E-Pluribus | December 16, 2022
Science and due process; the distraction that is affirmative action; and online speech codes.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Joseph Paul Forgas: In Defence of Scientific Integrity and Due Process
From Joseph Paul Forgas at Quillette comes yet another example of how science is being corrupted by political and social concerns. Forgas laments the recent treatment of Klaus Fiedler, editor of an Association for Psychological Science journal who was relieved of his duties based on allegations of racism alone.
The far more troubling issue is how our discipline and our professional associations have reached the stage where unsupportable accusations can result in the immediate dismissal of an outstanding editor. As well as the besmirching of a serious and decent scientist’s good name.
What happened to Fiedler is part of a worrying trend among scientific associations in psychology adopting activist policies in violation of the most basic principles of fairness and scientific values.
In a similar vein, the executive of the European Association of Social Psychology summarily abolished its prestigious Henri Tajfel Prize based on unsubstantiated claims about improper sexual attitudes in Tajfel’s laboratory in the 1970s. (Incidentally, Fiedler himself is one of the distinguished recipients of the Tajfel Prize.)
Various other psychological associations now demand that scientific papers must be prefaced by statements about how they advance diversity, equity, and inclusiveness. One of the most prestigious journals, Nature Human Behaviour, now reserves the right to refuse articles it deems to be socially problematic, irrespective of their truth or scientific merit.
The procedures adopted by APS are nothing less than a shameful denial of procedural and natural justice. To its credit, the German Psychological Association has issued a statement upbraiding their American counterpart, stating that “it is not our understanding of procedural justice to condemn a person without giving him or her an adequate hearing.”
Read the whole thing.
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Glenn C. Loury: Affirmative Distraction
While not dismissing affirmative action out of hand, at City Journal Glenn Loury explains why he believes these programs are more of a distraction than a real help to minority communities. Lower standards by any other name are lower standards and take away from the more difficult work that will eventually lead to better outcomes without engaging in the same type of discrimination that affirmative action is ostensibly helping to overcome.
Institutionalizing the practice of preferential affirmative action when assessing African-Americans for selection into highly competitive arenas—in other words, using different standards when judging the fitness of blacks competing with others for access to certain venues—is inconsistent with the goal of racial equality. It invites us to become liars—to pretend that false things are true. It invites us to look the other way. It’s not equality; it’s the opposite of equality. Knowing that I’m being judged by standards that are different and less rigorous by virtue of the fact that my ancestors suffered some indignity is itself undignified.
Racial preferences persist because they represent the path of least resistance. If an administrator of a selective institution saw that blacks were a minuscule percent of his student body, he would want to change that. If he found that admitting African-American students at a lower percentile of performance would ease his public-relations problem, then he would do it. But when thousands of people in that same situation make the same decision and place it beyond criticism, the goal of equality suffers. Failing to address ourselves to the developmental disparities manifest in test scores, as well as failing to change the dynamics of human development at the root of black underrepresentation in elite and selective venues, means failing to solve the inequality problem.
Head counts are no substitute for performance, and everyone knows it. No policy can paper over the racial dimension of academic disparities. True equality would seek to remedy the foundational circumstances reflected in the underrepresentation of African-Americans at the Bronx High School of Science, Brooklyn Tech, Holy Cross, or Harvard. I’m for racial equality, not patronization. Don’t patronize my people, inflict on us the consequences of a soft bigotry of low expectations, or presume that we’re not capable of manifesting excellence in the same way as any other people. Don’t judge blacks by a different standard.
Read it all here.
David French: The "Twitter Files" Show It’s Time to Reimagine Free Speech Online
While the use of college campus speech codes has declined in the past few decades, David French says the concept has been reimagined for online communications. Writing at Persuasion, French says social media companies like Twitter have fallen into the same trap, attempting to impose top-down limits on acceptable speech instead of fostering open, frank and respectful dialogue.
The principle of viewpoint neutrality means that any regulation of speech, including time, place, and manner regulations, should be crafted and enforced without regard to the underlying viewpoint of the speaker. The same rules apply to Democrats and Republicans alike, to Christians and atheists, to soldiers and pacifists. The same rules apply even to people who hold the most reprehensible viewpoints, including communists and fascists.
Along with viewpoint neutrality, there’s another key constitutional principle that’s critical to maintaining the marketplace of ideas—clarity. Rules that are vague or overbroad can chill free speech every bit as effectively as a rule that specifically targets disfavored speech for censorship. Even otherwise-acceptable time, place, and manner regulations can be unlawful if they grant to public officials too much discretion to restrict speech.
How does all this apply to Twitter, Facebook and every other large social media platform on the planet? First, it means giving up the quest for a free speech utopia and embracing viewpoint neutrality. There is no way to create any meaningful free speech environment that allows for actual debate while protecting participants from hurtful ideas or painful speech. Executives at Twitter or Meta are no better than college administrators at crafting the perfect speech code. The brightest minds have already made that effort, and even the brightest minds have failed.
Second, it means moderating on the basis of traditional speech limits. Even institutions that embrace viewpoint neutrality will place limits on speech. They’ll have to. If there is one thing we know from decades of experience with the internet is that completely unmoderated spaces can and do become open sewers that are often unsafe for children and deeply unpleasant for adults. Unmoderated spaces can become so grotesque that they’re simply not commercially viable.
Read it all.
For better or worse, Twitter is all-Musk-all-the-time these days. Conor Friedersdorf comes down on the wide of “worse”:
Wesley Yang sees a silver lining for the left for Twitter’s latest moves:
And finally, Robert Tracinski nutshells Elon Musk and his concept of freedom of speech: