Friday, August 11, 2017

Why James Damore's Google "Memo" Is a Load Of Right Wing Anti-Female Balderdash

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The Culture Wars are back on again, this time fired up by a 23 year old conservative twerp  and former Google Software engineer named James Damore.  Like most young conservatives he has zero clue about the deep politics issues of our time, and is more concerned with hurling his verbal vomit into so-called "manifestoes". In this case, a 3,000 word effort blasting Google's "left bias" for "creating a politically correct monoculture" that ignores differences between the sexes.

Do we all kowtow to this wet behind the ears techie and part time sociologist, biologist who isn't shy about filling us in on those difference? Hell no! His manifesto waxes long about the supposed traits of females which makes them less able to cope in a software programming environment, but doesn't hold up to scrutiny.  One wonders where this twerp even got the time to write a 10  page manuscript given he's supposed to be programming code.  

Some of the screwball tropes exposed in his ten page "memo" and my responses:

1) Political orientation is actually a result of deep moral preferences and thus biases. Considering that the overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left, we should critically examine these prejudices:
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He adds as an aside, in a footnote:

Of course, I may be biased and only see evidence that supports my viewpoint. In terms of political
biases, I consider myself a classical liberal and strongly value individualism and reason


This is mostly the usual classic, conservative codswallop supported by neither neurobiology or sociology. It is more a product of the political stereotypes spewed out over decades by right wing talk radio and more recently FOX news and others (Sinclair Broadcasting). Nor is there a basis in ethics or morality, so "deep moral preferences" doesn't wash in the way Damore has spun it.  As the Jesuits at Loyola taught me, and with which I can agree even as an atheist, "deep moral preferences" must include seeing the human family as one's own.  You act therefore to reduce unfair disparity via social justice initiatives.  You do not act like a knuckle dragger to advance social Darwinism.

There is indeed no basis in standard evolution theory for the latter.  For example, ‘survival of the fittest’ was never uttered or stated by Charles Darwin himself, in any of his treatises. It was, rather, promoted by the English sociologist Herbert Spencer, in a misguided attempt to extrapolate Darwinian principles to the social sphere. (E.g. The Study of Sociology, 1873, serialized for an American audience in Popular Science Monthly)

In his serialized tracts, Spencer absolutely repudiated all state assistance to the poor, needy, physically feeble, or infirm – based on a bastardized “survival of the fittest”  or "preference for the strong" concept. He believed, erroneously, that people are like beasts that had to be forced to compete for precious resources. If they didn’t do this, they’d produce degenerate, weakened humans- unfit in the evolutionary scheme. Hence, the name “Social Darwinism”.

This Social Darwinism remains embedded in the current incarnation of rabid individualism disseminated by conservative ideologues, who salivate non-stop at the prospect of using it to dismember social safety nets.  Damore's manifesto reeks with the false scholarship of Herbert Spencer in his references to disparities being "natural and just" and  "humans being naturally competitive".

Also his blanket assertion that "the overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left" can also be challenged on multiple grounds. Indeed, he seems to need to be reminded (assuming he read it at all),  of the words of the original capitalist, Adam Smith. In his 'Inquiry into the Wealth Of Nations' Smith evoked a more rational attitude when he noted there are:

"needs in a civilized society that a barbaric one refuses to address."

He also pointedly stated (Vol. II, p. 648):

"What improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconvenience to the whole "

THIS is the basis for the true classical liberalism (governing markets) that Damore purports to embrace yet seems to have vacated his brain when he set out his left-right  "bias" markers. Smith recognized, unlike such modern high priests of conservative economic thought as Martin Feldstein and Milton Friedmann, that any economics devised to create more inequity can't be sustained. Eventually, as Lenin predicted in his essay on Imperialism, it must consume its seed corn and also its raison d'etre.

Echoing Smith, Charles Reich poignantly noted in his book, Opposing the System, Crown Books, p. 103:

"When society itself comes to be modeled on economic and organizational principles, all of the forces that bind people together are torn apart in the struggle for survival. Community is destroyed because we are no longer 'in this together' because everyone is a threat to everyone else. "

In such a capitalist-driven, consumerist organizational economic model, wherein the resource “pie” for the non-wealthy elite grows ever smaller, the young are threats to us oldsters, as we are threats to them, as neighbor is to neighbor. It can't be otherwise. This capitalist model has seen fit, in other words, to destroy our areas of commonality and common cause, replacing neutral civic space with demeaning commercial space and commercialist, market values. Reich's appeal, as well as Smith's is to a traditional capitalism as opposed to the "cowboy" mutation that most conservos today embrace.

  2) On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways. These differences aren’t just
socially constructed because:
● They’re universal across human cultures
● They often have clear biological causes and links to prenatal testosterone
● Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify
and act like males
● The underlying traits are highly heritable
● They’re exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychology perspective
Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from all women in the following ways or that these
differences are “just.” I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men
and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why
we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.

That males and females "differ biologically in many ways" is not up for debate. What is up for debate is Damore's contention that these biological differences translate into radically different psychological  and job aptitude differences (e.g. women "have more neuroticism, higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance" so are less capable in high stress jobs). Also there is Damore's contention that biological traits define personality differences. For example, Damore blabs:

"Women, on average, have more openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women generally also have a stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men (also
interpreted as empathizing vs. systemizing). This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading."

None of these assumptions, claims is substantiated by any research published in respected, peer-reviewed  journals of sociology or psychology. If in fact they were, Damore doesn't cite them which indicates he's merely regurgitating stereotypes imbibed from non-academic sources. Or he's confected his own biased conjectures based on limited experience and maybe frequenting right wing sites.

My own experience has been that if a female physics student is given the opportunity to be systematic and excel in a serious challenge she will do it. Often she will easily surpass even talented male counterparts. One of the more challenging physics projects I've assigned was completed by two female students. It entailed the careful computer modeling of a standard Newtonian orbit - including the code and the base equations used. It was of such a high standard it became one of the few student projects published in The Journal of the Barbados Astronomical Society.

The project entailed using a set of initial conditions (for position) to then construct a Newtonian orbit  by using appropriate differential equations for acceleration and velocity.  Thereby the girls  obtained successive iterations in position, a and v,  and a complete orbit. Their result is shown below:
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Nor was this a "one off" or exceptional. In other words, whenever female physics students were given the same opportunities they generally surpassed the male students, in attention to detail and the overall quality of their work.

The upshot is that nearly all Damore's assertions may be merely based on his own limited  expectations of how females perform in a working environment as opposed to how they actually perform. So he expects they will be "agreeable" or "have a stronger interest in people rather than things" so sees that in female peers.  In other words, he is hostage to his own innate confirmation bias.

3) We always ask why we don't see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we
see so many men in these jobs. These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not
be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life.

Status is the primary metric that men are judged on, pushing many men into these higher
paying, less satisfying jobs for the status that they entail. Note, the same forces that lead men
into high pay/high stress jobs in tech and leadership cause men to take undesirable and
dangerous jobs like coal mining, garbage collection, and firefighting, and suffer 93% of
work-related deaths.

This again is merely more social Darwinist bunkum,  recycled to attempt to justify gender stereotypes to fit the standard conservative milieu i.e. "women are to be kept barefoot and pregnant".  Damore would obviously deny this but his prose fairly reeks of the underlying template that screams: "women are inferior workers to men".  Even Google CEO Sundar Pichai noted that "to suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK."

The WSJ in its editorial Aug. 9 ('Google's  Diversity Problems', p. A14) tried to attack that rationale for letting Damore go,  averring:

"In other words its OK to express views as long as they are not antithetical to Google's political culture."

Which misses the point entirely, As author Charles Reich noted in his 'The Greening of America' it actually endorses throwback views antithetical to human decency and inclusion. These are every bit as objectionable as a racist tract used to justify the exclusion of black workers.

The WSJ may whine and moan, but Damore's firing is going to stand. Strangely, the organ of high finance seems to have forgotten that workers in corporations have absolutely no free speech rights, or First Amendment ones. This was pointed out over a quarter century ago by Charles Reich in his book 'Opposing the System.'  Citing the case of 'Waters v. Churchill' (p. 146). He noted "the Supreme court made clear that an employee's speech is not protected if the employer  believes the speech might interfere with the efficiency of the employer's operations."

Since it is clear that allowing Damore's presence (after his memo went viral) would definitely undermine Google's efficiency of operations, it was clear Google had to give this right wing troll the heave ho, all the Right's whining aside.  Indeed, Damore's timely firing may have well kept Google on the right side of the law, especially if the company or its employees felt the memo had created an adverse work environment.

Especially pathetic is Damore's assertion:

"the same forces that lead men into high pay/high stress jobs in tech and leadership cause men to take undesirable and dangerous jobs like coal mining, garbage collection, and firefighting, and suffer 93% of work-related deaths."

What exact "forces' are these? Damore doesn't elaborate so I presume we're just expected to guess. But without specifying them his words end up as merely an empty rumination, devoid of any substance. Indeed, Damore tries to make his point later referring to  "the Left tends to deny science
concerning biological differences between people (e.g., IQ and sex differences)." But the "Left" does no such thing.

We do acknowledge differences in IQ and sex (biological) differences, but we absolutely reject the notion that these differences translate into  psychological manifestations that would disqualify a person of particular gender - or race- from doing a specific job.  That includes an African -American from being an investment banker and a young female Ph.D. from being a rocket scientist or astrophysicist. Let me also add that for anyone to drag IQ into worker profiling and job qualification smacks totally of Charles Murray's "Bell Curve" nonsense which I already skewered, e.g.

4)   Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of humanities and social sciences lean left (about 95%), which creates enormous confirmation bias, changes what’s being studied, and maintains myths like social constructionism and the gender wage gap. Google’s left leaning makes us blind to this bias and  uncritical of its results, which we’re using to justify highly politicized programs.


Again, we have an assertion unsupported by actual statistics. Where - from what journal of sociology - did Damore obtain the "95 percent" figure?  Where is the fully cited reference and humanities' job by job tally of percentages disclosing a leftward tilt?  Since Damore has offered only his own bloviations without citation then this is mere blowing smoke.  He's attempted to garner specious support for his trope by tossing out generalities and pseudo stats with no backing.

5) Stop alienating conservatives.
○ Viewpoint diversity is arguably the most important type of diversity and political
orientation is one of the most fundamental and significant ways in which people
view things differently.
○ In highly progressive environments, conservatives are a minority that feel like
they need to stay in the closet to avoid open hostility. We should empower those
with different ideologies to be able to express themselves.

More  victimization and whining as is now typical of the poor little Righties.  They scream their own incessant invective over talk radio, and in "memos" and online forums but crawl into little holes when challenged in other public forums, or work environments. Pardon me while  I play the world's smallest violin for them.  Did Damore even ask himself why "conservatives" are a minority in many of these high caliber environments, especially academia?  Maybe it's because their lot - embracing a "dog eat dog" culture and world - simply doesn't fit into those work environments.

The WSJ editorial stated at the end:

"Many on the left are dismissing Mr. Damore as an alt-Right nut"  and "the monolithic progressive culture incubated on college campuses has spread to corporate America"

The first part is essentially correct, meaning the arguments of Damore could have emanated from Alt Right sites or groups. The second part is a dramatic oversimplification.  It is not that there exists a "monolithic progressive culture" either on college campuses or in some corporations (like Google). Rather,  that as one enters environments where the life of the mind trumps the almighty buck one simply finds fewer conservatives in general - given the preponderance are about making money, not investigating new quasars, or quantum entanglement.  Damore and the WSJ basically just whine because conservative thought and ideas are not dominant everywhere. But why the hell would it be if there exist different priorities for progressive minds and conservative ones?   This is not so much biological in origin as  based on political outlook, and that outlook often hinges on intellectual markers.

Damore's stereotypical rot almost reminds me  of Todd Akins' comments in an interview that  went public back in August, 2012. To quote, after being asked why he supported banning abortion:

“It seems to me from what I understand from doctors, if it’s a legitimate rape female bodies have ways to shut that down.”

Damore's speculations on female biology and how it relates to female job performance being limited  in assorted areas, bears many similarities.   Maybe Damore needs to go back to university and take a few modern sociology courses. At the very least he needs to learn how to cite appropriate research sources when he purports to write future company "memos" or personal manifestos. 

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