If Hitler said…
Posted: 10 May 2013 11:57 AM   [ Ignore ]
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If Hitler said kittens are cute, does that mean they’re not?

That’s a question I pose sometimes to a person who has a knee-jerk response to an emotionally loaded question.  It gets to the heart of many discussions, for example racism.  In the Hitler example it’d be normal to say anything Hitler said, because he was such a vile and evil person (which is absolutely true IMO), must be wrong. It feels correct to say that.  So the kitten question kind of brings out the fact that, well the truth is the truth no matter who says it.

So take a similar approach to something that was just in the news: A member of the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation co-wrote a report about the cost of immigration reform. This Harvard PhD in 2009 included in his thesis on the subject the statement (words to the effect): “Blacks and Mexicans have lower IQs than Whites” and therefore… etc. You can imagine his point. (Again, I can’t stress enough, especially to VRZAM or whatever his name is who apparently finds it hard to debate, I personally don’t give a shizzit about a person’s IQ. Means absolutely nothing to me as far as their value as a person goes.)

So our instinct, assuming most of us are liberals here, would be to say this guy is a racist and a liar (and a conservative to boot) AND has got to be wrong.  But is he a racist for saying that?  What if the data did show that? Would we be willing to accept the data? NOW…this of course doesn’t in any way mean that if we agreed with him, that we should agree with whatever his conclusions are.  That’s the hard part.  An analogy would be in the discussion of women in military. I think it’s a pretty established fact that women tend to be less strong physically than men. Does that mean they shouldn’t serve in the military? Absolutely not. In fact we could probably argue that’s all the more reason to let them serve…assist in whatever way we can to help them gain physical stength, etc. (Again not my personal opinion here. I actually think if a woman wants to serve, regardless of her strength or whatever, it’s her choice to make, not mine.)

Point is, and this really is relavent to so many discussions in CFI: Are we really, REALLY, willing to go where the facts lead us? Or are we just as likely to be arguing points simply based on the fact that we don’t like them or don’t want them to be true? It’s a tough thing regardless of which side of a debate you’re on.

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Posted: 10 May 2013 01:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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In fact, Hitler hated and feared cats, something he shared with other famous or infamous dictators, which I find interesting.  He loved dogs.  That tells us nothing about dogs, but it does tell us something about those who love dogs.  They’re like Hitler!

Only in that respect, of course.  And, those who hate and fear cats are like him as well.  If that is the only characteristic they share with Hitler, though, they’re obviously not very much like him at all.

It’s rather hard to make inferences based on the comment of the Harvardian you refer to, as you’ve provided no information regarding on what if anything he relied on in making that statement, the circumstances in which he said it, or the context in which he said it.  I personally would think it a rather difficult thing to prove, but I don’t know much about IQ tests and whether he was referring to the results of such tests, the number of people who took the tests, etc.  If the statement was made with little or no support, that may indicate a bias and that he’s something of a fool, to boot.

When blanket statements regarding groups of people are made (especially without explanation or qualification), ascribing to them certain characteristics which are undesirable, a reasonable inference may be made that it is intended that the person making the statement wishes to denigrate the group as a whole.  Those who make such statements, in my experience, haven’t devoted much thought to them if they have thought at all, and certainly are not exercising much in the way of judgment by making such broad, unguarded and unqualified claims.  They’re generally trying to shock or offend, or do both.  When someone says something along the lines of “all those people are the same” they make a claim regarding the group, which may be a race, and are doing so irresponsibly.

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Posted: 10 May 2013 03:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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CuthbertJ - 10 May 2013 11:57 AM

Point is, and this really is relavent to so many discussions in CFI: Are we really, REALLY, willing to go where the facts lead us? Or are we just as likely to be arguing points simply based on the fact that we don’t like them or don’t want them to be true? It’s a tough thing regardless of which side of a debate you’re on.

No way are skeptics/rationalists always willing to go where facts lead.

You mentioned “Harvard”, and I quickly recall the Lawrence Summers’ s**tstorm of several years ago, Haha.  But, no one is totally rational, and we all have our emotional triggers. I think those who identify more strongly as secular humanists, are easier to upset in this way.

On this forum, we’re no different.  I’ve found it annoying - and inspiring that some members can strongly disagree in one thread, but have totally compatible views in another.

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Posted: 10 May 2013 07:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Cuthbert-So the kitten question kind of brings out the fact that, well the truth is the truth no matter who says it.

I know we’re all getting a little flustered here…tell me again, what truths have you brought up that has made everyone uneasy?
Please lay those truths on us again.  I forgot what they were.
By the way…love the title of this thread. Really works!

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Posted: 11 May 2013 07:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I always TRY to go where the facts lead, although I know I’m as human as the next guy.  In the Harvard example you mentioned earlier (“Blacks and Mexicans have lower IQs than whites”), I seriously considered the statement and began to wonder what factors other than race might account for it.

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Posted: 11 May 2013 08:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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If Hitler said cats are cute I’d think he was up to something.

If anyone, Harvard graduate or not, said Blacks and Mexicans have lower IQs than whites, if I would bother to respond at all, I would ask what he is basing his opinion on. I would insist on hard empirical evidence.  But I try not to waste my time on anyone who would make such a statement.  Just that statement alone would make me think his brain is not functioning properly, no matter what degrees he has or where they’re from.  There are plenty of thick Ph.Ds and some of them are from Harvard.  I am never impressed by an academic degree when someone makes a statement that reveals his ignorance.

Lois

[ Edited: 11 May 2013 08:55 PM by Lois ]
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Posted: 11 May 2013 09:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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http://news.yahoo.com/analyst-said-immigrants-lower-iq-resigns-u-conservative-223121938.html

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Posted: 11 May 2013 10:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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CuthbertJ - 10 May 2013 11:57 AM

“Blacks and Mexicans have lower IQs than Whites”
<snip>
What if the data did show that?
<snap>
Are we really, REALLY, willing to go where the facts lead us?

Well, where do the facts lead us? That we should invest more in social equality? More in education? Or should we conclude that the difference between different population groups are justified? Should we draw any moral conclusions from these facts? Which?

The methodological problems of in vivo research in such topics are gigantic. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rece_and_intelligence (and write ‘rece’ as race’. Simplistic spam filter…)

for an overview. We can all cherry-pick the ideas we like most.

Thanks TromboneAndrew for the good find…

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Posted: 11 May 2013 11:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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GdB-Well, where do the facts lead us? That we should invest more in social equality? More in education? Or should we conclude that the difference between different population groups are justified? Should we draw any moral conclusions from these facts? Which?

Bingo! If in fact they are facts in the first place…....

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Posted: 11 May 2013 11:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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MidAltlantic-No way are skeptics/rationalists always willing to go where facts lead.

I know I am always ready to do that.
Please…tell me some facts and show me where they lead.  I’ll be waiting here.

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Posted: 14 May 2013 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Lois - 11 May 2013 08:07 AM

If Hitler said cats are cute I’d think he was up to something.

If anyone, Harvard graduate or not, said Blacks and Mexicans have lower IQs than whites, if I would bother to respond at all, I would ask what he is basing his opinion on. I would insist on hard empirical evidence.  But I try not to waste my time on anyone who would make such a statement.  Just that statement alone would make me think his brain is not functioning properly, no matter what degrees he has or where they’re from.  There are plenty of thick Ph.Ds and some of them are from Harvard.  I am never impressed by an academic degree when someone makes a statement that reveals his ignorance.

Lois

Couldn’t agree more on not being impressed by an academic degree (other than the ones I’m paying for for my kids wink ).  My point was IF there was empirical evidence to support that Harvard guys claim, would you accept it? Of course like I said, and Gb too, accepting a fact and acting on it are two different things. The follow on point would be, are we served better by admitting hard-to-swallow facts, or by pretending they’re not true? This is like the Alcoholics Anon approach: step 1 is to admit you have a problem. (Rest of the steps if I remember correctly are garbage, but step 1 seems legit.)

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Posted: 14 May 2013 11:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Cuthbert, before you cast the stone (although you already did), let me remind you what you called me in the gay thread for saying that people turn gay: “coot who’s stuck in the past,” “a real REAL bad communicator,” one with “discomfort with homosexuality” and the need of “little self-analysis” due to “some internal conflicting notions floating around in my head.” People do turn gay. If they didn’t, then identical twins would always have the same sexual preference. And they don’t. Becoming (i.e. “turning”) gay must therefore happen for different reasons than becoming heterosexual.

I know you don’t like it, but maybe now you understand why others may not appreciate your “hard-to-swallow facts.”

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Posted: 14 May 2013 12:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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And I obviously don’t mean to say that you should stop pointing out these hard-to-swallow facts; this is the CFI after all. Just stop whining when others here react more like Bones than Mr. Spock.

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Posted: 14 May 2013 01:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I always liked Mr. Spock better than Bones, even though Spock is an alien.

Anyway, 2 points in this thread are well taken.

1) We should accept well supported facts as well supported facts regardless of who states them and regardless of our emotional disinclinations to do so.

2) We should not over-generalize those facts to support some agenda that they do not necessarily support.

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Posted: 16 May 2013 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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George - 14 May 2013 11:56 AM

Cuthbert, before you cast the stone (although you already did), let me remind you what you called me in the gay thread for saying that people turn gay: “coot who’s stuck in the past,” “a real REAL bad communicator,” one with “discomfort with homosexuality” and the need of “little self-analysis” due to “some internal conflicting notions floating around in my head.” People do turn gay. If they didn’t, then identical twins would always have the same sexual preference. And they don’t. Becoming (i.e. “turning”) gay must therefore happen for different reasons than becoming heterosexual.

I know you don’t like it, but maybe now you understand why others may not appreciate your “hard-to-swallow facts.”

First, my discussion here was hypothetical. It wasn’t about certain facts per se, but whether given some fact, would we be willing to accept it no matter how unpleasant. We could have had the same conversation about the color of the sky.

As for your statements about gays, I’m sorry but your “turning gay” belief flies in the face of current research. People are born homosexual or not. I’m not an expert though but maybe it’d help your case to point out research you’ve seen on identical twins. According to your laymen’s definition it sounds like you’d expect identical twins to be literally exact copies of each other down to every freckle.

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