May 12, 2008

Scientific American declares war on Occam's Razor

From Scientific American's May issue:

Buried Prejudice: The Bigot in Your Brain

Deep within our subconscious, all of us harbor biases that we consciously abhor. And the worst part is: we act on them

By Siri Carpenter

"There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life,” Jesse Jackson once told an audience, “than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery—then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

Jackson’s remark illustrates a basic fact of our social existence, one that even a committed black civil-rights leader cannot escape: ideas that we may not endorse—for example, that a black stranger might harm us but a white one probably would not—can nonetheless lodge themselves in our minds and, without our permission or awareness, color our perceptions, expectations and judgments.

Using a variety of sophisticated methods, psychologists have established that people unwittingly hold an astounding assortment of stereotypical beliefs and attitudes about social groups: black and white, female and male, elderly and young, gay and straight, fat and thin. Although these implicit biases inhabit us all, we vary in the particulars, depending on our own group membership, our conscious desire to avoid bias and the contours of our everyday environments. For instance, about two thirds of whites have an implicit preference for whites over blacks, whereas blacks show no average preference for one race over the other.

Such bias is far more prevalent than the more overt, or explicit, prejudice that we associate with, say, the Ku Klux Klan or the Nazis.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

34 comments:

headache said...

Contrary to what the Derb has said a few months ago i do not detect a cracking up of the PC cult but rather an enormous strengthening of it. The papers are pushing this ideology as never before, with the Obama worshipping right up front. We are being showered with mediocre black and colored politicians, show people, models, sportsmen and run-of-the-mill academics which everyone would ignore if they were white, and the media is cramming all this down our throats telling us we should swallow or else we are racists. This PC enforcement is going into another gear altogether. Maybe we are going to be forced to spend a year in Africa doing community service as part of our atonement ritual.

rightsaidfred said...

>>>>ideas that we may not endorse...can nonetheless lodge themselves in our minds and, without our permission or awareness, color our perceptions, expectations and judgments.

This pretty much sums up what B.F. Skinner spent his career debunking. Explaining behavior with appeals to "ideas lodged in our minds" explains nothing, because you have just made up a third person actor to account for your behavior. Nothing has been gained, except more confusion.

Martin said...

"Scientific American" has always been a crummy magazine. The articles are written in an impenetrable style. Or rather, I should say they are edited to be so. It strikes one while reading it, that although the articles are written by lots of different people - mostly by working scientis - the style is quite uniform (and uniformly bad). The only way this can happen is by heavy-handed editing.

Also, their stark refusal to ever, EVER print so much as even the simplest algebraic equation makes it even harder to follow. There are may cases where an equation is clearer than words. Don't they imagine that the sort of people who read Sci Am know algebra?

David said...

"whereas blacks show no average preference for one race over the other."

I call bullshit.

Scientific American lost its mind long ago - with global warming stuff. But that little zinger shows it's not even fit to be called another liberal rag.

Yes, headache - the PC'ers and race flat-earthers and other Boazians ARE making major efforts lately. They are trying to bury James Watson deep, to make the public forget what he said. Here is proof of that:

(From The Times Online, 05/11/2008)

"Stephen Hawking in hunt for Africa's hidden talent

"by Jonathan Leake, Science Editor

"Professor Stephen Hawking, who has devoted his career to finding the origins of the universe, is to begin a new search – for Africa’s answer to Einstein.

"Despite suffering from motor neurone disease which has left him almost completely paralysed, Hawking, 66, has made the journey to South Africa to launch the project today.

"Some of the world’s leading high-tech entrepreneurs and scientists have backed the £75m plan to create Africa’s first postgraduate centres for advanced maths and physics, after the British government declined to provide funding.

"Hawking will be joined by eminent physicists and mathematicians including two Nobel laureates in physics, David Gross and George Smoot, and Michael Griffin, the head of Nasa. Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s education minister, will also speak.

"'The world of science needs Africa’s brilliant talents and I look forward to meeting prospective young Einsteins from Africa,' said Hawking.

"Neil Turok, founder of the project and professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge University, where he is a close colleague of Hawking, said the aim of the centres was to 'unlock and nurture scientific talent' across Africa. 'Apart from an African Einstein, we want to find the African Bill Gates and the Sergey Brins and Larry Pages of the future,' said Turok, referring to the founders of Microsoft and Google.

"The 15 new centres will be modelled on the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (Aims) which was founded by Turok in Muizenberg, near Cape Town, four years ago. It has produced 160 graduates from 30 African countries, many of whom have gone on to take science doctorates. Another 53 will graduate shortly.

"Among them is Buthaina Adam, whose mathematical skills shone out in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur province where she grew up. With a physics degree from the University of Khartoum, she hoped to become a nuclear physicist, but shortage of money and opportunities left her career on hold until she was offered a place at Aims in 2006.

"'Aims gave me a life, opened doors for me,' said Adam, who hopes to return to Darfur and teach after completing a PhD.

"Turok decided to push for 15 more Aims institutes after winning the £50,000 Technology, Entertainment and Design prize in America earlier this year. He donated the money to Aims.

"He has since been offered support potentially worth tens of millions of pounds. Google, the Gates Foundation and Sun Microsystems are among those that have expressed interest.

"Turok and Hawking hope that Aims’s students will help to overturn the negative stereotypes of Africa that were recently given expression by James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA.

"Watson lost his job as director of the Cold Spring Harbor laboratories in America after suggesting that Africans were less intelligent than Europeans. A subsequent analysis of his own DNA showed that he had part-African ancestry.

"'Watson’s views were simply ridiculous,' said Turok. 'The quality of students we are seeing at Aims is extremely high. What they need is an opportunity to learn.'

"Hawking’s keynote lecture this afternoon is expected to be the highpoint of the ceremonies in Cape Town. When he gave a talk at the Caltech campus in Pasadena in the United States, he was wheeled out of the auditorium to a standing ovation and took a victory lap in his wheel-chair while the crowd shouted: 'We love you, Stephen.'

"Hawking is expected to repeat his call for a global effort to enable humanity to colonise space, starting with the moon and then Mars. Turok’s hopes are more down to earth: he wants to persuade the British government to rethink its refusal to fund the Aims project.

"'The Department for International Development spends £1.5 billion of taxpayers’ money on aid to Africa every year but there is precious little to show for it. The people who will make Africa rich are the brightest people because they will generate wealth,' Turok said.

"Andrew Mitchell, shadow development secretary, was equally critical: 'There is much more to Africa than poverty and starvation. This is an extremely important initiative and I’m going to see how the next Conservative government could support it.'

"The international development department said it preferred to focus on projects to fight poverty."

Oy vey! What a hero and mensch this Turok is! Break out the violins!

Seriously, what are the odds?

Anonymous said...

I side with Derb. Of course, that could be just hope.
I believe that far fewer people today believe in the blank slate theory than they did back in 1990. I truly believe the first salvo was thrown, innocently, by Dr. John Gray when he wrote, "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus". A communications expert, his book was heavy on theory about how the sexes were different due to biology and told how to navigate those differences. Published in 1992, it has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 192 weeks. There had been nothing else like it and rather than being controversial, it made people question it a little, but mostly they reacted with, "Wow!". Next came the, "Bell Curve", which, even though it wasn't mainstream, certainly made a big splash. Since then, other books such as "The Rules" (even dieting books!) have been published taking it for granted that everyone believes biology matters.
Getting the average person to accept that the sexes are inherently different wasn't too difficult and naturally leads one to wonder about genes and biology and what else they're responsible for.
We are at the point now where many in the mainstream are holding contradictory beliefs about races and/or just don't want to think about it whereas before, they were firmly in the blank slate camp. The Blank slaters/ commies are clamping down because they rightly perceive their views are increasingly being unaccepted

kurt said...

Scientific American has been pandering to ideology for 25 years. It was in 1983 that SciAm published the infamous TTAPS article about nuclear winter. The TAPPS never underwent peer review. Everytime there was a clamor for peer review, Carl Sagan or one of the other authors would go public and derail efforts to peer review the "study".

The nuclear winter effect was actually a KGB disinformation campaign. The details of this is discussed in the book "Comrade J" by Pete Early (pp. 170-177), which is the story of the KBG and, later, FSB spy Sergei Tretyakov.

The Soviets were using the "nuclear winter" as disinformation to get the West Germans to refuse deployment of the Pershing II intermediate range missiles during the early 1980's.

Anonymous said...

This Scientific American article reminds me of the recent National Geographic cover story on the brief Nubian rule of Egypt for 75yrs "saved" a 3000yr old Egypt from itself.

Anonymous said...

You missed the Unscientific American article in the same issue relishing in great detail the continued public humiliation of Dr. Watson:


James Watson, six months later, still apologizing

William said...

Contrary to what the Derb has said a few months ago i do not detect a cracking up of the PC cult but rather an enormous strengthening of it.

Isn't that sort of what usually happens right before the big crackup? The authorities tighten their grip, try harder and harder to push the product because they find fewer people are buying it? Kind of like Zimbabwe, come to think of it.

All I know is that just a few days ago we had a conversation at the office which I couldn't have imagined having a year ago. And, yes, it centered on race.

The entire nation is now getting a graduate level education in black racism and radicalism. It used to be you had to come from a city with lots of blacks for people to understand. Today all you have to say is "Reverend Wright." Then just mention the fact that blacks are voting 92% for the brother in a Democratic primary (for a guy who, otherise, is attracting mostly Bobos).

Muslims and 9/11. Hispanics and "La Raza" and illegal immigration. Blacks and their politics. Suddenly people's eyes are opening - and their mouths, too.

Anonymous said...

if blacks "show no average preference" for blacks over whites, then how come Chris Rock gets howls of laughter from black audiences saying,"people say black folks hate Jews? Naw, we ain't got time to make distinctions like that - we just hate white people!"

testing99 said...

Race and Sex PC dogma are weakening, if nothing else Rev. Wright pushes that into people's faces where they can't escape it.

And the popularity of that guy "Mystery" and his watered down evo-psych theories is a potent effect, principally because it works on the broad popular level (rather than appealing to scientific thinkers).

Anonymous said...

Scientic American is not in fact American. The magazine I subscribed to since I was a teenager got bought by the Germans in 1986. (See Wikipedia).

At that time it radically changed its editorial viewpoint. It had long beeen mildly liberal especially in advocating greater federal funding of the sciences. After the Germans took over it began to push several lefty agendas and to dial back general science content.

The famous Jesse Jackson fear of strangers is hardly a function of some kind of inate mechanism. Egon Brunswick showed that even seeminly intrinsic psychomotor functions such as depth perception are acquired and maintained by brain mechanisms that calculate probabilities of the validity of external stimuli. That is to say you can experimetally train a person to value, for example, binocular parallax over motion parallax.

Similarly a person's autonomic fear response to an approaching elderly asian woman will be very different from that of an approaching black male youth. There is no intrinsic inborn knowledge of elderly asian women. There is however an inborn concept of a survival danger. The fact that the survival danger is associated with young black males is a learned association.

Earlier we associated danger with the short faced bear or the sber toothed cat. That probability calculating mechanism is with us still when we walk down an urban alley alone.

Graham said...

Yeah, Scientific American used to be really good. I lived in rural Sweden briefly in the 70s, and one of the things that stopped me dying of boredom was that the library in the school I worked in had a complete run of SciAm from the late 40s to the current year (1976). I gradually worked my way through them.

Grey Swan said...

It is true that people harbor stereotypes about race etc. What is false is the Scientifc American's belief that this is a bad thing. On the contrary, hearing the sound of footsteps behind you and seeing a white person, not a black person, is a relief because black people are more dangerous. Our brains understand this, and thus are biased. In fact, I would prefer to see an Asian woman walking behind me -- There would be ~0% chance that I would be in danger

What the article should be saying is that we have these biases because it prevents us from having to use our conscious mind to worry about things that it does not need to.

C. Van Carter said...

"blacks show no average preference for one race over the other"

So blacks jump up and dance around when white murderers are acquitted, too? I had no idea.

Svigor said...

Isn't that sort of what usually happens right before the big crackup?

Yep. You don't have to sweat and heave when the ball's rolling on its own.

Svigor said...

Blacks apparently show unconscious bias in favor of whites. If memory serves, they find them more physically (at least relatively speaking) and socially attractive.

We all know damn well that many blacks want to live around whites, for much the same reason whites do. The difference is probably essentially that black and white ingroup loyalty are working in different directions. In other words, without black ingroup sentiment, they'd probably overwhelmingly prefer to live and work around whites.

There's also the fact that most whites have had their racial spines removed at a young age, and yobs always love a sucker.

Truth said...

"We are being showered with mediocre black and colored politicians, show people, models, sportsmen and run-of-the-mill academics."

That is in stark contrast to George W. Bush, Sean Hannity, Giselle Bundchen, Steve Nash and Jared Taylor of course.

"We all know damn well that many blacks want to live around whites."

The why are there so many people in the ghetto? Potential appalachian transplants all?

Eric said...

Sciam was the last magazine I went out of my way to get ahold of every month in the '80s. Over time it's just been getting worse and worse - not just in the embrace of a leftward bias that resulted in, among other things, the hatchet job they did on Bjorn Lomborg, but also the articles have been dumbed down to the point of making the magazine a me-too version of Popular Science. All they need is a back section with ads for hovercraft and wood-burning stoves.

The last time I picked up a copy the best articles were in the "50, 100, 150 years ago" section.

Concerned said...

"Contrary to what the Derb has said a few months ago i do not detect a cracking up of the PC cult but rather an enormous strengthening of it."

I agree. Look at TV commercials. There is always a smart, sane, wise black guy, and a white guy who is a total boob.

Yeah right, I see this in real life all the time.

Steve Nash is mediocre? Why, the next thing you'll say is that Eli Manning got his job via nepotism!

Truth said...

"Steve Nash is mediocre? Why, the next thing you'll say is that Eli Manning got his job via nepotism!


Nash is the greatest offensive player and the worst defensive player in basketball. By the law of averages, that makes him even. Eli is the Bay City Rollers of the NFL

none of the above said...

Yeah, someone might need to explain the difference between rational and irrational fears to them. For example, neither Jesse Jackson nor the most racist white guy in town reacts in fear when he sees a bunch of conservatively dressed black businessmen walking down the street toward him.

Now, it genuinely sucks that black teenage boys and young men get the fear reaction when they're just walking down the street minding their own business. But the fear reaction isn't because of racial hatred, it's because of distilled statistics.

tommy said...

"Professor Stephen Hawking, who has devoted his career to finding the origins of the universe, is to begin a new search – for Africa’s answer to Einstein.

That is disappointing. I had always assumed Hawking was smarter than that.

Africa may have its Einsteins, but finding them will not prove Watson wrong. Hawking, of all people, should understand the importance of IQ and the problems inherent in arguing against broad statistical tendencies using individual exceptions. The professor might as well begin searching for evidence of the existence of ghosts, ESP, and telekinesis.

Hawking: Astrophysical genius, sociobiological imbecile.

headache said...

david sed
"..after the British government declined to provide funding."

That tells you what they really think. The Brits, who are astute businessmen and never hand out money for nothing, are known as ├╝ber-liberals, but when it comes to placing their bets, they bet against their black friends and against that which they profess.

Martin said...

"The world of science needs Africa’s brilliant talents and I look forward to meeting prospective young Einsteins from Africa,' said Hawking."

Nonsense. The world of science doesn't need most of the scientists that Europe and America already train. There are plenty of people who graduate with PhDs in physics only to end up as software engineers. The idea that has been put forth (by professors who lack grad students) that there is/will-be a shortage of scientists is a load of crap.

"Neil Turok, founder of the project and professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge University, where he is a close colleague of Hawking, said the aim of the centres was to 'unlock and nurture scientific talent' across Africa.....'

Turok and Hawking hope that Aims’s students will help to overturn the negative stereotypes of Africa that were recently given expression by James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA......'Watson’s views were simply ridiculous,' said Turok. 'The quality of students we are seeing at Aims is extremely high. What they need is an opportunity to learn.'"

One would think that Turok and Hawking would understand the nature of a gaussian distribution. Are they as incapable of thinking statistically as many people seem to be?

And why should Britain pay for all this? If Africa wants to find Africa's Einstein, why doesn't Africa set up it's own patent office - you know - to patent all those things they invent. Africa's Andrew Carnegie can pay for it.

P.S. David - thanks for the article.

Anonymous said...

According to psychometric studies, there a great deal of potential and actual talent in the United States, in our young White children.

And there is, by the same science, much less of it in Africa.

A prudent investor would seek a needle in a needle shop before seeking it in a haystack.

More billions in taxes probably down the chute that could have been used profitably.

How many White taxpayers, working at the top of their bent in a majority White country, does it take to produce one African Ph.d.? Henny Youngman, call your office.

(Doesn't Mugabe have degrees?)

Anonymous said...

"Truth" is a piss-poor troll. Is he "Undercover Black Man"? If so, I'm disappointed, as UBM occasionally writes smart stuff on his blog.

Robin said...

If the true purpose of this project were to locate "African Einsteins," they could save a lot of money simply by identifying promising students and sending them to the UK or Europe for advanced studies. I'm sure they'd find some and the world would be a better place for enabling them to use their talents. As it stands, this will probably become a self-perpetuating bureaucracy and money pit that will produce large numbers of mediocre graduates and few or no true geniuses.

Svigor said...

"Truth" is a piss-poor troll. Is he "Undercover Black Man"?

I think so. I referred to him as such some months back and he didn't deny it.

If so, I'm disappointed, as UBM occasionally writes smart stuff on his blog.

Yeah, he's gotten pretty bad lately. Maybe he's off meds?

Anonymous said...

Robin,

But it will enrich Turok, the wonderful mensch. (He hopes.)

Truth said...

""Truth" is a piss-poor troll. Is he "Undercover Black Man"? If so, I'm disappointed, as UBM occasionally writes smart stuff on his blog."

So what are you tryin' to say, we all WRITE alike?

Josh said...

Re comment by "Graham": "the library where I worked had a complete run of (SciAm magazines) from the late 40's to the current year(1976). I gradually worked my way through them." I had a similar experience with that magazine in my H.S. library. I worked thru the entire run of issues, only not quite so much READING them as drawing male and female genitalia throughout. So,its kind of similar...

none of the above said...

anonymous: You might assume, though, that smart kids (black and white) in the US are probably mostly pulled into higher education, and mostly wind up doing something arguably meaningful with their inborn gifts. (Way too many end up as lawyers and tax accountants and other lucrative but unproductive things, but that's a different problem.) Africa likely has fewer geniuses, but also fewer opportunities for them to end up as doctors or physicists.

However, Robin is surely right. If you want to harvest the brains of Africa, you can use grad schools in the US and Europe. Probably, you'd get a lot more result spending that money on medicated mosquito nets, vaccines, and nutritional supplements. But that would only make sense if you were trying to help Africans, not if you were trying to burnish your own reputation or make yourself feel important.

IMO, a *huge* amount of US and European involvement in Africa is about people here making themselves feel important. Any good done for Africans is a lucky accident.

none of the above said...

truth:

Actually, your posts come out in a darker font. I think Google is to blame. (It could be worse: Jews' posts are rendered right-to-left and without vowels.)