Don’t Know Much About History

If you don’t know where you came from and whether it was a good place to be, you could wind up choosing to go back there—whether it’s in your best interest or not. There’s a post up over at Acculturated that deals with the problem of historical illiteracy among college graduates and the effect that could have on civic discourse.

To make sense of contemporary policy debates, you need a certain amount of perspective. If you lack that perspective, you can be more susceptible to overreaction and partisan hysteria.

Take the issue of executive power and national security. If you don’t know what Lincoln did during the Civil War (suspend habeas corpus), what Woodrow Wilson did during World War I (severely restrict civil liberties), or what Franklin Roosevelt did during World War II (put Japanese Americans in internment camps), it’s hard to have any real perspective on the actions that George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump have taken in the war against Islamic terrorism.

Read the whole thing.

Defending the Humanities

There’s a thought-provoking post over at Acculturated that asks the question: Do the Humanities Deserve Defending? (H/T, Sarah Hoyt)

Apologists for the study of philosophy, history, literature and art usually claim that the humanities train us to be: creative, logical and nimble thinkers (this is the pragmatic, skill-set thesis). The humanities do this, in part, by imparting the kind of knowledge about culture that makes us more empathetic and, thus, ethically minded global citizens (the altruistic, good human being thesis).

These arguments rely on unsound reasoning and are unsubstantiated by any acknowledgement of contradictory examples. In other words, they fail to employ the very same wisdom that literature, philosophy and history supposedly provide when they teach us rhetoric, logic and our pasts.

Read the whole thing. If you do, you’ll see my comment: “Yes. We should defend the humanities—from the humanists!”

I’m Not Making This Up, You Know

There’s now a “movement” to eliminate the use of black targets in law enforcement training because of claims that “young black men are 3X more likely to be shot by trained shooters than their white peers” and a “study by University of Illinois researchers that concluded shooters were more likely to fire at a black target.” (H/T,

aw20170219Correlation is not the same thing as causation, so statistically, there are two questions that should examined concerning that “3X more likely” claim—if it is true. First, young black men are a small subset of the population, but, as a group, they appear to be more likely that average to be involved in crime. How much more likely? 3X? More? If more likely, one is led to wonder why they would be shot less frequently than their share of dangerous interactions with police (or armed victims) would suggest. Second, how much more likely than average are young black men to be shot at (including being missed) by untrained shooters? It could be that one reason young black men are only 3X more likely to be shot by trained shooters is that training reduces the probability of an unjustified shooting.

Both of those factors may come into play. Or neither.

The Left’s Alternate Facts

Alex Caro has an essay over at Real Clear Science that deals with how postmodernism on the Left can wind up being anti-science.

When it comes to science, the left has time and again attacked the view that science can make strong truth claims. Science, in this view, is merely one way of knowing among many, making the conclusions of science open to challenge by those who reject its methods and norms, even if they have little understanding of what it is they are criticizing. After all, these norms are arbitrarily ‘constructed’ by those with power and thus must be deconstructed by the oppressed (i.e., the children of wealthy elites attending expensive Western liberal arts schools).

Thus, activists are free to oppose the use of GMOs and vaccines—using precaution as a justification for perpetual inaction—even when these technologies demonstrably increase the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people.

OTOH, they are also free to pick which Science they want to see as settled. A hundred years ago, Progressives were all for eugenics. This became somewhat less popular after certain events in Europe during the ’30s and ’40s. Now, it’s GMOs and vaccines and climate and gender.

Read the whole thing.