URLs du Jour


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  • Just one last retrospective, 'kay? Some of my unusual posts from 2021:

  • Speaking as a Cheap Wine Libertarian… I'm with Jason Brennan and Christopher Freiman in their broadside Against Champagne Socialists.

    It's been a bad year in public relations for Champagne socialists—or if you prefer, Neiman Marxists. The socialist Twitch streamer and Young Turks host Hasan Piker bought a $2.7 million house in Beverly Hills, complete with a swimming pool and an outdoor widescreen perfect for entertaining. Millionaire Aurora James designed Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's show-stealing "Tax the Rich" dress, which she wore to the $35,000-per-ticket Met Gala.

    The phenomenon of egalitarians living in luxury while denouncing the evils of inequality is not new. In 2018, socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders paid an effective tax rate of 26 percent despite campaigning on a platform that would require him to pay more than 40 percent. After taxes and donations, Sanders remains within the top 1 percent of U.S. earners and the top .02 percent worldwide. Curious observers may question why Sanders, a tireless critic of the 1 percent, doesn't sell his $575,000 vacation home and give the proceeds to charity or offer them as a general donation to the U.S. government via pay.gov. The same goes for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a longtime progressive who has a net worth of over $10 million and yet donated a mere $50,128 in 2018.

    Consider this an exercise in applied philosophy. They suspect some non-admirable psychology is going on here:

    The reality is that for many people, publicly expressing ideology is not about trying to say what's right and wrong; it's about trying to look good to others. It's moral masturbation, not moral theory. Rather than helping others—which might cost them something!—they advocate helping others. Rather than ameliorating some of the bad effects of injustice—which might cost them something!—they advocate for justice. They then consume the warm glow of cheap altruism and earn the admiration of like-minded peers, all while living a self-centered luxury lifestyle.

    It sounds all too plausible.

  • "You've changed, man. It used to be about the science!" Jerry Coyne is very very disappointed in a once-venerated magazine, now committed to a self-destruct sequence: Scientific American does an asinine hit job on E. O. Wilson, calling him a racist.

    It is written by someone who apparently has no training in evolutionary biology, though she says she “intimately familiarized [herself] with Wilson’s work and his dangerous ideas on what factors influence human behavior.” I usually don’t question someone because of their credentials, but this piece is so stupid, so arrantly ignorant of Wilson’s work, that I can attribute its content only to a combination of ignorance (perhaps deliberate) or a woke desire to take down someone as a racist who wasn’t a racist. Or both.


    I could rant forever about the ignorance of this woman, but will try to refrain. Note the links above that say “discrimination” and “racism”. But nowhere in the article does she give one iota of evidence that Wilson was a racist. Yes, he was a biological determinist—and not a pure biological determinist, for he wrote books about the influence of culture and genetics—but I never heard him say or write anything to indicate that he was biased against members of other groups. (The author, Monica R. McLemore, is black.) Not all people who claim that genes have a role in human behavior are racists, you know. And if you claim that genes don’t have any influence in modern behavior, which was Wilson’s point in writing the last chapter of Sociobiology, then you’re ignorant and wrong. .

    Professor Coyne's long post has reactions from other scientists eulogizing a once-good magazine.

    (Classic quote slightly adapted for the headline.)

  • In University Near Here-related news… The College Fix details the latest (apparently failed) crusade against the name of the James Webb Space Telescope: ‘Queer agender’ feminist physicist wants NASA’s new telescope named after Harriet Tubman.

    NASA’s advanced replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope was launched on Christmas Day, but a “queer agender” black feminist physicist — who believes her field is “deeply inflected by pro-white biases” — is unhappy with the new telescope’s moniker.

    The University of New Hampshire’s Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, along with three other scientists, penned a Scientific American article earlier this year demanding the James Webb Space Telescope be renamed due to the namesake “acquiesc[ing] to homophobic government policies during the 1950s and 1960s.”

    Yes, that's Scientific American again. I don't think there's actually any new news in the article.

    NASA, for all its faults, has a very cool page, Where Is Webb?. As I type, slightly over halfway to its L2 Lagrangian orbit, 470,000 miles away from Chanda Prescod-Weinstein.

  • [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Call them Neanderthal knuckle-draggers. That'll work. Tom Chivers was unimpressed with a recent book (Amazon link at your right), and his review is headlined How not to talk to a science denier.

    Imagine you bought a book with the title How to Talk to A Contemptible Idiot Who Is Kind of Evil. You open the book, and read the author earnestly telling you how important it is that you listen, and show empathy, and acknowledge why the people you’re talking to might believe the things they believe. If you want to persuade them, he says, you need to treat them with respect! But all the way through the book, the author continues to refer to the people he wants to persuade as “contemptible idiots who are kind of evil”.

    At one stage he even says: “When speaking to a contemptible idiot who is kind of evil, don’t call them a contemptible idiot who is kind of evil! Many contemptible idiots find that language insulting.” But he continues to do it, and frequently segues into lengthy digressions about how stupid and harmful the idiots’ beliefs are. Presumably you would not feel that the author had really taken his own advice on board

    This is very much how I feel about How to Talk to A Science Denier, by the Harvard philosopher Lee McIntyre.

    I'm not a science denier. I'm a Scientific American denier.