Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Science and Anti-Science

Leftist anti-science

The major theme in Democrat attacks on GOP Presidential contenders at the moment seems to be that they are "anti-science". As usual, if we want to see what is true of Leftists, we just have to look at what they say about conservatives. Leftists are such good "projectors" that they would be star employees in any movie house. And the multiple fallacies in global warming theory reveal who are the religious believers and who is pro-science.

And if belief in God is anti-science, what are we to make of core Leftist beliefs such as "all men are equal"? Such beliefs are clearly false in any physical sense. They are anti-science beliefs. They are religious (metaphysical) beliefs. And even though I am an atheist I think that belief in "all men are equal" is a lot nuttier than belief in God. Anybody can see with their own eyes that the Leftist belief is false. As many have argued, Leftism is a religion too.

I am very pleased however to present a third argument that it is the Left who are anti-science. Brilliant young American philosopher Nathan Cofnas has given me permission to present a small excerpt from his forthcoming book Reptiles with a conscience. See below:

Just as some conservatives, mainly religious conservatives, are opposed to science that they perceive as threatening to their religious beliefs, many liberals are opposed to science that they perceive as threatening to their liberal beliefs.

For example, when president of Harvard Larry Summers suggested and provided evidence that innate, biologically rooted differences in aptitude between the sexes explain some of female underrepresentation in quantitative fields, two motions to censure him were introduced by two professors of humanities—anthropologist J. Lorand Matory and sociologist Theda Skocpol—and the ultimately successful movement to fire him was led almost entirely by other professors of humanities, most with no training in psychometrics.

In April 2005 I had an e-mail correspondence with a well-known critic [Nancy Hopkins from MIT] of Larry Summers' comments on women's underrepresentation in quantitative fields. Summers said that, because men have a larger variance in math ability, among those qualified to teach mathematics at top universities, which he suggested requires ability corresponding to a math IQ of 160, about 20 percent are women.

I pointed out to this critic that Summers provided data in support of his hypothesis, whereas I had not seen her provide data in any of her public rebuttals of him. She began her response to me with the statement that she is "interested only in the truth!"

She then explained that real potential in mathematics is not measured by the tests on which Summers' data were based. She wrote: "The top math students in North America are not measured by the SAT score and its tail as Summers suggested, but rather by a much more competitive test that measures the true math genius whiz kids. This test is called the Putnam competition.…

This year, 1 of the 5 Putnam Fellows is a girl. In addition, this year, 4 of the top 15 students in the competition… were women."

As politely as I could, I pointed out that one out of five is 20 percent, and four out of fifteen is about 27 percent, which is consistent with Summers' assertion that males are overrepresented at the high end of ability at a ratio of 1:5.

Her response was to tell me that I "cannot listen to the facts that are put before [me]" and that "Old folks like…[me] should retire gracefully into the sunset."

Her response was very curious to me (not just because I was a seventeen-year-old high school student at the time, which presumably she didn't know). Why, if Summers said that woman are underrepresented at the high end of ability at a ratio of 1:5, would this critic counter with evidence that confirms exactly that?

She is not stupid. She is a scientist at a top university, and entirely capable of realizing that her own data support the very hypothesis she opposes. If she has no commitment to accepting the implication of evidence, why cite evidence? And why assert interest in truth so emphatically? If she has the intellectual capacity to realize that her own argument is invalid, why would she expect that argument to convince anyone else?

I think that I now can answer these questions. Truth is a value to almost everyone. But most people have many other values to which they are more committed than they are to truth—like in this case, commitment to the belief that the male and female populations have the same distribution of all cognitive abilities and proclivities.

When truth conflicts with more important values, people do not outright deny truth or its importance; they pay as much homage to truth as possible without compromising their more important values. One way of doing this is to pretend to use the method of discovering truth—namely, appealing to empirical evidence or logical argument—to arrive at their predetermined conclusion.

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