Thursday, October 25, 2018

Conservatives' sensitive ears, race and lactose, anti-string activists as NPCs

Hallyu website has sent me numerous interesting articles about the science-ideology interface in recent days. In The Psychology of Progressive Hostility (Quillette), a brilliant student at University of Queensland, Matthew Blackwell, has discussed the gap between the ability of the left-wingers and right-wingers to listen. Most of the 181 comments under the article are pretty insightful, too.

Conservatives' ears are wide open and their knowledge is doubled

He didn't quite explain the causes but he has mentioned lots of interesting manifestations of this asymmetry. Right-wingers are more likely to listen to left-wingers' arguments. Centrists are much more likely to share their views with the conservatives because these centrists are afraid of the left-wingers' reactions to any opinions in which the two sides could disagree.

The higher likelihood of the listening right-wingers can also be seen by surveys in which right-wingers are actually capable of predicting the left-wingers' answers to questions – while the left-wingers usually respond with misleading caricatures and strawmen. Right-wingers understand left-wingers much more than vice versa.

One implication is that the right-wing students in social sciences must basically learn a doubled amount of stuff. Aside from the theory and explanations that make sense, the right-wing ones, they are also learning all the left-wing "narratives" that don't work.

Blackwell hasn't quite discussed the causes. Is this asymmetry guaranteed to make the right-wingers smarter and more tolerant forever? I am not so sure. Well, there's one aspect: right-wingers are correlated with technical and natural sciences while left-wingers are clumped with social sciences that are less rational. But even this association might be temporary. Well, I think that during Stalinism (think of Czechoslovakia after 1948), commies were more into the "technical beef" while the intellectuals doing "social science stuff" were the right-wing class enemies.

If you mean some focus on the individual and the tested societal arrangements as the lasting definition of the right-wingers, there's little reason why those should always be more "pro-science" and less "pro-social science".

I think that a more relevant explanation is that the left-wingers have simply conquered the university environment – and many other similar environments – so they can get away with the ignorance. An untrue insult against a right-wing colleague is good enough for them, according to the rules of the environment they have crippled and contaminated so much, which is why this is the endpoint of many interactions between left-wingers and right-wingers.

On the other hand, the right-wingers are being hunted and they need to be good – and know stuff on both sides – to survive (plus some luck, masochism, and reticence). Right-wingers generally survive because they're very good while left-wingers survive because they're convenient for the dominant ideology.

Lactose and racists

I was also sent an article from the New York Times about White Supremacists Drinking Milk. Some white supremacists or racists love to drink lots of milk to show how white they are. You know, the right group may almost accurately be defined as the whites that can drink milk as adults. On the other hand, blacks – and Leonard Hofstadter – are lactose-intolerant and they lose the ability to process milk when they grow up.

This observation is clearly correct, and so are many others. Purely white people have some admixture of the Neanderthal genes in their DNA because the whites have mixed with the Neanderthals (and another group) in the past while the blacks have mixed with entirely different groups. The author, Amy Harmon, is a double Pulitzer prize winner but you can see that her approach is intrinsically dishonest. At many places, she says "could you please debunk this or that" and says that this is the right approach.

But you know, the order for someone else to "debunk something" is exerting a pressure that can only lead to an honest outcome if the "something" is actually incorrect and may be debunked. If you can't debunk something yourself, you can't be sure that someone else can! Before you think about someone's "debunking something", you should think whether it's true, and if you're not aware of arguments that settle the question, you should be agnostic. The failure to do so proves that you are driven by an ideology or wishful thinking, you are not an honest thinker.

And be sure that all the statements about lactose and races and Neanderthals, among many others, are true. What is not true is that these facts about the genetics of races automatically imply the racist recipes who should be proud and how the society should behave, which policies it should adopt, and which continents should belong to which races. Lactose intolerance is a property of a human but from a scientific viewpoint, it's a neutral one. Is it better or worse to be lactose-intolerant? It's nice to be tolerant and not to face problems when you drink milk. On the other hand, you may say that there's no reason for adults to drink milk and adults who drink milk – e.g. most whites – are stuck in their childhood and therefore retarded.

It's really the "moral verdicts" – and just the moral verdicts – that are wrong or at least insufficiently justified about the racists' attitudes. They are rather careful to understand their underlying science correctly. And if you fight against that science, you're simply on the wrong side of the history. People who are honest or naturally impartial will simply be able to see through the fog at the end. It's not so terribly hard to find out whether blacks are lactose-intolerant. If you promote the explanation that "we don't have racist policies because the blacks' lactose intolerance is a racists' myth", then you are helping to introduce racist policies because the sentence implicitly says that the distrust in this scientific factoid is the main reason. And once the people find out that the reason is just incorrect – because it's true that black adults are lactose intolerant – it is natural to adopt the racist policies!

Anti-string movement as NPC taboos

I am getting numerous e-mails from people who know some science at the "popular science" level and they ask about something that is supposed to be advanced. Many such e-mails ask for a popular-science-style confirmation of some information, e.g. whether string theory is on the right track. "I have noticed that Mr Woit and Ms Hossenfelder, the history's greatest physicists, are against string theory," or something like that.

OK, so I try to explain that their assumptions are completely wrong. These two people not only fail to be "great" physicists. They are not even average physicists. They are just the pop science media's popular clowns pretending to know something about physics. When I try to explain any science, these people's interest drifts to the idiotic ad hominem assumptions about the greatness of these crackpots. Clearly, any conversation with people who are brainwashed enough to believe that Sabine Hossenfelder is a "great physicist" is a complete waste of time. They live in a world that has nothing whatever to do with the scientific reality. To return them to the real world is more demanding than the filling of one small hole of their ignorance or fixing one technical mistake. They had to start to think completely incorrectly about science and similar things a very long time ago. You would really need to fully re-educate them to fix their misconceptions.

One of these brainwashed people also sent me a monologue of Sabine Hossenfelder about pros and cons of string theory. It sketches some popular-level-book events about the history of string theory, focuses on string phenomenology as if it were the bulk of string theory (which is not the case at all), and misinterprets many phenomenological results etc. It's meaningless to try to correct all the mistakes – just like it's not a good investment of time to try to eat the healthy pieces of an apple that is 99% rotten. Just throw it away. There's no effective way to turn this garbage video into a valuable one.

The video starts boldly:
I will talk about string theory not because I think it's interesting but because it's uninteresting and we should stop talking about it.
Holy cow. String theory remains the only game in town and everyone who wants to scientifically investigate any physical phenomena that go beyond effective quantum field theories – whose limitations are self-evident and well-known – simply must learn string/M-theory. There is no known alternative. To "stop talking about it" is almost exactly equivalent to stop doing fundamental physics.

How can 168 people upvote such an incredibly idiotic statement? Needless to say, just like her mentors Woit and Smolin, she doesn't have any usable alternative idea to solve any of the issues that are solved by string theory. She doesn't have any defensible alternative answers to the answers to thousands of questions that are provided by string theory – about quantum gravity, Planck scale physics, relationships between objects and phenomena beyond quantum field theory, and so on. She doesn't have any alternative framework that could be at least hoped to produce such answers in the future.

Why would an intelligent person think that she is saying something reasonable? The answer is that he can't. All the people who take this stuff seriously are hopeless morons who simply don't have the potential to think as scientists.

But there's one aspect of her "we should stop talk about it". Does it remind you of something? Well, NPCs want many facts and questions to be prohibited as topics for speech. They want to ban the very speech and perhaps also thinking about some ideologically inconvenient questions – such as the differences between races and sexes. To stifle the debate is their actual alternative to the curiosity and research into all questions that are labeled as politically incorrect.

Like in the case of political NFCs, she wants all the string theory talk to be silenced because she feels offended by it: it reminds her of the fact that she's incapable of learning physics stuff that is as structured, abstract, and complex as string theory and this drives her up the wall.

The first sentence of her video shows that string theory has been turned into this kind of a politically incorrect science. She just doesn't like when top physicists even talk about string theory – if they are working to answer some well-defined and even "emotionally neutral" questions about the theory. Those things shouldn't be talked about at all. Is there any other explanation than to say that string theory is politically incorrect, a heresy according to similar activists?

You know, I also say that people shouldn't talk about something, like "alternative interpretations of quantum mechanics". But I actually have an answer to the questions that these "alternative interpretations" would-be thinkers try to answer: the actual, correct "interpretation" given by the universal postulates of quantum mechanics. I can show that they're coherent and complete – they are enough to address any experimentally measurable questions and the predictions seem to agree with observations.

On the other hand, Hossenfelder clearly doesn't have any alternative to string theory. She doesn't have any quantum mechanical theory that agrees with Einstein's equations at long distances but preserves the information when the black hole evaporates. But she – and her brain-dead followers – just don't care. To silence the discussion and ban the research is an equally good answer to a question, isn't it? (And when the research is banned, she would probably still like to be paid and pretend that it's for "research".) Isn't it great to become as brain-dead as we are, these Hossenfelder's fans are rhetorically asking?

Sorry but it is not a rhetorical question. It is a real question and the answer is No, it isn't OK at all. Science is driven by curiosity and it wants many questions to be answered, including those beyond effective quantum field theories. "Let's stop thinking and talking" isn't an answer to the questions – it is just a slogan to please the science-hating morons.

And that's the memo.

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