Witchcraft and races

Curtiss Leung bofftagstumper at yahoo.com
Wed Mar 8 09:23:19 PST 2000

Hi Justin:

> I do think it unfortunate that many people cannot
> understand conditional argument, that they cannot
> grasp that if someone says, EVEN IF I were to
> accept that premise, the conclusion does not follow,

> that the speaker is not endorsing the premise.
> <snip>
> However, I think that the ability to bracket the
> sense of insult or outrage to one's political
> sensibilities and see how an argument goes is an
> important part of an education.

While I agree that it should be incumbent upon a student to understand conditional argument and on occasion be able to "bracket...one's political sensibilities," I think that it's also incumbent upon a speaker to "take the temperature of the room" and adjust rhetorical strategy accordingly. In a smaller gathering where you and Levin would have been by the structure and soundness of your arguments, saying that his premises didn't follow from his conclusions would have been sufficient to embarrass and discredit him -- and I would have paid money to be there. But from your description, it seems the crowd was looking a exciting exchange that didn't occur -- and if I'd paid money to be there, I'd be disappointed. To put it differently, you showed up at a gun fight with a small, sharp knife.

On a related point, I don't think it makes sense to take Levin and his ilk -- on the cultural side, Hilton Kramer, Mark Kimball, Tom Bethell to name a few I love to hate -- seriously as intellectuals. They aren't afraid to distort and misrepresent the facts and their opponents' positions to score debating points. _Scientific American_ had a nice review of _Bell Curve_ that chased back a few Murray and Herrnstein's citations to their sources that gave some very, uh, _interesting_ insights into their research. If I recall correctly, much of the data they (Murray and Herrnstein) cited was actually secondary work done by a group of "intelligence experts" who specialized in taking serious, primary quantitative studies of real cognitive capabilities, and putting a right/racist spin on them; in particular, one study in which the original authors both warned against correlating IQ with their scores and in which the African population outscored the white population magically became grist for _Bell Curve_'s mill. Put plainly, when these people aren't being stupid (their conclusions don't follow from their premises), they're lying. I wouldn't be surprised if you scared up Levin's account of your debate with him (should one exist, of course), he'd have you down as saying all sorts of things you didn't, or at least very seriously misrepresenting your argument and positions.

On another, related topic you wrote:
> That is why I have read, and, I think, understood
> Chomsky and Rose and Lewontin and Kamin and all the
> people who participated in the IQ debate.

Could you point me to Chomsky's comments on this? I have a vague recollection of Chomsky's saying that IQ was at best a meaningless aggregation of real, quantifiable cognitive capabilities, but can't recall where I saw it, and would like to know more of his position on this topic. -- Curtiss __________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Talk to your friends online with Yahoo! Messenger. http://im.yahoo.com

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