I think you are seriously missing Ezra’s point, and i think a lot of people in the rationalsphere that I’ve read seem to make a similar mistake.
The primary point of Ezra bringing up historical context is scientific, not social. He is essentialy saying that global white supremacy is an enormous confounder to any possible effort to tease signal out of what data we have, and so we shouldn’t entertain the idea of changing policies based on something with proper implausibility and extremely weak (at best) evidence.
Ezra’s further point is essentially an outside view point: many times in the past scientists have convinced themselves based on now-known-to-be-bogus theories of the conclusion Murray is pushing. Thus, as a matter of good epistemics, we should be looking for good reason to believe this time is different, and there is no such reason.
I think Sam is totally failing to engage with either of these two points and is instead wrongly reading Ezra as making social arguments that the reliable data should not be discussed. Instead, Ezra is giving strong reasons why the data is a supremely unreliable map to the territory. I also think you may be making the same error.
You make Ezra’s point so much better than he did. (If that is indeed a good summary of what Ezra was trying to say).
Of course, that’s much easier to do while not in the midst of a back-and-forth.
Hmm, was this really Ezra’s point as opposed to a steelmanned version? My impression was that he insisted on any discussion of the science also involving a discussion of past prejudice. He also seemed to be against giving Murray a platform because of his policy positions.
Thanks. This is a useful distinction, and I’m not sure yet what it means for my understanding of the arguments, but I’ll have to process it and hopefully update my thinking on this matter.
This, so much.
So, in the spirit of learning from other’s mistakes (even better than learning from my own): I thought Ezra made his point very clear.
So, all of you people who missed Ezra’s point (confounded data, outside view) on first reading:
How could Ezra have made clearer what he was arguing, short of adopting LW jargon? What can we learn from this debacle of a discussion?
Edit: tried to make my comment less inflammatory.
Ezra seemed to be arguing both at the social-shaming level (implying things like “you are doing something normatively wrong by giving Murray airtime”) and at the epistemic level (saying “your science is probably factually wrong because of these biases”). The mixture of those levels muddles the argument.
In particular, it signaled to me that the epistemic-level argument was weak—if Ezra would have been able to get away with arguing exclusively from the epistemic level, he would have (because, in my view, such arguments are more convincing), so choosing not to do so suggests weakness on that front.
(Why do I think this? I came away from the debate podcast frustrated with Ezra. Sam was being insistent about arguing exclusively on the epistemic level. Ezra was having none of it. After thinking about it for a long time, I came to the summary I wrote above, which I felt was more favorable / more of a steelman to Ezra than my initial impression from the debate.)
So, at least to convince me, if Ezra wanted to make the points you are suggesting he make, then he should have stuck to debating Sam on epistemic grounds and avoiding all normative implications.