Keeping up with the FITs 11/20

George A. Yancey on anti-racism; Wilfred Reilly on affirmative action; Emily Oster talks with Russ Roberts; Richard Hanania on Jonathan Rauch; Razib Khan on The Scout Mindset

On Free Black Thought, which introduces us to a number of potential Fantasy Intellectual stars, George A. Yancey analyzes the doctrine of anti-racism.

Clearly CRT and antiracism are related but they are not exactly alike. I’ll leave debating the value of CRT to others. I prefer to talk about antiracism because that, rather than CRT proper, is what is being implemented in most diversity programs today.

I think that academic ideas filter down to a broader audience in what I call folk versions. For example, Keynes’ The General Theory is very hard to digest, but “folk Keynesianism” reduces it to “spending creates jobs, and jobs create spending.” I think of anti-racism as folk CRT.

Read Yancey’s whole essay.

On FairForAll, Wilfred Reilly writes,

According to Kendi, there is no other possible explanation for them. From this standpoint, Asian kids could not score almost 100 SAT points higher on average than longer-settled and often wealthier whites; Caucasian Hispanics should not perform on par with African Americans rather than whites; and Nigerian Americans could not be the most educated group in the country. Yet these are all facts, borne out clearly in the data. From a center-right perspective, these questions can be answered very easily. Groups which differ in terms of big and ‘important’ traits like race or ethnicity also almost inevitably differ in terms of cultural variables like study time, median age, region of residence, and the crucial presence of a father in the home. While racism is real and still present in America today, it is these other variables that largely predict success for humans of all colors.

Check out FairForAll as an organization, not just its substack. I like the fact that they are developing a K-12 school curriculum on racial issues to compete with CRT-based curricula.

Russ Roberts talks with Emily Oster about her book advocating conscious, data-driven family decisions. She says,

when we are in our family, we often make decisions about the activities we're going to do almost without thinking about how they interact with everything else.

And, so, we can often find ourselves in a case in which we haven't recognized the interconnection of the decisions. We haven't made them deliberately enough, and then we're living a life that's quite different in structure than we had hoped that it would be.

So, the pitch is really: Take some of that deliberateness from the sort of work life and put it in family decisions. Give them the same kind of attention that you would to decisions that you make in your job.

Richard Hanania writes in the Claremont Review of Books on Jonathan Rauch’s The Constitution of Knowledge. I have a forthcoming review that I think does a fairer job of discussing the main themes of the book. I offer criticisms of Rauch, but I greatly appreciate the Constitution of Knowledge concept. You may recall my earlier essay on the Rauch book.

Hanania does issue a provocative challenge.

Rauch’s commitments to science and viewpoint diversity are in tension. He talks of his admiration for the “epistemic breakthroughs” of Enlightenment thinkers, despite their works being “flawed with the inequities and blind spots of their eras (one of which is reflected in the fact that all of them were men).” Yet isn’t it perhaps remarkable that the systems and thinkers Rauch admires so much came from one sex, in one broadly defined culture, making up a small minority of the world’s people? If the institutions such men created are so incredible, perhaps diversity of perspective and opinion aren’t as important as Rauch would like to think.

I would put Hanania’s point this way:

Can we continue to uphold as good the principles, practices, and reward systems of the institutions that make up what Rauch calls the Constitution of Knowledge, even though: (a) they were created predominantly by white males; and (b) white males tend to be disproportionately successful in climbing to the higher ranks within those institutions?

Progressive activists answer “no.” They say that we must tear down these institutions, just as they tear down statues of dead white males. They seek to overturn the liberal principles, practices, and reward systems, because these produce unequal outcomes and hence are inherently oppressive.

Conservatives answer “yes.” They say that women and non-whites deserve the equal opportunity to compete in these institutions. But we should leave the principles, practices, and reward systems intact.

Hanania thinks that liberal academics, including Rauch and Jonathan Haidt, try to avoid choosing between these two positions. Instead, they want to behave as if there is no conflict between the good of diversity along identity lines and the good that I want to call institutional rationality.

On Quillette, Razib Khan reviews Julia Galef’s The Scout Mindset.

But the ubiquity of the soldier mindset across all societies shows that extreme openness and flexibility were the exceptions rather than the rule. From the viewpoint of cultural evolution, this may actually be optimal. In a world where technology changed very slowly, and the seasonal cycle repeated endlessly, it was logical that humans would assimilate traditional wisdom by rote, rather than attempting to learn everything anew, risking grave errors. . .

The problem in 2021 is that technological and cultural change is now so rapid that these instincts seem totally inadequate to the moment.

That last sentence seems to echo Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying in The Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century.

Khan concludes that most of us will be in soldier mindset most of the time. But that takes me back Rauch as well as to my seminar topic of institutional irrationality.

An institution can operate as if it were in scout mindset, even if many of its individuals are in soldier mindset. Consider a legal trial. Each side’s lawyer is in soldier mindset. But the judge and the jury are supposed to arrive at the truth.

My picture of the decline of academia and journalism is that they have given way to soldier mindset.