Cancel Culture

The most astounding thing about cancel culture is not that it’s happening (humans will always be in conflict with each other).  No, the most astonishing thing is that the Left denies that it’s happening at all.  They brush off the phenomenon as just a bunch of entitled conservatives being “challenged” and “held accountable” for their problematic views – problematic, incidentally, not because they’re false views, problematic because the Left deems them so, because they counter their Narrative.    

Charles Blow of the New York Times tweeted last year “THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CANCEL CULTURE”.   He also cluelessly thinks wealth redistribution is a good idea (see my 6/13/20 post).  The Left perversely tries to argue that it’s really the hypocritical Right doing the cancelling.  This article frames cancel culture as simply Republicans weaponizing language:

Their obsession with power, language and knowledge to make everything about oppression is on full display in that piece.  The book Cynical Theories (2020), which we worked through here 9/9/20 – 11/24/20, explains how and why this way of thinking continues to fester.   

The online magazine Quillette offers insightful, timely views on free speech and free thought.  It’s a refreshing counter to the mainstream media’s dark, false Narrative and obvious cancel culture problem.  Here are a couple of articles with myriad delineations of this very real phenomenon, even as the Left continues to falsely deny it exists.

That last one points to the book Panics and Persecutions (2020), which we turn to next week.  I’ll spend the next several weeks on cancel culture, not because I think it’s a dangerous growing threat that must be vigorously opposed; rather, I see it as a nasty, hateful human phenomenon which is now getting exposed and blown apart by independent thinkers.  It’s becoming absurd – come on – Chris Harrison of TV’s The Bachelor, Mr. Potato Head, The Muppets, Dr. Seuss – it’s so ridiculous.  We’ll hear from some of the thought warriors on the front lines with this retreating, preposterous ideational enemy so that you and I won’t have to worry about the transient, immoral phenomenon of cancel culture.  Fortunately, we’ve reached a tipping point:

Mainstream media intellectual gatekeepers are angry (and pathetically deny it) because they are losing power – with each passing day:

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The Scott Alexander Affair

If I could send just one message to the future to anyone wondering what the hell happened to the intellectual landscape in 2020-21 (this blog is just that), I would point to the attack on blogger Scott Alexander.  I visualize him as the lone pawn in last week’s image standing on the game board of cognition among the toppled chess pieces of mainstream media.  Scott is most triumphant.

I won’t re-tell his story but encourage you to read his response to The New York Times obnoxious hit piece on him and his blog:

Free thought outlet Quillette posted two articles about it:

Anyone paying attention with a modicum of intelligence can see what’s going on:

Mainstream media has lost all credibility – plain and simple.  They no longer seek truth – only a false Narrative and a vicious habit of cancelling anything or anyone that dissents.  Legacy media writers are dishonest and devious in their defense of an agenda that everything, everywhere at all times is oppression.  We just devoted 2 months (12/8/20 – 2/23/21) studying scientist Charles Murray’s new book.  The New York Times accuses Scott of being a racist because he is “aligned with Charles Murray”.  What a load of horseshit – I’m staggeringly befuddled at how mainstream media is able to get away with this.

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The Reins of Intellectual Power are Changing Hands

The times they are a-changin’ wrote Bob Dylan – and man, they really are changing right now.  This is my last post on Charles Murray’s book Human Diversity (2020).  It illuminates a tectonic shift in who holds humanity’s cultural and intellectual power.  It’s changing radically from arrogant elites in mainstream media and academia to independent thinkers who can see how badly these elites have abused their power and purported authority.  The cancellers are about to get cancelled.

Murray writes:  “They have created a world that is ideal for them, filled with the kind of complexity that they are able to navigate through which they can extract both money and power.  At the same time, they have abdicated their role as stewards of the culture.”  Today’s elites (the clerisy as Ross Douthat calls them) exude a fundamental misunderstanding, even a disdain, for reality.  They continue to cling to an obviously wrong worldview generating growing cognitive dissonance which is causing an ongoing erosion of their “authority”.

If today’s elites are being toppled, who will replace them?  The people I write about here – guys like Scott Alexander, who recently exposed The New York Times as the douchebags they are – more on him next post.  It all boils down to the point I’ve been making here for years.  The clerisy’s attempts to control the world – to help the poor, low IQ masses – to redistribute wealth, cannot and will not work.  Government cannot confiscate wealth and power and pass it out to others.  Government can only confiscate (i.e. steal) the fruits of wealth and knowledge -> money, which is not the same thing as wealth and knowledge.  We know better from our War Chest of awareness – true wealth and knowledge, not the pretentious, wrong-headed, immoral beliefs of the clerisy.

Here, let’s hear Murray’s diagnosis of the clerisy’s sick misunderstanding of human worth:

…the root is the new upper class’s conflation of intellectual ability and the professions it enables with human worth.  Few admit it, of course.  But the evolving zeitgeist of the new upper class has led to a misbegotten hierarchy whereby being a surgeon is better in some sense of human worth than being an insurance salesman, being an executive in a high-tech firm is better than being a housewife, and a neighborhood of people with advanced degrees is better than a neighborhood of high school graduates.  To put is so baldly makes it obvious how senseless it is.   There shouldn’t be any relations between these things and human worth.  And yet, among too many in the new upper class, there is.

The conflation of intellectual ability with human worth helps to explain the new upper class’s insistence that inequality of intellectual ability must be the product of environmental disadvantage.  Many people with high IQs really do feel sorry for people with low IQs.  If the environment is to blame, then those unfortunates can be helped, and that makes people who want to help them feel good.  If genes are to blame, it makes people who want help them feel bad.  People prefer feeling good to feeling bad, so they engage in confirmation bias when it comes to the evidence about the causes of human differences.

It’s a whole new world for those who understand and accept Mr. Murray’s ideas.  And it’s the end of the world for those who refuse to accept truth and reality.  They will continue to lose their power and credibility, involuntarily ceding it to those who are courageous and honest enough to see humanity as it is, not as they would like it to be.

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The Irony of Evolutionary Psychology Deniers

I write this weekly blog to document my evolving understanding of how the world works.  It’s enjoyably exciting to engage new ideas because humanity is now in an era akin to 1633 when Galileo was persecuted and imprisoned for his discovery of the heliocentric nature of our solar system.  He was guilty of wrongthink like many today.  I’m not exaggerating.  Today’s cancel culture orthodoxy is terribly hostile.  Fortunately, it’s a temporary aberration because, as with Galileo, scientific truth ultimately wins.

The conclusion of Charles Murray’s Human Diversity (2020) explains how an exaggerated blank slate metaphor corrupted mainstream understanding of human nature and deceived people in our institutions into hatefully denying reality.  The new science of Evolutionary Psychology continues to mature as a discipline even as the orthodoxy accuses it of “just-so-story-telling”.  That phrase, which has its own Wiki page, is really just a mean, derogatory slogan used by the fearful Left to attack knowledge that undermines their worldview.

It’s no secret that the underlying objections to Evolutionary Psychology are political, not scientific.  The virulently hostile reaction to the groundbreaking book Sociobiology (1975) came to a head in books like Not in Our Genes:  Biology Ideology, and Human Nature (1984).  The seething bitterness continues to this day.  Endnote 19 in Murray’s last chapter cites a telling study:  “Psychological Barriers to Evolutionary Psychology:  Ideological Bias and Coalitional Adaptations” (2018).  It concludes with exquisite irony that human evolved psychology is what interferes with the deniers scientific understanding of human evolved psychology.  John Tooby’s causal nexus understanding of cognition, which I wrote about here on 3/8/16 (T-Rex Wants to Hunt) and 3/15/16 (Moral Warfare), is undoubtedly correct.

Here’s a 4/8/19 article that hits the evolutionary nail on the head:

Cancel culture is not motivated by a desire to further truth – just the opposite.  It’s a crazed denial of truth.  Winston Churchill observed “There’s no telling what a crazed maniac will do with his back against the wall”.  The crumbling orthodoxy fervently tries to promote their beliefs in a desperate attempt to validate them and invalidate any opposition – not challenge but invalidate, or better yet, cancel.  It won’t work.  The book Galileo’s Middle Finger (2015) teaches us that censorship is merely transitory.  You can’t suppress scientific truths indefinitely.

Next week, we’ll conclude our immersion in Murray’s final chapter.  Then we’ll move on to the broader phenomenon of cancel culture, beyond Evolutionary Psychology deniers.

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Life’s Work

Chapter 15 of Human Diversity (2020) is the last one and also the best.  I’ll need more than one post to cover it.  Charles Murray presents a culmination of his life’s work.  He’s cautious in the prior chapters but lets loose in the conclusion.  He begins:  “The study of human diversity fascinates me, and I hope it has captured your interests as well.” It’s fascinating that his ideas are so compellingly true and yet bitterly attacked by hostile critics.  Murray’s work is consistent and thorough.  He’s been making the same empirical arguments (while his detractors accuse him of being a racist) for decades.  He fortifies the soundness of the conclusions by building upon the knowledge in his prior books:

Losing Ground (1984)

In Pursuit (1988)

The Bell Curve (1994)

In Our Hands (2006)

Coming Apart (2012)

The ‘Great Society’ multi-billion dollar government social programs from the 1960’s simply didn’t work; Human Diversity (2020) explains why.  Human nature (cognitive ability and behavior) is substantially genetic and cannot be changed much by public policy handouts.  The Left hates this fact and aggressively works to suppress or cancel anything they deem wrongthink – because it embarrassingly exposes their false worldview.  Antiscientific antagonism is frustrating to real scientists:  “Critics who rail against status quo bolstering, genetic determinism, and jut-so story-telling are like the crazy person in the bus shelter, fighting with a sparring partner who isn’t really there.  They’ve invented their own evolutionary psychology and are arguing loudly with that.”  Fighting them is “like a Nietzschean eternal recurrence, or pushing Sisyphus’s rock up the hill again and again forever.” 

The rock is about to get pushed to the top of the hill….finally.  We are at the early stages of a scientific revolution; the orthodoxy keeps brushing off hard evidence.  They are hiding behind an antiscientific bulwark.  “Evolutionary psychology is about the reality of inborn human nature:  the role that biology has played in shaping human beings above the neck.  The orthodox are saying that it’s all socialization.  They have felt able to continue to maintain this position because there has not been an ironclad you-can’t-get-around-this-one refutation of it.” 

Evolutionary Psychology will soon provide a final ironclad refutation.  It helps explain why socialism and other stupid social engineering attempts always fail.  When our Leftist opponents finally come to peace with the reality of human nature it will become crystal clear that government wealth redistribution is impractical and immoral.  I’ll continue to point that out here, again and again – year after year – piggybacking on the life’s work of Charles Murray and many others.  Thanks for joining me on the journey.

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Chapter 14 of Human Diversity (2020) is the first of two concluding chapters in which Murray looks ahead and speculates.  I always believed envy and lust for power were the main reasons Leftists want to control your life, confiscate your wealth and tell you what you can and cannot say or think.  I now think it is intellectual fear.  Murray begins his book with a quote:

I remember once being entreated not to read a certain newspaper lest it might change my opinion upon free-trade.  “Lest I might be entrapped by its fallacies and misstatements”, was the form of expression.  “You are not”, my friend said, “a special student of political economy.  You might, therefore, easily be deceived by fallacious arguments upon the subject.  You might, then, if you read this paper, be lead to believe in protection.  But you admit that free-trade is the true doctrine; and you do not wish to believe what is not true.”

Murray introduces the final section of his book with another quote that rings with intellectual courage:

The future of the liberal arts lies, therefore, in addressing the fundamental questions of human existence head on, without embarrassment or FEAR, taking them from the top down in easily understood language, and progressively rearranging them into domains of inquiry that unite the best of science and the humanities at each level of organization in turn.  That of course is a very difficult task.  But so are cardiac surgery and building space vehicles difficult task.  Competent people get on with them because they need to be done.

Quillette’s Panics and Persecutions20 Tales of Excommunication in the Digital Age (2020) addresses cancel culture head on – exposing the fear and insidious conceit on display from a mob egged on by Leftist academics.  One of the essays tells of a mathematics paper cancelled because a university deemed it sexist.  The cancelled professor was told that they support openly discussing provocative ideas BUT other, “presumably less sophisticated, readers will just see someone wielding the authority of mathematics to support a very controversial, and potentially sexist, set of ideas”.  …. in MATH!

The condescending Left sincerely believe that we are too dumb and bigoted to be exposed to certain ideas.  But many are now rebelling against these arrogant and meddlesome overlords. 

The self-appointed arbiters of truth want to protect you from harm by cancelling certain thoughts that they deem inappropriate or taboo – forbidden knowledge labeled racist, sexist or transphobic.  I am grateful for those fighting for freedom and open inquiry in the marketplace of ideas.  I cheer on fellow thought warriors calling out cancel culture witch hunts.

This is from the Rush song Witch Hunt (1981):

Mob moves like demons possessed
Quiet in conscience, calm in their right
Confident their ways are best

The righteous rise
With burning eyes
Of hatred and ill-will
Madmen fed on fear and lies
To beat and burn and kill

They say there are strangers who threaten us
Our immigrants and infidels
They say there is strangeness, too dangerous
In our theatres and bookstore shelves
Those who know what’s best for us
Must rise and save us from ourselves

Quick to judge
Quick to anger
Slow to understand
Ignorance and prejudice
And fear, walk hand in hand

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Scott’s Back!


My favorite Blog was Scott Alexander’s Slate Star Codex.  It was deleted because of morons at The New York Times abusing their power.  But now he’s back using his real name Dr. Scott Siskind:

I’m glad my blog is only read by a handful of people.  There is a terrible online mob out to cancel and destroy anyone who is deemed to be defying leftist orthodoxy. A 1/25/21 Quillette article by Bo Winegard is a thoughtful conservative essay.  It was immediately met with the comment “Oh go away…”.  I Google news’d Winegard and it led me to a 12/30/20 article “Top 10 Academic targets of cancel culture” (Winegard is one).  Quillette’s new book, Panics and Persecutions (2020) – has 20 Stories of Cancel Culture.  And they do not overlap – 30 examples of people getting cancelled! – astounding times in which we live.  There’s also a nasty 12/5/19 article from The Nation entitled “Why Racists (and Liberals!) Keep Writing for ‘Quillette’”.  Apparently, Winegard and all other scholars who study and write about Evolutionary Psychology (including Charles A. Murray) are summarily dubbed racist and cancelled by the biased mainstream media/academia Left. 

I’m not a very original thinker – but I love reading those who are:

Talk to ya Tuesday.

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Chapter 13 of Human Diversity (2020) explains why outside (i.e. government) interventions cannot substantially affect cognitive ability or economic success.  Murray frames it as a syllogism:

  1. If environment explains little about cognitive repertoires; and
  2. If only environmental factors can be affected by outside interventions; then
  3. Outside interventions are constrained in the effects they have on cognitive repertoires.

Upon laying out the logic, he analyzes how one might challenge this syllogistic conclusion:

  1. The first premise is wrong for some important outcomes
  2. The first premise is wrong for the early stages of life
  3. The first premise is wrong when it comes to changing “self-concept”
  4. The second premise is wrong because non-environmental factors can be affected by outside interventions.
  5. But you’re ignoring epigenetics!

Murray mows down the first two with empirical evidence.  The “self-concept” point was interesting but it’s just speculative, wishful thinking psychobabble (the self-esteem movement – I’m OK You’re OK).  He dispenses with the fourth in 2 pages.  The last one, however, was new to me.  Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in genes that do not involve the underlying DNA sequence.  It’s a new field in biology.  Murray takes 8 ½ pages to lay out the controversy and uncertainty in Epigenetics.  Interestingly, we’ll see that while Murray’s critics warmly embrace Epigenetics, they ruthlessly despise and actively work to repress another new field in biology – Evolutionary Psychology (more on that later).

Upon reading Murray’s book it becomes clear that his critics are not attacking him for factual/logical disagreements but rather as part of an ongoing political/ideological war.  It’s these same enemies of truth and free speech/free thought that drive today’s cancel culture mob.  Fortunately, it will be temporary because scientific and moral truth is objective reality, despite the Left arguing that everything is relative and subjective.  They cannot question Murray’s “is”, so they vehemently argue about an “ought”.  And the disturbing thing is that Leftist try and disguise their ought arguments as is arguments – agenda driven intellectual dishonesty.

We analyzed the is vs. ought philosophical issue here on 6/11/19 and F. A. Hayek warned us of collectivists assault on truth here on 1/31/17.  It bears repeating now because, as we’ll see in our next War Chest project, intellectual freedom is currently under attack:

While the great majority of people are incapable of independent thought because they’re stupid and are happy to accept ready-made views, there is a small minority who are very much intellectually independent.  In a free society no one person or group is capable or ought to have the power to select those to whom the freedom of independent thought is to be reserved.  Nobody should be able to tell people what to think.  “To deprecate the value of intellectual freedom because it will never mean for everybody the same possibility of independent thought is completely to miss the reasons which give intellectual freedom its value.”

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The Primacy of Genes

I vividly remember 3 times in my life being intellectually startled.  I’d be happily reading along, then, suddenly…..bam, whoa! No way.  How can that be?  The first was quantum physics (the double slit experiment, etc.); second, Friedrich fricking Nietzsche; and third, Richard Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene (1976).  I gasped ‘Oh my God’ out loud in a library after learning that genes are the most essentially important, determinative aspect of any biological organism – especially humans.  Evolutionary natural selection enables genes to replicate themselves.  Dawkins writes:

They did not die out, for they are past masters of the survival arts. But do not look for them floating loose in the sea; they gave up that cavalier freedom long ago. Now they swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control.  They are in you and in me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. They have come a long way, those replicators. Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines.

We are lumbering robots controlled by genes.  Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Dawkins answer – the egg; a chicken is just the eggs way of making another egg so that the genes inside it keep on keeping on.  Chapter 12 of Charles Murray’s Human Diversity (2020) is Abilities, Personality, and Success, highly heritable human traits.  Science has answered the question:  Which came first – intelligence or socio-economic status?   Intelligence came first, which in turn produces high socio-economic status.  It’s genetic.  Smart parents attain higher economic status and produce smart kids, which then do the same.  The genetic lottery drives everything.  The Left hates this knowledge and actively tries to suppress it for ideological reasons.  Fortunately, current cancel culture will be temporary because you can’t suppress scientific truths forever, as we’ll see here in the coming months.

Proposition #9 of Murray’s 10 things we do not need to argue about anymore (even though people still do) is:  Class structure is importantly based on differences in abilities that have a substantial genetic component.

Murray writes in a later chapter that “the debate about nature versus nurture is not just one of many issues in social science.  It is fundamental for everything involving human behavior.”  Next week, we’ll learn if there is anything anybody can do to improve inherited personality, abilities and social behavior.

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Orientation Break

This is a brief pause to our tour of Charles Murray’s new book.  The overarching purpose of this blog is to gradually assemble an irrefutable array of material fortifying my Schelling Fence* position that governmental efforts to redistribute wealth are immoral, ineffective and destructive to the political economy and culture.  I’m coming up on 6 years of weekly, consistent research and writing on this theme and have yet to find any credible argument validating Marxists criticisms of capitalism or statist views supporting an expanded welfare state.

I’ll continue to do it – week after week searching for any possible cogent article or book out there that would challenge the fact that wealth redistribution is a stupid idea.  Every week I Google ‘wealth redistribution’, click on the ‘news’ button, and then read the articles.  Here’s an example of a recent one arguing for wealth confiscation and redistribution from a British “working class academic”:

She concludes:  “Today I don’t want to get rid of the rich – I just want to tax them until their eyes bleed.” 

Nice!  That’s not a reasoned argument – it’s just raging, misguided envy, hatred and jealousy.  It’s all they’ve got.  Our wealth, well-being and American lifestyles are secure – safe from leftist resentment, anger and dumb ideas.  Talk to y’all next Tuesday.

* Scott Alexander (Slate Star Codec) taught me the outer limits of reason and argument.  A Schelling Point/Fence is a pre-commitment to vigorously defend a position (e.g. forcible wealth redistribution is wrong!) that is calculated to be correct using Bayesian reasoning and Game Theory. As I re-watched one of my favorite movies, War Games (1983), and re-perused my 2nd edition copy of Theory of Games and Economic Behavior (1944), it occurred to me that awareness of Game Theory and Information Theory are becoming increasingly important to understanding our complex world.

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