#GoogleGate explained

Peter Paul Rubens (authorship contested), Battaglia delle Amazzoni (1615)

When I read software engineer's James Damore's "manifesto", aptly titled Google's Ideological Echo Chamber, I fail to see many things. I'm sincerely flabbergasted, given my worldview, at not being able to find a single instance of "sexism", "biological determinism", "misogyny" or any other colorful expletive used by progressive radical egalitarians as a smear word. That's how different conceptual schemes can be once we exclude those who are being intellectually dishonest and have either not read the document or are deliberately misrepresenting it.

What I do see are the reasoned, balanced words of an intelligent young man who desires to simultaneously achieve both goals of truth and social justice at his workplace, with the best interests of his company in mind. I see a truly morally courageous individual who stood off against injustice as he saw it against a very different moral community from his own, which apparently happens to be having enormous influence in one of the most powerful companies on the planet. I can almost feel at times that he seemed to be walking on eggshells and wasn't as vocal as he could be.

How is this possible? How come the same document activates so wildly different semantic frames in different people? And who's right? Have I become so blind by my own cognitive biases to the point I'm missing that much bigotry and hatred?

I have a cluster of hypotheses to explain this mess. They are not novel; they are the coalescence of several different theoretical and empirical results. I'll briefly summarize on this post some of the arguments brought forth in my recent paper on political correctness.

First, we must assume that there exists a plurality of mutually inconsistent accounts of practical reason that human beings may enact. There is no "true and only" rationality; there are rationalities that fit different forms of life, infusing them with different aims and standards of success. Even on the same form of life, such as philosophical activity, we find competing and conflicting accounts of rationality [1].

But let us consider what is generally understood prototypically as "rationality", the like we expect to be expressed by bona fide philosophical and scientific cognition; this is a rationality of objectivity, guided by epistemic values such as empirical adequacy, internal consistency, predictive accuracy and explanatory power. With some exceptions such as constructive empiricists (that have some really nice arguments) and postmodern sociologists (that have some really underwhelming arguments), this type of reasoning deals fundamentally with a discourse that is truth-apt and truth stands as the supreme epistemic goal of this kind of rational inquiry.

But this is not the sort of rationality that is responsible for the crucifixion of James Damore. This is not the rationality being enacted by the so-called "social justice warriors."

Which rationality is it then? It all starts with this hypothesis: human beings are suckers for tribes [2],[3]. It's part of who we are. We relish ourselves into organizing (and re-organizing, and merging, and dissolving...) gangs, crews, bands, factions, congregations and the like; these are fractally expressed as families, political affiliations, religions, football teams, nationalities, army units and so on. Belonging to a social group is a fundamental source of well being for humans. No wonder then, given the importance it has on our lives, that a huge part of practical reason will be devoted to this setting.

Here enters the theory of identity-protective cognition [4], a realization of the expressivist account of rationality by philosopher Elizabeth Anderson [5].

The goal of this type of reasoning is not truth. It is securing the integrity of the group one belongs by defending its core beliefs and values with one's cognitive, affective and behavioral resources. This is manifested in many ways. Confirmation bias will rule that which reinforces the group's beliefs and values, and contrarian opinions can be easily interpreted as insults to the group's intellectual tradition. Adherents can become gratuitously aggressive against someone who disagrees with them in order to suppress dissenting thoughts. These are some of the aspects that make echo chambers and ideological uniformity so dangerous.

Progressive radical egalitarians have their own species of identity-protective cognition; here we have a rationality that aims at social justice and whose standards of success are non-epistemic values of political correctness such as inclusiveness, diversity, empathy and political uniformity.

The worldview of progressive radical egalitarians, I claim, has certain core beliefs which must be defended at all costs. I also hold it has an implicit underlying ethical principle which I've named the Generalized Difference Principle (GDP). This principle is inspired by a usage by philosopher of biology Neven Sesardić ([6], p.224) of the famous heuristic devised by political philosopher John Rawls in his monumental defense of liberal democracy [7].

According to the GDP, if you utter the statement that a population x fares statistically better than a population y with respect to a given mental trait M where both x and y are of the same social genus \cal G, where this leverage of x in comparison to y is partly genetic in origin and finally, where x is taken to be the dominant or oppressive group and y the marginalized or oppressed group, then your assertion exemplifies a class of immoral acts associated with \cal G.

To speak it more plainly: if men are stated to be the oppressors of women, then if you claim, for instance, that men have on average a greater interest to pursue STEM careers than women due to natural inclinations, then you are sexist. In the semantics of progressive radical egalitarian worldview, there exists a strong conflation of facts and values. "Sexism" isn't just outright discrimination; factual statements can be sexist as well (and "racist", "ableist", "homophobic", etc).

Violations of the GDP are taken to be grievous because they necessarily violate one of the core beliefs of PC adherents; a thesis I call anthropological mental egalitarianism, the denial of between-group differences in cognition, affect and behavior that is traceable to genetic factors and socioeconomically significant.

Violations of the GDP are evil. And for that, James Domare needed to be punished by the moral community hegemonic to Google.

James Damore has been "Summered"; he dared to mention the contemporary behavioral genetics and differential psychology behind sex differences in cognition, affect and behavior which is established by existing empirical evidence to be partly genetic in origin (see, for instance, [8], [9], [10], [11])

Progressive radical egalitarians are mental environmentalists. They hold that the between-group variation of socioeconomically valuable psychological traits to be exclusively environmental in origin.

Even if the means and medians of arbitrary psychological traits in men and women were the same (and we have empirical evidence suggesting they are not), this would still not be enough. One of the most important facts about our species is how different the phenotypical distributions for arbitrary traits are among the sexes. For instance, as a group, women display significantly lesser intra-sexual variability for arbitrary mental traits [12]. There are more men in both tails of the cognitive-affective-behavioral spectrum; for example, concerning general intelligence, there are both more cognitively impaired and delayed men as well as more intellectually gifted men. Why is that? My favorite hypothesis is powerful but deeply counter-intuitive; overwhelmingly, your ancestors have been female.

For the contemporary defenders of social justice, sex differences in cognition, affect and behavior need to be a hundred percent environmental in origin due to core beliefs of their worldview. It would not fare well for with the theory of social oppression under which if groups are economically unequal, it is because some privileged group is oppressing another marginalized group. If mental environmentalism is false, however, in the complete absence of discrimination, there could still be economic inequality due to natural talent - inequality would not simply be an artifact of "social construction."

For those who are interested, I refer to Section 4 of my paper where I explain these concepts in detail.

Are we to infer the executioners of James Damore who are deeply offended and angered by his words merely stupid and irrational people? Not at all. They are enacting perfectly the rationality of identity-protective cognition. They have very successfully attempted to preserve the mandatory narrative script of social oppression theory by purging the one who dissented against anthropological mental egalitarianism into unemployment and social ostracism.

[1] A. C. MacIntyre and A. C. Macintyre, Whose justice? which rationality?, Duckworth London, 1988.
[Bibtex]
@book{MacIntyre1988a,
author = {MacIntyre, Alasdair C. and Macintyre, Alasdair C.},
citeulike-article-id = {14412955},
posted-at = {2017-08-11 19:04:46},
priority = {2},
publisher = {Duckworth London},
title = {Whose justice? Which rationality?},
year = {1988}
}
[2] P. J. Richerson and R. Boyd, "The evolution of subjective commitment to groups: a tribal instincts hypothesis," Evolution and the capacity for commitment, vol. 3, pp. 186-220, 2001.
[Bibtex]
@article{Richerson2001a,
author = {Richerson, Peter J. and Boyd, Robert},
citeulike-article-id = {14412954},
journal = {Evolution and the Capacity for Commitment},
pages = {186--220},
posted-at = {2017-08-11 19:04:46},
priority = {2},
publisher = {Russell Sage Foundation New York},
title = {The evolution of subjective commitment to groups: A tribal instincts hypothesis},
volume = {3},
year = {2001}
}
[3] M. Van Vugt and J. H. Park, "The tribal instinct hypothesis," The psychology of prosocial behavior: group processes, intergroup relations, and helping, 2009.
[Bibtex]
@article{Vugt2009a,
author = {Van Vugt, Mark and Park, Justin H.},
citeulike-article-id = {14412953},
journal = {The psychology of prosocial behavior: Group processes, intergroup relations, and helping},
posted-at = {2017-08-11 19:04:46},
priority = {2},
publisher = {Wiley-Blackwell Oxford, UK},
title = {The tribal instinct hypothesis},
year = {2009}
}
[4] D. M. Kahan, D. Braman, J. Gastil, P. Slovic, and C. K. Mertz, "Culture and identity-protective cognition: explaining the white-male effect in risk perception," Journal of empirical legal studies, vol. 4, iss. 3, pp. 465-505, 2007.
[Bibtex]
@article{Kahan2007a,
author = {Kahan, Dan M. and Braman, Donald and Gastil, John and Slovic, Paul and Mertz, C. K.},
citeulike-article-id = {14387375},
journal = {Journal of Empirical Legal Studies},
number = {3},
pages = {465--505},
posted-at = {2017-07-03 19:35:46},
priority = {2},
publisher = {Wiley Online Library},
title = {Culture and identity-protective cognition: Explaining the white-male effect in risk perception},
volume = {4},
year = {2007}
}
[5] E. Anderson, Value in ethics and economics, Harvard University Press, 1995.
[Bibtex]
@book{Anderson1995a,
author = {Anderson, Elizabeth},
citeulike-article-id = {14387372},
posted-at = {2017-07-03 19:35:46},
priority = {2},
publisher = {Harvard University Press},
title = {Value in ethics and economics},
year = {1995}
}
[6] N. Sesardic, Making sense of heritability, Cambridge University Press, 2005.
[Bibtex]
@book{Sesardic2005a,
author = {Sesardic, Neven},
citeulike-article-id = {14387480},
posted-at = {2017-07-03 19:35:48},
priority = {2},
publisher = {Cambridge University Press},
title = {Making sense of heritability},
year = {2005}
}
[7] J. Rawls, Political liberalism, Columbia University Press, 1993.
[Bibtex]
@book{Rawls1993a,
author = {Rawls, John},
citeulike-article-id = {14387339},
posted-at = {2017-07-03 19:35:45},
priority = {2},
publisher = {Columbia University Press},
title = {Political Liberalism},
year = {1993}
}
[8] Sex differences in the brain: from genes to behavior, J. B. Becker, K. J. Berkley, N. Geary, E. Hampson, J. P. Herman, and E. Young, Eds., Oxford University Press, 2007.
[Bibtex]
@book{Becker2007a,
citeulike-article-id = {14412956},
editor = {Becker, Jill B. and Berkley, Karen J. and Geary, Nori and Hampson, Elizabeth and Herman, James P. and Young, Elizabeth},
posted-at = {2017-08-11 19:04:46},
priority = {2},
publisher = {Oxford University Press},
title = {Sex Differences in the Brain: from Genes to Behavior},
year = {2007}
}
[9] D. P. Schmitt, A. Realo, M. Voracek, and J. Allik, "Why can't a man be more like a woman? sex differences in big five personality traits across 55 cultures.," Journal of personality and social psychology, vol. 94, iss. 1, p. 168, 2008.
[Bibtex]
@article{Schmitt2008a,
author = {Schmitt, David P. and Realo, Anu and Voracek, Martin and Allik, J{\"{u}}ri},
citeulike-article-id = {14387350},
journal = {Journal of personality and social psychology},
number = {1},
pages = {168},
posted-at = {2017-07-03 19:35:45},
priority = {2},
publisher = {American Psychological Association},
title = {Why can't a man be more like a woman? Sex differences in Big Five personality traits across 55 cultures.},
volume = {94},
year = {2008}
}
[10] T. C. Ngun, N. Ghahramani, F. J. Sánchez, S. Bocklandt, and E. Vilain, "The genetics of sex differences in brain and behavior," Frontiers in neuroendocrinology, vol. 32, iss. 2, pp. 227-246, 2011.
[Bibtex]
@article{Ngun2011a,
author = {Ngun, Tuck C. and Ghahramani, Negar and S{\'{a}}nchez, Francisco J. and Bocklandt, Sven and Vilain, Eric},
citeulike-article-id = {14387348},
journal = {Frontiers in neuroendocrinology},
number = {2},
pages = {227--246},
posted-at = {2017-07-03 19:35:45},
priority = {2},
publisher = {Elsevier},
title = {The genetics of sex differences in brain and behavior},
volume = {32},
year = {2011}
}
[11] A. N. V. Ruigrok, G. Salimi-Khorshidi, M. Lai, S. Baron-Cohen, M. V. Lombardo, R. J. Tait, and J. Suckling, "A meta-analysis of sex differences in human brain structure," Neuroscience & biobehavioral reviews, vol. 39, pp. 34-50, 2014.
[Bibtex]
@article{Ruigrok2014a,
author = {Ruigrok, Amber N. V. and Salimi-Khorshidi, Gholamreza and Lai, Meng-Chuan and Baron-Cohen, Simon and Lombardo, Michael V. and Tait, Roger J. and Suckling, John},
citeulike-article-id = {14387351},
journal = {Neuroscience \& Biobehavioral Reviews},
pages = {34--50},
posted-at = {2017-07-03 19:35:45},
priority = {2},
publisher = {Elsevier},
title = {A meta-analysis of sex differences in human brain structure},
volume = {39},
year = {2014}
}
[12] A. Lehre, K. P. Lehre, P. Laake, and N. C. Danbolt, "Greater intrasex phenotype variability in males than in females is a fundamental aspect of the gender differences in humans," Developmental psychobiology, vol. 51, iss. 2, pp. 198-206, 2009.
[Bibtex]
@article{Lehre2009a,
author = {Lehre, Anne-Catherine and Lehre, Knut P. and Laake, Petter and Danbolt, Niels C.},
citeulike-article-id = {14387354},
journal = {Developmental psychobiology},
number = {2},
pages = {198--206},
posted-at = {2017-07-03 19:35:45},
priority = {2},
publisher = {Wiley Online Library},
title = {Greater intrasex phenotype variability in males than in females is a fundamental aspect of the gender differences in humans},
volume = {51},
year = {2009}
}

Can numbers be racist?

It appears to be the case - at least according to historian Sarah E. Bond, an expert in Classical Studies. In her essay Why We Need to Start Seeing the Classical World in Color, Professor Bond claims that the cephalic index is racist.

But what is the cephalic index? Every metazoan from a lineage that endured cephalization (that is, every animal with a head) potentially exhibits a cephalic index. The cephalic index is defined as the ratio of the width of a head times a hundred divided by the length of the same head.

Heads evolved at least four times in our planet (taken from Berkeley's excellent Understanding Evolution)

From the point of view of orthodox dimensional analysis, the cephalic index [CI] is a dimensionless quantity expressed through the formula [CI]=\frac{a L}{L} where:

  • The coefficient a is a real number conventionally fixed as 100
  • L is the base or fundamental quantity "length"
  • As it is commonly taught, the operation of division is said to "cancel out" the dimension "length" (L) of the numerator with another of its instance in the denominator and thus we say that the cephalic index is "dimensionless".

    The numerical value of dimensionless quantities remains invariant under different representation standards (for instance, using inches instead of centimeters to calculate a certain cephalic index). Dimensionless quantities are typically simply identified with real numbers. These numbers are deemed to be "pure", that is, unitless, devoid of dimensional content. So claiming that the cephalic index is racist is claiming that pure numbers can be racist.

    But I digress; if we were to only acknowledge established orthodoxy, the world would become boring really fast. The fact of the matter is that there appears to be something really troubling going on conceptually with the readied identification of dimensionless quantities with real numbers (see for instance Chapter 10 of [1] and Chapter 5 of [2]). Cephalic indexes in some ways are like angles; both are features defined as the ratio of two lengths. But despite being prototypically "dimensionless", angles are similar to quantities such as times, lengths, masses and resistances in that they can be extensively measured. And we also liberally assign units such as radians and degrees to angles. No wonder Krantz et al. aptly named angles "the bastard quantity of dimensional analysis". This leads to quirky characterizations; for instance, the late dimensional analysis theorist Ain Sonin [3] took angles to be dimensionless quantities that were also derived from the base quantity of length. Some modern treatments of dimensional analysis frown upon tradition and openly include the dimension of angle \alpha side by side with other base quantities [4].

    Similar vexations happen with a large number of quantities sporting obvious empirical significance which are expressed logarithmically and thus, by default, dimensionless. This standard narrative of dimensionless quantities and pure numbers is troublesome when one investigates the formal semantics of these features under measurement theory.

    But back to our original issue; even if the cephalic index is not a "pure" number, this hardly improves the case that it is "racist". Everything with a head exhibits a cephalic index and the cephalic index has reliably tracked real patterns in the behavior and cognition of metazoans hundreds of millions of years before the first human being displayed enmity towards conspecifics.

    [1] D. Luce, D. Krantz, P. Suppes, and A. Tversky, Foundations of measurement, vol. i: additive and polynomial representations, New York Academic Press, 1971.
    [Bibtex]
    @book{Suppes1971a,
    author = {Luce, Duncan and Krantz, David and Suppes, Patrick and Tversky, Amos},
    citeulike-article-id = {13531614},
    posted-at = {2015-03-02 22:50:45},
    priority = {2},
    publisher = {New York Academic Press},
    title = {Foundations of Measurement, Vol. I: Additive and polynomial representations},
    year = {1971}
    }
    [2] L. Narens, Theories of meaningfulness, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002.
    [Bibtex]
    @book{Narens2002a,
    author = {Narens, Louis},
    citeulike-article-id = {13531638},
    posted-at = {2015-03-02 22:50:46},
    priority = {2},
    publisher = {Lawrence Erlbaum Associates},
    series = {Scientific Psychology Series},
    title = {Theories of Meaningfulness},
    year = {2002}
    }
    [3] A. A. Sonin, "The physical basis of dimensional analysis," Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2001.
    [Bibtex]
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    author = {Sonin, Ain A.},
    citeulike-article-id = {13531648},
    institution = {Massachusetts Institute of Technology},
    posted-at = {2015-03-02 22:50:46},
    priority = {2},
    title = {The Physical Basis of Dimensional Analysis},
    year = {2001}
    }
    [4] J. C. Gibbings, Dimensional analysis, Springer Science & Business Media, 2011.
    [Bibtex]
    @book{Gibbings2011a,
    author = {Gibbings, John C.},
    citeulike-article-id = {14387318},
    posted-at = {2017-07-03 19:35:45},
    priority = {2},
    publisher = {Springer Science \& Business Media},
    title = {Dimensional analysis},
    year = {2011}
    }

    A Tale Of Two Sciences

    Wildebeest in the savannah

    Here is the tale of two researchers - an ethologist and a critical race theorist.

    The ethologist is studying certain classes of sociobiological phenomena, displays of interspecific aggression in the savannah ecosystem of the African continent.

    He posits that wildebeests cannot be agonistic towards lions because wildebeests lie in a lower trophic level than lions.

    At the same time, the critical race theorist is also studying certain classes of sociobiological phenomena; displays of intraspecific aggression in the anthropogenic biomes of the North American continent.

    He posits that human populations of Amerindian, African, East Eurasian and Oceanic descent cannot be racist towards a certain population of West Eurasian descent because they lie in a lower level of "institutional power" than these very West Eurasians.

    The researchers then show their results to their colleagues.

    The normative biologist receives scorn and ridicule for his spurious ad hoc reasoning and is never to be seen again in his faculty.

    The normative sociologist not only receives praise and respect for his insight but his statement enters public discourse and becomes common sense.

    Why?

    No Life Without Perception

    pleurosigmasalinarum
    To be alive is to perceive

    To be alive implies an ecological niche. An ecological niche is the set of available opportunities of adaptive behavior of a given living organism [1].

    From the point of view of ecological psychology, perception is the non-inferential exploitation of organismically-accessible information to guide action [2] [3].

    A lurking assumption in the evolutionary narrative of standard cognitive science is that perception is a subsequent adaptation of living organisms. This is a mistake. Perception is a condition of possibility of any adaptative behavior. As ecological psychologist Gregory Burton [4] aptly puts it:

    The evolution of perception is implicitly assumed to be driven by the mutation of bodily interfaces into special bodily interfaces that seek particular physical aspects of the world and translate the data collected to some abstract format.

    This default position conflates the evolution of specialized energy transducers in given species with the emergence of perception itself. Perception, however, is much more basic and can be accomplished in the absence of any sensory neuron.

    A structured ambient array of energy is available to any living organism. Different species differ in their capability to exploit the structured information of this ambient array; they are are more or less keen in the detection and registration of different ecological invariants according to the niche.

    Take the lowly Halobacterium salinarum. It is equipped with photoresponsive proteins and tracks both the levels of oxygen and sunlight to format their metabolism hours in advance, maximizing energy output by the effective switching from an oxic to an anoxic physiological mode [5].

    We can go on and move much further into the borderlands of Life. A roaming bacteriophage could be said to be imbued with the most rudimentary kind of haptic perception, one that becomes active once the virus stops randomly roaming in viscous Brownian fluid and attaches itself to the cellular wall of its prokaryotic prey.

    A view of this sort raises several interesting philosophical consequences. To mention one, if Tony Chemero's phenomenological realism holds, where all perceptual content is conscious content, we are led into what we may call biopanpsychism, the thesis that all life is conscious.

    J. J. Gibson himself would most likely disagree with this the way I interpret some of his writings; conscious experience depends on a certain egocentric perspective which is inaccessible to most life forms [2], [6].

    References

    [1] J. J. Gibson, The ecological approach to visual perception, Psychology Press, 1979.
    [Bibtex]
    @book{Gibson1979a,
    author = {Gibson, James J.},
    citeulike-article-id = {12534786},
    posted-at = {2013-07-30 07:13:10},
    priority = {2},
    publisher = {Psychology Press},
    title = {The Ecological Approach To Visual Perception},
    year = {1979}
    }
    [2] J. J. Gibson, The senses considered as perceptual systems, Houghton Mifflin, 1966.
    [Bibtex]
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    author = {Gibson, James J.},
    citeulike-article-id = {13531654},
    posted-at = {2015-03-02 22:50:46},
    priority = {2},
    publisher = {Houghton Mifflin},
    title = {The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems},
    year = {1966}
    }
    [3] A. Chemero, Radical embodied cognitive science, The MIT Press, 2009.
    [Bibtex]
    @book{Chemero2009a,
    author = {Chemero, Anthony},
    citeulike-article-id = {12534923},
    posted-at = {2013-07-30 07:13:13},
    priority = {2},
    publisher = {The MIT Press},
    title = {Radical Embodied Cognitive Science},
    year = {2009}
    }
    [4] G. Burton, "Non-Neural extensions of haptic sensitivity," Ecological psychology, vol. 2, iss. 5, pp. 105-124, 1993.
    [Bibtex]
    @article{Burton1993a,
    author = {Burton, Gregory},
    citeulike-article-id = {13531658},
    journal = {Ecological Psychology},
    number = {5},
    pages = {105--124},
    posted-at = {2015-03-02 22:50:46},
    priority = {2},
    title = {{Non-Neural} Extensions of Haptic Sensitivity},
    volume = {2},
    year = {1993}
    }
    [5] K. Whitehead, M. Pan, K. ichi Masumura, R. Bonneau, and N. S. Baliga, "Diurnally entrained anticipatory behavior in archaea," Plos one, vol. 4, iss. 5, 2009.
    [Bibtex]
    @article{Whitehead2009a,
    author = {Whitehead, Kenia and Pan, Min and ichi Masumura, Ken and Bonneau, Richard and Baliga, Nitin S.},
    citeulike-article-id = {13531657},
    journal = {PLoS ONE},
    number = {5},
    posted-at = {2015-03-02 22:50:46},
    priority = {2},
    title = {Diurnally Entrained Anticipatory Behavior in Archaea},
    volume = {4},
    year = {2009}
    }
    [6] J. J. Gibson, "Are there sensory qualities of objects?," Synthese, vol. 19, iss. 3, pp. 408-409, 1969.
    [Bibtex]
    @article{Gibson1969a,
    author = {Gibson, James J.},
    citeulike-article-id = {13559285},
    journal = {Synthese},
    number = {3},
    pages = {408--409},
    posted-at = {2015-03-24 08:13:29},
    priority = {2},
    publisher = {Springer},
    title = {Are there sensory qualities of objects?},
    volume = {19},
    year = {1969}
    }