Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Class, Cluelessness and damned statistics--or Why I'm not About Cutting Slack

I look at the question regarding Andrew Sullivan's continued defense of race and IQ research mostly as bad science compounded by cognitive dissonance.  I don't know if he's consciously racialist in his outlook--that's not easy to determine since I don't know him personally--I'm not going to go there.  But I can "go there" regarding the weakness of the methodology as I see it regarding this kind of research.  I'm not a scientist, just a skeptic by nature, and I have real questions about how anyone even sees this as useful.

I'm going to insist on usefulness as a necessity: for example, let's say I was doing research on the discomfort people feel between the ankle and the knee upon being kicked in the shins.  I might think I have enough data to support some definite ideas I have about it--but I need to do more research.  Does that sound necessary?  Maybe I'm getting results.  That doesn't mean I'm getting valuable data. 

If some kind of analysis is going to be set up to determine whether there's a correlation between race and intelligence, it would help if two things are defined: race and intelligence.  If one wanted to control for any other factors that might interfere in a test regarding race and intelligence--I think one might actually create an environment in which one couldn't even define race or intelligence the same way as one started out.  Pretty much negating the original dumbassery of the question.

Also--discovering even a nebulous correlation isn't the same as uncovering the cause--and while the research doesn't seem to have uncovered a genetic cause, it really looks like we could easily point to any number of social, economic, or historical factors to point to why some things might be unequal. And the emerging field of epigenetics suggests that social, economic and historical factors might just impact gene expression, so maybe, actually, unless someone really understands what they're talking about when discussing how some studies maybe just suggest a population of people might just have some kind of inferiority kind of a little?

One should should just shut their privileged, clueless yap-holes. Because this is exactly the kind of "research" that gets used to promote inequality by presuming it just isn't worth it to invest in presumably hopelessly disadvantaged populations. No one is "advantaged" by that kind of dumbassery.  It isn't interesting to look at that kind of study to see how things stand anymore than it is to look at the persistent leg-pain of people repeatedly kicked in the shins whilst ignoring their whole foot-to-shin history.

I tend to classify this kind of psuedo-scientifical blather as a species of denialism, rather along the lines of creationism and climate science denialism. In this case, the denialism consists of opposing the rejection of race as a real thing being seen as a "p.c. blackout" instead of it...well, not even being because race is an arbitrary abstraction.  The continued defense of it in the face of continued dissent may have to do with bias confirmation and cognitive dissonance.  To acknowledge that support of such research in the first place was misguided would be an admission of a grave intellectual error, but to examine the unearned and undeserved privilege that allowed that intellectual error to exist might cast a pall on much of conservative thought, which reinforces the mechanisms by which inequality persists (or at least, in Sullivan's adopted nation, it sure has).  By presuming the inequality is innate, conservatism is absolved.

I dislike everything about this kind of research, and wish someone who I often read and don't dislike found less to admire about it.

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