All posts filed under: recent

The Environment Is too Important to Leave to Environmentalists

The fact that belief in climate change in the US tends to correlate with political affiliation should tell you that we are not objectively interpreting the science as much as we are following the values of our chosen peer group. Because in a world where we follow the evidence, it’s an extraordinarily unlikely outcome. The truth is that the science of what is happening is as settled as science ever is. That isn’t to be conflated with the challenges of predicting the future. However sophisticated the predictive models get, they are still speculative. And it isn’t to be understood as believing all the headlines written by journalists too lazy to check the original sources (no, all insects are not about to die out—at least, the research that prompted those headlines does not provide any such evidence). We know enough to understand that we should be taking serious action. The fact that the only groups advocating action at the moment are demanding questionable strategies doesn’t change that. If you’re in a vehicle heading towards a cliff …

Old Masters Remix: A review of ‘Life Death Rebirth’, the Michaelangelo/Bill Viola exhibition at the Royal Academy

The Royal Academy in London has mounted an exhibition with the very serious title of “LIFE DEATH REBIRTH,” putting video installations by the American artist Bill Viola (b.1951) together with some drawings by the Renaissance master Michelangelo (1475–1564). Museum curators have increasingly been foisting such juxtapositions on us, because it is their job to worry about how we should respond to art and right now it feels as if the Old Masters are losing their appeal. Their religious and mythological themes no longer seem so “relevant,” because the will, and the incentives, to understand them are gone. So this new curatorial strategy, which we might call the “Old Master Remix,” is contrived to bring in different crowds at once: a bit of fashionable Contemporary Art will help to cause a stir, while conferring relevance again on the old by showing how it happens to resemble the new. Equally, the most illustrious works of the past can help to confer a certain historical credibility on the contemporary artworks displayed alongside them—the association alone is enough to …

What If Ayn Rand Was Right About Entrepreneurs and Inequality?

Few public figures have managed to consistently attract both sheer adoration and abject disgust quite like Russian-American author Ayn Rand. Fewer still have created an intellectual legacy with as much endurance as her radically individualistic philosophy of Objectivism. Atlas Shrugged remains a cherished favorite of venture capitalists and libertarian-leaning politicians all over the planet, with a notable stronghold in Washington D.C., perhaps even within the Oval Office itself. Rand’s literary influence is often derided as a mere reflection of the tractability and moral certitude afforded by her novels, her economic principles disregarded as patently ridiculous. Galt’s Gulch has attracted so much scorn as to become something of a joke, a way to easily scoff at the naive utopianism of laissez-faire capitalism. Rand and her largely philosophical economic views have been consigned to history as an interesting relic of sorts—a compelling, well-articulated fantasy that has no basis in reality. How then should we interpret new research from the Nation Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) that suggests her controversial description of the income inequality dynamic might have …

The Folly of Disappearing Art and Culture

Following the harrowing recent documentary Leaving Neverland, which detailed sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson, executive producers of The Simpsons, James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, and Al Jean, have decided to remove an episode from the canon in which Jackson’s voice makes an appearance. It is not the content of the episode, “Stark Raving Dad,” which aired in 1991, that is now in question, but Jackson’s very participation in the episode. .@TheSimpsons Farewell to SRD https://t.co/LOmIEzMFm5 — Al Jean (@AlJean) March 9, 2019 It is absurd that creators who have themselves been accused of causing offense are now excising content from season 2 of their seminal 30 season series of animated Americana. But the real affront is to fans and consumers, who will no longer have access to this content, and need to decide whether they want to be protected from material that was previously available across all platforms. Back when The Simpsons premiered, first on The Tracy Ullman Show, and then as a standalone half hour on Fox in 1989, it was one of more …

Paul Manafort and Systemic Bias

As we navigate the world, we attempt to understand the structures that surround us. And often, because we struggle with complexity and uncertainty, our putative knowledge comes packaged in neat and tidy descriptions of societal phenomena, invoked with a high degree of epistemic confidence. Rather than indulging explanations rife with qualifiers and disclaimers—for example, “System X is Y in areas C, B and Q but not in D and F”—we defer to absolute, uncompromising narratives that allow for the staking of moral high ground. In order to sustain these narratives—and, by extension, our moral certainty—singular cases are adduced as definitive proof of system-wide descriptions, inapt analogies are drawn, and relevant/countervailing facts are elided. In discussions about racism in the U.S. criminal justice system, the dynamics are no different. The 47-month sentence received by Paul Manafort, former campaign chairman for President Trump, has provided fodder for bias theorists. According to their account, the U.S. criminal justice system has two-tiers: one for those with white collars and white skin and another for those with blue collars (or …

Gender’s Journey from Sex to Psychology: A Brief History

There’s no relief from our current cultural conversation on transgender rights. Its implications touch all of us, and the media coverage is relentless. Here at Quillette alone, you may read about the long-term consequences of transitioning for children, the political costs of deadnaming, Twitter’s policies on “hateful conduct” (including tweeting things like “men aren’t women”), the controversy surrounding trans women competing in female sports events, and the widening chasm between trans-inclusive feminists and trans-exclusive “radical” feminists. Surrounded by this whirlwind, I thought it would be useful to provide a historical meta-survey on the issue, tracing the debate back to its origins, so that we all might be better positioned to digest the next news cycle. Below, you’ll find a brief history of our culture’s “gender” talk: its origins, its philosophical evolution, and its current controversies. Gender as we’ve come to understand it, I will argue, is an idea so shot through with murky confusion. We will soon have to replace it with something more intellectually durable, or abandon it altogether. * * * Once upon …

Joe Rogan is the Walter Cronkite of Our Era

It is always tempting to believe that we live in historic times. It strokes the ego to think that decades from now, people will look back on current events as the starting point of some dramatic, epochal change. As a comedian, professionally cynical and distrustful of epic narratives, I usually dismiss such notions as the delusions of grandeur of an increasingly narcissistic generation. Yet as I sat glued to my computer last week, watching Joe Rogan and Tim Pool interrogate Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Vijaya Gadde (the company’s global lead for legal, policy, and trust and safety), I could not shake the feeling that I was witnessing a historic moment. It has long been an open secret that the mainstream media (MSM) is dying. Of all America’s major institutions and industries, only the U.S. Congress is trusted less by the public than the media. The MSM’s one saving grace was its ability to engage in high-end, investigative journalism by pouring millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours into complex, wide-ranging and secretive operations in …

Down the Rabbit Hole of Political Intolerance in Silicon Valley

Editor’s note: Blake J. Harris is the bestselling author of Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation, which is currently being adapted for television by Legendary Entertainment, producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and Scott Rudin. His second book, The History of The Future—which was published on February 19—chronicles the dramatic, larger-than-life true story behind the founding of Oculus, and its quest for virtual reality, and the company’s $3 billion acquisition by Facebook. What follows is an interview with Harris conducted by Quillette’s Clay Routledge.  Clay Routledge: I just finished your latest book, The History of the Future. And I have to tell you, I tore through it. Such a fascinating story in so many ways. What made you interested in telling the story of Oculus VR and its founder, Palmer Luckey? Blake J. Harris: So back in 2014, my first book was published. This was a big, life-changing experience for me. Prior to that—for the previous eight years—I had been a commodities broker, buying and selling things like sugar, coffee …

Attraction Inequality and the Dating Economy

Jesus said that the poor would always be with us. Despite the best efforts of philanthropists and redistributionists over the last two millennia, he has been right so far. Every nation in the world has poor and rich, separated by birth and luck and choice. The inequality between rich and poor, and its causes and remedies, are discussed ad nauseam in public policy debates, campaign platforms, and social media screeds. However, the relentless focus on inequality among politicians is usually quite narrow: they tend to consider inequality only in monetary terms, and to treat “inequality” as basically synonymous with “income inequality.” There are so many other types of inequality that get air time less often or not at all: inequality of talent, height, number of friends, longevity, inner peace, health, charm, gumption, intelligence, and fortitude. And finally, there is a type of inequality that everyone thinks about occasionally and that young single people obsess over almost constantly: inequality of sexual attractiveness. The economist Robin Hanson has written some fascinating articles that use the cold and …

Science Denial Won’t End Sexism

Last week, Nature, one of the top scientific journals in the world, ran a review written by Lise Eliot of Gina Rippon’s new book, The Gendered Brain: The New Neuroscience that Shatters the Myth of the Female Brain. Both Eliot and Rippon, neuroscientists affiliated with Rosalind Franklin University and Aston University, respectively, are vocal supporters of the view that gender, and the corresponding differences we see between men and women, are socially constructed. Not a week goes by without yet another research study, popular science book, or mainstream news article promoting the idea that (a) any differences between men and women in the brain are purely socially constructed and (b) these differences have been exaggerated beyond any meaningful relevance. More recently, this argument has evolved to contend that (c) there are, in fact, no brain differences between the sexes at all. Eliot’s article appears to subscribe to a hodgepodge of all three perspectives, which not only contradict one another but are also factually incorrect. So begins the book review, titled, “Neurosexism: The myth that men …