the time bill hamilton almost got watsoned

well, he actually wasn’t anywhere near being watsoned since he committed his politically incorrect faux pas in the early 1980s, but he did get a good telling off. he definitely would’ve been booted out today, though.

he thought political correctness was stupid, and his swpl-lady-accuser — well, i dunno what he thought of her, but i think she’s stupid. what on earth would he have made of our situation today?

from “Narrow Roads of Gene Land, Vol. 2” [pgs. 303-04, 307-09]:

“By 1984 two aspects of life in the USA had made me feel differently [about moving back to the uk]. One was the level of violence — this was felt even in a seemingly rural university town like Ann Arbor….

“The other main incentive for the move was also a ‘rising level’ and this had changed in the 2 years [since the last offer of a job in the uk], and was about as depressing for me as the violence. I see it now as the beginning of what came to be called ‘political correctness’, but then it just seemed an increasing intolerance about how others lived and spoke, a rising pressure to conformity. Mountain men in remote valleys might escape the new social climate but one couldn’t in Ann Arbor….

“While the ‘anti-smoke’ pollution of human freedom was one factor pushing me to Britain in the early 1980s it still wasn’t the most significant event telling me I was getting seriously out of touch with America and was going to find it difficult just to be myself if I remained there. Rather it was the experience of being telephoned by a lady academic…”

… ugh. you just know it’s going to be bad …

“…to talk to me about a letter I had sent to her department recommending one of my graduate students for an advertised post. She told me that phrases I had used were very harmful both to the student’s chances and to my own reputation. Because I had taken great care in writing the letter and considered it to contain, in fact, the strongest support I had ever given to any student, I was immediately dismayed and puzzled. I was soon enlightened by her where the trouble lay. I had written to the effect that the student was ‘exceptionally strong on the theoretical and statistical side and with an ability especially remarkable in view of her sex and non-mathematical background’….”

… heh …

“…The offending words will be obvious to anyone today: my informant made it clear to me that I ought to have treated the student as if I had never noticed its gender.

“Hundreds of experiences have taught me that women are not as good on average at maths and spatial problems as men. This matter seemed really to need no statistical tests although plenty have been recorded. In a related field, day-to-day orientation, many women seem almost to boast about their tendency to get lost in towns and buildings: very few men do. The entire sweep of history as I knew it suggested to me the same things, and the difference continues even right up to the present in spite of all the recent equalizing forces that have been applied. Even in rats females have been shown to be less good at spatial and route-finding tasks than males although why this should be is still largely a mystery. As always, of course, the overlap of abilities is wide and there are innumerable women who are much better mathematicians and visualizers than innumerable men — I could name many who are better than me. For sure also, plenty of good women engineers, physicists, and the like are qualifying where there exists the will to enter these activities. Still, the average difference remains for me striking and is confirmed through a multitude of channels. Aptitude tests performed on small children are just the start of them. Nowadays some parents make a special point of trying to override any cultural bias that may have existed in erstwhile courses of infancy and childhood and I, too, have made my own small intrafamily attempts, out of interest, to see if the tendency could be overridden (diagrams of theorems of Euclid pinned inside the hood of one daughter’s perambulator formed a part of one experiment). But neither I nor others who have tried it, I think, can record much success (my daughter, however, did pass advanced-level school maths).

“Anyway, consequently I didn’t believe the theory that the difference comes wholly from cultural factors, and I assumed that, in spite of all the outcry of a few based so far as I could see on very flimsy evidence and excuses, most intelligent people of both sexes would interpret my letter the same way as I meant it. Holding this expectation, I had wanted to be sure my student would not be automatically devalued by a reader of my letter who might interpret it as a more vague complement: ‘Exceptional,’ he says, but he means no doubt ‘as women go’ — who wouldn’t leave this unsaid of his own student?’ I had added the phrase to forestall this, to make clear that I was aware of the average difference and nevertheless gave unqualified praise. I assumed any ‘search’ committee would understand this and that it would raise, not lower, my student’s chance. I still can hardly credit that what I wrote would be interpreted in any other way…. But in the gathering new climate — in which, by analogy, I suppose you are not supposed to mention in a letter that you happen to have noticed that a student has the handicap of being blind — they were not harmless: some acid remarks from the person on the phone made this plain when, amazed, I tried to explain what I had meant….

“The end result was that I decided, rather as I had done at Cambridge when I had been told there was no possible connection between genetics and social anthropology, that I should try to pursue my career as a misogynist somewhere else with the corollary to this decision that I needed to be careful about taking on more graduate students generally if my best efforts were going to harm them in ways I had become too socially blind to see.”

reading this account reminded me of something pat buchanan wrote just the other day — The Equality Racket:

“And here is the unvarying argument of the left since Karl Marx: If you give us power, we will take from the rich who have so much and give it to you who have so little. But before we can do that, you must give us power.

“This is the equality racket. As Alexis de Tocqueville wrote:

“‘The sole condition which is required in order to succeed in centralizing the supreme power in a democratic community, is to love equality, or to get men to believe you love it. Thus the science of despotism, which was once so complex, is simplified, and reduced … to a single principle.’

When they come preaching equality, what they want is power.


(note: comments do not require an email. find x.)



  1. “When they come preaching equality, what they want is power.”

    Interesting. Myself, I am in favor of equality — as a moral, not an empirical axiom: the idea that every person’s happiness is equally important, and public policy should be designed accordingly. (see herefor a practical expression) We mustn’t throw the baby out with the bath water.


  2. @ equality – I usually think of this problem in terms of liberty and justice. Two values which are always in conflict yet inseparable. Like what Hemingway said about men and women: you can’t live with ’em and you can’t live without ’em. You can’t have one without the other. They’re equals yet opposites. Correlative. Two sides of a coin.

    It’s so easy to collapse under the tension, and liberals and conservatives do tend to specialize you have to admit, one preferring (emphasizing) liberty, the other justice. That’s why a healthy society needs both liberals and conservatives, and why they need to learn how to be civil with each other.

    Democrats and Republicans for example.


  3. @luke – “…liberals and conservatives do tend to specialize you have to admit, one preferring (emphasizing) liberty, the other justice.”

    i’m a bit more cynical than you, i’m afraid. i see those calling for “justice” as mostly wanting, say, equality in the economic sense (what pat buchanan was talking about) because they are jealous of what other people have and what they do not — so they want to “redistribute” the wealth around, never mind that some people might have worked hard for it — or simply gained it ’cause they have a “better” package of genes for doing well in life (Mother Nature is unfair, unfortunately).

    on the other hand, i see those calling for “liberty” as not wanting to share their gains with those less able. again, Mother Nature is unfair.

    myself, and i think i mentioned this before, i’m for equality before the law. everyone should have an equal opportunity in life, even though not everyone will be able to make the most of that opportunity simply because of who they are (e.g. lower iq individuals).

    in my ideal world, everyone should get the best education possible — a system where intelligent but poor kids are selected out and sent to better schools like the old english grammar school solution is a great idea, for instance. good for the individual and good for society. but we have to admit that not everyone will be as successful in school, and therefore in life, as everyone else.

    like the situation in california now which steve sailer has talked about where everyone has to pass what used to be first-year college algebra in order to graduate high school. the result? more minority students dropping out of high school ’cause they don’t manage. how is that fair? it’s almost as if liberal, politically correct thinkers want to sabotage the chances for the very peoples they claim to be on the side of….


  4. Luke, Since the desire for equality obviously has a large genetic component you have no choice but to feel as you do and I have no choice but not to share your feeling.

    I think the stronger version of the desire for equality has become maladaptive for society as a whole. But that could just be my genes talking.


  5. You certainly have grounds for your cynicism. I see that. Still, phrases like “liberty and justice for all,” “promote the general welfare,” and “the greatest happiness of the greatest number” are not contradictory or self-contradictory concepts. In the economic as well as in the political and legal spheres. Material inequalities can be justified which make everyone better off for starters.


  6. @Randall -You are a self-identified libertarian if I am not mistaken, which means almost by definition that you care more about liberty — primarily your own — and less about the general welfare of the society you live in.

    I agree there are genetic factors shaping libertarian attitudes and their frequency among us, factors which hbd* chick does a good job of high-lighting: extreme out-breeding and cross-breeding of our European population, leading to a core stock which is more genetically unrelated than the inhabitants of any liberal democracy known to modern times.

    As a result, big chunks of the preamble of the U.S. Constitution (“We the people, in order to create a more perfect union. . . promote the general welfare … to ourselves and out posterity’) have grown alien to large chunks of our population, the best endowed especially.

    To this I would also add the decay of Christian sentiments and the weakening of the influence of Christian institutions in so far as they fostered a commitment to the concept of the “fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man” — as expressed, for example, in the Pledge of Allegiance, which has grown to seem quaint in the minds of many, our smartest and best-educated especially (of which you are one)..

    The downside of meritocracy in a society such as ours have been well-described by Charles Murray in The Bell Curve and before him by Michael Young in his 1958 satire of the concept.

    Of course the appearance and growth of new, more ethnically and genetically homogeneous immigrant subgroups within our polity in recent years has not helped matters, for reasons I need not describe.

    As for the origins of my own liberal philosophy, I believe it is firmly grounded in one strand of our Judeo-Christian traditions, which are quite out of fashion among our intellectual elites nowadays — that would include you and hbd* chick both I suppose — but not necessarily among the general population.

    So I am an outlier, granted, though not without some grounds of hope. I believe because it is beautiful, quite frankly, and my concept of God, Hebraic in origin, is of “the fairest and most possible thing consistent with everything we empirically know.” I have aninborn faith (or maybe I acquired it) that the most beautiful possible solutions to the world’s problems are not only accessible to human imagination (seek and ye shall find) but will prevail in the end.

    My own imaginings, imperfect though they be, full of errors I know, you’ll find on the web: on my blog, Facing Zionwards, my little book (imposed PDF is complete), and more completely in my comments on Walter Russell Mead’s blog, as well as this one, Lubos Motl’s, Steve Sailer’s, and the old GNXP. For historical background there is this letter to Goody, more amusingly described in six posts on the old, my first appearance on the web (thanks Godless and thanks razib!). Google “Wack Job on Adam and Eve”.

    So, yes, I understand where you are coming from, Randall. And I understand why you and hbd* chick and a lot (make that all) of the other educated people I know both on the web and in real life, including my family, both liberal and conservative, have a hard time fathoming where I’m coming from. The odds are against me in your minds, and I can certainly see why. OTH you haven’t been plunged into the lowest depths of society the way I have, nor lived and worked among ordinary working people your whole life long the way I did (with my wife’s help later on). So maybe I know something you don’t. :)

    Pardon the typos.


  7. I forgot the mention a few comments I’ve made over the years on various sensitive topics at under the user name BornAgainDemocrat. Also, if you can find them, some pretty unflattering autobiographical details I foolishly posted on a now-defunct political site called Born Again Democrats that razib helped me set up. That was in the aftermath of the 2004 elections. Boy was I mad!

    Let no one suppose for a minute (especially my daughter!) that I’ve led a very admirable, let alone enviable, life — though I have led an honest one, best I can tell. Take it all in all I come out about average I think, neither better nor worse than the run of mankind.


  8. @luke – “I have aninborn faith (or maybe I acquired it) that the most beautiful possible solutions to the world’s problems are not only accessible to human imagination (seek and ye shall find) but will prevail in the end.”

    i’m in agreement with you on the first part there, although without any religious overtones — the world’s problems are only accessible — and potentially solvable — via our imaginations and intellect. i don’t have faith in the prevailing part, though. i don’t think it’s a certainty, anyway — although i’d like to believe we will prevail in the end.

    there are just too many other, conflicting drives in human nature that work against the human race just pulling together to solve the world’s problems. i wish it were otherwise — and some days i wish i believed otherwise — but there it remains.

    maybe the good guys will win in the end — and maybe they won’t. there’s no guarantee.


  9. @Luke, I have no faith. I am like Godless on that score. I see no sign of the supernatural, especially no sign of God’s involvement in the affairs of man.

    As for what is possible in human societies: I think genes limit what is possible and that many utopias are incompatible with the various human natures (and of course since genetic variants make people different there are many human natures).

    You can’t realize your vision without genetic engineering. Too many humans are too unequal in fairness, drive, curiosity, intelligence, empathy, perceptiveness, etc. There will be differences. Attempts to prevent large differences in outcomes very often cause more harm than benefit because humans just won’t respond in ways that lead to some idealized fantasized outcome.

    Living with those at the bottom: It is precisely my experience with the poor and dumb that has done so much to shape my view. It is beyond the ability of these people to be lifted up (short of genetic engineering) to a level where they could be equals.


  10. @ Randall — look how far we have already come here within the realm of what used to be Christendom. Anyway, faith is no longer necessary, thanks to those who had it. You can be a Darwinian atheist and still agree with my basic position. Imagination, not faith.


  11. @ hbd* chick – “maybe the good guys will win in the end” Which side will you be on? Would you have signed up for service during WWII? I’d bet my bottom dollar on you.


  12. Luke, How far we’ve come: I think we’ve passed a high water mark. The conditions that made the last couple of centuries of societal development are being undermined by what people are doing as a result. Have you read Gregory Clark’s A Farewell To Alms? The selective pressures that created the conditions that made the rise of the west possible have been replaced by selective pressures that are undoing all that.


  13. I disagree with both of you. I don’t believe in God, but I think religion is a good thing. The risk-benefit calculus of committing a crime is different when you’re weighing a risk of spending a few years in jail versus eternal damnation. A little further up the social ladder, there’s no logical reason apart from some extremely convoluted reasoning for rich people to care about the poor, but they might want to do their Christian duty. Certainly philosophical principles might convince some people, but they are likely to lack the emotive effect of Christianity with its metaphors of the church as family.

    Also, from the evolutionary point of view, religion has been a powerful cohesive force. The formation of Christendom probably allowed Western civilization to survive the fall of Rome. Similarly, Islam turned the Arabic tribes into a powerful military force and eventually a civilization (they stagnated since then, but that’s another story…probably some intermediate level of religiosity is best).


  14. @sfg – “I think religion is a good thing.”

    yeah, i think there’s there’s a lot of good — in fact, great — aspects to religion, too. (there’s also bad stuff, as well.) i’m just not religious myself, that’s all.

    clearly it must “work” since it’s obviously been selected for — religious belief, that is.


  15. @luke – “That’s why a healthy society needs both liberals and conservatives, and why they need to learn how to be civil with each other. Democrats and Republicans for example.”

    one could view liberals and conservatives — or the different personality types — as parts in a symbiotic system where you need a balance of both types in order for the society as a whole to function. a sort of lichen-like scenario.

    or one could view the different personality types as competitors — or sets of competing genes — within an environment.

    hard to know which one it is. if either. or maybe some combination of both?


  16. On the boy brain and the girl brain:

    When I was at Ga. Tech, all the freshmen took three quarters of drafting, except for us Fizzies and Math majors who only took the first quarter, except we took it in the third quarter. It was not too technical, just sketching and “rotate this in yer mind and draw the missing parts” type stuff. The instructor didn’t feel a need to instruct, because, as he said, ” You guys can figure this stuff out.”

    Well, there was one engineering student in the class, who was also the only girl. She was there because she’d already flunked it twice and this was here last chance. She was good at math, and all, but absolutely hopeless at spacial visualization. Teresa sat right in front of me and was really good people. We all helped her as much as we could without actually cheating, but alas, she flunked it again. Sigh!

    Everybody else got As.

    P.s. I know a DES daughter who makes an excellent living as a draftsman; a real visual thinker she is, and also quite rational, while being VERY feminine.


  17. @justthisguy – “We all helped her as much as we could without actually cheating, but alas, she flunked it again. Sigh!”

    oh, poor her!

    i’m very good with those rotational thingies (but then i’m a very visual thinker in general) — especially for a girl, although i suspect i’m a lot better at them than a lot of guys, too. i love them (the rotational thingies)! i also am good at the raven’s matricies. i took an iq test when i was a kid (unfortunately no one in the family knows what i scored — duh!) and i remember LOVING that part of the test. i suspect i did pretty well on that part, too. (^_^)

    i’m not so good at math. i mean, i took and passed (with good grades) algebra and trig in high school, but geometry was what i really loved — and did the best in. your basic euclidean geometry, of course. give me shapes over numbers any day. (^_^)


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