Friday, 9 March 2012

Lysenko Awards 2012 Winner: “Heart disease drug also prevents racism”

Can we draw any valid conclusions from the obvious and rapid acceleration in the number of published news stories in which some elite-favoured ideological position is miraculously 'proved scientifically', via some barking parody of scientific method, as part of their continued quest to turn opinions they don't like into pathologies they can cure?

Does it not show that those who have for several decades now been laying the ground for complete and Orwellian ideological enslavement are almost at the top of the hill and about to gleefully roller-coaster down the other side?
Does not the fact that we are now weekly bombarded with such insane nonsense on supposedly impartial news media sites, rarely more than half-heartedly questioned yet blatantly ludicrous and obviously propagandistic, show that we are now so ignorant and so gullible and so pliable that the end of freedom truly is nigh?

Well, given the small selection of items on which I base such a claim, the risk of bias in the sampling, the lack of a control group or independent observers, the non-acknowledging or testing of variant or contrary hypotheses, or the innate untestability of the central premise, I suppose the answer has to be no.
But such things plainly don't bother them so why should they bother me?

And if they can get away with saying that a pill to reduce the effects of heart disease has the accidental side-effect of 'curing racism', that people with lower IQs tend to favour conservative political positions and that white people find it easier to identify hazy sketches of apes if they have been shown a photograph of a black man for a fraction of a second first then surely I am entitled to call them the absurd ideological stormtroopers of a resurgent progressivist Fascist nightmare, and to state that not as merely my opinion but as Scientific Fact.

Because after all, while what they are saying is inarguably nonsensical, the fact that it is out there in all the news media websites, perhaps being treated with mild scepticism, but never shot down as an egregious violation not only of scientific method but of plain common reason - and a transparently and sinisterly motivated one at that - does tend by itself to prove my point rather better and more airtightly than they have bothered to prove any of theirs.
(For a fuller scientific explanation of my methodology, data gathering and conclusions than is possible in a short article, please see here.)

But to get back to this miraculous pill. Take it away, AOL:

A beta-blocker drug which is commonly prescribed to treat chest pains and lower heart rates has been found to have an unusual side-effect: it combats racism. The Telegraph reports that that drug, called propranolol, acts on the nerve circuits that govern automatic functions such as heart rate, as well as the part of the brain involved in fear and emotional responses. The unexpected 'moral' side-effects of taking the drug came to light when psychologists at Oxford University studied two groups of 18 people, who were asked to take a 'racial Implicit Association Test' (IAT) soon after taking propranolol or a placebo. The test involved categorising positive and negative words and pictures of black and white people on a computer screen. The Daily Mail reports that researchers measured the time taken to carry out the tasks and found that it took placebo volunteers longer to associate a black face with a positive word that it took to link a white face with a positive word. This was taken as proof that they were being racist on a subconscious level. The time lag disappeared among those participants who had taken the beta-blocker and researchers found that more than a third of these participants had a 'negative' IAT score, meaning that they were biased towards being non-racist at a subconscious level. This was not seen in any member of the placebo group. The drug was not found to have any effect on explicit prejudice of a racial, sexual or religious nature, only on subconscious feelings that most people might not be aware of. Experimental psychologist Dr Sylvia Terbeck told The Telegraph: "Our results offer new evidence about the processes in the brain that shape implicit racial bias. Implicit racial bias can occur even in people with a sincere belief in equality. Given the key role that such implicit attitudes appear to play in discrimination against other ethnic groups, and the widespread use of propranolol for medical purposes, our findings are of considerable ethical interest." Researchers believe that their results can be explained by the fact that racism is founded on fear as the drug is also used to treat anxiety and panic. Co-author of the study, Professor Julian Savulescu from Oxford University's Faculty of Philosophy, told the Daily Mail: "Such research raises the tantalising possibility that our unconscious racial attitudes could be modulated using drugs, a possibility that requires careful ethical analysis."

Underlying all this gibberish, of course, is a basic fact so obvious as to be of no abstract experimental interest whatever: that drugs affect the human organism - which of course includes the brain and therefore brain functions - in strange and unpredictable ways.
This is doubted by none, and therefore there is no reason whatever to think that those on a course of such drugs are unlikely to behave differently from those who are not, or even from themselves when not drugged, in a potentially infinite range of tests or experiences.
This is as far as we are legitimately entitled to go, if we want to be described as scientists without people laughing.
To go further, and read psychological meaning into such variation, of a sort that proposes the very opposite of what has been observed - the proof and delineation of non-random, innate psychological characteristics - is much, much worse than invalid. It is knowingly and absurdly invalid - and if I've learned anything in my short and blameless life, it is that clever people rarely say stupid things without a good nasty reason.

First, lest you fail to grasp just how profound and fundamental is these people's cheerful ignorance of scientific method, I urge you to see for yourself what an IAT is, and to take one yourself.
You will be instantly aware of two things. First, how obvious, boring and unrevealing it is that people on various metabolism-altering substances will react differently to tests that primarily measure instinctive response and relative reaction time.
Second, you might just notice how rotten with ideological bias they are, not least in the range of subjects they cover in the first place.
In the absence of any that test our susceptibility to the irrational hatred of the upper classes, the myth of progress, disregard for the elderly, increased genuflection at the altar of celebrity or willingness to believe anything we are told by people purporting to be of higher intelligence, I was forced to plump for the 'Arab-Muslim IAT', and noted without surprise how it takes as its premise that even the merest hint of suspicion on such subjects is a priori evidence of irrationality.
There is simply no option to explain the rational grounds for any unease we might have with the subject. Instead, we must decide whether the name Habib inspires good or bad feelings. This is what we scientists call horseshit.

When I was at school, our science class was asked to devise an experiment - any experiment - that would prove something. It didn't matter what, the point was how we would would set about trying to prove it. Our attempts would then be criticised to see how fairly and strictly they adhered to scientific method and thus how valid they were as a means of testing the given hypothesis. The actual experiment itself was never undertaken (I seem to remember I designed a series of tests to prove whether it was true or false that mice liked cheese); the issue at stake was the validity of the methods proposed. Had we come up with anything as idiotic as the Arab-Muslim IAT, and dared to suggest that it was a valid means of ascertaining proof of anything, we would have been laughed out of the classroom.

But here we see the essentially Lysenkoist element of the enterprise.
This is not a means of testing a hypothesis but rather of proving one: a totally different, and profoundly unscientific thing to do. That's why we get all this stuff about the drug acting on the fear centres of the brain: because fear is irrational, and it saves bothering to debate with someone who thinks that there might be grounds for unease at the rise of genocidal middle-ages theocratic tyrannies if you can get some willing stooge in a lab-coat to prove they're a few sandwiches short of a picnic.
Just give 'em a pill, for all our sakes.
And it's intoxicating fun, which is why they do this sort of thing all the time now. They must have been nervous at first, fearful that people might spot the complete absence of rigour or seriousness, and the cynical disregard for the bedrock demands of their job. But no, it was soon obvious that nobody was going to protest, or probably even notice, so they don't even try to make sense anymore.
Pretend for a second that tests which "involve categorising positive and negative words and pictures of black and white people on a computer screen" are capable of proving anything, other than the biases and prejudices of the people who devise them. Even then, can you imagine anyone in my science class getting away with saying that any experiment involving the testing of two groups of 18 people was sufficient to make any general assertions?
But here the message could not be clearer: one group of 18 people drugged up to the eyeballs and another group of 18 people not drugged up to the eyeballs were given the same meaningless horseshit test. And when the meaningless horseshit data was gathered: "This was taken as proof that they were being racist on a subconscious level."
No mere hints or suggestions for these bold pioneers! No, this is conclusive proof, obtained with just 32 subjects and no screening for experimental bias or methodological contamination.
Here's that reasoning again, in its full uninterrupted pseudo-scientific majesty:

The Daily Mail reports that researchers measured the time taken to carry out the tasks and found that it took placebo volunteers longer to associate a black face with a positive word that it took to link a white face with a positive word. This was taken as proof that they were being racist on a subconscious level.

If it proves anything - which it doesn't, for the various technical reasons already outlined - it would prove the extent to which people on a specific heart drug differ from those not on a specific heart drug at the cognitive task of associating black faces with positive words. It would tell us nothing at all about what associating black faces with positive words means, or could mean, about the person doing the associating, still less why they should or shouldn't make such associations, even if the experiment was set up with even the merest pretence of scientific objectivity or respectability.

"The drug was not found to have any effect on explicit prejudice of a racial, sexual or religious nature, only on subconscious feelings that most people might not be aware of."
What does this even mean? What could this even mean?
What Swiftian parallel society have we washed ashore in?

But of course, the real significance is still to come, and here's where it stops being even mordantly funny:

Co-author of the study, Professor Julian Savulescu from Oxford University's Faculty of Philosophy, told the Daily Mail: "Such research raises the tantalising possibility that our unconscious racial attitudes could be modulated using drugs..."

Tantalising. Yes indeed.
I can only imagine how tantalising it must be to these bastards.
And given how keen our masters now are to repress the effects of a variety of behavioural complaints in children by doping them up with all manner of drugs that didn't even exist three decades ago - not least because the ailments they purport to address didn't exist three decades ago either - how long before we too are 'encouraged' - in the Stalinist sense - to supplement our daily intake of lies and cornflakes with a few keep-stupid pills for our own good?
After all, if they 'cure racism', how dare we even think of objecting?


Recusant said...

Ah, Julian Savulescu. That would explain everything. A noted Utilitarian and the editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics which recently published an article on the morality, nay, the neccessity of what it called "post-birth abortions" - infanticide to you and me. When the authors weren't unanimously praised for their blinding moral wisdom, but, instead, received unsurprisingly intemperate criticism and insult, this is what he had to say:

"What is disturbing is not the arguments in this paper nor its publication in an ethics journal. It is the hostile, abusive, threatening responses that it has elicited. More than ever, proper academic discussion and freedom are under threat from fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society."

So arguing for infanticide and claiming babies are "non-people" is reasonable and fine, the threat to society comes from those who loudly and vociferously disagree? God help us.

Recusant said...

Just to bore on a bit more about Prof. Julian Savulescu, the ex-student of Princeton's Peter Singer - you know, the one in favour of infanticide and loving, sexual cross-species relationships, he wrote this a couple of year's ago:

"If safe moral enhancements are ever developed, there are strong reasons to believe that their use should be obligatory, like education or fluoride in the water, since those who should take them are least likely to be inclined to use them. That is, safe, effective moral enhancement would be compulsory."

Well at least we know he didn't come to his reasearch with any pre-conceived views or attempt to direct his 'findings' to a peronally desirable outcome. Oh no; that wouldn't be scientific.

kindlechronicles said...

One wonders by what reasoning the users of a heart drug came to be subjected to a psychological test in the first place. Do institutes such as this routinely test anti-racism profiling on new drugs guinea pigs just in case they find the new philosopher's stone to unearth thought crime? Or did some beta blocker user contact them saying "hey I used to be a racist before I started on this drug, but now I can read Polly Toynbee articles in the Guardian without puking up"?

The Venerable Bede said...

That's an extremely good point.

Darrell said...

The IAT needs a third option "O,"
in addition to the "E" and "I." Then, if your answer sequence is ever "E-I-E-I-O," you will have matched the IQ of the test makers who apparently reached their intellectual capacity when they mastered "Old MacDonald Had a Farm."

Anonymous said...

hello im looking for mick shiverton is he still posting here
alf beilin

The Venerable Bede said...

Of course I am. I just call myself 'The Venerable Bede' because it pulls the birds.

Darrell said...

I once read that it's hard to go anywhere in London without seeing a Tit. Or pair.

Btw, I think it's really classy that you capitalize the word so often. Respect is what that is. I tried to start an American charity to eliminate the Blue Tit once and for all by sending over cashmere turtlenecks and such, but none of the British charities would let me
explain my goals. It must have been that language barrier we hear so much about.

Featherless Biped said...

Just to play devil's advocate, suppose the test subjects had reasons to view blacks less favorably.

Then we would have to say that the beta blocker was also acting as a "judgement blocker". But that would not be allowed, so I am definitely not going to say it.

There are many, many alternative explanations of the effect besides, "racism suppressor".

The Venerable Bede said...

Or, imagine if the drug had the side-effect of 'increasing racism'.
What a dilemma that would pose! No matter how useful it proved in combating the symptoms of heart disease - would that be justification enough in allowing it to be used?

Darrell said...

The test is nonsense and any conclusion drawn from the results would be equally specious.

As I understand it, the test was originally created to explain why
$Billions of spending overhauling education programs in urban school, employing the best minds of the education establishment hadn't done anything to narrow the gap between white and minority test scores and academic grades. The preconceived explanation was residual racism and the test was designed to find and quantify it--along with a little razzle/dazzle pseudoscience with making time of the essence to bring in the concept
of subconscious racism. Hi-tech there, so it must be telling us something. The other tests for anti-Muslim bias, etc., were added as time went along in stick lockstep with political correctness. I'm surprised they didn't have an anthropogenic global warming denier identifying test.

To that end, they created a test, to be done on a computer, that is totally foreign to the testing experiences that test takers bring with them (circling correct answers, filling in ovals, etc.) Using one's left hand (like I did because I reserve my right hand for the mouse--and occasional cigarette)induces the elements of varying degrees of manual dexterity between hands and even the right hemisphere/left hemisphere brain differences.

The drug study people say that racism decreased while on the drug. From that, the only thing I take away is that the people taking the test have now done so at least twice (to quantify the decrease). It probably was more than two times. Do they assume that there is no learning curve with this test method? If I gave participants a single ounce of water and had them take the test, followed by further testing each time increasing the quantity of water by one ounce and retesting, wouldn't the test takers perform better when they got to 10 ounces--just from "knowing" the test and burning in those neural networks to hit the "I" and the "E" more accurately and quickly? Would I have proved that 10 ounces of water reduces racism?