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Joined: 6 Feb 2005
Age: 39
Gender: Male
Posts: 19,991
Location: The 27th Path of Peh.

15 Apr 2018, 11:00 am

I watched this maybe a day after it got posted but decided I'd experiment with waiting at least a week or close to it in hopes that other people here might have listened to it on their own.

To try and make a long story short Vox has been slamming Harris, first for having Charles Murray on his podcast last year but the whole debate over what can be said about intelligence point accurately and on firm ground seems to have devolved almost at first contact to claims of racialist pseudoscience. Sometimes racialist pseudoscience does happen but that's the kind of stuff that the alt-right can lead you to the champions of very quickly.

Aside from trying to hash out their grievances it seems like I saw two things going on consistently in this conversation - 1) Ezra seems to side strongly on the idea that if certain forms of knowledge can and will be abused they need to be buried 2) Sam reflects Steven Pinker's concerns that burying knowledge gives a very dangerous pass and even truth credential to the types of people who'd want to abuse that the most 3) Sam keeps reiterating that the data will keep ambushing us so long as the scientific endeavor continues and that the cognitive dissonance over such things can't last forever 4) Ezra seems to make allusions to his own personal faith that everything we think we know about genetics and groups of people will be overturned in 50 years time anyway and he seems to even imply that anyone who wants to grab at what the data tells us now (ie. there's a bit of naturalistic fallacy in this along with sweeping promissory notes on the future).

Clearly I'm a bit biased on this one but I think what really gets me - if Ezra believes all of these things with deep sincerity, and takes people he disagrees with as good people with different or badly formed opinions, you fix that by engaging the person you're debating with point by point and also taking their claims about their own motivations on face value unless there's some public record of hypocrisy that can be appealed to. What he does is sort of turn into a Freudian analysis, tells Sam that he's now forged an identity and is practicing identity politics as an 'anti-anti-racist', and proceeds to tell Sam that everything he's doing is about emotion and group rather than attempting to think clearly. I'm sure a lot of what Sam does is sparked by emotion, just that he has a clear rule set that he places on that emotion and he binds himself to first principles - which is part of why so many people enjoy listening to his podcasts or hearing his interviews with various guests.

With that last bit too something else also offers itself rather obviously - Ezra plays the identity game, his understanding of history seems to be predominantly social and group-based, and because he and people he respects do as much he also seems to project that onto people who aren't playing the same game (which I suppose his argument is that everyone's doing it unconsciously and if they deny doing it then they're just doing it without the limitations or moral accountability).

Yes, it's grating but I think there are a lot of useful lessons here about human psychology, how people tend to operate, what kinds of assumptions people can use to close their ears to other people (they both show a degree of this even if not the same degree), and it really underscores just how difficult making sense of things at the public level can be.

“Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity. For the crowd believes that if it cannot see to the bottom of something it must be profound. It is so timid and dislikes going into the water.” - Friedrich Nietzsche