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  #1  
Old 03-09-2011, 02:49 PM
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Default The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

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  #2  
Old 03-09-2011, 05:32 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

I wonder why Matt thinks people on the right are more likely to attribute disparity in educational achievement to genetics. I thought people on the right didn't even believe in genetics.

Just joshing, but really Matt, why would you think that???
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  #3  
Old 03-09-2011, 06:02 PM
Don Zeko Don Zeko is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

Because it's obviously the case? Have you compared the reaction to, say, The Bell Curve on the left and the right?
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Old 03-09-2011, 08:47 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

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Originally Posted by Don Zeko View Post
Because it's obviously the case? Have you compared the reaction to, say, The Bell Curve on the left and the right?
Well I know that the Bell Curve has been much maligned by many people. The person I know without looking it up was Stephen Gould.

But I doubt you can make a case that Herrstein (its author) was on the right. In fact here is an article about him at the Harvard University website And here is relevant passage.

Quote:
Despite the often bitter and widespread criticism - he was labeled a racist by some - he unflaggingly defended the results of his analysis. The article became a book (IQ in the Meritocracy), and his battle with angry protestors, academic critics, and an often hostile press is recorded in its preface (A true tale from the annals of orthodoxy). There is some irony here. In politics, Herrnstein had been on the left for much of his life and liked to brag that he knew more labor songs than his SDS attackers did.
Memes die hard and are often very inaccurate.
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Old 03-10-2011, 08:56 AM
Romanized Romanized is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

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Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
Well I know that the Bell Curve has been much maligned by many people. The person I know without looking it up was Stephen Gould.

But I doubt you can make a case that Herrstein (its author) was on the right. In fact here is an article about him at the Harvard University website And here is relevant passage.

Memes die hard and are often very inaccurate.
Who cares if the author was a leftist? The left was apoplectic about the Bell Curve while the right was mildly sympathetic.
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  #6  
Old 03-10-2011, 11:30 AM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

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Originally Posted by Romanized View Post
Who cares if the author was a leftist? The left was apoplectic about the Bell Curve while the right was mildly sympathetic.
You may be right. I would like to see some evidence, however, of the right's sympathy for the Bell Curve hypothesis. And still, I wonder why that sympathy would particularly come from the right.

As I said, Stephen Gould wrote at length refuting the claims of the study. But I think the uproar was not so much about the actual study but rather what the implications would be going forward. What should we do?

It reminds me of E.O.Wilson being accused of sexism and racism because of his theories about biological determinism. Although most of us believe in evolution, some of us don't like what the implications of that might end up being. What should we do?
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  #7  
Old 03-09-2011, 06:10 PM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

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Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
I wonder why Matt thinks people on the right are more likely to attribute disparity in educational achievement on genetics. I thought people on the right didn't even believe in genetics.

Just joshing, but really Matt, why would you think that???
It's the laziness/lack-of-discipline gene that's responsible for the disparity among individual performances. Poor, uneducated people have only themselves to blame. Nothing to do with problematic systemic structures.
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Old 03-09-2011, 07:32 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

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Originally Posted by sapeye View Post
It's the laziness/lack-of-discipline gene that's responsible for the disparity among individual performances. Poor, uneducated people have only themselves to blame. Nothing to do with problematic systemic structures.
OK, I get it. But aren't there any people on say, the left, who think academic achievement may be, in some small infinitesmal way, linked to IQ and genetic background?
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  #9  
Old 03-09-2011, 08:06 PM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

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Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
OK, I get it. But aren't there any people on say, the left, who think academic achievement may be, in some small infinitesmal way, linked to IQ and genetic background?
Sure. It's a matter of balance among a variety of factors. People on the right often simplify by claiming everything is the responsibility of the individual. People on the left may over-emphasize external causal factors. There have been many many many scientific studies, including identical twin studies, trying, rather unsuccessfully in my view, to tease apart the relative influence of nature and nurture. There are a few traits, like eye color, for which environment doesn't seem to play any causal role (unless, of course, you choose to wear tinted contact lenses to enhance your social status). Most traits and behaviors result from complex interactions between inherent factors and environment (keeping in mind that the uterus is part of the environment, as are familial and peer group modeling and pressure). And diving a bit deeper, the cell is the environment for the genetic material.

[Added] There's also another aspect to the attribution of causality. Social psych studies have demonstrated (unless they've changed their minds in the last few years) that people tend to attribute what they perceive to be bad behavior in others to inherent factors and tend to attribute their own problems to external factors. I don't know if anyone has looked at whether this bias also applies to ones own identified political group vs the Other group. An interesting question is whether there is a significant difference between how Left and Right make such attributions.

Anyone else know about this?

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  #10  
Old 03-09-2011, 09:39 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

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Originally Posted by sapeye View Post
Sure. It's a matter of balance among a variety of factors. People on the right often simplify by claiming everything is the responsibility of the individual. People on the left may over-emphasize external causal factors.
So we've gone a bit afield of the original discussion of genetics. I don't think that holding individuals responsible neccessarily has anything at all to do with genetics. Actually, attributing certain characteristics to genetic makeup could be a good argument for the removal of responsibility.

Quote:
There have been many many many scientific studies, including identical twin studies, trying, rather unsuccessfully in my view, to tease apart the relative influence of nature and nurture.
The argument will never end and will never be settled. My favorite book on the subject is Matt Ridley's Nature via Nurture

Quote:
[Added] There's also another aspect to the attribution of causality. Social psych studies have demonstrated (unless they've changed their minds in the last few years) that people tend to attribute what they perceive to be bad behavior in others to inherent factors and tend to attribute their own problems to external factors.
Not if they grew up Catholic!

Another book I like is The Illusion of Conscious Will by Daniel Wegner of Harvard. He has just completed a study about escaping blame
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  #11  
Old 03-09-2011, 11:18 PM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

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Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
So we've gone a bit afield of the original discussion of genetics. I don't think that holding individuals responsible neccessarily has anything at all to do with genetics. Actually, attributing certain characteristics to genetic makeup could be a good argument for the removal of responsibility.
Who/what is the individual you refer to that is responsible? Are you positing some disembodied self that gets parachuted into a fetus and can thus blame its bad behavior on the fetus's genetic makeup?
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  #12  
Old 03-09-2011, 11:23 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

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Who/what is the individual you refer to that is responsible? Are you positing some disembodied self that gets parachuted into a fetus and can thus blame its bad behavior on the fetus's genetic makeup?
You are the one who brought up individual responsibility. So what did you mean?

Sorry, I just don't understand your question.
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  #13  
Old 03-10-2011, 03:30 AM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

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Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
You are the one who brought up individual responsibility. So what did you mean?

Sorry, I just don't understand your question.
I understood that we were discussing locus of responsibility: internal or external or both. I think, although I might be mistaken, that this is what Matt was talking about when referring to genetics. If you don't see a link between holding individuals responsible and attributing efficacy to genetics, does this mean you don't see a link between behavior and genetics? That is between who/what an individual is and does and his or her biological make-up? I'm trying to understand who you perceive the individual to be. Who or what is the individual that is responsible? If we are talking only about the causal influence of genetics on behavior, a view you said Matt attributed to the right, then how does this influence manifest itself if not via individual behavior?
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  #14  
Old 03-10-2011, 11:01 AM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

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Originally Posted by sapeye View Post
I understood that we were discussing locus of responsibility: internal or external or both. I think, although I might be mistaken, that this is what Matt was talking about when referring to genetics. If you don't see a link between holding individuals responsible and attributing efficacy to genetics, does this mean you don't see a link between behavior and genetics? That is between who/what an individual is and does and his or her biological make-up? I'm trying to understand who you perceive the individual to be. Who or what is the individual that is responsible? If we are talking only about the causal influence of genetics on behavior, a view you said Matt attributed to the right, then how does this influence manifest itself if not via individual behavior?
If a certain genetic characteristic is manifested in an individual, that does not mean the individual is responsible for the manifestation.

You are flipping between the terms responsibility and influence. And I think in this discussion responsibility can have two meanings. One is strictly causal: Genetic make-up is responsible for Down's syndrome. The other is moral and presumes a choice. Joe is responsible for getting an F because he didn't study for the test.

Matt said people on the right are more likely to attribute disparity in educational achievement to genetics. He didn't say anything about responsibility unless what he meant to say is that people on the right are more likely to hold genetic make-up responsible for disparity in educational achievement.

I don't know what everyone on the right thinks, but it doesn't seem to me to be a very conservative notion to even think about genetics. When you speak about responsibility and the kind of responsibility I think you are right to think conservatives admire you are talking about a moral attitude.

I think the question of whether morals and a sense of responsibility are the results of genetics makeup goes back to what you said earlier. It's not likely to get teased apart. This may be in part because people won't ever be able to fully accept any sort of determinism. We like to think we control our lives and although this may not be true, society is built on that premise.

And it's unfortunate that the meaning of the term responsibility can get so murky. I hope I answered at least part of your question.
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Old 03-10-2011, 01:01 PM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

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Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
You are flipping between the terms responsibility and influence. And I think in this discussion responsibility can have two meanings. One is strictly causal: Genetic make-up is responsible for Down's syndrome. The other is moral and presumes a choice. Joe is responsible for getting an F because he didn't study for the test..

Only in a very sloppy use of English would anyone say that genetic make-up is "responsible" for Down's syndrome. What scientists say, if they have any philosophical training or linguistic skill, is that certain genes cause Down's syndrome, i.e. Down's syndrome is the necessary result of certain genes. Responsibility is a moral category: it derives from the law and the practice of the law.

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And it's unfortunate that the meaning of the term responsibility can get so murky.
The murkiness is only in your mind and in American English.
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Old 03-10-2011, 07:45 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

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Originally Posted by Florian View Post
Only in a very sloppy use of English would anyone say that genetic make-up is "responsible" for Down's syndrome. What scientists say, if they have any philosophical training or linguistic skill, is that certain genes cause Down's syndrome, i.e. Down's syndrome is the necessary result of certain genes. Responsibility is a moral category: it derives from the law and the practice of the law.



The murkiness is only in your mind and in American English.
I tend to agree but was responding to the discussion with sapeye which had become somewhat convoluted. And yes, we in the states use the word responsibility with great abandon.
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Old 03-10-2011, 02:16 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

Disclaimer: I haven't listened to the diavlog yet, so am only responding to the comments here.

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Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
If a certain genetic characteristic is manifested in an individual, that does not mean the individual is responsible for the manifestation.
I think I agree with you here, but I think the question is more complicated. That is, we don't say a student is personally at fault if he is just not that smart and thus fails to do well in calculus as we (well, many people) would a student who has the potential to do well but chooses to spend his time partying instead. But I think the debate is about something else. That's because whatever one thinks of their personal responsibility, neither of these students pose a problem for those who think we should have a meritocracy (as it seems to be liberals and conservatives both tend to favor).

On the other hand, say we have two other students who have different outcomes -- one goes to Harvard and makes a lot of money, one does poorly in school, drops out before graduation, and makes far less.

A liberal might point to patterns in the disparity (more people like the former are rich and not of certain racial or ethnic groups, more like the latter are poor and of those groups) say that this demonstrates that our system is flawed in some way, that it does not sufficiently give people a fair start, because poor people are disadvantaged or some are disadvantaged by prejudice or some such.

A conservative is more likely to say that that's not the case. That instead we can all see that people differ in terms of innate ability, and thus such differences are likely due to differences in such innate ability. That's the appeal of the genetic differences among groups to explain differences in results (i.e., the Bell Curve). (A book that goes into the reactions and the similar arguments during earlier periods, as well as debunking the study is The Bell Curve Debate. It's a collection of pieces, including perhaps the Gould piece you are thinking of.)

There is, of course, a possible response to the genetic argument along the lines you are talking about -- if people's success is really so determined by things outside their control (innate ability), then how can this be fair? Why should someone who's, through no fault of his own, unable to understand calculus be doomed to a life at minimum wage? (Obviously, this is not really true, but for the sake of argument....) Shouldn't this mean that we do something more to correct for the differences? Philosophically, I think this would be a valid point, but it's not one that is generally part of the debate. The issue, instead, is about how much of a meritocracy we have, with it being assumed by both the left and right that a true meritocracy (success by those with the greatest ability) is a good thing.

(It's also true that both would say that being hard-working is an important part of merit, but the argument, again, rarely gets into to the implications of the fact that one can be hard-working but just not good at the kinds of things that lead to financial success. That's in part because it gets derailed by other things before we would get to this harder question.)

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Old 03-10-2011, 08:08 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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I think I agree with you here, but I think the question is more complicated...
Thanks for your thoughtful response. I wrote the best post ever and somehow it got lost in my open tab maze. So here's the shorter version:

Gould actually wrote a book in response to The Bell Curve called The Mismeasure of Man. But beyond that he spent a lot of time refuting it in many venues. I think one interesting thing about the debate is that instead of simply publishing their findings, the authors became prescriptive and that's where the fur started to fly.

And that's where the fur usually starts to fly. It's when some people presume to be able to fix things, make things better for society as a whole, as though they have access to all of the information it will actually take to make a positive change.

As far as a conservative being more apt to attribute failure to innate ability, I would disagree. A conservative would be just as and perhaps more likely to blame societal conditions like single motherhood and the breakup of the family for the falure of a child to thrive in school.

And your comment about not addressing the implications that come from not being good at the things which lead to financial success... First you'd have to define success.And further, I don't think there really is much to be done about that except to teach people how to suss out the economy they live in and find a niche. The best anyone can hope for is to find a way to make a comfortable living, do your very best and don't envy what others have.

Life will never be fair.

PS. I think it would be fair to say that conservatives are more accepting of the existence of disparities than others are.
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Old 03-11-2011, 11:42 AM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

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Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
Gould actually wrote a book in response to The Bell Curve called The Mismeasure of Man.
Oh, right. I'd forgotten the connection between the two given the passage of years.

That said, I'm not really sure why you consider this significant.

Quote:
I think one interesting thing about the debate is that instead of simply publishing their findings, the authors became prescriptive and that's where the fur started to fly.
Mmm, I think it goes beyond that (first, the analysis was wrong, and, second, there's an obvious implication even if one doesn't directly make the leap to politics, that being that certain groups differences that we find troubling are, in fact, "natural" -- claims made in the past about a variety of different groups and which look foolish in retrospect).

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It's when some people presume to be able to fix things, make things better for society as a whole, as though they have access to all of the information it will actually take to make a positive change.
Presuming that we can't do anything, that certain problems are "natural" is no less an assumption based on a lack of evidence. (Indeed, that's why some on the right get so excited by arguments like The Bell Curve or whatever Steve Sailor is into these days.)

Quote:
As far as a conservative being more apt to attribute failure to innate ability, I would disagree. A conservative would be just as and perhaps more likely to blame societal conditions like single motherhood and the breakup of the family for the falure of a child to thrive in school.
Sure, I think these are part of the difference in outlook, but not the whole story. Plus, in the big picture, the way that people look at these things reflects the innate vs. social forces emphasis again -- liberals are more likely to think that social problems lead to these problems, whereas conservatives are more likely to say that they are private matters only (a matter of culture vs. a response to poverty). Obviously, these are generalizations, but to deny this aspect of the political debate seems strange.

Quote:
And your comment about not addressing the implications that come from not being good at the things which lead to financial success...
That wasn't a proposal -- it was a response to your claim that focusing on genetics would cause one to be more "liberal," as the indviduals themselves would be "responsible." I was saying that while that makes sense, the argument never gets to that, as it ends up being about how true a meritocracy we are without getting to whether there's anything faulty in what we define as merit or in having reward based on a meritocracy. (I think these are interesting issues, but I'm not claiming that we should change this -- like most liberals, I'm pretty attached to the idea of meritocracy as good, that if the smart and hard-working people are doing well and we aren't just ruled by the mediocre offspring of the rich the system is working okay, but am trying to note that I can at least be self-critical about this.)

Conservatives are more accepting of certain types of group disparities, I'll give you, and (although it's a different subject) less bothered by extreme or growing economic disparities. The notion that there's any major outcry about the unfairness of life or disparities in general strikes me as obviously untrue.
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Old 03-11-2011, 09:11 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Originally Posted by stephanie View Post
Oh, right. I'd forgotten the connection between the two given the passage of years.

That said, I'm not really sure why you consider this significant.
Because you mentioned his essay and I thought you might want to know that he also wrote a book. Sorry.

Quote:
Mmm, I think it goes beyond that (first, the analysis was wrong)...
Just because Gould and others said the Bell Curve was incorrect doesn't mean it was. Science is that way, you know. Findings and conclusions are disputed. I'm not saying the Bell Curve is correct only that the claim that it is wrong is probably disputable. Who knows, maybe it's only partially wrong.

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Presuming that we can't do anything, that certain problems are "natural" is no less an assumption based on a lack of evidence. (Indeed, that's why some on the right get so excited by arguments like The Bell Curve or whatever Steve Sailor is into these days.)
I don't know anything about Steve Sailor and I am not claiming that the assumption that certain problems are "natural" are based on good evidence.
In fact I don't recall having said that certain problems are "natural". Sometimes I just don't appreciate the way you put words in my mouth and then think I should defend them or retract them.

Quote:
Sure, I think these are part of the difference in outlook, but not the whole story. Plus, in the big picture, the way that people look at these things reflects the innate vs. social forces emphasis again -- liberals are more likely to think that social problems lead to these problems, whereas conservatives are more likely to say that they are private matters only (a matter of culture vs. a response to poverty). Obviously, these are generalizations, but to deny this aspect of the political debate seems strange.
Here you seem to be saying that private matters are different than social matters. I believe I gave two examples where private matters, single motherhood and the break-up of the family are very much social matters as opposed to genetics (which I believe was what the original discussion was about). And I don't see that I have been denying anything. My original question was and still is why Matt thinks conservatives are more likely to blame disparities in academic achievement on genetics.


Quote:
That wasn't a proposal -- it was a response to your claim that focusing on genetics would cause one to be more "liberal," as the indviduals themselves would be "responsible."
I have no clue where you got the idea that I think that focusing on genetics would cause one to be more liberal. Are you sure you are actually reading what I write?
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  #21  
Old 03-11-2011, 09:17 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: The Long View (Matthew Yglesias & Noah Millman)

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Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
Just because Gould and others said the Bell Curve was incorrect doesn't mean it was. Science is that way, you know.
.
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Old 03-15-2011, 03:01 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
Because you mentioned his essay and I thought you might want to know that he also wrote a book. Sorry.
No need to apologize. In context I thought you might be trying to make some other point.

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Just because Gould and others said the Bell Curve was incorrect doesn't mean it was.
Obviously. I'm not citing him as some infallible source. You brought him up. However, as with other questions, we can consider the arguments on both sides and form opinions. And scientific questions have right and wrong answers. My opinion, based on the evidence and arguments, is that the argument in the Bell Curve is incorrect.

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Sometimes I just don't appreciate the way you put words in my mouth and then think I should defend them or retract them.
?? I didn't say anything about what your personal views are. As you yourself acknowledge, you raised a question about why Matt thinks certain views are more common among conservatives (when it's obvious they are). Your personal views are not relevant to that question unless you think you are somehow representative of all conservatives. (For example, conservatives are also more likely to be religious fundamentalists. However, I do not think you are a religious fundamentalist.)

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Here you seem to be saying that private matters are different than social matters.
I'm making a distinction between a focus on the personal choice involved only (even when growing up under negative circumstances, an individual might have the innate ability or family support sufficient to achieve certain things and avoid certain obstacles) vs. a focus on the difference between the social conditions faced by people that results in, percentage-wise, different outcomes. I can both believe that people growing up under bad circumstances can generally make better and worse choices and still believe that had I grown up in, say, the inner city, I'd likely be less successful than I am today.

Quote:
I believe I gave two examples where private matters, single motherhood and the break-up of the family are very much social matters as opposed to genetics (which I believe was what the original discussion was about).
The absence of stable, intact families would certainly be a social factor, yes. (I think people on the right often try to reframe these as private matters -- those responsible for these problems are simply making bad choices, rather than also responding to a variety of economic and social factors -- but here we are talking about the effect on students, who obviously cannot be blamed for their family situations.)

But that some on the right also acknowledge the relevance of both private and, in some cases, social factors does not preclude the fact that the relevance of genetic differences tends to be a focus of those on the right -- either to claim it as an explanation for average differences between population groups (either racial or in terms of the extent to which people remain in the economic class they were raised in). In other words, the right tends to be more likely to defend what we have now as a real meritocracy, whereas the left is more likely to point to various differences of outcome between groups as an argument for the position that what we have now is not sufficiently meritocratic.

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I have no clue where you got the idea that I think that focusing on genetics would cause one to be more liberal.
Note that I said "liberal," not liberal. I was referring to this argument you made:

Quote:
If a certain genetic characteristic is manifested in an individual, that does not mean the individual is responsible for the manifestation....

I don't know what everyone on the right thinks, but it doesn't seem to me to be a very conservative notion to even think about genetics. When you speak about responsibility and the kind of responsibility I think you are right to think conservatives admire you are talking about a moral attitude.
In other words, you seem to be saying that if one's genetics determined one's achievement level, it would not make sense to credit one for one's achievement or blame one for one's lack of achievement. So focusing on genetic explanations would be inconsistent with a focus on personal explanations (as I distinguished them above) and particularly moral explanations.

Thus, you seem to argue that if conservatives are focused on personal responsibility, they can't also be focused on genetic differences. I disagree with that -- you could certainly think both are relevant. (Indeed, I'm sure everyone thinks that on a personal level genetics are going to matter to some degree.)

My point was that different conservatives focus on different things but, more significant here, the question being debated is different -- does the particular pattern of outcomes in the US raise questions about the existence of a meritocracy. Thus, the focus here would be on group differences -- again, between those of different ethnic or racial groups or those from poorer backgroups vs. less poor -- and whether the continued group differences could be explained due to differences between the groups. One such difference could be (as in The Bell Curve and Steve Sailor's arguments) genetic. That is why the genetic argument is, unsurprisingly, appealing to many conservatives.
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Old 03-15-2011, 06:33 PM
eeeeeeeli eeeeeeeli is offline
 
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My point was that different conservatives focus on different things but, more significant here, the question being debated is different -- does the particular pattern of outcomes in the US raise questions about the existence of a meritocracy. Thus, the focus here would be on group differences -- again, between those of different ethnic or racial groups or those from poorer backgroups vs. less poor -- and whether the continued group differences could be explained due to differences between the groups. One such difference could be (as in The Bell Curve and Steve Sailor's arguments) genetic. That is why the genetic argument is, unsurprisingly, appealing to many conservatives.
It is an empirical question, and indisputable, that conservatives are more likely to look to genetics as a reason for the disparity. This is dangerous territory. Many conservatives tread very lightly here and dance about the issue - often by throwing up pre-emptive smokebombs. There is simply a huge history of prejudiced and biased thinking on race, and to be doing so is considered racist - an inexcusable crime. Of the conservatives that do buy into a racial explanation (not an insubstantial bunch) a select few are courageous enough to stand behind the banner of "racialism", like Murray or Bell. (I think another sub-category here could be opened for those who see the disparity not as genetic but cultural. This is a weird place because it isn't literally about race, but the ethnic chauvinism that it flirts with comes very close. One thinks of stereotypes about Jews, etc. being a similar form of low-key racism)

But rather than seeing this as some sort of moral failing, I think this tendency towards flawed logic is rooted in conservatism's unquestioning defense of the free market. Rather than see their notion that the United States is a meritocracy (capitalism, etc.) be challenged as structurally unsound, which would be almost unconservative by definition at this particular point in history, alternatives must be found to balance the cognitive dissonance. And I think when you are forced to deny reality, you become susceptible to other forms of bias that act as pressure valves. Thus, if you can't see minority poverty as explained well enough by reality, you invent sloppy and false caricatures like welfare queens, etc.

The model works for the left as well, especially for those who cannot balance the cognitive dissonance they see between beneficial effects of the free market with their determination to see business as evil. Of course, the left is in a much more reasonable place than the right is, on whole, right now. Most of us are just not that "lost".
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Old 03-13-2011, 12:56 AM
eeeeeeeli eeeeeeeli is offline
 
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Pardon me, I'm just going to jump in here...

bhh:"It's when some people presume to be able to fix things, make things better for society as a whole, as though they have access to all of the information it will actually take to make a positive change. "
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Presuming that we can't do anything, that certain problems are "natural" is no less an assumption based on a lack of evidence. (Indeed, that's why some on the right get so excited by arguments like The Bell Curve or whatever Steve Sailor is into these days.)
bhh:"As far as a conservative being more apt to attribute failure to innate ability, I would disagree. A conservative would be just as and perhaps more likely to blame societal conditions like single motherhood and the breakup of the family for the falure of a child to thrive in school."

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Sure, I think these are part of the difference in outlook, but not the whole story. Plus, in the big picture, the way that people look at these things reflects the innate vs. social forces emphasis again -- liberals are more likely to think that social problems lead to these problems, whereas conservatives are more likely to say that they are private matters only (a matter of culture vs. a response to poverty). Obviously, these are generalizations, but to deny this aspect of the political debate seems strange.
This is a fascinating difference in the liberal/conservative perspective. The conservative sees a larger social breakdown, yet one of simple traditional values. The liberal sees a social breakdown too,but one that is more complex and involving many more structures. The main liberal critique is of capitalism and the free market itself, which is seen as necessarily creating poverty through free market segregation by human and social capital: income, education, property values, etc.

Both causal mechanisms find larger social mechanisms, which then place secondary pressures on individual choice. If the liberal sees primary, "first" problems inherent in capitalism, or government policy, I'm curious as to what the conservative would see as first problems. For the liberal, capitalism needs to be reigned in, or intervened in to soften its rough edges - a classic mixed-market economy. For the conservative, my guess is that a sort of moral decay in traditionally productive values has occurred, and a first cause there has been suggested to be found in a sort of liberalism, whether in the form of feminist emancipation or government-intervention-induced dependency.

What strikes me about this conservative thesis is its apparent historical shortsidedness and reactionary bent. First, what would the cause of poverty and social inequality have been before progressivism? Next, while there has clearly been a certain moral decay in poor communities as drug abuse and out-of-wedlock birth has increased dramatically, correlation doesn't equal causation! High rates of drug addiction, teen pregnancy and fatherlessness may on the surface look like "hippies gone wild", there are many causal mechanisms at work.

Interestingly, the actually people in these communities often have a view of marriage and family that is neither liberal nor conservative, but a sort of worldview born of emotional immaturity and nihilism. Further, in many ways, to the extent that gender roles exist, they are in many ways quite conservative! Women tend to value dependency and subservience to men. Men tend to be very patriarchal and emphasize a very traditional, "macho" model of male gender - emotionally reserved, aggressive, domineering, reckless, chauvinist.

I'm struck by the continued dismissal by conservatives of social inequities, disparities, etc., relative to liberals. I think a good part of this can be explained by the extent to which an admission of these disparities would seem also to be an admission to some of the structural problems contained within the liberal critique. Because while conservatives can indeed find larger social causes for social failure, it would need to be seen in the context of individual decisions, and not in larger capitalist frameworks that need to be addressed.

So, for instance, if there is widespread dysfunction in a ghetto due to moral failings on the part of inhabitants, the solution is still localized. Interestingly, if the "first cause" was, indeed, feminism or progressivism, the best solution to poverty would be to cut social programs and fight against liberal social mores. This is exactly what many conservatives are doing. By attacking Natalie Portman, Huckabee was actually fighting for the minds of the poor. But this only gets you so far. Moral explanations can account for only so much dysfunction. There is also the question of why this dysfunction seems to turn up in such unequal quantities. If you don't accept the liberal model of capitalist critique, it becomes difficult to explain such widespread and continuing poverty. So, I think one of the options is to downplay the extent to which it actually exists. And when not discussing the dysfunctional poor, but a more generalized distribution of economic inequality, the moral narrative has even less traction.

The most problematic thing to me about modern conservatism is the extent of its paranoia about the sacred cow of free market capitalism. The modern liberal has no particular investment in capitalism - or socialism - as a perfect system. It is comfortable with both solutions. Private markets seems perfectly reasonable for most things - services, consumer goods, etc. Only in specific areas do they feel the need for government intervention. Yet conservatives have backed themselves in a corner - largely I think because of their acceptance of the over-heated rhetoric they have used to gain their currently popular position. They have to defend the notion that government is almost always bad, free markets will solve most problems, and that thus, liberals are existential enemies.

Because this position is so often at odds with reality (social programs can do great good, higher taxes aren't the end of the state, regulations are sometimes very important, what's good for business isn't always good for society, etc.), conservatives are often forced to either dissemble (completely falsifying their arguments), or to outright deny. The naivete of ideological purity presents an intense pressure to stomach cognitive dissonance, which inevitably results in rational decay. What this means in conservative thought is the embrace of faulty logic, such as mistakes in correlation of causation (as mentioned), and other forms of intellectual constipation. This is nothing new to partisan thinking, but I worry it is more acute in a modern conservatism that has forced itself to embrace a false either/or dynamic, as opposed to a more reasonable mixed-economy standard, from which more/less government can be debated not in existential terms, but on the specific merits.

edit: Stephanie, I should probably throw in a note that I do think all of this leads to an inherent emphasis by conservatives on free will, and by liberals on determinism. I know you are skeptical of how far I go on that. I'm all typed out now. But I'd like to expand on that connection.
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Old 03-15-2011, 03:06 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Stephanie, I should probably throw in a note that I do think all of this leads to an inherent emphasis by conservatives on free will, and by liberals on determinism. I know you are skeptical of how far I go on that. I'm all typed out now. But I'd like to expand on that connection.
I figured you might pick up on that and I disagree, for reasons set forth in the other thread. Especially if I'm supposed to be the liberal example, since I am not a determinist.

I'd rather keep that debate localized in one thread -- I don't think the discussion here adds anything that can't be addressed there.
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Old 03-11-2011, 02:27 PM
thouartgob thouartgob is offline
 
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As far as a conservative being more apt to attribute failure to innate ability, I would disagree. A conservative would be just as and perhaps more likely to blame societal conditions like single motherhood and the breakup of the family for the falure of a child to thrive in school.
Ah not so fast BHH ( by the way I came across the Jaws reference recently if that is indeed where you came up with the name unless you are a fan of either House or the director Bryan Singer ) let's not forget that it isn't just intelligence that some conservatives/libertarians (I collectively address them as the "if-it's-brown-flush-it-down crowd") think is lacking in the average non-white/non-asian genome, but morality as well. So the fact that there are unwed mothers etc. could just as easily be genetically determined as well.

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PS. I think it would be fair to say that conservatives are more accepting of the existence of disparities than others are.
guess we can all agree on that one.
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Old 03-11-2011, 09:43 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Ah not so fast BHH ( by the way I came across the Jaws reference recently if that is indeed where you came up with the name unless you are a fan of either House or the director Bryan Singer ) let's not forget that it isn't just intelligence that some conservatives/libertarians (I collectively address them as the "if-it's-brown-flush-it-down crowd") think is lacking in the average non-white/non-asian genome, but morality as well. So the fact that there are unwed mothers etc. could just as easily be genetically determined as well.


guess we can all agree on that one.
If it's brown flush it down? Isn't that the Planned Parenthood mission statement?

Your post makes no sense. I suspect that your only real intention is to insult people on the right. Hope that is satisfying to you, gob.
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Old 03-11-2011, 09:45 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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If it's brown flush it down? Isn't that the Planned Parenthood mission statement?
No. It is the Tea Party platform.
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Old 03-12-2011, 01:26 PM
thouartgob thouartgob is offline
 
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If it's brown flush it down? Isn't that the Planned Parenthood mission statement?

Your post makes no sense. I suspect that your only real intention is to insult people on the right.
SOME people on the right. Besides I'm not the one saying that one race is superior to another, whether superior intelligence or morality or whatever metric, so don't blame me. ;-)

As for the planned parenthood crack what happens when the Right expects every miscarriage to be entered in as evidence to MAYBE clear the woman affected of murder charges (or whatever Georgia comes up with ) , just in case it was an intentional abortion. You might find the Planned Parenthood crack amusing but if a woman flushes when she shouldn't she may be charged. You might find my humor offensive but I find the way right is governing these days offensive and dangerous and in the case of womens health, lethal for some non-zygote females. My joke doesn't hurt peoples lives, but if the laws that the Right seem to want to enact really do come to pass, yours just might.

excerpt from the Georgia Law

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When a spontaneous fetal death required to be reported by this Code section occurs without medical attendance at or immediately after the delivery or when inquiry is required by Article 2 of Chapter 16 of Title 45, the 'Georgia Death Investigation Act,' the proper investigating official shall investigate the cause of fetal death and shall prepare and file the report within 30 days
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Hope that is satisfying to you, gob.
mmm is this another sig ?

ADDED:

From http://www.cafemom.com/group/99198/f...ion_on_mothers

Quote:
But Franklin’s bill didn’t come out of left field; in recent years, other states have made moves toward more extreme anti-abortion bills. In March 2010, a law went into effect in Utah that calls for women to be charged with murder for having miscarriages caused by “intentional or knowing acts” at any stage of their pregnancies. While many states have laws against feticide, the Utah law is unique in that it holds mothers, not third parties, criminally accountable—a development that worried groups like the American Medical Association and the American Civil Liberties Union. After all, what constitutes a “knowing” act? Would staying with an abusive boyfriend apply? What about refusing a doctor’s orders about the best way to deliver a baby or care for oneself during a pregnancy? Governor Gary Herbert, a Republican, refused to sign the original version of the law, which criminalized any “reckless” act that led to a miscarriage, citing unclear language that could potentially lead to the arrest of women who miscarry after, among other things, unintentionally falling or over-exercising. Still, the original version passed overwhelmingly in the state legislature—only four of 29 senators voted against it.

Then, there’s Iowa, where, last year, a pregnant woman spent two nights in jail after falling down a set of stairs because, once in the hospital, she confided to nurses that she had considered abortion or adoption after she had become estranged from her husband. She was detained because a nurse had misnoted on her chart that the woman was in her third trimester, which is when, according to state feticide law, a violent act committed against a pregnant woman can be considered criminal. In fact, she was in her second trimester, so she was let go. But now, the precedent of the woman’s arrest is on the books.
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Old 03-12-2011, 06:21 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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This is crazy and scary. Are these laws being passed without people's knowledge or are the residents Georgia willing to live under Middle Ages conditions?
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Old 03-14-2011, 03:51 PM
thouartgob thouartgob is offline
 
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This is crazy and scary. Are these laws being passed without people's knowledge or are the residents Georgia willing to live under Middle Ages conditions?
People say all kinds of crazy things but republicans seem to actually want to enshrine crazy things into law.

I don't know about all of georgia in particular but women seem to take a bit of a back seat when it comes to red state governmental action. In mississippi, as I noted in a previous comment of a Amanda Marcotte & Mollie Ziegler-Hemingway diavlog the age of consent is 12, but only for virgins. To quote myself: The de-virgined seem to be less interesting to lawmakers in Mississippi.
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Old 03-10-2011, 09:10 PM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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...
Nice post.

Quote:
...we don't say a student is personally at fault if he is just not that smart and thus fails to do well in calculus as we (well, many people) would a student who has the potential to do well but chooses to spend his time partying instead.
This is an interesting distinction that we make all the time. I wonder why intelligence is attributed to genetics but the capacity to work hard, stick with a task and defer reward is not. Maybe there is a laziness/partying gene.

Actually the discussion touched on this point in pointing to the benefits of having a variety of educational environments with different approaches and focuses. One student's fascination is another one's yawn.
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Old 03-11-2011, 12:49 AM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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One student's fascination is another one's yawn.
Bring back industrial arts! Not everyone should go to college.
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Old 03-11-2011, 03:05 AM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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Bring back industrial arts! Not everyone should go to college.
Hear hear. University is wasted on at least half of the students who are there. It seems to me that many departments in universities have become a lot like sophisticated trade schools. I also don't think anyone should be allowed to attend university straight out of high school, unless they can demonstrate a very good reason (career considerations don't count) why they belong there. Otherwise, at least a couple of years out in the world would allow them to appreciate university much more.

And now that I'm on a rant, I think we lost a lot when the draft was abolished. Not that I think everyone should go in the military or fight in wars, but that every young person should give two years of their life to community service of some sort. Step out of acting from self-interest and contribute to others.
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Old 03-11-2011, 04:02 AM
Starwatcher162536 Starwatcher162536 is offline
 
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Even presupposing the education itself is a waste, as long as employers are using it as a sorting mechanism for finding desirabile employees, it's not totally worthless. Would be depressing if only the upper middle class and rich could afford higher learning institutions and then have yet another way to perpetuate their advantage. Capitilism just isn't set up for true meritocracy (Of course, what is? /shrug). As long as there are uneven outcomes parents are going to use a portion of their excess wealth to give a leg up to their offspring.
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Old 03-11-2011, 09:33 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Hear hear. University is wasted on at least half of the students who are there. It seems to me that many departments in universities have become a lot like sophisticated trade schools. I also don't think anyone should be allowed to attend university straight out of high school, unless they can demonstrate a very good reason (career considerations don't count) why they belong there. Otherwise, at least a couple of years out in the world would allow them to appreciate university much more.

And now that I'm on a rant, I think we lost a lot when the draft was abolished. Not that I think everyone should go in the military or fight in wars, but that every young person should give two years of their life to community service of some sort. Step out of acting from self-interest and contribute to others.
It would be nice if universities were more focused on educating and less focused on their self perpetuation. The bachelor's degree today has become a tool to weed out job applicants for any entry level job above fast food clerk.

As for your idea of community service...did you know that William Buckley propsed that? Suffice it to say it would be good if young people had a better idea of what they want out of higher education before they and their parents spend thousands of dollars.
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Old 03-11-2011, 11:52 AM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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This is an interesting distinction that we make all the time. I wonder why intelligence is attributed to genetics but the capacity to work hard, stick with a task and defer reward is not.
Yeah, it's at least somewhat problematic, although somewhat outside the scope of the discussion here. Similarly, I suppose, one could wonder why we are fine with judging people based on intelligence and generally comfortable with the idea that smarts gets rewarded by financial success and bothered by the influence of appearance (while people definitely are judged by appearance and it often has an influence on success, we tend to think of that as superficial in a way we don't claim about intelligence).

I suppose it's because intelligence seems directed toward something other than personal pleasure and thus more productive or reflective of higher interests. Also, perhaps, because we think that people have some ability to be smarter or less smart (certainly more or less educated) based on effort. (I know I tend to think that a lot of people act much stupider than they could possibly be, although am a bit troubled by that attitude as an uncharitable one.) And I think the latter point is even more so re hard work, and why we are much more judgmental about people who fail because they are lazy (or prefer to spend their time on other pursuits, such as partying).

It's certainly possible to question these attitudes, however, or explain them just based on what we perceive is best for society and thus reward.
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Old 03-11-2011, 03:52 PM
popcorn_karate popcorn_karate is offline
 
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Also, perhaps, because we think that people have some ability to be smarter or less smart (certainly more or less educated) based on effort.
I think we generally view intelligence as immutable and essential. A genius can be a lazy, misanthropic ass - yet still be a genius. Someone of average intelligence can become a phd by applying themselves, but can never become a genius through the application of effort. have you ever heard of someone "becoming" a genius? I have not, although i think i've heard of people "discovering" a talent or genius for something which implies that it was there all along, and not a product of effort.

I'm not saying that is reality, but it seems to be how people generally talk about intelligence in my experience.
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Old 03-11-2011, 04:14 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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I think we generally view intelligence as immutable and essential.
I'm talking about expressions such as "he's acting stupid" or even "she doesn't choose to apply herself." While intelligence may be immutable, there's some understanding that one can make more or less of it by developing one's skills. We understand, for example, that all sorts of factors lead to IQ increases (and among various groups early education and enrichment and, I dunno, playing Bach to your unborn child all relate to that). I'd also relate the way that older people sometimes believe that doing crossword puzzles and reading the newspaper and good books will keep their minds active as they age.

I'm not sure this is actually a disagreement with what you said, but it's what I'm thinking of.
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Old 03-10-2011, 09:00 PM
sapeye sapeye is offline
 
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[QUOTE=badhatharry;200508]
Quote:
If a certain genetic characteristic is manifested in an individual, that does not mean the individual is responsible for the manifestation.
Agreed

Quote:
You are flipping between the terms responsibility and influence.
I don't think so.

Quote:
And I think in this discussion responsibility can have two meanings. One is strictly causal: Genetic make-up is responsible for Down's syndrome. The other is moral and presumes a choice. Joe is responsible for getting an F because he didn't study for the test.
OK, even Florian's point seems a bit nit picky in this context, let's guard against any attribution of morality (although I think moral attribution is in fact often implicit in such discussions) and stick with locus of causation. There are high performing students, and low performing students. What is the cause? This is what I think Matt is referring to http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/34717?in=08:55&out=10:47"]here in his discussion of edunihilism. If the locus of causation is the student, then no changes in the school system will change the fact that some students do well and some not. If, on the other hand, the locus of causation is with the educational environment, and unequal results among students are due to the fact that all students don't have equal opportunities, systemic changes might be helpful.

Quote:
Matt said people on the right are more likely to attribute disparity in educational achievement to genetics.
I interpret Matt to be using "genetics" as a marker for reducing a complex interactive situation to it's most basic cause within the individual. In this sense he was saying that the right (which he then amended to, some people in private) completely attributes individual success or failure to inherent ability and effort. Since it seemed a bit like a throw away line, I don't think he was necessarily distinguishing between genetics and some non-genetic causality within the individual.

Quote:
I think the question of whether morals and a sense of responsibility are the results of genetics makeup goes back to what you said earlier. It's not likely to get teased apart. This may be in part because people won't ever be able to fully accept any sort of determinism. We like to think we control our lives and although this may not be true, society is built on that premise.
I agree that these kinds of discussions of causality usually get murky. My sense is that it's fun and interesting to talk about, but no clear answers ever emerge. Neither freedom nor determinism makes coherent sense from the perspective of the rational mind.

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