Knowledge, not opinion, information extraction, not persuasion

By Razib Khan | October 2, 2012 12:12 am

A few days ago I was having drinks with some friends, and it came up that some of them had only recently become conscious of the fact that I leaned more toward the Republican party than the Democratic (I had remarked that my wife preferred that I keep my sideburns, as otherwise I would look too much like a Republican…though I sort of was one!). More shockingly for them was that I did not consider myself a liberal. I was somewhat bemused by the whole situation because it isn’t as if I’m particularly shy about expressing my various politically-incorrect opinions on any specific topic at work or play (these are people who I have met within the past ~2 years).

I assume that the problem here is that I violated a cognitive schema: liberal people are smarter than conservative people. Since I was conservative, they were, logically, smarter than me. The reality is probably not so convenient for the theory in this case, generating some dissonance. In the course of conversation I expressed frankly what I actually do hold to be a rough & ready approximation of my attitude toward discussion: I have almost no interest in persuading anyone of the truth of my particular views on any issue. This was relevant in that context because on occasion people try and draw me out as to the details of my disagreement with the consensus on an array of topics, when I often have no interest in expending the mental energy to do any such thing. It isn’t that I’m worried about getting into any argument with everyone else in the room. My friends are mostly natural scientists so I am very confident that I can alone hold my ground on any topic having to do with history and quantitative social science. Rather, the problem is my worry as to the point of it all. Who exactly is being edified by such exchanges? I never learn anything, as I am well acquainted with the standard arsenal of conventional Left-liberal talking points, while my interlocutors are often too amazed as my incomprehensible existence (i.e., not stupid, but not right-thinking) to really take in anything I’m saying.

Yet on a one-on-one basis I am much more likely to be open to a deep and thorough exchange. Why? The dynamic of signalling and group conformity is strongly dampened by removing third party observers from the interaction. With that tension removed I myself often feel less irritated if I have to invest a great deal of background information to make my own position clearer. Similarly, I often feel that my interlocutors are much less likely to trot out hackneyed and unpersuasive, but group approved, arguments.* There is quite often idiocy in crowds.

Ultimately we have to take a step back and reflect on what the point of it all is. For me the answer is rather easy: the point of it all is to understand the shape of reality as best as I can. It is impossible to do such a thing sitting back in an armchair and reflecting as an individual. Learning is a social process. You need feedback from others, and you need to mine and cull appropriate data and analyses from those who are more well versed in a given topic than you are. This is not easy, and time is finite. Avoiding stupid people is easy. The more difficult trick, at least for me, is avoiding smart people who offer stupid opinions on topics with which they are absolutely unfamiliar.** Creationist engineers are classic cases of the power of ignorance in the hands of the intelligent.

This brings me to learning more generally. Obviously I have no problem with people being autodidacts. Today the ability for one to be an autodidact has greatly expanded, but with power comes responsibility, and the necessity of prudence. I’m speaking obviously about the internet. But now we have the rise of online education. Recently MRUniversity opened, and Khan Academy is already rather famous. Tyler Cowen and Alex Taborrak’s endeavor has already received some praise:

MRU is ultimately aiming for a better actual education, not a better means of signaling. Cowen and Tabarrok are betting that there is an extraordinary amount of dead weight in current university classes (for example, on MRU the professor need not repeat himself as he inevitably must during live lectures, because if a student requires repetition, she can just watch the video again). “You can think of this,” Cowen says, laughing for the only time during our phone conversation and only lightly, “as a marginal attempt—a marginal revolution, so to speak—to get education to be more about learning.”

I am moderately skeptical, but I also think such experiments are necessary. Over the long term it seems likely that new forms of educational delivery and assessment with replace the middle and lower tiers of American higher education, and modify even the elite levels. But I don’t think we know yet what the exact nature of the information ecology is going to be.

Here is what I’d really like in the future: an app which analyzes someone’s stream of assertions and immediately assesses whether they are full of crap or not.*** There are many domains where I can do this analysis myself, and know to tune someone out because I know they’re signalling to ignorant people. But, there are many, many, more domains where I am ignorant and lost, and may fall prey to the bluffs and assertions of high caliber signalers, who have fashioned the simulacrum of intelligence. More concretely, people who are trying to impress without deep knowledge often fumble on many facts, something which could be run through an application such as WolframAlpha.

Of course things have changed a great deal. Over the past few years smartphones have cast a pall over the skills of the professional bullshitter. I think that there has been a qualitative change for the better.  Bullshitters known that they need to be cautious, so there is a preemptive effect.

* I am never in social circumstances where the political context is conservative.

** You also need to avoid socializing only with your own ideological set. This is easy for me since I don’t socialize with anyone who shares my politics or metaphysical opinions.

*** Looking things up manually is time consuming.

  • Julian O’Dea

    For what it is worth, I am quite conservative, even on social issues. I constantly feel that I am in enemy territory, in a sense. There are quite a few libertarian or classical liberals with my kind of intellectual and scientific interests, but rather few social conservatives or religious traditionalists.

    I assume you have seen this:

    As well as the blog given here as my website, I have a blog on social issues, from a conservative viewpoint, under a penname.

  • g13

    Maybe they (your friends) were suprised your tendency for “low effort” thinking? Check Psychological Science from Feb 2012.

    The main thing with C is that they try to impose their views on different issues and are not aware of that process. C’s point of view often imposes that funny loop – you don’t want to convince anybody but your views actually are doing it for you.

    But the same thing happens with L. If you’re not one of them, you’re clearly the enemy of the western civilization ;)

    IMHO C- autodidacts are actually “low effort” thinkers, because in the end C imposes a lot of traditional, socially-tested solutions which nicely fill Maslow’s first three levels and actually not imposing any views on any issues on anyone is, as You nicely stated, bullshit.

  • marcel

    an app which analyzes someone’s stream of assertions and immediately assesses whether they are full of crap or not.

    It would have a female voice, and you would open it as soon as you realize you are in a situation where skepticism might be in order.* It would sit there silently except for each exceptional assertion when it would flash the touchpad on and off, set off a loud siren in the phone that would interrupt the conversation and then repeat the questionable assertion and explain what is questionable about it. It would have a setting for sensitivity indicating the lowest level to which it should respond (e.g., “Questionable”, “Possibly BS”, “Likely BS”, “Absolutely BS”), ignoring lower, less doubtful assertions. The tone of voice would vary with the quality of assertion: scorn for the most baldfaced lie varying continuously to doubt for merely questionable assertions. Finally, it would be called “SIRIously?”

    *You wouldn’t want to leave it open all the time since it might call you out in situations where you feel a need to BS. You would switch it on as soon as you recognize that you have an interlocutor who is not necessarily, um, reliable. However, a variety of versions more expensive than the basic one would be available. Options of interest in these versions would include the possibility of training it to recognize your voice and ignore any assertions you make; the ranking of different sources or authorities; the highest priced version, for creationists et al., would allow for creating your own reliable authorities, a la Conservapedia.

  • Darkseid

    you just summed up my life story! Used to be a garden variety uninformed liberal and then i started reading things called “facts” (on it makes for a lonely life though:(

  • Random Rambler

    Regarding the assessment of people who are full of crap, I’m interested to see what happens with

  • Random Rambler

    Darkseid (and anyone else),

    I’m currently attempting to tabulate key liberal and conservative issues and assess my own position. What are some important liberal stances that you think are bullshit? Also, what are some controversial conservative positions that you think are clearly supported by the facts? I’m not looking for a debate here, I’m genuinely curious. (I am actually on the fence about many things in politics.) Thank you.

  • Superfast Jellyfish

    As somebody who’s basically a right-winger, my favorite kind of person to have a political discussion with is somebody who is (a) principled (b) informed (c) able to disagree with a smile on their face, and (d) really far-left. Really far-left because the best way to test a theory is by seeking contradictory evidence, not supporting evidence.

  • Darkseid

    Rambler – it’s hard to describe in total because while i was still in “the fog” i didn’t even realize that there were other opinions that were legit. once i started reading steve sailer’s blog, gnxp,, etc. i started to see i was wrong about or unaware of many realities that were hidden from me due to my upbringing. libs are guilty of lies by omission when it comes to life’s unpleasantries. in the lib world, every day is MLK day and that’s all you need to know:)
    seriously, though, it mainly revolves around the liberal core value of egalitarianism and anything that doesn’t agree with that is never mentioned or ridiculed out of hand. so i’d read some old GNXP posts on IQ to get you started. or whatever, just make sure it is INFORMED opinion – not Fox News “informed.” it must be fact based so beware of white trash right wingers who are wrong just as much as liberals. or you could check my delicious feed! (shameless plug)
    to answer your question: it’s too many issues to list. i had to restart from the bottom up by auditing my previous knowledge while reading a massive amount of “controversial” info. Be informed, nothing’s sacred…

  • redzengenoist

    “Here is what I’d really like in the future: an app which analyzes someone’s stream of assertions and immediately assesses whether they are full of crap or not.”

    A simple enough summary, and an incredibly difficult feat of engineering. Most humans can’t even do this. I would expect design of such an app significantly later than the design of Turing-competent AI.

    I suspect Socrates was more distant in bullshit-sorting ability from the average human than the average human is from a chimp.

    In the meantime, making google search instantaneously available – to the point of building it into you, fx – will be a significant convergence on your target, though.

  • Steve C

    “I suspect Socrates was more distant in bullshit-sorting ability from the average human than the average human is from a chimp.”

    I detect bullshit…

  • FredR

    “an app which analyzes someone’s stream of assertions and immediately assesses whether they are full of crap or not.”

    Didn’t they have this in Asimov’s Foundation? I don’t remember exactly, but they had some ambassador come in from the dying Empire, and then they recorded everything he said and then ran the data through some symbolic analyzer, and then the mathematical conclusion was: it was all bs. But I get that you mean something a little different.

  • redzengenoist

    #10: I’d concede that there have been better bullshit-detectors than Socrates. But average humans would be pretty close to worthless at Razibs desired bullshit-detection. The bullshit detector utility difference between an IQ 90 homo sapiens bricklayer and an IQ 160 homo sapiens professional debater is very large.

  • Razib Khan

    professional debater is very large.

    fwiw, i hate having discussions with people in legal backgrounds because so much of the conversation has to involve getting them to stop working the ‘angles’ that they think they can pull on me. also, they’re habituated toward constructing arguments with thin data bases, which i’m not interested in. i move the conversation to less serious topics immediately if i’m engaging with a person with a law background, since their style tends to obscure and exhaust more than illuminate.

    the highest priced version, for creationists et al., would allow for creating your own reliable authorities, a la Conservapedia.

    this is the situation where it’s not important for creationists. most people hold forth among like-minded, so no one wants to ‘check’ the fact. validation isn’t needed when everyone agrees on the Truth. that’s the fundamental problem with someone like me, since i disagree with a lot of the Truth. often i don’t say much because i’m not that interested in getting into arguments, but i’m not going to lie if someone addresses me directly.

  • Martin M.

    I think smart conservatives and smart liberals tend to congregate in the same mental place, just like Alexander and Darius III would have probably found they had a lot in common. Nevertheless, we remain intellectual enemies. However, since the battle of the underlings will never cease, we can pursue other things instead of worrying about the final showdown.

  • Karl Zimmerman

    Maybe it would be useful, Razib, if you posted an entry with no comments allowed explaining your basic political stances to you readership. I can see why you wouldn’t want to allow comments, since it would basically become the longest comment thread otherwise. Not just due to those on the left trying to draw you out, but the right too, because I’m willing to bet that some posters who are right wing have presumed you agree with them on nearly everything and would be shocked to find a thing or two you disagree on.

    Darkseid -

    Honestly, whenever I see you, or another right-winger here, characterize western liberalism, I feel like I’m reading a foreign language. Maybe it’s because my own intellectual tradition was very different. I’ve always had sympathies roughly straddling Marxism and the less extreme forms of left Anarchism, which basically led me to begin identifying as a libertarian socialist in my early 20s. But my generally anti-capitalist (not anti-market) beliefs are not grounded in the absolute equality of all humans. Indeed, I don’t even think that conventional Marxism requires equality of ability, although I know a lot of blank slate trappings have been attached to it over the years.

    Anyway, let’s run with HBD for a minute, since you seem to be a proponent. If present day intelligence differences, even among the very poor, are mostly genetic, it might mean certain forms of liberalism don’t work, such as those which focus on Affirmative Action, or additional funds to improve “failing schools.” However, it would also cut against right-wing ideas like “culture of poverty,” and more generally the idea that the poor had any blame for their predicament. Indeed, if the poor are poor because they lack the capacity to be anything else, then I’d argue society offering some sort of job even the dull can excel in (like well-paid manufacturing jobs) becomes essential, not just due to moral concerns, but also practical ones (I’d hazard a guess a permanent underclass with no hope is really bad for democratic stability).

  • redzengenoist

    #13: your description echoes Alcibiades – a black diamond among lawyers.

    The dishonest “angle” debate style (sophistry) of Alcibiades was legally used as an indictment against Socrates the professional debater, and against “professional debaters” everywhere, in the philosophers trial which resulted in Socrates’ hemlocking.

  • Chris_T_T

    I’ve personally moved away from verbal debates (I used to love them). My positions and reasons for them have become too complex to accurately or easily get across in conversation. I’m also tend to be compulsively precise when it comes to facts and statistics which makes it difficult to make an argument without attaching lots of qualifiers.

    The importance a lot of people place on conducting verbal debates mystifies me. Who ‘wins’ such debates has little to do with the accuracy or reasoning of their arguments.

  • Razib Khan

    #17, some people think they know things. perhaps you know that you need to know much more.

  • Chris_T_T

    18 – That realization has moved me towards the libertarian part of the triangle (not all the way). The world is far too complex for any one person or even group to come close to grasping.

  • April Brown

    One of the reasons that people are surprised you lean Republican might be the, erm, extreme vocalness of the fringe of the party over the past several election cycles – the one that is really opposed to science and really in favor of policies that are in line with their religious convictions. Your focus on a branch of science that specifically messes with young earth creationism is something that seems (to me) especially jarring in the context of a conservative.

    I’m hoping that this is just an artifact of the tendency of fanatics to be especially loud when they are insecure and in the minority. I would like to think that the Republican party really is mostly comprised of people who have no problem with scientists and aetheists. Maybe next election cycle there will be fewer Santorums and Bachmanns in the mix, and if that’s the case, people might be less surprised by your political affiliation.

  • Darkseid

    Karl – you got it exactly. For the most part, I don’t blame the poor because I don’t think they’re capable oF doing much better. Creating make work jobs usually doesn’t work though.

  • Razib Khan

    right-wing ideas

    many american ‘right-wing’ ideas are really philosophically liberal in the broad sense. american conservatism is a form of liberalism which has false assumptions about human nature, just as american liberalism does (e.g., bad morals => crime, bad institutions => crime, etc.; partly true, but not the whole answer). the ideal of democratic populism has permeated to such an extent that there are deep seated egalitarian assumptions in our understanding of humanity which i think is the root of my disagreement with most of my friends, and most americans period.

  • Isabel

    “For the most part, I don’t blame the poor because I don’t think they’re capable oF doing much better. Creating make work jobs usually doesn’t work though.

    Would love to hear your alternative solution. More prisons? Seriously, what?

    HBDers often seem as blind as liberal progressives to me, maybe more so, when they refuse to look at social causes. Darkseid, can you explain what you mean when you say that poor people, who descended from people who managed to survive and flourish as HGs, are now capable of little more than living pathetic lives in modern societies?

  • Douglas Knight

    What are your “metaphysical opinions”?

  • Darkseid

    Isabel – the term “HBDer” is somewhat like being forced to label oneself an “atheist.” i’d prefer to just be called “non-retard” or “person who knows facts.” my solution would be to have a 125 IQ lower bound for a “child rearing permit.” that and to offer those under 30 (or so) $100,000 for anyone willing to be voluntarily sterilized.
    i don’t think your second question quite makes sense. there are still people living as HGs today! why would being a “successful” HG necessarily equate to success today?

  • Karl Zimmerman

    Darkseid -

    I suppose my basic thought is I don’t think intelligence or competence should be the primary means by which we measure the value of a human being. Should those with an excess of talent be allowed to further flourish? Sure! But we have enough surplus value generated through modern day production methods there is no reason for even the most naturally incompetent to live a life of misery. The actual methods could vary, but some mixture between social safety nets (guaranteed national pensions, universal health care), negative income tax, and job-sharing for blue-collar professions seems prudent even for capitalist nations.

    If the worry is these would cause incentives for the stupid to breed more, that could be dealt with in other manners – although within a few generations we could probably fix much of this issue with germline engineering if we cared to.

  • Razib Khan

    What are your “metaphysical opinions”?

    i don’t believe in them.

  • Darkseid

    Karl – idk that’s pretty optimistic. i’m too much of a nature lover to care if some dumb people want copies of themselves. everything is better when you have better people and we might as well start with intelligence imo. the Great Barrier Reef is almost gone! fewer, smarter people is my dream for the Earth.

  • Anthony

    Karl Z – have you read Steve Sailer’s “How to Help the Left Half of the Bell Curve? It addresses many of the questions you’ve asked at #15. It was written in 2000, so some of it is dated, but quite a lot of it is still relevant.

  • Isabel

    ” my solution would be to have a 125 IQ lower bound for a “child rearing permit.” that and to offer those under 30 (or so) $100,000 for anyone willing to be voluntarily sterilized.”

    Okay, so you are not really serious.

    And my point was that whether they are a HG today or not, it is not an easy, or simple, life. Yet you feel the poor struggling people of our modern civilizations are not capable of better than their current lot.

    “he Great Barrier Reef is almost gone! fewer, smarter people is my dream for the Earth.”

    And smart, rich upper class Asians are now paying Africans to kill off the elephants and other large game at a rate that far exceeds that of subsistence hunters. See the recent NYT series on the subject.

  • BDoyle

    I live in Texas, and I honestly dunno if Razib would pass muster as a conservative here. He does not sound anything at all like the people I know who identify as conservatives.

  • M. Möhling

    @28. Darkseid:
    > the Great Barrier Reef is almost gone! fewer,
    > smarter people is my dream for the Earth.

    Cynics among England’s 19th century gentry had a word for that attitude: “starve the peasants to save the pheasants”.

    @17. Chris_T_T:
    > The importance a lot of people place on conducting
    > verbal debates mystifies me.

    To own the agora, and so the polis, rhetorics are among the things you’ll need. To ensure consensus gained in the market place it must be enforced everywhere, always. As long as you don’t mind others to mind your business you may care for truth alone, which is noble and important, no snark, but not enough if you care for the society you’re in. May be futile, but some would still plant their apple trees.

  • Darkseid

    Isabel – oh, no, that’s a serious solution. i understand why a liberal wouldn’t be able to grasp such an idea, but you asked so i provided. most people just complain about overpopulation – i have, at least, provided an idea that could help it. what’s *you’re idea*?

    “Yet you feel the poor struggling people of our modern civilizations are not capable of better than their current lot. ”
    a “hard life” doesn’t mean you could work for NASA. you clearly don’t understand what IQ is. we have PEOPLE LAUNCHING THINGS TO MARS and they’re still looking around for nuts to bring back to their hut. so *could they* do much better? could you prove they can? because i think they’ve already proven they can’t. sure, *many,* would but, obviously, my point is that you reach diminishing returns much faster than populations who’ve already shown they’re exceptional. read: a trillion in aid money for Africa with nothing to show for it. i’m not surprised you weren’t able to surmise that given you’re suffering from the same ailment i used to have.
    i am aware of the elephant problem and i don’t consider most asian cultures to be eligible for my Dream Team. they have no respect for animal rights – i think often times their type of intelligence is too close to autism fwiw. (i’ve linked to several examples of asian animal cruelty on my Delicious feed. you should check it out – i think you’d be a big fan!;)

    M. Mohling – who said a peasant is worth more than a pheasant?

  • M. Möhling

    @33. Darkseid
    > who said a peasant is worth more than a pheasant?
    Certainly not these guys :-)

  • Razib Khan

    oh, no, that’s a serious solution. i understand why a liberal wouldn’t be able to grasp such an idea, but you asked so i provided. most people just complain about overpopulation – i have, at least, provided an idea that could help it. what’s *you’re idea*?

    only a small minority of people would support your idea. but my personal experience is that these people are more likely to be liberal than conservative, at least in america. but then my personal experience is also skewed toward people with advanced degrees in the life sciences, who tend to be biased toward a malthusian ‘lifeboat’ model of the world.

  • Darkseid

    i think you’re probably right. it seems some cons might go for the voluntary sterilization but i probably excluded them with the IQ condition. but then *my* personal experience is skewed towards Yahoo and LiveLeak commenters:) i understand the world could handle many more people, and will inevitably do so, but i just don’t want it do have to go through that.
    oh, and Isabel, my idea really isn’t new:,8599,1981916,00.html
    Formerly called – “Association for Voluntary Sterilization”
    then you add in all of the history of pop. control:
    and Melinda Gates’ current work, the UN, etc.

  • Isabel

    @Darkseid: Your “idea” could never be implemented so it is not serious.

    “i am aware of the elephant problem and i don’t consider most asian cultures to be eligible for my Dream Team.”

    Well that will solve your overpopulation problem right there.

    Anyway, surviving as a HG involves a lot more than a “hard life” scrounging for nuts. I don’t think poverty can be blamed on low IQ. Also, I didn’t realize you were referring to Africa. What about the poor in the US?

    And you are making a *lot* of unfounded assumptions about me. For example, I think most people who call themselves liberal progressives are huge hypocrites, and I think Bill Gates should be spending his money saving wildlife instead of people. I am also in favor of restricting immigration. And I know all about IQ. :)

  • Jimmy Vu

    Among the 20-something techies in San Francisco, I’d say it’s almost close to an even split between liberals and libertarians. Both of these include very smart people, fully engaged with reality, who aren’t lacking in general knowledge about the American government/economy/other institutions, but simply have different conceptions of an ideal society.

    The distinction is mainly in where empathy should sit in the priorities list. I have contempt for most of humanity, sure, but I came from a modest background and I don’t think it’s plausible that we’ve reached the complete convergence of genetic/economic meritocracy, as you’ve previously conjectured. Also I don’t share Darkseid’s hard-on for massive race and IQ-based sterilization. Have some perspective dude, life is still getting better and in hindsight Germany didn’t need all that lebensraum.

  • Darkseid

    Jimmy- life’s still getting better for…whom? i know it is for *me* but not for Mother Nature or billions of other people who don’t have any food.
    Isabel – that’s a fact? it’s a *fact* that pop. controls (which have already worked in China) could *never* work? i’d bet people living 1,000 years ago thought a lot of stuff too…
    And poor U.S. citizens? idk, have you looked at them?
    IQ of nations, assortative mating, seeking out an environment that suits your personal temperament, etc. – i’m not saying it explains everything but you kinda add it all up after a while…

  • Razib Khan

    #37, wait, weren’t you going to not comment/read this blog because of its lack of toleration for strong women or something? i don’t care much either way, but i take people at face value when they make comments like that.

  • Julian O’Dea

    Among geneticists and evolutionary psychologists, Ronald Fisher, EO Wilson and WD Hamilton have been “accused” of right-wing views. Also, some men like JBS Haldane and Robert Trivers seem possessed of very robust personalities. Haldane was personally belligerent and a eugenicist. Not necessarily liberal attitudes.

  • Razib Khan

    #41, from what i know fisher was a tory, and an anglican. hamilton seems to have had thatcherite sympathies, though he was an odd duck so you can never predict. wilson has been accused of being right-wing, but he’s a conventional moderate liberal democrat, just like james watson. haldane’s marxism was more a matter of signalling (see what john maynard smith staid about this), though he promoted fashionable leftist causes, and turned against eugenics once it was no longer the thing to align with.

  • Julian O’Dea

    Wilson has a sort of avuncular, Southern Gentleman persona, which probably makes him seem conservative. And he was, of course, hugely targeted over the Sociobiology controversy. If it were not for Trivers’ rather florid associations with the Left, he would probably be a bit unpopular politically. Most of his ideas share one theme: genetic conflict.

  • Karl Zimmerman

    28 -

    I think, like PConroy the other week, you are raising intelligence to too high a standard here. IQ might be correlated with personal success, but given intelligent people seem to have if anything a greater capacity for self-delusion than stupid people, I don’t think a society comprised of nothing but intelligent people would, by definition, make better policy choices. This is particularly the case for “deep time” problems like the environment. Reason evolved not to discern objective truth, after all, but to help us in some manner survive as individuals and perpetuate our genes to the next generation.

    29 -

    While in general I dislike the glibness of Steve Sailer’s writing (he mixes genuine fact, anecdote, and unsourced assertions too much for my liking), I find little to object to regarding his solutions, although I have somewhat mixed feelings on immigration in general. None of it seems particularly conservative to me however.

  • M. Möhling

    @33. Darkseid
    > who said a peasant is worth more than a pheasant?
    >> Certainly not these guys :-)

    Ok, more serious, as there is little upper crust around these parts; I say so, because of: self-interest. None of my peer groups include Dumbo, or pheasants, so I tend to care less.

  • Random Rambler
  • Anthony

    Karl (@44) – Sailer isn’t really a conservative. Some of his non-racial views are “conservative” as presently understood, but he’s generally a pre-Great-Society liberal. But because he dares to say that blacks, on average, aren’t as smart as whites, on average, and that that has implications for policy, he’s instantly tarred as a right-wing extremist.

  • Lord

    C are more susceptible to confirmation bias. As they already have ideas of how the world works, they aren’t motivated to find contradictory data and are often blind to it even when it slaps them in the face. L are more open to data but accept it only as another step to a deeper understanding where they are still probably right in the end. Scientists are both motivated by data while being skeptical of it. The question you must ask yourself is whether you avoiding bs, or avoiding data and arguments incompatible with your predispositions. Are you not interested in persuading or in being persuaded? There is nothing wrong with reserving judgment, but there is something wrong with maintaining judgment in the face contradictory data.

  • Negus

    I often find dichotomies useless. Coservative vs. Liberal, high IQ low IQ …. Sure, classifications provide a convenient lens for something, but it is always a distorted lens. The moment an individual chooses to induct themselves within a group, they risk being mere caricatures. Humans think and behave relative to their circumstances. This is key. Not only is it caveat not to expect another person to live up to one’s expectation, even for their own good, it is also a reminder that no human thinks and behaves the same way from one day to another, simply because circumstances change all the time.

    @28 Intellignce is overarted. Much as I can talk about the life of the mind, I would dread living in a world choke full of high IQ people. High IQ often thrives at the expense of other human qualities, from the emotional and sensual to the sexual, spiritual and moral personalities, among others. A human is wholesome only to the extent all the other components are in balance. True genius courts stupidity, and it must for its own sake. It also works the other way – stupidty courts genius. Each human trait manifests with its opposite. Lacking one trait is sure indicator of lacking its opposite as well. (credit C. S. Lewis) As often as I went to Vegas, I learned I am not a gambler. I always wonder what it is I am missing of which gambling is the opposite.

    Were the men of Gotham Wise or Fools? (Hmm .. the lesson of the question is hardly addressed.)

    Some comments reflect the gated perspective of time and place. Philosophers – the priest of Sais (in Plato’s Atlanticus) and Cicero included – cautioned, “He who knows only his generation always remains a child.” Had a Roman living circa 35o C.E. had the means to implement the prescriptions you adovcated here, IQ floor for mating, sterlization… I very much doubt you would have been around to express your views (assuming you are not a Roman descendant). Romans did not think much of barbarians. You seem to be infatuated by the age you live in, and baffled by what the “poor” and others do, the destruction of the planet, elephants, and all. Only yesteryear, these shores teemed with buffalo, wolves, bears, and elk. Again, were it possible to administer your prescription then, a big part of the present American generation would not be around. If you should look for a culprit, look to the culture of mindless consumption. IQ is no match for greed, however high it may be.

    If you ask me, I always thought 1850-1950 was the most stupid age, the age of Francis Galton and Flinders Petrie, slavery, colonialism, manifest destiny, opium wars, eugenics, chemical warfare, holocaust, atomic bomb ….. How soon you forget? Your heart may be in the right place, but I am afraid your mind has betrayed you. That is what meditating on intelligence does best: it exposes to delusion and endows the meditator with a false sense of self importance.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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