Category: Reason Hell

Your Blood Group is Determined by Biology and is a Social Construct

I doubt this is original but it is worth going through because strange right-leaning people keep shouting about biology at me. Oddly though, I was prompted to write not by an argument about nature v nurture but a different argument about invention v discovery in mathematics. I’m not an expert on blood groups (which is sort of the point) so apologies for any biological errors.  Note also this is a description of one specific relationship between a social construct and biology. Others may have things in common but that doesn’t mean they are the same or have the same relationship between a biological aspect and the associated things that a society may construct around it [i.e. neither the social constructs of gender nor ‘race’ is directly analogous to blood group]. Anyway, here we go.

You probably know your blood group. Once upon a time I regularly gave blood and felt a moral obligation to do so. I’m O negative, which is a handy default blood type for donation as it contains neither A, B or Rh factors and hence shouldn’t trigger an immune reaction in most people of other blood types.

But ABO and Rh are just two blood typing systems and even with those two systems, there are variations. Group A can be further subdivided into approx 20 subgroups of which A1 and A2 account for most type-A people. In terms of inheritance, there are also exceptions to the commonly understood rules – CisAB (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cis_AB ). More generally there are tens of other blood typing systems that categorise other factors that can exist in human blood and which can potentially complicate blood transfusion.

The ABO/Rh system is a very effective simplification of a set of much messier, more organic categories. Yes, it is determined by your biology (you don’t get to pick) but the significance of whether you are “A” or “AB negative” etc depends very much on the existence and practicalities of a blood donation system. That system also has practical constraints but it is effectively something societies choose to do and requires political and social support as well as the existence of hospitals and an infrastructure to support them.

I also said that I used to give blood. I’m not allowed to currently because I lived in the UK during the height of the BSE/Mad cow disease outbreak. Concerns about the transmission of a prion disease via blood transfusion have meant that many countries place restrictions on blood donations. That rationale makes some sense given the extent to which prions are not well understood. What makes less sense is the restrictions imposed on men who have sex with other men (phrased that way to match the eligibility questions). Rules on blood donation to prevent the spread of HIV prevent people who have engaged in ‘at risk’ sexual behaviours (e.g. http://www.donateblood.com.au/faq/sexual-activity ). Such rules prevent many gay men in long-term monogamous relationships donating blood. The rules arise out of medical and practical considerations but such rules also have a social impact and arise because of social aspects (from international travel to personal and sexual relationships).

You should note another trick I employed above: I said ‘type-A people’. Once we have categories that can be applied to aspects of ourselves it is easy to see them as categories of people. I’m O negative, well no, no *I* am not, not really – my blood is O negative for the purpose of blood donation, it really isn’t much of a thing about who I am beyond that. The notion of me being O negative only really makes sense in the context of donating blood or receiving a blood transfusion (or a few other related circumstance). Prior to the development of safe blood transfusion and large scale blood donation, your blood group is not something people would know or care about. Even that history is entwined with complex social factors including the development of modern healthcare infrastructure but also the development of modern warfare.

Blood groups have also generated their own pseudosciences and racist theories – a kind of inevitable consequence of any system that allows a categorisation of people entails a dark desire to identify that categorization with other aspects including personality or as a means of identifying some inherent purity. Suffice to say there is little evidence of blood group actually determining anything other than the most likely blood needed in a blood transfusion (and as we’ve seen even that is a simplification – although a very effective one).

In most developed countries blood donation is voluntary but even such a primarily altruistic system has social implications. It isn’t had to imagine a situation in which blood donation was more heavily required or in which there were more significant socio-economic implications to donating blood. In such a situation the layers of social significance to blood type would be greater both in a direct sense and in the sense in which any social division generates its own myths and stereotypes. A world in which blood transfusions had to be more common and was connected to economic status, would with a capitalist-style economy lead to more weird (and unpredictable without knowing more details) stratifications by blood group.

So what’s my point if it isn’t a point about gender or race? The point is very much NOT that other social construct work the same way as blood group might in a fictional society. However, a broader point remains true. Critics of the term ‘social construct’ treat it as if a person is saying ‘wholly arbitrary’ or ‘completely made up’ or ‘fictional’. Treating the term like that makes it an easy strawman to knock down. No society exists in a vacuum*, so the things that our societies construct** are things that have practical limits and which are influenced by the environment that is constructed in INCLUDING the existence of other constructs. But the physical, ‘real’ influences on how a social construct has evolved over time do not mean that the categories, stereotypes or social expectations that arise apply in a deterministic way to individuals – some elements might (e.g. O- blood is safe for me to receive), others less so (e.g. whether there is a greater moral imperative for ‘O- people’ to donate blood) and others not at all (e.g. pseudoscience blood-group personality types).

tl;dr Societies and social attitudes are shaped by ‘real’ things including biology, but that does not imply that biology (or physics or chemistry) somehow validates them, makes them somehow extra true, or makes departure from them (either as an individual or as a direction for society) some kind of revolt against reality or science.

*[OK maybe there is a society of space squid, plying the void between the stars but that is a separate issue.]

**[You’d think that was obvious from the term ‘constructs’. Anything we physically construct has physical limits and depends on physical rules but can still be a work of creativity in which arbitrary, non-determined choices are made.]

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Reason Hell: Deception by graphs

Via the usual source of right wing nonsense comes this article: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2017-03-31/case-against-immigration?cid=int-lea&pgtype=hpg

Which has this graph in it:

The point of the image being: ‘look at that alarming rise’. Nicely, though, the graph itself is hosted here https://www.theatlas.com/charts/SyQXAao3e and you can download the data such that it is

Throwing into the mix the actual US population for the historical years and looking at those figures as a proportion gives:

popproportion

This graph tells a different story: a return to a historical norm rather than a change of character. A baby boom and some shifts in immigration policy leading to an unusual dip by the 1970s.

Weird Internet ideas: Are modern nazis imaginary? (spoiler: no, they’re real)

We’ve been busy watching Rabid shenanigans with books covers, but meanwhile over in Sad Puppy domains, Chris Chupik has decided that modern Nazis are largely imaginary. Chupik, for those who don’t know, is notable mainly as a regular commenter on Puppy blogs but sometimes he guest-posts at According to Hoyt. https://accordingtohoyt.com/2017/03/25/coyote-gravity-by-christopher-m-chupik/

[This get’s long so more below the fold…also ‘Spencer‘ is usually an external link but each time to a different article rather than peppering this piece with quotes]

Continue reading

Follow up to ‘Trump, Cruz, Rabid & Sad’

https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/trump-cruz-rabid-sad/

In a previous post I looked at how the US Republican Party nomination process was playing out in Sad Land and Rabidonia. This is a short update.

The main thing to note is that, as far as I can tell, most notable Puppies aren’t saying a great deal about it. Which is wise and maybe some are quiet Bernie Sanders supporters (OK probably not). However the vocal ones are very vocal.

The two major voices are:

  • Vox Day – supporting Donald Trump
  • Sarah Hoyt – supporting Ted Cruz

This discussion is getting a tad heated with each poster refering to the other’s position. Sarah Hoyt avoids naming Vox, I think to avoid summoning anti-Vox trolls. Vox is lambasting Sarah and is throwing some nasty digs her way:

http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2016/02/donald-trump-democratic-socialist.html

Now, she is right about one thing. I will not be Portuguese or Italian or German no matter how long I live in Europe. Here, you can move from a neighboring village that is a 10-minute walk away and you will always be stranieri to the locals. But what Sarah fails to understand is that she is no more American than I am Portuguese. She is a US resident, perhaps even a US citizen, but she is not an American. America is not an idea. America is not a concept. America is not a proposition nation. One cannot, contra her past assertions, become a genuine American just because one happens to believe one thinks a certain way.

Vox’s minions are nastier in the comments although the man himself claims that relations are not strained between the two of them.

Vox’s piece was in response to this piece by Sarah Hoyt

The Carol Of The Bells – A Blast From The Past, 2/20/2014

It does meander a bit and some of the more overt anti-Trump/VD parts are in the comments.

Oh, because Trump isn’t? Have you actually looked at Trump’s history? He talks game. He’s not any better.
Look, he is “European Right Wing” which is why VD likes him. Americans following VD MUST understand he’s not an American conservative. He’s an European right winger. They’re not the same. And here in the states, they’re both socialists. The only difference is leftists in Europe are INTERNATIONAL socialists, and right wing is NATIONAL socialist. That’s all.
You want national socialism here? Yeah. Trump is your man. He’s into the banks for millions and he’s corrupted everything he touched. But you guys believe he’s a white Knight sans peur et sans reproche. Good LORD.

As always Vox writes better, argues more effectively and for a position that is more absurd and dangerous. Sarah Hoyt gets at the core aspect that infuriates people opposed to Trump: the guy is an obvious fraud.

Meanwhile the previously Pro-Carson, John C Wright has declared his prefered choice…and it is BERNIE SANDERS! OMG! Ha, no only kidding, its Donald Trump.

John C Wright Endorses The Devil

To be fair to Mr Wright he doesn’t seem too happy about it. Naturally, given the right’s deep and implacable commitment to free-speech in all its forms Wright identifies the key political issue of the day:

That is not what I believe. I say the main enemy is the Press. Destroy the Press, and the federal government can be driven back into its proper constitutional limitations. With the Press at large acting as the False Prophet for the Beast, it cannot be driven back, because the people are deceived into thinking the Beast will not consume their lives.

[That quote isn’t on JCW’s blog which only has an excerpt of his longer column here  http://www.everyjoe.com/2016/02/22/politics/election-2016-real-and-delusional-america/#ixzz41CqRpSQ0

]
Yup, that’s how the JCW’s will restore ‘freedom’ – they’ll first destroy the press. I’m guessing they’ll then protect freedom by taking away those other terrible threats like voting, differences of opinion, women having lives beyond what JCW thinks they should have, stuff like that…

Reason Hell: False Balance

Guilty as charged. I had a lot of fun with my recent map but it also neatly demonstrates a modern scourge – false balance.

In a conflict it is easy to treat two sides of a conflict as being equal in all things in an attempt to appear impartial. Even from a particular perspective (e.g. me, a person opposed to the Puppies drawing a map) it is easy to give your opponents greater prominence by simply virtue of regarding your own opinions as being of significance and hence the people in opposition to your opinion must be of significance.

However, this is an obvious fallacy and yet one easy to indulge in. The significance of a viewpoint or a person in an argument or a dispute is no indication of their wider importance or the validity of the position. It seems so obvious that the truth of an argument is not a function of how loudly or how persistently somebody speak buts we are confronted with this fallcy on a regular basis by the news media.

The bias occurs partly as a natural outcome of explaining why there is a controversy. On my recent map I show Vox Day and John C Wright at a size equivalent to George R.R. Martin. Whatever we may think of Mr Wright or Mr. Day, it is clear their impact on the SF/F genre is not currently on the scale of GRRM. Yet in trying to explain the Puppy Kerfuffle I have to devote a lot of space to both Wright and Day.

So false balance is not just a fallacy but also a dilemma. To explain a controversy leads a person into false balance. To explain why global warming is politically controversial requires paying attention to the views of climate change deniers. To explain recent measles outbreaks requires discussing the views of anti-vaccination activists. In both cases an explanation of an issue unintentionally promotes and gives credence to error filled perspectives.

 

Reason Hell: The Dunning Kruger effect

A short Reason Hell this week. The Dunning-Kruger effect has had a lot of publicity bu one of the things I really like about it is that one of the papers by Justin Kruger and David Dunning is just so readable. It also has one of the best anecdotes ever used in a serious and influential paper:

In 1995, McArthur Wheeler walked into two Pittsburgh banks and robbed them in broad daylight, with no visible attempt at disguise. He was arrested later that night, less than an hour after videotapes of him taken from surveillance cameras were broadcast on the 11 o-clock news. When police later showed him the surveillance tapes, Mr. Wheeler stared in incredulity. “But I wore the juice,” he mumbled. Apparently, Mr. Wheller was under the impression that rubbing one’s face with lemon juice rendered it invisible to videotape cameras
Originally sourced from: Fuocco 1996 M A 1996 March 21 Pittsburg Post-Gazette Trial and error: They had larceny in their hearts but little in their heads

There is a copy of the whole paper here http://psych.colorado.edu/~vanboven/teaching/p7536_heurbias/p7536_readings/kruger_dunning.pdf