Ceci n’est pas un Sokal

Yet another hit piece by Freedom Fighters against ideologically-motivated scholarship, radical skepticism and cultural constructivism.” Yascha Mounk called it Sokal Squared. On closer inspection, there’s no Sokal there. Inspired by Michael Lukas I contend it’s more of a Veritas scam.

The Sokal epithet refers to perhaps the most famous scholarly sting ever, where Alan Sokal, a physics professor, succeeded in publishing a paper under his real name in Social Text. (The POMO journal survived the Science Wars and is still active.) Alan parodied Parisian talking heads with what he meant to be fashionable nonsense—an incorrect expression as literary nonsense isn’t exactly gibberish. Almost nothing in that hoax description applies to our Veritas-like scam.

This is not a pipe - René Magritte

The target remains elusive. Gender studies and their relatives defy departmentalization. Academic norms and methodologies vary within STEM, humanities and social sciences, also from one group of researchers to the next. Most disagree with the basic assumptions of one another. To anticipate a recurring discussion, constructivist epistemology is independent from critical theory. Many Freedom Fighters still fail to realize that Marxians are materialists. Analytic philosophy showcases anti-realist theories of science, of metaphysics, of truth, and of morality. From an historical point of view, to consider that concepts like rock are human constructs more than epiphanies looks natural to me.

[If the concept of rock shocks your realism, consider baseball: it is absolutely impossible that baseball is a gift from Gods. The case for hockey appears to be an open problem. That humans could produce such perfection all by themselves stretches Canadian incredulity. And then there’s ClimateBall.]

Contrast the power imbalance between the targets of ze Sokal and the Veritas-like scam. Alan mocked Rive Gauche snobs. Our dynamic trio punches down marginal researchers. Matt Blackwell notes that the “highest-cited paper over the last 5 years in [the Journal of Poetry Therapy] has 36 cites and most of its editorial board don’t have university affiliations.” Steve Sterley calculates that, with its impact factor of 0.24, an article from this journal receives on average one citation every 4 years. Their most reputable target, Hypatia, has an impact factor of 0.712. Meanwhile, our scam makes the first page of the New York Times, an influential clique of bien-pensants piled on (e.g. StevenP or NiallF), and the rightwing echo chambers reverberate.

As Liam Bright observes, the most immediate result of the Veritas-like scam is to feed the Freedom Fighters’ own grievance industry. JordanP shrieks “fraud!” ClaireM prophesizes public backlash and defunding unless indefinite demands are being met. According to JamesL, my favorite amongst our dynamic trio, HR departments are being held hostage by the hegemony of irrational POMOs. On the basis of his scam, he virtually guarantees the unsoundness of any kind of analysis based on critical race theory, which he calls a cancer. He kicked the weird hashtag #TheyDontSpeakForMe, as if anybody else could speak for a researcher. Nearer to ClimateBall, our own MichaelL extrapolates the scam results to social science in general while forgetting that sociology journals batted for 100% against our Veritas-like scam team.

No wonder Steven Klein has problems following “when online mobs are the new totalitarianism and when they are just a backlash that should be appeased.”

Although I’d rather embrace crappiness, to keep ourselves in check should be a Good Thing. Academic stings could help improve quality assurance. Doing so incompetently and with an axe to grind can backfire. No ethics protocol has been followed, an oversight that could cost one’s tenured job. David Schrieber, a graduate student who reviewed one hoax paper for Sociological Theory, recommended a rejection. Thinking it was a student he still provided constructive criticisms. The paper got rejected, and as Kieran Healy remarks, his futile efforts were misrepresented in the authors’ report. Brian Earp disputes that the authors have succeeded in doing what they purported to do. One could wonder, like Cart Bergstrom, where’s the reflexiveness in what the authors call a “reflexive ethnography,” which at times is indistinguishable from good ol’ concern trolling.

***

The inability to grasp climate science does not argue against it. From failure to understand nothing follows. What if a sociologist with no physics training got a paper on gravitational waves published? I bet you’d revise your assumptions about expertise and your expectations about journals. Oh, wait. I once cited Collins to PeterB. Instead of acknowledging that it’s possible to sting hard sciences, he deleted his challenge.

At the end of the day, there are more pressing things to do than to punch hippies. This pastiche of Yascha’s tweet by Sean McElwee puts the Veritas-like scam in perspective:

Poe’s Law states that it is impossible to create a parody of extreme views so obviously exaggerated that it cannot be mistaken by some readers for a sincere expression of the parodied views. I suspect it applies to Freedom Fighters’ speech patterns and many fighting words: leftism, liberalism, Enlightenment, groupthink, identity politics, political correctness, cultural marxism, tribalism, activism, etc. Shouldn’t be too hard to poe them. Elizabeth Picciuto already suggests the idea of classical liberal arts colleges.

Let’s do like Michael Keenan did and audit the scam first, below.

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82 Responses to Ceci n’est pas un Sokal

  1. Joshua says:

    Any level of fraud or inferior product quality is totally unacceptable in The Academy.

    Imagine how badly off we’d be if the private sector ever contained fraud or inferior quality products.

  2. Joshua says:

    Gotta say, the IDW posse keening about a grievance industry is more than a bit rich.

  3. Joshua, peer review is not there to prevent fraud. Its aim is to improve the signal to noise ratio of the scientific literature, so that the average article is more worthwhile to read than a WUWT post. We are working on stuff we do not understand well yet, so peer review will also unavoidably be imperfect. In such a filter you have to make a trade off. If you would like to prevent any error you would have to reject all papers. The stronger you are on error prevention the stronger you will also suppress interesting new ideas.

    Scientific articles are unfortunately always presented as singular jumps forward and often as the infallible new truth. In science they are the beginning of a conversation. If a paper is fraudulent, people building on it will fail and either expose the fraud or start building on other papers. The same will happen if a paper is wrong for any other reason, which would be more common. Fraud is rare.

    If the accepted Sokal Squared papers are all based on fraudulent empirical data or not obviously wrong in other ways, it was indeed no Sokal case.

    That the obviously wrong papers got friendly feedback is no sign of problems. What counts is that they were rejected. The first draft of my reviews often asks whether the manuscript is an attempt to repeat a Sokal hoax in climatology. But I have always deleted this part before submitting my friendly review.

  4. Willard says:

    > Imagine how badly off we’d be if the private sector ever contained fraud or inferior quality products.

    The best is yet to come, Joshua. My intuition is that there are way too many people in academia. Universities have been corrupted by bureaucracy and the perverse incentives of the current publishing model. Real breakthroughs in the future will come from private think tanks and scientific organizations.

    I have no idea to what refers “scientific organizations” in the above. Perhaps I should ask Claire. In any event, it seems the BBC has taken the lead:

    On Thursday the Today programme covered the plain packaging of cigarettes. It interviewed Mark Littlewood, director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, an organisation that calls itself a thinktank. Mishal Husain introduced Mark Littlewood as “the director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, and a smoker himself”.

    Fine. But should we not also have been informed that the Institute of Economic Affairs receives funding from tobacco companies? […]

    Both the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Adam Smith Institute have been funded by tobacco firms for years. The former has been funded by British American Tobacco since 1963, and has also been paid by Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco International. It has never come clean about this funding, and still refuses to say which other corporations sponsor it.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/29/thinktank-bbc-smoking-big-tobacco

  5. Joshua says:

    VV –

    Just checking that you know that was a Poe?

  6. > No ethics protocol has been followed, an oversight that could cost one’s tenured job.

    In the post-truth era, one could not ask for a better credential.

  7. Dave_Geologist says:

    Gosh, I don’t think I’ve encountered ceci since High Scool 🙂 !

  8. Dave_Geologist says:

    The Beeb has gone downhill Willard. It gave Gwyneth Paltrow an easy ride the other day about Goop. God knows why anyone would want a coffee enema, let alone pay £100 for a DIY kit (which, if the photo in the article is the real thing, looks like something you could assemble yourself for under £5). Ah, I see that’s another brand. And it’s ozone resistant for some reason. There’s a link to ozonated olive oil on their home page (and bizarrely, a couple of mocking videos – could it be a Poe?). I don’t even want to think what the ozonated oil is for 😦 . That’s five minutes of my life I’ll never get back. 😦 😦 . What’s the word for a fat or oil that’s been exposed to an oxidising agent? Ah yes, rancid.

    Nick Robinson gave someone else an easy ride the other week, can’t remember what the topic was. They have an annoying habit of having the anchors interview someone on a subject they know nothing about, and letting them get away with transparent flim-flam. It’s not as if they don’t have science, business, economics or health journalists who could do the job properly.

  9. Willard says:

    > It’s not as if they don’t have science, business, economics or health journalists who could do the job properly.

    The problem lies elsewhere, Dave. The BBC is fast becoming a minnow in international broadcasting, communication and the entertainment world as a whole. If it remains nationalized it could become irrelevant. It needs a business and ownership model more appropriate than the one designed the best part of 100 years ago.

    There is an obvious left-wing bias on topics such as climate change and inequality and welfare spending. Negative comments on business within the slot outweigh positive commentary on business by an important factor. Very few guest speakers on BBC Radio are in favour of leaving.

    Let’s privatize biased BBC.

  10. Willard says:

  11. Dave_Geologist says:

    Very few guest speakers on BBC Radio are in favour of leaving.

    Hopefully I’m getting better at spotting Poes 🙂 .

    In partial argument against my assertion that they have staff who could ask the right questions, the BBC seems to have forgotten how to post links to the paper when they report a new finding. So maybe they are a bit short staffed.

    Paradoxically, as long as it doesn’t hit an editorial hot button, the Daily Mail can actually be quite a good source of science articles. Through indifference, not diligence. They just copy-paste the Reuters or AFP piece, which is usually pretty true to the press release and has links to the paper and the University or whatever.

  12. Willard says:

    > Hopefully I’m getting better at spotting Poe.

    It may not be a Poe, as it’s very close to verbatim from what claimed the wonderful Institute of Economic Affairs. Let’s say it’s a Poe. How can we know that it’s one? I only see two ways.

    First, who writes it. AT’s readers should know by now that I’m not Freedom Fighters’ best friend. Authorship matters. (Forget that it’s the main point of Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge, as people would think it’s POMO. It’s basic pragmatics.)

    Second, how farfetched are the ideas expressed. The IEA’s ideas are no less absurd to me than most of what has been concocted by our Veritas-like scammers. For instance, here is their most successful hoax:

    The thesis doesn’t seem so absurd as not worth discussing. In fact, the very idea that we shouldn’t discuss the ethics of scammers’ hoaxes looks mostly self-serving. It’s as if they never considered that consequences matter in judging the merit of an action.

    The kind of absurdities the scammers presume have little to do with Alan’s. Only the verbiage makes them look the same. That’s more a feature of their own misunderstanding than a bug of conceptual analysis.

  13. Joshua says:

    Universities have been corrupted by bureaucracy and the perverse incentives.

    Yes. Good thing there aren’t perverse incentives in the private sector. Imagine how bad off we’d be if worker productivity were reduced as a result of employers being incentivized to increase profit margins by keeping wages down or squeezing more work out of their employees.

    Imagine how much worse off we’d be if advancement through corporate (beaurocratic) structures ever had any corrupting elements, like people sabotaging their colleagues or taking credit from someone else’s work.

    It’s interesting that the academy-haters think that the academy should be judged against a higher standard (such that failure deserves such breathless attention). If I didn’t know better, I’d think that is a sign of respect.

  14. izen says:

    @-W
    “It’s as if they never considered that consequences matter in judging the merit of an action.”

    The enthusiastic and positive responses they received in the reviewers responses, even when they were (regretfully) rejecting the majority of their attempted Trojans indicate that the journals were assuming the submissions were in good faith.
    The hoaxers also targeted a very small fringe bubble of the sociological field. I have not checked, but I bet the readership of the journals targeted rarely reaches four figures and has impact factors, even within the speciality, that are barely detectable.

    But the consequence is the hoaxers have not only managed to fool a few outlier academics, but managed to hoodwink major media sources (WSJ) with a readership many orders of magnitude greater, that their pranks reveal something significant about scientific academia in general, or at least a much wider field of sociological research.

    If the intention of the hoaxers was to teach the journals they targeted to be less trusting of the good intentions and sincerity of all papers submitted they could have privately informed the publishers after acceptance, or three refusals with encouraging reviews, that they were the victims of a malicious attack and warn them to be on their guard.

    But it would appear from their actions that they intended to have the consequence of giving themselves, the hoaxers, far more credibility on a wider stage than the journals have ever had.
    With the added (un/intended) consequence of demeaning all scientific research.

    I am sure this is a consequence of their actions that had never merited their consideration…

  15. Willard says:

    > I have not checked, but I bet the readership of the journals targeted rarely reaches four figures and has impact factors, even within the speciality, that are barely detectable.

    Good point. Here are the numbers I got for the six papers they succeeded in getting published, besides the aformentioned Journal of Poetry Therapy:

    Affilia has an impact factor (IF) of 0.833 overall and 1.155 for the last 5 years.

    Hypatia has an IF of 0.712.

    Gender, Place, and Culture has an IF of 1.1*, but this number may not be reliable. Its H-index is 55.

    I did not find any IF for Fat Studies.

    Sexuality & Culture has an IF of 0.6 according to ResearchGate.

    Surprisingly, Sex Roles has an IF of 2.024.

    My intuition is that the influence or the reputation of a journal is somewhat anti-correlated with the plausibility of their scam, but I haven’t checked. What I did notice is that the Veritas-like scammers usually play a pea and thimble game of mentioning the most outrageous ideas first, and when challenged reply that they succeeded in getting published in Hypatia.

    In any event, two points are worth mentioning:

    1. While they chuckle at the idea that concepts like patriarchy or toxic masculinity could be taken seriously, the scammers didn’t go after philosophers. I pity the fool who’ll try to take down Kate Manne or Seyla Benhabib the same way they just did. JordanP tried with Kate, and all he got is a lousy law suit.

    [In case you’re wondering why Kate’s tweets are sometimes protected, let’s just say that some people on the Internet have a tendency not to be kind to women. I know it because I replied to a few of her ankle biters and they went silent. In general, nobody comes visit me. I wonder why.]

    2. The effective influence of the ideology they deplore is most probably exaggerated. It surely looks bogus when it comes to professor-student relationships:

  16. Joshua says:

    Beaurocracy. I kind of like that

  17. Willard says:

    I too like “beaurocracy.”

    Can one poe oneself?

  18. izen says:

    @-W
    “Here are the numbers I got for the six papers they succeeded in getting published,”

    You made me look…

    There are clearly different sources and methods of measuring, but here;-

    https://www.scimagojr.com/journalrank.php

    Sex Roles only gets 0.789
    Hypathia – 0.525
    Sexuality and culture – 0.574
    Affilia – 0.496
    Fat Studies – 0.336
    And, Gender place and culture – 1.096
    which is the only journal by this ranking that beats ‘Porn Studies’ at 1.008

    But then the highest ranking journal in the field of gender studies is ‘Gender and society’ with 2.434 which does not make it into the top 100 of social science journals.
    (Gender Place and Culture is 550th)

  19. Steven Mosher says:

    “Yes. Good thing there aren’t perverse incentives in the private sector. ”

    ya whatabout that no one ever criticizes the private sector

  20. izen says:

    Bart O’Kavanaugh, a member of the Brorocracy

  21. Joshua says:

    Dude, where you been, China or something?

    Don’t you know that the private sector is vastly more efficient because of the profit motive, because people have “skin in the game,” and because people are held accountable for failure?

    All you need to do is look at how much better healthcare is where it is considered a private sector commodity.

  22. Steven Mosher says:

    ATTP will love feminist astronomy

    https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1cJLr_o04R-zpHcMNaIWPGs7Ue_i-tkCw

    I read through it and felt transported back into the academy, its like nothing has changed
    in over 40 years. Its reads like a rather mediocre graduate student paper or a B student undergrad. meh, publishable I suppose.

    Where to start? let start with the contrarian matrix. You can view the contrarian matrix as a set of moves or tactics that cxan be applied to any climate science game situation. Given any climate science text, one of the contararian moves will apply. It’s a machine.Walk into a den of skeptics and
    say the word “model” and the response is predictable. 100% predictable because the machine works on texts. See the word model, goto line 56.

    This is the way interperative machines work. Very early on in the humanities you learn interpretative machines. The funniest example I recal was a Freudian that I TA’d for. I was the TA and also took lectures notes and was paid to transcribe the lectures. I had years of prior notes from his classes
    and every year was the same. There was a particular scene in Joyce that he loved. Every year he would play the “I have a secret” game and ask students to interpret a particular passage. The students would all fail. Then he would reveal the secret: It was Oedipal. of course. Every year the same passage. Every year the same game. Every year the same reveal. I had his old lecture notes.
    Except for this time.
    I had a super bright student and when he asked what was going on in the scene, She — a freudian– piped up : Oedipus! “A” student response. At this point he informed her that sometimes cigars are just cigars and said she was over interpreting. I was dumb founded. But he quickly moved on to something else. Later he would challenge my lecture notes and I introduced him to Mr tape recorder. Opps. he had short man complex.

    Anyway, if you are any good at this stuff you quickly learn a matrix. A freudian matrix, a Jungian matrix, a feminist matrix, a marxist matrix, a close reading matrix ( tougher to master). And the goal of the game is this, the pinnacle of mastery is this: Take any text, take any phenomena and render it through your matrix. If you are a Freudian, find the penis, and then make that the center of your analysis. Everything will revolve around that. If you are jungian find the archtype: marxist, find the class struggle: feminist, find the patriarchy. Every one of these matrices has a set of rulz, tricks, tactics, transformations, rotations, diagonalizations, metaphors, tropes. Every cultural artifact can be processed with one of these machines.

    Thats the goal: to show how the production of a particular cultural artifact ( text, body hair, clothing, hair style, epistemics, etc etc) is in fact explainable on “freudian” terms, or marxist terms, or feminist terms. or historicist terms: Even deconstruction which tries to show how these machines dont work, is itself a machine. a list of tricks, tactics, maneuvers, positions. You simply take a text and show how its questions its own claims to authority. In general you are exploiting ambiguity and irony and metaphor to destablize interpretation and place the critics acumen centerstage.

    In the end I found this boring. Why? because Nothing can resist the machine. Even if an author showed up to say “that not what I meant” we have tactics for that as well. Like an author cant control the meaning of his text. These machines can process any cultural artifact and find the sexism, racisim, logocentrism, patriarchy, colonialism, ANYTHING. So in deconstruction it didnt take long for people to go from deconstructing philosophy, to deconstructing poetry ( and new criticism) to deconstructing the law. Its an operation on textual artifacts, mostly texts, but these system can process any artifact or behavior and find what they are looking for. They have to. Its their goal. Consequently its impossible to hoax these types of journals and these areas of study. The goal of the machine is to explain every cultural artifact using the machine. The artifacts cannot resist. and if you find a tough one, well you just ignore it. sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    So you see Melania Trump wearing a Pith helmet.. whats that mean? easy. assume a theory of meaning whereby the meaning of cultural artefacts are necessarily tied to their origins, a weird version of the etymological fallacy and you get this:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/10/08/from-19th-century-india-to-melania-trump-how-pith-helmets-became-a-symbol-of-colonialism/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.875e8e807f8b

    This is just one interpretive tactic. Take a different machine ( reader response) and the meaning of the symbol will be the audience response. Take a different machine and you can deconstruct the hat. For the most part these symbols are seen as having unchanging meaning.Ask any Jungian. Unless of course, Hillary wore a pith helmet, then a cigar is just a cigar.

    Its not that this stuff is unfalsifiable, or unhoaxable. Its rather that it is trivial, boring, and easy to master. Any game you cant lose isnt worth playing

  23. izen says:

    @-SM
    Shorter-
    Any field is susceptible to ‘Just-so’ stories.

  24. Willard says:

  25. izen says:

    @-W

    I am not sure what your point is with that tweet…

    In a discussion with a much younger relative, and child of the digital age about online privacy, the response was first puzzlement and then obvious amusement at my naivete’.
    He clearly regards any and all digital data as completely available, despite any precautions or encryption, to anybody sufficiently motivated to access it.

  26. Dave_Geologist says:

    managed to hoodwink major media sources (WSJ)

    Given its ownership and track record, do you really think the WSJ was hoodwinked? As opposed to being a willing participant?

    And yes, motivated reasoning is arguably a form of meta-hoodwinking, fooling oneself. But therein lies turtles.

  27. izen says:

    @-Dave_G
    ” do you really think the WSJ was hoodwinked? As opposed to being a willing participant?”

    I think it was a story that they were only too willing to accept with the minimum of ‘peer review’ in a very similar way to the Gender studies journals that the hoaxers targeted with the other half of the prank.

  28. Willard says:

    izen,

    The Blumenthal tweet is about a data breach Google hid for months:

    Google is shutting down its consumer version of Google Plus, its social network that some saw as its answer to Facebook. This comes after a flaw was discovered that might have exposed personal information of hundreds of thousands of customers. According to The Wall Street Journal, that flaw was discovered in March, but the company decided not to disclose it.

    https://www.npr.org/2018/10/09/655731986/google-hid-data-breach-for-months-wall-street-journal-reports

    It echoes Joshua’s sentiment that the private sector is not immune to stupidity. Anyone who thinks that beerocracts from the private sector are more efficient than in the public should be strapped to a phone and talk to an insurance, a mobile or a cable representative.

    [If James is reading – no, I’m not suggesting we strap anyone for real. It’s theater. Just like your suggestion that we strap kids must have been interpreted. If it has been interpreted – it may have been skimmed over.]

  29. Willard says:

    > its like nothing has changed in over 40 years.

    Here is how Jarek Ervin recalls that the literary critic Terry Eagleton argues that something did (via Aimee Terese):

    Eagleton argues that what once held a radical allure in the academy has risen to the status of cliche. Critique has been disconnected from the politics it once (ostensibly) served. Empty verbiage proliferates, and monographs abound with promises to rethink, unsettle, or problematize—to do everything, that is, except much of anything at all. Often, these gestures are pseudo-interventions, or take the form of clowning on some terrified graduate student presenting a conference paper for the first time—while also going out of the way, in the same ex cathedra pronouncements, to shower praise on celebrity academics and potential bosses.

    I’ve noticed that this kind of thought has even started to creep into left circles. Academics who stumble into the realm of politics don’t always ask whether or not their mastery of Mittelhochdeutsch or exhaustive knowledge of the organology of Renaissance wind instruments actually translates into organizing wherewithal. Some carry themselves as if it is self-evident that the revolution was only waiting around for a few more graduate students to proclaim themselves Philosopher-Kings-in-waiting. This crowd often ends up playing the role of schoolmaster, showing off how much Lenin they’ve read or their virtuosic ability to toss directionless critique in the faces of people who just came to an organizing event because they were tired of living in a broken society.

    https://thebaffler.com/latest/no-joke-ervin

    The point of critical theories shouldn’t be to produce more theory. They’re meant to be emanticipatory disciplines, not just another way to cushion the reigning authorities.

    Criticizing it for not being KNOWLEDGE, like James emphasizes in his tweeting interventions, displays ignorance of the field and projects onto it the very scientific superego it tries to undermine. When I mention “scientific superego,” I’m not saying we should psychoanalyze Science. It’s just a metaphor I hope conveys something useful without being too didactic. Sometimes a metaphor is just a metaphor.

    The whole scam reveals first and foremost a naive conception of language and science by our academic James O’Keefes.

  30. izen said:

    “Shorter-
    Any field is susceptible to ‘Just-so’ stories.”

    Wall Street: Any movement of the stock market is immediately pinned to a specific action of that day. That’s a just-so story device used by any financial analyst worth their salt.

    Natural Climate Behavior: Any trend in the weather is explained by suggesting some set of teleconnections or anecdotes related to other behaviors . That’s also a just-so story device used by any climatologist/meteorologist that wants to make a name for themselves.

    Electrical Engineering: I can’t think of any just-so stories. Maybe there are a few related to suppressing noise and for designing grounding and shielding. But that reinforces the idea that these just-so-stories always pop up when a fundamental understanding is not there or unknown behaviors are involved.

    I suggest that a scientific or engineering discipline shows a progression in skill when the just-so stories are rare.

  31. Willard says:

    > Electrical Engineering: I can’t think of any just-so stories.

    Hold my coffee, Paul. I’m not sure how far you want to take this. How about the laws of physics?

    Meanwhile, let me introduce the concept of scale:

    Volkswagen’s installation of a software “defeat device” in 11 million Volkswagen and Audi diesel vehicles sold worldwide has led to a massive vehicle recall in the United States and an official apology from the company’s now-ex CEO.

    The clever and sneaky algorithm, installed in the emissions-control module, detects when the cars were undergoing emissions testing. It ran the engine cleanly during tests and switched off emissions control during normal driving conditions, allowing the car to spew up to 40 times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum allowed level of nitrogen oxides, air pollutants that cause respiratory problems and smog.

    https://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/at-work/education/vw-scandal-shocking-but-not-surprising-ethicists-say

    According to thy Wiki, VW expected to save $120M; it costed $7.3B and its stock plunged. This kind of episode argues in favor of engineering ethics.

    I wonder how much humanities departments we could fund with 7 billions.

  32. Right — VW perfectly illustrated the power of a controlled experiment. The results matched the technical design, but failed the financial expectation. There is probably a just-so story behind the management decision making.

  33. izen says:

    @-W
    “It echoes Joshua’s sentiment that the private sector is not immune to stupidity. ”

    I did think that was likely to be the reference.
    Which is why I gave the (anecdotal) story of how the digital/online generation find the idea that Privacy is a thing obsolete.
    AFAIK the Google+ ‘breach’ was an inherent absence in the software of overt control on access to data in what has become a theatre of concern over privacy. Google avoided admitting the ‘problem’ because they wanted to avoid the fake outrage and inevitable exploitation of the supposed flaw at a politically inopportune moment.

    That there is a generational shift in perceiving privacy as a mirage online may, or may not be accurate. But that the issue is exploited for political ends is not in error.

    The Blackberry phone failed largely because it was only capable of being an efficient phone and messaging device, but was limited in the ability to commodify other online services. But another factor was that because it utilised a strong form of end-to-end encryption of messaging it was much harder for governments to access the content of messages. India IIRC banned it for a time because the makers would/could not provide a backdoor to governments.

    The just-so story behind the EU General Data Protection Regulation is that it is intended to protect personal privacy. But its effect is to increase control and regulation over an open system, by legitimate authority and their commercial partners. It is certainly being used by content providers to limit access to their ‘intellectual property’ on the basis that they cannot now allow access without collecting as much data as possible for their own economic self interest.
    And those they can sell it on to.

    Anyone in the EU/UK who has looked at what data you are agreeing to provide if you click the ‘Accept’ button or tried to set the parameters when that option is available may have been surprised at the Loooong list of data, and other entities that it is shared with, you are encouraged to allow.

    In the digital domain the protection of personal privacy has become the just-so story to justify increased regulation. I get the distinct impression that the younger players of fortnite or candy crush however have no expectation, or interest, in the privacy of their actions. It is of no concern to them that the precise time and location of all their activity in the digital domain is entirely open to commercial/government scrutiny.

    The other just-so story linked to this is that the danger is such knowledge can be used to manipulate large groups politically, as with the US election and Russia false facebook posts. Conveniently ignoring that such minor efforts are dwarfed by the shaping of consumers to maximise economic interests.

    How Bernays would have loved the resources of Cambridge Analytica….

  34. izen says:

    @-Paul Pukite (@WHUT)
    “Natural Climate Behavior: Any trend in the weather is explained by suggesting some set of teleconnections or anecdotes related to other behaviors .”

  35. Steven Mosher says:

    willard.
    https://thebaffler.com/latest/no-joke-ervin

    seriously. i read that same shit in 1984
    boring.
    trivial.
    go get a real job.do some work.

  36. Sorry about the use of “any”, but the research articles on climate patterns that I read are very wordy. Since they can’t seem to predict El Ninos more than a few months in advance, but articles still need to be written, that is the result I see. The wordiness and “just so” nature of the speculation would disappear if the patterns were more mathematically predictable, as with other more mature disciplines. That’s what I was trying to get across.

  37. Willard says:

    The Veritas-like scam is spreading:

    I have spent that time writing an academic paper and publishing it in a respected peer-reviewed journal associated with fields of scholarship loosely known as “economics” or “political economy” (for example, law and economics) or “neo-classical theory” because it is rooted in that postmodern brand of “theory” which arose in the early eighties. I undertook this project to study, understand, and expose the reality of political economy, which is corrupting academic research. Because open, good-faith conversation around topics such as labor, power and exploitation (and the scholarship that works with them) is nearly impossible, my aim has been to reboot these conversations. I hope this will give people—especially those who believe in liberalism, progress, modernity, open inquiry, and social justice—a clear reason to look at the libertarian madness coming out of the academic and activist right and say, “No, I will not go along with that. You do not speak for me.”

    I came to conceptualize this project as a kind of exercise in which I sought to uncover the hidden incentive structures of the discipline, and subject them to rigorous game theoretic analysis, obtaining validation of how absurd theses could be made acceptable to reviewers, in a manner that would be highly revealing about the state of the field. I hypothesized that economics journals had a strong revealed preference for revealed preferences arguments, in which apparent exploitation was revealed to be free exchange, leading to Pareto superior outcomes, and that statistical techniques – even if misapplied – provided a weak signal of quality. Thus led me to the conclusion that there existed a pooling equilibrium, in which self-evidently ridiculous academic claims could mingle indistinguishably with serious ones, as long as they had the right ideological and methodological smell. Papers that were outlandish or intentionally broken in significant ways could blend in almost perfectly with others in the discipline under my consideration.

    My paper-writing methodology followed a specific pattern: it started with an idea that spoke to my epistemological or ethical concerns with the field and then sought to bend the existing scholarship to support it. The goal was always to use what the existing literature offered to get some little bit of lunacy or depravity to be acceptable at the highest levels of intellectual respectability within the field.

    So I just thought a nutty and inhumane idea up and ran with it. What if workplace sexual harassment wasn’t an abuse of power, but a kind of equitable market exchange? Rather than being a brutish “instrument of power and intimidation,” sexual harassment might be viewed as “an undesirable working condition that may generate a compensating pay differential.” Just as risk-accepting people are prepared to do dangerous jobs so long as they get paid more for it, so might people who didn’t really mind getting felt up by their boss or co-workers all that much accept a higher risk of harassment in exchange for more money in their weekly pay check. I found some very broad statistics, for industrial categories like ‘agriculture,’ ‘information’ and ‘Professional and business services,’ regressed them against sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC, and bingo! I found a statistically significant positive relationship between pay and the number of reported incidents of sexual harassment. The Friedmanite magic of markets at work again, transforming an apparent pattern of sexual predation into a win-win-relationship where everyone ends up better off!

    http://crookedtimber.org/2018/10/03/move-over-sokal-hoax/

  38. Steven Mosher says:

    “In the digital domain the protection of personal privacy has become the just-so story to justify increased regulation. I get the distinct impression that the younger players of fortnite or candy crush however have no expectation, or interest, in the privacy of their actions. It is of no concern to them that the precise time and location of all their activity in the digital domain is entirely open to commercial/government scrutiny.”

    In the digital domain there are two camps amongst the young
    those who dont care
    and those who fanatically care.

    hence the market opportunity for tecnology that allows you to control your digital identity and digital assets

  39. Steven Mosher says:

    “Shorter-
    Any field is susceptible to ‘Just-so’ stories.”

    It is not that the feilds are susceptible to just so stories. their GOAL their whole purpose is to explain all cultural artefacts with a unified theory. Such that a good theory of feminism MUST be able to articulate a feminist astronomy. It must be able to process, dress, language, body hair, painting, poetry, buildings, the workplace, ….. every cultural artefact must be explicable in terms of the
    theory. Thats the goal. Thats how you show it is a good theory.

    and at some point you’ll hear someone cry about poor overworked grad students or poor over worked professors who are having their labor exploited by the institutions.. blah blah blah.
    been there done that, heard that. Got a real job.

  40. Joshua says:

    It is not that the feilds are susceptible to just so stories. their GOAL their whole purpose is to explain all cultural artefacts with a unified theory. Such that a good theory of feminism rightwing grievance and femi-nazism MUST be able to articulate a feminist astronomy. vast leftwing academic incompetence/conspiracy. It must be able to process, dress, language, body hair, painting, poetry, buildings, sociology, psychology, the media, the workplace [Google] , ….. every cultural artefact must be explicable in terms of the
    theory. Thats the goal. Thats how you show it is a good theory.

    Only private sector jobs are real jobs.

  41. Dave_Geologist says:

    EU General Data Protection Regulation … is certainly being used by content providers to limit access to their ‘intellectual property’ on the basis that they cannot now allow access without collecting as much data as possible for their own economic self interest.

    Strangely, that’s not how I’ve experienced it. I’ve seen three categories (or two-and-a-half)

    1) Companies ask me to confirm that I’m OK with them collecting and using info in the way they’ve always done. With a restatement, either in an email or a link to a web page, what they’re doing. No-one has asked me to give them more permissions.

    2) Some US and other websites, mainly media, say “not available in EU because of GDPR”.

    3) One or two companies said they were cancelling their EU services because of GDPR.

    Companies which allow three free reads a week, five per month, or whatever, have continued to do so. Perhaps asking me again to accept cookies, but I’m used to that because I clear my cookies periodically. Maybe the terms of the cookies have changed. Maybe not. I don’t know because I generally don’t read the small print 😦 .. Of course I use a version of private browsing for anything financial or personal, am running an up-to-date Linux, and still have the extra Chrome/Chromium sandboxing recommended as a fix for the cache leakage problems at the turn of the year.

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. 😉 .

  42. Dave_Geologist says:

    if the patterns were more mathematically predictable, as with other more mature disciplines.

    Of course if chaos is in play, the discipline may be quite mature. It’s just that there’s no there, there 😉 ..

  43. Dave_Geologist says:

    Well, obviously the casting couch was a form of market exchange. And the NDAs. The question is whether it was equitable (handing your purse to a highwayman in return for not getting shot is also a market exchange, your money or your life), or moral.

  44. Steven Mosher says:

    I dont think you get it Joshua.
    There are of course conservatives who engage in this, like Jordan when he is being a Jungian.
    Try again and see if you understand it. A good example would be how a christian reads the
    world. This isnt a right left thing no matter how much you are destined to read things that way.

  45. Joshua says:

    I don’t think you see what argument I’m making, Steven. Try reading harder.

  46. dikranmarsupial says:

    “A good example would be how a christian reads the world.”

    presumably in a stereotypical manner, rather than as individuals? ;o)

  47. Willard says:

    > It’s just that there’s no there, there

    Although Karl’s prediction of the concentration of capital is more robust than many things I’ve seen in more empirical sciences, Dave, critical theory isn’t about predicting any kind of “there” there. It’s about transforming it. A better world should be the end point of all its theorizing. There are thus merits in Mosh’s point, insofar as the job one gets beyond the milieu improves the odds to get a better world.

    Pragmatic consistency implies that critical theorists become advocates and activists. Criticizing them for that would be absurd. That our “Veritas” team criticize the field for being so either reveals misunderstanding, rhetorical opportunism, and lack of self-awareness. Playing on the myth of the disinterested scientist is a common ClimateBall strategy.

    Where are the critical theorists’ think tanks? There sure must be some, but I’d have to check. There are no dominant ones like Freedom Fighters have. Critical theorists who only teach and churn technical papers are not criticizing anything – they’re as much bourgeois as those they pretend to criticize. This has become quite clear to me after watching this episode of Black Mirror called Fifteen Million Merits:

    A society lives in an enclosed, automated space, with nearly every surface an interactive video screen with personalised entertainment and frequent advertising. They ride on stationary bikes to generate power in exchange for “merits”, a form of currency. The society shuns overweight people, who are tasked with janitorial jobs and subjected to humiliation via a game show, Botherguts.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifteen_Million_Merits

    Karl couldn’t have written a better plot. Spoiler alert. Continue to read at your own peril.

    [Those who complain about trigger warning seldom complain about spoiler alerts.]

    The model of society this episode offers connects energy production with attention seeking. Either you help produce the energy the society needs, or you help sustain the attention of those who do. This perfectly circular madness cannot be criticized. Our hero succeeds in doing so. He then gets integrated into the showbiz part of the society. The END.

    Has our hero succeeded in creating a better society? In a way, yes. He’s satisfying a need that wasn’t met before him. Has he transformed society? This barely makes sense.

    In other words, one can pretend to criticize without doing anything constructive. I duly submit that our “Veritas” team is doing just that. Worse, what they pretend to be doing doesn’t cohere with the social network they are nurturing. And so they become Freedom Fighters’ tools.

    We can predict they’ll start their own YT channel soon.

  48. Dave_Geologist says:

    The human mind is famously good at seeing patterns where there are none. Some favour a Just-So story whereby Type 1 errors (wrongly attributing that rustling in the trees to a leopard, not the wind) are punished more severely by evolution than Type 2 errors (Nah, it’s just the wind again).

    Sometimes there’s only one cigar, or there’s no there, there. Of course sometimes there really are cycles, and conspiracies, and hidden motives. How to tell, ay, there’s the rub. Hmm, obviously not a new phenomenon, Hamlet got there before me 🙂 .

  49. Willard says:

    Please don’t try to pull my leg, Dave. I could add as many smileys as you want. It won’t make it less ugly.

    To see how relevant is your typology of statistical errors, try to apply it to data protection rights.

  50. Willard says:

    Perhaps I should lay ahead some cards. Here are three.

    Alex Rosenberg has published a book against the reliability of storification:

    Rosenberg is a philosopher of science and a writer of historical fiction. How History Gets Things Wrong: The Neuroscience of Our Addiction to Stories, out this week from MIT Press, does not deny that stories can be wonderful as art and effective at eliciting emotions that then push action. But, Rosenberg tells The Verge, stories also lull us into a false sense of knowledge and fundamentally limit our understanding of the world.

    https://www.theverge.com/2018/10/5/17940650/how-history-gets-things-wrong-alex-rosenberg-interview-neuroscience-stories

    According to him, all stories are wrong, and most are harmful. Historians did not appreciate that take:

    Most of the exchanges I’ve witnessed misrepresent Alex’ point. Considering that he himself abused the concept of history, it may be deserved.

    ***

    Since we’re into critical theory and that questions of civility have come to the fore in recent days (as opposed to when I do not know), it might be worth nothing that Habermas is no PC police:

    For Habermas, the function of public debate is not to find a reasonable common ground. Rather, the public sphere ‘is a warning system’, a set of ‘sensors’ that detect the new needs floating underneath the surface of a supposed political consensus. And if we worry too much about civility and the reasonable middle, we risk limiting the ability of the public sphere to detect new political claims. To get those claims on the agenda in the first place often requires uncivil and confrontational political tactics.

    https://aeon.co/ideas/against-civility-or-why-habermas-recommends-a-wild-public-sphere

    I am for civility
    You are a PC cop
    They are shutting down debate

    ***

    Lastly, the norms surrounding confrontations are contextual. One can expect more animosity in the public sphere than at the workplace. A social theorist has recently been suspended for bullying:

    James E. Miller was a newly minted Ph.D. presenting at his first academic conference when another scholar in his field thundered his disapproval, calling him a left-wing “irrationalist,” he recalls, for being sympathetic to Nietzsche.

    […]

    “He causes people to leave meetings, causes people to cry, and causes me to cringe,” said one faculty member who asked not to be named because she fears repercussions. “He’s a big guy. He has a loud voice. When he disagrees, he stands up and raises his voice and calls out the person’s name.”

    During a faculty seminar, Arato, who stands nearly 6 feet 4 inches tall, angrily confronted a speaker by telling him his presentation was self-serving and superficial, bringing the scholar to tears, the faculty member said.

    https://www.chronicle.com/article/My-Fights-Are-With-My/244766

    I’ve heard the accusation of irrationalism not long ago, but where?

  51. Dave said:

    “Of course if chaos is in play, the discipline may be quite mature. It’s just that there’s no there, there 😉 ..”

    In other disciplines, often what was thought to be chaotic was actually not. It invariably turned out to be an initial case of ignorance followed by a discovery of a pattern. See Mandelbrot

    The “there” there has yet to be discovered possibly because the analysis methods are not sophisticated enough.

  52. Dave_Geologist says:

    Mandelbrot? Deterministic chaos surely. Like the logistic parabola, which can generate periodic, sorta-periodic or looks-like-random outputs. If something we’re interested in falls into the periodic box, great. But if it was that simple we’d probably have sussed it by now. If it falls into the sorta-periodic box, good. As long as we’re content that the next event-of-interest will probably come next year, or at least within the next few years. Which depends on the impact of the event. If it’s matter of choosing six months ahead which crop to plant you need more confidence than if it’s raising a flood barrier before the next El Nino. A wrong choice in the first case could ruin you; in the second you lose a year’s interest on the investment.

    I was using the word in the mathematical sense, not the it’s-all-a-mess sense. Is there an underlying cyclicity driven by some forcing or resonance, or is the quasi-period an emergent property of the system, perhaps the ratio of property A to property B, with neither property having a time-axis?

  53. Willard says:

    > The “there” there has yet to be discovered possibly because the analysis methods are not sophisticated enough.

    @@

    Another possibility is that this usage of “there” is as abstruse as POMO can get. Another is that there are areas of study where we can’t afford controlled experiments.

  54. Joshua says:

    presumably in a stereotypical manner, rather than as individuals? ;o)

    That might be serve to point you in the right direction when you reread, Steven.

  55. Dave said:

    “I was using the word in the mathematical sense, not the it’s-all-a-mess sense. Is there an underlying cyclicity driven by some forcing or resonance, or is the quasi-period an emergent property of the system, perhaps the ratio of property A to property B, with neither property having a time-axis?”

    I said there were many examples of behavior that looks like chaos but isn’t. If you don’t like the Mandelbrot case, there are others I can refer you to. Consider hydrodynamics, where analytic solutions can be found for sloshing which don’t look periodic at all, yet actually are cyclic, but with a very long repeat period. I am sure scientists would have considered this behavior chaotic, until the mathematicians were able to come up with the closed-form solution, in this case associated with the Mathieu function. This can be expressed as a summed series of sinusoidal functions, available in Mathematica as the MathieuC or MathieuS function

  56. Dave_Geologist says:

    Once again, Paul, the Mandelbrot Set is deterministic chaos. Perhaps the classic example. You said in an earlier exchange you hadn’t looked into it because you didn’t find it useful. You should. I can recommend some good books. In fact I think I did previously, Schroeder.

    The earthquakes we discussed a few months ago, OTOH, are probably not chaotic. Just impossible to predict to the day or the month because we’d have to measure a gazillion things kilometres below the ground, and even if we could, we’re dealing with such small incremental loading rates that the measurements would disturb the environment (not in a quantum-mechanical sense of course).

    I am sure scientists would have considered this behavior chaotic, until the mathematicians were able to come up with the closed-form solution

    I’m sure they wouldn’t. Because they’d have know the Term-Of-Art definition of chaos. Chaos is an invention/discovery by mathematicians, not scientists. The solutions are closed-form (in the sense that they’re exact mathematical equations, with no requirement for finite-difference or series approximations). Just chaotic. Infinitely sensitive to initial conditions. That’s why it’s called deterministic chaos. Read Schroeder and you’ll understand.

  57. Willard says:

    If this could not turn into a counterfactual food fight, that’d be great. I hope we can all agree that mathematicians discover useful concepts which sometimes forces us to reconsider scientific problems, which in turn can help mathematicians find equivalences.

    Here’s the kind of discussion that is more relevant to this thread:

    Notice who’s the thinker who relies on abstractions the most.

  58. izen says:

    @-SM
    “Got a real job.”

    A real job is one that reduces, minimises, or at least does not increase, net Human sufferring.
    Or is that too Buddhist / Benthamite?

    Sokal squared, and the recent case VV has discussed on his blog about a ‘discovered’ failure(?) in peer review are theatrics with the (intended?) effect of diminishing the credibility of a niche area of research with the implication that the findings apply to the wider social/academic endeavour of creative engagement with physical reality or social praxis.

    There ARE legitimate attacks that can be made against research because it is shaped by a mixture of implicit a prior assumptions and ideological or economic agendas. But difficult as it is to discern, it is the intent of those transgressions that may be the measure of how they corrupt the general acquisition of knowledge that can reduce suffering and increase the potential for human creativity.

    https://reason.com/blog/2018/09/20/brian-wansink-nutrition-papers-retracted

    Although the direction paved with good intentions is allegedly well established.

  59. Dave_Geologist says:

    I won’t go into abstractions Willard. However I do notice that Foucault makes a series of allegations about the motives and objectives of a series of institutions without presenting any evidence. For example, are there no psychiatrists who put the health and wellbeing of their patients first? How many testimonies would it take to convince him? One? Or no number because he’d assume they were either deceiving him or deceiving themselves?

    Is Foucault generating a Just-So story to explain the motives of people whose minds he can’t read, but whose actions result in outcomes different from those that would obtain if he were in charge? Or that he thinks would obtain? Maybe those others have the same objectives as he has, but keep running into “events, dear boy, events”? Or maybe they have different but non-malign objectives? I’m automatically suspicious when the same Just-So story is used to explain disparate events (note that that is different from consilience). Theories Of Everything don’t grow on trees. “But in reality” = “But in my head”.

    How is Foucalt different from conservatives saying “liberals want to raise taxes because… reasons… and invent needs to justify that objective”, or “liberals want world government, because… reasons… and invent dangers like climate change to justify institutions like the IPCC”.

  60. izen says:

    @-Dave_G
    “For example, are there no psychiatrists who put the health and wellbeing of their patients first?”

    I think that is actually one of his less controversial claims.
    It was/is generally agreed that while individual psychiatrists, and medics in general, put the wellbeing of their patients first, the emergent property of the institutions/systems that provide that care is not neutral or equally benign.
    The case may be overstated, but the iatrogenic impacts of care are not easily dismissed as fictive.

    https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2794/rr

  61. izen says:

    This may get a little long and rambling…

    I was intrigued with the Alex Rosenberg book, ‘How History gets things wrong’, that Willard referenced, but it is expensive even as a kindle, still considering adding it to the stack of unread text…
    But it has prompted reflection on the malign impact that Just-so stories can have on society.

    About a decade ago I was in a … discussion online with an American medic who was extolling the virtues of private/commercial medical developments and the damaging effects of government involvement in clinical research and provision.
    My counter-example was AZT, then a key treatment for HIV/AIDS which was discovered / synthesised first by German chemists during the big government funded push for advancement in science in the 1920s. It was a cheap, unused chemical for decades until a pharmaceutical company with ~40% government funding did research into its effectiveness as an AIDS treatment. Because they held a patent for the treatment regime (but not the drug) they were able to place a cost on its usage that was highly profitable, and restricted the availability.

    Rather foolishly, and without checking I suggested that most, or the top ten, of the drugs used for medical treatment in the US owed their existence to government research rather than private development. there then ensured a long disagreement over the accuracy of this claim.
    The ‘facts’ are ambiguous. the top ten drugs can be ranked by amount, number of prescriptions, (a drug may be used in small amounts but be prescribed many more times than one used in bulk) or cost. The discovery and synthesis of a chemical may be multiple, some pharmaceuticals were initially developed within government funded research, but then analogous and similar acting chemicals might be developed by private industry that were more effective than the original, or at least more profitable.

    One of the results I found surprising at the time was the high position of Oxycontin in the top ten as a drug used/prescribed in the US. As someone with indirect insight into drug approval and usage in the UK the wide application of a synthetic opioid seemed … odd.

    It would have been about then, or shortly afterwards that various pharmaceutical interests in the US developed the Just-so story that pain was grossly under-treated in the US and a slow release version of an opioid was just the drug required to address this failure of the medical establishment to treat this unmet need. The additional element of the Just-so story was that the slow release avoid the rapid high/hit of an opioid and therefore would avoid the danger of addiction.

    The consequences of acceptance of this Just-so story are only too well known. The opioid crisis in the US which now is a major cause of mortality and morbidity have become a far more serious medical and social problem than pain after surgery or back-ache has ever been. Ivan Illich would be crowing “I told you so…”

    I am struggling to link this to the theme of this thread, but the stories that are told within social sciences like gender studies MAY be erroneous or useful, the attacks by ‘Freedom Fighters’ may also be justified or spurious. But one problem is that when a story is established it can effectively block alternative insights into an issue. It is perhaps revealing that the marketing and rapid rise of opioid pain medication in the US proceeded without any research into the actual, or evidence based, effect of medium to long term use of opioids on pain. Subsequent work indicates they are LESS effective than NSAIDs.

    The conclusion this indicates is that developing narratives that ‘explain’ a problem and suggest a solution, or attack a solution and deny the validity of the problem, are often driven not by the neutral deduction from information. Or even from a full and rounded understanding of the issue.
    But at the risk of sounding POMO, by the contingent social context in which those Just-so stories arise.

    Think I will have to invest in Rosenberg’s book…

  62. An arguably implausible Just-So story that may turn out to be correct is the connection between elemental lead (Pb) in the environment and petty crime rates. The thinking was that lead impacts the brain’s development such that it promotes aggression in young adults. Statistical studies across the world where lead was banned as an ingredient showed a strong correlation between lead reduction and petty crime reduction. I wouldn’t believe it myself if it weren’t for all the data that was statistically compiled.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead%E2%80%93crime_hypothesis

    https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/02/lead-exposure-gasoline-crime-increase-children-health/
    Meanwhile, Nevin had kept busy as well, and in 2007 he published a new paper looking at crime trends around the world (PDF). This way, he could make sure the close match he’d found between the lead curve and the crime curve wasn’t just a coincidence. Sure, maybe the real culprit in the United States was something else happening at the exact same time, but what are the odds of that same something happening at several different times in several different countries?

    Nevin collected lead data and crime data for Australia and found a close match. Ditto for Canada. And Great Britain and Finland and France and Italy and New Zealand and West Germany. Every time, the two curves fit each other astonishingly well. When I spoke to Nevin about this, I asked him if he had ever found a country that didn’t fit the theory. “No,” he replied. “Not one.”

  63. Joshua says:

    izen –

    I find the entire frame problematic. Why even look at government “involvement” and private sector research as being in opposition? Except, of course, to promote ideologically driven Just-so storyfying.

    More than anything else, that is essentially the point I’ve been making in this thread (attention Steven).

    Did your interlocutor present a valid argument as to how government involvement is damaging (in balance, of course – to simply list “damages” tells us nothing in that regard)?

  64. Willard says:

    > I do notice that Foucault makes a series of allegations about the motives and objectives of a series of institutions without presenting any evidence.

    In that claim alone you make three strange moves, Dave.

    First, you assume that evidence can be provided when you sit with two other guys in front of an audience. Second, it was in response to Noam’s own claims, which you don’t seem to dispute the same way. Third, you mention “motives” when you should already know that institutions don’t have motives, and “objectives” when Noam and Michel work with a functional description.

    Asking for more evidence than the rhetorical context requires, arbitrarily selecting a specific target for criticism, and questioning a level of abstraction that one accepts in other fields might be three of the reasons why the high expectation father meme exists.

  65. Dave_Geologist says:

    But, in reality, it’s another way to bring to bear the political power over a social class

    Perhaps it’s too subtle for me izen, but that doesn’t read like a shrug-of-the-shoulder reference to unintended consequences. If that’s how it’s meant then it’s an example of my “events, dear boy, events”. We try to do good but it goes wrong. “I could do better!” “No, I could do better!” i>Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  66. Dave_Geologist says:

    But Willard, what makes you believe I don’t think Chomsky is full of shit? I picked psychiatry not politics because, obviously, when it comes to organisations like governments and police there are indeed motives to maintain some sort of order or status quo. Real not imaginary. Perhaps for selfish reasons, perhaps “for our own good”. Foucault, at least in that conversation (which of course is a snapshot, in a stilted dialogue, perhaps real-time where he’d disagree later), looked like a hammer-wielder whose Just-So story involves the widespread existence of loose nails.

  67. Willard says:

    > The conclusion this indicates is that developing narratives that ‘explain’ a problem and suggest a solution, or attack a solution and deny the validity of the problem, are often driven not by the neutral deduction from information. Or even from a full and rounded understanding of the issue.

    To expect that we could neutrally deduce information may be a fool’s errand. We’re hardwired to storify. Our explanations are seldom deductive.

    We just don’t have any other means to know anything. Our understanding rests on shaky ground. Some grounds are shakier than others. We need to learn to distrust information without rejecting it altogether, for we get nowhere without trusting any. That may be the biggest lesson the contrarians teached me.

    This will be the topic of my next post. Its working title is Networks of Distrust.

  68. Willard says:

    > what makes you believe I don’t think Chomsky is full of shit?

    I don’t have access to what you think, Dave. What makes you think you yourself do? I can only observe what you do, and what you do sucks.

    Is that clearer?

  69. izen says:

    @-Joshua
    “Did your interlocutor present a valid argument as to how government involvement is damaging ”

    It was a while ago and I may be miss-remembering to my own advantage, but I don’t think there was much beyond a ;-
    ‘Government socialism bad, removes individual liberty and self-reliance / private enterprise freedom to innovate.’

  70. Dave_Geologist says:

    Clear as mud Willard. Guess I’m just not cut out for philosophy.

  71. Dave_Geologist says:

    Every time, the two curves fit each other astonishingly well.

    He should have read the literature.

    Abstract
    Lead poisoning existed and was already known in Antiquity but was forgotten, at least in the literature, until the end of the Middle Ages, where it was mentioned sporadically. In the 19th century this disease, which reached epidemic dimensions during the period of industrialization, was “rediscovered.” Several comprehensive clinical articles appeared in the literature. The clinical picture deepened during the beginning of the 20th century, and preventive efforts were started. However, the concept of poisoning remained strictly clinical. During the latter half of the 20th century a new concept emerged: subclinical and early forms became recognized as undesirable effects. This led to a substantial lowering of hygienic standards. Pediatric poisoning has also been a serious problem during the 20th century. After the 1920s, environmental pollution by lead caused by the introduction of tetraethyl lead in gasoline became an alarming public health problem. The use became restricted in the 1980s; its effects on blood lead levels are now evident. Today’s research focuses on the effects of low exposure, often with the aim of defining noneffect levels for different types of effects.

    So, what was going on between the 1920s and the 1980s? Don’t tell me governments and businesses and regulators were waiting for 95% confidence and 99% confidence and saying correlation is not causation and it’s only a trace gas in the exhaust and some of the houses still have lead pipes and the toys have lead paint and… and… and… Hmmm. Sounds familiar.

    Full disclosure. I worked about 30 years ago with someone whose wife worked for the major UK supplier of TEL. She said they already had the replacements lined up because they new it would be banned, but were just waiting for government enforcement. Only an anecdote I know. Was there the equivalent of the tobacco litigation release of documents?

  72. izen says:

    @-Paul
    “The thinking was that lead impacts the brain’s development such that it promotes aggression in young adults.”

    While that may be true, it is biological determinism at its worst.
    One of the ugly facts that undermines the beautiful theory is that while aggressive crimes by young males (however measured) may have reduced with reduced Pb exposure, the less frequent, aggressive crime by young females increased enormously IIRC.

  73. Willard says:

    > Guess I’m just not cut out for philosophy.

    The first lesson one gets in a philosophy class is that nobody cares what you think, Dave. It’s all about questions. Opinions are too damn cheap.

    To question properly, one must try to understand properly, which usually implies reading properly. Reading is hard. It takes time and dedication to be able to tolerate arguments that go against our own inclinations. This usually requires or develops some self-awareness.

    Take the concept of just-so story. Isn’t that itself a just-so story? Doesn’t appealing to it presuppose we have better than just-so stories? Are the best explanations we have really something else than just-so stories? If so, how do they differ from just-so stories? Assuming our brains are storification engines, isn’t that just special pleading?

    I have no real opinion on most of these questions. It doesn’t matter. I’m here for the argument. As you may have noticed, I’m also here for something else. Those who appreciate the work of Harold Pinter call it a comedy with menace, e.g.:

    If we’re stuck with just-so stories, I duly submit we should make it worthwhile.

    When we’ll speak in equations, I might revise that policy.

  74. izen says:

    @-Dave_G
    “Perhaps it’s too subtle for me izen, but that doesn’t read like a shrug-of-the-shoulder reference to unintended consequences.”

    As Willard has indicated the mistake may be in -‘unintended’.
    Institutions and systems like mental health services or medical care are not sentient moral agents. They are social organisations with group properties, not intentions or motivations. However that does not mean that the emergent effects do not have real consequences.
    And it may be possible to identify from the consequences a means of structuring the organisation that avoids the worst impacts of those effects rather than just dismiss them as – “events, dear boy, events”
    The police are policed by the form of the institution and the way it is embedded into its social context. Look up the Jim Jefferies comedy series of his rides along with the police in different countries.

    At two+ chapters in the
    ‘How History Gets Things Wrong: The Neuroscience of Our Addiction to Stories’
    is already worth the investment. If you think philosophy is beyond your ken, then this analysis of history and storification may be worth your attention.

  75. Willard says:

    STOP THE PRESSES!

    A Researcher Started to Read a Paper Before Dismissing It as BS:

  76. izen says:

    @-Dave_G

    If you find Willard’s philosophical excursions hard, unpalatable, and irrelevant to the real world, you might want to ponder on ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’. A work that I have been told is the greatest work in philosophy this century, and that by an American!

    The central joke is that we know the answer, definitively and exactly, 42, the problem is discovering what the correct QUESTION is.
    (grin)

  77. Willard says:

    Here’s why I’m citing Harold, BTW:

    Even it the past is only what we remember, imagine we remember, convince ourselves we remember, or pretend we remember, it’s still better than no past at all.

    Incidentally, that argument has the same form as the one we have regarding AGW.

  78. dikranmarsupial says:

    “A work that I have been told is the greatest work in philosophy this century, and that by an American!”

    I always thought Douglas Adams wrote it, but perhaps this discussion is just too complicated for me… ;o)

  79. dikranmarsupial says:

    Ah, it is sorry, my ability to parse a sentence is obviously zero! 😦

  80. izen says:

    @-dikran
    “Ah, it is sorry, my ability to parse a sentence is obviously zero! ”

    No my wayward grammar is at fault. Perhaps from reading too much old prose, especially English translations of Russian and German. Sort of adopted and got to like the convoluted ambiguity that forced you to decode the internal levels of reference…
    but then you should see my spelling before the checker has run through it!

  81. Dave_Geologist says:

    I love the HHGG. I was an early adopter, right from the live radio series before the book before the TV series. It’s comedy. I love trashy SF novels and movies. And radio. Kaptain Kremmin and the Krell was my other fave at the time of HHGG’s first run. It’s fiction. Would I step out of a window and “not fall”? I’m with Sokal on that one. And I’d only fall 12 feet from where I’m typing. Am I relaxed about climate change because I think we’ll invent FTL in plenty of time and migrate to Fomalhaut? No. Does MontyP mean that philosophy is bunk? No, it’s comedy.

    Am I unable to grasp it or just not interested? In order to try and fail I’d first have to try, and I’m still waiting for the USP that would trigger the effort. Admittedly, I haven’t searched very hard for one, but then as I’ve said in other contexts, I’m more the shut-up-and-calculate type.

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