not bigoted, who might be open to reconsidering ways they have done things for years, but who are likely to be put off if they feel smeared before that conversation even takes place.

“Consider themselves not bigoted”…well, now I’m convinced. They don’t believe the things they do and say, or that Trump does and says, are bigoted, therefore they aren’t. You know, that’s not how the universe works.

And worse, he’s arguing that if we point out the racist/sexist awfulness of the Trump administration, they’ll then become even more racist/sexist out of spite. Please stop. This isn’t how people operate. You don’t become something you despise because people call you a mean name — you might exaggerate what you really are, but you don’t become the antithesis of your beliefs.

All Alexander’s complaints are is a litany of abuser’s cliches: “You made me do hit you!” “It’s all your fault — if you did the things I told you to do, I wouldn’t be angry!” “I don’t like smacking you around, but how else will you learn?” “I’m not the bully, you are!”

Look at the horrible things liberals do.

Pressing a political view from the Oscar stage, declaring a conservative campus speaker unacceptable, flatly categorizing huge segments of the country as misguided — these reveal a tremendous intellectual and moral self-confidence that smacks of superiority. It’s one thing to police your own language and a very different one to police other people’s. The former can set an example. The latter is domineering.

Yes, we can disagree with conservatives, and we can say so. Don’t you believe in free speech?

It’s true, some speakers are unacceptable. If they want to come to campus and declare that lesbians, or Republicans, need to be murdered, we ought to shut that poison right down.

Obviously huge segments of the country are misguided — they elected a corrupt, incompetent charlatan to run the country. QED.

It is a very different thing when someone uses their speech to incite violence and hatred, but it’s not that much different from when you use your own speech to provoke violence and hatred. Alexander is basically arguing that it’s not liberals’ business if right-wingers spout racism and misogyny — that they get a free pass on doing that because they’re not liberals.

Sorry, guy, you’re an American, supposedly. There exists a commonality that requires some agreement on civil behavior.

The whole piece is an exercise in hypocrisy and false equivalency. You tell me one thing that liberals have done that is worse than bombing foreign countries, throwing away environmental regulations, poisoning the water in Flint with lead, fomenting a tragic rise in racism & hate crimes, separating immigrant mothers from their children, enabling the NRA to turn our country into a war zone, or wrecking the economy? If you do, I’ll probably suggest that yeah, we should stop that. It doesn’t mean you’ve got an excuse to continue destroying the United States and all the people within it.

The only good thing about that essay that once again my decision to never, ever give a penny to the New York Times was affirmed. Where do they dredge up these awful people?

Science lesson: What you want to be true ain’t necessarily so

How can a criticism of evolutionary psychology come off sounding like apologetics? I found this article annoying because of its lack of awareness.

One of the more intriguing findings in the field of evolutionary psychology over the past two decades has been that ovulating women are more strongly attracted to men with faces that have pronounced masculine characteristics, such as wide jaws and heavy brows, than to men who do not have such traits. Other research suggests men with highly masculinised faces have strong immune systems, a desirable trait in children, but also tend to form weaker long-term bonds with romantic partners, and are thus more likely to desert and leave the mother, both literally and metaphorically, holding the baby. Logic therefore suggests that a woman’s ideal evolutionary strategy is to mate with such men in secrecy, while duping less masculine (but better bonded) males into believing that the resultant offspring are their own—thus garnering reliable help in raising them.

That is not intriguing. That’s actually a fundamental obsession of evolutionary psychology: there are so many tedious studies that try to map women’s sexual preferences onto some aspect of their endocrinology. There is no continuity of thought, they’re just flighty creatures who make decisions based on their menstrual cycle, and their entire life history involves cycling through hormonally dictated associations with men with chins vs. men without chins. And all of that is built on the premise that Natural Selection is so powerful that it oscillates irresistibly on a monthly basis.

There is something wrong with you if you can only think of women as bags containing varying titers of estrogen. Not intriguing, except that it does say something about the men who believe in that crap.

So this article gets into a moderately large study (584 women) that actually controlled for many of the problems that plague other EP studies. They actually measured hormone levels directly, rather than going by self-reporting. They did multiple sessions for each woman. They had a larger sample size to possibly overcome some of the statistical weakness of previous work.

Unfortunately, it still uses the same superficial sorts of criteria other studies have used. They show the subjects pairs of photos of digitally manipulated male faces, some “feminized”, others “masculinized”, and ask the subjects which they’d rather fuck, and which they’d rather marry (they missed an opportunity to include a third option, “kill”). That’s it. It’s a predictably shallow approach to complex life decisions, but hey, bags of estrogen don’t worry their pretty little heads with thoughtful interactions with other human beings.

The only surprise here is that they got a negative result — there was no correlation between the women’s choices and their menstrual cycle — and that it got published. At least that last bit surprised me. These kinds of studies are usually exercises in the file drawer effect, or p value fishing.

But the popular press summary still manages to polish up this turd in an aggravating way.

All told, Dr Jones found that women’s masculinity-preference scores were not related to their reproductive cycle. Specifically, he and his colleagues could not find any statistically significant relationship between the levels of any hormones and preferences for more masculine faces. The idea that evolution encourages women to engage in cyclical cuckoldry was certainly an intriguing one. But, as Benjamin Franklin put it, one of the greatest tragedies in life is the murder of a beautiful theory by a gang of brutal facts.

“Intriguing”. “Beautiful”. No, the premise was a heap of garbage that was sustained by years of sloppy studies and wishful thinking, and there was nothing beautiful about it. I’d like to imagine that some bad science was literally murdered, but I just know it’s going to be resurrected over and over again by evolutionary psychologists whose research is guided more by what they want to be true than any kind of valid understanding of evolution, or psychology, or human beings.


Jeet Heer wrote a nice article on Kanye West and freethought, and I just felt like sitting down and saying a few things about freethinking and freethought in general. So many people fail to understand the words!

Oh, look. A wild transcript appears!

I want to take a moment to share something that made me happy, an article in the New Republic. I’m one of the people behind a writing collective called freethoughtblogs — Ed Brayton and I put this blog network together back in 2011, and we started it with a specific mission: to create a site for progressive writers, and specifically, to make it a comfortable place for all the godless people who weren’t white heterosexual men, to leverage our traffic to call attention to the diverse ideas that are out there in the blogosphere.

Of course, we were a couple of white heterosexual men, but we never thought of this as a zero-sum game — it was going to be a win-win situation for all of us, because we like new ideas, and thought atheism and secularism were great unifying principles, that without religious dogma barking at our heels, we’d all naturally gravitate towards ideals of fairness and equality and social justice.

You can stop laughing now. This was about the time we were discovering just how thick the racist/misogynist dogma coating the the atheist community was. We were naive and innocent and optimistic.

Anyway, we were chatting back and forth, trying to figure out what we’d call this thing, among many other details, and all credit to Ed, he came up with the basic idea of linking our site to the tradition of freethought, rather than just atheism, and so we christened it freethoughtblogs. We were both conscious of the history of that term, we knew exactly what it implied, and we realized that it was exactly representative of the set of ideas we wanted to advance. And we made it so.

We built it, we recruited smart progressive people, we explicitly set it up as a pro-feminist, pro-liberal values site. We were then surprised, because we were naive and innocent, when harassment campaigns followed, and when ignorant people started complaining that we weren’t allowing anti-feminist or racist or wildly conservative voices on board.

“You’re not really about thinking freely if you don’t let Thunderf00t rant about how feminism is a cancer”, they said. “You can’t moderate comments because that violates free speech”, they declared, confusing free speech with freethought, and not comprehending either.

Some people get it, though. That’s not what freethought is about. I can’t recommend an article by Jeet Heer in the New Republic highly enough, because he really gets it. He is criticizing Kanye West who has come out as a conservative jerk, and then labels himself a freethinker…so Heer writes,

Many people who claim to be “free thinkers” today are, in other words, just ignorant right-wing trolls. That’s a shame, because the term “free thinker” has a long history, dating back centuries, and refers to a noble tradition that’s worth recovering.

Exactly. Freethought is not an empty word that implies an absence of values. The best summary of the term comes from Susan Jacoby’s wonderful book, Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. It’s a book that came out shortly after Harris’s End of Faith, but before Dawkins’ The God Delusion. The End of Faith did not impress me; the major philosophical and historical work that shaped my attitudes towards atheism was Jacoby’s. I think the American atheist movement would be far better off if it had been inspired by Jacoby’s tolerant and historically aware ideas than the simple-minded “There is no god” and “I really hate Islam” approach of far too many atheists.

Jeet Heer quotes Jacoby to summarize the deeper meaning of freethought.

The term “freethought,” according to Susan Jacoby’s 2004 book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, “first appeared in the late 1600s and flowered into a genuine social and philosophical movement during the next two centuries.” Freethinkers played an especially important role during the American Revolution and the early days of the republic, when they were key in securing the idea of a separation of church and state.

As Jacoby notes, freethinkers ranged from deists to outright atheists, but what they shared, “regardless of their views on the existence or nonexistence of a divinity, was a rationalist approach to fundamental questions of earth existence—a conviction that the affairs of human beings should be governed not by faith in the supernatural but by a reliance on reason and evidence adduced from the natural world. It was this conviction, rooted in Enlightenment philosophy, that carried the day when the former revolutionaries gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to write the Constitution.”

Get it? It’s a positive set of values. It’s more than just rationalism and naturalism, though, but also includes a social and political agenda. Jacoby explains:

For if freethinkers did not have a political platform, they nevertheless agreed on a wide range of social, cultural, and artistic concerns, which generated such fierce debate in the decades after the Civil War that they would form a template for the nation’s ‘culture wars’ a century later. These included free political speech; freedom of artistic expression; expanded legal and economic rights for women that went well beyond the narrow political goal of suffrage; the necessity of ending domestic violence against women and children; dissemination of birth control information…; opposition to capital punishment and to inhumane conditions in prisons and insane asylums; and, above all, the expansion of public education.

That’s a movement I can get behind. There is meaning there. It’s not the vapid emptiness that too many people want to assign to atheism.

I’ll include a link to Jeet Heer’s article below, and I recommend it highly — it’s short, it’ll be a quick read. I’ll also include a link to the book Freethinkers on Amazon, which is even better if more than a bit longer. And of course I recommend that you read the fine assortment of freethinkers at!

Do not yield

I like a Democrat who will not yield. Maxine Waters ripped into a Republican who wanted to repeal anti-discrimination laws.

Mike Kelly, by the way, made his moolah running car dealerships, and auto dealerships are rife with racial discrimination, which is why the law was passed in the first place.

The House then voted to nullify existing anti-discrimination laws. Because of course they did.

Bigots don’t know they’re bigots, I guess

It’s useful to look at who your friends are. Who is defending the Intellectual Dork Web? Why, it’s the far-right conservatives, of course, like David French of the National Review Online. He’s got an angry defense, primarily of such right-wing luminaries as Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson, that is dotted with the usual buzzwords: “Identity politics! Political correctness!” But it’s also interesting to see what ideas he thinks are worth defending from the Identitarian PC Hordes of his imagination:

My email inbox is often a clearinghouse for dissenters from corporate America. They’ll forward me all manner of corporate communications in which their bosses establish definitive company political positions on all manner of hot-button political and cultural topics unrelated to their business. Banks, insurance companies, and technology companies produce statements about gun rights, fund Planned Parenthood, and conduct “diversity training” sessions that would make an Ivy League gender-studies department stand up and cheer. An employee “transitions,” and rather than relying on the good will, manners, and professionalism of an otherwise collegial and functional office, the company brings in “trainers” to teach a roomful of people in no uncertain terms that gender is different from sex, the man they worked with for years is a woman and always has been a woman, and dissent from these highly contentious positions is pure hatred and bigotry.

And everyone knows what happens to bigots in the workplace.

They rise to CEO positions, get appointed to the Supreme Court, elected to the Senate, or become President of the United States? Is this a trick question?

Curious, though, that what has steam coming out of his ears is gun legislation (we need more of it, I would think that’s obvious), Planned Parenthood (a good organization that provides necessary services to women), and … trans people’s rights? He seems most irate that we aren’t just shutting up and trusting in the good will, manners, and professionalism of an otherwise collegial and functional office, which would be hilarious if it weren’t so harmful.

Remember, this tirade is primarily in support of Ben Shapiro, that man of good will, manners, and professionalism, who has declared that “(1) Being trans is a mental disorder and trans folk need psychological help, (2) If you are born with X genitalia you are X gender, (3) Forcing people to treat trans people as their preferred gender is ‘thought policing.’” If we’re supposed to rely on the good will, manners, and professionalism of Ben Shapiro and David French, that’s a pretty good argument that the offices of the National Review need some diversity training.

I haven’t forgotten, either, that Jordan Peterson was launched into notoriety by his ill-founded protest against pronouns and laws that would give trans men and women equal protection under Canadian law. Bigots, all. Shouldn’t we be calling them out?

Conservatives, classical liberals, libertarians: all dishonest frauds

Are you interested in a good, balanced article on free speech? Here’s one: How Free Speech Warriors Mainstreamed White Supremacists. Our current problem isn’t a lack of free speech, it’s that the most vocal advocates for free speech, the ones who claim that it is curtailed and that they are victims, aren’t actually interested in free speech. They want an excuse to silence criticism of the most odious opinions. It’s the opposite of free speech — they want selective support for expression of bad ideas, while shutting down opposition in the name of protecting their views.

Capitalizing on the fuzziness of their coded speech, the new right has spun this plausible deniability off on hosts who either aren’t attuned to the underlying message or simply don’t care. Take, for example, the Rubin Report, a YouTube show purportedly devoted to “free speech” and “big ideas” with more than 700,000 subscribers. Host Dave Rubin positions himself as a “free agent” in the “marketplace of ideas,” seeking to establish a “new center rooted in free speech, logic, and reason.” To that end, he has invited on an eclectic, albeit right leaning, mix of guests, including mainstream public intellectuals like David Frum and Steven Pinker. But Rubin has made his antipathy for what he calls the “regressive left” and PC culture a common theme and so on the more extreme ends of the spectrum, he rarely, if ever, brings on a radical leftist. While Rubin frequently rails on identity politics, which he has called “evil,” he often invites on some of the most toxic practitioners of pro-Trump, white-identity politics, like InfoWars’ Paul Joseph Watson, who recycle black and immigrant crime stories, decry globalism and multiculturalism, and portray white identity as under attack. There they are offered the same deference and audience as some of the country’s leading public intellectuals.

Rubin is what used to be called a useful idiot — an undiscriminating tool who would uncritically promote terrible, destructive opinions while presenting himself as the noble supporter of open unbiased commentary. He’s not very bright, despite claiming to be a fan of logic and reason. The worst skinheads are smarter than he is.

“Thirty years ago, we used the same tactic and would refer to our movement as ‘White Pride’ or ‘White Separatist,’ said Picciolini, who was once a leader in the skinhead group Hammerskin Nation, recounting that less palatable labels caused problems and turned off potential recruits. “We [would say] we didn’t hate anyone, we were just interested in white civil rights. That was our public face. Behind closed doors, we were virulently racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic. The whole notion of ‘white nationalist’ or ‘race realist’ or ‘identitarian’ or ‘alt-right’ are based in the same racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic ideas we held. It is a marketing tactic and people should not be fooled.”

Yeah, they shouldn’t be, but it seems that being a fool is a path to wealth and popularity, as the Intellectual Dork Web has discovered. People with bad ideas are desperate for some kind of affirmation, and there’s always someone willing to provide it, for a fee. That’s been the lesson of religion for thousands of years, and now some atheists have rediscovered the principle, and have found that there are misogynists and racists happy to cough up cash if only you will tell them that their beliefs are virtuous and good. Telling people what they want to hear is always profitable.

Another darling of the Right, Bari Weiss, has also mastered this style. Like others of her duplicitous alt-right kind, she doesn’t even seem to be aware of how bad her arguments are. I’ll bet you’ve heard this one from the media a few times before.

I’m talking here about an emotional response. What happens to you when you are called deplorable? Is the response to say to the accuser: Actually, hey, you’re right! I hadn’t realized that about myself. Or is it to maybe consider voting for Trump?

When conservatives, classical liberals or libertarians are told by the progressive chattering class that they–or those they read–are alt-right, the very common response is to say: Screw it. They think everyone is alt-right. And then those people move further right.

Trump voters aren’t racist! But you are making them racist by calling them racist!

You know, that’s not how it works. I don’t want to be racist, either, but if you called me a racist, if you were even precise and specific and quoted something at me that I said that was racist, my reaction wouldn’t be to embrace that idea and go whole hog for Trump and join the KKK. It would be to say to myself that I don’t want to be a racist, I don’t want to be that person I was, what can I do to be better?

The Bari Weiss response is apparently to say, “What can I do to be a better racist?”, and that’s only the kind of thing somebody who is already pretty damned racist would say.

But here’s the bottom line, my emphasis:

In their blinkered fight for the alt-right’s “free speech”—a battle rarely, if ever, waged by the same actors on behalf of liberals—Rubin, Shepherd, and a number of college groups around the country seem to be both unable to make the vital distinction between protecting and promoting hateful ideology and unwilling to learn about it. They seem to view white-supremacist ideas pushed by social-media trolls to be on the same plane of harmless offensiveness as a Coed Naked T-shirt, inured to their real-world implications. Of course, they all have the right, at least in America, to give a platform without a heckler’s veto or credible counterpoint to ethno-state propagandists and noxious conspiracy theorists, who can smile and speak politely while peddling black crime stories and racist pseudoscience. But why, in the name of civil discourse and individual rights, would they want to?

That’s the real problem. I like free speech; I benefit from free speech. But I believe in the responsible exchange of ideas, I think in part because I’ve been conditioned by years of engagement in creationist arguments. That’s a situation where the other side is clearly intellectually bankrupt, where even someone like Dave Rubin or Sam Harris would agree that those people are so terribly wrong that it’s appalling to even consider giving them a free pass to indoctrinate our children. Yet I can disagree with creationists in the strongest possible terms and so detest them that I’ve been refusing to dignify their representatives with debate, while not suggesting that churches ought to be burned or fundamentalists jailed. That’s free speech.

They don’t seem to recognize that the pseudoscientific racism that they platform, or the institutionalized misogyny they promote, is just as disreputable and scientifically nonsensical as creationism, and even more damaging to society. So they talk about the “marketplace of ideas” and the “free exchange of views”, and offer a bullhorn to the biggest assholes they can find, while quietly whispering mild demurrals.

We on the Left are not fooled. We can see what you’re doing.

What’s wrong with you conservatives, classical liberals or libertarians that you don’t realize we can see right through you? The Communists had a term for enablers like you, “korisne budale”, or “useful innocents”, but I don’t think these right-wingers are innocent at all — they can’t be that stupid. They are well aware of what they are doing, and their disingenuousness is duplicitous.

How many rabbis do you need?

There are 57,000 children of ultra-orthodox Jews in state-funded yeshivas in New York. They are exempt from minimal education standards.

In April, state Senator Simcha Felder (D – Brooklyn) refused to sign off on the state budget unless yeshivas, which accept millions of dollars in government funding, were given more autonomy over curricula. Per a Post editorial, “Felder demanded [legislation] to exempt private yeshivas from state requirements to provide adequate education in basic areas such as English, math, science and history.”

The yeshivas are already black holes of miseducation, and this is going to make them even worse.

“[They] are being denied an education,” said Naftuli Moster, executive director of YAFFED, an organization that advocates to improve secular education in ultra-Orthodox yeshivas. “The main reason has to do with [yeshiva administrators] saying there’s no time to learn stuff [students] won’t use in life — especially boys, who are [expected] to be rabbis.”

Moster added that there are other issues at hand as well: “There are certain things in science and history that contradict portions of the Torah — fossils, dinosaurs.”

Also things like English and elementary arithmetic. According to the story, only about 5% of the boys who go through the yeshiva system become rabbis — and that’s about 5% too many — and the rest are just untrained and unprepared for anything practical or useful, which means that some of the most poverty-stricken areas of New York state are those inhabited by the ultra-Orthodox.

The article interviewed several adult products of the yeshiva system. They came out of it with a cultivated ignorance. The ones in the story, though, are men who scrabbled to make up their deficiencies and get somewhere in life, which makes one wonder about the majority, who never get out and perpetuate the same handicaps on their children.

ContraPoints does it again

This is a phenomenal deconstruction of the incoherence of Jordan Peterson — I do wonder if some of her sarcasm is going to sail right over the heads of the people she’s criticizing, though. This thing is full of post-modern neo-Marxist dogwhistles (oops, I just did it, too.)

Also, even though she strongly criticizes academia, I know very few people who are as entertainingly soaking in academic culture as ContraPoints. A lot of what makes her so informative is the constructive tension in her arguments.

Anti-immigration paranoia is just another form of racism

I have an intuition that immigrants, contrary to Republican rhetoric, are going to be more law-abiding than those who take their citizenship for granted — I think if I were living in a foreign country, one where I was less confident about my rights, I’d be more cautious about breaking laws. That would be especially true if I were in a country where the police had a reputation for brutality.

But that’s just my feelings on the issue. Apparently a lot of Americans think the people who move here to do hard, menial labor in the farm fields or the poultry sheds are more prone to be criminals. If only there were objective studies of immigrants and crime rates…oh, there are? And there are no crime waves fueled by illegal immigrants? Gosh, I guess it’s nice to have one’s subjective opinions confirmed.

Now, four academic studies show that illegal immigration does not increase the prevalence of violent crime or drug and alcohol problems. In the slew of research, motivated by Trump’s rhetoric, social scientists set out to answer this question: Are undocumented immigrants more likely to break the law?

Michael Light, a criminologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, looked at whether the soaring increase in illegal immigration over the last three decades caused a commensurate jump in violent crimes: murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

“Increased undocumented immigration since 1990 has not increased violent crime over that same time period,” Light said in a phone interview.

You can read summaries of the other studies at the link. They all say the same thing: the myth of the predatory, criminal immigrant is imaginary.

But of course they also have to find a contrary view.

Ed Dykes, a local electrical engineer, says a crime committed by an undocumented immigrant is one too many.

“It’s actually immaterial whether they commit more crimes or not because they commit additional crimes,” Dykes says. “They are crimes that would not be committed. There are American citizens who’d be alive today if [unauthorized immigrants] were not in this country.”

So they found a guy with zero qualifications and no expertise at all in the sociology of immigration, and he disagrees. That’s about as relevant as my subjective opinions on immigrants. I do find something interesting about his comment, though: it’s a refocusing of the problem to concerns about individual crimes, rather than the aggregate behavior of a particular group. I think that is a valid perspective. We should be seeing this situation through the eyes of the individual victim and the individual criminal, because that’s how we address the breaking of laws, by trying the individual lawbreaker. That does say, though, that Ed ought not to be policing classes of people if he’s only concerned about individual acts.

Of course, from that perspective, there are more American citizens who’d be alive today if other American citizens had been properly investigated by law enforcement, rather than the law haring off after innocent people who happened to be brown-skinned, a fact irrelevant to the crime. It’s also a confusing argument to say it’s immaterial whether they commit more crimes or not — because if you replace a population having a certain frequency of crime with a different population that has a lower frequency, you will see fewer crimes committed.

Maybe Ed ought to stick to electrical engineering.