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Academic Activists Send a Published Paper Down the Memory Hole (quillette.com)
510 points by alexmat 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 222 comments



When opponents think about how 'damaging' papers like this are, they should also consider how damaging things like this are to the field in general, and how they may cause a lot of second-order harm.

Many that I know have begun to distrust areas of academia much more recently, and when they see scenarios like this over and over it doesn't help. We all know that no one will support you for saying the truth if it won't go down well politically. The end result of this is that Academia will only publish the 'right' results, but it will not matter as few will trust them to begin with.

After reading the full article I find it funny they decide to critique the paper by calling it 'pseudoscientific'. I'd like to play the same game back at them and simply call their beliefs 'pseudoscientific' and proceed to pretend like they are discredited and don't warrant further inspection.

If you keep crying wolf, eventually no one will believe you when you really need them to. You can't go against truth forever.


It's a tough issue because both sides are right. Recent political and social events show that the general public is not yet able to discuss issues like this rationally and maturely. Yet at the same time science must be free to inquire without political restriction. I do not have an answer.


Just consider that by oppressing the truth, science, and free inquiry, it adds to the inability to discusses issues rationally and maturely, it doesn't protect them.


You are ambivalent about whether this article should have been censored in the way it was?


[flagged]


Have you considered the dangers of giving unreasonable people a monopoly on the truth? If you refuse to candidly discuss the truths of the world, people will turn to those who will.

Regarding your autism example: of there were an acknowledged weak link, we could at least have a discussion about it, and maybe do research on mitigating the risk.

But if there were a link between autism and vaccination and your scientific guilds spent decades denying it, and then the truth came out, the public would never trust another damn thing you said ever again. Even if you made a safe vaccine, nobody would take it.

I'm disappointed that after 10,000 years of civilization we have to re-learn this ancient lesson yet another time. Nobody has ever accomplished a net good by slowing the accumulation of knowledge.


You're assuming the discussion would be even slightly rational. It would consist of Jenny McCarthy and a bunch of homeopaths telling parents that this is proof that the Illuminati want their kids to have autism so they will worship Satan, or something about equally inane. I don't see much in the way of rational discussion of anything outside small specialized forums like this. Everything is dominated by loud anti-intellectual demagogues.

The thing that disturbs me the most is that this kind of inane BS is making inroads among people that I thought knew better... people that I thought had brains.

--

Responding to the reply since HN's anti-discourse rate limiter kicked in:

You're right about the last paragraph, but it's mostly not the fault of science so much as our political leadership.

Years ago when we invaded Iraq and then it came to light that there were no WMDs, never had been WMDs, and the whole thing was deliberately concocted, I remember saying to friends that this was going to have consequences with a capital C. I was right.

I said the same thing after the 2008 bank bailouts. Major damage was done to the fundamental trust basis of our society and there will be consequences. I was right.

During the 'oughts the elite of our society stacked their credibility up in a big pile and set it on fire. I wish I had an answer. If they were honorable they would own up to it, but I see none of that. Apparently they decided invading Iraq and bailing out banks was more important than the bedrock trust on which our society is built and they're committed to going down with the ship.


However irrational the discussion, it'll be worse if a real conspiracy to suppress the truth is exposed.

Besides, part of the reason the Jenny McCarthys of the world get traction at all is that trust in scientists among the public has declined, and this decline stems directly from "science" telling the public things that are demonstrably untrue.


McCarthy gets traction because she trusts too much in a massive fraud, to the point where she is a profiting partner in the fraud, not because "science" lied to her.


If children at a school write 1 + 1 = 3, you don't hide mathematics from them.

In the same token, if people are misconstruing facts to mean something they don't, you don't hide the facts.


Choosing action out of fear of what may come, as opposed to finding a loving solution with an eye to the past, present, and future, is less likely to produce desirable and sustainable outcomes.

If we keep avoiding having conversations geared toward developing mutual understanding and respect vs trying to be right or change other people, we'll collectively regress further.


I hope you are right, but all it takes is a visit to any large social media site or 30 minutes of watching political news (any political news) to renew my cynicism.

I really don't see anyone anywhere who is even interested in the truth. People want their side to win for non-rational emotional reasons. They're only interested in what truths can be cherry picked or spun to support their cause. Truths that don't support the cause are ignored and denied.


Absolutely. The rise of Trump and the alt-right shows how shame is an unsustainable mechanism for social change, though most people in the US still seem to be applying shame/outrage. Trump and Russian bots have also shown how emotionally reactive we are, as a people. I see this as the result of us not teaching emotional responsibility and boundaries as part of normative cultures.

Learning and practicing nonviolent communication is how I started learning to navigate my emotions at age 33. 2.5 years later and my life is completely different, as a result. I highly recommend it for anyone who's having difficulty witnessing where humanity is presently at.

Also, turn off the news and social media while learning it. Learning to be different from the norm can be really hard when the norm's so persistently reinforced. Besides, if I can't read something without maintaining a mindful perspective, I'm not ready to clearly think about it, much less choose a loving response in action/word to it. If I can't affect the world in a loving, sustainable way, I prefer to get myself into a headspace where I can, rather than react.


I totally agree about shame. I've been going on for a while about what I call "abstinence based environmental policy," which is trying to shame people into being poorer to save the Earth. It works about as well as shaming teens into not having sex, hence the analogy.


> We have political movements that are committed to removing basic human rights from 50% of the population, so sure.

Are you saying the publication of this paper will lead to the removal of basic human rights from 50% of the population? If not, what is the relevance of this?

> Maybe when Roosh doesn't have millions of followers we can discuss this stuff openly.

Who is Roosh and why does them having millions of followers mean we cannot discuss this stuff openly?

> Let me give you a different example. Let's say there's a study that shows a weak link between a vaccine and autism. If it were published, it would be amplified far out of proportion to its findings and used to convince millions of parents not to vaccinate their kids. Such a paper could have a death toll in the hundreds. A paper like that should not be published unless it's been replicated multiple times, and even then with profound qualifications front and center indicating precisely which vaccine it applies to, etc.

If your hypothetical paper followed proper scientific procedures, it absolutely should be published. I'm honestly astonished that you would think otherwise. This is how science works. A scientific paper should not be censored on ideological grounds, and trying to do so will backfire by creating public distrust of scientific institutions.


>Such a paper could have a death toll in the hundreds.

That's a rather small death toll compared to the one associated with "Improvements in or relating to the transmutation of chemical elements" by Szilard in 1932. Are you suggesting he should have been excommunicated?

>A paper like that should not be published unless it's been replicated multiple times, and even then with profound qualifications front and center indicating precisely which vaccine it applies to, etc.

That is ridiculous. At most a statement by the authors in the frontmatter repudiating the relevant conspiracy theories should suffice.


> Let me give you a different example. Let's say there's a study that shows a weak link between a vaccine and autism. If it were published, it would be amplified far out of proportion

Except if the paper had been effectively published then deleted, wouldn't it do the opposite? That won't be an incentive to duplicate or prove it wrong by other scientists, but those who'd use it to support their conspiracy theories would be even more convinced they were right all along because "Look, they censored the paper. Clearly they are trying to hide the truth. That shows we've been right all along".


At least the controversy about string theory has been in the public eye for a while now. It seems like physics hit the worst of it in the 90s and the public trust we have now is relatively sturdy.


The public trusts most areas of physics because we use them to build many artifacts, some quite amazing, we interact with everyday and also because there are solid experiments that repeatedly confirm them. Some may extend this trust to the most modern areas yet without experimental confirmations, but not everyone does.

The situation is quite different for many softer sciences for which neither of the above conditions is true. If the public found out they have been misled by a whole field for decades, the trust in that field could be shaken to a great extent. Even adjacent fields could be affected as collateral damage.


Assuming the basic facts claimed by the author are correct, this is really bad. I'm not referring to the behavior attributed to the U Chicago professor and her husband, either. That might be exaggerated by the author (the account is only one side of the story) and, even if it isn't, strong feelings are not uncommon when it comes to controversial topics. Systems should work even when individuals or small groups of people behave badly.

The scandal here is the journal editors deviating from their standard procedures. There are procedures in place for re-evaluating articles which have been published or accepted for publication, and for retracting them if they don't meet proper standards. If the members of editorial boards don't think those procedures are proper, they should work to change them, or, barring that, resign. What they did instead undermines the credibility of the journals. How do we know that usual procedures are followed in other cases when they clearly weren't in this one (assuming the facts are as stated in the post)? Are there articles that are accepted for publication because of external pressure, over the objection of reviewers and editors? Are there other papers which have been disappeared without the expected retraction notices? What a disgrace.


The process, as told by the author, was that one of the editors invited to submit, and three weeks later it was published upon which the rest of the editorial board took notice and threatened resignation.

By that telling it was published practically on the spot, especially for mathematics where things are famously glacially slow. Browsing through the journal one mostly sees submission and publication dates separated by many months. Last published paper in the current volume was received over a year before. But this paper made it in three weeks.

So it was fast tracked by an editor. Editorial board could take issue with that, arguing it haven't gone by the review properly or whatever the usual procedures before publication are. It might have been put up on the web by the managing editor (since on leave and replaced in the interim) or whomever had the admin password, but editorial board to whom the journal's reputation really belongs hasn't deemed it to be their publication.

Of the timeline, author says he's uploaded to ArXiv in September, while by that time he was on revision 3 of https://arxiv.org/abs/1703.04184 uploaded in March. What was added in September however was a piece of journalism in an appendix, that then disappeared in most recent revisions. Last revision was posted just 2 weeks ago, apparently there still were arguments to strengthen (or journalism to remove) before Quillette ran the story.

There he paints his work as "science" and some people including the editorial board as "activists". By Google however appears the same Ted Hill founded a site "to promote campus activism in general" and "to serve as a focal point for organizing activists" where he chronicles his long history of activism http://www.motherfunctor.org/CompleteHistory2013.php


According to the article, publication was approved by Editor-In-Chief Mark Steinberger, who founded the magazine 25 years ago.

The members of the editorial board did not just threaten resignation, but (according to the article) threatened to "harass the journal until it died."


I find these threats doubtful, I don't see the editorial board wasting their life on sustained activism over the years chasing remnants of something they helped to create and what would be served a deathly blow by their resignation already. The author however has a history of activism I haven't looked into, but that usually involves a spin. There's also the possibility of his correspondents' misguided politeness by throwing him something to chew on to diffuse the blame. Mathematical Intelligencer editor could be seen as doing that in a somewhat more intelligent way blaming the possibility of "international hype".

As for the description of alleged emotional states involved, I'm oblivious and not seeing the relevance. Recounting the events and actions taken sufficed for a horrific story. The author deemed it important however to make it into something even more colourful with threats of some unspecified future actions (how does one harass a journal?).

The managing editor you speak of went on leave and has an interim replacement. I can see that entirely appropriate if only because of how retraction was handled by deletion and overwriting, instead of a proper notice in place. This was extremely unprofessional administration, which is usually a duty of the managing editor solely. The other possibility I described is that it wasn't really published the usual way, which is even more damning.


Meh. This sort of thing happens all the time. It gets hushed up pretty well. What's unique here is author came forward with his story.

Academia is in sore need of reform. Especially elite academia has learned branding matters more than scientific truth.


This seems new, and passed over in all the comments so far:

> None of them had ever heard of a paper in any field being disappeared after formal publication. Rejected prior to publication? Of course. Retracted? Yes, but only after an investigation, the results of which would then be made public by way of explanation. But simply disappeared? Never. If a formally refereed and published paper can later be erased from the scientific record and replaced by a completely different article, without any discussion with the author or any announcement in the journal, what will this mean for the future of electronic journals?

I'd had the impression online journals normally had some plan for archiving. So insiders were left out of the threat model?


> Retracted? Yes, but only after an investigation, the results of which would then be made public by way of explanation.

Just to clarify: when papers are retracted, they are not normally erased from the database and replaced with an explanation. See this Nature paper for an example; the entire paper is kept available online, just as before, except that the words "RETRACTED" is stamped on each PDF page

https://www.nature.com/articles/nature10167

Likewise, nothing published to the arXiv is ever removed. A retraction notice can be added as an update, but the complete version history is always available.

Articles are much more likely to be "un-published" (wiped from the archives) in journalism than scientific publications.


Sorry, but the ArXiv does have a moderation team and stuff is being removed. Alike, most online journals remove stuff by wholly replacing it with a retraction notice. Journals printed on paper issue retraction letters and leave it at that, but some also do restrict online access afterwards.

What no journal does is to replace erroneously published article with another entirely unrelated one in-place. This is a very poor behaviour on the part of the managing editor here, who is currently on leave and replaced.

Nature is unusual, for example they publish letters complaining about ArXiv's moderation, beside publishing a lot of editorial and opinion stuff.


> Alike, most online journals remove stuff by wholly replacing it with a retraction notice

Can you provide a copy, or even examples? I can pull up dozens of Science, Nature, and Physical Review retracted articles to support my point. If those huge families of journals behave as I say, on what basis are you claiming "most" journal don't?

> What no journal does is to replace erroneously published article with another entirely unrelated one in-place.

Did anyone ever suggest this was the case?

> the ArXiv does have a moderation team and stuff is being removed

I know several members of the moderation team. They of course reject some articles at the time of submission, but I'm not aware of any being retracted and un-published after being posted publically. Can you please link to such a retraction, or to evidence of this in the Internet Archive?


(Note: in the case on the arXiv, the process is called "withdrawal" rather than "retraction" since it's only ever done by authors themselves, and only on a voluntary basis. The arXiv does not have an editorial team who would make retractions.)


Looks like there's no hard copy. It's totally online.[0]

I checked https://web.archive.org/ but the 2017/10/23 snapshot ends at p. 1539,[1] and the 2017/12/01 snapshot has the substitute paper.[2]

    Ajay Kumar, Niteesh Sahni, and Dinesh Singh 	 
    Invariance under finite Blaschke factors on BMOA 	1641
So unless someone grabbed it, it's toast. Except for the preprint, anyway.

0) http://nyjm.albany.edu/nyjm.html

1) https://web.archive.org/web/20171027011421/http://nyjm.alban...

2) https://web.archive.org/web/20171201163957/http://nyjm.alban...


It's still available on the site, AND I've grabbed it. http://nyjm.albany.edu/j/2017/23-72v-orig.pdf


I had not heard of Quillette until Tyler Cowen interviewed [0] Claire Lehmann, the founding editor. This article, and the precipitating events, fit perfectly into Quillette’s raison d’etre[1].

[0] - https://medium.com/conversations-with-tyler/claire-lehmann-t...

[1] - https://quillette.com/about/


I'm almost wondering whether Quillette should start a scientific publication arm for unsafe research. The open access model has low overhead, and it might be possible to allow researchers to publish under pseudonyms while upholding publication standards.


And why would publishing controversial subjects be "unsafe"? Isn't one of the merits of ones learning is to have an open mind to new ideas? Why is it that when something is published that a specific group disagrees with or has "feelings" that are troubling do we feel the need to appease them to no ends... I find this troubling myself.


From the article:

> At this point, faced with career-threatening reprisals from their own departmental colleagues and the diversity committee at Penn State, as well as displeasure from the NSF, Sergei and his colleague who had done computer simulations for us withdrew their names from the research.

That strikes me as pretty damn "unsafe".


From the article:

> Steinberger replied later that day. Half his board, he explained unhappily, had told him that unless he pulled the article, they would all resign and “harass the journal” he had founded 25 years earlier “until it died.” Faced with the loss of his own scientific legacy, he had capitulated.

It's sad that these lunatics have the power to do these things, but that's why people appease them.


The thing is, a lot of these people don't have the power to do the things they claim. Or at least, they'd be perfectly replaceable by those who'd do a better job.

Indeed, the only reason this sort of crap happens is because organisations and companies don't have the guts to tell the moral police to sod off. If they did, and their tactics stopped working, many of these issues would go away.


I'm guessing quotemstr used "unsafe" to mean "unsafe to your career as a researcher if you try to publish it in conventional universities".


>> why would publishing controversial subjects be "unsafe"? ... Why is it that when something is published that a specific group disagrees with or has "feelings" that are troubling do we feel the need to appease them to no ends

Because humans are coalition forming apes, with a brain built to survive in that environment not to perceive truth.


Indeed. The suspicious part of me wonders if the authors deliberately engineered this situation.


If the authors got fired would you still suspect they engineered it? In reality this kind of stuff spirals out of control chaotically so it's incredibly risky to do it on purpose.


oh yes, because there is HUGE reward in fighting against the most popular narrative /S.

In all seriousness, sometimes for certain people (outliers) there can be, but like musicians and sports stars for every one person who turns a censored idea into a speaking tour there are millions who are just quietly fired.

You can be suspicious all you want, but frankly that is totally irrelevant info and frankly useless. Some people are suspicious that the earth is round, either it is or it isn't and if you think he's wrong, prove him wrong and publish your findings, that's the system. The system is not "I don't like this idea so it must be wrong"

This is honestly going to end in disaster soon enough


From the publication? Why? The article is self written - it's not all that surprising that an author would seek out a friendly outlet - ensures publishing in full, drives advertising views (money) to 'friendly' places. You can see politicians doing the same thing, even at the national level - Democrats and Republican senators write letters for publishing to different papers, mostly those that agree with them.


I have some fundamental problems with her approach to political correctness in the Medium article. Too many to go over, but the simplest and most frustrating is the complete disregard for the experience of transgender people, stating that it's a "performance" while race is not. That itself is completely disrespectful and not understanding the core issue before arguing it.


I think you misunderstood her. She was saying that being transgender in that role was central to the character. It was the point of the movie. However, whether a character is black or not doesn't really matter (anymore). That's why we don't use blackface masks anymore.

In a sense, the minority community brings it to itself. If you highlight how you're not different, then you cannot complain that stories will be written about how you're not different - that's the whole point of highlighting it! But once the society completely accepts that you're not different, then the difference will truly not matter and there will be no story (for better or worse).


> I think you misunderstood her. She was saying that being transgender in that role was central to the character. It was the point of the movie. However, whether a character is black or not doesn't really matter (anymore). That's why we don't use blackface masks anymore.

A good example of this may be the US version of "Queer as Folk", a dramatic series on Showtime from 2000-2005 [1].

Most of the main characters were gay, but only a little under half of the actors that played them were gay. Another actor was bi, and the rest were straight.

But you could not tell from the performances which were which. The straight actors were as convincing as the gay actors, even in scenes involving serious erotic action.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queer_as_Folk_(U.S._TV_series)


I'm not really seeing that part of the argument. From what I can tell, the crux of her argument differentiating it between blackface is that being trans is a theatrical act. She literally says "I think the performative nature of transgenderism itself should allow a woman like Scarlett Johansson to play a transgender person." She bases that argument on the false notion that being trans is an act. Anybody who says that has not had meaningful interaction with the community, because that's a direct insult towards one's own identity. Most people cannot understand how painful it is to have someone insult your own identity.

I rarely see minorities arguing that they're literally no different than anybody else. Co-opting the Riddle scale [0], that sort of view is "you're not X, you're a person!". I believe the differences between people should be celebrated, and absolutely not used to discriminate. If a story is written about how a Japanese immigrant went through struggles coming to America, it would be disgraceful to have a white woman play that role.

The reality is that the majority of Americans see trans people as different. It would be wonderful if that weren't the case, but until then, any cis (non-trans) person playing a trans person is going to be a caricature of the trans experience (although a cis man playing a trans man would be slightly better). Trans people continually try to argue that they're in the same overall category of cis people of the same gender, i.e. {trans women} ∪ {cis women} ⊆ {women}. It is a uniquely minority experience to see someone who cannot understand your struggles pretend to have them for a day.

A common thing I see amongst "anti-PC" folks is the confidence in arguing a point in fields that they simply don't understand, and the hypocrisy that comes with that. She states that the norms that prevent using racial epithets or using gender as an insult are perfectly fine. Immediately after, she invalidates the experiences of all trans people in a typical fashion - "trans people are a performance and not their gender". If her mind had existed in 1970, she would've been perfectly fine with racial epithets, and argue that the people trying to tell her that's wrong are needlessly PC.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riddle_scale


So you're basically saying that a non-disabled person isn't allowed to act as a disabled person? How would you shoot a movie about slavery in the US, given that there are no more slaves alive? Can an actor play a US president, given that his/her job is an actor, not a president?

I find your position laughably ridiculous.


"If a story is written about how a Japanese immigrant went through struggles coming to America, it would be disgraceful to have a white woman play that role."

I disagree. For example, recently I was at a play about Jewish holocaust survivor. I don't know if the actor is Jewish, I think he is not, but I don't care. It doesn't retract from the experience in any way.

Now, white woman playing an Asian woman could cause issue with suspension of disbelief. An Asian actor would be ideal, but other than that, it's not going to be a big deal. If it was a really good play (as in writing and acting), I would forgive them the characters didn't look in a realistic way.

"The reality is that the majority of Americans see trans people as different. It would be wonderful if that weren't the case, but until then, any cis (non-trans) person playing a trans person is going to be a caricature of the trans experience"

I disagree again, and I don't follow the logic here. Certainly, the producers of the said movie about TG people didn't considered them to be different enough to worry about whether the role is to be played by cis or trans woman.

And I personally think it would be better for trans people to get the story out rather than point out that it is a caricature. If you argue that we should not think about these people as being different, then it is not a caricature. It's a human playing a human.

I personally don't care if person is LGBT and what letter. It's something that is relevant in the bedroom and I couldn't care less. It makes almost no difference in all other interactions. But you Americans are just weirdly obsessed with sexuality for some reason.


Being trans isn't limited to the bedroom. It's not related to sexuality, although there are correlations. The sort of "human playing a human" argument is exactly what is talked about in the Riddle scale. Watching cis people play trans characters feels like watching Hackers, the terrible 90's movie.


> Watching cis people play trans characters feels like watching Hackers, the terrible 90's movie.

I think that's a great analogy. But two questions come to mind:

1. Are there any movies that are not terrible for people who know enough to compare them to reality? Gell-Mann amnesia comes to mind. Most productions focus on telling a story and will happily ignore constraints of the setting if that allows for more dramatic scenes.

2. What about trans people playing cis people? Maybe they would be better suited for the role because of spending more time as their preferred gender, but otherwise the argument feels pretty transphobic if you simply switch cis and trans.


I find the Riddle scale weird, because I am completely indifferent to somebody being gay. It must be an American thing, because I work in an office with 300 other people, so statistically, some of them are gay. But I have no clue and it makes no difference for me whatsoever.

It's almost as if when you're an atheist and people who believe in god say that you're a believer or that you had a bad experience with religion etc. No, it is simply an indifference.


Does anyone have an outside source on this? The writeup linked seems pretty one-sided, and the whole naive-surprise-meets-hardnosed-doggedness tone doesn't seem very genuine. So I'm left wondering how accurate a portrayal of events this is.


Exactly. It's quite a story, but something in it doesn't ring true.



This disgraceful behavior from academia is shredding the credibility of the entire enterprise.

How is anyone supposed to trust any unintuitive conclusions with expensive implications --- for example, on climate change --- when the academic community has demonstrated a propensity to shriek at and censor unorthodox ideas instead of contest them on the merits?


This is specificly why I am a climate skeptic. Not a denier, mind you, but a skeptic when it comes to anything purporting to be “settled science.” It’s specifically because there is a strong resistance to anything damaging to the status quo, as supported by grant funding and, to a lesser extent, political agenda.

Frankly, it’s hard to trust academia on controversial topics.


What we need to distinguish here is what exactly we're talking about being "settled science".

Is "human CO2 emissions are causing an increased greenhouse effect and ocean acidification" settled science? Yes.

Is "how much will that affect us and the planet at different time scales" settled science? Not completely, no. The climate system is incredibly hard to model.

What scientists are doing in the latter regard is making their best estimates, seeing that these predict very bad things happening, and then saying we should work as hard as possible to reduce emissions.

Which, incidentally, nobody is actually doing.


Well, reduce emissions and more seriously consider geoengineering. A lot of otherwise-reasonable climate researchers seem to have an unduly negative view of potential direct interventions in the climate.


A lot of otherwise-reasonable climate researchers seem to have an unduly negative view of potential direct interventions in the climate, and for good reason. Scientists know that theory and practice often are very different. You can't 'experiment' with global scale geo-engineering.

To put it in HN terms: you're deploying untested code for a global scale life support system written by a first-project-junior in an experimental new technology stack directly to production without having a test or staging environment, and there are no backups.


> Scientists know that theory and practice often are very different.

Obviously! But the theory of Anthropogenic Catastrophic Global Climate Change is different. This one is beyond reproach and matches practice perfectly.


We may well be forced into geoengineering. Because, by the time enough people/firms/governments are sufficiently motivated, it'll be too late for anything else. Except adapting, I mean. But anyway, CO2 capture is the obviously safest bet. Adding shitloads of iron to the oceans, or injecting shitloads of SOx into the stratosphere, are just a little too likely to have serious downsides. Or putting screens at L1, for that matter.


I like the L1 screen idea. It's quickly reversible, after all. Besides, in the long run, if we're going to because a Kardashev type I civilization, we're going to need some kind of planetary energy management. Why not start now?


The screen itself can be quickly removed, yes.

But will the effects of it being there for some time be also temporary? No one can say.

edit: better phrased as

On what timeframe the negative effects of a temporary screen will revert?


The down side of this is that once carbon capture becomes viable the amount of CO2 Canada and Australia want in the atmosphere are very different.

Should Canada take it as a declaration of war if Australia starts a program to reduce CO2 to 150 ppm?


That is an interesting question.

By then, it seems likely that Canada will be part of the US. Or at least, that the northern US and Canada will have merged. And impacts do seem horrible for Australia.

But damn, war over atmospheric CO2 management. What a trip.


How can you tell that they didn't seriously consider your favorite argument? Usually geoengineering is not a direct part of the science of measuring climate change.


> ...we should work as hard as possible to reduce emissions. Which, incidentally, nobody is actually doing.

You may wish to reassess your remark for accuracy after actually taking the time to digest the Clean Air Act codified in 42 U.S.C. Ch 85[1].

[1] https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2016-title42/html/USCOD...


Did you search through that document for "carbon dioxide"? Because it only appears in 10 places, and in none of those does it define any limits or reductions.


Did you search through the legislation for "greenhouse gas", whose definition is explicitly defined and includes carbon dioxide? This is federal code written by lawyers; it isn't exactly considered afternoon pleasure reading and generally requires a bit of effort to parse.


With climate change though, it seems that the academic consensus is that humanity has an effect on the climate, while (some significant portion of) media seems to regularly depict it as more of a 50/50 up-in-the-air situation.

In this article, it's not about media depiction vs academic consensus, but friction within academic sciences itself.


Science has been hijacked from the inside for a long time now. While it's better than trusting straight up corporate releases, there are thumbs on the scales that push studies to get the results those giving the funding want.

Social science is particularly bad at this, to the point I doubt any research done since the 1950s isn't ideologically tainted, at that time due to the cold war and the need to discredit anything "communist".


Wow, I didn't know that academia was getting this bad; what happened to letting the truth be debated a la the Socratic dialogue in the academia of all places!


>what happened to letting the truth be debated a la the Socratic dialogue in the academia of all places! https://digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi...


The Bailey paper proposes three steps: 1. Women have been historically discriminated against. 2. Women are currently discriminated against by people using the Socratic dialog. 3. The Socratic dialog discriminates against women.

The leap from 2. to 3. is reminiscent of "Hitler was a vegetarian. Therefore vegetarians are Nazis."


What happened? I call it valence hijacking.

Sometimes, a thing --- a word, an institution, a bit of history --- has cultural power. It's surrounded with an aura (or valence, if you will) of gravitas and mystique, usually accumulated over decades, or millennia.

Acrivists notice that these things have cultural power and hijack them, turning them into something useful for the cause while denying that anything has changed. Consider, for example, how many people claim, in all earnestness, that disagreement is "literal violence". Disagreement is obviously not violence, but by using this word, activists can "steal" some of the emotion attached to the word "violence" and weild it for their cause.

This hijacking works for a while, until people catch on. At that point, activists, like locusts, move on to areas not yet stripped bare of meaning.

The same mechanism that at micro scale operates on words operates at macro scale on institutions.

Academia in particular has been ravaged by this process: huge parts of the academy no longer practice anything resembling science. Their studies do not reproduce. Their papers go unread. Their lectures become diatribes. Their students become zealots. The forms are present, but the substance is gone.

This article describes the early stages of such a hijacking.


I like that term, "valence hijacking" and I don't disagree. Ultimately I think we as a society are approaching a pivotal point where any body (individual or institution) are so afraid of a drag through the public square for their statements/image that we have created de facto censorship on what is "appropriate" and what "is not", which might have negative repercussions on what is allowed under freedom of expression and free discourse.


Well hey, there you have it! That's precisely why you see "mirimir" as the author of this comment. Because, you know, my meatspace persona can't tolerate anything at all controversial. I learned my lesson on Usenet :( And the climate is way^N worse now.


Of course, the trouble is that this cuts both ways. Because "science" is associated with trustworthy, evidence-based statements and "activism" isn't, one technique I've seen is people with an audience and a political axe to grind declaring a particular niche theory that goes against the consensus to be "science", and any criticism of the scientific merits of this to be an example of "activists" attacking "science".


I think what happened is, liberals learned from conservatives that it's much more efficient in the short term, to make the voicing of an opinion a crime than to fight it on its merits.

Censorship is as old as organized society. Historically, the power to censor belonged to those in power (the Church, royalty, etc.) But it was never exercised openly, it always rested on some higher justification (to prevent offending God or upset the social order). And so, censorship, which is always, in effect, an instrument of domination, somehow became "the moral choice".

At some point (I'd say, fairly recently, sometime in the 70s) minorities fighting "the Good Fight" (tm) discovered the power of moral censorship and they are now basking in it. But it's a double-edged sword and it's very difficult not to cut yourself when using it.


Skim the preprint https://arxiv.org/abs/1703.04184 , especially section 7.

The article is not fit for publication in a mathematical journal, it is cosplaying as math.

To cite:

> The following simple proposition may be well known, but since no reference is known to the author, a proof is included for completeness.

>Proposition 7.1. N(µ, σ1) is more variable than N(µ, σ2) if and only if σ1 > σ2.

>Proof: [lots of lines]

In a real mathematical paper, this claim would not be glorified into a numbered proposition, and it would not merit a proof; this amount of mathematical work is the distance between one line and the next. I would not even expect students to provide a proof for such utter trivialities in a homework assignment.

Author should have submitted to PNAS instead, or written a blogpost.


The article is not fit for publication in a mathematical journal

And yet actual real some mathematical journal editors apparently thought otherwise before they got pushed into a purely political retraction.


Interestingly, this has changed over the various versions. In v1 on arXiv, this statement is presented without proof (as Example 2.2). In v3, it is Example 3.3 and has received an extra sentence with a proof hint. In v5 (and still in v7 which is current) it has turned into a Proposition. So it seems likely to me that reviewers complained that there wasn't a proof in previous versions.

[v1] https://arxiv.org/pdf/1703.04184v1.pdf

[v3] https://arxiv.org/pdf/1703.04184v3.pdf

[v5] https://arxiv.org/pdf/1703.04184v5.pdf


There are different notions of variability used in the paper, and he is showing one is equivalent to the other. It doesn't seem ridiculous to me to include the proof, even though it is simple. Lots of simple proofs are included in papers and books.


"The article is not fit for publication in a mathematical journal, it is cosplaying as math."

It's not up to you to decide, but up to the reviewers and editors of the journal where it was sent for publication. And according to what we know, it was accepted.

I downvoted you, for this reason.


Sorry, but it is for everybody to decide. Reviewers don't have a sacred sanction and exclusive right to judge. Many a time in cases of plagiarism I worked through I've met with this argument from the accused authors. It boils down to that I have no right to question basic decency because only reviewers are entitled to pass judgement on that and they already did.

Also from the description, which is not impartial being by the author, it is admitted it was snuck into an online journal by one of its editors. We don't know anything about the nature of peer review in this case other than when the wider board of editors got a know of that, majority of them allegedly threatened to resign.

It is however a very bad form by the managing editor to publish another article in the place of the other, even if that one was decided to be published erroneously. NYJM journal page says he's on leave and ceded his duties to an interim replacement.


Can we separate the discussion of whether this paper has a superfluous proof in it from whether its conclusion is true?

Additionally, the main point of the article is that that Mr. Hill feels his paper was pushed out of publication because of a political agenda. Let's also acknowledge the claim of political motivations corrupting academics is independent of the "superfluous proof" claim.


The paper doesn't have a conclusion, really. It describes a model and is supposedly intended to spur greater discussion. This is probably part of the reason the paper is written as it is: meant to be simple and easily accessible to people in other fields. The parent will need to work harder to dismiss the author...


What the parent charitably didn't stress is that this proof is the totality of mathematical work in this paper.

The rest is a stream of words.

As such it is a work of social science. It might even have been respectable in social science journal. Economists input a lot of assumptions into calculus 101 level equations and call that a "mathematical proof" of an economic theory.

If the author wanted this to be a interdisciplinary discussion, why drag it into a mathematical journal where actual mathematical truths are published?

Author says himself he was unable to formulate actual mathematical idea and recruited help. Why ask Tabachnikov, who is a geometer specializing in classical mechanics, instead of someone with like a clue about statistical modeling? He then compares his experience to one he had fighting in Vietnam... which only makes me wonder if that wasn't the point: to either succeed with a flag-planting diversion or be able to make that comparison and hero of himself anyways.


I am not trying to dispute the paper's (implied) greater point: Larger variability of reproductive success favors larger variability of phenotype (in so far as phenotype is related to reproductive success); this can obviously apply to different sexes of the same species [1]; and it is trivial to cook up a toy model for this.

I am just saying that (1) this paper does not belong into a mathematical journal, and (2) the point looks almost too trivial to state.

I am a mathematician; I cannot say whether the paper belongs into a bio journal and whether its points are common knowledge in the bio community. I can only say that, had the arxiv-paper landed on my desk for peer review, I'd have recommended to reject it.

[1] By the conservation law that each offspring has one male and one female parent, differing "effective selectivity" and differing variability of reproductive success are kinda equivalent in the model; casting it in terms of "desirability" looks like a weird choice to me.


arXiv contains more recent versions of the paper, it's probably a good idea to check the versions closer to the publication date. In my uneducated opinion they are even less mathy than v9.

In addition, the NYJM version of the paper is also still available: http://nyjm.albany.edu/j/2017/23-72v-orig.pdf


I just love this new concept of inclusivity by exclusivity.

And what are those people thinking? They are seriously undermining their credibility in the long term. Imagine this in 50 years - whenever you would mention something about gender-inequality you would be taken as a tin-foiled freak.


> whenever you would mention something about gender-inequality you would be taken as a tin-foiled freak.

Are you sure? We won't be allowed to acknowledge differences in average adult height or differences in the ability to carry children?


The suppression of uncomfortable truths is not new; it seems almost like a religion and reminds me of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_affair


I have observed empirically GMVH in cats. Female cats were more "standard" in behavior, and held their own much more consistently. (This is NOT to say that they were run-of-the-mill; every one of them had pretty different personalities. I still miss Maria, my Siamese cat. Hope reincarnation exists.)

The male cats varied from totally dumb to extremely intelligent. One cat "Negro" was almost like a monkey, he managed to walk on my shoulders around my head, while most cats are afraid of being held this high. But he ran the wrong gay when my dad was parking the car and was run over ;( Pretty dumb error for a cat that was so intelligent. An idiot-savant cat, perhaps?


You are getting downvoted because you included the name of your cat which to an American-native audience means something quite different than a Portuguese- or Spanish- native audience.


Oh... damn. But I won't edit.


Amie Wilkinson has managed to do many times more harm to the image of women in science then this paper ever could.


Well, that's going too far, I think. She comes off as extremely unprofessional, but there are lots of unprofessional men, as well.


Here's a blog post discussing this:

https://gowers.wordpress.com/2018/09/09/has-an-uncomfortable...

Here's a "Statement addressing unfounded allegations." by the Mathematical Intelligencer:

https://math.uchicago.edu/~wilkinso/Statement.html

And here's a "Statement in response to Ted Hill's unfounded allegations." by the New York Journal of Mathematics:

https://www.math.uchicago.edu/~farb/statement


Direct arxiv link to the preprint in question: https://arxiv.org/abs/1703.04184

Kudos to the author for being brave enough to detail these events. Academia and the process of science has enough blind spots without needing activists in the mix to add their own.

>“Several colleagues,” she wrote, had warned her that publication would provoke “extremely strong reactions” and there existed a “very real possibility that the right-wing media may pick this up and hype it internationally.”

It's as if these people had never heard of the Streisand Effect. What would have been a stuffy publication of no interest beyond a small circle of curious researchers is now a public salacious affair.


> It's as if these people had never heard of the Streisand Effect. What would have been a stuffy publication of no interest beyond a small circle of curious researchers is now a public salacious affair.

You're not reading about all the other times articles offensive to a certain point of view got memory holed successfully. Most of the time powerful assholes get away with their behaviour. Note that the only reason this article is even on the internet is that one of the original two co-authors is retired and beyond the reach of professional threats.


In a similar vein, there's a paper with the fascinating name "Thirty Years of Denying the Evidence on Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence: Implications for Prevention and Treatment".

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233717660_Thirty_Ye...

"Method 7: Harass, Threaten, or Penalize Researchers Who Publish Evidence on Gender Symmetry ... The most extreme example was the experience of Susan Steinmetz. When she was at the University of Delaware and was being reviewed for promotion and tenure, there was an organized attempt to block her appointment through unsolicited letters to her department and the university president. They asserted that Steinmetz was not a suitable person to promote because her research showing high rates of women's perpetration of PV was not believable. In short, they accused her of scientific fraud (Susan Steinmetz, personal communications during the years 1973 to 1988, when we collaborated in research and coauthored two books). An academic version that implies fraud is Pleck and colleagues (1978). Even more extreme, there was a bomb threat at a daughter's wedding.

At the University of Manitoba, a lecturer's contract was not renewed because of protests about her research, which found approximately equal rates of PV by women and men.

I have been repeatedly harassed and penalized. ... Two of my graduate students were warned that they will never get jobs if they do their PhD dissertation with me."

And more examples are given.


Wow. That's especially amazing considering that the claim of similar domestic violence rates actually supports the progressive axiom that there are no innate psychological differences between men and women.


It may support that axiom but contradict others; specifically that women are helpless victims and men misogynistic brutes.


It looks like a well written paper with some really cool ideas. Too bad about what happened to it


There is nothing original or subtle about it, and it was blatantly intended by the Mathematical Intelligencer editor to stir shit up.


All of that can be true and Amie Wilkinson's campaign of harassment would still be vile and disgusting behaviour, unworthy of an adult of any kind. She got the paper withdrawn from two different journals, and got Dr Tabachnikov to withdraw his name from the paper.

What do you think of Dr Wilkinson's behaviour? Because that’s what the article is about, a campaign of harassment from a woman in a position of power.


What's relevant here is her unprofessional and harassing behavior. If she were a man, the behavior would be no less vile, nor more so.


> What do you think of Dr Wilkinson's behaviour?

I'd need a more authoritative account of it to form a view.


And what authoritative accounts have you used to dismiss the paper and the journal editor?

If you believe the editor when they say "I am happy to stir up controversy" why not also believe them when they say "we could make a real contribution here"?


> what authoritative accounts have you used to dismiss the paper and the journal editor?

I read the paper and drew my own conclusion.

> why not also believe them when they say "we could make a real contribution here"?

That snippet in context: "After the Middlebury fracas, in which none of the protestors had read the book they were protesting, we could make a real contribution here by insisting that all views be heard." That's just fancy language for "stir shit up." There's nothing there about the intellectual merit of Hill's paper, just an unobtainable value that "all views be heard."

People should read the paper to make up their own minds, though. I'm with her, there.


> That's just fancy language for "stir shit up."

How so?

> I'm with her, there.

With who?


Why do you feel qualified to evaluate the paper? This is the risk. It is difficult for laypeople to properly evaluate a paper, so any nonsense when presented well can convince people.


Yes, and it's still there.

If it goes away, I'll be happy to provide copies. Or put it up somewhere secure.

And FYI:

> At this point, faced with career-threatening reprisals from their own departmental colleagues and the diversity committee at Penn State, as well as displeasure from the NSF, Sergei and his colleague who had done computer simulations for us withdrew their names from the research. Fortunately for me, I am now retired and rather less easily intimidated—one of the benefits of being a Vietnam combat veteran and former U.S. Army Ranger, I guess. So, I continued to revise the paper, and finally posted it on the online mathematics archives.


>It's as if these people had never heard of the Streisand Effect.

It's not that they don't know about it, it's that the quote in question is an overt threat and the entire point of it is that the person it is said to will give up and stop trying out of fear, which would certainly prevent any sort of Streisand effect from happening.


> “Our concern,” [the NSF] explained, “is that [this] paper appears to promote pseudoscientific ideas that are detrimental to the advancement of women in science, and at odds with the values of the NSF.”

I think this is a rational position to take. In particular I would argue that whether or not this paper is one of them, I can conceive of some papers that the NSF should distance itself from quite rationally.

Suppose someone had written a paper showing that, say, scientific reaearch itself was harmful, that the more research was done, the more we angered the gods, or something, and so we should limit our research. The authors have actual evidence to this effect (increasing natural disasters in countries with nationwide science programs, etc.) and apart from the intuitively-bizarre hypothesis, nothing is obviously nonsensical with their methods. Still, almost all scientists think the hypothesis is far-fetched enough that this evidence isn't nearly strong enough to even put the hypothesis into play. Also the hypothesis happens to align with a political plank of the Yellow Party, one of the major political parties that believes in not angering the gods and reducing NSF funding.

I think the NSF would be justified in quashing this paper early instead of letting it play out in the marketplace of ideas, because of the risks to the marketplace of ideas itself if the paper is put to the debate it otherwise deserves and becomes popular on Yellow-leaning non-scientific media.

At that point we are just trying to figure out where the line is. Science, in the sense of the project of humanity to do research about the world, does have values of its own; it is not inherently unscientific for the NSF to ever object to a paper that is at odds with its values.


> I think the NSF would be justified in quashing this paper early instead of letting it play out in the marketplace of ideas, because of the risks to the marketplace of ideas itself if the paper is put to the debate it otherwise deserves

What about the risk to the marketplace of ideas if certain ideas can be quashed by authorities for being distasteful? Galileo being the canonical example of this.

> it is not inherently unscientific for the NSF to ever object to a paper that is at odds with its values.

Science investigates empirical facts about the world. How can a fact be at odds with a value?

Facts describe the world as it is. Values describe what we think is important, and how we ought to act. Discovering a fact about the natural world does not inherently say anything about what is right, moral, or good.


That sounds like the same basic idea as the usual misapplication of Popper's Paradox of Tolerance.

It's not supposed to be that you ban ideas that might be harmful, it that you ban pushing ideas by means other than rational argument.


Interesting. I strongly disagree with the author's attempt to connect his experience with the Damore fracas. Damore's "manuscript" comprised a number of weakly-justified claims on a variety of subjects in psychology and sociology, reaching far beyond the GMVH, and was furthermore directly critical both of the hiring policies of his employer (!!) and of inclusiveness initiatives in the technology industry more generally. By contrast, the paper by Hill et al provides a single argument about a specific topic and downplays the political implications (to the extent it mentions them at all).

The paper is not without at least one obvious mistake:

> If gender differences in selectivity have been decreasing and are now less significant in some species than they were in prehistoric times, then this theory could also predict that the gender difference in variability in those species has also been decreasing. One recent meta-analysis found empirical evidence of exactly that trend in humans, reporting “The gender difference in variability has reduced substantially over time within the United States

Gender variability over the 240 years of the existence of the United States is probably not a good proxy for gender variability over the 5000 years from the beginning of literate societies to the present.


I have to issues with it: The write-up seems very one-sided as can already be noticed in the language (1) and the paper, as others have pointed out, is not much of a good scientific paper (2). It seems like the whole controversy was engineered or, at least, he deliberately tried to provoke/"troll" the academic community with his paper.

1)

Certain parts of the post ring my alarm bells when it comes to the language used:

For example: "Fortunately for me, I am now retired and rather less easily intimidated—one of the benefits of being a Vietnam combat veteran and former U.S. Army Ranger, I guess."

Also, certain parts don't really seem to pass a smell test:

> Half his board, he explained unhappily, had told him that unless he pulled the article, they would all resign and “harass the journal” he had founded 25 years earlier “_until it died._” Faced with the loss of his own scientific legacy, he had capitulated. “A publication in a dead journal,” he offered, “wouldn’t help you.”

I also find it highly suspicious that so many statisticians, fellow mathematicians etc seem to think of the paper as pseudoscientific. When even the NSF and editorial boards, institutions traditionally very conservative, are unhappy, there is probably a reason why

2)

I'm not mathematician but a cursory glance at the text reveals a few very surprising assumptions. The paper's hypothesis is this:

> SELECTIVITY-VARIABILITY PRINCIPLE. In a species with two sexes A and B, both of which are needed for reproduction, suppose that sex A is relatively selective, i.e., will mate only with a top tier (less than half ) of B candidates [1]. Then from one generation to the next, among subpopulations of B with comparable average attributes, those with greater variability will tend to prevail over those with lesser variability. Conversely, if A is relatively non-selective, accepting all but a bottom fraction (less than half ) of the opposite sex, then subpopulations of B with lesser variability will tend to prevail over those with comparable means and greater variability.

[1] As the author points out himself, this presupposes that there is an absolute scale of attractiveness. However, he hides that fact (and its facial controversy) in a bit more convoluted writing: "it will be assumed that to each individual (or phenotype) in each sex is assigned a numerical desirability value which reflects its desirability to the opposite sex". There is only a larger group of people in the top bracket, e.g. 9s, if that is an absolute value on an universal, absolute scale (i.e. if you pick a set, numerical point on this graph https://i.stack.imgur.com/JWWuw.png). If attractiveness is relative and based on the average for example, your contextual situation and "top bracket" corresponds to e.g. top 10%, than the group size doesn't change and the subpopulation with greater variability doesn't have an advantage. And there is evidence for that when we recall that most people date people from a similar social background and that ideas of attractiveness are (partially) based on your background.

Additionally, looking at statistical evidence, we can see that, while there is a difference in childless partners, - which would imply that one groups dates more selectively - that difference is not as large as the authors allude to: https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/news/2010/27/more-childless-men. And that is only one crude statistic, best would be number of children per partner.

From the way he writes the paper (and especially this write-up), despite disclaimers to the contrary, he clearly tries to apply his theory to humans with women being the selective sex.


I don't see a problem with any of this. For 1) maybe you want to explain more explicitly what bothers you? I don't find the U.S. army ranger thing surprising in a personal blog post. If one cannot write this without losing credibility... now that's something that worries me.

For 2), this looks quite normal in terms of mathematical modelling. You make a model based on some simplifying hypotheses. You show what result you can get from these hypotheses. The conclusion is "these results follow from the hypotheses". You don't pretend to prove that this is how it works in the real thing, you just give one example of a mechanism that gives the observed results. This is basically how you propose a new theory. Then your "opponents" are supposed to show with more scientific work that a) you made a mistake, or b) your simple theory is a bad model, for example because after changing hypothesis X to better reflect reality, the model no longer produces the expected result.

(Your opponents are not supposed to suppress your theory by exploiting their social connections to prevent publication behind your back. Well I guess there is a viable argument for suppressing valid research if the "truth" is harmful to society, but I don't think this was properly argued here).


And as others note, that would be a reasonable social science paper, but "flimsy oversimplified model that might explain a phenomena" does not a mathematics publication make.

It's not made clear (and others mention) that the paper has changed a lot, so it's current form is different than it was originally, and it appears that the author tried to sneak it in to at least one journal, without normal peer review.

That's not good science.


> If attractiveness is relative and based on the average for example, your contextual situation and "top bracket" corresponds to e.g. top 10%, than the group size doesn't change and the subpopulation with greater variability doesn't have an advantage.

"The actual magnitudes of these desirability values are assumed to have no significance, and are used only to make comparisons between individuals." (page 4)

"To quantify the notion of “selective”, it will be assumed that for each sex in a given sexually dimorphic species there is an upper proportion p ∈ (0 , 1) of the opposite sex that is acceptable for mating." (also page 4)

The paper applies exactly to the scenario where the top bracket corresponds e.g. to the top 10%.


> Half his board, he explained unhappily, had told him that unless he pulled the article, they would all resign and “harass the journal” he had founded 25 years earlier “until it died.”

Half a board of academics skulking to avoid controversy, ok. But becoming a hive of killer bees threatening to attacking their own hive? That doesn't pass the smell test.


Sounds exactly like standard academic politics to me.


Do you argue that the author is lying?


Seems about right to me. Have you turned on a television in the last few years? People are out for blood these days.


> Google engineer James Damore suggested that several innate biological factors, including gender differences in variability, might help explain gender disparities in Silicon Valley hi-tech jobs.

Did he? I read it when it came to light and briefly again just now and cannot see any mention of higher variability amongst men. Psychological differences, yes, but mostly in the slightly vague "women like people, men like things" or "women are more neurotic" sense.

I'd also question the premise that Damore was fired merely for bringing up psychological differences. He also bridged the is/ought gap by making several demands of Google's hiring practices.


> I'd also question the premise that Damore was fired merely for bringing up psychological differences. He also bridged the is/ought gap by making several demands of Google's hiring practices.

I don't think he made demands. He called for open discussion, and a reconsideration of aggressive recruitment of women.


Fair point, demand is too strong a term. He specifically attacked funding for programs for minorities or women, and any hiring practises with emphasis on diversity, as being "based on false assumptions generated by our biases" (supposedly the creeping "leftist" ideology that's taking over Google) and that they "can actually increase race and gender tensions" without backing this up.

I'm not going to argue against that in this post, but I think imo he went beyond simply highlighting biological differences.


What he was saying was that if these biological differences are real, then we ought to expect unequal representation in engineering of women. And therefore, diversity programs that aim for equal representation are misguided and doomed to failure.


You use the word "therefore", but it is in the connecting logic between your first and second sentences that Damore brings in a lot more than biological differences. For example, he claims that the opinions of staff at Google are clouded by leftist ideology, and that this determines the manner in which it attempts to increase workplace diversity.

Again, I am neither advocating for or against the truth of this. I'm pointing out that Damore did more than simply highlight biological differences. I think that's important because the shallow way it is discussed - e.g. in the linked article - only leads to divisiveness.


So, you think that his statements garnered controversy because he proposed policy amendments and didn't simply leave things at "innate biological differences might explain these disparities better than bias"? I think that's a pretty profound misreading of the situation.


[flagged]


Citation please, he never mentions "cultural marxism" in his memo, nor says criticism will prove him correct.


Well that's a fine indication of how corrupt our scientific institutions are these days. Damn shame.


Isn't Quillette a right-wing propaganda outlet? I have them blocked on Twitter.


Extraordinary.

"I don't know a particular thing, but I'm censoring it anyway and (because?) I heard it was "right-wing"."

Read their (succinct) about page to find out more (http://quillette.com/about/), and consider reading their articles for yourself, especially before echoing any disinformation you've acquired from your trusty sources.

Your comment adds nothing to the discussion. Mine only serves to help guide you in thinking for yourself.


I don't even understand why this is controversial. I've explained this to a number of women before and none of them have felt hurt. On the contrary, in fact, it makes them feel better. Humans always fixate on extremes. Men and women. It's a problem in our society. We always want to see the very best and we're not interested in others who are still way above average. There are thousands of women doing great science, engineering, programming etc., but the very best are almost always men, and it's our fault that we only care about the very best.


Same here. Most women I've talked to about this seem to accept it just fine. However, try explain this to a proclaimed feminist or activist (say, the "not a fan" lady). Any comment on statistical distribution that is completely meaningless at the individual level is taken as a direct, personal insult. No counter argument will be presented, just name calling or anecdotal horseshit. When I was in college I was required to take a gender studies course, and some notions taught there were simply absurd, like on average there's no difference between men and women's physical strength. What? What's next, there are no biological differences between genitals? I mean, physical strength isn't even a factor we normally judge people on. And regarding intellectual differences, I was personally taught by the first female Fields medalist and respect her immensely — she might just be smarter than all men. But that does not shake the statistical argument one bit. (Oh, feminists will say: "look, this dude is pulling out that I-worked-with-a-woman-once defense again.")

It is simply sad that our totally defensible theories are almost completely silenced these days for fear of hurting our academic or professional prospects, and they seem more triumphant by the day simply because we're silenced. I don't even feel safe posting from my usual account. Guess I should be thankful that people aren't burned at stakes anymore.


I used to think this, but I don't any more. One argument that swayed me came from Izabella Laba [1], a math professor at UBC and former IMO competitor. The point that stood out to me is that women tend to be socialized away from extremes, for example it is generally more acceptable (to parents, guardians, and affiliated people choosing for children) for gifted boys to skip many grades than for gifted girls to do the same. Along the same lines, obsession and isolation in boys just seems to bother us less than the same thing in girls.

There's no great comcrete evidence backing this up (as far as I know). But Laba is one who should know, having once been a very mathematically gifted girl.

Maybe men really are outliers on a greater scale, but IMO we do enough tamping-down of female outliers that I'm not willing to draw that conclusion from the preponderance of male geniuses we see today.

[1] https://ilaba.wordpress.com/2017/06/24/gifted-while-female/


I just don't believe in this "social conditioning" thing. I've seen absolutely no evidence for it in my life. My sister grew up with three older brothers and we became a programmer, an electrician, and a mechanic. Right from birth she was surrounded by computers, electronics, engines and gears. She is not interested and will not be interested no matter how hard someone like you tries to make her interested. She is instead an artist and a wonderful one. She just did what she wanted to do.

I've had intimate relationships with more than twenty women in my life. I've had friendships and professional relationships with many times more. I'd hazard to guess that my experience with women is way above average for this forum. I've not met a single one who told me they really wanted to be a scientist/engineer/programmer etc but found that society didn't let them. In fact, I find the contrary to be true: the ones that have chosen those fields were offered more encouragement than I ever was.

Just let people do what they want to do.


Your extremely unusual anecdote is not good data.


Doesn't really dispute the IQ bell curve differences between men and women as we find that IQ is less and less socially constructed than we thought.


Men are much more likely to have a very low IQ and this is uncontroversial. Are they socialized this way or is increased variability only in one direction.


No, that is extraordinarily controversial.


Are you saying that the IQ distribution is not measured sufficiently well and there is controverse among statisticians whether men are really more likely to have scored below e.g. 70; or are you saying that there is controverse about the causes?


I'm saying that the claim made above is extraordinarily controversial.


Excellent point!

"it's our fault that we only care about the very best"

Actually, that might also explain the cultural difference of USA vs the other parts of the world. Perhaps in the U.S. people are more obsessed with the very best, and that's why these things become controversial.

It reminds of a recent discussion here about being open about your salary. My conclusion from (based on comments of other people) it was that it is a strong taboo in the U.S., although in Norway, it is acceptable for everybody to know. And that it possibly also ties to higher emphasis on competition in the U.S.

It's interesting - it takes an outsider (or a jester) to see society's taboo.


> Perhaps in the U.S. people are more obsessed with the very best

It's not just U.S., btw, and you're not even extreme. I remember couple of articles from the mid-90's about Russians who had moved to US after the Cold War and got married. They carried their cultural norms with them, among which there was a ruthless drive for extreme excellence.

They ran into recurring problems with their US family members when the offspring won 2nd or 3rd place in science fair. The rest of the family were proud, but those from Russia simply considered them having failed. The mentality they carried was simple: "If you don't win, it's not worth noting. Improve."

What makes this truly interesting is that the USSR/Russian education system and culture has produced a much less gender-imbalanced outcome.[0] And going off on a tangent - I have no idea whether these things are related or not, but at least in maths those educated in Russian school system are routinely considered pretty hard-core.

0: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39579321


Less imbalanced than the UK, but still imbalanced overall. Massively in some areas, like when they talk about inventors:

In the UK, about 4% of inventors are women, whereas the figure is 15% in Russia.


Being unemployed had been a felony in the USSR [1] so the vast majority of women had to work. This naturally would produce different sex distribution in the workforce compared to countries where women had an option to become a homemaker.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parasitism_(social_offense)#So...


It may have made the women you've talked to feel better, but personally, I'm not a fan of the idea that I'm simply less biologically capable than men in any way.


"the idea that I'm simply less biologically capable than men in any way"

Nobody (serious) is saying that. First, when this is talked about, it's always about averages, which are meaningless from individual perspective.

Second, there are obvious biological traits where women are less capable than men on average, like weightlifting. There are also traits where women are more capable, like having kids.

These are facts though. You might also not be a fan of idea that "Earth revolves around Sun", but that's how it is.

On the other hand, I can understand your feeling. I am for example not a fan of idea that many humans are xenophobes.


Weightlifting is an excellent example. It's not controversial in the least to say that men (on the whole) are stronger than women. And the strongest man will almost certainly be stronger than the strongest woman. But that doesn't mean a particular woman can't out lift a particular man. I see this all the time at my CrossFit box, where there are women who regularly put more weight on a barbell than I can manage. I'm not even talking about pound for pound of bodyweight either. I'm talking about women who are 50 pounds lighter than I am who can still deadlift 50 pounds more than I can. Some of these CrossFit women are strong.


Perhaps it's not controversial in your circles. I realize this is anectodal, but I've dated two women pursuing a PhD in a STEM field, both smarter than me in many ways. The second I began to suggest the reason for my greater physical strength might be biological in origin, they both became completely irrational. They somehow believe biology plays no part in the differences between men and women--or maybe that there is no biological difference at all (?). Imagine the intellectual revolt that would occur if I were to bring up this GMVH hypothesis.

There's something about the "girls can do anything" mantra (which I totally agree with!) that seems to translate to "no girl has ever been less capable than anyone at anything as long as they try hard enough." Any theory or evidence contradicting that notion is nonsense.


I’ve had similar, surprising conversations with well educated women who believe that differences in physical strength between men and women have no biological basis. Maybe they were taught that; they didn’t have first hand experience training as an athlete in a strength related sport.

My daughter, who is very strong and is stronger than her brothers, wouldn’t even compete if she had to go up against men in her sport, powerlifting. It’s very obvious in that sport that sex related hormones make a difference.


I'm proud of you for only mentioning CrossFit twice. That must have taken a lot of will power.


I mentioned CrossFit specifically because that's where I observed this. It's been a while since I've spent time in a traditional gym, but when I did, the men and women seemed largely (self-) segregated. Men on free weights, women on yoga mats and cycles, with some occasional crossover on some weight machines. I know women can get strong in traditional gyms, it's just not part of my experience. CrossFit has done a lot promote the idea of strength as a key component of fitness for women (as opposed to slimming). And if the price of that is having to suffer a few bros bragging about their WOD times on FB, I can live with that. Hope you can too.


> Nobody (serious) is saying that.

People are saying that seriously a lot on HN.


I get how you and many other women might reject this idea. If I were a woman, I certainly would. And I'm sad that you didn't get better responses. So I'll attempt one.

Bottom line, notwithstanding ham-fisted commentary by the author, and some here, this paper is not about men exhibiting greater variability in reproductive fitness, or whatever, than women do. It's about gender differences generally among sexually dimorphic species. And given how remarkably humans are unconstrained by biological hardware, it's totally unclear how this work is relevant for us.

Also, this paper reports no observations. It's not even a review. It does list many studies and reviews, but without any substantial critique or discussion. It just presents results of some simple mathematical modeling.

And yes, perhaps the remaining author does display an agenda. But even so, the models presented are either interesting or not, regardless of the agenda. And from my reading of the history, it's arguable that the initial paper would have displayed far less agenda than the somewhat bitter version that ended up on https://arxiv.org/ .


Personally I prefer interacting with women because the odds of having an intelligent exchange are better, that's my experience. Also that there are more dull males than females, and more raw geniuses males than females. But that's cafeteria talk I would never try to make science proper about, firstly because I know basically nothing about that field, secondly because I don't care enough, and thirdly because when the previous considerations are met it's a suicide getting into a loaded subject every side is eager to misinterpret because of agendas.


> thirdly because when the previous considerations are met it's a suicide getting into a loaded subject every side is eager to misinterpret because of agendas.

So we should corner science off from loaded subjects? That sounds alot like what the church's position on Galileo was.


Check out the literature. It isn't cafeteria talk. https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/nature-of-human-intelli... however your third point is well taken. The list of loaded subjects seems to get longer and longer.


The hypothesis makes no such claim; it's compatible with you being smarter than 99.999% of the world's men.


It's also compatible with her being smarter than all men.


True, and I didn't mean to suggest otherwise.


What do you mean by less capable than "men"? Do you really think anyone is saying you're less capable than all men at anything at all? I can say with complete confidence that that is completely untrue. But you must accept that there are some people who are better than you at some particular thing. And if you must worry about who is the very best in the world at that particular thing it might well be a man. But why do you care?


> but personally, I'm not a fan of the idea that I'm simply less biologically capable than men in any way.

That statement speaks volumes, and probably in ways that you did not intend.


Note the category error in the GP: comparison of a singular with a plural without any sort of grouping operator applies to the plural. It's become so fashionable to talk about group justice that some people see groups as the primary objects of human experience and think of individuals only as members of homogeneous groups. It's nonsense, but it's the only interpretation of the GP that makes any kind of internal sense.


Chances are you are shorter, physically weaker, etc than the average (or chosen by random, it is the same thing) man.

I am very short, so the same things apply to me, it doesn't mean I like it, but reality is that which doesn't go away when you deny it.


The thing is, reality is under no obligation to care about your feelings.

I don't like the idea men live shorter than woman, but that's reality.

Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

And nobody here said that women are less capable than men. The hypothesis was, that the distribution for some traits for men has more kurtosis, so while the mean is similar, there are more outliers, and to be clear, in both directions!


I'm agnostic about the GMV hypothesis, but I will note that is generally taken very seriously in behavioral genetics. Interestingly, the example of the significant female advantage in life expectancy is a relatively recent phenomenon thought to be significantly influenced at present (at the population level) to differences in smoking rates. Pregnancy and childbirth morbidity and mortality used to neutralize the difference or even tip the scales in favor of men in some places in the past. Nature might not be fooled, but we can be fooled about nature, especially when complex behavior is involved.


The difference in life expectancy between men and women appears to be significant across every human culture. The effect appears to be biological and not cultural.


Reality is under no obligation to care about your feelings, yes. But that does not imply:

1. that humans are not obligated to care about each other's feelings, either. If you are pursuing a course of research that is purely hurtful and has no perceived positive impact, nobody is making you pursue it. (I don't think this paper is in this category, to be clear.)

2. that an idea is more likely to be true simply because it hurts people's feelings. The hypothesis of this paper is simply a hypothesis. It's got some evidence, but it's subject as all ideas are to future argument. "What if it's true, let's not flinch away" is a fine sentiment; "It's true, deal with it" is not.


>> 2. that an idea is more likely to be true simply because it hurts people's feelings.

I suspect, given two hypotheses- one that is politically correct and one that isn't- the politically incorrect one will be held to a much higher standard of evidence required due to confirmation bias and people acting as described in the article.

If you look at psychology, the politically incorrect results (IQ) have much better evidence despite being constantly attacked. Compare that to say, priming and sterotype threat - which everyone wanted to believe in.


Nobody is claiming (2). IMO (1) is plain wrong, I believe there is positive utility in pursuit and subsequent discovery of the truth, even if such truth is "purely hurtful" - it still allows us to structure our society and plan our future better (i.e. readjust our goals so that they are realistic (not impossible / in conflict with reality) and figure out better ways to achieve them), taking strictly more (and better) information into account.


Does the pursuit of truth, with no tangible outcomes, count as a perceived positive impact? (I'd argue it does)


We are talking about a research paper, a paper that can be scientifically refuted. The only reason much of abuse of power and non-scientific angles of attack are because there are no strong scientific refutations.

This is not about my feeling vs your feelings, it is about your tribe vs my tribe. Simple! The whole article is about the opposing faction was obsessed about Alt-Right or Conservatives using this paper as a basis of their arguments.


As it is, though, there are only two competing theories on why there are fewer women in science than men - the first is that men dominate both ends of the bell curve, and the second is that men are just horrible people who can’t be nice to others. Are you a fan of the second? Or do you have a third explanation? The first seems like the _least_ controversial possibility.


Uhm...what? There are more than two theories.

Here's one I've seen a few articles on within the past year or so. According to test data (SAT, PISA, and I believe others) on teens, girls who are at the top in science tend to also be at the top in other areas too [1]. Boys who are at the top in science tend to be more ordinary in other areas.

People in general tend to to enjoy more and go into careers in areas they are good at.

Result for boys: boys who are at the top in science are highly likely to want to go into science. It's what they are good at and enjoy.

Result for girls. For the girls at the top in science, though, it is just one of the things they are good at and enjoy, and often they are even better at those other things than they are at science. So top girls in science are more likely than top boys to pick some other area to go into.

Roughly, the top girls tend to be more rounded than the top boys. I've not seen anything on why that might be so.

[1] Anecdotally, that fits me. When I first took the SAT in high school, I got 790 on math, and a terrible 540 on verbal. I took it again to see if I could do better on verbal, and got that up to 640, which is still nothing to write home about but is at least good enough to suggest I might actually be able to write. Math dropped to 750 the second time, which was embarrassing.


But doesn't the fact that top girls are more well-rounded than top boys also follow from the GMVH? (I am not sure, genuine question.)


Not obviously no. I could propose some reasons it might, but they'd require delving into pseudoscience in a field I'm not familiar with.


> men are just horrible people who can’t be nice to others

That’s an extremely bad and uncharitable way of summarising patriarchal oppression. It’s not about men being nice or not, it’s about (in part) a society that assigns roles to men and women and expects girls from a young age to be less logical, less mathematical, less interested in technology, etc., thus discouraging them from pursuing scientific careers. This effect, by this point, is extremely well-founded.

That’s not to say GMVH might not also be an effect, but to restate socialised gender roles as “men are just horrible people”, and to call that more controversial, is ridiculous.


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Memory holed off of hacker news too, you say?


The admins have the ability to turn off flags for specific posts. They would do well to do it here.


OP is flagged already.


The post dropped off the front page a few hours ago, but then suddenly jumped up again, so I guess the mods intervened. Currently it does not appear to have been flagged by a large enough number of people to kill it.


It's gone again.


And yet it still ~~moves~~ distributes.


This is a one-sided story pushing a "Us vs Them" narrative. I can see nothing productive coming out of this.


The weird thing is that the paper was accepted at two journals. Which says something about it's quality. It doesn't mean the author is right! But at that point (if you assume scientifc honesty) you'd expect critics to distill their disagreements in a paper and publish that.

That hasn't happened however. All that's happened has happened behind the scenes. Unless the article we read is dishonest in this regard.


I'm not sure if this is pushing a "us vs them"; and yes, it obviously is a one-sided story.

So, yes, I would really like to read a reply to this article but any of the other parties mentioned there.


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We've banned this account for violating the site guidelines. If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


My main problem with the paper is that it's about groups, not individuals. Groyp selection has been debunked. There are better ways to think about the wider variance that don't involve groups. Think instead about each individual "gambling" in its embryology and development.


Selection in the paper operates at the individual level. The groups are only a convenient abstraction to determine outcomes at the population level. You can think of group membership being determined by carrying a specific allele. Then the number of individuals in a group is just the frequency of that allele.


The paper seems to have some egregious and basic errors.

Take a look at the paper: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1703.04184.pdf

On page 2, it says (in discussing Special Case 1): "If sex A is relatively selective and will mate only with the top most desirable quarter of sex B, then all of the next generation will be offspring of the more variable subpopulation B1"

However, if you look at the histogram in Figure 1, it's clear that if sex A mates with the top most desirable quarter of sex B, then sex A is choosing most desirable mates who happened to be part of the subpopulation B1.

That is, as diagrammed in the histogram, variability is not a function of the population any more, since the red rectangle noting 'B1' with desirability 3 to 4 is no longer variable. It would be absolutely incorrect to say that "all of the next generation will be offspring of the more variable subpopulation B1".

In other words, it's like saying:

"In Sack 1, I have a mix of of blueberries and watermelons. Sack 1 is varied in fruit size, and has a high variability. I've sorted them by size, and taken the most largest fruit and put them in Sack 2. Now Sack 2 is full of variable sizes of fruit, since it came from Sack 1, which had high variability."

(EDIT: to be clear, I think the above sack example is incorrect; I'm illustrating the logic in which the paper seems to be incorrect, according to my understanding.)


You've identified the mechanism by which sexual selection operates. It's clearly a powerful force.

This paper is arguing that in addition to sexual selection's first order directional effect, there's an overlaid second order effect on variability, and the argument makes sense. Male reproductive success is already highly variable, because male gametes are cheap. Some males end up being disproportionately successful, e.g., Genghis Khan. From a gene's point of view, being hosted in Khan was winning the jackpot.

If you have a number of male offspring, some of them will be evolutionary "duds" no matter what. If you increase the variability in reproductive success of your male children, then some of them will be less reproductively successful and others will be more successful. But there's an asymmetry: "duds" are already duds and can't be made less successful, but on the other side of the curve, by increasing variability, you increase the likelihood of a jackpot.

The effect doesn't apply to female children, since a female mammal cannot have 200 offspring in her lifetime, but a male mammal certainly can.

(Your fruit analogy is inapt, since fruit in a bag don't reproduce among themselves and regress toward the population mean.)


> ... since a female mammal cannot have 200 offspring in her lifetime ...

Ah, but now she could. With enough money to pay for enough surrogates (or eventually, machines) and childcare.

So maybe, going forward, there'll be more variability in human female reproductive success. Interesting.


Yeah. Various kinds of reproductive and genomic technologies invalidate general evolutionary assumptions, but the techniques haven't been around long enough or been common enough to matter so far. But in the future? Who knows?


And if there was any kind of genetic motivation for doing that (and almost everything is partly heritable) we'd see more of those genes next generation, so likely some of her kids would go down that route too and there we go...


>The effect doesn't apply to female children, since a female mammal cannot have 200 offspring in her lifetime, but a male mammal certainly can.

From the paper:

"Note that this theory makes no assumptions about differences in means between the sexes, nor does it presume that one sex is selective and the other non-selective"

So the reproduction capacity of sex A and sex B is equal. I'm attempting to debate the paper strictly based on its own arguments.


The paper then goes on to discuss, in detail, how differences in selectivity drive differences in variability, so the passage you quoted does not mean that the author is imagining A and B to be equally selective. The author is just asserting that both of his arbitrary sexes might be selective in an absolute sense.

I'm not sure what point you're trying to make, especially since you've opted not to quote or address the majority of my comment.


> This paper is arguing that in addition to sexual selection's first order directional effect, there's an overlaid second order effect on variability, and the argument makes sense. Male reproductive success is already highly variable, because male gametes are cheap. Some males end up being disproportionately successful, e.g., Genghis Khan. From a gene's point of view, being hosted in Khan was winning the jackpot.

The paper makes no distinction between sexes -- so a discussion of male or female differences, whether in reproductive success, does not discuss on the paper's model.

> If you have a number of male offspring, some of them will be evolutionary "duds" no matter what. If you increase the variability in reproductive success of your male children, then some of them will be less reproductively successful and others will be more successful. But there's an asymmetry: "duds" are already duds and can't be made less successful, but on the other side of the curve, by increasing variability, you increase the likelihood of a jackpot.

Your argument holds the selectivity of the female sex as constant, and discusses variability of the male sex.

The paper's argument is about variability in one sex ('sex B') being a function of the selectivity of sex A. These are fundamentally two different arguments, and so whether your argument is true or not, your argument does not discuss the paper's model.

> The effect doesn't apply to female children, since a female mammal cannot have 200 offspring in her lifetime, but a male mammal certainly can.

Addressed in a previous comment.

> (Your fruit analogy is inapt, since fruit in a bag don't reproduce among themselves and regress toward the population mean.)

Thank you - I did not know this until now. I assumed that fruit reproduced asexually in bags.

My fruit analogy is presented because the error that the paper seems to make happens at a simple statistical level -- because the paper assumes that you can 'sort' a two variably desirable populations (B1 and B2) on a histogram by desire, find the top 25% of the population (B11), and assume that the top 25% desirable population (B11) is as variable as the original population it came from (B1).


> It would be absolutely incorrect to say that "all of the next generation will be offspring of the more variable subpopulation B1".

No, that's exactly correct. The example is set up so that no individual from B2 gets to mate with A. Therefore, the next generation only consists of offspring of B1. (I think you understand that, since you say "sex A is choosing most desirable mates who happened to be part of the subpopulation B1".) B1 is the more variable subpopulation. Therefore, the sentence "all of the next generation will be offspring of the more variable subpopulation B1" is correct.

I suspect you are interpreting it as making a statement about the subpopulation B11 (of the subpopulation B1) that actually gets to mate. But if you split B1 into the more desirable B11 and the less desirable B12, then you can't even talk about their variability relative to B2, because the paper only defines comparisons of variability for distributions with the same median.

So the sentence "all of the next generation will be offspring of the more variable subpopulation B11" is not only incorrect but meaningless. Although they seem to be talking about the same individuals (and "all of the next generation will be offspring of the subpopulation B11" is true) they are talking about different populations, and "more variable" can only be applied meaningfully to B1.

In terms of your fruit example, the correct translation would be "All fruit in Sack 2 came from Sack 1, which had high variability." without any implications about variability of Sack 2.

Heritability of variability is only introduced on page 6: " it will be assumed that the pace of evolution is negligible compared to the pace of reproduction, so the two subpopulations remain distinct, with offspring distributed the same way as the parent subpopulation". In other words, although three subpopulations B11, B12 and B2 can be clearly distinguished, only membership in B1 or B2 is actually heritable, with B11's offspring either in B11 or B12. If B2 ever got to reproduce, it would have B2 offspring, while B12 would produce B11 or B12. So although B12 never reproduces, it never dies out due to offspring of B11.

Of course the conditions in those examples are contrived and that makes the conclusions almost trivial (a caveat that is noted in the paper: "The precise formal definitions and assumptions made here are clearly not applicable in real-life scenarios, and thus the contribution here is also merely a general theory intended to open the discussion to further mathematical modeling and analysis") but it is certainly free from egregious and basic errors.


This is helpful, thank you.

> If B2 ever got to reproduce, it would have B2 offspring, while B12 would produce B11 or B12.

Okay, this is clear regarding the paper’s assumption of heritability of variability. Assuming that variability is a completely static characteristic innate to a population and perfectly heritable seems to me such a simplistic assumption as render most of the conclusions ineffective or correct only within a narrow set of assumptions.

After all, every GA would never work if this was the case.


Actually, I change my statement upon rereading the paper: If offspring is "distributed the same way as the parent subpopulation", then B12 would only produce B12.

In other words, if subpopulation B11 is chosen by A, then B11 would produce B11, this reducing the variability, not increasing it.


The paper only recognizes two subpopulations with their respective probability distributions. I only introduced B11 and B12 to be able to talk about different outcomes within the B1 subpopulations. Otherwise you could just choose any arbitrary grouping (e.g. mixing B11 and B12) and get completely different results depending on how you do it.

Maybe it's less ambiguous if we talk about machines which spit out a randomly sized ball when you press a lever. After collecting a certain number of balls from the machines, you determine what proportion of the largest p% is from each machine and replace all balls by selecting from the machines according to their proportion.

If you have a machine M1 producing very large balls and very small ones in equal quantities, as well as M2 producing medium-sized balls, then the prediction is that the proportion of balls coming from M1 will increase if p < 50% and decrease otherwise.

In that model, although you can clearly group the very large balls as B11, there is no machine M11 only producing those balls. Both very large and very small balls will, if they are in the top p%, require you to press the lever on M1. The size of the balls only influences which machine will be chosen, not what kind of balls will be coming out of that machine.

In genetic terms, B1 and B2 carry different alleles of the same gene and have different genotypes, while B11 and B12 are different phenotypes possible for B1. If B11 were to produce only B11, that would be inheritance of phenotype, i.e. Lamarckian evolution, which is also interesting, but less relevant for real-world genetics.


Honestly, if there had been basic errors in the paper, they wouldn't have had to ban it.


Subpopulations B1 and B2 are supposed to be genetically distinct, in ways that change their variability. If it helps, imagine that subpopulation B1 has a gene that, at birth, flips a coin and will make the child either ugly or beautiful, and that subpopulation B2 has no such gene and they're all of average beauty. Based on this interpretation, in Special Case 1 as an example, if sex A is relatively selective and mates with only the top most desirable quarter of sex B, then all of the next generation will indeed be offspring of subpopulation B1, and they will presumably inherit the coin-flipping gene. It is thus that selectivity favors variability.


However, that's not how the paper defines variability.

I did think for a second that your definition was the case, and variability was a function of phenotypical expression, but it (as defined in the paper) is strictly about the statistical distribution of desirability within a population. See p4.


That's how variability is defined, yes, on groups (or, technically, on "probability measures")—which might be the entire population or a subgroup thereof. The term "subpopulation" isn't defined, and it isn't explicitly stated whether the high variability is a heritable trait. I believe your contention is that that the overall population has basically the same genes, everyone rolls the dice, and then the subpopulations are defined post hoc in terms of the resulting quartiles (or x-iles). Mine is that the subpopulations are genetically distinct and their die rolls behave differently.

Given that the paper is about evolutionary mechanisms and whether one group "prevails" over another, I think my assumption is reasonable; and I think that, given my assumption, the paper makes good sense in the examples under discussion.


I'd understand your assumption but think that it is incorrect, since the paper defines desirability not as genetic healthiness but as a mechanism for sex A to select sex B:

"The actual magnitudes of these desirability values are assumed to have no significance, and are used only to make comparisons between individuals. Here and throughout, it will also be assumed that the same desirability value is assigned to each individual by every member of the opposite sex. "


The desirability of an individual is often strongly influenced by heritable traits. In the example with my interpretation, "beauty" is a trait we assume to be desirable (for the sake of illustration I'm assuming it's the only trait considered), and how much of it an individual has is heavily influenced by the coin-flip gene. I see no contradiction here.

I might interpret the sentences you quote as "We can give each individual a beauty score from 0 to 100, and all members of the opposite sex agree on what beauty score an individual gets." And we might imagine the coin-flippers have beauty in the ranges 90-100 or 0-10 (depending on the flip result), while the others are all between 40-60 beauty.


> The desirability of an individual is often strongly influenced by heritable traits.

I don't disagree with you, but that is not what the paper states, and that is not how the paper defines desirability.

I am not saying that the paper's definition is correct for a broader understanding of biology. Rather, the paper's stance is to generate a simple model and to prove an argument within that model. I am saying that, within the definition that the model is using, the model is internally incorrect.


You misunderstand the argument.

It's like having a bag 1 filled with equal quantities of capsicums, cherries, and apples, then selecting the top reddest 25% of bag 1 and moving them to bag 2.

You will have much less variability of fruit type in bag 2 because you used color selection to fill it (apples and capsicums come in three colors at will be selected 1/3rd the rate of cherries).

That's the whole point of sexual vs natural selection.


> You will have much less variability of fruit type in bag 2 because you used color selection to fill it

Yes, I completely agree with you! You will have much less variability.

However, that's not what the paper argues. The paper argues that you would have more variability.

I'd appreciate you taking a look at the original paper (specifically, the bottom of page 2 [edit: and Figure 1]) and understanding my original argument.


Right, and now compare it to the original bag.

You have increased variability between generations by reducing the variability in the second generation.


I agree with you that there is a difference in variability between generations.

I agree with you that the variability has been reduced in the second generation.

It seems that we both disagree with the original paper, then, as it states

"If sex A is relatively selective and will mate only with the top most desirable quarter of sex B, then all of the next generation will be offspring of the more variable subpopulation B1"


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I am examining the paper and attempting to understand it based on its arguments.

You are critiquing my argument based on what I am saying, not my method.

I argue that you are attempting to frame my critique of the paper based on the desired narrative you wish to pursue, rather than any kind of rigorous or inquisitive method.

If you agree with this analysis, then you will probably continue to disparage my efforts as some kind of attempt as "censorship", furthering your desired narrative.

If you disagree, then I heartily welcome a discussion of the paper.


Besides, the merit of this paper's argument is irrelevant. It could be totally wrong and the treatment it's receiving would still be abhorrent. Getting into the weeds on population genetics might be interesting, but it doesn't make a difference when it comes to the idea that we should debate results, not censor them.


Yes, that is the point here. If the article had been rejected everywhere, debating its soundness would be relevant. But this paper was accepted, and actually published, so that's irrelevant.


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No, it wasn't. Only the author can "withdraw" a paper. This paper "vanished" after Benson Farb (Amie Wilkinson's husband) bullied NYJM.

Also, "Did you read the article?" violates HN norms.

Edit: OK, I see that Elsevier uses "withdrawn" as you say,[0] but its criteria are scarcely applicable to the paper in question. Even without getting into the merits, this paper was apparently actually published. Just online, I admit, but they gave him a damn page number!

> Article withdrawal

> Only used for Articles in Press which represent early versions of articles and sometimes contain errors, or may have been accidentally submitted twice. Occasionally, but less frequently, the articles may represent infringements of professional ethical codes, such as multiple submission, bogus claims of authorship, plagiarism, fraudulent use of data or the like. Articles in Press (articles that have been accepted for publication but which have not been formally published and will not yet have the complete volume/issue/page information) that include errors, or are discovered to be accidental duplicates of other published article(s), or are determined to violate our journal publishing ethics guidelines in the view of the editors (such as multiple submission, bogus claims of authorship, plagiarism, fraudulent use of data or the like), may be “Withdrawn” from ScienceDirect. Withdrawn means that the article content (HTML and PDF) is removed and replaced with a HTML page and PDF simply stating that the article has been withdrawn according to the Elsevier Policy on Article in Press Withdrawal with a link to the current policy document.

0) https://www.elsevier.com/about/policies/article-withdrawal




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