Friday, January 10, 2014
Do rich people really think they are superior?
By Matthew Hutson (Who says of himself: " In high school I was voted most philosophical and best hair. I live in New York City, where I am an atheist and a magical thinker)
Although Hutson is a psychologist who should know better, the whole point of the article below is to downplay the importance of genetic inheritance. No doubt he yearns for Stalin's "New Soviet man", whom Leftists hoped to mould into anything.
In the second paragraph he put up the straw man that all differences in economic success are a reflection of IQ. But nobody claims that. We all know that there are a multitude of factors -- some inborn and some not -- which determine how much money you will make. But that does not erase IQ as an impoortant starting point for success.
He does however have a new swear word to amuse us: "Essentialism". Essentialists think they can explain important differences between people. Why that is bad he does not really address. I would think that looking for explanations of things is what scientists do. But according to Hutson it is the vague and clueless who are the good guys (non-essentialists). Not surprisingly, he reports that the vague and clueless tend to be lower class.
The bulk of the article boils down to an extended value judgement centred around this "essentialism" construct. I have just shown that the characteristic could be seen as a good thing. He says it is a bad thing. So all we have from the article are some tendentious value judgments.
So it is no surprise to see the article conclude with a trite comment that your circumstances as well as your inheritance affect your success in life. But it took a lot of hot air to get to that simple point.
London's mayor, Boris Johnson, drew criticism late last year for saying that economic inequality can be attributed, in part, to IQ. "I am afraid that [the] violent economic centrifuge [of competition] is operating on human beings who are already very far from equal in raw ability," he told an audience at the Centre for Policy Studies.
That's a satisfying worldview for someone who is successful and considers himself unusually bright. But a quick look at the data shows the limitations of raw smarts and stick-to-itiveness as an explanation for inequality. The income distribution in the United States provides a good example. In 2012 the top 0.01 percent of households earned an average of $10.25 million, while the mean household income for the country overall was $51,000. Are top earners 200 times as smart as the rest of the field? Doubtful. Do they have the capacity to work 200 times more hours in the week? Even more doubtful. Many forces out of their control, including sheer luck, are at play.
But say you're in that top 0.01 percent-or even the top 50 percent. Would you want to admit happenstance as a benefactor? Wouldn't you rather believe that you earned your wealth, that you truly deserve it? Wouldn't you like to think that any resources you inherited are rightfully yours, as the descendant of fundamentally exceptional people? Of course you would. New research indicates that in order to justify your lifestyle, you might even adjust your ideas about the power of genes. The lower classes are not merely unfortunate, according to the upper classes; they are genetically inferior.
In several experiments published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Michael Kraus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Dacher Keltner of the University of California at Berkeley explored what they call social class essentialism. Essentialism is the belief that surface differences between two groups of people or things can be explained by differences in fundamental identities. One sees categories as natural, discrete, and stable. Dogs have a certain dogness to them and cats a certain catness.
Researchers have found that people hold essentialist beliefs about generally biological categories such as gender, race, and sexuality, as well as about more cultural ones such as nationality, religion, and political orientation. Essentialism leads to stereotyping, prejudice, and a disinclination to mingle with outsiders. Kraus and Keltner wanted to know if we see social class as an essential category.
They started by developing a scale for measuring essentialistic beliefs about class. A diverse group of American adults rated their endorsement of such statements as "I think even if everyone wore the same clothing, people would still be able to tell your social class," and "It is possible to determine one's social class by examining their genes." On average, people rated the items a 3.43, where 1 means completely disagree and 7 means completely agree.
Participants also gave a subjective rating, from 1 to 10, of their own social class rank within their community, based on education, income, and occupational status. The researchers found that higher social class was associated with greater social class essentialism. This pattern remained even after controlling for political orientation as well as objective measures of a participant's income and education level, indicating that it's one's senseof being above or below others, not one's actual resources, that drives the result.
Kraus and Keltner looked deeper into the connection between social class and social class essentialism by testing participants' belief in a just world, asking them to evaluate such statements as "I feel that people get what they are entitled to have." The psychologist Melvin Lerner developed just world theory in the 1960s, arguing that we're motivated to believe that the world is a fair place. The alternative-a universe where bad things happen to good people-is too upsetting. So we engage defense mechanisms such as blaming the victim-"She shouldn't have dressed that way"-or trusting that positive and negative events will be balanced out by karma, a form of magical thinking.
Kraus and Keltner found that the higher people perceived their social class to be, the more strongly they endorsed just-world beliefs, and that this difference explained their increased social class essentialism: Apparently if you feel that you're doing well, you want to believe success comes to those who deserve it, and therefore those of lower status must not deserve it. (Incidentally, the argument that you "deserve" anything because of your genes is philosophically contentious; none of us did anything to earn our genes.)
Higher-class Americans may well believe life is fair because they're motivated to defend their egos and lifestyle, but there's an additional twist to their greater belief in a just world. Numerous researchers have found that upper-class people are more likely to explain other people's behavior by appealing to internal traits and abilities, whereas lower-class individuals note circumstances and environmental forces. This matches reality in many ways for these respective groups. The rich do generally have the freedom to pursue their desires and strengths, while for the poor, external limitations often outnumber their opportunities. The poor realize they could have the best genes in the world and still end up working at McDonald's. The wealthy might not merely be turning a blind eye to such realities; due to their personal experience, they might actually have a blind spot.
There is a grain to truth to social class essentialism; the few studies on the subject estimate that income, educational attainment, and occupational status are perhaps at least 10 percent genetic (and maybe much more). It makes sense that talent and drive, some portion of which are related to genetic variation, contribute to success. But that's a far cry from saying "It is possible to determine one's social class by examining his or her genes." Such a statement ignores the role of wealth inheritance, the social connections one shares with one's parents, or the educational opportunities family money can buy-not to mention strokes of good or bad luck (that are not tied to karma).
One repercussion of social class essentialism is a lack of forgiveness for criminals and cheaters. In one of Kraus and Keltner's experiments, subjects read one of two fake scientific articles: One reported that we genetically inherit our work ethic, intelligence, and ultimately our socioeconomic status; the other held that socioeconomic status has no genetic basis. Then the participants read scenarios about someone cheating on an academic exam and rated how much they endorsed various punishments, including "restorative" ones such as community service and ethics training. Those who read the essay supporting essentialism showed more resistance to restorative punishments. "When people cheat the academic system they unfairly ascend the social class hierarchy," Kraus says. Some of us might attribute a cheater's seeming subpar intelligence or preparation or integrity to upbringing and see room for improvement. An essentialist will see bad genes. And if you think people can't change, then there's no use in trying to help them.
Kraus and Keltner think social class essentialism (and the historically even more harmful race essentialism) might push our justice system toward giving certain people long prison sentences instead of chances at rehabilitation. Spreading the notion that social categories are constructed could counteract the belief that lower-class people's behavior is genetically determined, and it could also lead to greater support for drug treatment programs, affirmative action, Head Start, an increased minimum wage, and multiple other causes benefiting the less affluent.
Social class essentialism is basically inciting social Darwinism. This distortion of Darwin's theory of evolution, in one interpretation, is the belief that only the fit survive and thrive-and, further, that this process should be accepted or even accelerated by public policy. It's an example of the logical fallacy known as the "appeal to nature"-what is natural is good. (If that were true, technology and medicine would be moral abominations.) Social class essentialism entails belief in economic survival of the fittest as a fact. It might also entail belief in survival of the fittest as a desired end, given the results linking it to reduced support for restorative interventions. It's one thing to say, "Those people can't change, so let's not waste our time." It's another to say, "Those people can't change, so let's lock them away." Or eradicate them: Only four years ago, then-Lt. Gov. of South Carolina Andre Bauer told a town hall meeting that poor people, like "stray animals," should not be fed, "because they breed."
Kraus' even more recent work, not yet published, goes beyond what high-status individuals believe in order to maintain the status hierarchy and explores what they do. Consider Congress. Members' median net worth, in 2011, was $966,000. "They're quite wealthy individuals," Kraus says. "And because they're wealthy they're likely to engage in not only these essentialistic [mental] processes, but these people actually have power to enact laws to maintain inequality." A top adviser to the U.K.'s education secretary just produced a report arguing that "discussions on issues such as social mobility entirely ignore genetics." He claimed that school performance is as much as 70 percent genetic and criticized England's Sure Start program as a waste of money. (As Scott Barry Kaufman, an intelligence researcher at NYU and the author ofUngifted, points out, "Since genes are always interacting with environmental triggers, there is simply no way to parse how much of an individual child's performance is due to nature or nurture.")
It may be easy to demonize upper-class politicians as out of touch. But given how easily Kraus and Keltner triggered social class essentialism in everyday Americans, and given the frequency with which we toss around terms like white trash, redneck, welfare queen, and (across the pond) chav, we might want to question the degree to which we all see status as a marker of a deeper identity. If you were born under other circumstances, your resume might look very different. Privilege is often invisible, especially one's own.
A church of hate
An open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Justin Welby
I read with interest your Christmas Day sermon, in which you said:
`The Christian meaning of Christmas is unconditional love received, love overflowing into a frequently love-lost world.'
I wonder how you reconcile this with the fact that one of your churches, St James's Piccadilly, chose Christmas to turn itself into a church of hate?
As I am sure you know only too well, this church spent eight months preparing its Christmas stunt, the erection of an 8 metre-tall, 30 metre-long replica of the Israeli `wall' that it claims surrounds Bethlehem and imposes `desperate hardship' on the town's inhabitants.
Although the church acknowledges in passing that the original purpose of this `wall' was `to protect Israeli citizens from terrorism', it suggests instead that its only result has been to oppress and harass innocent Palestinians. The inevitable effect of this wholly mendacious and malevolent travesty will be to incite hatred against Israel and all who support its defence against the war of extermination being perpetrated against it.
St James's has put out a pious statement that it: `. opposes all forms of racism including antisemitism and supports the right of the State of Israel to exist with secure internationally recognised borders'.
I'm afraid this really is the most nauseating cant.
If this church were really concerned to stop antisemitism and allow Israel to live in peace with its neighbours, it would have acknowledged that Palestinian children are being routinely taught to hate and murder Israelis (see this or this for example).
If this church really supported Israel's right to exist within secure borders, it would have acknowledged the refusal by Mahmoud Abbas (leave aside Hamas) ever to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state; or the repeated Palestinian attempts to attack and murder Israelis, too many of which have been all too successful.
But the church made no mention of any of this. Instead, its `wall' stunt is based on an eye-watering collection of the most vicious and blatant lies and distortions. Here are some truths it has omitted:
* The `wall' does not surround Bethlehem.
* For most of its length it is not a wall at all but a simple chain link fence.
* It has been constructed not to oppress Palestinians but solely to prevent Israelis from being murdered by Arabs.
* This security barrier has had to be built as a wall alongside one area of Bethlehem because a fence here - cheek by jowl with Jerusalem -- would be insufficient to prevent the very real threat of some of its inhabitants murdering large numbers of Israelis.
* The undoubted hardships caused by this barrier are solely the result of the ever-continuing attempts by some of those living behind it to murder yet more Israelis.
* Since this security barrier was constructed, the number of Israelis murdered in terrorist attacks has decreased by some 70 per cent - while the number of attempted attacks remains high.
Those like St James's Church who want the barrier to be demolished thus inescapably imply that they are indifferent to the murder of Israelis. Is this what you meant, Archbishop, by
`unconditional love received, love overflowing into a frequently love-lost world'?
There are other glaring omissions and distortions. The church makes no mention of the fact that, as shown here, Rachel's Tomb, one of Judaism's holiest sites which is very near Bethlehem and where many attacks have taken place against Jewish worshippers, really has been walled off and turned into a kind of fortress - to protect Jews from further attacks by Arabs.
It unaccountably makes no mention of the fact that, while the Christians of the Middle East are - as you said in your sermon and as Michael Curtis details here - being persecuted and murdered, the only country in the region where Christians are thriving and increasing, in a society that allows them total freedom of worship, is Israel.
It unaccountably makes no mention of the fate of the Christians of Bethlehem and other areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, detailed here in The Commentator by Steve Apfel:
`One of the few Arab Christians who has dared to break the silence is Pastor Reverend Naim Khoury of the Bethlehem Baptist Church. At the risk of his life he notes that animosity towards the Christian minority in areas controlled by the PA has worsened and that, "people are always telling Christians, convert to Islam." Khoury may have lived to tell the tale, but he moved Palestinian leaders to close down his Bethlehem church.'
St James's makes no mention of any of this. Instead, from tomorrow it will host a hate-fest of anti-Israel activists and personalities, whose contribution to the store of love and truth in the world is described by Richard Millett here.
Israel is currently the victim of a mind-bending campaign of demonisation and delegitimisation based on falsehoods, libels and gross distortions. Your church, Archbishop, has now become part of this sinister and wicked attempt to exterminate a country by reversing truth and lies in the minds of decent people.
You surely do not need me to tell you that this anti-Israel bigotry in your church - going far beyond St James's, Piccadilly - is infused by a revival of the ancient Christian calumny that the Jews have forfeited God's love and all the promises he made to them on account of their refusal to believe in Jesus, as a result of which they were to be considered in league with the devil.
This terrible doctrine of `supersessionism', which was responsible for centuries of Christian persecution and mass murder of the Jews, has become resurgent in recent years through the influence of Palestinian Christians who have attempted to rewrite the Bible as a lexicon of hate to further the cause of Palestinianism. To that end, they have attempted to airbrush the Jews out of their own history, while seeking to appropriate the Christian story itself by depicting Palestinians as suffering the torments of Jesus. Cashing in on this trend, Mahmoud Abbas ludicrously referred in his own Christmas message to Jesus - the Jew from Judea -- as a Palestinian.
The influence upon your Church, Archbishop, of this virulent cocktail of ancient theological bigotry and exterminatory Palestinianism cannot be exaggerated.
In a climate in which every Jewish communal or religious event, every Jewish school and institution in Britain has to be guarded against attack, and in which there is a direct correlation between the emotive lies told about Israel and attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions, for one of your churches to lend itself to such incitement is simply obscene.
The `wall' is of course a stunt. But the damage it has done to the Church of England is immense. Because what it does is put the Church on the side of lies and hatred against truth and justice. It has put the Church of England on the side of evil.
The only purpose of Israel's security barrier is to save life and prevent mass murder. The only purpose of the St James's Church `Bethlehem Unwrapped' stunt is to stir up hatred.
To stay silent is to make the rest of the Church an accessory to this obscenity. I therefore trust that you will take all necessary steps to counter the calumny promulgated by St James's and prevent the stain upon the wider Church from now spreading.
Ban immigrants claiming benefits for TWO YEARS, says Boris Johnson weeks after the government extended it to three months
Immigrants should be banned from claiming benefits in Britain for two years, Boris Johnson declared today in a direct challenge to government policy.
Weeks after the David Cameron rushed through new laws to extend the ban to three months, the London Mayor said a much longer limit was needed to stop Britain being seen as a 'magnet' for people from poor parts of Europe.
It comes as a poll shows more than three-quarters of British people want to see a cut in immigration.
The government is under pressure after restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians working in Britain were lifted at the start of the year.
Amid rising public anxiety before Christmas, Mr Cameron announced EU migrants will have to wait for at least three months before they can claim any out-of-work benefits under emergency regulations which took effect from January 1.
EU migrants had been able to start claiming jobseeker's allowance and other benefits within weeks of arriving - prompting concern that some people are arriving, signing on and only then looking for work.
But today Mr Johnson claimed the Prime Minister's curbs were too weak and failed to send out a clear message that Britain was not open to benefit claimants.
Taking questions on his monthly radio phone-in, Mr Johnson told LBC 97.3: 'Where I think the Prime Minister is completely right is to say, look, we don't want to be slamming up the drawbridge, being completely horrible to people.
'If you want to come and work here, you can do that, but there should be a period before which you can claim all benefits and it seems entirely reasonable to me, that they should extend that to two years.'
He went on: 'My general view on this is get a grip on illegal immigration, crack down on that, restore confidence to the system, I think very largely the Government is doing that, has done that.
'But number two, be realistic about the way Britain acts as a magnet for people whose benefit systems in their own countries are much, much less generous and put in measures to stop us acting us such a magnet, such as extending the period before which you can qualify.'
Britain has become embroiled in a war of words with Poland over access to child benefit for migrants.
Mr Cameron insisted it was wrong that the British taxpayer is giving cash to 40,000 children who live elsewhere in the European Union, and vowed to stop it.
He warned stopping the export of benefits across the EU would `take time' because a deal would need to be struck with other member states or wait for the new treaty he hopes to negotiate if he is still Prime Minister after the next election.
The plan was backed by Mr Johnson, who said: 'Why should British taxpayers be paying the child benefit of people who may be working in Britain but whose children are living in Poland.
'Now, the payment of benefits, your system for paying benefits, actually, is one of those areas under EU law that is devolved to government.
'We have freedom to decide this, we can decide who qualifies for child benefit, you've just seen the Government's just changed the rules, there's no reason, in my view, why that anomaly should not be corrected. Nick Clegg said "oh, you can't do that" - well, why not? Why can't you do that?'
New soft justice disgrace in Britain: Half of child sex attackers, arsonists and burglars avoid a prison term
Tens of thousands of criminals escape jail every year despite being found guilty of horrific offences, figures reveal.
Sex attackers and child abusers routinely walk from court, despite ministers' promises to end soft justice.
About half of burglars, people convicted of plotting murder and those who have sex with children aged under 13 escape custodial sentences.
The same is true of three quarters of those found guilty of cruelty to a child or death by reckless driving. Almost all those found guilty of drugs possession escape jail.
Among those found guilty but not handed prison terms in 2012 were 69 rapists, 1,147 convicted of sexual assault, 736 arsonists, 77 kidnappers and 162 who caused death by reckless driving.
Attempted murderers and those convicted of manslaughter also walked from court last year.
The figures were uncovered by Labour justice spokesman Sadiq Khan following a parliamentary question. They show that of almost 200,000 criminals convicted of serious offences, just 52,000 were jailed. Of these, just 6,715 were sentenced to more than four years behind bars.
Hundreds of child abusers escaped justice. Of those who had sex with a child under 16, more than 300 walked. The same was true for 107 who had sex with a child under 13.
Labour suggested that the reluctance to send some serious offenders to jail could be linked to a desire to save money
Labour suggested that the reluctance to send some serious offenders to jail could be linked to a desire to save money
Some 48 found guilty of abducting a child - over half the total - escaped jail, along with almost a quarter of kidnappers and those convicted of false imprisonment.
Some 11,005 burglars avoided jail, as did half of those found guilty of sexual assault, leaving 1,147 back on the streets.
Just 262 sex attackers received jail terms longer than four years, with those who assault a man more likely to be locked up than those who attack women.
Astonishingly, 69 rapists were not jailed, 6 per cent of the 1,145 total convicted.
Thirteen people who committed manslaughter were not jailed, and nor were four found guilty of attempted murder.
Just 27 per cent of those who caused death by dangerous driving were given prison sentences along with 46 per cent of arsonists, while just 40 per cent of joyriders and car thieves went to jail.
Tory MP Priti Patel said: `Once again we see the criminal justice system letting down victims of serious crimes because the courts are too soft on paedophiles and other horrendous criminals. We need strong deterrents and that means tougher sentences.'
Another Conservative MP, Douglas Carswell, blamed the presence of Liberal Democrats in the coalition government for the sentencing figures.
`The people who run the system are more interested in rehabilitation than punishment,' he said. `A proper Conservative government would understand those problems and do something about it. Unfortunately we've got [Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander] at the heart of this government who seem to veto anything that looks like proper Conservative policy.'
Mr Khan suggested violent criminals were let off because British prisons are almost full. Figures for the last week of 2013 show all but 1,561 of 85,953 prison places were filled. `Victims of crime need confidence that those guilty of these serious crimes are properly punished,' Mr Khan said. `There is a concern that one of the reasons for so many non-custodial sentences for serious offences is to save money.
`This government needs to get a grip on this, and ensure that dangerous and violent crimes are properly dealt with.'
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling replied: `Since 2010 those who break the law are more likely to go to prison for longer, and we are continuing to overhaul sentencing to ensure that the toughest measures are available to the courts. I'll take no lessons on being tough on crime from a Labour Party that let thousands of criminals out of prison early because they hadn't provided enough places; who let thousands of offenders off with a slap-on-the-wrist caution instead of proper punishment; and who, to add insult to injury, failed to get any money from prisoners' earnings for their victims.
`Under Labour's watch, reoffending rates simply remained the same, and they had no idea what they were going to do about it. Our reforms will help criminals away from a life of crime - and help them stay away from it.'
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.