All posts filed under: Social Science

Selective Blank Slatism and Ideologically Motivated Misunderstandings

Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select—doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. ~John B. Watson Blank slatism is the view, exemplified here with John B. Watson’s characteristic arrogance, that human nature is highly flexible and largely determined by environmental forces. Because almost all the available evidence suggests that blank slatism is incorrect, many scholars are puzzled that versions of this philosophy appear to remain popular in certain university departments and among the intelligentsia more broadly. Some critics of progressivism, such as the economist Thomas Sowell, have contended that political progressives are particularly likely to hold blank slate beliefs as a result of their tendency to attribute many social disparities to environmental and social causes and to de-emphasize genetic ones. Others—usually those favorably inclined to progressivism, like the Guardian‘s …

Sex, Love, and Knowing the Difference

We all remember the first time we fell in love. No matter how strong or independent or free you thought you were, all at once, you became powerless in the face of feelings that, to others, seemed obsessive and irrational. When you’re in that state, everything reminds you of the one you love. They become the center of your world. Friends say your face lights up when you talk about them. You can’t sleep, you can’t eat. The thought of being without them feels like losing a part of yourself. There are biological reasons that explain why the experience of being in love feels so overwhelming. These emotions serve an evolutionary purpose. Specifically, they allow two people to bond in a way that increases the likelihood they’ll procreate and maintain an environment in which the resulting offspring survive. Neurobiologists know that love usually occurs in three phases: lust, attraction and attachment. In the first phase, lust, sex hormones create physiological arousal; in the second phase, attraction, dopamine creates intense feelings associated with the object of …

Cambridge Capitulates to the Mob and Fires a Young Scholar

We live at a time where academic freedom is under threat from ideologues and activists of all persuasions. The latest threat comes from St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, where administrators appear to have capitulated to a mob of activists (students and academics) who mounted a campaign to have a young scholar fired for “problematic” research. The back-story was covered by Quillette last December. The norms of academia—which have been built up and preserved by institutions such as Cambridge for centuries—demand that academics engage with each other in a scholarly manner. That is, if one academic has a problem with the methods or conclusions of another’s research, he or she should address those concerns within journals, according to established procedures, which other scholars can then read and respond to, including the academic whose research is being challenged. Today, due to the hyper-specialisation of academic fields, most academics will not be able to judge the quality of scholarship that is published in journals outside their field. That’s why when research is peer-reviewed it is done by experts in the …

On the Eve of the Great Psychedelic Debate

Trippy “Medicine” Listening to some of the opponents of medical marijuana over the last few years, one could be forgiven for thinking that they have never heard of a psychoactive substance being used in medicine before. These people might be surprised to learn that in England the doctor can send you home with a prescription for pain called diamorphine, a fancy word for heroin. They might be equally surprised to learn that the anti-obesity prescription Desoxyn is nothing more than methamphetamine in a pill, or that the popular ADHD medication Adderall is very similar to methamphetamine chemically and physiologically. If you’ve had throat, dental or nose surgery there’s a chance the anesthetist used cocaine to numb your senses as it restricts the flow of blood more than any other local anesthetic (the cocaine alkaloid is extracted from coca leaves for medical use and the leftover de-cocainized extract sent to Coca Cola for flavoring). You won’t hear it put this way. No doctor says to the cancer patient, “I suggest you use smack from here on …

What Light Does ‘Three Identical Strangers’ Throw on the Nature/Nurture Debate?

The 2018 film, Three Identical Strangers, is gripping. It is both an exposé of a 1950s secret twin study (studies of triplets fall under the general heading of “twin or multiple birth studies”) and a heartbreaking portrayal of identical triplets, Robert, David and Eddy, who were separated at birth, then unknowingly placed under a microscope by psychologists intent upon learning how different family practices might yield different behavioral outcomes. This unthinkable episode in the history of twin research challenges not just established norms, but belief in the sacredness of family, and faith in the integrity of science. More needs to be researched and revealed about this dark study and I will be writing just such a book over the next year. And as one twin observed, “I wish someone would start a support group. This is all so crazy—no one, not even us twins understand the complexity.” Looking into the twins’ and triplets’ stolen childhoods and its profound effects on their lives will be a key goal. It is also vital to understand why identical …

What’s the State of Free Speech on Campus? That’s the Question We Asked Canadian Academics

We are students, academics and medical science researchers at the University of Alberta. We’ve had our eye on the state of academic freedom in Canada for years, in large part due to our experiences serving on various academic-governance bodies. In mid-2017, we began to wonder if there was any way we could quantify free speech on campus. Was there a threat? Was it widespread—or just a localized phenomenon that characterized elite American liberal-arts schools (which is where most of the most widely shared anecdotes are rooted)? Having just observed Bret Weinstein’s ordeal at Evergreen State College and Jordan Peterson’s fight for free speech at the University of Toronto, we wanted to see if concerns in this area were shared by academics at other institutions. So we decided to start asking questions. And in the process, we collected some interesting statistics. For example, 39% of Canadian academic respondents to our survey said that if they had more academic freedom, their students would receive a better education. We also found out how difficult it could be to …

The Attractions of the Clan—An Interview with Mark Weiner

Why are ambulances attacked by rock-throwing youths in Sweden? And how should Germany deal with a recent surge in clan-based crime?  Mark S. Weiner is a professor of legal history, a scholar of multiculturalism and the author of The Rule of the Clan: What an Ancient Form of Social Organization Reveals About the Future of Individual Freedom. Quillette’s European editor Paulina Neuding spoke to him in Stockholm, Sweden. Weiner is currently on a Fulbright scholarship at Uppsala University, where he is teaching about American constitutional law, collaborating with Swedish scholars of prehospital medicine—and riding along with paramedics in immigrant and other neighborhoods. What follows is an edited reproduction of that interview.   *   *   * Paulina Neuding: Sweden has experienced a rise in violence against first responders in recent decades, including rock throwing against paramedics in the country’s “vulnerable areas.” How do you explain this phenomenon? Mark S. Weiner: The easy answer is that Sweden has a growing population of alienated young men, and ambulances are representatives of social and government authority. If I were …

Want to Change the World? First, You Have to Listen to It

The essay that follows is adapted from Irshad Manji’s newly published book, “Don’t Label Me: An Incredible Conversation for Divided Times.“ Liberals, among whom I count myself, are sometimes wise. So wise that we should take much of our own advice to others. In the wake of 9/11, for example, many of my fellow liberals said that Americans must strive to understand why some Muslims gravitate to jihadism. Only by understanding, they stressed, can effective solutions be found. Bull, I remember thinking—or, rather, emoting. At the time, my emotions equated understanding with excusing. I was wrong. As a reformer within my faith of Islam, I’ve spoken with plenty of ex-jihadists. While I can’t claim this for every crusader on a homicide mission, the guys I met abandoned militant extremism only after they felt heard. Not coddled. Not swaddled. Just listened to by folks who excoriated their ideology yet accepted them as individuals with backstories. What if we applied this insight to white supremacists and those who support them? Let’s conduct a thought experiment. Richard Spencer, …

I Know what Intersectionality Is, and I Wish it Were Less Important

Having gestated in academia, Intersectionality has escaped into the broader world. It’s a foundational doctrine of third-wave feminism. It’s long had its own study group—the section on race, gender, and class—within the American Sociological Association, with an intellectual heritage in works by Patricia Hill Collins and Evelyn Nakano Glenn that preceded Kimberlé Crenshaw’s 1989 coinage of the i-word. Intersectionality has garnered increasing attention in the past few years, but its big coming out party occurred in December of last year when Senator Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY) tweeted that “our future is … intersectional.” Our future is: FemaleIntersectional Powered by our belief in one another. And we’re just getting started. — Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) December 5, 2018 So it was timely that Anne Sisson Runyan published a primer in the November-December 2018 issue of Academe entitled “What Is Intersectionality and Why Is It Important?” Runyan does a good enough job of defining Intersectionality, but I honestly wish it were a little less important: as it’s typically practiced, Intersectionality is an intellectual straitjacket and an albatross for activism. …

How Real Is Systemic Racism Today?

Racist attitudes of whites towards blacks have long become socially unacceptable in America, although the reverse, racism of a minority directed at the white majority, is still tolerated or even encouraged. However, statistical racial disparities persist. African Americans, as a population, continue to suffer income, crime and incarceration rate, health, housing and family-structure deficits by comparison with the white population. These disparities cannot easily be attributed to racist behavior by whites. The disparities have either increased or remained the same while individual racist behavior has declined. What then is the cause of these disparities? There are two possibilities: causes within individuals, what I have elsewhere called endogenous causes; or external, exogenous causes. Endogenous Causes of Black-White Disparities Endogenous causes were in fact the first ones to be studied, with unfortunate results. Bigots stigmatized the entire “black race” as inferior because of lower average scores on, for example, IQ tests. Blacks’ under-performance in terms of status, health, incomes, etc. was then comfortably attributed to their alleged built-in inadequacy. The usual presumption was that IQ is fixed at birth, …