Michael Hobbes questions self-censorship stats; Sheena Mason questions racial categories; Haidt and Lukianoff on Woke HR; Andrew Sullivan on Roe; Yascha Mounk queries John McWhorter; I review him
The relationship between scientists' "populations" and the U.S. official racial statistical categories is very tenuous. The racial categories do much harm, in my opinion. And I think that while populations may be interesting for tracing history (Razib Khan's work, for example), I think that for practical purposes today individual genetics are more useful than population genetics.
I don't have data by state, but my guess is that views on premarital sex in the test-case states trying to restrict abortion are not very different from the national average, so the correlation is weak. If public attitudes about pre-marital sex create support for abortion, then reversing Roe would make almost no difference in most of the country, since abortion would just be allowed by statute not just in Blue States but in most states close to or above national levels of support, which likely includes a considerable number of Red States. Maybe they are faking it and just signalling, but people are certainly not acting as if they believe that to be the case.
However, what happened was a very rapid and radical change in that and other views regarding sexuality in the late 60's and early 70's - analogous to the pace of change in attitudes about homosexuality. And having some awareness of that trend and expecting it to continue probably influenced the Justices in terms of being much bolder in their estimate of how far they could push against current public opinion and make up new rights and still get away with it. But if so, they were wrong about the trend's future path, and that mistake turned out to be a major, long-term strategic error in terms of creating a focal point around which to rally and coordinate resistance to the general project of progressive abuse of jurisprudence in pushing their broader agenda.
In 1963 (Source: NORC), 82% of respondents said that sexual relations between a man and a woman was unacceptable *even when they were engaged to be married*! The past really is a foreign country. Over 90% opposed the "casual hookup" scenario.
Even as late as 1969, still fully 68% of people said that "it is wrong for a man and a woman to have sexual relations before marriage"
Then, only four years later, in 1973 - NB: same year as Roe - only 47% said it was wrong. If one was just crudely extrapolating that collapse in opposition, one would guess that it would all but cease to exist by 1980. But it turned out that opposition just as suddenly stopped collapsing, gradually fell only to 40%, and then *held steady for two generations* losing only a few more percentage points in the next forty years.
Whatever was happening with public opinion, or however it might have influenced the decisions of the Justices, I think most lawyers will continue to try to encourage people to distinguish between the mertis of the arguments of the core controversy and the strictly *legal* matters that are actually at issue in these cases having to do with the law, jurisprudence and the proper way to interpret constitutional texts, correct procedure, valid exercise of authority, and so forth.
Roe is not solely (or for some, even primarily) "about" abortion in non-progressive legal circles. It''s about the fundamental question of the validity of judges pretending that the constitution requires taking the issue permanently off the table in a democracy, and what to do about it. The case - for reasons involving both intensely passionate moral sentiments and also just how baldly extra-legal it was, which was obvious to everyone at the time - has come to stand as no other case has as a "condensed symbol" for everything that went wrong with the Supreme Court's typical operation starting with the late New Deal and degenerating to ever-lower depths of brazenly unrestrained quasi-dictatorship by the late Warren Court. Not just everything that went wrong, but everything that must be put right, if there is to be any hope at lowering the incessantly rising stakes of each Presidential election and salvaging the traditional constitutional scheme. On the legal / intellectual right, which has thrown everything it has over 45 years at creating the kind of institutional movement to accomplish this top objective, if you can't reverse Roe, then all the other Roe-like thorns in the side are impossible too, and the whole effort was futile and all for nothing.
If public opinion about sex influenced the progressive Judges that wrote the holding in Roe, I suspect that the worry about the prospect of this particular kind of demoralization is influencing the conservative Justices in further motivating them to pare it back.
Hobbes is a FIT? I realize that over policing who qualifies is probably antithetical to the project in some way, but he comes across as a left-wing hack, not an open-minded truth seeker who would score many (any?) FIT points. Hobbes' schtick appears to be pushing back against typical FIT arguments (in fact, his substack description invokes the "gaslighting of America"--he seems to be implying that people who complain about the problems of free speech and cancel culture are creating a moral panic. While having someone push back against the argument that "free speech is in peril" is a good thing, lest we avoid getting trapped in an echo chamber, Hobbes doesn't seem like the most good faith actor. For example, Jesse Singal and Katie Herzog recently discussed him on their podcast Blocked & Reported, specifically his attempt to "debunk" the revelation that Matthew Shephard's murder was probably about drugs and not a hate crime at all. They described Hobbes as one of those "Vox-style explainers" who pretend to be coming at an issue with no agenda--but clearly have an agenda!
1) As you note, the gender stuff is actually a bigger deal to parents than the race stuff in schools. People in Loudoun were far more worked up over gender ideology than anti-racism, as they should be. It's hard to convince someone they are the devil because of their skin color, but it's a lot easier to convince confused teenage girls they need medical treatments.
2) There is something of a goal to the DEI movement. In fact there are metrics by which it judges success. For instance, our schools are supposed to achieve discipline equity by making sure that suspension rates are the same across races, and there are goals for how much more equal these are supposed to get each year.
You might think this and other goals are bad ideas that don't help people, but they are certainly clear goals with clear metrics. In fact in many ways Equity is far more straightforward.
I liked your review of McWhorter's book. I wonder if you could elaborate on this sentence "But fending off heresy is only one element of religious and political movements that we have seen until recently." What are the other elements you have in mind?
The reason I ask is that I think there are other unofficial elements happening, and no real official elements needed other than "Find scary outgroup enemy -> get people to hate them," to keep a religious movement going.
The unofficial elements are along the lines of "Get the Elect in power, both within the in group and among the outgroup until the outgroup ceases to exist within the society." The Elect this case are seeking and gaining power within institutions across the country, and using their religion to keep the competition on their terms: outsiders are right out, and insiders compete on being the least heretical.
I am not sure you need another unofficial element of the movement to justify its existence. The moral rules are there to create the distinction between the virtuous in group and the vicious, heretical out group. The morals are not created after the religion, but rather the would-be Elect adopt the morals that are solid enough to carry them through, adjusting them as the prevailing morality of their supporters changes over time to maintain a virtuous (but not too secure!) in group against an out group. That the gender identity movement has picked up on the same effective moral division that was lying around shouldn't be surprising then.
The moral story in question, by the way, is essentially the left's "weak groups are oppressed by evil strong groups," in your Three Languages of Politics. That is where the obsession with power comes in: so long as there is a power dynamic to identify as oppressing the weak, there is an out group to virtuously oppose or be condemned to. The moral story is evolutionarily stable, as there will always be a weak group to be oppressed by a strong group, and so always a group to oppose. The worst thing that can happen to a religious movement is for the devils of the out group to be defeated once and for all. You have to always be at war with Oceana to justify everyone's time, money and attention.
So, yea... I think Wokeism covers all the needed bases for a social movement, whether religious or political. What other elements did you have in mind?
I disagree with Arnold on abortion, and I think Democrats are going to be disappointed if they think overturning Roe v Wade will be a big win for them. Terri ran hard on this in VA and it didn't help him. Only 8% of people in exit polls said abortion was #1 issue and a majority voted for Youngkin. France restricts abortion to twelve weeks and I'm not seeing this as a big electoral button for the French left to push.
Nobody likes abortion. Even most of its supporters don't like it. The vast majority of people are ashamed to admit they have had one. That's not the building block of electoral victory.
Arnold is right that abortion is very wrapped up the sexual liberation movement of the 1960s. What I think he misses is that people by and large consider that movement a failure. The religious right for obvious reasons, and the left is currently on a puritan streak as well.
There seems to be a general consensus that sexual liberation led to the current breakdown in the family. The amount of sex people are having is down. Many people may not realize this, but a majority of adults will have two or fewer sexual partners their entire lifetime. Divorce is correlated with pre-martial sex, the more partners the worse it gets.
We see consistent and huge polling differences for rape and incest. These polling gaps should not exist if the question is whether the fetus is alive or not. But they do matter if "how you got pregnant was a sin or not".
To the extent abortion was tied up with some new an exciting horizon of sexual liberation that movement is exhausted.
I think that Republicans should stick their guns on this. I don't think there will be an electoral blowback. By contrast, I think this is the do or die moment for their relationship with the religious right. At a certain point you have to put up or shut up, and if you can't follow through then you're not worth having around.
When I read Michael Hobbes post it was clear to me that he doesn't work in Academia. Either that or he is a confirmed leftist. His post reminds me of posts claiming that Political Correctness is just politeness. I worked for a second tier college for twenty years. I watched the atmosphere turn poisonous, even in the STEM fields. Mr. Hobbes post is a fantasy.
On Sullivan. Yes, but Roe was still a bridge al little too far. It could have created the (in the last instance) right as the current Court is removing it, little by little. And to some extent having different approaches to same sex marriage DOES cause more interstate problems than differences in abortion.
Re: McWhorter, the power relations obsession of a certain faction on the left is indeed weird. I read someone allege that this was actually a conflict mitigation strategy imprinted in the psychology of some people via evolution, similar perhaps to Great Britain's traditional foreign policy of allying with secondary powers on the continent to deter the primary power (first France, and then later Germany), but programmed into people genetically. It's an interesting hypothesis, and if you add the closed information loops of ideologically sorted social media groups and media outlets relentlessly rage-baiting these people with stories and videos of the powerless being mistreated (I liked that feeling babies vs unfeeling robots dichotomy you presented a while back), and you could sort of see how individuals with that particular psychological, ahem...profile, become convinced that the supposedly powerless are constantly being victimized, and, they become obsessed with this particular prism through which to view society.
With that in mind, mockery alone isn't likely to work. You have to disrupt the closed information loops and remind people that there's a lot more to justice and morality than power relations.
“I concluded that critical theory has a very strong hold on college culture everywhere.”
Clear evidence that DEI is alive and well at state schools too:
Sheena Mason ain't a FITS if I remember correctly. That article manages to make my own position impossible: namely, simultaneously being a population (i.e., race) naturalist and making race a non-factor in society (what she calls eliminativism). I do not know how one can encounter the latest work in population genetics and not come away as a population naturalist. David Reich's book (and life's work) cannot exist without the existence of populations. (The term "race" was subject to the great euphemism treadmill; population geneticists came up with "population" to refer to "race".) As I said, one can think race refers to concrete, biological categories and also want to eliminate race as a category from public life. According to Mason, population naturalists tend to be "conservationist"--a position that means that racial categories should be "conserved" in public policy.
I guess it depends on what youean by adamantly anti abortion, but I think this is incorrect: "Today, I would speculate that the minority who are adamantly anti-abortion are comparable in numbers to the minority who are adamantly against gay sex. "
According to Pew, more than 60 percent of people support gay marriage, so support for gay sex is probably even higher. But Pew also estimate that 75% of Americans favor at least some abortio restrictions, so there is a sizable chunk of Americans, on the order of 20 percent, that think gay sex is morale and some abortions are not morale.