Friday, December 18, 2015

SJW physicists vs Scalia: how loud minorities seem more representative than they are

A week ago, U.S. Justice Scalia has expressed his negative opinion about affirmative action in general and its impact on the blacks in physics classes in particular:
"There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less – a slower-track school where they do well," Scalia said, according to the transcript. "One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don't come from schools like the University of Texas."

"They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they're being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them," Scalia said. "I'm just not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer. Maybe it ought to have fewer. And maybe some – you know, when you take more, the number of blacks, really competent blacks, admitted to lesser schools, turns out to be less."
Many of us have thought about and discussed such ideas hundreds of times. Scalia has just expressed some obvious facts that the existence of affirmative action – the artificial inclusion of a higher number of blacks and other "minorities" – is a fact; and it doesn't seem helpful, not even to the blacks themselves.

There may be very smart blacks and I know some totally cool U.S. black physicists in person. At the same moment, it would be silly to suggest that a random black American has the same likelihood to do physics (or something similar) well as a random white American. The statistics looks nothing like this "uniform" distribution. Measurements of IQ place average white Americans at 102; average blacks (who are a rather diverse community that is no longer "purely black", of course) stand at 87. The difference is exactly one standard deviation. It has to show up. The probability that a random black's IQ is above 100 is around 1/6 only; it is slightly higher than 1/2 for a white American. The numerical difference is this significant already for 1 person and the difference (and signal-to-noise ratio) becomes much larger if you talk about groups of people; and especially if you look at highly selective places.

You don't need to like the IQ measurements. They are not canonical, fundamental, whatever. But they are highly correlated with the tasks that one must actually do as a physicist or a mathematician. It's simply implausible that you get this huge gap in the IQ scores; but the abilities of both groups to study physics will be statistically the same. Every sensible person – and it doesn't matter whether he or she is black or white – must know that.

Efforts to increase the number of members of a group artificially lead to injustice and reduced effectiveness of the system. Some folks who aren't quite as good get in; while others who are better stay out. This is immediately bad especially for those who wanted to be admitted but weren't. It's bad for the school and for the research because the overall talent has been artificially reduced by replacing somewhat stronger folks by somewhat weaker folks of a better color.

At the end, this setup is bad for the "minorities", too. They may feel inappropriate because others may look brighter; they may feel painful because they and everyone else may know that they were admitted partly or mostly or entirely because of the affirmative action (a demagogic euphemism for reverse racism); and at the end, after a long enough time, when the progress in science and engineering slows down, everyone becomes a victim.

Comments above are so obvious that I am not willing to use the adjective "reasonable" for someone who loudly denies most of these obvious facts. Affirmative action hurts. If you place the diversity or a high percentage of blacks at the top of your values, great, affirmative action will work for you. But whenever your priorities and values are composed of something that actually has an intrinsic value even without this SJW ideology, you will know very clearly that the affirmative action hurts at many places.

The unreasonable people and the people who place this left-wing ideology above everything else unsurprisingly disliked Scalia's words. (Incidentally, Scalia was really just referring to expert opinions of others – people who do research and who exist as much as the SJWs do.) Among those critics, you may find a group of 2,000 physicisits who sent
a letter to the Supreme Court of the United States
First, the number 2,000 sounds impressive. But you may get easily fooled and think that signatories like that are representative of the U.S. physics community. By comparing the list of signatories with the U.S. physics community, you may easily find out that it's not the case at all.

For example, you find 25 signatures with a Harvard-related affiliation. About one-half of them are students. The Harvard-related signatories I know are: Daniel Harlow, Peter Galison, and Jacob Barandes. You can imagine that this is a tiny fraction of the Harvard physics people whom I know. I don't claim that the following people strictly disagree with everything in the letter or share my opinion. But it's still true that you don't find the names of Strominger, Vafa, Randall, Georgi, Schwartz, Yin, and so on, and so on beneath this letter. Almost none of the people in the Jefferson Laboratory is there. And I am pretty sure that most of these people were asked to endorse the letter. Such left-wing campaigns are being generously sent to whole faculty e-mail lists etc.

At the end, the names of Harlow, Galison, and Barandes may be found under many similar petitions. It's always similar names that sign under these far left-wing ideologically motivated campaigns and they are a tiny percentage of the members of the community. Nevertheless, the media work in such a way that people – including conservatives outside the Academia – are led to believe that such letters represent the actual opinions of almost all the scholars. Well, they simply don't. The misleading image of the Academia is bad for many reasons – in particular, the conservatives outside the Academia often hate the scholars much more than they should because they're often served exaggerated and statistically distorted reports about the radical left-wing nature of all the professors. But most professors simply aren't this radical.

A few words about the wording of the letter.
First, we strongly repudiate the line of questioning from Justice Antonin Scalia based on the discredited Mismatch Theory.
Mismatch Theory is a rather normal, important, and uncontroversial part of the evolutionary biology. I've never heard that someone has claimed that it was "discredited". What do these people have in mind? Does it discredit the whole Darwin's theory of evolution as well?

Several paragraphs describe how much outraged, upset, pissed off the signatories are and how important it is that these professional physicists disagree with Scalia. They boast that they work "very hard" to apply reverse racism in all their day-to-day decisions. There are tons of clichés such as
We hope to push our community towards equity and inclusion so that the community of scientists more closely matches the makeup of humankind, because the process of scientific discovery is a human endeavor that benefits from removing prejudice against any race, ethnicity, or gender.
We know that you push and you hope. But have you ever thought about the fact that what you're doing is unethical, harmful, unfair, and just plain despicable? It's simply not a goal or duty of science to match some colors and quotas. The purpose of science is to discover the truth about Nature. You're doing exactly the same thing as Ku-Klux-Klan did but with the colors reversed. And what Ku-Klux-Klan was doing wasn't real science.
Indeed, science relies heavily on consensus about acceptable results as well as future research directions, making diversity among scientists a crucial aspect of objective, bias-free science
No, the scientific decisions are those that by definition don't depend on anything such as a consensus. You must have confused science with some democratic votes, you "physicists". Science decides about the truth according to the evidence and it doesn't matter how many people "agree" with the evidence and what the color of their skin is. In practice, almost all science in recent 500 years has been done and found by the white people and/or the West. Even intelligent Arabs and Muslim know that, such as this totally reasonable guy in the 2011 video that Honza U. sent me:

He's even able to pinpoint some essential prerequisite of this success of the West in the recent past – like the independent thinking of the individuals which is largely absent in the Muslim world.

OK, the progress was done mostly by the Caucasian race. Is it a law of physics? It didn't have to be this way (and other regions and skin colors were essential at different moments of the history of the mankind) but it's how the world worked and there is absolutely nothing wrong about this fact about the history of science. The key reason is that the scientific knowledge is impersonal and objective in character so if it had been accumulated by people of a different race, it would look pretty much the same, anyway.
Minority students attending primarily white institutions commonly face racism, biases, and a lack of mentoring. Meanwhile, white students unfairly benefit psychologically from being overrepresented.
This is just nonsense. Almost everyone who belongs to a minority has the advantage of feeling that "something important about the group" depends on him or her more than it depends on the members of the majority. Whenever one of the last members of a minority is fired, there may be suggestions that it was due to some racism or bigotry or it violates some quotas or whatever. That's why it's always easier to hire and harder to fire members of minorities etc. Even without any institutionalized reverse racism, as long as minorities are fully allowed, they're mostly in advantage.
Before Justice’s Scalia’s remarks on black scientists, Justice Roberts asked, “what unique perspective does a minority student bring to physics class?” and “What [are] the benefits of diversity… in that situation?” Before addressing these questions directly, we note that it is important to call attention to questions that weren’t asked by the justices, such as, “What unique perspectives do white students bring to a physics class?” and “What are the benefits of homogeneity in that situation?”
As long as we talk about the "pure science" and not some cultural dimensions of it, a person cannot bring any unique perspective just because he or she is white. That's why the "normal" racism is exactly as unjustified in the physics departments as the "reverse" racism. The "normal" racism could have existed at places and times where Ku-Klux-Klan etc. were powerful if such places have ever existed. But these days, it's only the "reverse" racists such as the signatories of this letter who build on the Ku-Klux-Klan ways of thinking.

Similarly, there are no "major" and "universal" benefits of homogeneity. Diversity is often useful, helpful, cool, and allows the whole approach problems from many perspectives which may speed up the progress. (However, that's only the case if we talk about some kind of an intellectual diversity – a different skin color doesn't accelerate anything.)

On the other hand, diversity of all forms is overrated. Indeed, homogeneity has advantages, too. When people speak the same language (and if they understand each other even when it comes to subtleties), they don't waste too much time by translation. When students have similar knowledge and similar skills, it's easier to design classes that will bring something helpful to all of them. When workers may be assumed to have the same characteristics and output, it's easier to plan what they will achieve.

So they think that the question "What are the benefits of uniformity" is just a rhetorical question but it shouldn't be. Lots of such benefits exist. The world and the human society are rather complex entities and none of these questions has as simple answers as those simple-minded signatories try to pretend.

Correct me if I am wrong but the rest of the letter is just a repetitive rant redundantly claiming that the reverse racism is right if not mandatory. A lie repeated 100 times becomes the truth according to these SJWs.

They're wrong but I am annoyed that the silent majority of the physics departments which has much more reasonable opinions than the signatories of similar letters and petitions stays so silent. It's normal to stay silent and it's right for a scientist to do science instead of politics. On the other hand, when you leave the job of some "more general and politically flavored activities" to those who are really obsessed by these things, it means that you are indirectly supporting the propagation of extremist opinions because the people who find it important to flood the world with similar letters are usually motivated by their own extremism.

So, dear member of the silent majority, your silence contributes to the extremism of the Academia and its increasingly hopeless detachment from reality, along with the excessive hatred that many people outside the Academia feel towards the scholarly world.

Palestine and CERN

A related fresh example of the absurdity of such quotas. Palestine and CERN signed a cooperation agreement for high-energy physics. The problem is that virtually no Palestinian Arab has a clue what high-energy physics is, let alone be useful for that. The highest energy some of them know is the energy you need to send a rocket to the Israeli territory to harm someone.

Agreements and events like this one create a virtual reality and intimidate sensible people at CERN and elsewhere. And there exist people who build absurdities upon absurdities. So it is not a problem to find Western feminist who complains about the shortage of girls among the Palestinian physics students. Holy cow. You may feel lucky if you find a couple of Palestianian people – almost certainly predominantly men – who can look "usable" as physicists. If you demand the candidates to be Palestinian and female, you will really have a lot of trouble to fill the slots... But I am sure that Ms Kate Shaw will blame this shortage on some "racists" and "sexists".

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