Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sunday Sadness

I really have to stop reading National Review Online. It no longer stands for anything wholesome, or genuinely conservative. Even its leading lights run from demonstrated, well confirmed facts in fear for their reputations -- their reputations, that is, among slanderers, antisocials, and rabble-rousers.

Have a gander at this deplorable passage from a piece by Victor Davis Hanson, written in reply to an attack by some scrofulous clown at the New Yorker:

Pace Sanneh, I did not have to mention John Derbyshire’s essay on race, because long ago I had already objected to it.

Any sober reader can see why I did, and why Derbyshire’s essay was far different from my own: I do not share, inter alia, his thoughts on the relationships between race and IQ and the suggestions of genetic inferiority, and on more than one occasion I objected to his blanket generalizing about all African-Americans. As I wrote of Derbyshire’s essay: “As for Mr. Derbyshire, he surely must have known that what he wrote was way over the line, and, besides, did not follow his own usually rigorous standards of statistical logic. He knows that purported IQ per se is not necessarily proof of competency; if it were, the stellar Steven Chu would be a great cabinet secretary rather than on his way to be the James Watt or Earl Butz of our age. And if crime rates for young, black urban males prove disproportionately high, why would one use them as probable cause not to lend assistance to blacks in general when stuck on the side of the road? That it is statistically iffy to walk alone in downtown Detroit at night is certainly no reason to pass by a black person on the road in dire need of assistance, given the vast majority of blacks are not urban/young/male/with criminal records, and to treat them as if they all were by virtue of their shared race seems not merely wrong and racist, but, to someone of Mr. Derbyshire’s intellect, statistically illogical.”

Until today, I hadn't read Hanson's "objections" to Derbyshire's now famous piece: "The Talk: Nonblack Version." Nevertheless, I think I qualify as a "sober reader," and I found nothing of substance to object to in Derbyshire's piece. All of it was founded on established statistics and observable phenomena.

In particular, it's clear from the above passage that Hanson, for all his achievements in his own field, is no statistician.

When conscription was imposed upon the nation for the purposes of World War I, persons of Ashkenazi Jewish descent -- i.e., Jews from Eastern Europe -- measured statistically well below other Americans on IQ tests. That difference in the means was reversed within two generations. It might yet come to pass that American blacks achieve similar gains. Nevertheless, the current facts are as Derbyshire has stated them.

Hanson tosses up an egregious straw man in supposed refutation of Derbyshire:

[Derbyshire] knows that purported IQ per se is not necessarily proof of competency; if it were, the stellar Steven Chu would be a great cabinet secretary rather than on his way to be the James Watt or Earl Butz of our age.

No, IQ does not correlate 100% with one's academic or professional altitude -- at any point in life. But statistically, it correlates strongly with success in the "symbolic occupations," whose practitioners deal principally with abstractions rather than with raw materials or subassemblies. Concerning Steven Chu, the man's problem isn't his intellect, but rather his assumptions, priorities, and prejudices. No amount of raw intelligence will get you anywhere good if your premises are mistaken and you're averse to questioning or correcting them.

Hanson is also afflicted with a version of "the knowledge problem." Specifically, he dismisses the costs and risks involved in learning more than one already knows, on the chance that the added information might alter his decision making. Yes, yes, yes: "the vast majority of blacks are not urban/young/male/with criminal records." But how is one to know this as one passes a "black motorist in distress" at highway speed? Atop that, how many of us, black, white, red, or yellow, in this era of the ubiquitous cell phone would be incapable of summoning professional assistance in such circumstances? Surely it's a very low figure, so why take an unnecessary risk? Especially given recent, well documented incidents of black violence against white motorists?

In a crowning irony, the bulk of Hanson's piece attempts to defend Hanson's own factual observations and statistical citations against Kelefa Sanneh's imputations. But then, Hanson is the one Sanneh has most recently called a racist; Derbyshire, his reputation irretrievably blackened by National Review Online among others, isn't much concerned with such accusations these days.

It is appropriate to end this brief, sad piece with an observation from Sir Harold Bowden: "Facts that are not frankly faced have a habit of stabbing us in the back." Victor Davis Hanson, a historian by trade, has no excuse for not knowing that.


Michael Gersh said...

I am not so sure what the true correlation of IQ is to violence, but I am certain that a culture of violence in black urban communities exists. We live in a violent country, and black taxi drivers have been documented as being no more willing to pick up young black men than white ones are.

This IQ thing does not necessarily make blacks genetically inferior, but their violent culture sure makes a lone black young man more potentially dangerous than, e.g. an elderly asian person, but danger lurks, waiting for the foolish. I once was almost hijacked by a pretty blonde female hitchhiker.

It is not about race; it is about not putting myself in potential danger. I for one leave stranded motorists for emergency services these days. I may call in an incident I witness, but never stop. I protect me and mine, but strangers? Not so much.

Anonymous said...

If blacks are the equal of other races, then why is it despite their location, the different cultures they exist in, the differences in political and cultural settings, that black performance remains distinct and markedly inferor to other groups? In the same vein violence exists within the black culture regardless of the setting. Why are not blacks regarded differently in South America, Africa, Asia, Europe or the Middle East rather than as a violent impluse drive group?