- The American Conservative - http://www.theamericanconservative.com -

James Damore, Diversity Martyr

David Brooks says that just about everybody involved in the James Damore debacle — including Damore himself — could have handled themselves better. But Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, was worst of all. [1] Excerpt:

The mob that hounded Damore was like the mobs we’ve seen on a lot of college campuses. We all have our theories about why these moral crazes are suddenly so common. I’d say that radical uncertainty about morality, meaning and life in general is producing intense anxiety. Some people embrace moral absolutism in a desperate effort to find solid ground. They feel a rare and comforting sense of moral certainty when they are purging an evil person who has violated one of their sacred taboos.

Which brings us to Pichai, the supposed grown-up in the room. He could have wrestled with the tension between population-level research and individual experience. He could have stood up for the free flow of information. Instead he joined the mob. He fired Damore and wrote [2], “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not O.K.”

That is a blatantly dishonest characterization of the memo. Damore wrote nothing like that about his Google colleagues. Either Pichai is unprepared to understand the research (unlikely), is not capable of handling complex data flows (a bad trait in a C.E.O.) or was simply too afraid to stand up to a mob.

Regardless which weakness applies, this episode suggests he should seek a nonleadership position. We are at a moment when mobs on the left and the right ignore evidence and destroy scapegoats. That’s when we need good leaders most.

Conor Friedersdorf is appalled [3] by how so many in the media have been outright lying in the way they frame the Damore memo. Excerpts:

Every prominent instance of journalism that proceeds with less than normal rigor when the subject touches on social justice feeds a growing national impulse to dismiss everything published about these subjects—even important, rigorous, accurate articles. Large swathes of the public now believe the mainstream media is more concerned with stigmatizing wrong-think and being politically correct than being accurate. The political fallout from this shift has been ruinous to lots of social-justice causes—causes that would thrive in an environment in which the public accepted the facts.

More:

I cannot remember the last time so many outlets and observers mischaracterized so many aspects of a text everyone possessed.

Casually perusing “anti-diversity” headlines without reading the memo might mislead readers into thinking a Google employee had assigned a negative value to gender diversity, when in fact he assigned a positive value to gender diversity, but objected to some ways it was being pursued and tradeoffs others would make to maximize it.

The distinction is not insignificant, especially as some news reports mentioned that some at Google agreed with the memo. Many people might prefer to have colleagues with the actual views of the memo’s author, however objectionable or wrongheaded they find those views, rather than work alongside colleagues who believe that the presence of women at the company is a net negative, and want a future in which only men are recruited and employed there. Coverage that conflates those perspectives ill-serves even readers who would object to both views, but who do not see them as remotely equivalent. And it doesn’t capture the contents of a memo which concludes, “I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more.”

If anything good is to come of the broad public circulation of this story, news outlets must do a better job of accurately characterizing the memo’s contents—I’ve seen numerous mischaracterizations that would lead readers to believe that women had been attacked or disparaged in ways that the text of the memo does not actually bear out.

At Heterodox Academy, Sean Stevens and Jonathan Haidt survey in depth the science behind Damore’s claims, [4] and conclude:

The research findings are complicated, as you can see from the many abstracts containing both red and green text, and from the presence on both sides of the debate of some of the top researchers in psychology. Nonetheless, we think that the situation can be greatly clarified by distinguishing abilities from interests. We think the following three statements are supported by the research reviewed above:

1. Gender differences in math/science ability, achievement, and performance are small or nil.* (See especially the studies by Hyde; see also this review paper by Spelke, 2005 [5]). The one exception to this statement seems to be spatial abilities, such as the ability to rotate 3-dimensional objects in one’s mind. This ability may be relevant in some areas of engineering, but it’s not clear why it would matter for coding. Thus, the large gender gap in coding (and in tech in general) cannot be explained as resulting to any substantial degree from differences in ability between men and women.

2. Gender differences in interest and enjoyment of math, coding, and highly “systemizing” activities are large. The difference on traits related to preferences for “people vs. things” is found consistently and is very large, with some effect sizes exceeding 1.0. (See especially the meta-analyses by Su and her colleagues, and also see this review paper by Ceci & Williams, 2015 [6]).

3. Culture and context matter, in complicated ways. Some gender differences have decreased over time as women have achieved greater equality, showing that these differences are responsive to changes in culture and environment. But the cross-national findings sometimes show “paradoxical” effects: progress toward gender equality in rights and opportunities sometimes leads to larger gender differences [7] in some traits and career choices. Nonetheless, it seems that actions taken today by parents, teachers, politicians, and designers of tech products may increase the likelihood that girls will grow up to pursue careers in tech, and this is true whether or not biology plays a role in producing any particular population difference. (See this review paper by Eagly and Wood, 2013 [8]).

Our verdict on Damore’s memo: Damore is correct that there are “population level differences in distributions” of traits that are likely to be relevant for understanding gender gaps at Google. Even if we set aside all questions about the origins of these differences, the fact remains that there are gender differences in a variety of traits, and especially in interest/enjoyment (rather than ability) in the adult population from which Google and all other tech firms recruit.

This distinction between ability and interest is extremely important because it may lay to rest  one of the main fears raised by Damore’s critics: that the memo itself will cause Google employees to assume that women are less qualified, or less “suited” for tech jobs, and will therefore lead to more bias against women in tech jobs. But the empirical evidence we have reviewed should have the opposite effect. Population differences in interest may be part of the explanation for why there are fewer women in the applicant pool, but the women who choose to enter the pool are just as capable as the larger number of men in the pool. This conclusion does not deny that various forms of bias, harassment, and discouragement exist and contribute to outcome disparities, nor does it imply that the differences in interest are biologically fixed and cannot be changed in future generations.

If our three conclusions are correct (and we grant that they are open to debate), then Damore was drawing attention to empirical findings that seem to have been previously unknown or ignored at Google, and which might be helpful to the company as it tries to improve its diversity policies and outcomes.  What should Google’s response to the memo have been?

That’s a good post, with lots of links to scientific papers.

Blind, an anonymous chat app, surveyed over 4,000 employees of Silicon Valley companies in the wake of Damore’s firing to see where they stood on it. Fifty-six percent of the Google employees who participated in the survey oppose Damore’s firing. [9] True, this survey was voluntary, and is therefore scientifically meaningless, but it does make you wonder how many people within Google are upset with what was done to Damore, but who now know that they must keep their mouths shut if they want to avoid the same fate.

Damore’s great sin here was in saying out loud things that may be true, or at least well within the bounds of debate, but not popular within his social environment. In every office I’ve worked in that had diversity programs, grumblers — and they weren’t all conservatives, believe me — knew very well to keep their criticism to themselves. They knew that the justification for these particular diversity programs had very little to do with facts or logic, and everything to do with an ideology held by the leadership class with a fervor and an unfalsifiability that can only be described as religious. If you questioned it, no matter how solid the grounds of your questions might be, you would instantly draw attention to yourself as a likely racist, sexist, and so forth.

Damore didn’t understand this. The poor fool apparently thought that by saying explicitly in the memo that he favors diversity, and that racism and sexism are real, and must be fought — he thought that that would protect him. What he criticized in his memo was the means by which Google was pursuing diversity. And he also criticized Google’s “ideological echo chamber” that made rational discussion of ideas and analyses that conflict with progressive ideology impossible.

Which Google subsequently vindicated.

Here’s Damore’s memo in full. [10] If you have not read it, and read it carefully, and are going only by media reports of what it allegedly said, educate yourself. The media is part of the same ideological echo chamber as Google. When it comes to matters of cultural and religious conflicts, I have no trust at all in the mainstream media to report fairly and accurately. Bill Keller, formerly the executive editor of The New York Times, said in 2011 that the paper tries to play it straight in its coverage of every field except social issues [11], where it consciously slants things to the left. I don’t think the Times is different from any other major media outlet on this. In general, when it comes to these issues, journalists think that they are fighting evil. As one of my Dallas Morning News colleagues told me a decade ago, when I questioned our newspaper’s fairness in its coverage of the gay marriage issue: “If we were covering the civil rights movement, do you think we ought to give equal time to the Klan?” He was serious.

The unwillingness of people to confront truths that complicate or confound our preferred narratives is universal. It’s not a left or a right thing; I’ve had incredibly frustrating conversations with fellow conservatives who were absolutely immune to logic or facts that contradicted their prejudices. Today, in this emotivist culture, we allow feelings to drive out reason. A couple of days ago I was driving and listening to NPR, and heard host Audie Cornish interviewing [12] a couple of black filmmakers who did a documentary about the riots in Ferguson. This passage struck me:

CORNISH: Did you end up talking to the police or the mayor? And if so, why didn’t you include them in the film?

FOLAYAN: Yeah, we definitely did. We interviewed the mayor twice. We interviewed one of the police chiefs. We interviewed retired officers, the city manager. Ultimately none of those folks were really willing or able to break out of their talking points. And we felt like we could use this platform better by showing real human stories.

CORNISH: Well, one of the consequences of that are people kind of questioning the objectivity, so to speak, of the film. And I know, Sabaah, you’ve said that the film’s a recognition that facts and truth are not the same thing. What did you mean by that?

FOLAYAN: You can find a fact to prove almost any point that you want, but I think that there is a truth that resonates. It’s a truth that you can feel. It can’t always be articulated in words. It can’t always be encapsulated with numbers, but you know it because it resonates. And I think that’s why this film resonates with people. I think that’s what we were really trying to get at with telling this story – is going deeper than the numbers and getting to that real human space.

Remarkable. They wouldn’t let city and police officials give their side of the story in the film, and they discarded or ignored facts that got in the way of the “truth that you can feel.”

That debased hermeneutic explains James Damore’s defenestration, I think.

UPDATE: A reader comments:

I am a Googler and a longtime reader of your blog. This week has been, as you can imagine, somewhat stressful. I’ve been obsessively following events and reactions, but I’m wise enough not to talk about it at the office. There’s work to do…who wants to risk a distracting blowup?

Still, it’s clear that something fundamental has shifted in company culture. Google has always prided itself on its “flat” organization: employees have an extraordinary amount of freedom to question authority, voice their opinions and pursue their own initiatives. At the weekly town-halls, rank-and-file employees regularly challenge the founders and executives with an amazing lack of deference. The price of transparency within is opacity without. We are regularly warned not to share information with outsiders.

The leak of James Damore’s memo was like a pebble through the wall of the aquarium (thrown from inside by a fish, somehow!). This started a trickle of leaks; internal chats started appearing on external sites–mostly far-right sites, it seems, but perhaps also on the SJW left. The trickle has now become a cascade. Every private internal communication on this subject becomes public within minutes.

Perhaps it was unrealistic to expect that a company of seventy-thousand could operate like a secret brotherhood (er, brother-and-sisterhood, that is!). Still, it’s demoralizing. That sense of demoralization is the most palpable emotion on campus.

122 Comments (Open | Close)

122 Comments To "James Damore, Diversity Martyr"

#1 Comment By connecticut farmer On August 12, 2017 @ 9:44 am

“I’d say that radical uncertainty about morality, meaning and life in general is producing intense anxiety”–David Brooks (NY Times)

I totally agree and believe that Brooks is definitely on to something here. If so, then we can expect that the anxiety level will ratchet up even more as the Judeo-Christian ethos continues to recede to the background.

#2 Comment By Shane On August 12, 2017 @ 10:05 am

If I released an internal memo at my company arguing that women were on average less capable than men at the work we do and that we would never get to the bottom of this diversity thing until everyone acknowledged that point I would have ruined forever relationships with people that I need to work with. I wouldn’t expect to keep my job.

Not denying there are in fact differences between sexes or saying the diversity programs at Google were beyond criticism. Maybe he shouldn’t have been fired, I don’t know, but Google is first a business and Damore put them in an impossible situation.

You’ve managed to get an entire week’s worth of blogging out of this with nothing more intelligent to add than Google is evil. Give it a rest.

#3 Comment By G Harvey On August 12, 2017 @ 11:08 am

RE: Robert Levine on Lisa Durden and Essex County Juco in NJ.

The glaring problem with his post is that it is set up to lead readers to assume that Essex Co College is run by a host of Conservatives. But the odds against that are at least 75-1. Only a small number, very small, of the church colleges in America are controlled by conservatives. For example, almost all SBC colleges are controlled by people who are on the more Liberal third, certainly half, of the denomination.

So no state run college in ultra Liberal NJ is going to be run even by Moderates.

The Lisa Durden case is yet another about the Left cannibalizing its own. It takes no great mind to assume that the Liberals who canned her do not back blacks re-segregating.

#4 Comment By G Harvey On August 12, 2017 @ 11:11 am

@Shane

And if you ran a business in the USSR and sent a memo suggesting that Marxist economics was certain to fail by bankrupting the entire country, your career would have been burnt toast.

But you would have told the truth.

#5 Comment By CMPT On August 12, 2017 @ 12:32 pm

Rod: “NFR: “Propagates gender stereotypes”. Pfuh. What if they are true?”

Legally, it doesn’t matter if a stereotype is true; its propagation still may constitute illegal discrimination. It’s very easy to understand why if one is willing to look at the issue dispassionately.

A stereotype is a fixed and widely believed view of a group. Most stereotypes do not develop out of thin air. Instead, they usually come into existence because enough members of the group have exhibited a particular behavior at some point to cause others to believe the majority of the group shares that behavior. It very well may be true that the majority shares that behavior, which means the stereotype is more likely than not to be true for any individual from that group.

A common stereotype of blacks is that they are frequently late to appointments. Let’s assume for the moment that that stereotype is true. We would be concerned if the HR department of a company says to a newly hired black employee, “We know that black people are typically late to appointments so I just want to remind you that it’s important for you to come to work on time each day. Because you are black, you may even need to set your alarm clock earlier than your white co-workers just to be safe.”

Now, let’s assume that new black employee is on time for his first day of work and everyday his first week. Nevertheless at the end of each day his white co-workers, because they like him and want him to succeed on the job, say to him, “It’s more likely than not that you will be late tomorrow because you are black so be sure to set your alarm early.” And, when the black employee shows up on time the next day, his co-workers commend him because they want to encourage him in his success on the job. And this continues day after day.

In this example, the black worker’s race did not stand in the way of him getting the job. And, everyone on the job was supportive; they genuinely tried to help him succeed. Nevertheless, it’s very easy to understand that this black worker would start to feel very uncomfortable on the job. We can understand how he might start to feel anxiety on the job – anxiety that, everything else being equal, he wouldn’t feel if he were white. Despite their intentions, we could even understand if this black worker started to think his co-workers considered him innately inferior because of his race. And, then, we could understand how that work environment might start to feel hostile to this black worker despite the fact that everyone has good intentions. That feeling of hostility could very well start to impact this black worker’s performance on the job.

This is a textbook example of race discrimination resulting in a hostile work environment. It is clearly illegal notwithstanding the fact that the stereotype is (for purposes of this hypothetical) true. If this black worker were to sue, he would certainly win. And, even if he chose not to sue, it’s certainly likely that his performance may start to deteriorate. For these reasons, his company has every reason to implement a policy against the propagation of racial stereotypes – even ones that are true.

Google, like just about every other company, has such a policy. Damore violated that policy – probably unintentionally, but we don’t know. That violation comes at a particularly sensitive time for Google in light of the suit against it for gender pay discrimination. The violation also caused a lot of consternation among the other employees. Google, like every other company that’s had an employee violate its policies, took action against Damore. It’s also worth pointing out that a failure by Google to punish Damore (in some form or another) would, itself, expose Google to legal liability.

None of this is new or unique. This is the way employment law works. And that is why I keep asking readers would not their employers also have taken some kind of adverse action against Damore. It’s easy to make Google into some giant SJW evildoer, but that is lazy and it misinforms. Depending on your ideology, it may feel good to do that, but it’s harmful to the discussion and to our politics.

#6 Comment By Perichoresis On August 12, 2017 @ 1:37 pm

CMPT: “Many people seem to believe that the correct and appropriate parts of Damore’s memo are a prophylactic for the wrong and inappropriate parts. There is no legal safe harbor for a memo that propagates gender stereotypes that accrue to the detriment of women in the workplace.”

A nonmanagement employee writing a memo about workplace diversity policy on an internal message board where employees regularly discuss such policies would appear to not only violate no law, but to fall under the protection of the National Labor Relations Act’s Section 7.

#7 Comment By Alex Brown On August 12, 2017 @ 3:12 pm

Lllurker says: Where on Earth did you find this garbage? Has your tinfoil hat rattled loose?
The Emerging Democratic Majority Paperback by John B. Judis (Author), Ruy Teixeira (Author)
[13]
Wonder where you’ve been llurking all these years. Just Google for followup. They DO plan to become PERMANENT, by any means necessary.

Siarlys Jenkins says: You haven’t read much Russian history, have you? – I have lived through it, thank you.

#8 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On August 12, 2017 @ 3:41 pm

The social justice warriors who have joined the boycott couldn’t tell you the difference between a tight end and a wide receiver and think football should be banned anyway due to its inherent violence, and now all this info about brain injuries playing a sport they never played.

I’m not talking about SJW’s. I’m talking about conservative Bible-believing African Americans who are in church every Sunday, have been known to talk about what good Christians John Ashbrook and George W. Bush are, have served 25 years or more in major urban police departments, have coached high school football, militantly oppose gay marriage, and are fanatically passionate about their football teams. You ever try to follow how DC area Redskins fans and DC area Cowboys fans talk to each other? (And some of them belong to the same churches).

SJW’s don’t buy NFL tickets or jerseys. Neither do I, so I candidly can’t boycott any part of it for any reason.

Well, Robert Levine, NOW you are starting to fill in the factual picture. You should have done that to begin with. I left things open because you left them open.

Indeed, it makes a difference if she was fired for actions or opinions. It also makes a difference if she said “speaking as a professor at Essex” or simply appeared as a citizen with a passionate opinion about something. Since you offered her case as a case in point, I pointed out different ways the case might trend.

#9 Comment By Pussilaminous On August 12, 2017 @ 4:47 pm

[NFR: Oh, for pity’s sake, if you cannot see the difference between the purpose of a church and the purpose of a corporation, I cannot possibly explain it to you. — RD]

My point is not that corporations and churches have the same purposes, but that the arguments used to criticize the pro-diversity ideology in play at Google should also apply to the anti-diversity arguments in play in Churches. Or, at the very least, they should not be used against Google when they are considered inapplicable to religion on the very same issues.

The point is that if scientific arguments are to be used to point out that notions of total equality among the sexes are simply not true (as Damone’s memo argued), which assume that such arguments ought to be persuasive, it should also be persuasive to point out that religious arguments about sex and gender are also contradicted by scientific research. If such arguments are used with the expectation that ideological supporters of diversty ought to change their views because of these facts, it’s also quite logical to expect the same of religious ideologues.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that both kinds of ideologues are wrong in many respects, and that their respective proponents refuse to admit this, because both approach these matters of life in a manner that does not allow for criticism or falsification or the admission of error. This goes to a previous post of yours that discusses the problem many religious people have in ever admitting error.

Religions are indeed different from corporations, but the value of using science to help see which of their claims are true or false applies to both. One may not be able to use science to verify or falsify claims immune to evidence, such as the existence of God or the Divinity of Jesus, but they certainly can be used to evaluate evidentiary claims about the age of the earth, the genesis and evolution of the physiology of sexual development, and the extent of differences between the sexes. To argue otherwise is to argue that science and evidence is simply not relevant to “truth”, if the truth is ideologically or theologically based in fundamental assumptions about the nature of reality, which if challenged deeply offends the believer.

This kind of thinking is of course not exclusive to religion. It is also evident in politics and culture, including the culture of corporations like Google. It’s important to make note of it wherever it appears. And if one criticizes a culture on that basis, one should be consistent in criticizing that pattern wherever it appear, including in one’s own culture of religion and faith.

[NFR: The fact that you cannot understand that a church and a corporation have different purposes, pursue different ends, makes it impossible for you to understand why your argument makes no sense. — RD]

#10 Comment By CMPT On August 12, 2017 @ 5:35 pm

Perichoresis: “A nonmanagement employee writing a memo about workplace diversity policy on an internal message board where employees regularly discuss such policies would appear to not only violate no law, but to fall under the protection of the National Labor Relations Act’s Section 7.”

Just to be clear, the writing and dissemination of the memo is not, by itself, a violation of any law. Only if the memo propagates gender stereotypes that result in another employee actually experiencing a hostile work environment would this conduct give rise to a claim for sex discrimination and, then, probably only against Google – not Damore. However, in order to prevent that chain of events from occurring Google, and just about all other companies, implement policies that prohibit the propagation of gender stereotypes.

Most companies also conduct training on these policies. I don’t know what type of training Google has or if Damore took that training, although I suspect he did. Most likely, that training goes over the policy against the perpetuation of gender stereotypes and why they are harmful in the workplace. The training would also, no doubt, inform employees that the violation of the company’s policy could result in termination.

So, while Damore may have not appreciated that the science he cited in his memo did not support the conclusions he formed, he was appropriately held accountable for violating company policy. Google will most likely be able to demonstrate he was informed of the company’s policy prohibiting the propagation of stereotypes, trained (probably annually) not to do that, but did it anyway in violation of the company’s policy – and that is why they terminated him.

With respect to Damore’s NRLA claim, I don’t know enough about that area to have an opinion. I will, however, say that I suspect Google’s Legal and HR departments know quite a bit about it. They also know much more than the public about any other company facts that would be relevant to their defense of a gender discrimination claim. I suspect, the decision to terminate Damore was made with full cognizance of all of that information.

#11 Comment By PacNW On August 12, 2017 @ 8:14 pm

I agree with this article. About this:

“They knew that the justification for these particular diversity programs had very little to do with facts or logic, and everything to do with an ideology held by the leadership class with a fervor and an unfalsifiability that can only be described as religious.”

For the leadership at companies, I think it is about not alienating large proportions of the customer base. It comes down to money. If the media report something that can be taken as negative in Google’s treatment of females, for example, a huge proportion of its customer base becomes at risk. Much better to continue an illogical diversity program than to cancel it.

#12 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On August 12, 2017 @ 10:41 pm

The point is that if scientific arguments are to be used to point out that notions of total equality among the sexes are simply not true (as Damone’s memo argued), which assume that such arguments ought to be persuasive, it should also be persuasive to point out that religious arguments about sex and gender are also contradicted by scientific research.

No, Pusillaminous, you’re wrong. The same arguments DO NOT apply. Religious arguments about sex are NOT contradicted by scientific research, because they are not based on empirical evidence or science.

Fundamentally, the Almighty Creator of the Universe is believed, in some traditions, to consider homosexual acts an offense against His Holy Name. There is no scientific evidence, any more than there is scientific evidence that God told Moses that Jews are not to eat pork, or the Angel Gabriel told Mohammed that Muslims are not to have contact with dogs or consume alcohol. You take it on faith, or you don’t.

If you do, and some people born with scientifically explained tendency to be sexually aroused by the bodies of their own sex do, then you don’t indulge, because you are faithful to God and accept this as a thorn in the flesh you must bear. If you don’t, nothing in the American constitutional framework mandates that you adhere to this religious taboo.

But don’t try to argue rationally against it, because it wasn’t rational to begin with. I have read a few attempts to reason out, so why IS God bent out of shape about homosexuality? Wesleyan Methodist columnist James Watkins took a good stab at it, offering the hypothesis that it takes the union of a man and a woman to recreate the full image of God, and two men, or two women, just aren’t that.

Of course, many same sex couples don’t particularly think of the purpose of marriage as recreating the image of God, and they don’t have to. What judgment they may face in the next life is conjectural, but I am content to leave it between them and God, if any. I am not called upon to interfere unduly in their life or life choices.

Siarlys Jenkins says: You haven’t read much Russian history, have you? – I have lived through it, thank you.

Come now, Alex Brown. You were alive and sentient in the period 1920-1930? My father wasn’t born until 1926, and he’s dead now.

#13 Comment By Dan Green On August 13, 2017 @ 8:19 pm

If the stat I heard is true or evenly nearly true, our pals at Google only have twenty percent of their employment filled by females. Either ladies don’t aspire to being a nerd or Google prefers totally absorbed nerds.

#14 Comment By Pussilaminous On August 14, 2017 @ 5:43 pm

[NFR: The fact that you cannot understand that a church and a corporation have different purposes, pursue different ends, makes it impossible for you to understand why your argument makes no sense. — RD]

The fact that you didn’t even read my post, which acknowledges in the VERY FIRST SENTENCE that the purposes of Churches and corporations are different, makes it impossible for you to understand my argument.

My argument is that the issue of whether something is true or not is universal, regardless of whether we are talking about a corporation, a church, a culture, or any other group of people who believe in something. If a proposition is true, it’s simply true, and if it’s false, it’s simply false. If either a corporation or a church holds a certain belief about sexuality and gender, it doesn’t become more or less true because it is a corporation or a church. If science can help us determine whether such propositions are true for corporations, they should also be able to help us determine whether the same kinds of propositions are true for churches. Because truth is truth regardless of who believes in it. And falsehood is still falsehood regardless of the same.

Do you actually disagree with that? Do you think things are true simply because the “right” sort of people espouse them? Do you think evidence has empirical evidence has nothing to do with the process of evaluating these truths? Or does it apply only to the things you don’t like, and the people and groups you don’t like?

#15 Comment By Pussilaminous On August 14, 2017 @ 6:03 pm

Siarlys,

Yes, I appreciate what you are trying to say. Science can’t tell us whether homosexuality is a sin against God. Claims like that are not refutable by science. By religion doesn’t stop there. It continues on to create a whole cosmology about sexuality which does, indeed, make all sorts of claims about the material, bodily reality that we humans inhabit. It claims, for example, that male and female are entirely distinct, that the male is all male, and the female is all female. This sort of claim is easily refuted by science, by biochemistry, but knowledge of how both male and female sex hormones exist in both men and women, and how the development of the body is powerfully influenced by those varying proportions and timing and other developmental factors. It can describe the process by which DNA governs this development and is influenced and expressed in a manner that is not at all coincident with, say, Biblical teachings. So it can demonstrate that the material cosmology of the Bible is a false one. It can’t comment on the spirit cosmology directly, but if it has gotten the material world wrong, it’s probably fair to say it’s gotten the spiritual side of the equation wrong also.

It’s similar to the question of the age of the earth. Scientists can’t say whether the universe was created by God or some entirely natural process, but it can say with a great deal of certainty that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and that the universe is about 13.5 billion years old, and that it didn’t come from separated waters above and below as described in Genesis. So the process and timing involved in the creation of the universe described by scriptures can indeed be evaluated by science as to whether they are true or false, even if the higher order claims cannot.

This has proven quite convincing not only to secularists, but to a great many religious believers over the last few centuries, as science has evolved its skillset. The Catholic Church no longer take Genesis literally, or pretends that Adam and Eve were real people from whom humanity descended. And yet, it still continues to promulgate various ideas about sexuality based on the Adam and Eve myth, even though they fly in the face of scientific fact. Give them time, however, and I think even they will begin to admit that these ideas are as inapplicable to the human, material world as the account of creation in Genesis.

And likewise, a great many religious people have begun to see these mythic notions about the world, and even about sex and gender and homosexuality, as having been at the very least strongly modified by scientific understanding. That’s one of the reasons even a lot of Christians now reject these traditional taboos and beliefs. So to a lot of people, science does indeed have the power to help even religion evaluate at least some important and strongly held beliefs.

So no, religion is not some kind of inviolable realm of pure faith that is immune to scientific evidence and understanding. I suppose there are indeed some people who still think that way, but their numbers are in fairly steep decline. I doubt you’re one of them, which is evidence that speaks for itself, is it not?

#16 Comment By ZGler On August 14, 2017 @ 6:06 pm

I’ve been reading his memo again. Complaining about some diversity training, mentoring opportunities and and recruiting aimed at helping women is such a “snowflake” thing to do at a campus where the engineers are so overwhelmingly male. I’m an engineer at a large company and I go through lots of mandatory training every quarter. Get over it.

Google is a very attractive company for a new graduate. They have their pick of the top engineering graduates, both male and female. If they want to make the place more attractive to women (both for recruiting and retention) via some outreach programs for women it hardly makes a dent in the opportunities for men. Women with good enough qualifications to get hired at Google are very, very good engineers. If they are a bit more teamwork-oriented or a bit shyer than their male coworkers, the team can use those differences to Google’s advantage.

A company as successful as Google doesn’t put policies into place that will cripple them. This whole affair is overblown.

#17 Comment By Pussilaminous On August 14, 2017 @ 6:26 pm

CMPT,

Damore’s memo does not violate the terms of Google’s company policy. It did not try to perpetuate gender stereotypes. It attempted to examine the facts about gender. It attempted to critique the company policies put in place on gender issues. He did so on a forum established by Google for the express purpose of critiquing and challenging the company’s policies and approach on every topic, without any warning that any discussion of diversity or gender issues were off-topic and would result in an employee being fired if they didn’t hew to their current ideas. The whole point of the employee forum was to give employees a place to deviate from and criticize Google’s various policies and projects.

I can understand the dilemma that Google’s execs found themselves in, where a portion of Google’s staff got very inflamed about the memo, and created a furor over it. But Damore did not do that. His memo was largly ignored when he first posted it. For almost a month, it got only a small amount of attention, and no one got all worked up about it. Ordinary discussion followed. Then, at some point it came to the attention of certain ideologically intense people at Google. And not because Damore was shoving it in their faces or demanding more attention. He wasn’t. It was a particular faction that inflamed the issue, and began attacking Damore, and then leaking it to the public to create a firestorm around the memo.

So really, who is responsible for this public relations disaster? Is it Damore, for daring to write the memo in the first place? Or is it those who attacked him so intensely, and spread it around, inflaming the issue until it became an embarrassment to Google? I’d have to say that it’s the second group, and that Damore is actually a victim of their attacks upon him. His memo was civil and reasoned. It may have been wrong, or it may have contained things in it that were wrong, but it was not in itself inflammatory or insulting. The inflammatory speech came from Damore’s critics. Shouldn’t they be the ones who ought to have been held accountable and disciplined for that? And yet, it was Damore who was fired, while they were applauded. Is it any wonder that a lot of people find this disparate treatment unfair?

#18 Comment By Pussilaminous On August 14, 2017 @ 6:42 pm

A policy — however wrongheaded — that does not affect the complainer’s ability to perform his or her job responsibilities is not a “workplace issue.”

If the diversity policy at Google does not affect anyone’s ability to perform their job at Google, why does it even exist? If it doesn’t improve work life at Google, that’s the very kind of policy and program that ought to be criticized, and done away with, don’t you think. If the diversity program was created to address workplace issues, it ought to be a fair topic of discussion and criticism on this employee feedback forum. You can’t have it both ways.

Of course we know that it is claimed by Google that their diversity program does indeed affect work performance at Google. The claim is that it improves it. Damore’s memo question this, suggesting that it does not, that it actually degrades it, or wastes time and resources that could be better directed elsewhere. Did you even read it?

#19 Comment By Brendan from Oz On August 15, 2017 @ 2:15 am

“If a proposition is true, it’s simply true, and if it’s false, it’s simply false.”

There are such things as Undecidable Propositions (see Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem on which all IT is based) in formal logic.

It’s all a bit more complex than that. And that’s formal logic, which doesn’t apply in all fields (universality).

But the fact that Logic is not based on Man is Measure of All Things or Cultural Constructivism, but a rejection of such notions in favour of an infinitely unknowable mystery as Uncaused First Cause is at least an historical fact.

And pretty much all of “hard” science is a study of energy with logic, which also comes from Aristotle’s Metaphysics which shows the logical necessity of an Uncaused First Cause. No such concept as energy, potential and kinetic, prior to that.

Makes for a decent cosmology with time, experimentation etc. Rejecting Logic for Sophistry or Pyrrhonism discombobulates it.

#20 Comment By Pussilaminous On August 15, 2017 @ 4:26 pm

There are such things as Undecidable Propositions

I think I acknowledged this. Science can’t decide “Undecidable Propositions”. But only a few of the propositions put forward by religion fall into this category. A great many have to do with the material world and its processes and nature. These can indeed be investigated and decided based on the evidence.

For what it’s worth, I’m not an atheist, and I don’t think logic disproves the existence of God or a Creator. I’m not convinced by logical proofs of God either, but if you are, fine. That’s not what this is about. Whether God created the universe or not, there are observable facts about how this universe operates that can be studied and tested, and theories developed that can reliably show how that process works. This includes physics, chemistry, biology, evolution, human physiology, human sexuality, etc. These are not “undecidable” matters. If religious beliefs about how the world works were true, science would affirm that. And in some cases, it does. In others, it does not. The right response to finding out that the world doesn’t work the way religion believes it does, is to modify religious belief accordingly, not to pretend that such things are “undecidable” and immune to evidence and logic. And many religious people seem to agree. The Dalai Lama, for example, when asked what he would do if science disproved some aspects of Buddhism, said that he would change those beliefs accordingly. And many Christians do the same thing. Unfortunately, those who think of themselves as “true believers” see that as an abandonment of Christian revelation and tradition, when in reality it is simply the evolution of Christianity towards a realistic worldview.

#21 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On August 15, 2017 @ 10:10 pm

By religion doesn’t stop there. It continues on to create a whole cosmology about sexuality which does, indeed, make all sorts of claims about the material, bodily reality that we humans inhabit. It claims, for example, that male and female are entirely distinct, that the male is all male, and the female is all female. This sort of claim is easily refuted by science, by biochemistry, but knowledge of how both male and female sex hormones exist in both men and women, and how the development of the body is powerfully influenced by those varying proportions and timing and other developmental factors.

All true. But, male and female are distinct conditions, and the normative purpose of all the hormones and chemical balances is to generate individuals who are male, or female.

Isaac Asimov wrote a short story once (Playboy and the Slime Gods) introducing interstellar visitors who reproduced by budding, like the hydra does on earth. They had poetry about the joys of budding time. The concepts of “male” and “female” were unknown, and incomprehensible to them, as was the utter profusion of different species per square mile on earth.

Male and female are not mere social constructs. Individual humans are not perfectly fluid. Nor do we shift from one sex to another randomly with every kemmering like Ursula Le Guin’s androgynous humanoids on the planet Winter in Karhide and less friendly nations. We don’t go through phases experiencing being female until we give birth, then being male until we impregnate a female, then being female again like the Nivens and Pournelle novel, The Mote in God’s Eye. We don’t each have one organ of each sex, like earthworms.

Biochemistry is indeed unstable, imprecise, variable, and some individuals are not exactly firmly in the male mode or the female mode. But ninety-plus out of one hundred of us are. The species, every species more complex than a sponge, is based on being heteronormative.

So, while some deeply religious people may not even be able to come to terms with the fact that God’s Creation is imperfect, and it would be objectively appropriate compassion to make some social space for the individuals who got something non-normative out of the genetic lottery, there isn’t any scientific reason to give their existence any more significance than, variables happen.

And that doesn’t mean a religious body is mandated by science to abandon the notion that sexual dimorphism has a teleological significance. (On the other hand, why would someone who believes in Original Sin have a problem with the notion that even biochemistry can stray a bit?)

So really, who is responsible for this public relations disaster? Is it Damore, for daring to write the memo in the first place? Or is it those who attacked him so intensely, and spread it around, inflaming the issue until it became an embarrassment to Google?

Very good questions.

#22 Comment By Pusillanimous On August 16, 2017 @ 5:58 am

But, male and female are distinct conditions, and the normative purpose of all the hormones and chemical balances is to generate individuals who are male, or female.

Male and female are not “conditions”, they are functions. And their only required function is reproduction. Other than that, nature doesn’t give a fig about the genders, their qualities and mindsets, their “divine purpose” or whatever thoughts and feelings run through their minds. This is evident in the extreme range of possible characters and qualities present among people of both sexes, and of course the vast overlap between the sexes, including in some cases some very unusual personalities and habits.

Nature doesn’t care if it produces some very strange combinations of these things in any given individual, because it isn’t aiming at some sort of ideal person or sexual character, as some religions are given to assume. It’s literally not aiming at anything so boring as that, because the very purpose of sexual reproduction is to create a wide range of outcomes and characters and capabilities so as to ensure that at least some combinations thereof are able to reproduce and survive. If we were clones, or buds as your SF story suggests, we’d all be pretty much the same. But that would be dangerous for the species as a whole, since we could be wiped out under the wrong conditions. That’s why our sexual natures produce so many strange results, with oddball characteristics and even mixed up results. Those variants guarantee survival, even if that may not seem to be the case for any given individual.

Variation from the norm is the whole purpose of sexual reproduction. That’s what ensures the survival of the species. So the common religious notion that male and female were created from distinct molds that should be basically the same for all is absurd, and contradicted by the realities of life and genetics. As long as enough of the offspring can survive and reproduce in numbers sufficient to keep the species alive, that’s all that’s important. And for that to happen, there has to be a fairly high degree of variation. That’s how you end up with gays and trans and all sorts of odd results that might seem unproductive. They need to exist, however – not because they are better at reproduction, but because they push the envelope of variations that sexual reproduction requires. And even they can end up being able to reproduce in ways that might not be standard fare, but work under some conditions.

It’s important to note that life on earth didn’t start sexually, and sex didn’t even begin until life had been around for some 2-3 billion years. So the religions are wrong on that count too. And once sexual reproduction got going, it’s not as if the genders were fixed either. Gender fluidity and hermaphrodism was the norm, not some strange aberration. Lizards and amphibians can still switch genders when conditions make it necessary or profitable. Animals in utereo would develop into males or females largely depending on temperature or other local conditions. The “Y” chromosome for males did not come into being until about 160 million years ago, and then only for mammals and a few other clades, putting a lie to the notion that men came first, and females followed later.

All the same sex hormones are present in both male and female genders, just in different combinations and timings. As long as that whole process ends up with fertile females getting pregnant and giving birth, nature doesn’t care what their sexual preferences are. Having differing preferences is essential to the whole process, because someone everyone needs to match up to someone, or several ones. Lesbians can still get pregnant, and will have sex with men if the desire for children arises. Same with gay men.

Nothing is fixed in stone about sex or the sexes, because the whole point of sex is to change things up, reshuffling the chromosomal deck with every birth, creating new combinations rather than just recycling old ones. That flies in the face of what religion teaches.

But why should that be surprising? Any religion older than maybe 50 years didn’t know about this stuff. They made guesses about sex based on a very limited knowledge base. Their “Divine Revelations” didn’t even come close to figuring out the realities of sex. Without advanced organic chemistry and genetic studies, how could they? And we’re still finding out much, much more. So we can’t really fault them for having been so wrong about how it all works. But we can fault them for continuing to cling to ideas about the human organism that we now know to be false.

Religions are of course under no obligation to pay attention to any of this. In fact, their own survival probably depends on their ignoring all these inconvenient truths at all costs. So I can’t blame them for looking the other way and pretending that none of this is knowable or decidable. But let’s not have them make arguments that other people’s beliefs are “unscientific”, when their own are demonstrably flying in the face of reality.