Saturday, March 11, 2017

Hide The Data!

Andrew Sullivan, of all people, has finally discovered the cultists on the left. These are the sort of people who use violence to prevent speeches by people who hold different views. In short, they oppose diversity, in this case, of thought.

While that's interesting, here's a snippet that opens up a different line of inquiry entirely. As Andrew is a member of the cult himself, he has to intone the catechism about race and show his ritual disapproval of Charles Murray. Professor Murray wrote a book called The Bell Curve which discussed IQ and presented reams of data. One chapter out of the book shows the data broken down by race. He doesn't draw any white supremacist conclusions about it, he's just a scientist looking at numbers. That makes him an infidel in the eyes of the cultists. Here's Andrew's reasoning.
(P)rotests against Murray are completely legitimate. The book he co-authored with Harvard professor Richard Herrnstein more than 20 years ago, The Bell Curve, included a chapter on empirical data showing variations in the largely overlapping bell curves of IQ scores between racial groups. Their provocation was to assign these differences to both the environment and genetics. The genetic aspect could be and was exploited by racists and bigots.
The problem isn't that Murray was lying or trying to feed bigotry. The problem is that he published the data at all. Opinion isn't the enemy, science and data are. When that happens, you're in trouble.

How do you hide data? Do you keep it in a jar in a locked cabinet so no one can ever find it? What happens when the data is out in plain sight, like the ethnic makeup of the NBA and NFL? How about data published by the FBI or Justice Department on crime stats? Even if you suppress those, a short drive around town reveals plenty. Where are there bars on the windows and barbed wire on fences?

The way to fight bigots of all kinds is not to suppress data. That's a hopeless task. You need to make the data irrelevant.

If you ask a girl to marry you and she turns you down, who cares if the guy she eventually marries is your race? You didn't marry the girl and that's that. If you apply for a job at an insurance company and you don't get it, who cares if the person they hire is your race? Will you get a percentage of his paycheck as a part of some kind of racial hegemony?

It's not the data, it's the utter irrelevance of the way you parsed it. We are individuals and our lives are mostly governed by our actions. Race plays almost no role in it at all and yet we make a huge deal out of it. Heroin has the same effect on Eskimos as it does on Puerto Ricans. So does getting an Electrical Engineering degree. So does marrying before you have kids.

We've picked a characteristic that's, at best, a third-order effector on our lives and turned it into a religion. So Professor Murray publishes a table of average IQ as a function of race. So what? Did it make you smarter if your race is higher up the table? No. By turning discussions of race into legitimate topics and giving them weight far beyond their actual value, we're arming bigots with the only weapons they will ever have.

In short, obsessing about race creates the bigotry we're all trying to stamp out. It's not the data in the table, it's the row and column headings. The data will be there whether we want to hide it or not. Publish the data or don't, it's irrelevant. Just stop making it such a big deal.

I always knew oranges were inferior. Now I have the data to prove it!

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