*Passing on the Right*

The authors are Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn Sr. and the subtitle is Conservative Professors in the Progressive University.  I found this book subtle and thought-provoking throughout.  Here is one good bit:

In fact, many conservative academics feel more at home in the progressive academy than in the Republican Party.  This alienation is not because most conservative academics we interviewed are Rockefeller Republicans. In some respects, they are more conservative than self-identified Republicans in the general population.  Instead, the Republican Party tends to trouble even the most conservative professors because they share with the American founders a small-c conservatism that is sensitized to the dangers of democratic movements.  This political orientation inclines conservative professors to look askance at the populism that has shaken up the Republican Party in recent years…

What also comes through in this book is the remarkable diversity of thought among the so-called “intellectual right.”  And I enjoyed this anecdote:

A professor of history at an elite university, meanwhile, turned right after taking a course with the Marxist historian Arno Mayer.  This admiring historian recalled Mayer announcing to his class, “I’m going to assign the book I most disagree with in the twentieth century, and I’m going to ask you not to critique it, but to recreate its arguments with intellectual empathy.”  The book was Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

If only the blogosphere was always so tolerant.  I feared I would be bored by this book, but I found it a work of quality scholarship, yet highly readable too.  Here is a Jonathan Marks WSJ review.  And here is a relevant column by Virginia Postrel.


"a small-c conservatism that is sensitized to the dangers of democratic movements. This political orientation inclines conservative professors to look askance at the populism"

That is a nice way of saying they are intellectual elitist snobs.

The thing about elitists is they are for the most part actually more elite than those they look down on. It's not a good look but it's based in fact.

Hehe. Exactly. "Elite" is supposed to be a bad word? Actually being better than others, is a bad thing?

I though "conservatives" celebrated successful people as role models, but apparently only if they also don't remind the unwashed "conservative" masses that they are, in fact better then them.

Remember, your mother told you to find friends who are...better...then you are. But the conservative movement has taken to heart Trump's proposal to surround themselves with people worst than they are :)

I fully recognize him to be better then me. You, however, seem to have a hard time recognizing that the "elites" you despise so much are not only better then you, but better than him too.

See the argument isn't that "because they are better then you, then they're right". Rather, it is "you" who automatically assumes others are wrong because they indeed "better" then you. Which is the absurdity of using the word "elite" as an insult :)

How is that supposed to insult anyone? I know, I know...I've gone at least 3 logical steps too far for the average Trumpkin to follow.

"-Rather, the opposite."

If the best and only argument Trumpkins, and other related sub-species of conservatives, can make against these people is that they are "elitist", then by definition it is not the opposite of what I said.

But as I said, logical consistency is hardly a feature of the self-styled conservative.

Elite makes sense as an insult if you believe that the system in which the Elite rose to the top is a corrupt or evil one. There are elite serial killers and elite fraudsters who stand out from their inferiors.

"Elite makes sense as an insult if you believe that the system in which the Elite rose to the top is a corrupt or evil one."

No it still doesn't make sense. It is implied the system is viewed as "corrupt" by those who use "elite" as an insult. But then again, how can one utter in the same phrase a defense of Donald Trump because he is "more successful" then me? :) Trump is part of that same system, which the Trumpkins hold responsible for the rise of the "corrupt elite" and obviously the oppression of their own unlimited potential.

Either Turmp is equally corrupt, or the logic doesn't hold :)

Everyone is flawed, Trump just happens to be flawed in very marketable ways.

So is Sarah Palin.

Palin, Trump, neither expected that they could ever jump the shark.

"So is Sarah Palin"

Indeed Sarah Palin is more successful then me. But you'll note, that no one ever criticized Sarah Palin...because...she was successful (successful at running reality TV shows that is). I know, I know. Far too complicated logic.

No one hates Trump because he is successful, they argue because his success is questionable:

"Trump doesn’t deny that four of his businesses have filed for bankruptcy. He argues, however, that filing for bankruptcy is a common business decision, and he was smart to make the moves when he did."

Not something Gates or Zuckerberg have had to do, yet.

By what measure is Trump so successful?

Economic success? Both his current net worth and his actual starting point seem to be matters of dispute, but I will wager that there are actually lots of people in the country whose return on their endowment is as good as or better than Trump's.

"but I will wager that there are actually lots of people in the country whose return on their endowment is as good as or better than Trump’s"

All he had to do was put the money he inherited into an S&P 500 index fund, and he'd literally be worth 4 times more than he is today. So in essence, Trump destroyed plenty of value there. But either way, how successful he is or not, is irrelevant. Which is my point. It's irrelevant for him as it is for those the Trumpkins call "elites", thinking that it's an insult.

A little research pokes holes in this idea that Trump could have been wealthier if he had invested in the S&P -http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2015/dec/09/occupy-democrats/occupy-democrats-say-simple-investment-trumps-fath/

It seems that he inherited $40 million in 1974 and that compounding it at the S&P 500's return would have gotten him around $3.4 billion in 2015. Factoring in taxes on dividends and a 15 basis point expense charge (per http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2015/09/03/donald_trump_s_wealth_he_isn_t_only_rich_because_of_his_dad.html) it is down to $2.3 billion. Given that such an investment would not have been tax favored, there would also have been capital gains taxes, too. Of course, he has maintained a fairly luxurious life in the intervening years and was divorced twice. Finally, having followed his dad into real estate, that is what he knows and I doubt he would suddenly have decided to be a passive investor.

The elite are a public good. Rule by the elite, problematical.

But...but...the trailer park inhabitants who vote for Trump, are explicitly voting for rule by the "elite"? :)

"A little research pokes holes in this idea that Trump could have been wealthier if he had invested in the S&P"

Considering that by some estimates Trump is worth far less than he claims, then no it's not much of a "hole".

He under-performs his own industry....substantially.

I told you Trumpkins...you're far too stupid to understand simple logic. And logic doesn't get any simpler than this.

From what I can find, historical returns on commercial real estate are comparable to equity returns. Disadvantage - AIG. But keep it up, I'm enjoying your rants.

I don't think you know what "conserve" in conservative means. But that's why you're voting Trump.

"surround themselves with people worst than they are."
They should surround themselves with the bestest of peoples: people who write "worst than they are".

A lot of conservatism admires and glorifies, rather than success, both social conservatism or traditionalism and personal responsibility, as distinct from ambition. How much individuals admire ambition, and the success and power that comes from ambition, and the achievements of the ambitious themselves, tends to be more a function of how ambitious or humble they are personally.

I'd imagine a lot of modern day populism's impetus comes from the extremely capable but unambitious, who feel stiffed by a change in the environment over their lifestyle. From a world where it seemed ability, not ambition, determined prosperity, to one where it seems ambition determines prosperity more than ability.

Or perhaps their abilities are no longer as useful as they once were?

No they aren't. These people are specialized in one endeavor, outside of that they know probably about the same as anyone else. They are in elite institutions held in esteem, no problem, and probably have gifts that allow them to excel in their field.

I don't hold these people in esteem or consider them elite. In fact quite a few academics have come across as blithering idiots, and utterly disconnected from the world.

They have power, that is all.

I don't seem what's wrong with a professor being an "intellectual" (the cads!). Surely it's better than the alternative.

Nowdays anyone who respects facts, objective reality and any concept of truth probably would be considered an elitist by most people. Just an impression from a not especially un-educated part of Southern California.


So much for the "marketplace of ideas" that Al Gore said the internet would usher in.
The Enlightment is over, and outside of academe, norms & standards are sliding & headed for a big cliff. Rule by mob was perhaps the major concern of the US founders, and looks likely on its way to becoming of a danger now than any time in living memory.

How are things gong inside of academe? Is that the mob's fault too?

The acadame is now Mob.

Sure, what is campus over-sensitivity but Twitter swarms IRL.

The difference is that those in academe ought to know better... (I.e., there's a lot of lip service to diversity and different views, and discussion and so forth, but a lot of conformity.)

Mitt was the best candidate the GOP has ever put forth, and likely, the best they ever will.

McCain and Romney suffered, gave themselves to, a bizarre process. Experts told them that to win the primary they had to make themselves undetectable in the general. This was called "satisfying the base" but in retrospect it might have been satisfying a much thinner, and thinner-skinned, value network.

Even more strangely the forces that ruined those moderates thought it was the moderates' fault.

I think McCain could have won as McCain, Romeny could have won as Romeny, but very sadly for small c conservatives, neither could "satisfy the base."

McCain and Romney suffered, gave themselves to, a bizarre process. Experts told them that to win the primary they had to make themselves undetectable in the general. This was called “satisfying the base” but in retrospect it might have been satisfying a much thinner, and thinner-skinned, value network.

Nice bit of mythology. The presidential candidate most satisfying to 'the base' in the last generation was also the best performer in general election contests. Come to think of it, when Bush the Elder threw some red meat, he did not perform badly either.

If you were about something other than confirmation bias, you might ask just why it is that the Democratic Party is approaching a 90 year low in their performance in legislative contests.

"If you were about something other than confirmation bias, you might ask just why it is that the Democratic Party is approaching a 90 year low in their performance in legislative contests."

Wait till you see the most historic landslide victory in US presidential election history, for Hillary.

They lost, Art.

(And broad market approval ratings did not build in the primary process as they needed them to do for a win. Burning general approval for a party nomination is a path to failure.)

Wait till you see the most historic landslide victory in US presidential election history, for Hillary.

In an electorate as pillarised as ours has been for half a generation, this isn't happening. If the fantasy helps you get through the day, I suppose it's harmless enough.

"In an electorate as pillarised as ours has been for half a generation, this isn’t happening. If the fantasy helps you get through the day, I suppose it’s harmless enough"

If Trump is the nominee, even 40% of Republicans will vote for Hillary. I know I will.

Like the Framers of the Constituition, who were also worried about populism in a democratic society.

True. I was just reading about the origins of the electoral college...

If there is a Trump realignment, it will be to jettison the propellerhead Republicans who are nothing like the rank-and-file Republican voters. I'm talking about the Wolfowitzes, the austerity theorists and the deregulators. These sorts of people have not turned out voters, and yet they have often moved policy. With them jettisoned, the Republican party will be much easier to vote for, because I don't think that in their heart of hearts, typical Republican voters would prefer to be trickled down upon, over simply receiving services (on the condition that those services are packaged as being merit-based just-deserts, rather than handouts from Obama). They are also far more isolationist than propellerhead Republicans.

Where will the propelleheads go? I imagine they will be welcome in the Libertarian party, which is the place where people go when they stop mattering to politics. With this influx, the Libertarian vote will explode into the higher single digits. If anything slows this realignment, it's the fact that election financeers are much more aligned with the propellerheads than the voters, and their money always comes with some strings attached. But if you look at how much campaign money went into every Jeb vote, you clearly see the limitations of this kind of influence.

With them jettisoned, the Republican party will be much easier to vote for, because I don’t think that in their heart of hearts, typical Republican voters would prefer to be trickled down upon, over simply receiving services (on the condition that those services are packaged as being merit-based just-deserts, rather than handouts from Obama).

That position becomes just a short step from European alt-right style arguments that being a native is a meritorious attribute, reducing the argument to an agreement to the premise of Government handouts with the only debate remaining an ethnic retail debate over who gets the bulk of the spoils. GOP loses that debate every time.

Trump is solidly with Reagan on maintaining the old white people welfare state.

"This bill demonstrates for all time our nation's ironclad commitment to social security. It assures the elderly that America will always keep the promises made in troubled times a half a century ago. It assures those who are still working that they, too, have a pact with the future. From this day forward, they have one pledge that they will get their fair share of benefits when they retire.

"And this bill assures us of one more thing that is equally important. It's a clear and dramatic demonstration that our system can still work when men and women of good will join together to make it work.

"Just a few months ago, there was legitimate alarm that social security would soon run out of money. On both sides of the political aisle, there were dark suspicions that opponents from the other party were more interested in playing politics than in solving the problem. But in the eleventh hour, a distinguished bipartisan commission appointed by House Speaker O'Neill, by Senate Majority Leader Baker, and by me began, to find a solution that could be enacted into law.

"Political leaders of both parties set aside their passions and joined in that search. The result of these labors in the Commission and the Congress are now before us, ready to be signed into law, a monument to the spirit of compassion and commitment that unites us as a people.

"Today, all of us can look each other square in the eye and say, ``We kept our promises.'' We promised that we would protect the financial integrity of social security. We have. We promised that we would protect beneficiaries against any loss in current benefits. We have. And we promised to attend to the needs of those still working, not only those Americans nearing retirement but young people just entering the labor force. And we've done that, too.

"None of us here today would pretend that this bill is perfect. Each of us had to compromise one way or another. But the essence of bipartisanship is to give up a little in order to get a lot. And, my fellow Americans, I think we've gotten a very great deal.

"A tumultuous debate about social security has raged for more than two decades in this country; but there has been one point that has won universal agreement: The social security system must be preserved. And rescuing the system has meant reexamining its original intent, purposes, and practical limits.

"The amendments embodied in this legislation recognize that social security cannot do as much for us as we might have hoped when the trust funds were overflowing. Time and again, benefits were increased far beyond the taxes and wages that were supposed to support them. In this compromise we have struck the best possible balance between the taxes we pay and the benefits paid back. Any more in taxes would be an unfair burden on working Americans and could seriously weaken our economy. Any less would threaten the commitment already made to this generation of retirees and to their children."
-- President Ronald Reagan April 20, 1983

And conservatives claim they are winning pointing to all the elected offices controlled by conservative Republicans, on the one hand, and then immediately start blaming Obama and Democrats for the failure of conservative policies to deliver faster gdp growth, faster rising incomes to everyone, fewer people on welfare, etc. Since 1980, nothing much has improved for the majority of Republican voters.

Voters Nixon and Reagan recruited to the Republican party from the Democratic party after LBJ signed civil rights laws, provided healthcare to the poor, and made war very unpopular.

Voters Trump is now speaking to.

When will conservatives figure out how to deliver the endless free lunches they have promised for decades?

When it comes down to it, everybody wants their socialism nationalist.

Not everyone.

This column from yesterday's NYT suggests that there won't be a Republican re-alignment after all, even if Trump does get the nomination. Because despite their weakness in presidential campaigns (and candidates), the GOP continues to win state level offices.

I don't like the new world order types, but I'm not sure they are all the propellerheads. The second group might have been right in

6 Big Takeaways From The RNC's Incredible 2012 Autopsy

Who stopped that from happening? A genuine base, or a motivated minority?

If a motivated minority are driving populism bordering on nationalism, it does no one any good.

If either party implodes, by the next election cycle the other one will implode, too. They are each a bunch of coalitions held in check only by the threat of the other party, and with that gone the monkeys will take over the asylum.

Yes. That is why so many Democrats are voting for Sanders. They are anticipating that the GOP will nominate someone unelectable, so why not go whole hog socialist?

'so why not go whole hog socialist'

Sanders is mainly just a treaditional New Deal Democrat - how thoroughly we forgotten what that meant.

Agreed, but it's Sander's choice of wording. Why does he do that?

People tend to be very adverse to voting for 3d party candidates or obscure candidates so as not to 'waste' their vote. That aside, I doubt many voters play the angles like this. If you had a large mass who did, John Kasich would be out in front, because he polls better in hypothetical match ups.

Except for the fact that 25% of Bernie supporters are adamantly opposed to a Hillary nomination, and will not vote for her under any circumstances. Furthermore, 33% of Bernie supporters have Trump as their second-choice. So your line of logic has no bearing on reality. Theyre not capitalizing on a Trump candidacy to push a socialist. They consider Trump a backup plan for when Hillary steals the nomination through superdelegates.

Left-wing populists have more in common with right-wing populists than with liberals/progressives. It could be we are seeing a political realignment, not only with respect to Republicans but Democrats as well. To make my point: Jonathan Chait would be more welcome in a group of libertarians than in a group of left-wing populists. Academic conservatives, by the same token, may well feel more comfortable in a group of lower case d democrats than in a group of partisan Republicans who don't share the same concern for democratic values.

"This alienation is not because most conservative academics we interviewed are Rockefeller Republicans. In some respects, they are more conservative than self-identified Republicans in the general population. Instead, the Republican Party tends to trouble even the most conservative professors because they share with the American founders a small-c conservatism that is sensitized to the dangers of democratic movements. This political orientation inclines conservative professors to look askance at the populism that has shaken up the Republican Party in recent years…"

Another way of saying it: they're Rockefeller republicans...

Though perhaps the term is out of date. "Romney republicans" would be a better term.

"Robust and uninhibited intellectual inquiry should be at the center of the American Academy. As a revolutionary Christian I welcome more intense dialogue with my conservative brothers and sisters. This brave book helps us move toward this Socratic condition!" -Cornel West

Jesus, this man is confused.

Related concern: What is the natural political home of a neo-reactionary like myself, who sees the cold fringe identity politics of the Democrats for what it is and indeed treats with understanding disdain, yet is inherently hostile to the populism that is the logical progression of all democratic politics, including that of the GOP?

For example: I side with the Democrats/liberals in support of Planned Parenthood and against much of the GOP on this issue. But not because I believe in "women's choice" or some such notion, but because I want to see a PP on every street in every inner city black neighborhood. I'd like to see abortion being incentivized so we can decrease black criminality. I can't see this reasoning being popular either in the GOP or the Democratic party.

...So basically an early 20th century progressive a la Margaret Sanger.

Depends. That reasoning is pretty common in both the GOP and Democratic Party. It's simply not spoken of in polite company. You think people like Hillary actually give two s**ts about blacks? Of course not. They want votes, but otherwise, they'd pretty much agree with Margaret Sanger on that.

The same for "conservatives". You think Ann Colter gives two s**ts about abortion? Of course not.

No less than Ruth Bader Ginsburg has praised the expansion of abortion access over the past 50 years for its effect on the black population.

That you want to control the black population as an anti-crime measure rather than an anti-poverty measure would keep you muzzled in democratic circles, but the basic policy idea is well within the mainstream on that side of the aisle.

The Freakonomics guys were awfully popular for arguing that abortion cuts crime, even though Levitt's original paper attributed 39% of the crime-cutting effect to higher abortion rates among blacks. (After a while, they figured out not to be so explicit ...)

Of course, it eventually turned out that Levitt had screwed up his coding and it was much ado about nothing ...

It has occurred to me that this may be the point of the contraception mandate. Handing out free birth control pills to the poor.

You're assuming that it's genetics and not history or socio-cultural stuff ,no?

Or, just that people who don't want babies but end up pregnant don't do a very good job of raising them?

History and socio-cultural stuff is what we call the aggregation of 100,000 years of genetics. We can trace behavioral characteristics of different dog breeds through our genetic breeding of them, but somehow we think that humans are not subject to the same laws of biology.

By history and socio-cultural stuff, I mean explicitly the differences which are not explained by genetics.

There's a big difference between an explicit breeding program of pets/livestock and independent mating decisions. If we were to set on a program of mating long-nosed people with long-nosed people, I imagine we might be able to breed a real-life pinnochio of sorts in the space of a couple hundred generations. However, when you're not breeding, generally you don't select for just one or two features, and the whole package is considered, so it's not at all like breeding for specific traits.

Nathan, to be quite explicit, I meant that I support abortion clinics in black neighborhoods because black people are more prone to commit crime. If there are less of them than there would be without abortions, that would be a net good. It isn't complicated at all.

The complicated part is whether history, culture, poverty and existing racism explain that. Perhaps it explains all of the difference. You seem to be assuming that it's all genetics.

His argument doesn't hinge on genetics.

In fact, many conservative academics feel more at home in the progressive academy than in the Republican Party. This alienation is not because most conservative academics we interviewed are Rockefeller Republicans. In some respects, they are more conservative than self-identified Republicans in the general population. Instead, the Republican Party tends to trouble even the most conservative professors because they share with the American founders a small-c conservatism that is sensitized to the dangers of democratic movements. This political orientation inclines conservative professors to look askance at the populism that has shaken up the Republican Party in recent years

Stop and think about that. Are we to believe (a) there is no vernacular discourse in the Democratic Party ergo nothing to irritate the non-concervatives in the academy, or (b) that it hadn't occurred to these 'conservative professors' that there is such a thing as mass entertainment and popular culture and that public discussion is not carried on in the idiom of Economic History Review and does not seek to appeal to their specific sensibility because they don't have many votes? Do they really expect Ted Cruz ("off the charts brilliant" per Alan Dershowitz) to talk like a law review article?

Let's offer another explanation: 'conservative professors' are, by and large, not particularly inner-directed and take their cues from their environment; the doctoral candidates who were got kicked out of graduate school. The net result is an anxious series of guises and poses (as well as lack of nerve and loyalty to each other, much less anyone else).

The authentic dissidents in the academy are mainline Democrats (KC Johnson) or they're of an age to be collecting Social Security (Richard Epstein, John McAdams, Barry Alan Shain, Robert Paquette). Soon, there will be no more 'conservatives' on the arts and sciences faculty. There will be a scatter of capons so the provost has an excuse every now and then.

I'd hate to break this to you, but there's plenty of "conservative" (i.e. right of center) academics in business and econ schools. Which is where they would naturally congregate. So no, they're not an engendered species nor of old age, nor consisting only of youtube personalities like Richard Epstein.

They simply, like most right-of-center people, don't want to engage in such discussions in the first place.

As to your first point, yes. In a sense, yes...academics expect people to make reasoned and logical arguments which point out trade-offs and are longer than 140 characters. "Regular" people, can't do that. Certainly politicians can't do that. I'm not sure why you think this is a "fault". This is a virtue, in my opinion, but it also means that its a lot easier to talk to a rabid commie sociology professor, than it is to talk to the average Trump voter...who literally can't breathe from any other orifice then his mouth.

I’d hate to break this to you, but there’s plenty of “conservative” (i.e. right of center) academics in business and econ schools.

Perfectly irrelevant to my point. I was discussing the arts and sciences faculty, though much the same could be said of teacher-training faculties or social work faculties.

Economists are in the arts and sciences faculty. You can find some in the business school. Actually, in the economics department I know best there is one Republican in an 18 member faculty.

Business faculty make up about 17% of the whole faculty at baccalaureate granting institutions. The last datum I saw on their affiliations had it that there was about a 50-50 split between the parties (for the time being). I'm sure you can find a provost drawn from the business faculty...somewhere.

Hey, there's still the athletic coaches if you want to pad the numbers.

If they are 17%, they are probably the highest or second highest group. Not "padding".

Not even close. The majority are in the arts and sciences faculties.

"Not even close. The majority are in the arts and sciences faculties."

"sciences" or "arts" is not a discipline. There's everything from medicine to engineering to earth sciences in the "sciences", and their differences are bigger than the differences between the "social sciences". So I'm not wrong: if you break it down by discipline, 17% is likely to be the biggest individual discipline. But your numbers are wrong, either way, so it doesn't matter

Whether you think it's valid or not, college faculties are conventionally divided into those trading in the 'liberal arts' and those trading in the 'mechanical arts'. Academic disciplines are collected in one faculty and there are discrete schools for occupations or occupation sets apart from the academic departments. The purpose of the occupational schools is preparation for a distinct line of work. That is not what the arts and sciences faculty does. Your distribution credits are earned in the arts and sciences faculty, and the distribution credits alone account for north of 20% of the faculty manpower. About 40% of the undergraduate population earns a degree in an academic or artistic subject.

Art Deco, if you're going to break out the business faculty separately, then you can't go back and say that they are not the biggest because at a higher level of aggregation they are not.

By your own definition, business faculty are also in the "sciences", since they are social sciences.

But simply by breaking them up, you're explicitly breaking up the rest as well, in which case, they would be the largest or second largest group.

Your numbers are wrong either way not because I don't believe you, but because we know what the distribution by discipline is. Google it. It's not 17% for business school faculty.

Art Deco, if you’re going to break out the business faculty separately, then you can’t go back and say that they are not the biggest because at a higher level of aggregation they are not.

Oh yes I can, and I'm referring to the conventional administrative divisions in academe as well as the distinction between academic and vocational disciplines (which is understood within higher education even if you persist in failing to understand it).

Art Deco, now you're just being silly.


Epstein was and is a serious scholar, before he became a "YouTube celebrity."

No one is expecting politicians to speak as if they're presenting a paper at an academic conference. But there is a world of difference between Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Trump's puerile bombast.

The median age on today's faculties is about 51. A faculty member born in 1965 could have been reading newspapers for 40 years. At no time during those 40 years has it been common for elected officials to be elegant public speakers. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and (more episodically) Mario Cuomo were among the few. Ronald Reagan was a very fluent public speaker, but his idiom was distinctly vernacular and lacking in ironic detachment.

I find the assessment of the author to be pretty much right. I live in academia as well, and certainly it is a much more comfortable place to be "right-wing" in academia than it is to be in...."conservative" political circles.

I think the authors may be missing something however (at least in this quote, but they may have talked about it elsewhere). Academics are academics first. They first and foremost are interested in their field. Political views are secondary. Of course, its hard to have any differing political opinions in fields which are thoroughly political in nature, like sociology. There, politics is academia. But overall, academics despite what political views they have, are far less hostile to opposing views...than the average person.

But I agree overall that the biggest problem is the populism that has engulfed the "conservative" movement (and by extension the GOP). It's impossible to disagree on issues with Trumpkins, for example, or even Cruz sycophants, because you are automatically labeled a traitor and an enemy of the people. In short, the conservative movement has devolved into the Bolshevik Party. Not towing the party line can get you executed.

They are far more hostile to free market ideas, far more hostile to economic principles, far more hostile to anything that deviates from their popular ideology which is made up of 140 character-long maxims. There is no room for argument, because no regular person is going to sit still for more than 5 minutes to listen to an argument. Even a rabid communist Sociologist is more likely to listen to a counter-argument, and make one herself (because its usually a her in my experience)...then the average person on the street.

So perhaps the real issue here is that..."smart" people just don't mix well with "dumb" people, to say it in plain terms.

I am skeptical you've had much interaction with either rabid communist sociology professors or Trump voters from the lower orders.

I fully admit, I have not had much interaction with Trumpkins. I rarely, if ever, have a reason to frequent trailer parks.

Wasn't it the sociologists and anthropologists at Harvard who ran Summers out for saying something naughty about the relative distribution of certain traits in men vs. women?

Those who yell louder, win. Its the same in the trailer park, however. So not much of a criticism here. That's the problem, most trailer park Trumpkins ACTUALLY think they are different from the rest of humanity. Most academics, know they are not.

I'll give you that sociologists and anthropologists are the trailer park boys of academia. Everyone's got them. The problem is, when they start outnumbering the rest, like they currently do in the GOP.

Those who yell louder, win.

You're offering this as an excuse?

"You’re offering this as an excuse?"

I'm saying that's how it works outside of academia too, so it's not a criticism of academia.

If you feel like someone is being "hostile" in academia when they proceed to rip apart your arguments, you probably don't belong in academia. It's basically never personal (consider is as "peer review" or good practice for developing counterarguments), and you always have time to think it through, come back and defend your perspective tomorrow after thinking it through. If you raise good arguments, your intellectual adversary is extremely likely to explicitly point this out next time they speak publicly with/to the relevant group on the subject (although, again, they are more likely to address the ideas than your person).

It seems to me almost as though there are certain right wingers who want their "safe space" without saying so, insisting on the right to make their argumentation without anyone opposing their ideas, at the same time as ridiculing the absurd extremes of "safe space" thinking on the left.

I like the idea of "safe spaces". But it should not discourage disagreement. It should do no more than ensure that intellectual argumentation does not become personal, in order to make people feel more comfortable to face intellectual adversity. (And, it seems these days, the left is far more guilty of abusing the notion than the right, BUT, it seems that some on the right would like to enforce such a thing without being so explicit about it - in short, that they should enjoy a space free of counterargument so that they can feel good about themselves.)

AIG - not at all directed at you, it just seemed thematically like the right place to say it.

It’s basically never personal

LOL. You don't know academics very well, do you.

Maybe there was just a better culture where I studied and the conferences I attended. Bringing a diversity of viewpoints to the table was always a high priority, which doesn't tend to happen in a hostile atmosphere where the non-conformists are just attacked. Generally speaking, people were more trying to get into the heads of the non-conformists by tough questioning, not trying to prove them wrong or anything.

AIG April 4, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Academics are academics first. They first and foremost are interested in their field. Political views are secondary.

Sorry but that is clearly not true. In subject after subject, mainly in the Liberal Arts, politics trumps real research. When Lewontin tries to rule out any genetic influence on humans he is not acting out of the best interest of the field. When he joins with Stephen Jay Gould to try to get E. O. Wilson fired, they are not putting their field first. When the AAA bans any discussion of war as anything but a social construct, when they hound Napoleon Chagnon, when they allow their members to work for the Soviet Union but not Uncle Sam, they are not acting as academics first and foremost.

There is more political diversity in your local coffee shop than in academia. More tolerance too.

I'll partially second that. Certain subdisciplines have now decayed into an apologetical exercise or have lost large swaths of territory and manpower to apologetical exercises. That includes cultural anthropology, sociology, American history, comparative literature, and English literature, and, of course the victimology programs on which faculty salary money is squandered. A generation ago, Allan Bloom reported that in a generation as an academic philosopher, he had never heard a discussion of the question of abortion in an academic context wherein the speaker's aim was not to justify the practice in some way.

AIG also neglects the degree to which faculties are a social nexus and certain attitudes are now just the clothes you wear. One of the more obtuse characters I crossed paths with was a provost whose previous employment had been in the physics department. A political scientist in that job would have been more likely to have told the SJWs to take a hike. See Bloom on the fecklessness of the natural science faculties at Cornell during the 1969 disturbances.

"Sorry but that is clearly not true. In subject after subject, mainly in the Liberal Arts, politics trumps real research."

Sigh. All you had to do was read the following 2-3 sentences in my post to see that I SAID THE SAME THING.


Well no you didn't. But even if you did, you miss the point. The level of intolerance is increasing but also the range of intolerance is as well. It used to just be the idiot disciplines where there was 100% agreement on social justice. Now it is spreading. I came across a well respected university with a Social Justice-infested Engineering Faculty the other day. The Senior management wants their students to spend more time learning about the environment and how engineering is evil than on mathematics.

I look forward to the AIs killing all humans.

I wrote about the book here: http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2016-03-30/conservatives-can-change-academia-but-only-if-they-come-out

Many of the comments here and elsewhere are addressed in the book, which I would encourage people to read.

Thanks. That was a good article. Overall I tend to agree, but I think the most important phrase was...

"Quantitative methods do at least provide an accepted, apolitical basis for making one’s case."

...This is why certain disciplines attract right-of-center academics, and why the rest, like humanities and some social sciences (i.e. sociology, anthropology and the related fields where there is no quantitative or empirical analysis) are viewed negatively even within academia.

If there is no objective criteria in a field, then "might makes right", which is what happens in these fields (and why they are also so vocal, because this is their normal way of communicating). However, I don't think it has ever been any different in humanities or these social science fields. So has it really changed? Or simply, one dominant political coalition replaced by another?

Frankly, humanities and sociology do not represent academia to me...nor should people be paying attention to these fields in the first place. These are fields which by definition, yelling louder than your opponent is how one wins. This is why I'm not so worried: they have taken over the disciplines which were always considered joke disciplines and which create no value. Let them have it.

Some fields within sociology do use quantitative methods. In fact, that's the context of the point I made.

They think they do ;) It's cute.

Given the recent discussions of the problem with p-values, it may be the case that *all* the quantitative work in the softer sciences from the last few decades may need to be tossed.
As a thought experiment, imagine if all the sociologists changed their political views to Mike Huckabee level conservatism overnight. Would all the Sociology journals and conferences fade away from lack of papers due to all the failed attempts of these conservatives to confirm their biases? Of course not!

I recommend Andrew Gelman's 'The garden of forking path's' paper to show just how poorly we're doing as far as real statistics.

P-values aren't the problem here. Identification, is. Given that economics and most of b-school quantitative research routinely tries to deal with this, and has for decades (less in the case of b-school, but still at least 2 decades), then this isn't really a criticism of their work. Other social science fields like psych rely mostly on experiments for precisely this reason.

It is a concern in sociology, since they make little attempt to deal with this (outside of literally a handful of people who migrated from econ schools), and are almost never trained for anything beyond OLS. That's why I said "they think they do".

On the matter of p-values, I think an honest researcher should be more upfront about all the methods and model specifications they tried in the way. You don't need to be tiresomely descriptive in all the permutations and combinations that were tried, just be clear enough that the general procedure is clear (e.g., found the variable with the highest p-value independently, then sequentially added one variable at a time until the p-value was maximized). I'm not deep into this stuff, but especially in pharmacy stuff I've read of good methods which are supposed to discount the assumed p-values (or equivalent) depending on the number of iterations or trials, etc., used to get the result.

Most of the research I edit tends to use, say, 4 or 5 methods which are basically drawn from the literature as being the most common methods, with some specific adjustments on innovations to take care of the specific nature of a dataset or modelling problem. In addition to reporting various descriptive statistics, much discussion is often made about why the results may differ, whether it has to do with the methods themselves or the peculiarities of the context, etc., and for practical purposes the strength of the conclusions for policy purposes.

Also, I don't like strict cut-offs, such as rejecting all findings with p > 0.05. The means of iteration through model selection should be clear, as should be the reason for selecting the one or several methods. But it should be left to the reader to determine whether p = 0.25 is a worthy finding in a question with many issues of reverse causality, etc. etc. Having appropriately adjusted for using many iterations, a findings like "there's a 75% chance that the underlying result is between +1 and +3" should in many cases be cause for further research, as opposed to being outright rejected as it often is today.

^^^ Nathan, sometimes, the less is said, the better.

What you described is in essence what is already done in the above-mentioned fields, and in "good" journals (this is why the quality of the journal something is published in matters). It's also taught around week 2 of every introductory to methods course in every master-level social science discipline. Have you read an econ paper? Have you read a finance paper? 70% of the paper is robustness checks. And don't worry, they don't skip on the details.

As to p-values, again p-values are of no consequence here at all. Econometrics these days concerns itself with identification (google it).

PS: A p-value of 0.25 does not mean a "75% chance the answer is between 1 and 3". First off, it means there's a 25% probability of getting a Type I error. I.e., a 25% chance of getting a false positive. That's why that is...bad. Second, if you get a p-value of 0.25, the effect size cannot be between 1 and 3, since it must include 0, meaning it must include the null effect. So a p >0.25 means that we have no idea what the effect size is at all, or whether its positive, negative or zero. That too, is why it's bad.

PPS: Nobody's papers get rejected for not getting good enough p-values. They get rejected because having failed to reject the null hypothesis, the paper is no longer interesting or relevant. I.e., if one is trying to test the null hypothesis itself, then rejecting or failing to reject the null is interesting either way. But writing a paper where that is the case, requires more ingenuity than most researchers have.

AIG - actually, that's what I do (outside of teaching), I edit papers in those fields. I know about the robustness checks.

But I'm talking about something altogether different. I forget what it's called, but it's a correction for p-values (or analogues) to reflect the number of iterations in the data mining process. I've never seen it applied in economics, finance or any social sciences at all, but I've seen efforts to incorporate such strategies into pharma research.

The precise meaning of the p-value (or analogue) depends on what you're testing for.

"I edit papers in those fields"

Edit /= review. Clearly, you don't know what they're doing here.

"iterations in the data mining process"...doesn't make sense as a coherent concept. It makes even less sense if you're talking about pharma where they would be doing experimental trials and they're not doing any "data mining".

If I had to guess, I'd guess you're talking about...sample size. I.e. determining the sample size that is needed in an experiment. None of this is particularly relevant or important, however.

Elites within the current system don't get along particularly well with populists. I'll be damned.

The history professor whose story Tyler pulls is Alan Kors, co-founder of FIRE. I've heard him tell that story many times. It unfortunately goes to the point I made in my column that much of the book's positive picture of academia unfortunately depends on older scholars or economists.

Dr. Kors is a hero of old-fashioned universalist principles. (I own Kors' Great Lectures course on Voltaire: Kors, by the way, is a genius at pacing his talks so you can listen to highbrow lectures while driving the freeway.)

The real swing voters in the current struggle over political correctness are centrist Jewish liberals of ethnocentric leanings (e.g., Larry Summers) who are trying to figure out what's good for the Jews: should guys like Larry join Kors in standing up for abstract principles of freedom of thought, or should Larry double down on emphasizing Jews as the REAL victims? Here's Larry's recent WaPo oped "Colleges have become hypersensitive to racial prejudice. Why not anti-Semitism?"


Personally, I'd like to see Larry take Kors' high road, but Larry tried Pinkerian honesty back in 2005 with the feminists, and that didn't go so well for him. So, he'd probably be prudent to take the low road of victimism.

A brave man with tenure still can have a fair amount of intellectual freedom: e.g., U. of Utah anthropologist Henry Harpending, who died over the weekend:


With a cheerful disposition and an open mind, Harpending took on the hottest hot button issues of the 21st Century, such as in his landmark paper with Gregory Cochran, "The Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence."

John McAdams has tenure and a certain amount of moxie. He's headed toward legal action because his institution is set to fire him on blatantly trumped up charges. McAdams has said he's gotten quite a bit of spoken and written support through the mails and such, including people stopping him on the street in Milwaukee. There's one occupational group from which he's received very little -- academics.

That paper makes the case that sphingolipid disorders have been selected for and actually make Ashkenazim smarter. I see they theorize on a mechanism, but that seems unlikely. Intelligence is hard to explain genetically, but if there were a smart gene, it seems more likely that it is a separate gene--or clusters of them--that are physically close to the sphingolipid mutations on the genome, rather than the sphingolipid disorders themselves that make them smarter.

Alternatively, the expression related to the sphingolipid mutations could influence the expression of another gene. This kind of thing can significantly muddy the water. It is not necessary that a gene itself be mutated for its expression to be affected. For something approaching a concrete example, consider that having high amounts of a specific protein in a cell serves to signal (perhaps it's shape is somewhat different in a higher concentration, or just that the signal is less frequent) reduced expression to not make more of that protein - however, if some other protein has a structure that includes a sub-part that is sufficiently similar, then increased expression of that functionally unrelated gene may affect the expression of the first gene.

Just to say, that the distance on the DNA string need not be relevant, although sometimes it is (probably mostly due to mutational accidents happening around the same place).

So, to take their argument at face value (which I don't), the mechanism could be that the sphingolipid mutations could influence the expression of genes which would otherwise be considered as unrelated. (In which case, they then are related...). Stuff gets supremely complicated in connecting dots between mutations and evolution when you start to incorporate these kinds of mechanisms/interactions.

Here's the Southern Poverty Law Center's 2015 "EXTREMIST INFO" website dedicated to Professor Harpending of the National Academy of Sciences.



Henry Harpending is a controversial anthropologist at the University of Utah who studies human evolution and, in his words, “genetic diversity within and between human populations.”

Born 1944
Ideology White Nationalist [sic]

Harpending is most famous for his book, co-authored with frequent collaborator Gregory Cochran, The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution, which argues that humans are evolving at an accelerating rate, and that this began when the ancestors of modern Europeans and Asians left Africa. Harpending believes that this accelerated evolution is most visible in differences between racial groups, which he claims are growing more distinct and different from one another. The evolution of these racial differences are, in Harpending’s account, the driving force behind all of modern human history. He is also a eugenicist who believes that medieval Europeans intuitively adopted eugenic policies, and that we should recognize the importance of eugenics in our own society. Harpending has given talks on these ideas at white supremacist conferences, and is widely celebrated among white supremacists on forums like Stormfront and the Vanguard News Network, who see a champion for their cause behind his academic rhetoric.

In His Own Words:

“The reason the Industrial Revolution happened in 1800, rather than the year one thousand, or zero, which it could have, the Romans certainly could have done it, is that a new kind of human evolved in northern Europe, and probably northern Asia. And that this led to the Industrial Revolution—this new kind of human was less violent, had an affinity for work. When you view your parents or grandparents, and you know that they're retired, they could relax. But afterwards they can't just sit on the couch and relax, they've got to go and get a shop and work on a cradle for their grandchildren… I've never seen anything like that in an African. I've never seen anyone with a hobby in Africa. They're different.”
—“Preserving Western Civilization” conference, 2009

“Group differences, as far as we know, are in the DNA. Nobody yet has found any credible environmental effect on IQ or academic achievement. And believe me, people have been frantically looking for one for sixty, seventy years. Nothing. If you look at the quantitative genetic analyses, they’ll talk about a contribution from genes, and a contribution from environment. What that contribution from environment is, is random error. It doesn’t matter who raised you, as long as they didn’t hit you on the head with a hammer. It doesn’t matter whether you have high or low self-esteem. Everything has been shown just not to be there. The gap between ethnic groups is not closing in this country. There have been announcements that it’s closing for at least the last twenty years, usually in the New York Times, it’s not there, there’s no difference. There’s no change. Nothing changes.”
—H.L. Mencken Club meeting, 2011

“Among Herero there is no such thing as an accident, there is no such thing as a natural death, witchcraft in some form is behind all of it. Did you have a gastrointestinal upset this morning? Clearly someone slipped some pink potion in the milk. … Our [African] employees were so adamant to show me the truth that they pooled their money so they could take me to the local witch doctor, who would turn me into a frog. ‘Of course he can do that, it is easy for them to do, even to white people’ they said. … A colleague pointed out a few weeks ago, after hearing this story, that if it is nearly pan-African then perhaps some of it came to the New World. Prominent and not so prominent talkers from the American Black population come out with similar theories of vague and invisible forces that are oppressing people, like ‘institutional racism’ and ‘white privilege’.”
—“My friend the witch doctor,” West Hunter blog

“In other words, as an anthropologist looking around the world, what I see is that men work and produce things when they're forced into it, and when they're not, they quit. And I'm thinking about, you know tribes in central Africa, but you know it's true in Baltimore too, right? Experimentally, if you raise the income of welfare recipients, the divorce rate goes up. Great Depression comes along, and the divorce rate goes way down. Threaten a guy's children, and that's how you make him work.”
—“Preserving Western Civilization” conference, 2009

Note, Steve, 'born 1944'. On the arts and sciences faculty I know best (which has about 200 professors and lecturers, three known Republicans were granted tenure between 1989 and 2011 (out of over 100 grants of tenure). One was a man born in 1950 who is on his 3d career (and has been subject to harassment campaigns run by professors in the provost's camarilla). One is a rather diffident fellow whose book is biogeography. The third is an open borders libertarian.

"It turns out, that groups which were previous geographically isolated from the exchange of technological and polital/administrative ideas, such as sub-Saharan Africa and New World populations are perfectly able to do such things as well"

LOL. You're a funny guy, but I suspect even you don't believe this.

Well, it's hard to compete with Bangladeshi and Cambodian textiles industry when they're already making things cheap as chips, and have highly intermittant electricity supply, bad roads/ports to export (improving) and someone trying to shake you down for bribes every 100 km along the way.

Yes, I absolutely believe that most, or likely all, different groups on the planet have roughly equal ability to industrialize if conditions are ripe to do so.

Now, you're a pretty smart guy and live in a country where all manner of resources are at your finger tips, from credit to business development assistance and all the legal infrastructure you need to export. You want to open a textiles mill and start selling fabrics or even finished clothing. Now, if you, with all the best tools in the world at your finger tips can't crack this market, why assume anything damning about Africans who struggle to enter such markets with precisely zero possible advantages except for their willingness to work for a lower exchange-weighted wage?

"Well, it’s hard to compete with Bangladeshi and Cambodian textiles industry"

Bangladesh or Cambodia never developed electricity, electric motors, internal combustion engines, computer aided machinery, chemical compounds for making artificial fabrics and the 60 million other technological and scientific advancement needed...to make THEIR industry possible.

All Bangladesh and Cambodia did was get the ready made technology, and provide the cheap labor.

So your example is precisely one in which these societies...actually absolutely most definitely NEVER were "perfectly able to do such things". They were able to adopt technology that Europeans invented and perfected.

"Clearly he hasn’t spent much time in Africa."

Henry spent nearly four years in the field with the Herero and Bushmen nomads. He learned to speak their tongue-click languages. He loved Africa so much that he seriously considered dropping out of anthropology to become a safari guide so he could stay in Africa.

Ah, if my only exposure to Africa were with tongue clicking nomads, I might assume the whole continent to be backwards as well. But since my travels in Africa primarily revolved around artistic, cultural and economic centres in West Africa and Southern Africa, and since much of my work involves editing and translation for African academics, I guess I have a rather different set of experiences to base my opinions on.

Yes, when I travelled into distant off-road regions, the people were very backwards. I imagine not much unlike visiting Scotland some hundreds of years ago, where people were primarily pastoralists who did some small-time farming on the side.

If I'd spent years with illiterate nomads in the Tibetan plateau, would you assume that I therefore had much relevant knowledge to discuss Chinese culture or politics in any generalized sense?

"Ah, if my only exposure to Africa were with tongue clicking nomads, I might assume the whole continent to be backwards as well."

You are in over your head, Nathan, and just making things worse for yourself.

SS - please explain yourself.

Your defense that he "knows Africa" is that he spent four years with some tongue clicking tribe. It's like saying that I "know America" after spending four years hanging out with doomsday cultists and learning nothing else about the place. In fact, the second may be more representative of America than the first is of Africa.

Newsflash: Africa is not a country. There are 54 countries in Africa. There are thousands of ethnic groups in Africa, each with their own language and culture: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_of_Africa. Do you think your "expert" could name more than a dozen of them off hand?

Nathan, those tongue clicking Herero and Bushmen live in what is nearly the most affluent and politically congenial slice of the continent.

If you bracket out natural resource rents, most in Tropical and Southern Africa live in countries wherein the per capita income is no more than one-tenth of what is normal in occidental countries. To the extent they can be reliably estimated, homicide rates in that part of the world are 3x what they are in North American and more than 10x what is normal in Europe (though lower than Latin America). Three or four countries are now in an anarchic state, with a fictional central government. Political life is conducted more benevolently than it was 40 years ago and the continent has had some successes in public health and literacy, but it's still addled by routinized corruption and administrative failure, not to mention economic stagnation.

On the other hand, here's how the New York Times reported Cochran and Harpending's most brilliant paper:


"Researchers Say Intelligence and Diseases May Be Linked in Ashkenazic Genes

A team of scientists at the University of Utah has proposed that the unusual pattern of genetic diseases seen among Jews of central or northern European origin, or Ashkenazim, is the result of natural selection for enhanced intellectual ability.

The selective force was the restriction of Ashkenazim in medieval Europe to occupations that required more than usual mental agility, the researchers say in a paper that has been accepted by the Journal of Biosocial Science, published by Cambridge University Press in England.

The hypothesis advanced by the Utah researchers has drawn a mixed reaction among scientists, some of whom dismissed it as extremely implausible, while others said they had made an interesting case, although one liable to raise many hackles.

"It would be hard to overstate how politically incorrect this paper is," said Steven Pinker, a cognitive scientist at Harvard, noting that it argues for an inherited difference in intelligence between groups. Still, he said, "it's certainly a thorough and well-argued paper, not one that can easily be dismissed outright."

"Absolutely anything in human biology that is interesting is going to be controversial," said one of the report's authors, Dr. Henry Harpending, an anthropologist and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

He and two colleagues at the University of Utah, Gregory Cochran and Jason Hardy, see the pattern of genetic disease among the Ashkenazi Jewish population as reminiscent of blood disorders like sickle cell anemia that occur in populations exposed to malaria, a disease that is only 5,000 years old.

In both cases, the Utah researchers argue, evolution has had to counter a sudden threat by favoring any mutation that protected against it, whatever the side effects. Ashkenazic diseases like Tay-Sachs, they say, are a side effect of genes that promote intelligence.

The explanation that the Ashkenazic disease genes must have some hidden value has long been accepted by other researchers, but no one could find a convincing infectious disease or other threat to which the Ashkenazic genetic ailments might confer protection.

A second suggestion, wrote Dr. Jared Diamond of the University of California, Los Angeles, in a 1994 article, "is selection in Jews for the intelligence putatively required to survive recurrent persecution, and also to make a living by commerce, because Jews were barred from the agricultural jobs available to the non-Jewish population."

The Utah researchers have built on this idea, arguing that for some 900 years Jews in Europe were restricted to managerial occupations, which were intellectually demanding, that those who were more successful also left more offspring, and that there was time in this period for the intelligence of the Ashkenazi population as a whole to become appreciably enhanced.

But the Utah researchers' analysis comes at a time when some geneticists have suggested natural selection is not the reason for the Ashkenazic diseases after all. Two years ago, Dr. Neil Risch, a geneticist now at the University of California, San Francisco, proposed a different genetic mechanism known as a founder effect, which occurs when a population is reduced for a time.

He found that all the Ashkenazic diseases had similar properties, including having arisen within the last 1,100 years. Therefore they had all arisen through the same cause, he argued, which must be founder effects, because it was unlikely that all could be due to natural selection. Last year, Dr. Montgomery Slatkin of the University of California, Berkeley, came to much the same conclusion for different reasons.

The Utah team agrees with Dr. Risch that the diseases all arose in historical times from the same cause but say natural selection is more likely because none of the non-disease Ashkenazic genes they tested showed any sign of a founder effect. They say the clustering of four of the diseases in the same biochemical pathway could only have arisen under the influence of natural selection, and calculate that the odds of a founder effect producing such a cluster are vanishingly low.

The four diseases, all of which are caused by mutations that affect the cell's management of chemicals known as sphingolipids, are Tay-Sachs, Niemann-Pick, Gaucher, and mucolipidosis type IV. A second cluster of diseases affects repair of DNA.

Turning to the possibility that some infection was the cause of the selective effect, the Utah researchers noted that Ashkenazim and Europeans lived together in the same cities and were exposed to the same microbes. If disease were the agent of selection, the Utah team argues, the European population would have developed a similar genetic response.

Ashkenazi Jews occupied a different social niche from their European hosts, and that is where any selective effect must have operated, the Utah researchers say. From A.D. 800, when the Ashkenazi presence in Europe is first recorded, to about 1700, Ashkenazi Jews held a restricted range of occupations, which required considerable intellectual acumen. In France, most were moneylenders by A.D. 1100. Expelled from France in 1394, and from parts of Germany in the 15th century, they moved eastward and were employed by Polish rulers first as moneylenders and then as agents who paid a large tax to a noble and then tried to collect the amount, at a profit, from the peasantry. After 1700, the occupational restrictions on Jews were eased.

As to how the disease mutations might affect intelligence, the Utah researchers cite evidence that the sphingolipid disorders promote the growth and interconnection of brain cells. Mutations in the DNA repair genes, involved in second cluster of Ashkenazic diseases, may also unleash growth of neurons.

In describing what they see as the result of the Ashkenazic mutations, the researchers cite the fact that Ashkenazi Jews make up 3 percent of the American population but won 27 percent of its Nobel prizes, and account for more than half of world chess champions. They say that the reason for this unusual record may be that differences in Ashkenazic and northern European I.Q. are not large at the average, where most people fall, but become more noticeable at the extremes; for people with an I.Q. over 140, the proportion is 4 per 1,000 among northern Europeans but 23 per 1,000 with Ashkenazim.

The Utah researchers describe their proposal as a hypothesis. Unlike many speculations, it makes a testable prediction: that people who carry one of the sphingolipid or other Ashkenazic disease mutations should do better than average on I.Q. tests.

The researchers have identified two reasonably well accepted issues, the puzzling pattern of diseases inherited by the Ashkenazi population and the population's general intellectual achievement. But in trying to draw a link between them they have crossed some fiercely disputed academic territories, including whether I.Q. scores are a true measure of intelligence and the extent to which intelligence can be inherited.

The authors "make pretty much all of the classic mistakes in interpreting heritability," said Dr. Andrew Clark, a population geneticist at Cornell University, and the argument that the sphingolipid gene variants are associated with intelligence, he said, is "far-fetched."

In addition, the genetic issue of natural selection versus founder effects is far from settled. Dr. Risch, whose research supports founder effects, said he was not persuaded by the Utah team's arguments. Dr. David Goldstein, a geneticist at Duke University who was not connected with either Dr. Risch's or the Utah study, was more open on the issue, saying Dr. Risch had made "quite a strong case" that founder effects could be the cause, but had not ruled out the possibility of selection.

Dr. Slatkin, though favoring a founder effect over all, said he agreed with the Utah team that this would not account for the cluster of sphingolipid diseases.

As for the Utah researchers' interpretation of Jewish medieval history, Paul Rose, professor of Jewish studies at Pennsylvania State University, said, "I think that some of their conclusions may be right though they still need a lot of work to be persuasive to historians and others."

Dr. Gregory Cochran, the first author on the Utah team's paper and a physicist who took up biology, said he became interested in the subject upon learning that patients with a particular Ashkenazic disease known as torsion dystonia were told by their physicians that "the positive thing is that this makes you smart."

"When you're in a hurry and have strong selection, you have a lot of genes with bad side effects," he said. The Ashkenazi Jewish population seemed to fit this pattern, he said, since they married only inside the community, making selection possible, and they had an urgent need for greater intelligence. Evolution had therefore selected every possible mutation that worked in this direction, despite their harmful side effects when inherited from both parents. "In a sense, I consider this a very boring paper since it raises no new principles of genetics," Dr. Cochran said.

Do you think copyright is a Jewish plot or something?

Some Jews tend to portray this as though the unsuccessful ones were killed or something. Far more likely, is that when mostly allowed to participate in only certain professions, individuals who did not perform well in those professions were more likely to leave the group and join the ranks of the general population (probably some combination of push and pull factors). It is not even necessary that they left more offspring, just that for whatever reason some individuals left the group (perhaps to self identify as Christian so they could get farm work, for example.)

Also, in such research it tends to be ignored completely that the culture of Ashkenazi Jews prioritizes book learning, debating skills, etc., all of which are conducive to getting high scores on standardized tests and accessing influential professions such as law, medicine and finance.

Also, as a highly clannish group (which may be easily understood for historical reasons), they tend to hook each other up with connections (like ... ever try to make a useful connection in Jewish circles as a non-Jew? You're always going to be at the very bottom of the list unless you possess some skill or connection that does not exist WHATSOEVER in their network, and never mind that they would prefer to independently develop the skill than offer benefits to someone who's not in the group - being unwaveringly pro-Israel might help as well.)

Finally, the proposed tests are more likely to demonstrate correlation than causation (assuming that socio-cultural factors do not fully explain the observed differences).

Foreskins don't grow back Nathan. That's the first thing the Spanish Inquisition looked for.

Your attempts at rationalizing the obvious, are amusing. Why is it so hard to just say: yep, they're just better!

Try it. It's liberating.

Their culture is well disposed to academic success.

And even if it is ultimately demonstrated that there is a genetic basis for this group on average being somewhat higher/lower with regard to some specific trait, why should I call them "better"? I would say "with regard to that specific trait, there is a discernible genetically determined difference in the average of this group compared to others" or perhaps "the differences in traits of this group enable them to capture more resources in the present socio-economic environment".

Perhaps smart people will just find faster ways to destroy everything. It is not a foregone conclusion that smarter is better. Cultural and institutional phenomena such as those relating to teamwork or restrictions on authoritarian tendencies are probably far more critical to success than intelligence per se.

Sigh. You're not even trying to come up with a coherent rationalization.

Uhhh, no, you're not even trying to understand the perspective.

I get your point. You value (assessed) intelligence above everything, and apparently, almost to the exclusion of any possible other metric.

Me? In assessing whether someone is "better", I'm far more interested in their moral qualities than their (assessed) intelligence.

I remember reading about this ~ 13 yrs ago. Its an interesting paper, and idea. Two things:

"As to how the disease mutations might affect intelligence, the Utah researchers cite evidence that the sphingolipid disorders promote the growth and interconnection of brain cells. Mutations in the DNA repair genes, involved in second cluster of Ashkenazic diseases, may also unleash growth of neurones." [snip]

1) First, there are at least nine DNA enzyme repair systems in mammals. Mutations to these enzymes are like any other: > 99% deleterious. As any example of why they are important, in each skin cell exposed to uv in direct sunlight, there are 50-100 thymine dimers produced PER SECOND, each of which must be methodically repaired:


2) As to 'growth of neurones' this seems wooly. Neurons in humans continue to divide in the brain past birth, up to an age of 1-2 years. After this, the only thing the brain 'grows' is connections, through producing more dendrites. Many of these new connections are 'pruned back' in sleep, and the waste products generated cleared through the brain's recently discovered glymphatic system.


It will be interesting to see what happens to the sphingolipid hypothesis. I reckon the 'growth in neurones' notion is erroneous; the action's with the growth in dendritic connections.

Thanks for posting the paper [I couldn't find it a few years ago]

My impression is that there have been three planned tests of the Cochran-Harpending hypothesis, all of which have been called off for fear that it might prove true. I believe the closest the test came to being carried out was, not surprisingly, in Israel.

Unfortunately in today's tea party infested GOP, intellectual thinking or logical reasoning based on data /facts is labelled as elitist or worse, liberal. The trend started with Palin and her followers in 08 and just magnified today under Trump. This is aided big time by talk radio hosts like Limbaugh, Beck, Levin, etc and various bloggers. No wonder conservative academics feel out of place.

How much is Soros paying you? :p

How much is Trump paying you?

The ":p" at the end should have informed you I was being sarcastic.

Skepticism of purportedly intellectual works which challenge priors is certainly present on both sides of the spectrum these days. However, in the case of Canada that I'm more familiar with, it seemed at least in the last 10 years (before the former government was given the boot) that anti-intellectualism, anti-elitism and anti-data thinking was far more a defining feature of the right than the left.

For example, the Conservative government basically sabotaged the census methods in a way that made it essentially useless for evaluating the quality of public policy proposals, and public access to government-produced statistical data was significantly eroded. Not to mention that for practical purposes most producers and analyzers of public data were barred from speaking publicly about their work, whereas previously public servants often enjoyed the ability to speak freely with the media and various civil society organizations. This is slowly changing back again.

Not knowing anything about the situation, I'd guess that the right would oppose unfettered scientific claims by government employee because of their inherent bias in favor of government spending not to say anything about their proclivity to corrupt their own research.

A better example would be the almost religious quality of IQ deniers on the left.

Left sure has its share...but the tea party right has completely overshadowed left on all these things in recent years. If left can be stupid, tea party can be double stupid....Can't believe a tea party presidential candidate still argues for gold standard (Hint: Someone not called Trump)

The religiosity with regard to IQ is at least as fervent on the far right (in particular white supremacist quarters) as in certain quarters of the left.

Why always pretend that environment, culture and history are not relevant, for example?

I would say that a healthy mind never falls victim to "one big secret." That is, to some organizing principle that is behind everything but that they won't let you talk about. A healthy mind understands that the universe is a pretty incredible and varied place, and that competing forces lead to surprising outcomes more as the rule than the exception. And so, don't trust unhealthy minds who post hundreds of words on "one big secret" in back threads of a blog they don't even own. There is a lot more going on.

Freud's concept of "projection" has never been more relevant.

So .. my hang-up is that I think there is no secret?

Very few people in academia believe that global warming is a hoax. Very few people in academia believe in biblical inerrancy. Very few people in academia believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. As long as the Republicans say silly things very few people in academia will vote Republican. It's simply too embarrassing.

Try again

No, he's pretty much right.

Sure, but how many people in academia believe in the laws of supply and demand?

3x more than the rest of the population.

See, a criticism is only worth while if it somehow uniquely relates to someone's weaknesses. If it applies to all humans and simply describes human nature, then its not a criticism of that specific someone.

Academics are more likely to know Velben Goods. Citizens are more likely to own an iPhone.

Veblen goods and market failures are the currency of the left because they don't believe in micro; s&d.

I actually have no interest what the far left or far right think about them. They aren't going to add anything useful. So ah, thanks for your comment.

"3x more than the rest of the population.
See, a criticism is only worth while if it somehow uniquely relates to someone’s weaknesses."

No, you failed to take the statement in context. The original argument was: "As long as the Republicans say silly things very few people in academia will vote Republican. It’s simply too embarrassing."

However, Bernie Sanders says plenty of silly things regarding economics. But he has a large following among Academia. Certainly, academia is better educated than the general populace, but they are still largely creatures of tribalism. Are they more rational than the general populace? Sure. But so is any given Chamber of Commerce.

"However, Bernie Sanders says plenty of silly things regarding economics. But he has a large following among Academia."

I'm sure he has a large following among the English Lit department.

But if the general population is completely stupid, and academia is on average 3x smarter, it doesn't preclude that Bernie Sanders would have a "large following" in academia. Considering that at least 95% of the general public doesn't understand supply and demand (and it actually is not a simple concept in the first place), you're comparing against a very low bar.

The Democrats of my acquaintance think entirely in terms of Jon Stewart and John Oliver routines and posters with dumb quips on them. Doesn't seem to bother academe (which is shot through with people who think police and prisons have no effect on crime rates, among other silly things).

Unlike the rest of the the non-academic populace, who watch re-runs of Buckley every night in order to sharpen up their wit.

Jon Stewart is/was one of the most trusted sources of news in the country: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/22/time-magazine-poll-jon-st_n_242933.html.

I consider it as more of an indictment on the quality/bias in the news than about any notion that people would be dumb to see him as a trusted source of news. Of course, most of what he says is unmitigated horseshit, but in so doing, he draws attention to rather more truthful representations of what's going on, imo.

It does not matter what sort of social signals people in academia care to send. Not one in 100 knows much about climatology and some of those who do are quite skeptical that climatic processes are anything to be alarmed about.

Agreed, but 1/100 is still 100x bigger than 1/10,000, which is what it is in the general population, which also has very strong opinions on the issue. Again, pointing out that the same problems of all humanity apply to academia, isn't very interesting.

"Very few people in academia believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya."

It is true that Hillary was never in academia.

*Passing on the Right*
I have been doing this for over 30 years.
There are many slowpokes driving in the left lane.
Why does this even get a mention?

"From what I can find, historical returns on commercial real estate are comparable to equity returns. Disadvantage – AIG. But keep it up, I’m enjoying your rants."

You'd enjoy them more if you weren't too stupid to understand the point. Don't you have a Tai Lopez video to watch, or something?

Shields was part of a panel discussion (with Amy Binder and Neil Gross) on the topic of conservatives in academia at Wellesley a few weeks ago. Here's the video for anyone who is interested: https://youtu.be/dUDFtu_bjI4

I'll take a stab at it: consolidating progressivist gains?

"It is relatively easy to accept this [Buddhist concept of] impermanence abstractly and in general, but much harder to really bear in mind that things are impermanent when we make decisions in our lives"

He should ban you too.

You can make your case to him; his e-mail address is public. You're likely going to have to come up with something a tad more elevated than the drive-by insults my stalker crew favors.

Well, you can be an ass sometimes, but very often you have some interesting info and perspective to add.

Rarely the case with Harding, who is obsessed with his Trump-love, trolls people for no good reason, and very often introduces the most inane argumentation imaginable enroute to personalized attacks.

They were mostly posts about the size of Trump's hands.

What does it say about liberal intellectuals that they tend to be so comfortable in a political party? Modern Marxists and right-wing dissident intellectuals tend to be more interesting and honest than most academics.

Conservative academics, such as they are, will find their conservatism channeled into "appropriate" outlets in the economics and business schools if they want a viable career.

A professor of history at an elite university, meanwhile, turned right after taking a course with the Marxist historian Arno Mayer. This admiring historian recalled Mayer announcing to his class, “I’m going to assign the book I most disagree with in the twentieth century, and I’m going to ask you not to critique it, but to recreate its arguments with intellectual empathy.” The book was Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

It occurs to me that there is nothing to do with universities but shut them down. They are toast. The Road to Serfdom was the book he most disagreed with in the 20th century? Nothing written by, say, Stalin? Mao? Pol Pot?

Nice set of priorities dude.

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