The narrative on gender bias

I've been keeping an eye on Brian Earp's work for years, as he's got a very nuanced approach to things. Recently one of the papers that he was first author on, Gender Bias in Pediatric Pain Assessment, got picked up by quite a few prominent media outlets who consistently misreported the paper's results to fit the politically narrative. Here's a thread he put together on how to better interpret the results:

I think he's appropriately cynical, as per this recent update that if the study had found the opposite results those too would likely have be interpreted also to fit the narrative - and thought more about how certain elements of current theory might be unfalsifiable.

A few years back Earp authored The unbearable asymmetry of bullshit, which looks at how activists can push false narratives in science1 so I don't think he's exactly been caught off guard that certain things might have been distorted. (I do sort of wonder if he's come to regret having earlier referred a journalist to that boring predictable ideologue Kate Manne though).

It seems to be a bad week for the New York Times's credibility. In another article asserting sexism it seems that a study which is likely fraudulent / non-existant was cited. It was soon acknowledged by the journalist who wrote the piece as a solid critique but a number of days later now the article still remains uncorrected. (EDIT: the journalist in question has now mentioned a correction though my cached copy still shows the error). (It's been a pretty bad week in general for politically correct narratives re: sexism - i.e. someone looking into research on whether blind auditions improved the hiring of female musicians - perhaps the most commonly-cited paper I've heard suggesting that blinding people to the identity of those they're evaluating - found that the figures supposedly supporting this were at least ambiguous and in part in conflict with the narrative).


  1. As far as activists pushing bullshit goes, he's probably most focused on the issue of circumcision ↩︎

Chomsky on whether people should listen to him

If anybody thinks they should listen to me because I'm a professor at MIT, that's nonsense. You should decide whether something makes sense by its content, not by the letters after the name of the person who says it. - Noam Chomsky

(Don't think everything Chomsky says is worth listening to, but do at least find some of it interesting).

Sympathizing with the tyrant

A quote to think about from Moral Hazards and China:

I have studied many of the nastiest parts of modern history with my students. Slavery. Japanese war-mongering. The Holocaust. My approach to these atrocities is simple: it is not enough to empathize with the victims. That is easy. It is also mostly useless. The real challenge is to try and feel the emotions, understand the fears, and take seriously the ideas that lead perpetrators to commit the crimes they did. One must not just sympathize with the tyrannized - one must also try and sympathize with the tyrant.

Why is this necessary? Why focus just as much on the experience and fears of the slaver as the slave? Because you are far more likely to become a slaver than you are to suffer as a slave. In his book on the 14 million people murdered by the Soviet and Nazi regimes in Eastern Europe, historian Timothy Snyder makes this point well:

It is far more inviting, at least today in the West, to identify with the victims than to understand the historical setting that they shared with perpetrators and bystanders in the bloodlands…Yet it is unclear whether this identification with victims brings much knowledge, or whether this kind of alienation from the murderer is an ethical stance. It is not at all obvious that reducing history to morality plays makes anyone moral....It is easy to sanctify policies or identities by the deaths of the victims. It is less appealing, but morally more urgent, to understand the actions of the perpetrators. The moral danger, after all, is never that one might become a victim but that one might be a perpetrator or a bystander.

So one must try and sympathize with the tyrant. But one must not forget what tyranny is.

It perhaps pairs well with the article Genocide and evil. To quote just a small bit there:

.... what if genocide perpetrators aren’t all mustache-twirling villains plotting to do evil? What if they believe they’re in the right? And if their moral inclinations are so misdirected, might some of ours be as well? Are we prone to some of the same errors? Are our enemies really as bad as we think they are? Is our treatment of them as just as we think it is?

Self-deception is easy, and moral feelings are compatible with evil, as much contemporary and ancient wisdom tells us. According to sociologist Randall Collins, “The more intense the feeling of our goodness, the easier it is to commit evil.”

Random links

This Person Does Not Exist Is the Best One-Off Website of 2019
How real can computer-generated faces look? Take a look.
Death on demand: has euthanasia gone too far?
"well over a quarter of all deaths in 2017 in the Netherlands were induced."
Researcher Bias and Influence: How Do Different Sources of Policy Analysis Affect Policy Preferences?
"Partisan organizations are effective at influencing individuals that share their ideology, but individuals collectively are most responsive to analysis produced by nonpartisan organizations. ... The results suggest that increasing the availability of nonpartisan analysis would increase the diffusion of information into the public and reduce political polarization." (via John Holbein)

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