Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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This is an archive of some posts made at my WordPress accounte. You may prefer reading them there—in particular, if you want to give feedback. I strongly encourage you to never link here, but directly to the WordPress account. For more current entries and other archives, see: current, archive 1, archive 2


Blogroll update

A few months ago, I encountered a twelve-part article series on the medieval witch hunts.e Being swamped with other things, I only read the first few parts at the time. Having now completed the reading, I would like to belatedly recommend it to others. Particular value is found in giving detailed information on the Catholic Church’s actual position on witches, who the typical perpetrators where, etc. Most of us have probably already learned in history class that the stereotypical image of a persecuting church is exaggerated and outdated (numbers of victims rivaling the Holocaust is certainly a fringe view), but the detailed treatment gives a noticeably deeper understanding. In other areas some more surprising pieces of information is found.

Obviously, reading about the witch hunts is also valuable with an eye on somewhat similar modern phenomena concerning e.g. child-porn or satanistic child abuse.

While recommending the series, I also raise a warning that the site (bibleapologetics.wordpress.come) is likely to be partial, which may or may not be reflected in some of the articles (e.g. when comparing Church and Science).

By the FIFO principle, Mansförtryck och kvinnovälde [pdf]e is removed. That entry was first discussed here.

Yet another group of absurd debaters

(Remark: Apart from Creationism, religion has hardly ever been a topic on this blog, so I take the opportunity to stress that my opinion of religion and typical religious organisations is mostly negative. I am, however, also a believer in fair debate based on arguments, facts, and reasoning—not, even be it against things of religion, cheap rhetoric, misrepresentations, and insults.)

Following up on the tags of my latest post, I encountered a blog entry calling the Pope a “card carrying Nazi”e. Having repeatedly seen this faulty (and, probaly, libelous) claim made based on his membership in Hitler Jugend, I left a correction:

The Pope is by no means a card-carrying Nazi. To quote from Wikipedia:

> Following his 14th birthday in 1941, Ratzinger was conscripted into the Hitler Youth — as membership was required by law for all 14-year old German boys after December 1939[9] — but was an unenthusiastic member who refused to attend meetings.[10] His father was an enemy of Nazism, believing it conflicted with the Catholic faith.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Ratzingerw )

The reply was a confounding:

I think his anti-gay and anti-woman edicts state exactly what he is!

(I note, with an eye on later comments, that no reservation was added that “nazi” had been intended in a metaphorical sense. In addition, “card-carrying” does speak against a metaphorical use, and points to a formal membership or, in an extended sense, very strong support on an ideological level.)

I will leave the question whether the Pope is anti-gay and anti-woman aside (but I do make the reservation that it is not uncommon for PC groups to have extremely broad and unfair definitions of terms like these). However, as I continued,

[e]ven if someone makes anti-X edicts, that does not automatically make him a Nazi. Raising taxes does not make a US president a communist, for that matter.

The reply:

I’m sorry that you completely missed the entire point of the original post. Your defense of the Pope and segue of comparing raising taxes and communism and the US president are rather confusing.

Note:

  1. How a switch is made to ad hominem.

  2. How the sub-issue actually under discussion is dropped, with neither a concessation nor any arguments as to why the issue is not conceded.

  3. How an incorrect claim (in context: accusation) that I would be defending the Pope is made, although I have so far merely pointed to a factually incorrect statement (respectively, an extraordinary statement that would require extraordinary proof).

  4. How an analogy showing why the attribution of Nazism over anti-X claims is absurd is dismissed and (likely) deliberately misinterpreted as an attempt to “segue” to an irrelevant topic.

I stand by my answer:

It seems rather that you miss the point of my commment: There is no indication that Pope is now or has ever been a Nazi. If you dislike and want to criticize him or his action, use factual arguments—not unwarranted and irrelevant accusations. (In particular, accusations that many victims of WWII or the Holocaust could see as offensive for trivializing their experiences. Your complaint about a possible gay–nazi comparison [the topic of the original post] becomes very hypocritical in this light.)

The following reply from another commenter (webwordwarrior), I found both rude and highly misleading—and, as with several similar comments, far-going claims about the Pope were made without any kind of support:

Mr. Eriksson – the other commenters have been very patient with you. Why do you insist on playing these silly word games? The man may or may not have been a literal Nazi. (Given how many new revelations and records keep emerging from that regime, I think it’s safe to say we’ll never know.) Whatever the case, his actions since becoming a well-known Cardinal are so anti-human (child, woman, gay, Muslim, take your pick) that he’s at least Nazi-like. The metaphor may be strong, perhaps even incendiary, but his abuse of power to oppress deserves no better.

Again, I stand by my answer—except in as far as it is overly polite.

With all due respect, your claims that I would be playing word games when I rectify a repeated and unfounded accusation (I note that the “Hitler Jugend” connection has often been used to imply a very literal “the Pope is a Nazi”) and that the other commenters have been patient (after three brief and factual comments from me, all entirely justified) borders on the ridiculous.

As for what the Pope has or has not done since, I cannot speak with authority—I tend to leave religious issues to those who actually are religious. However, none of it is on par with starting a global war or the Holocaust; nor is there any justification in making an ideological association. (Further, AFAIK, most or all of it has been basically re-affirming the previous position of the Catholic Church.)

In the (at the time of writing) last comment, the highly offensive and tiresome white-hetero-men-are-privileged–everyone-else-is-a-victim claim rears its ugly head again:

Those of us being targeted by the Pope don’t have the luxury of not paying attention to him, as you seem to have. With all due respect, you speak as though you come from the privilege of being white, male, and heterosexual. If this is indeed correct, you are the power structure of the world.

There are so many things wrong with such statements that it boggles my mind that anyone can take them seriously—even apart from their common use (as above) as an unethical and misleading ad hominem. Consider e.g. the extreme over-generalisation and factual error that is contained in grouping all white (etc.) men into one homogeneous group and further painting this group as privileged—where most are not. (Indeed, a very strong case can be made that women form a more privileged group in many countries, including, definitely, Sweden and, likely, the US.) Alternatively, take the fact that the resulting minority is a fairly small one: After each special-interest group has had its say, we speak of non-Hispanic White, straight, Christian, Anglo-Saxon, middle-class, non-immigrant, whatnot, men. In the end, we have a small fraction of the population allegedly dominating the world.

By and large, this offensive claim is not one iota better than various racist, anti-gay, whatnot, sentiments—and, in this, it is one of the most widespread hypocrisies of our day.

Looking specifically at the quote above, an additional concern is what need “us” actually has to pay attention to the Pope: His influence on non-Catholic countries is limited, even other varieties of Christianity (let alone secular institutions) have very different ideas on many issues, and particular notice is only relevant when and where he changes the Church’s take on various issues. His opinions will have a very limited impact on the lifes of even a black homosexual woman in the US, Canada, and most of the rest of the world. The situation is possibly different in e.g. Mexico, but now we mostly talk countries where being a non-Hispanic White is no advantage. Even here in Cologne, one of Catolicism’s historically most important cities, it is common to see same-sex couples holding hands or even kissing in public—and hardly anyone even takes notice anymore.

Science and reason

As mentioned earlier, I had a piece in planning about about a few posts by a controversial Swedish professor, published Spiritist, and believer in Homeopathy—Robert Hahn. As it turns out, a reasonably full treatment would require dozens of pages, which forces me to re-think that idea. My current plan is to write a limited number of posts on various topics relating to some selected ideas and arguments of his. The number and the time frame are currently unclear (do not hold your breath), but the below is the first:

One of Hahn’s main claims appear to be that reason is bad for science—specifically, that reason leads scientists away from observable facts, allows them to explain away observations they do not like, cements their pre-existing opinions, whatnot. (See e.g. [1]e).

This claim is it self based on faulty reasoning: Science needs more reason, not less. Above all, those who correctly use reason are less likely to be caught up in excuses, more likely to interpret observations in line with reality (not with their own pre-conception of reality) respectively be more open to alternate explanations, more likely to critically examine and re-examine their opinions, and so on. Importantly, they are far more likely to apply Occam’s Razor on excessively complicated explanations, to avoid begging the question, to not confuse correlation and causation, etc.

He has a particular beef with the application of reason by outsiders, having the correct insight that outsiders can lack critical pieces of understanding and information, which can lead them astray; but failing to consider that those cases are easily resolved by the insider explaining, using reason or clearly established empirical facts, why the outsider is wrong. Should the insider not be able to do this, well, then it is time to ring the alarm bells. Ask a physicist to defend the counter-intuitive claim that a light object falls as fast as a heavy object (when the effect of air resistance is sufficiently small) and he can explain about energy conservation, potential and kinetic energy, and the connection between both types of energy and mass (all extremely well-supported by observation). Alternatively, he could explain about gravitational force, inertia, and the connection between acceleration and force (again, extremely well-supported by observation). Ask an astrologer to defend the counter-intuitive claim that a human’s life and personality are strongly determined by the configuration of the night sky at the time of his birth and no good answer will be forth-coming.

Looking specifically at observations (e.g. in a medical study) there are at least two important issues where reason is an absolute must: Firstly, interpretation of the observation and its implications. Secondly, critical examination of the correctness/representativeness of the observation and what lead to the observation. An only slightly caricatured example (I deliberately avoid the, in context, more natural area of Homeopathy, to avoid a new debate on that topic):

A gender-scientist visits a pre-school, observes that the boys and girls are treated differently (e.g. wrt attention given) and concludes that this prejudiced different treatment teaches the children to assume certain unnatural “gender-roles” and that this must be counter-acted. This line of thought has a number of problems in terms of lack of reasoning, including (but likely not limited to):

  1. The difference in treatment can arise because of individual variations in the children, non-representative behaviour in the adults, or previous mutual experiences between the involved children and adults. (A much larger study would be needed.)

  2. There is more than a fair chance that the observations were at least partially flawed due to a too casual form of observation or a pre-existing bias.

  3. The presence of an observer could have affected the behaviour of the observed, e.g. in that some boys wanted to play tough in front of the visitors or some teachers wanted to be more exemplary “motherly”.

  4. A specific causality (children of different sex are treated differently as a consequence of “gender stereotypes”) is assumed, when there are other options available—including that boys and girls behave differently to begin with, causing the adults to merely react to this behaviour.

  5. Even if different treatment occurs, it does not necessarily follow that it will have a major impact or the kind of impact that gender-scientists often propose (e.g. that women are excluded from technical professions because they are “forced” to play with dolls as children). Above all, it does not in any way, shape, or form follow that different treatment would be the only explanation for differences in later behaviour.

(Note that the point of the above is not to deny that the way children are treated can affect their development or their behaviour in adulthood, but to illustrate where “science” without reason can lead—a theory that need not reflect reality and which can do more harm than good.)

One of Hahn’s arguments against the use of reason is a list of statements that he claims as proof of how reason has lead people astray. (Rather than digging for the English originals of the statements that he presents in Swedish, I point to an article of my own which discusses a similar set of silly (?) statements). This argument contains several weaknesses, including that many of these statements are incorrectly attributed, misquoted, or made-up (not, I stress, by Hahn), being urban legends of sorts. Other problems are discussed on the linked-to page, including that they need not be silly when read in their original context. The biggest obstacle, however, is that these statements, when actually faulty, are not based in reason—on the contrary, reason would have prevented them! Indeed, these statements could be much better used as proof of something completely different, namely that people who should be experts are not always right, be it absolutely or when compared to outsiders with a better head—the opposite of what Hahn himself feels where e.g. Homeopathy is concerned.

For instance, one of Hahn’s quotes (attributed to Lord Kelvin) states that flying machines heavier than air are impossible. Application of reason shows this to be a preposterous claim (when taken as a general statement, with no unstated constraints wrt to e.g. the minimum size of the machine or the time frame involved—and assuming that the statement was at all made): Birds can fly despite being heavier than air; ergo, heavier than air flight is possible. Now, there might be some hitch which would make it impossible for machines to fly when heavier than air; however, this is extremely unlikely by Occam’s Razor, considering the possibilities of making machines with a better lift-to-weight ratio by e.g. miniaturization, considering the existence of various kites and gliders, and considering the, even then, on-going advances in motors and materials. True, reason has not showed us that e.g. manned flight would be possible in a heavier-than-air machine and this question (and a number of others) must still be left to the engineers and scientists; however, the literal statement could with near certainty be ruled as incorrect already in Kelvin’s days—and it could be so by many an intelligent and educated layman using reason. Further, if Kelvin did make this statement (subject to the above reservations), he either did not use reason or he was not displaying an intelligent and sound mind at the time.

It is true that some who try to use reason fail miserably (and that no-one can claim perfection). This is not an argument against reason, however—just as little as a medical study with poor methodology would be an argument against medical studies. The very core of science lies in the interaction between observation and reason—without reason we have no science. (Outside of highly theoretical areas, the same applies to “without observation”.)

Twain-censorship outdone

Recently, there were a great number of blog entries dealing with the highly disputable decision to censor the “n-word” in Mark Twain’s classic works (e.g. heree). Today, I note that a Swedish children’s classic has suffered an even worse fate—non-publication. As e.g. morning paper SVDe writes, publisher Rabén & Sjögren wanted to sensor the word “neger” in the work “Ture Sventon i Paris”. After a veto from Sveriges Författarförbund (a union/interest organisation for Swedish authors), the publisher decided to cancel the planned re-issue rather than to use a word that was perfectly acceptable and unremarkable in 1953 when the book was first published and which did not lead to any protests against earlier re-issues.

It is a sad state of affair indeed, when politically correct irrationality can have such consequences.

(US readers should note that the Swedish situation is far worse than the US already because “neger” never had a status comparable to “nigger”, but would be more in line with “negro” or possibly even “black”. This until just a few decades ago, when there were suddenly cries that it was an evil word—probably more under the influence of the US PC-movement than from rational considerations about meaning, etymology, and how the word was actually perceived by speakers and listeners alike.)

Unfortunately, these two cases are nothing new, although Mark Twain is one of the most prominent victims. Among earlier cases of “anti-racist” censorship, I note e.g. The Bowdlerization of Dr. Dolittle e. Politically correct (or otherwise ideologically motivated) fiddling of other kinds has even affected the Bible (see e.g. 1e, 2e, 3e)—potentially distorting the actual meaning of a text that is the fundament of the religion of two billion people...

Boycott “like”!

Today, “like” buttons and similar mechanisms are ubiquitous. In principle, they can fill a good function, e.g. in giving users better opportunities to reach high-quality material. In practice, there are many flaws, including that:

  1. They allow companies to build profiles on users, which can then be abused for advertising purposes.

  2. They open the doors for manipulation through “like spamming”.

  3. Valuable items that lack mass-appeal are even worse off than before.

  4. “Helpful” tips of the “you may also like” kind often give very poor advice and also do damage through taking space and cluttering user interfaces.

  5. Approval/disapproval is often expressed based on a superficial impression that does not match long-term preferences. (Where items like music are concerned, but not e.g. blog entries.)

  6. The sheer amount of “like” buttons is so large that they start to become intrusive, trivial, and lacking in importance.

Looking at WordPress and its “like” button, it has been only a nuisance to me: Every time I receive a “like”, I also receive an annoying and user-despising email on the lines of “Congratulations! X liked your post! Now go check out what he writes—you may like it!”, which is just a PITA.

My recommendation: Boycott “like” buttons, disable them were possible, do not click on them when you see them, and let this insanity die out. (Obviously, if/once the number is reduced so far that they make sense again, there would be nothing wrong in using them.) If you really do like something, then spread the word instead: Write your own post with a link to a blog, tell your friends about that book/movie/song, recommend that new store/website, ...

In WordPress, the setting that controls the like button is currently to be found under “settings/sharing” in the admin area.

Note: This post is partially a reaction to a recent “freshly pressed” post titled The Like-ification of 2011e.

No—Homeopathy does not work

For the future, I plan to not be drawn into discussions of whether homeopathy works or various aspects of the argumentation and evidence in the issue—be it with Robert Hahn or someone else. (Separate posts on specific sub-issues may still occur, however.) Instead, I will simply link here—with the request that the supporter of homeopathy read the below links and refute the discussions present there first. In the exceedingly unlikely event that he manages to do so, I will be willing to reopen the issue.

The following lines of counter-arguments are faulty and/or dishonest and will not be accepted:

  1. The claim that experimental evidence shows that homeopathy works; in particular, in combination with the claim that attempts to e.g. point to a lack of a known mechanism are merely a cover-up intended to discredit this “fact”.

    As pointed out repeatedly in the links, experimental evidence speaks against homeopathy. The accepted (weak) effects are all explained by non-medicinal factors. (Cf. the item on anekdotal evidence.)

    Exception: If, theoretically, the supporter can show a subsequent change in scientific consensus on experimental evidence, this is obviously allowed. I stress that merely pointing to the existence of a few hundred published-in-CAM-journals papers are not enough—consider the number of studies showing the opposite, the significantly lower credibility of these journals compared to the leading mainstream journals, the often lower scientific value (worse methodology, smaller samples), and publication bias. Also note the discussions of meta-studies, including Linde’s, in the linked-to articles.

  2. Ad hominem towards the authors or their sources (including accusations of self-interest or being bought by the pharma industry): If their ideas, reasoning, or facts are faulty—attack these instead. If not, well, then there is no justification whatsoever in attacking the man. Also bear in mind that it is the homeopaths who have the greater self-interest in the issue (i.e. any attack based on self-interest will strike even harder in the other direction) and that it is exceedingly unlikely that the totality of the opposition would be faulty in this regard.

    Exception: If a convincing case can be made against an individual debater, study, whatnot, with regard to e.g. methodology (not merely an alleged motive) then this may obviously legitimately be used to question an individual statement or result.

  3. As a special case: Denying non-homeopaths the right to speak on the issue. These may be less knowledgeable in the subject field, but may also bring superior knowledge or ability in other areas, including scientific methods or critical thinking. The denial is particularly weak when the outsiders are medical researchers from other areas. Further, good and correct science can be explained to outsiders in a way that is convincing—if some field as-good-as-consistently fails to do so, then this speaks strongly against it. Science bears up to scientific scrutiny and critical investigation by outsiders—quackery does not. Indeed, unwillingness to allow outsiders the opportunity to poke holes and unwillingness to constructively engage critics are themselves strong (but not conclusive) indications of quackery.

    Further note that the critics are not limited to outsiders. The possibly most notable examples are Edzard Ernstw and Willem Betz, who were both once homeopaths and now are vocal critics.

  4. Anekdotal evidence: “I know that homeopathy works! I have tried it successfully myself.”

    There are a number of reasons why individual experiences can seem to indicate that something works when it, in fact, does not. Cf. some of the below links.

    Among explanations we have e.g. the placebo effect, coincidence and natural healing (if a thousand sick people take a particular preparation, at least some of them are likely to, by themselves, become healthy at the “right” time by sheer coincidence), an increased tendency to take medicine when a problem is at its peak, confirmation bias, and “extra-medicinal” factors like a better patient–physician relation. Further note that it is not inconceivable that some less-than-religious homeopaths would prescribe conventional medicine every now and then...

Primary sources should be used with caution in any attempt at refutation (but are certainly allowed): There is much value in primary sources, but they are also dangerous and, if possible, secondary and (to a lesser degree) tertiary sources are to be preferred (just as with e.g. Wikipedia’s take on sources). Note e.g. the greater risks of partiality, statistical noise, methodological errors, and mis- or over-interpretation when using primary sources. This is particularly important for laymen, who often draw too far-going conclusions from research (as proved by any number of journalists over the years). Note also that if a primary source claims X, then there may be two others that claim non-X.

A common counter-argument against clinical studies, that homeopathy would demand an individual treatment and that merely giving every patient the same cure is misleading, does have some merit. However, I am well aware of it, it is not (taken by itself) enough to convince, and there is no need to repeat it. Consider that better results in individual treatment are also what a non-medicinal explanation predicts (in particular, when several remedies are tried until something “works”), that clinical trials are still valid investigative tools (if a particular remedy is good for only one in ten, then this should still make a noticeable difference in a large enough sample or a meta-analysis), and that the alleged extreme inconsistency in results is contrary to what would be expected a priori if a medicinal effect was present (the mechanisms in the human body are very similar from person to person and so complete deviations in result are very rare, allergies and over-sensitivities excepted). Further, the obvious main line of homeopathic research would then be to find better classifications and groupings to systematically pin-point the right remedies, with uses including better treatment, integration of similar methods into school medicine, and ... building better samples for clinical trials. Such attempts have not been successful, which speaks strongly for a non-medicinal explanation of any success stories. Indeed, by Occam’s Razor, it is more likely that the different effects on individuals are either just an excuse or a misinterpretation of events—not an actual difference.

On with the links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathye Note the extensive discussions pro and contra on the talk pages.

http://www.homeowatch.org/e Many further links, including an own research over-viewe.

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=11e Note: First of five parts. The other parts are linked from there.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/45/45.pdfe A thorough parliamentary report (UK) which includes both a high level conclusion and (in the appendix) more detailed statements and research overviews. A brief non-PDF summary from a different sourcee.

http://apgaylard.wordpress.com/2009/09/06/a-homeopathic-refutation-part-one/e (The second part deals with the dangers of homeopathy and is of little relevance to this particular discussion.)

http://www.badscience.net/2007/11/the-lancet-benefits-and-risks-of-homoeopathy/e
http://www.badscience.net/2007/11/a-kind-of-magic/e

http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/homeo.htmle

http://www.skepdic.com/homeo.htmle

http://www.ncahf.org/pp/homeop.htmle

http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/5100/e

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1874503/table/tbl1/e Overview of meta-analyses and re-analyses based on a much-touted-by-homeopaths work by Linde. (Similar, more extensive tables are present in the PDF report above.)

Also of interest:

http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/holmes.htmle A long, very well-argued, and well-known refutation of homeopathy by Oliver Wendell Holmes; however, also a very old text, which could be unfair to the homeopathy of today in at least some regards. On the plus-side, it shines some light on why there really was no reason to expect homeopathy to work in the first place.

http://www.ukskeptics.com/article.php?dir=articles&article=it_works_in_animals.phpe A brief view on homeopathy and animals—a topic otherwise given little space in the linked-to articles.

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=4e A broader discussion of alternative medicines and pitfalls. Generally, this site (also present with an article series above) appears to have a large number of articles of direct or indirect relevance.

The poor underrepresented women of Wikipedia

For the second time in about six months, I today encountered a view that Wikipedia’s “gender” situation would be problematice. Below, I will briefly discuss and critique some of the ideas in the light of the premise that “less than 15 percent of its hundreds of thousands of contributors are women” (a premise which matches my own experiences reasonably well and which is not put under investigation):

  1. Efforts to increase the number of women are hampered by “traditions of the computer world and an obsessive fact-loving realm that is dominated by men and, some say, uncomfortable for women”.

    Leaving the issue of whether increasing the number of specifically female editors is a worthy goal aside:

    The traditions of the computer world are of disputable relevance.

    Obsessive fact-loving is a pre-requisite for a good encyclopedia. The facts must not be compromised in order to increase the proportion of female editors. Any solution must, therefore, involve making women involved despite their aversion or to change the women’s attitude—not Wikipedia’s. (This assuming that the claim was correct in the first place.)

  2. A stated goal is to increase the proportion of women, yet the discussion is based on an argument that “Everyone brings their crumb of information to the table,” and “If they are not at the table, we don’t benefit from their crumb.”—which is an argument to increase the absolute number of participants (be it of either sex or specifically women). Correspondingly, the goal should be to increase the number of women—not the proportion of women. Indeed, the way Wikipedia works, a sinking proportion can actually be good, e.g. when we see X new women and 100X new men instead of X women and X men (with X having the same value on both occasions; the conclusion is obviously symmetrical when the increase of men is fixed and that of women variable). This, certainly, is an exception, but the point that absolute numbers matter, not relative, stands clear.

    Notably, the other article (published in a Swedish newspaper; I do not recall the details) was largely based in a failure to realise this basic principle and the common Swedish fallacy that any difference in outcome is a sign of difference in opportunity that must be fought.

  3. “Even the most famous fashion designers — Manolo Blahnik or Jimmy Choo — get but a handful of paragraphs.”

    The noticeably more famous Coco Chanelw and Yves Saint Laurentw have noticeably longer articles. In addition, the writings need not be limited to the “personal” articles on the designers, but can extend into e.g. articles on the companies they founded. For that matter, the articles on e.g. Charles Rollsw (as in Rolls-Royce) or Bentleyw are not overly long either.

  4. ‘Adopting openness means being “open to very difficult, high-conflict people, even misogynists,” ’.

    If Wikipedia is to be open, then it has to be open to everyone who does not misbehave and breaks the rules that are in place. To imply (as is done here) that men would have more difficult and high-conflict specimens than women, is ... misandrist. Notably, in my experience, the proportion of women who fall into these categories is higher than for men; notably, there is no reason whatsoever to assume that misogynism would be flowering due to openness. The whole angle seems to be cheap rhetoric and additionally risks throwing the baby out with the bath water.

  5. ‘But Catherine Orenstein, the founder and director of the OpEd Project, said many women lacked the confidence to put forth their views. “When you are a minority voice, you begin to doubt your own competencies,” she said.’

    One of the beauties of Wikipedia is that complete anonymity is possible (as far as other users/editors are concerned). If the minority feeling stems from being a woman among men, the solution is simply to chose a male or neutral alias and/or to get over any irrational fixation on sex instead of opinion where others are concerned. If it stems from the opinion—well, it is the same for everyone with a minority opinion and being a woman is irrelevant.

    More importantly, Wikipedia is not based on personal opinion on this-and-that, but on references, scientific consensus, and similar items. Opinion is, then, relevant as to which scientific hypothesis is dominating, what sub-issue or hypothesis should be given what weight, what articles are not up-to-par quality-wise, etc. Long discussions, even fights, on such topics notwithstanding, the opinions in the actual matter at hand are easy to push through—just find a reference from a credible source and put in the text that “Smith [97] writes that ...”.

  6. Much of the article can be paraphrased as “Women do not feel welcome and therefore do not participate.” (where, I argue, this feeling is largely irrational).

    Here it should be noted that Wikipedia is not intended for men—but it is intended for adults. Not participating due to the (usually) imagined feeling that one is not welcome, is not adult behaviour.

    Further, the question must be raised whether this is actually the explanation. Consider alternatives (which all match my experiences) like men being more likely to have a deep fascination with or knowledge on a particular topic (often referred to as “being a nerd”), simply having a greater drive for accomplishment, or being more prone to discuss bigger issues in a bigger forum (while women prefer smaller and more personal circles). Notably, the article it self claims “a participation rate of roughly 85-to-15 percent, men to women, is common — whether members of Congress, or writers on The New York Times and Washington Post Op-Ed pages.”—to accuse e.g. “traditions of the computer world” is, then, absurd. To claim that it would be a minority issue does also not pan out—this might have been true for Wikipedia (where men could have had an advantage through a greater interest in computers) alone, but seeing that the same numbers apply where there has been no such entry barrier for quite some time, we would have to postulate explanations that are implausible from an Occamian view.

No man is a prophet...

... is the beginning of a saying that has long annoyed me. Usually, the continuation is “... in his own village [town, country].”, implying that men of worth are paradoxically not recognized specifically by those who know them well. (“Familiarity breeds contempt.” is one of several other sayings with a similar idea.)

In my eyes, the opposite is the true problem, namely that strangers who are not known well enough are awarded the status of prophet—while the estimate of the neighbours is more just. Indeed, why should those who knows us the best be more wrong than those who only know us from afar?

Unfortunately, too many people fail to realize that truly extraordinary humans are extraordinarily rare—and that the typical book author, college professor, movie star, ..., is just as human as the next-door neighbour. Indeed, the few truly extraordinary are ultimately human too: Even Einstein had to go to the bathroom. More importantly, even Einstein was not infallible. He made silly errors, he grew sad or angry, he had the odd moment of vanity or unwarranted pride, he felt a sting of self-doubt every now-and-then, he even, likely, had malicious or unfair thoughts about others. (And, yes, I feel perfectly confident in saying this without having known him in person—the bathroom part would be the easiest by far to avoid...)

Obviously, there are great differences in e.g. intelligence between different people, and the typical professor of mathematics will sooner be able to understand a particular issue, see its nuances, poke holes in arguments concerning it, whatnot, than the typical delivery boy. If the topic is mathematics, he has an even greater advantage. The saying is true, in so far that many delivery boys will fail to appreciate this, if the professor happens to be the next door neighbour, who spends the weekends slacking in the garden, wearing worn-out shorts and a silly hat. Still, the professor should not be considered a prophet, but have to defend his position with arguments—and now and then the delivery boy is himself a future professor. (A very annoying problem is that below a certain intelligence level in the counter-part, arguments are just a waste of time, as I can attest from many discussions on the Internet, both as a neutral observer and as the bringer of the arguments. That, however, is a different issue.)

The true problems start when the near-by authority is compared to the authority in the distance—and the latter is given more credibility. The true solution, however, is not to elevate the near-by authority, but to view the distant one more realistically. German professors are pretty much the same as Swedish (I have studied in both countries)—and they are all human. A book does not become less valuable merely because its author lives next door—and a text often goes beyond its author in terms of wisdom and insight. The charismatic actor may be shy in real life, while the beautiful actress may be bland without an hour in the make-up chair—and neither is the larger-than-life figure that so impressed the audience. And, yes, Einstein went to the bathroom.

No man is a prophet—period.

Assange rape case

Today, I stumbled upon a Swedish blog with an Assange updatee, including some English discussions and a link to “leaked” documents from the investigatione.

(Assange stands accused of having raped/assaulted/molested/whatnot two women, one of which, Anna Ardin, was a topic on my blog even before the Assange affair. The other is referred to by “SW” below. Some links to more information are present here.)

I have gone through the hundred pages. In short:

There is nothing whatsoever to the SW case—confirming an interpretation I have seen repeatedly from those more familiar with the details. She was a groupie, pressed herself on Assange, and got what she wanted sexually (she may or may not have had non-sexual or romantic wishes that did not come true). The only real point of possible culpability is Assange’s alleged refusal to take a HIV test; however, seeing that she could have had herself tested (and that HIV has an infection rate noticeably lower than 100 %) this cannot reasonably be a criminal issue. Looking at some testimonies, I have the impression that SW need not have wanted to claim rape or assault in the first place, but merely wanted a forced clarification of the HIV (or, more generally, STD) issue.

The case of Anna Ardin is not quite as clear-cut, but contains nothing that could not be seen as a mixture of miscommunication, (playfully) rough sex, and unfortunate coincidence—even by Ardin’s own claims and without hearing Assange’s side of the story. I note, in particular, that the sex was consensual (if, possibly, depending on interpretation and what statement is believed, reluctant and unwelcome for Ardin), that Assange consistently respected her wish not to have sex on other occasions, and that it is not clear how the infamous broken condom actually broke (has happened to me too, on more than one occasion).

Even if, arguendo, Assange deliberately broke it, there is insufficient proof to that effect (in my layman’s opinion): Ardin’s own testimony is conjectural—she only observed that he had fiddled with the condom during intercourse, not that he broke it. The documents do include a forensic report concerning a condom with the conclusion that it was probable (“Möjligheten att erhålla dessa resultat om någon annan hypotes är sann bedöms som liten.”—“The possibility that these results could be found if an alternative hypothesis is true is considered to be unlikely.”; official informatione) to have been “torn apart” (“slitits sönder”). However, this is not a conclusive statement, being a “+2”, where a “+4”, in my understanding, would be needed for a conviction with no other evidence. Further, it does not follow who tore it or when—nor even that it necessarily is the same condom. Notably, the alleged breaking took place on the night of 2010-08-13/14, Ardin was interrogated on 2010-08-21, and had, at that point, not yet turned the condom in. (Assange remained as her guest until the day before the interrogation.)

Obviously, even a hypothetical deliberate breaking is not rape, although it should probably be considered criminal.

As a whole, my previous impression from other sources, that we have a storm in a tea-cup and nothing warranting criminal proceedings, is confirmed.

Opinion and the wish to be well-behaved (brav sein)

Preamble: The “be well-behaved” of the title is an approximate translation of the German “brav sein”. As this translation does not quite catch the concept I try to pin-point, a brief explanation: “Brav sein” is a phrase usually applied to children or pets, either as an imperative (“Sei brav!”–“Behave yourself!”/“Be nice!”) or a complimentary description (“Ein braves Kind.”–“A well-behaved child.”), in many ways being the opposite of the out-dated English “wicked child”. The child who is “brav” is rewarded; the one who is not is punished. While the decision about what is “brav” is often highly arbitrary, an implication of morality is still often involved (but “brav” and “moral” are not the same)—and the implication of approval or disapproval from the “powers that be” (adults/humans) is central. Somewhat similar concepts are reflected in the English cognates “bravo” and (in one meaning) “brave”.

Looking back at my own teenager years, I see an occasional tendency of wanting to have the “brav” opinion—not an opinion that had convinced me through facts and arguments, but one that was the “enlightened” opinion to have, the one that was “expected” of those who were not barbarians. (Causing the odd moment of cognitive dissonance, because the “brav” opinion and the facts often clashed—nowadays, I have learned to go where the facts and arguments point.) Over the years, I have seen many signs that this kind of thinking applies to a very significant part of even the adult population—and almost all teenagers and children. Paradoxically, there are some signs that those of above-average intelligence are actually more easily snared than the below average. (Possibly, through often being more conformant in school and being used to seeing “brav” behaviour rewarded, or because they have a greater exposure to “brav” ideas, e.g. through newspapers.)

The politically correct are possibly the example. This manifests e.g. in not merely abandoning old prejudice but to actually err in the other direction, or in the belief that the world conforms to what it “should” be, that we do live in “the best of worlds”. Conversely, when someone questions the “truth”, even with scientific support, he is denounced as “wicked” (respectively, “racist”, “sexist”, whatnot). Consider e.g the events around Lawrence Summers.

Political parties and ideologies (in general) often have some component of this “brav sein”; however, rarely to the extreme degree that the politically correct do. An important case is the leftist use of “progressive” (likely in a deliberately play on this principle) to make their own opinions seem “brav”—despite often being consider regressive, anti-progress, and anti-enlightenment by their opponents. Other words that often appear to be used with a similar intent include “democratic”, “American” (in the US), and “freedom [something-or-other]”. Besides, who would willingly declare himself to be part of the “immoral minority”?

Religion is similar: It is “brav” to do or to abstain from this-or-that. The imposition of belief and behaviour does not follow merely from arguments or through threats of hell-fire, but also from the general attitude that some things are more “brav” than others.

Some book authors, including e.g. Daniel Goleman, provide yet other examples. For instance, the concept of “Cultural Creatives”w (official pagee) is a first rate illustration:

Some people have a certain set of opinions and are rewarded by being allowed to call themselves “Cultural Creative”—a very progressive and enlightened sounding title. More than that, they are now among the “50 Million People [who] Are Changing the World”, with the possibility to advance to being a “Core Cultural Creative”. Interestingly, looking at the list of opinions presented on the Wikipedia page, a very sizable part of the population of any western country would qualify as “Cultural Creative”—often for having opinions that have no real connection with each other, nor have anything to do with either culture or creativity. (I could count myself as one too, with only ten matching opinions being needed; however, there is little doubt that I am in a different camp from what the authors would want.) Indeed, I would even voice the suspicion that the originators of the concept deliberately attempt to gather in as many people as possible by the Forer effectw (“Hey, I am Cultural Creative! Yay me!”) and then to guide them to the “right” opinions in other areas (“I want to be a good Cultural Creative! Now, what should I believe?”), thereby overriding reason.

One Michael Hardy makes a comment on the talk page of the Wikipedia article that well catches both my own impression of “Cultural Creatives” and (with the last sentence) much of what I try to say in the larger context of this post:

But if you scan down the list of things that alleged "Cultural Creatives" are interested in, it looks as if they’re just people who want to follow popular trends. That’s the common thread. And the book congratulates them on their superiority, so they look down on their less trendy neighbors and feel warm fuzzies about how much better they are than those other people.

Publishing of lost comment

(The lost comment, respectively the first submit of it, has since appeared on the original blog. I keep the below duplication just in case.)

For some reason, a comment I am currently trying to submit results in ... nothing. (Not even an error message.) Correspondingly, I publish it here for now. The original (German) discussion can be found on http://tapferimnirgendwo.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/mein-nein-zur-quote/e.

@yael

Gehälter: Es hat keinen Zweck auch mehrere Dutzend Quellen aufzuzählen, die alle den Fehler machen, nur auf die rohen Zahlen zu schauen. (Warum dies nicht funktioniert wurde schon auf die gelinkte Seite erklärt.) Oder wie Ihre eigene Quellen sagen “Grund ist die unterschiedliche Berufs- und Branchenwahl, so das Statistische Bundesamt. Außerdem seien Frauen eher teilzeitbeschäftigt und tendenziell schlechter ausgebildet.”—was auch nicht alle “nicht-sexistischen” Erklärung abdeckt.

“Die IQ Diskussion von Ihnen ist erschreckend.”

Die Welt ist, wie sie ist—nicht wie Sie die Welt gerne hätte. Das gilt auch für IQ.

“Sie negieren auch, dass wenn Frauen in Führungspostionen sind, sich dies positiv auf die Wirtschaft auswirkt.”

Ich habe kein Wort zu dem Thema gesagt.

Gehirne: Quantität und Qualität sind unterschiedliche Sachen (und was anderes habe ich nie behauptet). Die Gesamtleistung, jedoch, setzt sich aus beides Zusammen. Was die Wissenschaftler hierbei festgestellt haben, ist z.B. eine Korrelation von ~ 0.4 zwischen IQ und Gehirngröße—was sogar mehr ist als ich vorher erwartet hatte. (Nachträgliches Googlen hat z.B. http://www.iq-tests.eu/iq-test-Brain-size-and-IQ-510.html mit mehreren Quellenhinweisen zur Tage gebracht.)

Darüber hinaus ist mein Ziel mit der Diskussion der Größen nicht die Bedeutung von eben der Größe selbst aufzuspielen—sondern auf Schwächen in der politisch korrekten Argumentation hinzuweisen, wo man von der These “Frauen und Männern müssen gleich sein” ausgeht, um anschliessend die Beweise zu werten oder entwerten, je nachdem wie sie diese These stützen oder nicht stützen. Hier muss man aus der anderen Richtung kommen und sich die Beweise anschauen um die These zu akzeptieren oder verwerfen. Dies ist auch einer der bedeutendsten Unterschiede zwischen Wissenschaft und Pseudo-Wissenschaft.

Voll nehmen, usw.: Derartige unqualifizierte Personenangriffe sagen mehr über Sie aus, als über die Angegriffenen.

Update

There has been very little activity here recently (for a number of reasons, including other obligations and a computer that upped-and-died last weekend). As is, I have a handful of half-written entries that I hope to be able to finish and publish in the next two weeks, most notably a promised entry on the myth of privileged white men.

In the very short term, I will republish two censored comments in Swedish, which can safely be skipped by readers not involved in those discussions or with the same debaters.

Publishing of a censored comment I

At the beginning of February, I encountered a very prejudiced and depressing blog entrye titled “Någon har fel på internet!” (“Someone is wrong on the internet!”). The contents depended heavily on a naive and long disproved view of a “tabula rasa” human; the equally naive and dangerously faulty conclusion was tantamount to denying children the right to develop their own interests, chose their own toys, etc.—after all, feminists “know” that we are all identical and that any difference in choice is a sign of evil. Indeed, contrary to what science actually does say, the author (Rebecka) hypocritically and ignorantly accused her opponents of e.g. “De angriper forskning och vetenskap med sina känslor” (“They attack research and science with their feelings”)—a prime example of reversing the accusation.

At that point, I wrote a factual comment (unfortunately, without saving a copy) pointing out that there is solid scientific evidence that the reality is far more complex and the author’s take on the issue would do more harm than good.

After this comment, for no other discernible reason than dissent, was censored, I let matter rest until the discussion started over and further highly naive statements were made—including, absurdly, comparing sticking to actual science (as opposed to the distorted image of science that author apparently had) to racism. I then saw myself forced to re-iterate my statements at somewhat greater length:

Då jag redan har blivit censurerad utan giltig anledning har jag egentligen ingen lust att skriva mer.

Dock, med en blick på diskussionen mellan Rebecka och Emmy, måste det än en gång betonas att det finns vetenskapligt välbelagda biologiska skillnader mellan genomsnittsindivider av dem olika könen. Sedan har vi stora individuella variationer och ett kulturellt inflytande, men varje försök att uppfostra barn genom att utplåna dessa skillnader är lika illa som, i många fall värre än, en fostran som ignorerar den individuella variationen. Vad vi behöver är friheten att utvecklas som vi själva vill—inte som någon samhällsgrupp pga av en föråldrad världsbild anser att vi borde utvecklas. (Detta gäller oavsett om vi talar om ett medeltida synsätt eller 1960-talets ”tabula rasa”- tänkande.)

Jämförelser med tex rasism är helt missvisande, framförallt då ett av huvudproblemen med rasism är ignorerandet av individuell variation. Tvärtom kan man argumentera att en mycket stor del av världens ondska har uppstått just genom försök att förvandla människor till någonting som någon har tyckt att de ”borde” vara, inklusive mycket av det som nazister, kommunister, och religiösa fundamentalister har ställt till med. För en lättillgänglig parodisk behandling se Terry Pratchetts ”Witches abroad”.

(In brief: Science has clearly shown that there are differences between the average male and female individuals. Trying to exterminate these differences can do untold harm. Much of the evil of this world has come exactly through trying to force people to be what they “should” be, rather than letting them develop as they actually are.)

This comment, unsurprisingly, was also censored—to which I add two statements: Firstly, those who censor are almost without exception those who are evil. (Even when they imagine themselves to be good guys.) Secondly, someone is wrong on the Internet, Rebecka. That someone is you.

Publishing of a censored comment II

In the Swedish blogosphere, I have repeatedly stumbled across comments by one “Nymnchen”. She almost invariably goes on my nerves, because she has the very unfortunate tendency to try to lecture others from a position of deep ignorance and repeatedly proved weakness when it comes to reasoning and critical thinking. (One of the most extreme examples of the Dunning–Kruger effectw that I have ever encountered. Note that I actually enjoy and feel that I profit from discussing issues with intelligent, informed, and well-reasoned disagreers—Nymnchen is none of the three.) So in her latest comments on an old Swedish bloge: Here a new debater asks for clarification concerning some claims about the contents and conclusions of a few academic papers that she cites in favour of her position. None of the questions were in anyway inappropriate. Furthermore, with Nymnchen, there is more than a fair chance than the research she cites does not actually back her position.

Her responses contained very little of constructive character, but did contain a long rant about how presumptuous it is for a layman to question a published paper... (A rant, through which she, unsurprisingly, proved herself to be ignorant about science.) I posted the following (regrettably, censored) reply:

@nym[n]chen

Oavsett ditt sista inlägg ser jag mig tvungen till följande svar, framförallt då jag från tidigare debatter har intrycket att din egen förståelse av god forskning och kritiskt tänkande inte ger dig rätt att kritisera andra:

Din argumentation när det gäller forskning är i sig på gränsen till oseriös. Helt säkert finns det ingenting att invända mot att en lekman framför synpunkter och ställer frågor. Skulle dessa vara naiva, då räcker det ju med att förklara varför.

Hur det förhåller sig med kvaliteten i just det här fallet kan jag inte säga. Generellt sett är dina utsagor dock av begränsad giltighet (och med tanke på vad Johan frågade verkar de orättvisa). Betänk tex att:

o Det finns inkompetenta i alla branscher, inklusive forskning.

o Även goda forskare kan falla offer för önsketänkande, ”confirmation bias”, och liknande.

o Områden som tex socialvetenskap och nationalekonomi har ofta problem med en ideologisk komponent som inte alltid undantrycks tillräckligt.

o Det finns många papers som har gått igenom peer-review och likväl senare visat sig vara felaktiga eller, i vissa fall, innehållande direkta klumpigheter. En rätt vanlig attityd är att den verkliga peer-review följer efter publicering, när inte bara en eller två, utan hundratals ”peers”, kan ge sina synpunkter.

o Det är inte ovanligt att det finns flera papers, alla antagna för publicering, som har olika uppfattningar. Det förekommer tom att resultat publiceras som är i stark kontrast mot ”scientific consensus”, tex undersökningar som visar på positiva resultat för homeopati.

o Även när forskningen är korrekt är det mycket, mycket vanligt att bloggare, journalister, politiker, ody., tyder forskningen på ett sätt som inte forskarna själva skulle stödja. Likaså att de rapporterar forskningsresultat utan att ange betingelser och antagande som forskarna skulle se som kritiska.

(In short: Nymnchen should be very careful about criticizing others. Publication does not make a paper the absolute truth [and here is why]. Even when the research is correct, there is no guarantee that the interpretations made by a blogger/journalist/whatnot are supported.)

Language is ever changing. New words are invented and old ones are lost, altered, or gain new meanings. The rules of grammar bend over time—usually in the direction of simplification. These changes are sometimes good and sometimes bad—and more often than not, they replace an ultimately arbitrary set of rules with another equally arbitrary set. Only one thing is certain: Change is unavoidable.

In light of this, descriptive grammar is often considered the “right” way, while prescriptive grammar is frowned upon. (This, it self, being an example of a similar change in another area: Prescriptive grammar was once more popular.) I find this highly unfortunate, for several reasons:

Firstly, I consider the opposition between prescriptive and descriptive grammar to be a sign of flawed thinking: One can legitimately be given value without discarding the other. Certainly, linguistics should be concerned both with describing and investigating language as it is and with trying to detect “higher” rules, suggesting changes that increase the logic or reduce the ambiguity of a language, or even with creating new languages. An acceptance and respect for the inevitability of change does not mean that prescriptive grammar is a dead-end.

Secondly, not all changes are beneficial. On the contrary, many make the language less expressive and nuanced, increase ambiguity, and cause unnecessary misunderstandings between members of different generations or native English (French, Spanish, ...) speakers from different countries. Most reduce the backward compatibility of language over the centuries, making texts from the past harder to understand: In the case of my native Sweden, the changes over the last hundred-or-so years have been so drastic that even Swedes can have trouble understanding an older text—and the same fate could befall English over the coming hundred years.

Notably, there are many changes that do not result from a deliberate enrichment or a creative use of language, but from sheer ignorance, thoughtlessness, or sloppiness. I have for instance seen absurd statements like “Petrified with fear, he ran away.” or “The runner literally massacred his opponents.”—both cases where a word (“petrified”; “literally”, unless the problems lies with “massacred”) is used to signify the opposite of what it actually means.

In many cases, the changes are unnecessary and could have been avoided with little extra effort in early tuition. Alas, nowadays many teachers have themselves never learned the rules of the language.

In yet other cases, the changes can have a component bordering on the malicious. A good example of this is the words “they” and “their” when used as a generic singular due to a linguistically ignorant political agenda (but not when used out of carelessness). Here we have mechanisms like politically correct teachers in the US telling their students that “he” is sexist, resulting in the English language being objectively worsened world-wide due to their leverage. This to such a degree that I regularly see “they” used when the sex is actually known and a generic singular does not make sense in the first place. (“I saw my cousin. They had a new job.”) In many other cases, a generic singular is called for, but undue confusion is caused by “they”. (“If someone wants to eat, they must work”: Who? The someones parents?) This is the worse because the thinking behind proposing “they” is faulty—an issue that I have discussed elsewhere.

Another driving force behind changes is the wish for the writer to have it easy: Conscientious writing puts the focus on the reader. It strives to ensure that the resulting text clear in logic and composition, that there are no confusing errors, that ambiguities have been detected and clarified, etc. Too many modern writers put themselves first: Instead of spending a few minutes extra on a text, they write it willy-nilly and put the burden of understanding on the readers, who each have to spend the same few minutes extra in understanding (or misunderstanding...) it. This attitude goes hand-in-hand with ignoring nuances between words, grammatical constructs that disambiguate who does what to whom, and the internal logic of the language.

A particular issue with a too relaxed attitude towards language change is that there is always some offset between actual use and “correct” use. People will still drive too fast even if the speed limit is raised—and it is the same with language: If one set of rules and word meanings is prescribed, people will deviate from these. Change the rules to adhere to actual use today and the result will be that the use drifts away by roughly the same amount as before; change the rules again and the use will drift away again; etc. By setting a prescriptive base-line that is only altered slowly over time this continual drift from one set of rules to another can be slowed in a corresponding manner; take a descriptive laissez-faire approach and we have a plenitude of new or aggravated disadvantages without any new advantages. In both cases, the distance remains; only the latter causes a continual and largely negative drift.

Note: This text is partially intended as a response to a previous discussione. I have preferred, however, to write it on a more abstract level without detailed reference to that discussion, taking the opportunity to write down some long-standing thoughts of mine.

False rape charges in Germany, Jörg Kachelmann

Through a comment on a German blog post on the Assange casee, my attention was directed to an article in Die Zeitw giving a thorough review of the Kachelmann casee: Famous man stands accused of rape and sees his world collapse on the word of a woman—and as time goes by, the evidence against him proves to be flimsy at best.

(So far, I have not really paid attention to this case. The Assange case is different in that Anna Ardin was someone I was aware of and irritated at before she raised her accusations. It has, however, been given considerable media attention in Germany during the last year, even with a blog dedicated to Jörg Kachelmann und das Chaose.)

As a complement to my earlier article on rape statistics, I will make a few quotes pertaining to the general attitude shown and the actual numbers of true versus false accusations:

(Note: The language is often technical or highly idiomatic. I try to bring the correct meaning across without always adhering to the correct “legalese” or being idiomatically true.)

Die Staatsanwaltschaft Mannheim hatte in der Öffentlichkeit stets den Anschein erweckt, es existierten objektive Beweise für die Täterschaft des Angeklagten. Die Hauptverhandlung aber hat über die vergangenen Monate die Behauptung von der überzeugenden Spurenlage widerlegt.

(The DA’s office in Mannheim always gave the impression in public that objective evidence existed for the guilt of the accused. However, the trial has over the past months refuted the claim of convincing evidence.)

Dass der Fall Kachelmann zu einem Mammutverfahren ausufern konnte, dessen Ende nicht abzusehen ist, hat auch damit zu tun, dass die Ermittler der Opferzeugin über viele Wochen begegnet sind, ohne ihre Aussagen kritisch zu hinterfragen. Der Fall Kachelmann zeigt beispielhaft, dass kein mögliches Opfer eines Sexualdelikts in diesen Tagen mehr Angst vor Behörden haben muss. Das von Polizei und Justiz zusätzlich gedemütigte und drangsalierte Vergewaltigungsopfer ist ein Phänomen aus der Nachkriegszeit, längst überwunden, gleichwohl von Frauenrechtlerinnen immer noch gerne beschworen.

(That the case Kachelmann could degenerate into such a mammoth process, the end of which is not yet in sight, is also a dependent on the investigators having met the “victim-witness” over many weeks, but without critically questioning her statements. The case Kachelmann shows exemplary that no possible victim of a sex crime has to fear the government these days. The victim who was additionally humiliated and harassed by the police and the justice system is [was] a phenomenon of the post-war era [i.e. a limited time after WWII], long conquered, yet still ever called upon by members of the women’s rights movement.)

Außerdem gehe er grundsätzlich davon aus, »dass jemand, der einen anderen einer Straftat bezichtigt, wahrheitsgemäße Angaben macht«.

(Besides, he [the judge] has the basic assumption, “that someone who accuses someone else of a crime, tells the truth”.)

Die Gutachten des Sachverständigen vom Frühjahr 2010 standen damit im Gegensatz zur Überzeugung der Staatsanwaltschaft. Als Bernd Brinkmann schließlich zum Prozessauftakt als von der Verteidigung geladener Sachverständiger in Mannheim erscheint, wird er behandelt wie ein Feind.

(The expert opinions of [Bernd Brinkmann] from early 2010 were consequently in opposition to the conviction of the DA. As Bernd Brinkmann appears as an expert witness for the defense at the beginning of the process, he is treated like an enemy.)

Früher sei man in der Rechtsmedizin davon ausgegangen, dass es sich bei fünf bis zehn Prozent der vermeintlichen Vergewaltigungen um Falschbeschuldigungen handelte, inzwischen aber gebe es Institute, die jede zweite Vergewaltigungsgeschichte als Erfindung einschätzten.

(Earlier, the assumption in forensics was that five to ten percent of the alleged rapes were false accusations. Meanwhile, however, there are institutes that estimate that every second rape story is a fabrication.)

In Püschels Opferambulanz haben sich im Jahr 2009 genau 132 Vergewaltigte vorgestellt: Bei 27 Prozent der Frauen hielten die Ärzte die Verletzungen für fingiert, bei 33 Prozent für echt. Bei den restlichen 40 Prozent haben die Hamburger Rechtsmediziner nicht ermitteln können, wer der Urheber der Blessuren war: der beschuldigte Mann oder das Opfer selbst.

(In Püschel’s [an interviewed professor] victim ambulance, exactly 132 [alleged] rape victims presented themselves in 2009: For 27 per cent of the women, the physicians considered the injuries to be fabricated, for 33 per cent genuine. For the remaining 40 per cent, the Hamburg forensics could not determine who the creator of the injuries was: the accused man or the [alleged] victim.)

My take on objective truth and subjectiveness of opinion

Recently, I have been involved in several discussions where the topic of a search for a “truth” has surfaced—and where I (through misreadings by the other party or misformulations by me) have been misunderstood.

For easy future reference, I will here outline some of my opinions in a less ambiguous manner:

  1. There are many issues where taste and preferences, different circumstances and needs, or similar, can be so important that it makes no sense to speak of right or wrong in anything even resembling absolute terms.

  2. In many others, we have an arbitrariness on an abstract level, but a typical context which can make one or the other alternative superior within that context (and the context is sometimes sufficiently given that it need not be mentioned). This applies in particular to issues relating to humans. For instance, the colors of a webpage are arbitrary in principle, but when we factor in how the typical human perceives colors, what combinations lead to higher or lower readability, what combinations can cause a headache, whatnot, then clear statements can be made about the superiority (in context) of at least some combinations over some others.

  3. Preferences, while arbitrary in principle, can also be seen as better or worse, which can affect the rating of otherwise arbitrary evaluations. For instance, if someone feels that a webpage with a particular color combination is aesthetically pleasing, but that combination leads to text that is very hard to read, then a combination with higher readability should be chosen: Ensuring readability is a more rational goal than aesthetics when it comes to a medium with the purpose of spreading textual information, because it achieves the intended purpose better, is more user-friendly, is more likely to result in pleased and returning visitors, etc. (I make the contextual assumption that this is what is wanted—if someone merely uses the colors to surround images of art works, e.g., then the situation can be different.)

    Obviously, preferring rational preferences is in it self a preference of some arbitrariness. Going into that discussion, however, opens a far wider field. Other similar preferences may be present, but left unstated, in this post.

  4. In many cases, reasonably objective statements can be made based on reasonably objective criteria, and (while the subjective aspects should be kept in mind) it is usually better to do so than to speak of subjectiveness. Often a very high degree of objectivity and/or certainty can be reached (as is often the case in the “hard” sciences) and the mere fact that there is a theoretical possibility of something else on the very edge of probability is no excuse for claims like “Evolution is just a theory!” or many of the extremely relativistic positions of many post-modernists.

    (Notably, post-modernism is based on a few sound ideas, but these ideas are rarely truly understood and they are often applied in an ridiculous manner—to the point that some in the PC or feminist movement seem to consider truth something that, using post-modernist motivations, should be bent to fit their own ideals without regard for the real world. A lack of understanding of science is almost always present.)

  5. Even in those cases where there is no objective truth to be found, the search for an objective truth can be rewarding in that it forces the exposure to different perspectives, the critical investigation of claims and arguments, the weighing of pros and cons, ... In this way, a richer and deeper understanding can still be found. Indeed, it even happens that an, as it eventually turned out, faulty scientific model or theory had benefits through e.g. predictions that were better than an even earlier model or no model at all.

  6. The wish to actually search for the truth of the matter (a better approximation of the truth, new or refined insights, ...; as opposed to merely convincing others of a pre-formed opinion) is central to good debating.

  7. Objective truth is an ideal that I feel that we should strive for even when it cannot be reached: The more objective and less subjective we become the better—and rejecting this search because we can “only” reach better approximations is not constructive and will lead to less progress and more arbitrariness. A bowler may know that his chances of scoring a perfect game are next to nil, but he can still dream—and if he is a professional, he should also try to improve his game to increase the chance. In the same manner, the scientist, philosopher, debater, amateur thinker, ..., should strive to gain deeper insight—even when he knows that he will never reach perfect insight.

    (Reading up for this post, I note that perfect bowling games, while still rare, are far more common today than a few decades ago, due to changes in materials, shape of pins, and similar. The analogy may be best seen with an eye on the “good old days”.)

  8. There is nothing wrong with claim “X, because Y” (unless a non sequitur). On the contrary, this is indirectly a challenge to others to investigate the argument, point to flaws or special cases, come with counter-arguments, ...

My favourite word

I have repeatedly heard “cellar door”w called the most beautiful word of the English language. Few people would argue that there is any particular merit to its meaning; others would protest that it is, in fact, two words. Yet, others make the case that the pure sound and flow of the pronounced word would make it stand-out.

They have a point—with the right pronunciation. Obviously, among the countless dialects of English, not all yield the same result. In my ears, even using a too rhotic pronunciation would break the word.

Looking at my native Swedish, however, there is very similar word of excelling beauty: Pärlemor.

With a similar flow and many almost-matches in vowel and consonant sounds, it is equally pleasing phonetically. (As a rough pronunciation guide, join together “pair”, the “le” of “lemon”, and “moor”.) In a twist, it actually works quite well with the Swedish rhotic pronunciation.

When we go beyond the pure sound, however, there is no comparison: On the one hand, something boring and mundane, often even ugly. On the other ... mother-of-pearl. (Both in part and as a whole: “Pearlsmother” would be the literal translation.)

Mother-of-pearl is a material of beauty in its own right and the source of even greater beauty; and that beauty is salient through the “pearl”/“pärle” part of the word. Even the way that it creates valuable pearls from an intruding irritant has something poetic and symbolic about it. Further, “pärla” (the base form of the noun) is also a verb, meaning to purl or to sparkle, “en pärlande bäck”—“a purling brook”, “ett pärlande vin”—“a sparkling wine”. In a way, the word it self flows from the lips in a way that makes me think of water flowing through a shallow bed, breaking over small rocks, and glittering with reflected sunlight. My associations to water are strengthened both by the aquatic nature of oysters and by the story “Bäckahästens pärlor”, which I encountered as a child. (I believe this story to be “The kelpie’s pearls” by Mollie Hunterw. “Bäckahäst” literally means “brook horse”, similar to the Scottish “water horse” each uisgew.)

Now, when I hear “pärlemor”, my mind is filled with images of pearls and mother-of-pearl, purling water, sparkling wine, ... When I hear “cellar door”, well, in a best case scenario, I see a door—in a worst case, it may be the hatch to an earth cellar. Indeed, as “pärlemor” is my favourite word, “mother-of-pearl” may well be my favourite English word: It brings me many of the same associations as “pärlemor” and is not without “phonetic beauty” of its own.

Naive ideas about first impressions (censored comment)

In November, I commented upon a post titled You Call That a Handshake?e, where the author expressed the opinion “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I can always rely on my first impression of a person within minutes of meeting them…and it starts with their handshake.”.

The comment I submitted (censored) was roughly that anyone who made that claim either had superhuman powers, lied, or was highly naive—and I stand by that comment. The censorship is a good example of the distortion of debate that I have discussed earlier.

To expound a little on why this opinion is naive (or a lie; I do not believe the author had superhuman powers):

  1. First impressions are often highly misleading, and anyone claiming to “always” being able to rely on them is wrong. Consider e.g. meeting someone for the first time after he had a good night’s sleep respectively was kept up all night by a crying baby, just received a promotion respectively was fired, is in top shape respectively suffers from a migraine, ...

  2. Not everyone sends the same signals and there is no realistic way to reliably take such differences into consideration within a few minutes. Compare the baselines of an Italian and a Swede, an extravert and an introvert, an NT and an aspie, ... Even variations in age and occupation can make a difference in appropriate interpretation. Indeed, I have myself often had the problem that people entirely misjudge who I am, what I want in a certain situation, or similar, because my baseline and my typical external reactions simply are different from most others’.

  3. There are many who have deliberately worked on the first impression they give, in order to mislead others about who they are: “Honest Harry” should not be taken at face value. Even among those who do not deliberately try to mislead, there is a strong correlation between experience with/knowledge of first impressions and the quality of the impression given.

Finally, in my experience, those who think that they are good at judging character are actually often poor at it... (Including being led astray by good actors; never bothering to check that a first impression was actually correct; and interpreting later events to fit the character judgment, rather than letting the events refine the judgment.)

The evils that men do—and the evils that they merely say...

Today, I encountered a German blog entry by Ulrich Kasparicke (formerly a Social-Democrat MP) that provides an excellent example of how self-proclaimed “good guys” easily become the “bad guys” through the failure to understand that what matters is not what we believe, only rarely what we say, but almost always what we do: The “wrong” opinions are considered so wrong and so dangerous that they should be suppressed or forbidden. In some cases (as in Sweden last year), even saying the wrong thing or being a member of the wrong party can cause physical attacks.

That blog entry takes up some recent statements by Horst Seehoferw (Minister-President of Bavaria and a former German cabinet member), which the author strongly attacks (with more vitriol than factual arguments) and for which he intends to file charges for incitement of popular hatredw (on grounds that, so far, appear flimsy).

Now, I am not going to defend (or attack) Seehofer’s statements—I have not seen them in context and I am not familiar in detail with his opinions. However, I stand by his right of free speech, and I am going to attack some of the statements made in the blog post.

Most notably, Kasparick makes the following statement, in bold and as a separate paragraph:

Nun aber ist nach meiner Auffassung die rote Linie überschritten, die ein Demokrat niemals überschreiten darf.

(Now, in my opinion, is the red line crossed, that a democrat must never cross.)

This statement proves that Kasparick does not understand what democracy implies and that he himself is less than democratic. Democracy is not a “having the right opinion”, “being politically correct”, or any other meaning in which the left so often abuses it. On the contrary, it is a political system, based on the general idea that the people is in charge. A central tenant of (at least the modern Western) democracy is the freedom of speech: Anyone should have the right to express his opinions, bring forth his arguments, and so on. Limitations to this principle should be done with utmost caution. Yet, Kasparick’s claims amount to: Seehofer has the wrong opinion; ergo, the law must silence him.

Consider:

Ich kann nicht mehr länger zusehen und schweigen. Das Schreiben von Texten genügt nicht mehr.

(I can no longer look and remain silent. The writing of texts is no longer enough.)

I would counter with a Swedish saying for children: Where the brain ends, the fists begin. Instead of countering Seehofer’s statements with actual arguments, instead of pointing to flaws in facts, instead of showing aspects of the issue that Seehofer might have missed, ..., Kasparick decides to involve the law. By all means, break your silence, but do so with words— not attempts to force others into silence!

Or take his conclusion:

Ich habe mich mein Leben lang immer wieder intensiv mit der Entstehungsgeschichte des Nationalsozialismus in Deutschland befasst. Ein zentraler Grund, weshalb die Volksverführer an die Macht kamen war der Umstand, dass das Bürgertum geschwiegen hat, als das kommende Unrecht schon zu erkennen war.
Es begann mit den Worten.
Es begann mit den Reden.
Deshalb: wehret den Anfängen! Denn aus den Worten werden Taten…

(I have been concerned [befasst] with the history of the origins of National-Socialism in Germany my whole life. A central reason why the demagogues came to power was that the middle-class remained silent, as the future injustice was already recognizable.
It started with words.
It started with speeches.
Therefore: defend against the beginnings! [German expression similar to “an ounce of prevention”] From words come deeds...

There are at least four things wrong with this:

Firstly, it cannot be concluded that deeds will follow words.

Secondly, the words he attacks are not comparable to what the Nazis said before their deeds.

Thirdly, the central point behind the political success of Hitler was not his words, but the suppression of the words of others.

Fourthly, Kasparick himself is already beyond words and is engaging in an attempt to cure (an alleged) evil by doing a greater evil.

The evils that men do: Follow-up

Yesterday, I wrote a post about a censor-those-with-the-wrong-opinions poste.

In the mean time, the OP (Ulrich Kasparick) has:

  1. Blocked comments and track-backs on his post.

  2. Written a second poste where he proclaims himself a friend of free speech!

  3. Censored a comment of mine (and probably more than one by other commenters) on the new post...

In this, and his reasoning in other regards, he provides an excellent example of the sheer stupidity, hypocrisy, and lack of insight into evil that I have so often lamented on this blog. Truly, he should consider the Bible’s complaint:

Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

(Matthew 7:5e)

The censored comment that I left:

Obiges wirkt nicht sonderlich überzeugend im Lichte von Ihrem letzten Beitrag. Vorallem:

1.Scheinen Sie die Irrglaube zu unterliegen, dass das Legale (Illegale) auch automatisch das Richtige (Falsche) ist. (Wie ich schon gestern anführe.)

2. Ich glaube nicht, dass Sie tatsächlich hier ein abstraktes Interesse an juristische Fragen zeigen, noch aus einer wahren Liebe von dem Gesetz getrieben sind, sondern sich vielmehr über Ansichten empören, die nicht mit den Ihrigen kompatibel sind. (Eventuell sogar unter Vortäuschung von 1…)

Ich notiere mit Interesse, dass Sie die Kommentarfunktion auf den vorigen Beitrag abgestellt haben—was Ihre Glaubwürdigkeit in Bezug auf Redefreiheit noch mindert.

(The above is not particularly convincing, in the light of your last post. Above all:

1. You appear to underlie the misconception that the Legal (Illegal) is also automatically the Right (Wrong). (As I stated yesterday.)

2. I do not believe, that you actually have an abstract interest in legal questions, or that you are motivated by a love for the law, but rather bristle at opinions that are not compatible to your own. (Possibly, even with 1. as a mere pretense...)

I note with interest that you have deactivated comments on your last post—which reduces your believability concerning free speech further.)

(Kasparick’s argumentation/justification for his actions seems to be rooted in the excuse of the alleged, unconvincingly claimed illegality of Seehofer’s statements, which would then ipso facto be Wrong. That a German fails to see the difference is truly depressing, having both the Nazis and the GDR in such close historical proximity.)

Self-centered women (yet another censored comment)

Today, I found a “freshly pressed” poste that had very narrow-minded and one-sided, not to say sexist, take on men and how they should approach women. This post was followed by a number of equally narrow-minded comments (and a few more intelligent). Having seen the same self-absorbed prejudices on a great number of occasions, I left the following (apparently censored due to dissent) comment:

You seem to make the major mistake of confusing what works (does not work) with what is graceful/appropriate/whatnot (graceless/inappropriate/…)

Asking directly for a number may not work, but there is nothing inherently wrong with doing so. On the contrary, simply asking is direct and honest. Notably, what the asker actually wants is usually clear from context and any actual claims made are likely to just be excuses or steps on the road to the goal.

Several commenters discuss signals and hints. What most women fail to understand is that:

1. Men prefer and expect direct communication over hints and it is wrong for women to blame this incompatibility on men. They are themselves just as guilty—indeed, arguably more so, because direct communication is inherently more efficient. (Note the similarity to the earlier parts of my comment.)

2. Not every woman uses the same signals to imply a particular meaning. There is no infallible universal language to stick to, and if a man fails to correctly interpret the signals of one particular woman, it is occasionally because he is used to another “dialect” (for want of a better word).

(Two typos corrected.)

The myth of white male privilege

I have had a post on the myth of white male privilege in planning since January. The preliminary, late-running, product is now present on my website, having grown too long for the blog format.

Equal Pay Day (censored comment)

Unfortunately, I have to re-publish yet another censored comment here. The censore is a feminist whose intellectually dishonest and destructive take on censorship has already lead to several entries on my blog, including [1] and [2]. (The more annoying because her lack of insight and her pseudo-knowledge makes her someone who would truly benefit from listening to others.)

The censored comment (dealing with the Equal Pay Day and the myth of unequal pay for equal work; non-German readers can just follow the link):

Wie erfreulich es auch ist, eine Feministin zu sehen, die sich kritisch mit dem Thema auseinandersetzt, bleibt dennoch das selbe Hauptprobleme: Die Annahme, es gäbe eine Benachteiligung von Frauen. In der Wirklichkeit haben Männer und Frauen schon gleiches Gehalt für gleiche Arbeit erreicht. (S. z.B. http://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/the-%e2%80%9c77-cents-on-the-dollar%e2%80%9d-fraud/) In der Tat zeigen Untersuchungen, dass es mittlerweile einige Felder gibt, wo die Frauen im Durchschnitt mehr verdienen…

Lass uns also die irreführende Propaganda-aktion „Equal Pay Day“ in den Grab gehen.

Im Sonstigen: Die teilweise oben gemachten Generalisierungen über Verhalten der Männer und Frauen, samt die Einstellung „Verhalten der Frauen gut–Verhalten der Männer schlecht“ sind irreführend und eher sexistisch als konstruktiv.

Open Letter to the City and Mayor of Cologne

Sehr geehrter Herr Roters,
Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren der Stadt Köln,

als ich heute von einem Einkauf zurückkehrte, habe ich zu meinem Entsetzen ein von Ihnen beauftragtes Werbeplakat gesehen, das sich auf sexistischer und mit Vorurteilen behaftete Art mit dem Thema häuslische Gewalt beschäftigt.

Häusliche Gewalt muss bekämpft werden. Dies muss aber zugleich auf eine gerechte und sachliche Art gemacht werden. Der Zusatz “gewaltfreie Männer Kölns” (o.ä., leider habe ich keine Gelegenheit zum Aufschreiben gehabt) ist diesen Bedingungen in keinster Weise gerecht.

Erstens wird hier impliziert, das Gewalt würde von Männern ausgehen. In der Wirklichkeit, wie wissenschaftlichen Untersuchungen überwältigend belegen, ist das Problem entweder mehr von den Frauen ausgehend und gegen die Männer gerichtet oder eine 50–50-Angelegenheit. (Je nach Untersuchung. Vgl. hierzu z.B. http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htme.) Hierzu muss noch hinzugefügt werden, dass Frauen in einem höheren Umfang Waffen (etwa Messer) benutzen und/oder Angriffe aus einem Hinterhalt durchführen. Beides erhöht die Gefährlichkeit der Gewaltaktionen bedeutend.

Hierbei ist zu beachten, dass viele ältere Untersuchungen, die teilweise das Gegenteil behauptet haben, entweder grobe methodische Probleme hatten (z.B. ein bloßes Zählen von Strafanzeigen oder Telefonanrufen bei Hotlines) oder durch ideologische, politische, oder wirtschaftliche Intressen befleckt gewesen sind. (Diese Intressen zu erläutern geht weit über dem Rahmen dieses Schreibens. Für einen schnellen Überblick würde ich jedoch das Lesen von z.B http://www.chronwatch-america.com/articles/4030/1/The-Domestic-Violence-Industry–Hateful/Page1.htmle, http://glennsacks.com/blog/?p=4165e, und http://wadvpress.org/?p=437e nahelegen.)

Zweitens entsteht durch diese Formulierung leicht den Eindruck, gewalttätige Männer wären gewöhnlich. Erneut ist die Wirklichkeit sehr unterschiedlich: Nur eine kleine Minorität der Männer sind gewalttätig. Diese Minorität wird noch kleiner, wenn externe Faktoren (etwa Drogenmissbrauch) herausgefiltert werden—wonach man sich auch eher diese externen Faktoren zuwenden sollte. Zudem, wie oben erläutert, ist die gewalttätige Minorität der Frauen größer.

In beiden Fällen handelt es sich um langstehende Vorurteile, die seit Jahrzehnten zu Ungunsten der Männer verbreitet werden—vorallem in Form unseriöser feministischer Propaganda. Dass sich die Stadt Köln für diese Verbreitung brauchen lässt, ist bemerkenswert, äußerst bedauerlich, und das Ihnen entgegengebrachte Vertrauen verratend.

Um die Sache noch zu verschlimmern behaupten Sie im Internet (http://www.stadt-koeln.de/2/frauen/gegen-gewalt/beratung/00402/e): “In der überwiegenden Zahl der Fälle wird diese Gewalt von Männern an Frauen und Kindern ausgeübt.” Diese Behauptung stellt eine sehr grobe Unwahrheit dar.

Eingedenk obiger Tatsachen muss Ich Sie auffordern, die Werbeaktion umgehend einzustellen, um statt dessen eine Entschuldigung und Richtigstellung zu schalten. Die Internetseite, sowie sonstige Quellen mit ähnlichen männerfeindlichen und grob irreführenden Behauptungen, ist umgehend zu korrigieren. Wegen der großen Sichtbarkeit der Schilder muss schnell agiert werden, wonach ich eine vollständige Korrektur bis spätestens Freitag, 01.04.2011, erwarte.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

Michael Eriksson

Abridged version for English readers: The above is an open letter concerning the City of Cologne spreading the prejudice that men are violent and women are victims. This while statistics (cf. the above links) show that women are the more violent (at least) when it comes to domestic violence. The recipients are oberbuergermeister@stadt-koeln.de (Mayor Jürgen Roters), gleichstellungsamt@stadt-koeln.de (“Department for equality”), and info@stadt-koeln.de.

Ellen Key on men, women, women’s rights, ...

I was recently highly surprised to learn that Ellen Keyw, one of Sweden’s most renowned and honoured women’s rights fighters, had warned strongly against the excesses of some of her co-fighters—in 1896. (In the following, I will use “WRF” to denote these and to differ from “feminist”; neither “suffragette” nor “women’s libber” seem really suitable as translations for the Swedish “kvinnorättskämpe”.)

Over the last few decades, this warning would have been perfectly understandable: Much of modern day feminism is out-of-touch with reality. But in 1896?

I managed to find a free online copy of the work in question, Missbrukad kvinnokraft och kvinnopsykologie (“Misused woman-power and female psychology”, in an approximate translation). Reading the first few chapters, I hardly believed my eyes: Here we had a leading WRF complaining about many of the same misconceptions that drive modern feminism and pointing to differences between men and women that feminists and the Swedish school system deny, but which I have myself observed or deduced later in life.

Among the many points she make, we have:

  1. The strong influence of Evolution on human behaviour and differences in behaviour between the sexes.

  2. That many WRFs are prone to excesses (as are today’s feminists); and that they have often have problems even with comprehending the arguments of their opponents. (Note the very significant difference between not comprehending and comprehending but disagreeing—the former being a major problem with many feminists.)

  3. That women cannot “have it all” without a substantial extra effort and that the price of juggling both a family and a career is often too high.

  4. That women (as a group) are inferior to men where “genius” is concerned.

  5. That individual variation does not eliminate the importance of group differences.

  6. That women are very keen on believing preconceptions and bending the facts to fit the preconceptions.

  7. That equal opportunity does not automatically bring equal outcomes; in particular, that women should have the right to make “traditionally male” life and career choices, but in no way be obliged to do so. Further that those who do follow a male path are usually likely to be less happy than in a more “traditionally female” role. (More generally, I believe that the differences between modern life and what humans were built to do is problematically large.)

  8. Men tend more towards creating things in the world (buildings, art, science, companies, ...); women are more focused on the reproduction of the species.

  9. Women are better at being industrious; men have an edge when thinking enters the arena.

To give a number of specific quotes:

(The high complexity is present in the original, although the translation may be a tad worse due to issues of idiom, and I urge for a careful reading, lest her intentions be misunderstood. References to e.g. “the woman” are literal translations and should be taken as generic, not specific.)

Men om å ena sidan icke ett enda starkt skäl finnes för hoppet att den könsliga differentieringen på det psykiska området allt mer skall kunna utplånas och kvinnan bliva jämnhög med mannen i materiell och andlig produktion; om tvärtom varje stöd, man i detta fall brukar, visar sig svagt som ett rö i naturens starka hand — så ger å andra sidan ett enda undantagsfall av kvinnlig överlägsenhet ett obrytligt stöd åt yrkandet på full frihet för varje kvinna att följa sin individualitet, att utan hinder från samhällets sida själv söka finna vad naturen menat just med henne.

(If, on the one hand, there is not one single strong reason to hope for the elimination of sex differences in the mental area and that the woman would become equal to the man in material and spiritual production; if, on the contrary, every support that is used turns out to be as week as a straw in the strong hand of nature — so does, on the other hand, every exceptional case of female superiority give an indestructible support for the demand for full freedom for every woman to follow her individuality, to without obstacles from society’s side herself find what nature has meant for [with?] her.

Close to the modern anti-feminist view that men and women are equal but (as science confirms) different, and that society should not get in the way of the individual. (Note that the quote should not necessarily be read to indicate a male superiority overall. Other parts of the book point to areas with a perceived female superiority.)

En fördomsfri prövning av alla dessa fakta synes mig berättiga till den slutsatsen: att det icke endast varit det yttre trycket, som i forna tider hämmade utvecklingen av de kvinnliga snillena.

(An unprejudiced examination of all these facts seem to me to justify the conclusion: that it has not only been the external pressure that in the days of yore limited the development of female geniuses.)

Equal opportunity does not necessarily yield equal outcome and men do appear to more often reach the highest levels in various areas.

Kvinnorna minnas alltför sällan, att det icke endast är kvinnokraften som varit hämmad.

(Women remember far too seldom, that it is not only the female power that has been limited.)

One of the greatest errors in feminist argumentation: Comparing a small minority of fortunate men with the broad masses of women, leaving the broad masses of men at the wayside.

Nu syftar hela skolan, studentexamen och allt examensväsende, endast att frambringa kopior. Särskilt lyckas detta väl med flickorna, emedan dessa vanligen ha ett mindre utpräglat intellektuellt skaplynne; emedan de äro mer mottagliga, mer smidiga, och skolan således ännu bättre kan lyckas utplatta dem än gossarna.

(Now the purpose of school, high-school graduation, and all [“examination business”], is only to create copies. This is particularly successful with the girls, because these usually have a less developed intellectual wish to create; because they are more receptive, more agile, and school therefore succeeds even better in making them flat [as with dough and a rolling-pin] than boys.)

Highly interesting with an eye on the current criticisms against the good-for-girls/bad-for-boys school systems of today, which often points to similar differences.

Det är mig ofattligt att framhållandet av några »naturenliga» arbetsområden för kvinnan, kunnat anses innebära syftet att inskränka henne till dessa områden; att betonandet av det nuvarande undervisningsväsendets brister, kunnat anses innebära att jag påyrkar att kvinnor ej böra studera, eller att, när jag talar om dem som läkarinnor, lärarinnor o. s. v. då menar jag, att de skola bli allt detta utan studier!

(It is incomprehensible to me that pointing to some “natural” areas of work for the woman could be interpreted as wishing to limit her to these areas; that emphasizing the defects of the current school systems, could be taken to mean that I urge that women do not study, or that, when I speak of them as physicians, teachers, etc., I imply that they should become all this without studies!)

A typical example of feminist distortion or incomprehension of others opinions.

Under dessa 18 år har ett enda fall — m:me Curie — bestyrkt mina motståndares hopp om kvinnans vetenskapliga framtidsmöjligheter.

Bekräftelser i fråga om de av mina påståenden, som blevo allra mest angripna, ha däremot varit talrikare.

(During these 18 years [the time-span between the 1st and 4th editions; the latter being my source] only one case—m:me Curie—strengthened my opponents hopes of the woman’s scientific future possibilities.

The confirmations concerning those of my claims that were the most attacked, on the contrary, have been more numerous.)

Looking at female Nobel-Prize winners in physics and chemistry, the picture is just as bleak today. Indeed, since Curie’s days there have only been one (!) other female winner of the physics prize—and that in 1963! The chemistry prize has an additional three winners—one of which Curie’s daughter...

Lika litet behöver man betona huru rik på framgång kvinnoemancipationen varit. Såväl ideellt som materiellt har kvinnosaken gått från seger till seger. Kraven på rätt till full individuell utveckling och full laglig likställighet med mannen, liksom till full arbetsfrihet, ha åt kvinnan öppnat den ena banan efter den andra, vunnit den ena lagliga rätten efter den andra. Visserligen fattas ännu viktiga rättigheter, bland dem den mest oavisliga, den gifta kvinnans myndighet över sin person, sin egendom och sina barn. Men ingen tänkande människa betvivlar, att icke vid nästa sekelslut allt skall vara vunnet;

(Just as little does one need to emphasize how rich on success the women’s emancipation has been. Both ideally [as opposite of “materially”] and materially, the women’s cause has gone from victory to victory. The demands for the right to full individual development and full legal equality with the man, likewise to full freedom to work, has opened one road [read “door”] after the other, won one legal right after the other. Certainly, some important rights are still missing, among them the most undeniable, the married woman’s authority [presumably in a sense of “legal capacity”, “with the rights of an adult”] over her own person, her property, and her children. But no thinking human doubts that all this shall be won by the end of the next [20th] century;)

Key considers emancipation a success a century ago; the feminists of today eternally complain about how far we allegedly would still be from equality, despite the missing rights already being present. (Yes, equality and emancipation are not the same; however, extrapolating, it would be highly surprising if the latter had not followed by now—and there is no evidence to the contrary, except for unlikely interpretations of differences in outcome.)

Och dock är det ofta just ur underklassen, världens »övermänniskor» framträtt, sedan de genombrutit mycket svårare hinder än dem, den snillrika kvinnan i överklassen samtidigt hade måst besegra för att få följa sin väsensbestämmelse. Även dessa manliga snillen ha saknat arvet från »flera generationers utveckling i frihet». Men de ha dock nått den högsta andliga höjden i sin samtid.

(And still it is often just from the lower class that the worlds’ “Übermenschen” have appeared, after breaking through much more difficult obstacles than those that brilliant women in the upper class have had to conqueror in order to follow their destiny of being. These male geniuses too have lacked the heritage of “several generations of development in freedom”. Still they have reached the highest mental heights in their time.)

One popular argument among feminists (and the PC crowd in the US) is that changes over several generations are needed to create reasonably equal opportunity. (If we look at perfection, they are likely correct; however, they fail to consider that the individual and his or her abilities and actions become a more important factor far earlier.)

Man kan redan under skolåren se en skillnad mellan flickans och gossens sätt att arbeta. Flickan är plikttrognare i arbetet med de föresatta uppgifterna, men hon lämnar intresset för själva ämnet kvar i skolan, medan gossen på ett helt annat sätt är upptagen av ämnet själv. Det har under flera år roat mig att lyssna till samtalen mellan den skolungdom från flera enskilda skolor, som korsat mina egna vägar. I nio fall av tio ha flickorna talat om någon »han» eller »hon», om nöjen eller om kläder; i nio fall av tio hava gossarna talat om sport eller om sina studier — från multiplikationstabellen till helvetesläran!

(Already during the school years, one can observe a difference between the girl’s and the boy’s manner of work: The girl is more diligent in work with the prescribed exercises [tasks?], but she leaves the topic as such in school, while the boy is occupied with the topic as such in a completely different manner. For several years, it has amused me to listen to the conversations of school-youth from several individual schools that have crossed my own ways. In nine cases out of ten, the girls have spoken about a “he” or “she” [i.e. gossiped], about amusements or about clothes; in nine cases out of ten, the boys have talked about sport or their studies—from the table of multiplication to [teachings about the nature of hell]!)

School again. Further, a good characterization of male and female interests.

Medan mannen från en underordnad plats ofta lyfter sig till en högre genom sin vakenhet, sin i viss mån skapande drift, förblir kvinnan vanligen på den underordnade platsen, emedan hon saknar denna drivkraft. Av tio unga män, som erhölle valet mellan tvenne lika högt lönade platser, men av vilka den ena vore ansvarsfullare och mödosammare, den andra mindre arbetsam men även mindre betydelsefull, torde sålunda nio välja den förra, men av tio unga kvinnor de nio välja den senare.

(While the man often raises himself from a subordinate position to a higher through his wakefulness, his to some degree [in some sense?] creative drive, the woman usually remains in the subordinate position, while she lacks this drive. Of ten young men, who were given the choice between two equally payed positions, but of which the one brings more responsibility and labor, the other being less laborious but also less important, nine would thus choose the former, but of ten young women, nine the latter.)

Exactly different interests and/or abilities are the true explanation for the mythical glass ceiling (and related phenomena).

Kvinnan åter är ofta platonisk i kärleken till sitt verk, emedan hon är så fullt aktiv i sina personliga förhållanden.

(The woman, again, is often platonic in the love for her work [possibly in the “oeuvre” sense], while she is fully active in her personal relationships.

Again.

De bekräfta därigenom en ypperlig manlig definition av begreppet »kvinna»: »En varelse, som när mannen säger ’två gånger två är fyra’, svarar honom: Det tror jag inte och huru ni än bevisar, behåller jag min tanke om saken.»

(They [women] thus confirm an excellent male definition of the concept “woman”: “A being who, when the man says ‘two times two is four’, answers him: I do not believe that and no matter how you prove it, I will keep my opinion on the issue.”)

Women in general; feminists in particular.

The common thread of weak thinking in leftist opinions

Even in my teens, I noticed the seemingly odd phenomenon that the Swedish left disagreed with the right on more or less every issue—even when these issues had nothing to do with left and right in the political sense (and disregarding that the left–right scale likely does more harm than good), including e.g. issues relating to Israel or nuclear power. As time has gone by, I have noted the same phenomenon in other countries: While there are great variations (in particular with the right being far less homogeneous than the left), there is a strong correlation between e.g. being left and strongly disliking Israel or nuclear power, respectively being right and being more pro-Israel (note that, outside of the US and Israel, it self, the relative “more pro-” is usually necessary, while the absolute “anti-” can stand on its own) or being pro-nuclear power. Similarly, the left tends to be pro-feminism, pro-affirmative action, anti-globalization, pro-political correctness, whatnot—all things that are not (or very weakly) tied to the left–right scale. (If someone wants to counter e.g. that feminism is obviously left because both the feminists and the left wish for equality for everyone, or similar: You merely prove that you do not understand typical right-wing positions on equality—or, for that matter, what modern day feminism actually implies.)

Having considered these observations off-and-on for a few weeks, I see a pattern of contributing factors relating to lack of rational thought and a tendency to jump where feelings lead without investigating the facts, that explain various typically leftist opinions (including much of the original left–right divide) and why these are so often not shared by the right:

  1. A weakness to emotional arguments; in particular, a tendency to believe whoever complains the loudest and has the best “sob story”. Prime examples are the anti-Israel and pro-feminism stances: On closer inspection, various militant Palestinian organisations are the greater villains in the drama, who just happen to be very good at painting themselves as victims (cf. the “Not touching! Can’t get mad!” stunt of the Mavi Marmara); while feminists rely on a mixture of lies, misinterpreted or falsified statistics, spreading of anti-male prejudice, whatnot (cf. any number of previous entries).

  2. An inability or unwillingness to check the facts, think a few steps ahead to look at mid- and long-term consequences, etc.: Examples include believing the 77 cents on the dollar nonsense, banning child-labour (as opposed to merely condemning it) without first ensuring that the families can prevail without it, etc.

    An illustrative non-political (and semi-fictitious) example: Assume that a plane has been hi-jacked and that the hi-jackers demand a ransom of 10 million dollars. A typical leftist-style reaction would be along the lines of “Oh! Those poor people, we have to save them no matter what the cost! It would be inhuman to think of money in a situation like this!”; while a rightist reaction would be “If we pay these hi-jackers, others will see that hi-jacking pays off—and we will see an increase in hi-jackings with more innocent people at risk.” (not the “Money is more important than people! Let them fend for themselves!” that the common leftist caricatures of the right would likely claim).

  3. A view of the world based on offender–victim or oppressor–oppressee relationships. Consider pairings like Israel–Palestinians, men–women, the US–the World, Whites–non-Whites, ... Of course, this is unsurprising with an eye on Marxism—and, indeed, the rich–poor pairing is fundamental to many leftist ideologists and voters. Statements even to the point of claiming that the rich would hate the poor are not unheard of in e.g. Sweden.

    In reality, these pairings usually display misunderstandings, failures as per item 1, unfair generalizations, or are otherwise faulty or, at best, quarter-truths on closer inspection. In particular, the Swedish saying “Det är inte ens fel om två träter.”–“It is not the fault of the one [party], if two [parties] are feuding.” is too often neglected.

  4. A fear of that one big, but unlikely, disaster over the certain continual and continuous destruction. Nuclear power vs. coal and oil is the paramount example, but other examples abound in the small, including politically correct language changes, where the fear of insulting someone leads to negative language changes or restrictions on freedom of speech. (See e.g. my discussion of gender-neutral language.)

    Here it is vital to look at “opportunity cost” and “expectation value”—in particular when faced with situations like the recent Japanese nuclear scare: Note how few incidents there have been over the years, that Japan did not become a radioactive wasteland, that the earth-quake and tsunami did more damage on their own than the nuclear incidents/accidents did, ...

    To make matters worse, these fears are often combined with a poor understanding of the issue (as discussed above). For instance, I recently encountered a blog comment with the completely incorrect claim that this-or-that reactor had x thousand times the nuclear material of the Hiroshima bomb—and that it would explode with x thousand times the power. Well, if that was a risk, I would likely be anti-nuclear power too... In reality, it is extremely unlikely, bordering on the impossible, for a nuclear explosion to take place—and even if, by some extraordinary fluke, it did take place, the yield would not be even remotely proportional to the mass of the nuclear material. (Consider that the hypothetical explosion would throw most of the core out of reach from the chain reaction at a too early stage or that a localized sufficient criticality would not imply a core-wide criticality.)

Note: I do not claim that these sins are the sole property of the left. On the contrary, they are fairly wide-spread (including both Republicans and Democrats in the US and the European, severely misnamed, “extreme right”); however, in most countries that I have insight into, the left appears to be far worse than the right—most notably in Sweden.

The reader may observe that there is a similar tendency of different thinking between men and women—and, indeed, women tend to be more leftist than men.

The “77 cents on the dollar” fraud revisited—Equal Pay Day

I just came across an article, There Is No Male-Female Wage Gape, on the “Equal Pay Day” fraud—the day were women allegedly have caught up with men’s earnings from the previous year. The claim that women would earn less for equal work has been debunked here previously (cf. [1], [2]) and in many external sources; however, political feminists seem to pay no heed (incidentally giving more proof for my previous post).

The article in a nutshell:

Feminist hand-wringing about the wage gap relies on the assumption that the differences in average earnings stem from discrimination. Thus the mantra that women make only 77% of what men earn for equal work. But even a cursory review of the data proves this assumption false.

A few central points:

  1. Men suffer a higher unemployment rate. (9.3 % to 8.3 % according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics respectively the article.)

  2. Voluntary career choices (e.g. line of work or position sought) have a significant impact.

  3. Men work longer hours than women. (8.75 hours to 8.01 hours for full-time workers.)

  4. The wage gap often goes in the opposite direction nowadays:

    Recent studies have shown that the wage gap shrinks—or even reverses—when relevant factors are taken into account and comparisons are made between men and women in similar circumstances. In a 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30, the research firm Reach Advisors found that women earned an average of 8% more than their male counterparts.

The repetitiveness of the Blogosphere

For a little more than a year, I have been very active in the Blogosphere, not only keeping my own blog, but spending hours reading or commenting on other peoples blogs. Indeed, I spent much more time reading than writing. Or at least that is how it used to be...

As time has passed, I have found myself reading less and less, and even needing to remind myself to write. To some degree, this goes back to the general satiety that comes with any activity done for long enough. However, there is another issue: Repetitiveness.

When I first started reading, I truly appreciated the many different views on various topics, the new angles and perspectives, other ways of thinking, being exposed to entirely new topics, ... By now, the amount of “newness” has shrunk considerably. Not only because I have covered a lot of ground already, but because the various blogs tend to say more or less the same things about more or less the same issues (even if divided into several camps). Reading the same thing for the fifth time is more of a chore than a pleasure and writing the same comment for the fifth time is even worse.

Without the drive/hope for new insights, my reading has switched from following interesting tags to using the top-100 lists for blog entries. This with the dual idea of these having a higher on-average quality and being more suitable for driving traffic to my own blog through comments. The former is a two-edged sword for the German and Swedish listings, because the blogs found are more-or-less the same on every visit, leading to even greater repetitiveness. Further, the choice is made by popularity, not quality, which means both that there are a number of duds to be found and that true originality of thought is further reduced by the selective pressure of the masses. The English version is near useless: After subtracting all the lol cats, online magazines, hyper-commercial low-quality entries, and similar, there is but a handful out of the hundred worth bothering with. (Lest there be any misunderstanding: I am a great fan of various humour sources on the Internet, lol cats included. However, when I want humour, I visit the sites directly—their presence with multiple entries each on the top-100 list amounts to pollution.)

Lately, being unusually short on time due to work, I have tried to at least visit the “Freshly Pressed” blogs—but the amount of worth-while reading there is close to nil: Photos, recipes, re-hashings of trite ideas, ... For that matter, it can be disputed whether there is any benefit in leaving one additional comment to the dozens or hundreds already present. The value added link-wise is likely larger on a “regular” post—and the probability of new insight through a productive discussion is far higher.

Open Letter to the City and Mayor of Cologne—take two

Nach mehr als einem Monat habe ich am Montag eine in keinster Weise zufriedenstellende Antwort auf meinen Brief erhalten. Diese wird unten diskutiert und beantwortet.

Sehr geehrter Herr Völlmecke,
Sehr geehrte Frau Weber-Hackel,

Sehr geehrter Herr Eriksson,

Ihren Brief habe ich zur Kenntnis genommen und den Inhalt der Vorwürfe überprüft.

In Köln steigen seit Einführung des Gewaltschutzgesetzes 2002 die Zahlen im Bereich der häuslichen Gewalt leider immer weiter an, so dass eine öffentliche Kampagne notwendig ist, um viele Menschen anzusprechen und zu informieren.

Abgesehen davon, dass Sie den Beweis schuldig bleiben (insbesonders wichtig bei den häufigen und öfters grob irreführenden Verwechslungen von Anzahl/Veränderung der Anzeigen und Anzahl/Veränderung der Vorfällen), kann dies nicht die Art Ihrer Kampagne rechtfertigen. Sie haben zu Unrecht Männer als Täter ausgemalt und hierdurch destruktive Vorurteile verbreitet. Um sich die potentiellen Schadenswirkungen solcher Vorurteile bewusst zu werden, braucht man nicht weiter zu schauen als meine schwedische Heimat, wo diese in großem Umfang als Grundlage für politische Propaganda und pseudo-wissenschaftliche “Forschung” von radikalen Feministen benutzt wird—obwohl die (richtige) Wissenschaft sie widerlegen. Eben in Deutschland sollte man mittlerweile die Gefahren von solchen Vorurteilen und solcher Propaganda äußerst gut kennen. Dass Sie, trotz dass Sie eines besseren belehrt worden sind, durch umfassende wissenschaftliche Referenzen, immer noch diese Unwahrheit verbreiten ist nicht zu entschuldigen. (Vgl. mit der schon erwähnten Internetseite, wo auch heute, grob unwahr, behauptet wird “In der überwiegenden Zahl der Fälle wird diese Gewalt von Männern an Frauen und Kindern ausgeübt”.)

Ich gehe davon aus, dass Sie diese grobe Unwahrheit umgehend korrigieren.

Die Plakataktion hat zum Ziel sowohl betroffene Männer als auch Frauen auf die Möglichkeit aufmerksam zu machen, Hilfe in Anspruch nehmen zu können und mögliche Ansprechpartner zu benennen.

Die Plakataktion ist in dem Falle dem Ziel in keinsterweise gerecht geworden—und muss demnach zusätzlich als Verschwendung von öffentlichen Geldern verurteilt werden.

Sollte das Anliegen dieser Kampagne zu Missverständnissen geführt haben, tut mir dies leid.

Ein bloßes “es tut mir leid” stellt weder eine Entschuldigung noch eine Richtigstellung dar.

Es ist von Ihrem Schreiben klar, dass Sie die Situation und meinen Brief nicht mit angemessener Ernst betrachten und behandeln.

Sollten Sie bis 19.05.2011 nicht eben angemessen reagiert haben, worin als Minimum die Bereinigung und Richtigstellung Ihres Internetauftritts verlangt werden muss, werde ich mich gezwungen sehen, die Möglichkeiten weitergehender Maßnahmen (Strafanzeige, Zeitungen, Mißtrauensvotum, ...) zu untersuchen.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen
Im Auftrag
Gez. Klaus-Peter Völlmecke

Mit freundlichen Grüßen
Im Auftrag

Lisa Weber-Hackel
Stadt Köln - Der Oberbürgermeister
Amt für Kinder, Jugend und Familie
Grundsatzangelegenheiten ASD
Ottmar-Pohl-Platz 1
51103 Köln

Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

Michael Eriksson

Abridged version for English readers: A very belated reply to my open letter has arrived. Above, its deficiencies are discussed, e.g. that the City’s website still repeats a prejudiced and scientifically refuted claim that the clear majority of all domestic violence is perpetrated by men—when, in fact, investigations regularly show women as the more common perpetrators.

Abominable censorship/Domestic violence/Blogroll update

Following up on what other people have written under the same tags as my last post, I landed on a blog entry spouting common and faulty propagandae, e.g. the claim that 85 % of DV victims would be women—something simply very far from the truth.

The comment I posted pointing this out was deleted within a quarter of an hour. The snotty reply of the author:

And how do you know this blogger’s source isn’t as credible if not more credible than your source?

Well, apart from her using anonymous numbers and my actually having and giving a source, in turn referencing hundreds of scientific investigations:

This type of numbers I have seen time and time again by feminists, the shelter industry, and similar—but neutral sources simply have different results. Apart from a severe problem with “statistics” that are simply invented or severely misinterpreted (cf. e.g. previous discussions on rape statistics or the 77 cents on the dollar fraud) in contexts like these, 85 % is roughly the type of number that tends to occur when police reports are counted—a method which is inherently misleading. Other claims of the post, e.g. that women would receive considerably harsher punishments for killing their spouses are exceedingly unlikely (I admit that I have never seen statistics on this specific point; however, the opposite problem of women being treated more leniently is otherwise prevalent). Consider the claim that DV would be shameful for women: The problem is the opposite that it is too shameful for men who are victims—not to mention that a non-trivial number of women raise false accusations when e.g. starting divorce proceedings.

Further, an author who does not counter criticism against her numbers by publishing a reference, but by censoring the criticism, sends a very clear signal about her own credibility as a source...

Exactly this occurs again and again: The comments that would prove of greatest value to undermine the faulty claims of feminists are the ones most likely to be censored. So e.g. on a recent DV post by a highly misguided authore, where the following comment was deleted:

More importantly, we should keep in mind that men’s violence against women is not a big problem compared to violence in general. Indeed, as modern research shows, men are somewhat more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators where DV is concerned (the reverse applies to women). Cf. http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm for hundreds of references. Further, men are significantly more likely to be victims of violence in general.

Let us work against the real enemy, violence, rather than creating undue fears and feeding prejudice against men by over-focusing on just one special case.

In response to these problems, I will update my blogroll to include http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htme, the most thorough meta-source on the issue that I am aware of. By the FIFO principle, http://www.dudalibre.com/en/gnulinuxcountere is removed. That page was first discussed heree.

“The Male Privilege Checklist” debunked

Earlier today, I encountered a self-proclaimed Male Privilege Checkliste. I have added a discussion/debunking to my own article on the myth of white male privilege.

How to handle Tor

I am a frequent user of the anonymization tool Tor. Regrettably, some websites are in the bad habit of blocking requests from Tor without a valid reason—and those that do have a valid reason (e.g. related to spam or malicious attacks) rarely handle the situation appropriately.

Bearing in mind that most Tor users are perfectly legitimate, these are the main errors:

  1. Never telling the user that or why the request was blocked.

  2. Blocking only parts of a page, creating the impression that something unrelated to Tor is not working, that something unrelated to the website is not working (e.g. a proxy), or that things are working (while they are not).

  3. Excluding the user from functionality that is unrelated to the problem. For instance, many forums block Tor with the claim that they are afraid of spam. Well, if so, they may have a legitimate reason to block postings—but not reading! Further, if spam is the problem, then this is probably the wrong solution to begin with: Some combination of registration and verification (CAPTCHA, manual reply to an email, e.g.) would be more effective.

As a natural pendant, the following advice:

  1. Do not block Tor (and similar services) unless you absolutely have too—or without bothering to find out what Tor is.

  2. Explicitly tell the users that they were blocked and why. Use a message that takes into account that this is a blanket ban of a user group—not an individual misbehaving user.

  3. Exclude pages in their entirety or not all. (Some special cases may exist, but none occurs to me at the moment.)

  4. Never block users from functionality that does not enhance the effects of the ban (e.g. reading posts, when the purpose of the ban is to prevent writing posts).

Six feminist myths

A few days ago, Pär Ström, one of the leading fighters against prejudice and media misreporting in Sweden, published a book titled “Sex feministiska myter” (“Six feminist myths”).

Packed with references, quotes by researchers, statistics, and specific examples, this book makes short shrift of the following myths:

  1. Sex/Gender (“kön”) is a social construct:

    In reality, there is very strong proof of biological sex differences, including genetic differences and variations due to different levels of various hormones (both current and in utero). The effects of these on abilities and preferences are significant within humanity.

    Note: The word “kön” can be translated as either “sex” or “gender”, depending on context. In an English discussion (where there is often a differentiation per definition into biological/sex and non-biological/gender differences), it would make less sense to discuss whether sex/gender is biological, but whether the biological influence is unimportant overall—which is what feminists of the long-debunked “tabula rasa” school like to claim.

  2. Women receive less pay for equal work:

    In reality, there is no discrimination against women to be found when equal work is compared. Differences in raw numbers stem from comparing unequal work (e.g. with regard to working hours, experience levels, field of work). Increasingly, among young people, women have an actual advantage...

  3. Women have it harder making a career:

    In reality, there are no signs of this. Differences in outcomes arise from different life priorities and similar factors. Indeed, there are many examples of anti-man discrimination, where the wish for equal outcomes, even over an age-stratified work-force, forces organisations to give women an unfair leg up—sometimes two...

  4. Men hit women:

    In reality, men are the victims of violence noticeably more often than women. Even specifically domestic violence is a roughly 50–50 issue, with a slight lead of women as the perpetrators and men as the victims.

  5. Women work double (“dubbelarbetar”) in the house-hold and the workplace:

    In reality, men work more than women overall. It is true that women work more in the house-hold; however, men work correspondingly more in the workplace—and then 19 minutes a day.

  6. Women have worse health-care:

    In reality, there are no notable disadvantages for women. On the contrary, there are signs of clear discrimination of men in some areas, including cancer research and treatment.

The recurring reader will not be surprised by any of the above, which has been discussed (in less detail than the book provides) on a number of occasions on this blog and which is the accepted truth among non-partisan specialists in the respective subject areas. (A good starting point for my writings is [1], which also contains a number of later track-backs.)

The book is available free-of-charge (in Swedish) from http://www.dnv.se/mou/feministiska_myter.htme and is discussed by the author under http://genusnytt.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/min-bok-sex-feministiska-myter-slappt/e.

Blogroll overhaul

In the past year, I have had a blogroll divided into three short sections, “me”, “permanent”, and “temporary”—all deliberately kept short. In light of experiences to date, I am now overhauling this classification.

The “me” section will remain as is.

“Permanent” will be divided into sub-categories based on language. Of the four current entries, only Dilberte will remain. The other three (the Wordpress tag listings in respectively, English, Swedish, and German) are removed: The Swedish and German tend to be too thin to warrant a recommendation; the English suffers from an idiotic layout problem, where the more interesting tags receive a different layout with severe usability problems. The word “permanent” will be dropped: With the greater number of entries, removals are foreseeable.

“Temporary” will remain, but limited to three entries (previously five): The idea to have a first-in-first-out queue of interesting blogs, noble causes, whatnot, was sound, but the rate of update was simply far too low for this to make sense in practice. Of the current entries, Christianity And The Witch Hunt Erae and Human Stupiditye are kept temporary (leaving one slot open for the time being). The remaining three are promoted to the permanent English blogroll (Foundation for Individual Rights in Educatione, durhamwonderlande, and The truth about domestic violencee).

(For historical information, including earlier discussions of the links kept and removed, search my blog for “blogroll” or the name of the link in question.)

The exact entries present on the “permanent” blogrolls will develop over time, but for a start I will include the following entries:

English:

The four entries already mentioned.

Swedish:

Genusnytte—Sweden’s leading source of criticism against feminism, disparate treatment of men and women, gender studies, and media distortions.
Aktivarume—a blog dealing with feminism and political correctness in Sweden.
Inteutanminasoner’s Bloge is re-added from the archives.

German:

Manndat: Feministische Mythene—A very thorough review and debunking of core feminist myths. Unfortunately, some of the material is only available through PDFs.
Feminismus oder Gleichbehandlunge—a somewhat satirical discussion of feminism in (particularly) Germany. Note that this page is part of what I suspect to be a site to recommend in general. Unfortunately, I have not yet had the time to dig in sufficiently deep to make a definite statement.
Alles Evolutione—A blog with interesting discussions of (mostly) evolutionary aspects of male and female behaviours.

As an aside, the content of these links in much reflect the development of this blog, which soon was taken over by discussions of feminism, political correctness, intellectual dishonesty, myths about this-and-that, ... The reason is simple: Reading blogs (and often newspapers, political propaganda, and similar) there is an endless supply of ignorants who loudly proclaim something to be true that is not, who fail to use arguments and opt for personal attacks, who censor the arguments on others on a large scale, or otherwise try to distort the debate. A particular problem is the common attitude that there are opinions that would not merely be factually wrong, but actually morally evil and that these should be targeted with any means necessary—entirely missing the point that evil is demonstrated not by opinions, but by methods (including those listed above). These people (disproportionally represented among feminists and the politically correct, but also e.g. among creationists) are a major PITA for a me and, worse, as a group pose a considerable danger to the positive development of society, science, and the rights of the individual.

Children vs. parents vs. the government (circumcision)

Yesterday, I came across a blog post on calls for a ban on circumcisione beginning with “The loony Left is at it again.”—surprising, because while the Left is often loony, circumcision is a very real evil (I will expand on this side-topic below) and something which I would expect at least the Libertarian right to strongly oppose.

Upon my protest, the author replied that:

The issue is not circumcision; it’s whether some Left-wing (or Right-wing for that matter) Moon-bats know better than parents and should be allowed to intervene in child rearing. Just look around and see the results. We are in the 5th decade of the Progressive experiment to have Social workers and other government agencies take over the responsibilities of raising our children. Object failure with kids coming out of school who cannot read, teenage pregnancies and abortions at all time highs.

Government does very little right. Suggestion that we continue to cede parental rights to it makes no sense.

While there is more than a grain of truth in this comment, it also contains several missteps. Seeing that these missteps reflect an attitude I have seen on a number of occasions, I will try to straighten them out:

  1. The core issue is the rights and best interests of the individual (in this case, the child—not the parents!) and how to protect these.

    In many cases of government intervention, rights and interests of the individual are infringed upon. This is the case e.g. when highly inefficient and unduly time consuming schooling is opposed on children, when boys are put on Ritalin just for being boys, or when schools are abused for indoctrination; this is the case e.g. when hard-earned income is stolen (typically through taxes), when “affirmative action” destroys equality of opportunity and prevents companies from hiring the most suitable candidates, or when marriage and family is turned from something a man can be proud of into a divorce-trap of alimony payments and unfounded accusations of domestic violence or sexual abuse.

    Here, however, we have something else entirely, namely the government protecting the rights of the child against the misdeeds of the parents. (Notably, unlike some other cases, e.g. where social workers take children from a sub-optimal environment to put them in a down-right poor one, this is not an issue where the risk of incompetence in the handling of individual cases is a concern.)

  2. Parents have obligations towards their children, but their actual rights (from an ethical POV) are highly limited: A child is not a possession. Arguments based on parental rights are therefore almost always fundamentally flawed: It is, for instance, wrong to argue that a parent (or government!) should have the right to perform religious or political indoctrination. (However, an argument based on undue legislation preventing parents from fulfilling their obligations can still be valid.)

    Indeed, in many cases, we have a conflict between two parties (parents and government) who do not have rights and who have different opinions as to what is in the child’s best interest. The question now becomes one of the lesser evil (or, occasionally, greater good)—parents or government. As the poster correctly remarks, the government is very often the greater evil; further, supporting the parents has the advantage that damage can be limited: The typical individual parent, if incompetent, will only do damage to 1–3 children; the government can screw up an entire generation. Cases like circumcision (cf. above and below), however, are of a different character.

Why is circumcision something that children should be protected from? It has no known benefits, but can have medical side-effects—including infections after the operation or reduced sexual pleasure as an adult; in rare cases, penis-loss or even death follows; and there are speculations about psychological trauma (however, I would generally urge to caution when allegations of trauma are raised, until considerable proof is presented). Further, it is a permanent alteration of the body and thus a decision that should be made by the individual for himself at a time when he is sufficiently mature to do so. Further yet, unless there is compelling evidence of benefits, the “natural” state should be given preference, as it is less likely to bring unforeseen problems. (Note that there are some alleged, but unproved, benefits, including claims about a reduced transmission of STDs; however, apart from the lack of proof, these would be relevant in cases of poor hygiene and insufficient use of condoms. A far better solution, then, is to address hygiene and use of condoms.)

To make a brief compare-and-contrast:

  1. Tattoos are similar: Permanent alteration with no benefits and some risk of medical complications—a decision to be made by the individual.

  2. Vaccination: Does bring some risks, but also considerable benefits (if restricted to those vaccinations that are medically sensible). Further, the non-positive permanent effects are negligible or non-existent. The case for vaccination is, therefore, far better.

  3. Amputating a limb to avoid possible death (e.g. due to gangrene): This decision is sufficiently large (including severe permanent damage) that it should be left to the adult individual; however, unlike circumcision, it cannot be. By the nature of the situation, the decision has to be made within a highly limited time frame and unless the child is already old enough to make at least a semi-informed decision (in which case his opinion should be given due weight) some constellation of parents and physicians must take the responsibility. The case for the parents making the decision is far better than for circumcision (however, it does not automatically follow that “amputate” would be the right decision in any given case).

  4. Corporeal punishment (on a moderate level): No permanent bodily damage is done, the risk of medical complications is very low, and there could be (this area is insufficiently researched, but there is considerable anekdotal evidence and general plausibility) benefits in terms of effective child-raising. Psychological damage, in turn, seems to arise not from (moderate) corporeal punishment, but e.g. from unfair or gratuitous punishment and emotional punishment. Corporeal punishment is then more justifiable than circumcision. (Under the mentioned constraints and with some reservations for future research.)

A few interesting reads on the topic:
http://www.circumcision.org/studies.htme
Sexual_effects_of_circumcisionw
Medical_analysis_of_circumcisionw
http://www.menweb.org/histcirc.htme

Kachelmann acquitted

As a follow-up to a previous entry, I note that Jörg Kachelmann has now been acquittede of the rape charges raised against him—as was widely expected considering the lack of evidence and the continually diminishing credibility of the witness statements. The language of the court has already been criticized by several bloggers as insufficient, e.g. by a juriste:

Als ob es nicht um die Begründung eines Freispruchs für den Angeklagten, sondern um das Freisprechen des Vorsitzenden von jeder erdenklichen „Schuld“ ginge, hält sich die Begründung von Richter Seidling viel zu lange mit der Verteidigung der Prozessleitung auf.

(As if not the justification of the acquittal of the accused, but the acquittal of the judge from any conceivable “culpability” [guilt?], was the target, the finding of Judge Seidling was occupied for far too long with the defense of the conducting of the case. [With reservations for errors in legal terminology.])

Non-appearing comment

A recent comment of mine appears to have been swallowed by blogpost (no error message, confirmation message, or similar appeared). To compensate, I republish it here. Please see the original poste for context.

"I en värld där män som bara några exempel har nästan all makt, huvuddelen av pengarna och begår nästan alla våldsbrott finns det kanske skäl att ha en viss olika behandling?"

Nej: Detta vore nämligen en utsaga om män som grupp. Lagen, domsluten, osv., handlar dock om individer—och varje individ ska bedömmas efter vad han/hon är, gör, tjänar, m.m. som just individ. Därför får inte lagen i en funktionerande rättsstat göra skillnader baserande på kön eller annan grupptillhörighet av ett liknande slag.

Härutöver är det tveksamt om dina utsagor stämmer: Män har kanske mer makt, men helt säkert inte “nästan all makt”—framförallt inte i Sverige. Det är tveksamt om män har huvuddelen av pengarna, då undersökningar om ägande ofta visar att kvinnor har mer pengar (gärna pengar som de ärvt av fäder eller makar), då unga kvinnor ofta tjänar mer än unga män, och då kvinnor även tidigare ofta har fattat de ekonomiska besluten om vad som skulle göras med pengarna som mannen tjänat. Helt säkert begår män inte nästan alla våldsbrott—när det gäller “domestic violence” finns det tom. en svag kvinnlig dominans. (Detta bortsett från alla punkter där män gör mer nytta än kvinnor eller kvinnor mer skada än män.)

Comparison of the comment policies of a feminist and an evolutionist

Visiting a few German blogs, I landed on two comment policies within minutes of one another. The extreme difference in philosophy is interesting:

The first, Alles Evolutione distances itself from censorship:

Ich hasse das Sperren von Leuten. Ganz einfach weil ich selbst in diversen feministischen Blogs gesperrt wurde oder meine Kommentare dort – obwohl durchaus sachlich gehalten – nicht veröffentlicht wurden. Das allein führt dazu, dass ich das Sperren und eigentlich auch das Löschen von Kommentaren als absolute Notlösung sehe, die ich ungern jemals einsetzen würde.

(I hate the blocking of people. Simply because I, myself, have been blocked on various feminist blogs or my comments there—even though factual—went unpublished. This alone leads to my considering blocking [of commenters] and really also the deletion of comments to be a stopgap measure, which I would be reluctant to ever use.)

Further, it goes on to request fair debating from the commenters:

Nichts desto trotz gilt aber nach wie vor, dass Kommentare sachlich bleiben sollen. Ich bitte alle Kommentatoren daran zu denken.

(Nevertheless, as previously, comments should remain factual. I ask all commenters to consider this.)

The second, Thoughts Under Constructione, makes statements like:

Respektlosigkeiten akzeptiere ich nicht. Dazu gehören individuelle Beleidigungen sowie gruppenbezogene Menschenfeindlichkeiten. Da sich die Anzahl der -ismen und -phobien dauernd vergrößert zähle ich sie nicht auf.

(I do not accept lack of respect. This includes individual insults and group based misanthropy. Because the number of -isms and -phobias are ever growing, I do not list them.)

While this may not seem bad at a first glance, it still is. Such policies almost invariable go together with extreme intolerance, including denouncing this-and-that as sexist or racist without a legitimate reason—and the application of specifically the author of that blog shows exactly this problem. Cf. e.g. the post I originally landed one. It is further noteworthy that the reason that number of “-phobias” is growing is not that people have changed there opinions, but that the politically correct are ever keen on inventing new labels to put on their opponents. In its core, this quote amounts to a censorship based on having the “wrong” opinion—not actually discussing in e.g. an ad hominem manner.

(Additionally, it is proof of hypocrisy, seeing that she is herself far from respectful towards commenters.)

Kommentare, die Feminismus als überflüssig, gefährlich, sexistisch, männerfeindlich etc. bezeichnen, sind überflüssig und werden gelöscht.

(Comments that refer to feminism as superfluous, dangerous, sexist, misandrist etc., are superfluous [odd choice of word in the original] and will be deleted.)

In effect, a number of common criticisms that are largely true are blacklisted. The worse, because so many of us have grown up with a naive image of feminism as peaceful and benign equality movement, and it is important to reveal the truth about (at least political, gender-, etc.) feminism. Irrespective of truth, this restriction would be highly dubious already because it censors opinion, not method.

An interesting factor is the threat of blocking for

dass ich bestimmtes Vokabular in dem Zusammenhang inakzeptabel finde

(that I find a particular terminology unacceptable in that context)

In her defense, this does not apply generally, but only where sexual violence is concerned. However, at the same time, enforcing or forbidding a particular terminology is highly dubious to begin with. Doing so without being explicit in advance as to what is allowed or not allowed, is worse. I note that some statements made by her in the linked-to page indicate a less than thorough grasp of terminology.

Follow-up on the previous entry/absurd censorship

Earlier today, I wrote about the comment policy of what seemed like a less than clear-headed feminist (thoughtsunderconstruction). At the time, I had the nagging doubt that I was unjustly jumping to conclusions: Yes, the formulations, the lack of objectivity, whatnot, all gave the impression of yet another delete-everything-that-is-not-perfectly-PC feminist. No, I had not actually bothered to read more than two entries, and there was at least some possibility that I was unfairly generalizing based on previous experiences with others.

I need not have worried: As it rapidly turned out, I had not only been right, but rather understated the case. I had left the following comment on a poste:

Selbstverständlich soll jeder das Recht haben, sich so zu betrachten, wie es ihm gefällt. Jedoch darf das nicht mit einer Zweckentfremdung von bestehenden Wörtern mit einer klaren Bedeutung geschehen, sondern durch das einführen von neuen, passenden Wörtern.

“Geschlecht” bezieht sich auf eine biologische Klassifizierung, die tatsächlich auf XX oder XY hinausläuft. (Mit Vorbehalten für Spezialfällen, wie XXY oder Geschlechtswandlungen.)

Für Bedeutung wie z.B. “gender identity” ist “Geschlecht” schlechthin das falsche Wort. Die derzeit beste Alternative ist wohl einfach “gender”. Dasselbe gilt für entsprechend für Wörter wie “Mann” und “Frau”.

(In short: There is a semantic difference between “gender” and “sex”, and using the German word “Geschlecht”, equivalent of “sex”, in the meaning of “gender” is a bad idea.)

This was originally followed by an unremarkable reply by thoughtsunderconstruction (not one that I agreed with, but nothing that could not be considered a normal exchange of opinion). Hours later the following additional reply arrived:

[ERSTE VERWARNUNG AN MICHAELERKSSON: Bitte an die Nettiquette halten und Sexismus zu Hause lassen, danke! anderfalls fliegst du dich bzw. deine Kommentare selber raus.]
{...}
Ich verbitte mir aber weitere Diskussionen zu dem Thema, da ich keine Fachfrau bin. Ich denke es wäre sinnvoll, dich hierbei an eine/n antisexistische/n Liguisti/en zu wenden. {Underscores turned into slashes for technical reasons.}

([FIRST WARNING TO MICHAELERKSSON: Please stick to the Nettiquette {the presumptuous and misleading name she had given to her comment policy, cf. my previous entry} and leave the sexism at home, thank you! if not you throw yourself resp. your comments out. {Original sentence is even weirder.}]
{...}
I will not tolerate any further discussion on this subject, because I am not a specialist. I think it would be sensible for you to turn to a antisexist linguist. {Original contained stilted attempts to reflect the possibility of the linguist being either male or female. Due to grammatical differences between English and German, this aspect is not translatable; however, the underscores/slashes in the original are easily observable.})

As I returned to the page to make a rebuttal, I found that my original comment had been shortened to the first paragraph—for no valid reason. I note that:

  1. My comment contained nothing that a reasonable observer would have considered sexist, nor against the comment policy. (Indeed, I deliberate was somewhat more conservative in my formulations than really warranted—having seen a similar “warning” directed at another commenter for a harmless comment.)

  2. The formulation used to preclude a further discussion (“tolerate”, resp. “verbittene”) is extremely rude German in this context—despite an alternative formulation like “I lack the interest or knowledge for that discussion, so please save it for another forum.” would easily have been possible. Indeed, the word is normally only used if someone has done something offensive or insulting.

    To make matters worse, the implication was that a part of the discussion (of potential importance) was killed off (in particular, with my comment being two-thirds censored). More generally, if lack of specialist knowledge was an ipso facto reason for avoiding discussions, we would all be mostly ignorant on a majority of the issues around us, because the breadth of knowledge and holistic context would never be formed.

  3. Requiring an antisexist linguist (whatever that may be) automatically ensures that a certain point of view is given authority: Ask a linguist who will give you the answer I want you to hear. Notably, the demand for an “antisexist” expert is made elsewhere on the blog too—apparently “ordinary” experts are not good enough.

    (As an aside, while a layman, I have spent considerable time studying various aspects of languages and linguistic, and have a correspondingly considerable understanding in my own right.)

I left some of these points, together with the statement that she merely proved what I had already surmised, behind in a comment:

Mein Kommentar hat keinerlei Bestandteile von Sexismus beinhaltet—auch nicht die völlig beliebig gelöschten Teile, die nicht erkennbar gegen den Comment Policy verstoßen haben.

Hierdurch wird ledigleich die Eindrücke bestätigt, die ich schon sechs Stunden bevor diesem Eingriff geschildert habe. Vgl. [previous entry].

Es sei am Rande erwähnt, dass sich an eine „antisexistische“ Irgendetwas zu wenden (so es so etwas überhaupt gibt), eine automatische Bevorzugung einer gewissen Position bedeuten würde—und somit für kritische Denker inakzeptabel ist.

I three-quarters expected this comment to have been deleted outright. At the time of writing (knock on wood), however, it is still present. (Nevertheless and just in case, I publish it above.)

In her comment policy, she protests that feminism would be a force of good, but at the same time she provides practical examples of the opposite—including intolerance of non-orthodox opinions, irrational behaviour, and seeing sexism where none is present. (However, even by feminist standards, it must be admitted, this woman appears to be a bit extreme.)


Addendum:

Unsurprisingly, the comment has since been deleted—leaving visible her lying or stupendously ignorant claims of sexism, but neither the alleged sexism (which would have disproved her) nor my protests.

A last comment left, just to tell her my mind:

thoughtsunderconstruction, Ich halte normalerweise einen diplomatischen Ton, aber nach der Löschung meines letzten Kommentars sage ich gerade aus: Du bist nicht nur eine absolute Vollidiotin, sondern auch direkt bösartig—insbesondere, die Art von Vollidiotin, die im Name des Guten Böses tut, ohne selbst zu verstehen, dass sie selbst das Böse ist.


Brief comments on IQ vs. SES and The Bell Curve

Despite repeated attempts, I cannot get a comment to appear on a blog entry on “poverty” and Swedish schoolse—not even in the form of an “awaiting moderation” message. (The Swedish left insists on abusing the word poverty in the sense of a relative measure for, I assume, rhetorical reasons. We then have absurd claims like 60 % of the children in a particular area of Sweden living in poverty...)

Since some of the flawed reasoning I address in my comment is relatively frequent, I turn it into a slighly expanded blog post instead:

  1. There is an obvious correlation between IQ and SES. See e.g. The Bell Curvew or think about for two seconds: A higher IQ leads (on average and within a certain scope) to both greater success in the workplace and higher academic qualifications. Both increase SES.

  2. The Bell-Curve is not a work by racists quacks, but has been the mark of much undeserved and ideologically motivated criticism (in some cases, slander). While it is not perfect, it is well-written, well-researched, and the flaws that it has do not affect its main message.

  3. This message is not that coloured people are inferior, but that IQ affects a great number of areas of life, including SES, age of first marriage, and the risk of serving jail time.

  4. The IQ differences between some groups are very well researched and entirely irrefutable. The questions under discussions are relating to cause and changeability. That there is a genetic mechanism causing (at least) a sizable part of the correlation between parents and children is established.

  5. It is important to be careful when interpreting correlation as causation. The owner of the linked-to blog, e.g., appears to have SES and its influence on outcomes as almost the soul topic of her blog. In the post in question, she calculates correlations between SES and success in school, yet fails to correct for relevant other factors. At a minimum, the effects of IQ inheritance and immigration need to be considered.

The original comment:

Du bevisar med din kommentar att du bara känner till boken genom dess kritiker, som i regel ger en missvisande bild—ofta en extrem förvrängning. Framförallt, tvärtom, en korrelation mellan ras och IQ (vilken är helt oomstridligt inom seriös forskning—man diskuterar endast vad den beror på) är inte bokens budskap. Budskapet är att IQ har en effekt på ett antal områden, tex SES, och att det är viktigt att ha tänka på detta när det gäller “public policy”.

(Jag har förövrigt inte bara läst den vid flera tillfällen, utan även läst ett antal kritiska och försvarande texter.)

Även utan denna bok kan man knappast tvivla på ett samband: Högre IQ ger bättre möjligheter till utbildning och framgång, vilket leder till högre SES.

Ordet “missvisande” innehåller inte en komponent av lögn. I det här fallet är dina diagram missvisande för att du inte berenar faktorer som är relevant i bloggens kontext. Ett av dina budskap är att låg SES leder till sämre möjligheter i skolan; en av dina slutsatser att vi måste utjämna SES för att ge alla samma chanser. I detta sammanhang måste man identifiera kausaliteten, inte korrelationen. Korrelationen är nämligen ofta betydligt starkare än kausaliteten.

Romantic fools

Were love is concerned, we have likely all been both naive idealists and great fools. What I have encountered on a recent poste, however, borders on the scary.

The post it self is a youthful pep-talk by a 22 y.o. single woman (Isa), making statements like

You, my friend, are worthy of great, authentic love.

Please never settle.

The person I want you to date might be making morning coffee right now or sleeping through a thunderstorm or getting a degree in Physics. Wait. I mean it. Every other person will be a cheap imitation of the real thing.

And when it comes to their love for you, YOU WILL KNOW. Their love will be the most painfully obvious thing in the world that though you will come to question many, many things in life, you will never — not even once — question them.

Nothing other 22 y.o. single women have not said before and certainly something many of them want to hear. Naive and self-deceptive—yes. Hard to understand and sympathize with—no.

The scary part is the forty something responses (81 at the time of writing, but roughly half are “thank you”s from Isa). Off these, only one (mine) is dissenting or trying to show another perspective; the others mostly go along the lines of

I love you. You are amazing, quite frankly. Thank you for writing this.

I love this. I think I’m going to print it out and mail it to my 15 year old niece…

As a single girl who’s never had a boyfriend, this blog entry gave me hope.

(a minority are somewhat more neutral or inquisitive).

Are people really that keen on believing what they want to believe and hearing what they want to hear? Scary...

At the bottom-line, those who do not compromise will have to wait long (sometimes forever), those who set their sights too high will be disappointed by any real-life partner, and those who search for “perfect” will often pass up the “good” that would have made them happy. The point is not whether someone is “the one”, but whether our lives are better off with or without her/him. If nothing else, the partner at 22 is unlikely to be the partner at 32, let alone 62—we have plenty of strikes before we are out. The question is whether we use them or not...

The Left, the Right, and the People

I have long seen a difference in the way the Left and the Right typically look at the mental capacities of humans: The Right (at least the libertarian and parts of the conservative Right) sees humans as reasonably rational and capable of making their own decisions; the Left (at least in its typical European incarnations and many Marxist, feminist, or PC variations) sees the average human as a sheep that needs to be led to have the right (i.e. Left, PC, whatnot) opinions, do the right things, and generally get by in the world. This is often referred to as “förmyndarsamhälle” (“legal-guardian society”; however, with a stronger implication of society being patronizing) by the Swedish Right.

As is often the case with early observations, they pale into the background. Recently, however, I have come across several posts (e.g. [1]e) that are so explicit on this issue that it has re-emerged into the foreground. To my own surprise, I find that I must give the Left at least a partial credit for being right—a very large portion of the population is simple so stupid that they would be better of led by the hand in at least some situations. This is evidenced e.g. by the politicians that manage to get elected, the credulity with which some absolutely nonsensical PC statements are believed, how unwilling people are to re-evaluate their believes in light of new evidence, etc.

Yet, all this does not matter:

  1. If 30, 50, even 90 % of the population is lacking, this does not give the government (the Left, the Know-It-All think-tank, whomever) the right to decide for the remaining 70, 50, or 10 %.

    What we arguably should do, is to increase the requirements on voters, e.g. in that a certain degree of critical thinking and general knowledge must be demonstrated before a citizen is given the right to vote. (Effectively replacing the age based limits of today with “capacity” based limits. Great care would have to be observed during implementation, however: It is vital that no test of opinion is made, but that capacity to think is the main determinant. In contrast, it is manifestly clear that many on the left equal “being worthy” with “having PC opinions” or “being ‘progressive’ ”.)

    In this manner, the damage they potentially do would be mostly limited to their own private lives, where they have a natural right to exert influence, but protect us from society-wide influence. (Interestingly, in my experience, the Left is usually keen on relaxing the conditions for who is allowed to vote even further—probably knowing that their own type of propaganda and often populist demands goes over better among those weak in critical thinking.)

  2. If the people needs a “förmyndare”, who decides his identity?

    Well, the unsatisfying answer is that it probably cannot be done in a fair and objective manner. If nothing else, there seems to be no end to the people and organisations who consider themselves called for the task, but have opinions that are incompatible with each other and/or idiotic on closer inspection. In some cases, it would even be a matter of the blind leading the one-eyed: Consider e.g. former PM-wannabe Mona Sahlinw—who regularly talks to voters as if they were little children, yet herself is uneducated, unintelligent, and of dubious morality and competence. (And, no, that is not merely a portrayal by a political enemy, but what is clear from her CV.)

  3. Similarly, who decides where to draw the border between who needs to be shepherded and who is allowed to deal for himself (or is even allowed to become a shepherd)?

    The answer is equally similar. In a nut-shell, these common Leftist attitudes are best answered with: Who are you to decide?

  4. The typical implementations tend to be such that they worsen, possibly even create, the problems they were intended to solve: The Swedish school I went to, e.g., did nothing to teach critical thinking, but was hell-bent on instilling the “right”, determined-from-above values—the UN is good, women are oppressed, nuclear power is evil, democracy is the only civilized form of government, ... To actually teach the children about the limitations of the UN, or how perverted by special interests it is, was never on the table; a differentiated and more up-to-date view on the situations of men and women was absent; a compare and contrast between different energy forms (which, if fair, would have been far more favourable to nuclear power) unthinkable; and no deep discussion of the disadvantages of democracy, the least evil of the popular alternatives, ever took place.

In the end, a blanket treatment of people like sheep is the wrong way to go about it. Instead, we should try to give them the tools to both fend and decide for themselves.

(Note that I do not rule out that those who have failed despite having received the tools should be given further help. The first step, however, should be to give out fishing equipment and fishing lessons—not fish. Indeed, it would be presumptuous even to decide that fish should be a major part of the diet.)

IQ myths

A great annoyance when IQw is on the table is that many of the PC persuasion make cocksure, yet absolutely incorrect, statements about it—often “proving” the opposite of reality in the process.

For instance, on a recently discussed blog entrye (where I still cannot comment) someone today made the following two claims as a means to dismiss The Bell Curvew:

  1. IQ is not given by nature, which is proved by how easy it is to train it.

    In reality, IQ has comparatively little yield (less than e.g. a time for the 100 m dash), even having very strong correlations between results at e.g. ages 10 and 30. Even if training has an effect, the thing most likely to change is not actually the IQ proper (or, in its core, g), but the test taking ability. (A reason why some prefer to only give tests to pristine subjects. Note that the proportion of people who are repeated test takers is limited and the distortion of overall numbers, in particular between groups, is small.) Doing this might give better room for bragging, but changes neither reality nor the value of IQ tests.

  2. IQ is unlikely to be inherited, which is proved by unspecified claims about adopted Third-World children being closer to their adopted than native countries in terms of IQ.

    In reality, IQ is very strongly hereditary, which has been shown again and again by a great number of studies—including those involving twins placed into foster homes of different SES.

    As for the specific claim, the lack of source makes it hard to make a definite statement. (But I do vaguely recall having heard similar claims on other occasions.) However, the fact that Third-World children were chosen would make the applicability in general low: The Third-World has problems with e.g. nutrition that make the impact of environmental factors far larger than in the First World—and it is quite possible that merely removing these detrimental factors could account for more than half the gap. This, however, has no impact on the observations made in the First World.

    (Generally speaking, the relative influence of nature and nurture on a group will depend not only on their “absolute” influence, but on how much variation is present. For a simplified example consider the influence of x on f(x, y) = x + y when x varies between 0 and 10 and y between 0 and 1 resp. 0 and 100.)

Other popular incorrect claims include:

  1. Scientists like Stephen Jay Gouldw have disproved IQ.

    They have not: Experts see great value in IQ and Gould has been criticized for making unqualified claims, referring to a state of research decades behind even his time (and note that his The Mismeasure of Manw is another thirty years old by now...), misrepresenting scientific consensus, and building strawmen—with a more than good chance even of ideological bias on Gould’s part.

  2. IQ only determines how good you are at taking IQ tests.

    In fact, IQ shows a high degree of correlation with a variety of tasks. There is even a correlation between IQ and speed of reaction. It is true that IQ is a very imperfect (but far from worthless!) predictor for individuals. However, for groups it is very useful. Further, even for individuals it can make statements about e.g. what work positions are at all possible.

  3. IQ is “culturally loaded”, biased against non-White, non-Christian, non-European men, or similar.

    Decades ago, this was to some degree true. Since then, great efforts have been made to investigate and eliminate such problems. One of the purest tests, Raven’s progressive matricesw, shows the same general group differences as have so often been ridiculed as caused by cultural bias. Indeed, cultural bias can often reduce a group difference: By reducing the g loading and making knowledge and experience more important, a smaller difference in these areas will mask the difference in g.

Finally, there is a claim that is true, but often used in a misleading manner:

IQ and intelligence are different things and IQ does not measure intelligence

IQ is indeed only a proxy for intelligence, even increasingly a proxy for g. Notably, it can be argued that removing “culturally loaded” questions (e.g. relating to word knowledge) has made it a lesser proxy for intelligence... To some approximation, it can be said that IQ measures the inborn part of intelligence—which makes it highly valuable and allows it to (approximately) fulfill the demands that are put on it today. In an earlier entry, I compare basket ability and height with success in life and IQ, noting that it would be equally foolish to dismiss IQ for success as to dismiss height for basketball—it would be several degrees more foolish to dismiss IQ when talking about intelligence.

For a decent overview with many further sources, I recommend the original link to Wikipedia. This page is not perfect, often being altered by PC zealots, but the facts usually shine through.

Finally, I would like to throw in a recent Dilbert stripe that not only matches most uses of the word “racism” I have ever encountered on the Internet, but which is particularly apt for discussions around IQ, “The Bell Curve”, and similar topics.

That pesky German language and the quirks of the human mind

After close to 14 years in Germany, I should be able to write correct German (barring the odd slip of the keyboard that we all make even in our native languages). Reality, alas, does not quite agree: I know most of the rules as well as the natives, and with enough proof-reading I can reach a near-native level, differing mostly in that my style, choice of words, whatnot, can be strongly influenced by Swedish and English. However, the extensive proof-reading is absolutely necessary: My first drafts tends to contain errors at several times the rate of my English or Swedish writings, because the “text generating” part of my mind makes many unthinking choices that are simply incorrect—even when the “text reading” part of my mind knows that they are incorrect... For instance, reading the notification email for a comment I sent earlier today, I found that I made a back-reference to a woman with the masculine “der” instead of the feminine “die”—a blindingly obvious error to any semi-proficient reader. A particular common error of mine is using a dative or accusative in constructs where a nominative is called for, e.g. “X is Y”. (The two former cover the English objective case, while the latter is the subjective.) Presumably, the presence of a verb toggles an internal “objective” switch irrespective of what verb is used.

This is a particular nuisance when I comment on German blogs: If I do not proof-read several times, there will usually be at least one error of the “a ten year old should know better” kind; if I do, the effort of submitting a comment grows to be several times what it is in Swedish or English.

Interpreting statistics and research (housework among boys and girls)

I just encountered a Swedish news service claiming that “Girls help [do housework] more at home”/“Flickor hjälper till mer hemma”.

While this article, to my mild surprise, did not make the usual partisan statements of e.g. “Girls are better at X”, it still manages to show some common problems with reading of statistics and how poor critical thinking can lead people (in particular, journalists) astray.

To quote relevant parts:

SCB har undersökt vilka hushålls-
sysslor barn i åldrarna 10-18 år
hjälper till med.

83 procent av flickorna och 79 pro-
cent av pojkarna hjälper till med hus-
hållsarbete minst en timme i veckan.

([“The bureau of statistics”] has investigated what household chores children in the age range 10–18 years help with.

83 per cent of the girls and 79 per cent of the boys help with household work for at least an hour a week.)

Syssla; Flickor; Pojkar

Bäddar sin säng; 82 proc; 77 proc

Diskar eller plockar i/ur diskmaskinen; 81 proc; 71 proc

Städar sitt rum; 78 proc; 64 proc

Tar hand om syskon; 35 proc; 36 proc

Arbetar utomhus; 23 proc; 40 proc

(Task; Girls; Boys

Makes own bed; 82 %; 77 %

Does the dishes or loads/unloads the dish-washer; 81 %; 71 %

Cleans own room; 78 %; 64 %

Takes care of siblings; 35 %; 36 %

Works outdoors; 23 %; 40 %)

(The news service in questione does not provide an archive, so I cannot give a permanent link. Should I encounter the data from another source, I will add one.)

Going by the numbers presented (but beware that the full report may give another view; for instance, the list of task is likely to be abbreviated), the claim is highly dubious. Firstly, the difference in overall numbers is comparatively small (certainly not large enough to allow for predictions about individuals) and, depending on the size of the sample, could lack statistical significance. Secondly, and more importantly, the tasks are oddly chosen:

Both making ones own bed and cleaning ones own room are things that do not constitute “helping at home”—they are something that a child in the age bracket given either does or does not do for his/her own benefit. (Similarly, baking cookies for ones own consumption is not “helping at home” either—nor is tweaking ones own moped.)

The natural step would be to adjust the overall numbers by removing these entries. For lack of in-depth data, this is not possible; however, we can make a very rough first comparison by simply adding percentages. Now, in the original version we have 82 + 81 + 78 + 35 + 23 = 299 for the girls and 77 + 71 + 64 + 36 + 40 = 288 for the boys. (Pleasingly, 288 / 299 * 83 is just shy of 80, which compares well to the original 79 % overall for boys—in particular, as rounding can cause minor distortions.) Removing the “self serving” tasks, we instead have 81 + 35 + 23 = 139 for the girls and 71 + 36 + 40 = 147 for the boys—who are now ahead by more than they used to trail (as a proportion of the total).

The tentative conclusion, then: Boys (!) help more at home. (Incidentally and anecdotally: This was definitely the case when looking at me and my sister as teenagers. She could barely be bothered to put her own plates in the dish-washer; I moved the lawn and chopped wood for the fireplace.) Of course, I cannot guarantee that this would remain true if the raw data was re-investigated, but the gap is sufficiently large that the original claim (that girls help more) should be viewed as unsupported.

As an aside, the removed categories reflect an issue that is worth keeping in mind when discussing housework: Men and women have different priorities when it comes to cleaning and use of available time. (In my opinion, men have it the right way around and women should take a more relaxed attitude.)

Comment censorship

I have repeatedly reported about censorship on the blog hypocritically named Aus Liebe zur Freiheite (“For/due to the love of freedom”)—indeed, I first became aware of that blog through discussing its destructive and uninformed comment policy. I was going to ignore the fact that two factual and highly relevant comments of mine had recently been censored, but I will not, seeing that another commenter just wrote the following eloquent complaint (my translation is suboptimal):

James T. Kirk:

Sehr geehrte Frau Schrupp,

ich fände es schön, wenn Sie mal auf meine Argumente eingehen. Warum haben Sie so große Probleme mit sachlicher Kritik?

Es ist sehr befremdlich, daß Sie so viele sachliche Kommentare löschen. Ist das die ideale Welt, die Sie sich vorstellen? Haben Sie Angst, sich sachlicher Kritik zu stellen?

Es ist mir persönlich schleierhaft, wie man solch ein Verhalten vor sich selbst rechtfertigen kann.

(Dear [highly formal version] Ms. Schrupp,

I would appreciate it, if you would spend some time on my arguments. Why do you have so great problems with factual criticism?

It is very strange that you delete so many factual comments. Is that the ideal world, that you imagine? Are you afraid to confront factual criticism?

I have problems comprehending how one can justify such a behaviour to oneself.)

Ms. Schrupp has indeed proved again and again that she has a very destructive take on comments—which she combines with enough arbitrariness that the poor souls who try to counter her many misstatements, misunderstandings, and misinterpretations are led to still comment in the hope that this particular comment will go through and provide at least some counter-weight to her pseudo-intellectual, uninformed, and one-sided prattle. (While I usually try to remain ad rem and show some degree of politeness, my patience with the feminist branch of intellectual dishonesty has been very sorely strained lately—and Ms. Schrupp is worst than most. When push comes to shove, the success of feminism is largely based on being able to build strawmen, spread factually faulty statements, perpetuate false or misinterpreted statistics, whatnot, without sufficient contradiction. It is relatively easy to convince people when they only see one side of the issue—it is very easy, when the one-sidedness is complemented by unprotested distortion of the truth.)

My two comments:

Diese drei Punkte stoßen bei mir auf Unverständnis—denn gerade hier ist ja die Debatte normalerweise zum Vorteil der Frauen gewinkelt. Dies vorallem bei 2., wo immer und immer wieder versucht wird, natürliche Geschlechterdifferenzen kategorisch auszuschliessen, um alle Verhaltensunterschiede mit „Strukturen“, „Patriarchat“, o.ä. zu erklären. Auch 1. und 3. sind jedoch sehr zweifelhaft—ist doch eine von den üblichsten Beschreibungen/Schlussfolgerungen, dass Männer etwas falsch machen und Frauen richtig, bzw. dass Frauen nur was Falsch machen wegen „Strukturen“, „Patriarchat“, … (das Thema kehrt wieder).

(Points out that the central claims of the post are strawmen or otherwise incorrect.)

Ich wollte gerade zu deinem letzten Kommentar einwenden, dass die Mehrheit dieser Punkte im Grunde Strawmankaraktär haben. Hierbei muss ich leider feststellen, dass mein voriger Kommentar, der sachlich eine ähnliche Observation zu deinem ursprunglichen Beitrag machte, ohne erkennbaren Grund zensiert worden ist—und dies auch nicht zum ersten Male.

Unabhängig von deinen Beweggründen sind diese Art von Eingriffen grob unethisch und die Debatte verzerrend. Widerspruch ist keine legitime Grund zur Zensur.

(Further statements are strawmen. My previous comment has been censored without a legitimate reason.)

For my part, I will stay away for the future—but I also publicly declare that Ms. Schrupp is narrow-minded, intellectually dishonest, and has far more to learn from her commenters than they from her. Her blogging brings a net damage to the world—and it is women like she who ensure that feminism remains a force of evil.

Trains and deteriorating comfort in Germany

Deutsche Bahnw, the national railway company of Germany, is an object of very mixed feelings in the population. I belong to the large faction who considers Deutsche Bahn not merely bad, but a disaster of incompetence and customer unfriendliness. Indeed, I could write a long rant about its many problems. Today, however, I will merely discuss the matter of comfort:

The flag ships of Deutsche Bahn are the ICEw trains: They are faster than the other trains and are given preferential treatment when it comes to e.g. right of way or what trains have to wait for other trains—but are also infamous for their poor time-table adherence. Moreover, they are among the more uncomfortable trains in the fleet. Even mere S-Bahnw trains are usually better—certainly, providing far more leg room. Indeed, the second rank of trains, the ICw, are far better, despite being older and less expensive. Furthermore, it seems to me that the older the IC, the greater the comfort: More comfortable seats, more leg-room, and a more aesthetically pleasing interior.

Today, as I traveled with one of these ICs, my book turned out to be fifteen minutes too short, and I picked up one of the on-board magazines. Browsing through it, I found only one interesting article—but one which prompted me to write this entry. The topic was the next generation of trains, with the working name “ICx”, and the recent 6 billion Euro/300 trains deal that would provide these trains for several decades. Among the aspects discussed were the new chairs: Instead of having an adjustable back to allow passengers to recline, the same effect would be achieved by a seat that could slide forward. Somehow, this would safe space and (as was stated in a discreet sentence) ...

... allow for a shorter distance between the chairs!

In reality, Deutsche Bahn chooses to further lower comfort in order to fit more people into the trains. While this is to some degree understandable (Deutsche Bahn does want to turn a profit), it is also likely to backfire over time as an age-old monopoly is replaced by a more competitive environment. Importantly, the reasoning used is likely to be a mere excuse: If the new chairs save space for reclining passengers, it does not follow that they do so for up-right passengers—and the leg-space (and e.g. elbow-space) is less-than-generous even for those up-right and of medium height. For 6”3’ me it is decidedly unsatisfactory, and those yet a few inches taller may be forced into very awkward positions. Spare room to fit in a bag does not exist (the available “regular” storage area for baggage is also under-dimensioned, making this a reasonable wish). Further considering that a) the population will grow taller over the planned decades of use, b) many passengers use the ICE five days a week or for uninterrupted travels of three or four hours, the decision seems highly disputable.

Was not greater comfort supposed to be one of the strongest arguments for going by train instead of aeroplane?

An absolutely awful marriage story

A few weeks ago, I encountered an an absolutely awful marriage storye. In fact, one that almost made me feel sick—but which the blog author absurdly proclaimed to be “great”. (From context it is not clear whether she also was the author of the story or merely a spreader of it. Either way, seeing it as great requires a near complete lack of perspective and insight.)

At the time, I left a comment explaining why it was awful. Having just noticed that this comment has been arbitrarily censored (the more in need of a comment a post is, the greater the risk of censorship, as I have noticed over the last year), I try to recreate the gist here:

  1. The woman has an entirely unrealistic and unreasonable view of what marriage and love is.

  2. She is about to throw away her promise of “until death us depart; for better and worse” based on what appears to be mere boredom.

  3. Instead of constructively discussing her issues with her husband, she waits until she has given up hope of him spontaneously changing—and then springs divorce upon him.

  4. She requires of him, in order that he proves himself worthy of the second chance he requested, that he consider his own life worth less than her (hypothetical) whim of having a particular flower. This is something that is, frankly, inexcusable: A wife may have the right that her husband risks his life to save hers (and vice versa!), but under no circumstances that it is sacrificed for a whim.

    Besides, any man who agreed to even the hypothetical situation would afterwards be in an impossible situation: How can he later refuse to buy her jewelry for a mere few hundred dollars at her asking? To take out the garbage in the middle of a Superbowl game? To letting her unilaterally decide where every single vacation is to be held? ... That the man still wanted her after hearing this demand is hard to fathom—better divorced than living with such a self-centered bitch.

  5. While he declines, he does give an extremely cheese explanation for why he declines—and this explanation proves her earlier dissatisfaction to have been very, very unfair. In effect, she was about to throw away a far more wife-friendly husband than most women ever have—and one that she gave no signs of deserving.

To make matters worse, there are many elements of this story that are reminiscent of the bad marriage experiences I have heard men tell from real life, including that problems are not brought to their attention, that unrealistic expectations are raised, and that they are faced with a divorce out of nowhere and without the wife reflecting on what a marriage actually implies.