Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Philosophers in denial about race

I have pointed out that philosophers are hostile to physics, but they are really more broadly anti-science. An example is Scientia Salon, where philosophers of science defend all sorts of crackpot ideas. The latest is a complaint about people exposing bad science of Stephen Jay Gould. Essentially they say that Gould may have been wrong, but he faked his results for the purpose of promoting leftist politics, so he should not be criticized. And there is no such thing as race, because believing in race makes you a racist.

I do not know how skull measurements might correlate with race or intelligence, but it is a scientific question that can be settled with objective data. Instead Gould wanted to speculate about the possible racial biases of some guy who died in 1851. These leftist modern academic philosophers want to do the same thing.

One of the authors, M. Pigliucci, has abandoned the Rationally Speaking Podcast. It continues with:
In this episode of Rationally Speaking, Caltech physicist Sean Carroll describes an "embarrassing" state of affairs in modern physics: that we still don't know how to interpret quantum mechanics, almost a century after its discovery. Sean explains why he thinks the "Many Worlds Interpretation" (MWI) is the most plausible one we've got, and Julia explores his thoughts on questions like: Can MWI be tested? Is it "simpler" than other interpretations, and why? And does MWI threaten to destroy our systems of ethics?

Sean Michael Carroll is a research professor in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. He is a theoretical cosmologist specializing in dark energy and general relativity.
I am pretty sure that Carroll is not a professor. Not in this universe, anyway.

The MWI cannot even say that anything is probably true. There is nothing plausible about it.

Update: Anti-science philosopher Massimo Pigliucci responds:
When they talk about “race,” however, they talk about a category that has no biological meaning: there isn’t any such thing as the “East Asian, European, and African” races, so any statistics derived about these non-existent entities is biologically meaningless. On top of which, they are correlating brain size with “g,” a reified statistical entity based on IQ tests, the relationship of which with “intelligence” (however one wishes to define it) is at best problematic.
Modern geneticists and anthropologists routinely divide people that way. In fact, this
recent NY Times article describes research showing that those of East Asian, European, and African ancestry have 2.4%, 2%, and 0% Neanderthal DNA.

Of course these populations have more obvious differences that people have remarked on for millennia.

Pigliucci repeatedly defends Gould by denying that he accused Morton of mis-reporting skull sizes from ideological bias. But reader Coel points out:
This is from Gould’s “Mismeasure of man” (p94 of revised edition):

“Morton often chose to include or delete large subsamples in order to match group averages with prior expectations. He included Inca Peruvians to decrease the Indian average, but deleted Hindus to raise the Caucasian mean. He also chose to present or not to calculate the averages of subsamples in striking accord with desired results. He made calculations for Caucasians to demonstrate the superiority of Teutons and Anglo-Saxons, but never presented data for Indian subsamples with equally high averages.”


“All miscalculations and omissions that I have detected are in Morton’s favor. He rounded the negroid Egyptian average down to 79, rather than up to 80. He cited averages of 90 for Germans and Anglo-Saxons, but the correct values are 88 and 89. He excluded a large Chinese skull and an Eskimo subsample from his final tabulation for mongoloids, thus depressing their average below the Caucasian value.”

How does that *not* amount to “Gould explicitly accused Morton of allowing his ideology to bias his results”?
Pigliucci is repeating Gould's libel by arguing that there is no such thing as intelligence because entirely false allegations about someone who died in 1851.

He also says:
Whether Gould was or was not a Marxist (which in my vocabulary is hardly a worse word than, say, libertarian) is irrelevant to the arguments.
To me, Marxist is a worse word, because libertarians believe in the free exchange of ideas, while Marxists believe in lying about race in order to promote racial animosity.

Remember that Gould was a Harvard professor in the History of Science, and he is most revered by academics in the periphery of science. Real scientists are disgusted by this ideological distortion of the facts.

Update: Here is a Pigliucci defender:
C. Van Carter wrote:
That’s known as Lewontin’s fallacy (Lewontin was a Marxist too). I’m sure you will repeat it many more times. Race deniers speaking of “groups” and “populations” is more semantic games.
Do you actually have anything productive to contribute? Or are you just here to go to the bathroom on this thread?

Dr. Pigliucci is both a practicing biologist and a professional philosopher, sporting at least two PhDs and with an impressive publishing record, in which he has demonstrated substantial expertise in the subject currently under discussion. I suspect that there is not a single thing that you understand that he doesn’t understand better. Especially, when it comes to “groups” and “populations,” and “races.”

You sound like a caricature of special pleading for racism. Why not go post on Stormfront or something?
The pattern here is to defend a Marxist who was wrong, brag about how smart the leftist is, and call anyone who disagrees a racist.

Update: Pigliucci doubles down, saying that there is no Lewontin's Fallacy, that the Marxists know better than everyone else, that all criticism of them is meaningless, that there is no scientific objectivity, and that there are no biologically relevant distinctions between human racial groups. (He now admits that there are statistically significant differences.)

I have criticized Pigliucci several times on this blog, and I did not even know that he was a human biodiversity denialist and a Marxist sympathizer My criticisms have more to with his anti-science attacks on physics, such as denying that causality is involved in fundamental physics, and subscribing to a paradigm shift view of its history.

Marxist love paradigm shift theory because they love viewing everything in terms of revolutions and grand social causes. They hate objective facts, reductionism, and much of hard science. Those are just distractions for lesser minds. What is important is the class struggle between the oppressor and victim classes.

Physicists do not just ignore philosophers for being irrelevant. Philosophers have declared war on modern science. Many scientists see philosophers as undermining science.


  1. Labs give different ratings to blood test results based whether you are Caucasian or African American. Why hasn't Obamacare shut down these racists, since the science is settled: race is an illusion.

  2. The desire to have everyone of adult age equal before the law is fine and well. This does not mean everyone is 'equal', whatever that is supposed to mean. Some people are faster and stronger, and we celebrate them in the Olympics and sporting events. Others are smarter or more academically capable and we venerate these people with respect and for their intellect along with pretty pieces of paper on the wall with titles. Yet others still are considered more beautiful, and our species has tried to immortalize these visages in art, poetry, and sculpture down through the centuries. Lastly, there are those individuals who for whatever reason we love and hold above all others, and these select few we would kill for...and even more rarely, die for.

    Outside the court of law, there is little 'equal' about humanity. We may be born very similar, but by heredity, chance, skill, ability, and love, we grow to be wide apart in how we are regarded and valued. I celebrate this true 'diversity' of our species, and accept it as an honest reflection of our own nature and choices.

    The simple truth is, you can't make people (or even less, groups of people) truly 'equal' without making them the same. To make them the same would require they make the same choices (thus stripping choice away), and have the same perspectives and abilities (thus stripping perspective and exceptional ability away), like and love the same things (thus forbidding the love of an individual), and value everyone identically (thus no one ends of valuing anyone more than the lowest common denominator). Love above all could not be permitted, because love is the most unfair of all human values, and it is not possible to love everyone equally. This is clearly impossible without distorting human nature to the point it is no longer resembling anything human at all.

    It saddens me that so many purportedly brilliant academics have sought after marxist socialist/communist 'equality' utopias without realizing they themselves would not exist under such systems, as their intellect divides them from true equality and would need to be negated in order to make them more 'equal' with the masses they look down upon, unless of course they excluded themselves from such imposed considerations of equality...just like every other tyrannical elitist ruling class under any other kind of government. History is replete with rulers who would exclude themselves from their own laws. The excuses may change, but the objectives remain very much the same.

    Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

  3. Scott Aaronson repudiates quantum computers! Take a look:


  4. Roger,

    I've read all your old posts and agree with you to an uncanny degree (but not quite with everything). The two biggest influences one me were the physicists E. T. Jaynes and Clifford Truesdell. So I thought I share some references with you just in case you enjoy them as much as I did.

    Jaynes is most known for his contributions to probability theory. Specifically, he held to the notion going back to Bernoulli and Laplace that probabilities model uncertainty. So that P(x|K) represents the uncertainty about the true value of x resulting from knowledge K. Here “x” could be a parameter or a future value of something or the frequency of something and so on.

    Probabilities are never frequencies. The difference between the two is that physical frequencies are facts of nature and don't change when our state of knowledge K changes. Probabilities which model uncertainties definitively do change when K changes.

    Anyway, his major book is “Probability Theory: the Logic of Science”, but all of his papers can conveniently be found here:


    You might find his QM work more interesting though especially these papers (which are at the link)

    Survey of the present status of neoclassical radiation theory (1973)
    Quantum Beats (1980)
    Clearing up Mysteries – the original goal (1989)
    Probability in Quantum Theory (1990)
    Scattering of Light by free electrons (1991)
    A backward look to the future (1993)

    None of these are oppressively technical and I found them a lot more fun to read than the usual stuff.

    Clifford Truesdell is kind of hard to pin down. He was considered a mathematician by most, but he considered himself in a “Natural Philosopher” in the vein of Newton, Euler, Cauchy, and so on. He was the greatest 20th century expert on Continuum Mechanics, but was also fluent in German, Latin, Italian and French and would often read the original works. So he had a side job as a historian of science. As such he's a far better historian and philosopher of science than the usual.

    My favorite books by him are:

    An Idiot's fugitive Essays on Science
    Great Scientists of old as heretics in “The Scientific Method”
    The Tragicomical History of Thermodynamics 1822-1854
    The Non-Linear Field Theories of Mechanics

    These books are hard to find now, but each is a forgotten masterpiece.

  5. I will look at some of those papers. I would be worried if you agreed with everything!

    1. Incidentally, if you're more interested in the Jaynes's probability stuff the paper to read is "Where do we stand on Maximum Entropy (1979)". It's almost forgotten know except for a famous "dice problem" which is mentioned in it, but I think it's the most important philosophy of science paper written in the 20th century.

  6. The notion of "race" is a conspiracy to keep the black man down.