The Harris-Murray two-step

An article published in Vox by Eric Turkheimer, Kathryn Paige Harden, and Richard E. Nisbett, three academic psychologists who specialize in studying intelligence, critiqued a podcast hosted by Sam Harris, where he invited Charles Murray to discuss the question of the relationship between race and intelligence. The article (which is well worth reading for its detailed analysis of this issue) criticized Murray for assertions that they felt were unjustified and Harris for not pushing back hard enough and asserting the existence of a mainstream consensus on statements that were in fact highly contentious.
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So tell us how you really feel about Trump …

An interesting guessing game has broken out about the possible identity of a Republican congressperson who made a profanity-laden scathing attack on Donald Trump to Erick Erickson, a right-wing polemicist. The congressperson had clearly wanted his views to be made known while demanding that his identity be kept secret, hardly a profile in courage, but the norm in our political world.
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What the Flynn effect tells us about intelligence

I thought I would use the recent resurgence of interest in the issue of intelligence and race to highlight some lesser-known and more technical aspects of this contentious debate.

While everyone has some intuitive sense of what intelligence consists of, these vary widely from individual to individual due to the amorphous nature of the concept. Is it verbal fluency? Numerical adeptness? Critical thinking? Logical skills? Depending on one’s preferences, one can come up with many different ways of defining intelligence and testing for it. When it comes to quantifying intelligence and trying to measure it (assuming that it can be reduced to a single measure, itself a highly problematic thesis) one must realize that any measure is always a proxy for the quantity being sought and the issue becomes how good a proxy it is.
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Closing Facebook and LinkedIn accounts

Yesterday I closed my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. I got both accounts a long time ago but never actively used either of them in the sense that I never posted any content on them. They were just passive accounts that others used to tell me what they were doing, which most of the time was of no interest to me. I had been pondering cutting ties for a long time but never got around to it. So while my closing of my Facebook account was not out of anger at the recent disclosures about its practices, I don’t mind if the company thinks that is the reason for closing it.
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Good riddance, Paul Ryan

An aide to the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives has announced that Ryan will retire from congress at the end of the current term. At 48 he is very young by congressional standards and this has prompted immediate speculation as to why he is leaving. He has, of course, given the common and usually bogus reason of wanting to ‘spend more time with his family’.
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The David Silverman case

Yesterday I got the following email from the organization American Atheists of which I am a member.

On the evening of Saturday, April 7, 2018, the American Atheists Board of Directors received a complaint regarding David Silverman, the President of American Atheists.

The Board takes very seriously the concerns expressed and, in accordance with organization policies, the Board has placed Mr. Silverman on leave while an independent investigation is conducted. Mr. Silverman has pledged his full cooperation with the investigation.

The Board, led by Vice President Kathleen Johnson and myself, will fulfill the duties of the President while Mr. Silverman is on leave. National Program Director Nick Fish will oversee the day-to-day operations of the organization.

While Mr. Silverman is on leave, American Atheists will continue our work protecting the separation of religion and government, elevating the voices of atheists in our nation’s public discourse, and supporting our members and atheist communities across the country.

We are committed to transparency and openness about this process and will release more information as it becomes available.

If you have any questions, please contact Nick Fish, National Program Director, via email at or by calling (908) 276-7300 ext. 8.

Neal Cary
Chair, Board of Directors
American Atheists

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One sign that students are being effective

While many of us are heartened by the sight of young people becoming politically engaged following the recent spate of shootings, Rachel M. Cohen writes that the sight of students rising up against gun violence has alarmed right-wingers who see this a signs that public education is a breeding ground for dangerous ideas that are taking hold in the minds of young people.
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Some reflections on the Secular Social Justice conference

The Secular Social Justice 2018 conference last weekend was interesting, in that it highlighted the work of secular activists around the country who were working on various issues of importance. After a fiery opening address by Sikivu Hutchinson, we had an array of speakers who spoke on local community organizing, elimination racial inequality in the criminal justice system, disability rights, immigration issues, the war on drugs, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the role of direct action. The presenters were entirely people of color directly involved in this work, not academic types, and thus spoke from personal experience.
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