Pluralism, Power, Mistakes, and Conflict.

The political theory of pluralism holds that power in liberal democracies is distributed among many different groups, whose interests conflict or align in ways that shift over time. It’s partially a descriptive theory, meant to explain how liberal democracies actually work, but also a prescriptive theory, in that most people who believe that pluralism is how things work also believe that pluralism is a good way for things to work.

Pluralists are often accused of ignoring the fact that some groups are consistently more powerful than others – in particular, Marxists believe that Capital is significantly more powerful than all other groups, and that Labor is the only other group powerful enough to challenge it. While not all Leftists are Marxists, most nevertheless believe in some similar “bipolar” model of power (in some specific cases called a “Power Elite” model): Corporations versus the People, the Kyriarchy versus the Oppressed, and so on. Far-right theorists don’t participate much in mainstream political science, but if they did, they would probably criticize pluralism using similar models – Secular Humanism versus Christianity, Jews versus Aryans, the Cathedral versus whoever neoreactionaries think the good guys are, the West versus the Caliphate, the Caliphate versus the West, and so on.

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What kinds of genetic differences should we expect between populations?

Epistemological Status: A little out of my depth.

Kevin Mitchell’s blog came to my attention because of his skeptical posts on epigenetic inheritance in humans. Even more interesting is his recent post on race and IQ, and the likely lack of genetic differences between races.

I think this is an extremely important argument. The strongest arguments for innate racial IQ differences generally run like so:

  1. We observe large differences in IQ between racial groups in the human population.
  2. No known environmental factor could explain such large differences.
  3. Genetic differences between races are large enough to explain the differences.
  4. Therefore, we should assume that most racial IQ differences are due to genetics.

In my posts on the Flynn Effect, I showed that Flynn and Sowell have disproved premise (2) – it’s true that no family-level environmental factors can explain such large differences, but that environmental factors at the level of culture and subculture have demonstrably explained large differences in the past.

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The subtext behind affirmative action debates.

There’s a fundamental absurdity lurking behind all affirmative action debates in the United States: The official justification for affirmative action is “diversity”, but the more reasonable moral justification is giving a leg up to disadvantaged groups. These two goals kind of mean the same thing for blacks and Hispanics, but not necessarily for any other groups.

Hence the Harvard admissions case.

The “text” of the case is that a court is trying to figure out whether Harvard discriminates against Asian Americans. Harvard says it doesn’t; the plaintiff says it does. The subtext is that everyone knows Harvard discriminates like hell against Asian Americans, but political coalitions make it inconvenient to address the issue.
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Martha Nussbaum’s “Objectification”, preceded by a digression on analytical feminism.

There are limits to how interesting I can be if I simply review the same Steven Pinker books that every similar blog reviews, so I’m making an effort to cover different ground.  I recently read Martha Nussbaum’s essay Objectification, from a 1995 issue of Philosophy and Public Affairs.  I chose this piece for the very simple reason that it’s the main source cited in the the Wikipedia article on objectification.

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A non-essentialist take on gender essentialism.

Several weeks ago, Ozy of Things of Things posted about three different ways of thinking about psychological gender differences:

  1. There may be no psychological differences between men and women.
  2. There may be population-level differences between men and women, but overlapping ranges.
  3. The may be differences between men and women that are so large that the ranges do not overlap.

The problem I see is that two of these three ways are trivially wrong and I think hardly anyone believes them.  There are quite a few measurable psychological differences between men and women, but most of them are small, and the ranges overlap even for the large ones.  I suspect that few conservative Christians or radical feminists would dispute that, and that their disagreements lie elsewhere.

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Soya wadi manchurian and collard greens stir-fried with curry.

Indo-Chinese cuisine courtesy of the Hakka Chinese community in Kolkata.  Which may be the only cuisine in the world that combines soy sauce with cheese.  Anyway, I discovered this dish not by researching the Indo-Chinese, but by looking at the shelves of Indian grocery stores, noticing “soya wadi”, and wondering “What on earth are those?”

They’re basically large chunks of textured vegetable protein.  And honestly, they’re a minor revelation – if you’re into substituting tofu for meat in things like flavorful curries, stews, and stir-fries, I’d say it’s time to stop that and use these guys instead.  Enjoy tofu for its own specific texture if you like, but if you’re looking for something that soaks of sauce and has something like the mouthfeel and protein content of meat, this is a far more convincing substitute, and much cheaper than branded meat replacements.  The texture might be a bit distracting in more lightly flavored dishes, though.

The stir-fried collard greens with curry powder may or may not be an authentic Indo-Chinese dish – it was basically a guess based on the Wikipedia article.  It was good though!


The newly unearthed.

I have been exploring new blogs over the past several weeks, so here’s a grab bag of links to some of the more interesting things I’ve found – including older articles:

Hawks and Handsaws: “In defense of prescriptive labeling” is a defense of something I thought I was against, and comes dangerously close to changing my mind.

Socratic Form Micscropy: “Book Review: The Righteous Mind” is notable for its visual depiction of the replication crisis. Also, “When to worry about public debt” is notable because most people will either tell you we should be freaking out about public debt right now or that only right-wing crazies are freaking out about public debt; it’s relatively rare to ask just when a reasonable person should be worried.

Everything Studies: “A deep dive into the Harris-Klein controversy” is a refreshingly critical analysis of the dialogue in question, and of what norms should cover public discussion of politicized, scientific issues.

How did I not know this blog existed? Otium: “Psycho-conservativism: What it is, when to doubt it” and “Hoe cultures: A type of non-patriarchal society.”

In Due Course: “The problem with critical studies” which may or may not be exactly the same thing as postmodernism.

And on an entirely different note, The Angry GM on design rationale in the most controversial edition of Dungeons & Dragons.