Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stanford Study purports to demonstrate that racism is a reason why Obama policies are failing

The journal article is: "Racial Prejudice Predicts Opposition to Obama and His Health Care Reform Plan" by Eric D. Knowles, Brian S. Lowery, and Rebecca L. Schaumberg, in: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, November 2009.

This is another "negative associations" test. Such tests are very problematical for a number of reasons -- one of which is that some actively anti-racist people score highly on them -- so claims that they measure racism are extravagant. What they most usually "measure", if anything, could well be past bad experiences with blacks.

Further notes: 1). It could be quite rational to trust in a plan authored by Clinton rather than Obama -- as Clinton was the centrist that Obama only claims to be; 2). The fact that Prof. Lowery is black may have influenced the results; 3). There seems to be no claim that the people quizzed were a random sample of any known group so the generalizability of the results is unknown. One word summary: Crap

Does racism affect voters' responses to President Barack Obama’s policies? In September, former president Jimmy Carter argued yes in an interview with Brian Williams of NBC. A Democracy Corps focus-group study published on Oct. 16 disagreed, concluding that racial issues do not affect voters' beliefs, and that it was time for those who think otherwise to "get over it."

Recent research from the Stanford Graduate School of Business finds that Carter is correct –– race does matter. People's implicit racial prejudices corresponded with a reluctance to vote for Obama and with opposition to his health care reform plan, the study finds. In fact, when a description of a health care reform proposal was attributed to former President Bill Clinton rather than Obama, reactions suggested that individuals high in non-conscious anti-black prejudice tended to oppose Obama, at least in part because they dislike him as a black person.

"Many people are influenced by race, and either will not admit it or don't know it," says Brian Lowery, an associate professor of organizational behavior. To find evidence for "implicit," or non-conscious prejudice, he and two other investigators ran a computer-based test on more than 200 subjects prior to the 2008 presidential election. Individuals were asked to quickly pair "black" names (Aisha, Jamal, and so forth) and "white" names (Brett, Jane) with good words such as "beauty" and "friendly," or bad words such as "evil" and "hate."

Non-conscious prejudice was measured according to how quickly and easily people could identify the "bad" words after seeing African-American names (Aisha, Jamal, and so forth) as opposed to Anglo names (Brett, Jane). Lowery and his coauthors found [asserted?] that fewer errors, when African-American names (as opposed to Anglo names) were paired with a negative word, indicated that individuals had internalized negative associations with black people –– and served as a measure of non-conscious prejudice.

In the month after the election, participants were asked how they had voted. Those who made few errors on the black/bad pairings were nearly 43% less likely to have voted for Obama than those with average scores. "As implicit prejudice increased, the likelihood of voting for Obama decreased," explains Lowery.

Nearly a year later, in October 2009, some of the same participants rated their attitudes about Obama's approach to health care reform. Others were randomly assigned to read a description of health care reform framed either as being President Obama’s plan or Bill Clinton's plan.

Once again, increasing implicit prejudice was associated with negative attitudes toward Obama and decreasing support for his health care policy. Prejudice scores did not correlate with favorability toward the plan when it was described as coming from Clinton, but they did result in a more negative assessment when it was described as coming from Obama.

"This study represents a powerful demonstration of the fact that racial attitudes still operate in the political arena," says Lowery, who conducted the research with Stanford doctoral student Rebecca Schaumberg and Eric Knowles, assistant professor at the University of California at Irvine. "It also suggests that Obama is likely to encounter some degree of prejudice-fueled opposition to his policies across the board."


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

LOL! Leftist philosophers tie themselves into a knot

Philosophy is a rather vague term used to cover a lot of loose thinking. I belong to the tradition called Anglo-Saxon empiricism, though some of the most notable exponents of Anglo-Saxon empiricism were not Anglo-Saxon. Ludwig Wittgenstein, for instance, was an Austrian Jew. Anglo-Saxon empiricists restrict their task to something quite akin to science. They look for order and regularity in discourse and try to clear up what people are saying and implying when they say certain kinds of things. And that is, of course, no easy task.

Such thinking was once dominant in Anglo-Saxon philosophy schools but the great expansion of tertiary education in recent decades has meant that many less rigorous thinkers have been employed as philosophers, some even being third-rate enough to find enlightenment in the words of an obsolete economist called Karl Marx. So philosophy schools are now replete with people who seem to think they are being profound when they say: "There is no such thing as right and wrong" or "There are many realities". To an Anglo-Saxon empiricist, such statements are simply confused.

Such confused thinking is usually described (rather fancifully) these days as "postmodernism" but for historical purposes it is probably best subsumed under the broad category of "existentialism" -- and there were many prominent existentialist thinkers in the first half of the 20th century, particularly in Germany. And many existentialist thinkers at that time were sympathetic to National Socialism (Nazism), just as their counterparts today are solidly in favour of all sorts of Leftist thinking. So existentialist thinking and Leftism have always been intimately associated among many who call themselves philosophers. And it should therefore be no surprise that prewar existentialists sound very profound to existentialists today.

The Nazi connection is however embarrassing. Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, DeMan and others sound very good and wise and profound to Leftist philosophers today so how do you cope with the Nazi connection? Easy: In the traditional Leftist way of dealing with all inconvenient facts -- by ignoring it.

One of the holier of today's existentialists has however recently upset the applecart by pointing out that the great god Heidegger was a Nazi and calling for all Heidegger's thinking to be denounced and renounced. Leftists are not letting go of such an inspiring (to them) figure as Heidegger, however. What Heidegger says is central to what they say, so to denounce Heidegger would be to denounce most of their own thinking. And there the matter rests at the moment. A small excerpt from a NYT story about the matter below. That Nazi thinking is one subset of socialist thinking is, of course, never acknowledged:
For decades the German philosopher Martin Heidegger has been the subject of passionate debate. His critique of Western thought and technology has penetrated deeply into architecture, psychology and literary theory and inspired some of the most influential intellectual movements of the 20th century. Yet he was also a fervent Nazi.

Now a soon-to-be published book in English has revived the long-running debate about whether the man can be separated from his philosophy. Drawing on new evidence, the author, Emmanuel Faye, argues fascist and racist ideas are so woven into the fabric of Heidegger’s theories that they no longer deserve to be called philosophy. As a result Mr. Faye declares, Heidegger’s works and the many fields built on them need to be re-examined lest they spread sinister ideas as dangerous to modern thought as “the Nazi movement was to the physical existence of the exterminated peoples.”

First published in France in 2005, the book, “Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy,” calls on philosophy professors to treat Heidegger’s writings like hate speech. Libraries, too, should stop classifying Heidegger’s collected works (which have been sanitized and abridged by his family) as philosophy and instead include them under the history of Nazism. These measures would function as a warning label, like a skull-and-crossbones on a bottle of poison, to prevent the careless spread of his most odious ideas, which Mr. Faye lists as the exaltation of the state over the individual, the impossibility of morality, anti-humanism and racial purity.

The book is the most radical attack yet on Heidegger (1889-1976) and would upend the philosophical field’s treatment of his work in the United States, and even more so in France, where Heidegger has frequently been required reading for an advanced degree. Mr. Faye, an associate professor at the University of Paris, Nanterre, not only wants to drum Heidegger from the ranks of philosophers, he wants to challenge his colleagues to rethink the very purpose of philosophy and its relationship to ethics.

At the same time scholars in disciplines as far flung as poetry and psychoanalysis would be obliged to reconsider their use of Heidegger’s ideas. Although Mr. Faye talks about the close connection between Heidegger and current right-wing extremist politics, left-wing intellectuals have more frequently been inspired by his ideas. Existentialism and postmodernism as well as attendant attacks on colonialism, atomic weapons, ecological ruin and universal notions of morality are all based on his critique of the Western cultural tradition and reason.

I go into some detail about the confusions of "postmodernist" thinking here

Monday, November 02, 2009

The latest "Conservatives are stupid" accusation

This is of course an old chestnut and I have myself previously reported research on it. I found that LEFTISTS were dumber. So what are we to make of the latest research report below? Not much. Following a pattern that is all too common among psychologists, the author seems never to have heard of the concept of sampling. A group of college students or even college applicants is NOT representative of the population as a whole. And young people are notoriously Left-leaning. They have so little experience that they know no better. So if Left-leaning people among a Left-leaning group are smarter, it probably just means that smarter people are better able to pick up what is required for acceptance in that group. It has no wider implications than that.

Even if the results were generalizable, however, there would still be problems with the inferences to be drawn from them. There is in fact some generalizable evidence on the topic drawn from general population sampling. I discuss it here
Conservatism and cognitive ability

Lazar Stankov


Conservatism and cognitive ability are negatively correlated. The evidence is based on 1254 community college students and 1600 foreign students seeking entry to United States' universities. At the individual level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with SAT, Vocabulary, and Analogy test scores. At the national level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with measures of education (e.g., gross enrollment at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels) and performance on mathematics and reading assessments from the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) project. They also correlate with components of the Failed States Index and several other measures of economic and political development of nations. Conservatism scores have higher correlations with economic and political measures than estimated IQ scores.