Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas.
This makes a lot of sense, good comment. Honestly most of my experience is with top programs so it makes sense that I missed this.
Though honestly I think Sociopath faculty are rare, being tenured at a top institution is just not that great for how much work it is.
Totally agreed. The terms for the three groups don’t make a lot of sense. They’re drawn from that comic, which was (presumably) intended as a quick gag, not a substantive analysis.
Great, thank you!
This is really helpful, though I always find these breakdowns to be a little disappointing. Do you know of any sources that break down government funding by program in a more detailed way?
It’s not clear why we should expect government to do a better job; this is explored in some depth here.
I think that statement reads pretty clearly as both a hypothetical and as a joke; I don’t consider “universally evil” to be an especially likely explanation.
Yeah, I saw that too. Definitely good for Pinker and more suspicious data about the letter.
A very jaded perspective could be that this is indeed a false flag but the whole end goal is just that Pinker wants to write a book about the subject and needed a way to insert himself into the conversation.
Wow, very interesting finds. That does make it seem even more like a false flag. Could you share the link to the article (even though it’s paywalled)?
Also, would you mind if I added some of your points to the main post, for posterity?
Do you have a citation for that thing about Tenenbaum?
Interesting points. Part of why it seems so fishy to me is that, personally, I have a lot of experience with far-left lists of demands and takedowns. They’re certainly not perfect, but in my experience they are reliably 1) longer, 2) better researched, 3) better written, and 4) more vicious.
Again I will offer examples like the attempt to remove Hsu and the recent list of dozens of demands at Princeton. On easily-measured scales, such as number of demands/pieces of evidence, the letter to the LSU is a clear outlier. It’s hard for me to imagine them stopping at only 6 complaints. On less easily measured scales, like how damning or aggressive the evidence is, I also think that it is a clear outlier; not only worse than normal, but well worse than the normal worst examples of the genre.
Of course this is all based on my previous experience with this sort of document, and that’s something I can’t share, it’s just built into my priors. But if you’re willing to accept my semi-expert opinion on this, then my take is that it seems fishy.
Not to be a jerk about it, but surely correlation doesn’t imply causation. A better explanation is that being <the sort of person who will eventually do groundbreaking work> will cause you to get a PhD, but the PhD may not be causally implicated.
We can see a good example of this in Judith Rich Harris, who was the sort of person to go to a PhD program, but was kicked out before she could finish, and yet went on to revolutionize developmental psychology anyways.
Also note that it was harder to get a PhD in the past. These days it’s easy enough that if you want to do research you might as well.
Solid reasoning. 40% seems just a little high to me but I absolutely agree that, conditional on this being a false flag, Pinker has the most to gain from it.
Yes, I certainly can’t blame you!
It’s not a signal because it’s easy to fake. “one party credibly conveys some information about itself to another party”
In that case, I challenge you to write a letter approximately this bad, targeting a public figure approximately as famous as Pinker, disseminate it as you describe but without any attribution, and we’ll see if it gets any traction.
You’re certainly right, and we should expect lots of mediocre material as you describe.
Here I try to make the case, though, that this letter was not merely mediocre but in fact suspiciously bad, the kind of abject failure that it would be hard to blunder into by accident. I’m rather familiar with progressive rhetoric, and to my eye at least, even their worst arguments are more studiously advanced than this one was.
Thank you! Yes, I wouldn’t say that I have any particular view on what is happening, just that something seems off.
Writing by an individual who isn’t very skillful doesn’t seem likely to get this much attention or ~500 signatures, even if many of them are fake. Some sort of momentum was behind this that I think is more than the effort given by an individual — certainly given that this letter appears to be anonymous! Some authors would have this clout but seeing as how we don’t know who authored this...