Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hail, Hail Freedonia (More Racism Stuff)

Time for a little more background on racism before I get into the Firearms Act issues.

First up, I was mistaken about a number when I started this series. Canada's Firearms Act has five provisions that only apply to aboriginal peoples, not four as I wrote last time. I'll discuss all five when I hit this topic in detail (soon).

Second, I forgot to make another general philosophical point about racism / prejudice: facts cannot be racist. Of course, the interpretation and analysis of those facts may be, but the facts themselves are morally neutral.

I'll give an example. Let's say that first-generation Freedonian immigrants make up five percent of the North American population. However, survey results show that they comprise sixty percent of the people who put the milk carton back in the refrigerator when it's almost empty, resulting in the next person who wants some milk slamming the carton against the top of the fridge when they pick it up.

There is no anti-Freedonian bias in reporting these two statistics, together or separately. And, yes, these facts taken together indicate that a randomly selected Freedonian is statistically much likelier to put the milk back empty than a randomly selected non-Freedonian. There is no Freedonianophobia involved here, just logic.

We can even speculate as to why this might be before getting into wrongful discrimination. We could examine aspects of Freedonian culture and environment, and even genetic factors that may be prevalent in Freedonia. Still no bias.

Of course, this can be taken into prejudicial territory. Assuming that any given Freedonian will be an empty-carton-putter-backer would be wrong. Assuming that they do it because they are somehow "inferior" would be wrong. (Side note, from Logic 101: "different" does not necessarily mean "inferior".)(Unpleasant realization that most people won't admit, from Logic 202: sometimes it does.) Suggesting that Freedonians be forbidden from buying milk in cartons as a preemptive measure would be wrong.

As long as we stay in the realm of empirical fact, though, or non-disparaging speculation as to root causes (with an eye to ameliorating them), then we are only being logical.

If only the people who demanded Lawrence Summers' head on a pike had been logical enough to understand this simple principle.

Incidentally, the quoted reaction of one of the critics to Summers' remarks, in the linked article, cracks me up: 'if she hadn't left, ''I would've either blacked out or thrown up." '

Bear in mind that this was in response to a completely non-offensive - to a rational person - question being raised. This lady was so deeply offended by Summers even noting that there are fewer female scientists than male that she had to leave before she became physically ill. She was so upset by her unfounded perception that he said something critical of women that she nearly fainted.

Think about that for a second, if your irony detector hasn't already overloaded.

If you still don't get it, imagine your reaction if a male scientist had said the exact same thing: that he was going to faint or vomit because someone suggested that men and women may be different.

No matter how modern and liberated and enlightened and politically correct and metrosexual-friendly you may be, you'd think that guy was a wuss.

So, anyway, my point is this: stating empirical differences between groups (always looking at the aggregate, as such things must) does not imply bias toward or against any member(s) of any of the groups under discussion. That's all I'm trying to say here.

Still to come: more institutionalized racism from the Canadian government!

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a chain-link fence in closeup, with some sort of large fowl (I think) beyond.

1 comment:

RebelAngel said...

Looks like a lot of pictures I take at the zoo.

I think the Harvard guy has some points to make, but so do the gals. I do think he handled his better.

I started school just as things like the ERA and glass ceilings were all the rage to talk about and do something about. IF the only problem was that girls were told to take home ec while the guys take calculus, my generation would have been the turning point. We were all encouraged to take math and science and to do our best. If there are still lower numbers of women scientists (now in their 30's) as my generation comes into adulthood, it cannot all be the "good ole boys" keeping them down. There has to be more.

It is not sexist to say that women and men think differently. It is fact. And neither way of thinking is superior or inferior. Does a person have to be a scientist or a mathematician to be "smart" ?

What about men who are not scientists or mathematicians? Is Bill Gates more of a man than Antonio Banderas is?

I do have to say, though, that socialization does play some part in the number of women who rise to the levels discussed in the article and apparently this conference. BUT, I do not believe that stuffy old professors and sexist businessmen are to blame as much as the culture of youth in the schools that tells girls that they should do everything they can to be "sexy" rather than working on their studies. Hollywood is keeping girls down more than academia is.