Image note: The evolving proletariat ― Detail of Bug Martini by Adam Huber, 14 July 2016.
Image note: The evolving proletariat ― Detail of Bug Martini by Adam Huber, 14 July 2016.
• I got nothin’.
• Do you really want to know?
• Blame Adam.
See what I mean? There are other jokes, of course, but this is a family blog.
Oh, wait. Not really. I mean, I wouldn’t preclude it outright, but neither is it difficult to imagine the complaints.
This is worth keeping an eye on:
Few recent books have spawned as many arguments as Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. Until last week, though, I hadn’t seen anyone claim that Sandberg’s feminism-in-the-workplace manifesto is anti-science. And yet that’s exactly what Amy Alkon, an advice columnist who frequently dips into psychological research, argued in the New York Observer on Friday.
Drawing on evolutionary psychology — basically, the idea that many of our behavioral tendencies were shaped long ago, when the sorts of pressures that needed to be overcome in order to survive and reproduce were a lot different than they are today — Alkon writes that Sandberg simply ignores fundamental, biologically, and genetically predetermined differences between male and female behavior, and that because of these differences, Sandberg’s advice could actually be harmful if followed.
This sort of thing pops up from time to time — it’s not uncommon to see pop-science accounts that use evo-psych to make sweeping statements about human nature, particularly on gender issues. In one recent incident Science of Us readers might remember, for instance, researchers used evo-psych principles to tell a rather nonsensical story about why Kim Kardashian’s butt appeals to so many men. But Alkon’s column, even if it draws on some long-standing and stale claims about the differences between men and women, deserves a thorough debunking simply because it’s such an egregious example of the subgenre.
Jesse Singal of New York magazine’s Science of Us blog offers the well-considered response to one of those strange defenses of sexism that starts with the premise that “women are meeker than men, and less likely than men to bond, friendship-wise, with members of the same gender — behaviors forged by, you guessed it, evolution”.
And Singal really does deserve some credit for patience; repeatedly dismantling these arguments does nothing to prevent them from popping up again, but this is also the sort of thing people can steel themselves against for the future; and once one learns the familiar patterns, one is well equipped to respond to this nonsense when it arises in personal circles. The thing is that being polite does not mean sitting back and letting your friends embarrass themselves and denigrate others blindly pushing this sort of stuff. The number of advocates who, when challenged, resent the suggestion of misogyny suggests blithe ignorance, lest we have grossly underestimated the will while focusing on the habit.
And, frankly, that latter is a bit unsettling; this isn’t really some sort of conscious calculation so many people make in such a way that it looks like a conspiracy. This is just people being people. But that’s the thing: We can attempt to politely correct the record, and if it really is that big a deal to one of our friends, well, yeah, good luck with that. No, really, I can’t tell you to leave them behind; neither can I suggest you are remotely obligated to stick around.
But it seems somehow improper to leave them to wallow in potentially contagious ignorance. Indeed, we might even suggest it is dangerous. The thing is that this comes up enough that it would probably be helpful to have a response at hand. For now, Singal’s is pretty useful.
Singal, Jesse. “No, Evolution Doesn’t Disprove Lean In’s Arguments”. Science of Us. 18 May 2015.
It was, what, all of two days ago Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) described himself as “the most scrutinized politician in America”, and while that claim might justly find widespread derision, we would also beg leave to accommodate the cowardly Badgerα long enough to remind that he does himself no favors on that count by saying stupid things:
By any fair measure, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has changed course, quite dramatically, on immigration policy. In the not-too-distant past, the Republican governor was quite moderate on the issue. Now, he’s not – Walker not only opposes bipartisan solutions, he’s even begun taking on legal immigration.
This week, Fox News’ Bret Baier pressed Walker for an explanation: “If you’re willing to flip-flop … on such an important issue like this, how can voters be sure that you’re not going to change your position on some other big issues?”
As the Washington Post noted, the Wisconsin Republican responded with his own unique definition of flip-flop.
Walker responded: “Well, actually, there’s not a flip out there.” […]
“A flip would be someone who voted on something and did something different,” Walker said. “These are not votes… I don’t have any impact on immigration as a governor.”
If bonus points were reported based on creativity, Walker would be in much better shape. But he’s effectively arguing that if he didn’t cast a vote, it can’t count.
And that’s not an especially credible argument.
Yeah, that sort of thing will draw some scrutiny.
The political calculus regarding the optics is robustly defined: Given how much any candidate dodges certain questions, we might reasonably expect some professionally functional manner and method of dodging. Practically speaking, we might suggest that especially at a time when policy evolution is not only acceptable but a useful selling point, Gov. Walker should be able to muster the courage to at least attempt to explain his policy shifts.
Benen notes, “flip-flops are not the be-all, end all of a national campaign”, pointing to Mitt Romney’s astounding 2012 performance. “Walker’s reversals”, the msnbc producer and blogger writes, “won’t come close.”
This is a fair point. And, you know, really, after the bad week Jeb Bush just inflicted on the national political discourse, it does not seem so unfair to expect that Mr. Walker should be able to figure out that cowardice just doesn’t cut it.
Image note: Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, speaks during the South Carolina Freedom Summit hosted by Citizens United and Congressman Jeff Duncan in Greenville, South Carolina, U.S., on Saturday, May 9, 2015. The Freedom Summit brings grassroots activists from across South Carolina and the surrounding area to hear from conservative leaders and presidential hopefuls. Photogapher: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.
Haberman, Maggie. “Scott Walker Calls Himself ‘the Most Scrutinized Politician in America'”. First Draft. 19 May 2015.
Benen, Steve. “A flip-flop by any other name …”. msnbc. 21 May 2015.
One of the interesting things about news and commentary in the internet age is that bloggers have every reason to recycle their own material.
No, really, just think about it for a moment. Read a paragraph, and count the links:
If that is the game plan, it’s a flawed strategy. Walker couldn’t have been pleased with his recent missteps – on evolution, on the Boy Scouts, on air-traffic controllers, on ISIS, on Rudy Giuliani, on President Obama – which left him looking unprepared for national office.
Because that’s the other interesting thing about Steve Benen’s latest attempt to figure out what is going on with the Wisconsin Republican. It isn’t so much self-promotion as the fact that Walker just keeps serving it up. And it’s quite an impressive heap when you get right down to it.
Remember, Gov. Walker wants to be president.
Benen, Steve. “Scott Walker starts steering clear of reporters”. msnbc. 30 March 2015.
It would be difficult enough to construct an infraction scheme for our political discourse, but at some point Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) needs some time in the penalty box. After ducking obvious questions about evolution and the ravings of a madman, the Badger-in-chief has once again stared into the eyes of a straightforward question and buckled.
Dan Balz and Robert Costa of the Washington Post explain the latest fold:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a prospective Republican presidential contender, said Saturday he does not know whether President Obama is a Christian.
“I don’t know,” Walker said in an interview at the JW Marriott hotel in Washington, where he was attending the winter meeting of the National Governors Association.
Told that Obama has frequently spoken publicly about his Christian faith, Walker maintained that he was not aware of the president’s religion.
“I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that,” Walker said, his voice calm and firm. “I’ve never asked him that,” he added. “You’ve asked me to make statements about people that I haven’t had a conversation with about that. How [could] I say if I know either of you are a Christian?”
True, the proposition of “dog whistle” politics is always a sketchy one; we prefer to call it by its name, which is “bigoted” politics. But given an example of this basic function, it really is the proper indictment.
But here’s the thing. The governor responded that “this is a classic example of why people hate Washington and, increasingly, they dislike the press”, a point reiterated by spokeswoman Jocelyn Webster when she called the Washington Post to try to salvage the governor’s performance:
“Of course the governor thinks the president is a Christian,” she said. “He thinks these kinds of gotcha questions distract from what he’s doing as governor of Wisconsin to make the state better and make life better for people in his state.”
Mr. Walker and his staff, including Ms. Webster, need to recognize that they are asking to play at the highest valence of American politics, and cheap excuses are unproductive. To explain it as simply as possible for both their benefits: When the eventual answer is, “Of course he thinks ____”, it would behoove the candidate to say so in the first place.
And this is where the dog whistles come in. (more…)
“And so, when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) arrived in London yesterday, there was a lingering fear: how exactly would he manage to screw this up? Now we know.”
No, seriously, I’ll bite: How does this keep happening?
First, Ned Simons of Huffington Post:
Speaking at the Chatham House foreign policy think tank London, Walker was asked: “Are you comfortable with the idea of evolution? Do you believe in it?”
“For me, I am going to punt on that one as well,” he said. “That’s a question politicians shouldn’t be involved in one way or another. I am going to leave that up to you. I’m here to talk about trade, not to pontificate about evolution.”
There are a few things here. The first is that it’s London. The second is to note the host’s disbelief; perhaps Americans don’t realize just how strange our evolution debate sounds to our friends and neighbors around the world, such that there is a reason our homegrown Creationists find international kinship among various religious groups we tend to worry about for any number of reasons derived from their theological justifications. Additionally, Walker’s decision to punt reflects a reasonable calculation within the American political context, but that point only highlights the glaring question of what role fundamentalist myth has in asserting reality under law.
Sometimes amid the noise and bluster we might feel an angry impulse toward something that seems almost absurd by comparison. Yet it also seems inevitable that there is a lesson waiting to be learned. Eric Lewis reminds us of something very, very important that happened this week; the United States is moving back toward its very own manned space program.
But no. We can’t possibly pause to celebrate that, can we? Because we’re all too busy giving attention-hungry cops exactly the sort of sycophantic celebrity they’re after.
It is worth noting that controversial professor Leonard Jeffries used to denounce the space program as an effort by white people to spread their filth across the Universe. It’s only about a quarter-century later, and perhaps the most disgraceful thing about that rhetorical temper tantrum is the effort American society has devoted to proving it true.
Space exploration is something to be celebrated; getting the hell off its rock is one of the fundamental purposes of the living endeavor. This arrangement of matter and energy can last as long as the Universe itself allows, unless Life destroys itself first. Yet Lewis makes an important point: When the time comes, can we please leave the racism behind?
Everybody wins that way; the human endeavor can properly advance, and the hatemongers can finally start feeling like they’ve got a place to call home. And when they look around at the wreck of whatever is left, they can celebrate that they finally got what they wanted, the whole trash heap of human existence on planet Earth all to themselves.
Evolution is supposed to coincide with progress. Oh, you romantic American rebels, you.