Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Saints & Sinners: A Dialogue on the Hardest Topic in Science

 “Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall”
– Escalus; in ‘Measure for Measure’ by William Shakespeare
There is arguably no topic more incendiary (about which scholars say less, ironically) than race differences in general, and in particular, race differences in behavior and achievement. There are certain subjects that are so politically charged and fraught with consequences that any scientific research on the topic is instantly applauded or demonized (depending on your viewpoints), no matter the findings. The subject of race differences, broadly defined, falls squarely in this category. For the purposes of this discussion, and because we are behavioral scientists, we focus on the issue of race differences in behavior.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Selections for our Napa Wine and Conversation Salon

The following six posts of related articles deal with the fraught issue of group identity and control vs. individual identity and control (click on 'Read More' for the full article).  

Steven Pinker put the ideal in today’s language in The Blank Slate, writing that “equality is not the empirical claim that all groups of humans are interchange-able;  it is the moral principle that individuals should not be judged or constrained by the average properties of their group.”

The essays are used as "homeplay" for our PAIRINGS Salon Meetup during which we will discuss these identity topics while rating and ranking a selection of new releases.  The articles are meant to give focus to our discussion.  They will not be critiqued for their observations as such, but instead will act as a springboard or spark for our conversation.


Thursday, January 05, 2017

What is a Sexist

What kinds of statements about men and women constitute sexism? Is it sexist to say, for example, that on average, men are taller than women or that women live longer than men? Most people already accept the obvious truth that men and women differ in these physiological respects, and it would strain credulity to argue that such statements are blatantly sexist. Suggestions about psychological differences, however, can stoke controversy.
Pressing the issue further by claiming that psychological and cognitive differences might partly explain wage gaps, employment gaps, and the like, will certainly invite harsh rebuke and likely a charge of sexism. Like “racist”, the definition of “sexist” seems to have ballooned in such a way as to include any claim about average differences between males and females from the neck up. Some feminists, in particular, fear that assertions about differences between men and women threaten the social progress we’ve made over the past few centuries. Perhaps they have a point (as we discuss below). But we should consider whether such an expansive definition of sexism is helpful, or whether it actually represents a hindrance to moral progress.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

What is a Racist? Why Moral Progress Hinges on Getting the Answer Right

The charge of “racist” represents a scalpel that has been substantially dulled in recent years. The result is an inability to cut cleanly around the cancerous tissue of racism. The term has been co-opted by well-meaning social justice advocates, and is no longer reserved for people who treat members of other groups as inherently inferior to members of their own group. Nor is it used to identify people who fail to treat members of other groups as the individuals that they are. Instead, “racist” is casually hurled at anyone who expresses ideas that have been emblazoned on an intellectual “no-fly list.”....