June 09, 2011

More Moral Insight from Professor Reynolds

After reading our example from earlier in the week, a reader in New York kindly sent another example of acute moral insight from Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds (who is apparently already renowned for his enthusiasm for murder, genocide and war!); in this case, Professor Reynolds is responding to a reader's query:  "Why should we be all fired up about women's health and not men's health? Is there a special role of government in taking care of women? Why?".  Reynolds' answer:

Because women want an Uncle Sugar to take the place of a husband?

Certainly that must be the reason.

Posted by Brian Leiter on June 9, 2011 in Law in Cyberspace, Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

June 06, 2011

Denying College Students the Right to Carry Guns on Campus...

...is like racial segregation.   Finely tuned moral sensibilities here!

Posted by Brian Leiter on June 6, 2011 in Law Professors Saying Dumb Things | Permalink | TrackBack

February 25, 2011

DeLong vs. Volokh Blog Crazies

This is pretty funny:  part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.

(Thanks to Jason Walta for the links.)

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 25, 2011 in Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

December 22, 2010

Nonsense in Cyberspace Watch

A student just forwarded to me a discussion thread from "Top Law Schools" in which someone claiming to be a law professor (and apparently was believed to be a law professor by the students asking question) posted the following:

To most professors, Georgetown is far more prestigious than, say, Duke or Michigan because of its location and (because of its location) it attracts many more heavyweight scholars than the more isolated schools.

The Internet:  it's still the nonsense and misinformation superhighway!

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 22, 2010 in Law in Cyberspace, Law Professors Saying Dumb Things | Permalink | TrackBack

August 19, 2010

Great Moments in Blogospheric Dialogue, Part 178

Ilya Somin (George Mason), libertarian true believer, thinks regular Republican Rick Hills (NYU) has "a good critique" of my views on tenure.  Except Rick mostly doesn't discuss my views on tenure, as I pointed out in the comments, though Rick makes up some views he ascribes to me.  (Commenters on Rick's thread then make the points I made originally, which is even funnier.)  Somin says:  "Some of the exchange between Hills and Leiter has do with possible conflicts of interest in the debate. For example, Leiter attacks Columbia professor Mark Taylor for criticizing tenure when he is about to retire and no longer needs its protection."  But Leiter never attacked Taylor for this reason, since it would be silly.  (Read what I wrote.)

Another triumph for rational dialogue in Cyberspace!

CORRECTIONS THAT AREN'T QUITE CORRECTIONS:  Professor Somin updates his post in order to describe as "my statement" someone else's statement (really a fragment of a sentence in a lengthy quotation that had nothing to do with Professor Somin's misattribution of a view about conflicts of interest to me).    But I am grateful that he acknowledged the 'misinterpretation.'

Posted by Brian Leiter on August 19, 2010 in Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

July 29, 2010

"Volokh Conspiracy" Blog Implodes: Kerr v. Lindgren

Lindgren is not winning.  In the great teapot that is the blogosphere, this tempest is particularly amusing:  here, here, here, here.

(Thanks to several different readers for flagging this curiuos back-and-forth.  Professor Lindgren appears never to have met a non-story or triviality about which he couldn't blog.)

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 29, 2010 in Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Legal Humor, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

June 30, 2010

Opposition to Heller and Support for Gun Control is Like Racism

I think that's the short version of the 'argument' here, courtesy of one of the wackier Volokh bloggers.

Posted by Brian Leiter on June 30, 2010 in Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

June 11, 2010

Fashionable Bigotry Among Law Profs

Against Muslims, of course.

Posted by Brian Leiter on June 11, 2010 in Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

May 01, 2010

The Racist E-Mail by the Harvard 3L

Stephanie Grace, a 3L at Harvard Law School, sent an e-mail to some 'friends' (one of whom subsequently leaked it), stating, among other things, the following:

I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. I could also obviously be convinced that by controlling for the right variables, we would see that they are, in fact, as intelligent as white people under the same circumstances. The fact is, some things are genetic.

Given the magnitude of Ms. Grace's ignorance, and the fact that ignorance was skewed in favor of racist stereotypes, it is unsurprising that she has been pilloried for her views.  (To her credit, Ms. Grace did apologize for the offensive e-mail.) To be clear, as I understand it, all of the following is uncontroversial: 

1.  There is substantial evidence that IQ is heritable (which does not mean, contrary to what many blogs, as well as the HLS student, seem to think, that it has a genetic basis).

2.  IQ is, at best, a controversial measure of intelligence.

3.  There is no evidence--literally, none--that IQ differences between racial groups have a genetic basis.

Now the standard source in the know-nothing blogosphere for the contrary proposition to #3 is the 1994 book The Bell Curve by Hernnstein & Murray, which was published without peer review, for reasons made clear by Stephen Jay Gould, James Heckman, and the critical discussions collected in this book.  At least as far as actual scientific research goes, the Hernnstein & Murray book has as much credibility as the putatively 'scientific' evidence for Intelligent Design or that global warming is a hoax (the irony, of course, in each case is that the politically motivated purveyors of the pseudo-science invariably accuse the scientific skeptics about their work of having political motivations!)  (As a sidenote, though, social science enthusiasts would do well to look at the paper by Glymour in the aforementioned book, which makes the case that the pseudo-science of The Bell Curve is replicated throughout the social sciences.)

A very clear explanation of the main points is this essay by Ned Block (NYU).  It is useful, in particular, in explaining why the heritability of IQ is not evidence of its having a genetic basis.

The brouhaha over Ms. Grace's e-mail has not been a shining moment for the right-wing Volokh blog, though perhaps that is not surprising.  At one extreme, there is David Bernstein (George Mason) falling through the looking-glass as usual and deciding that universities are less tolerant of racism than they are of left-wing professors like Finkelstein and Churchill--professors who, in a great display of tolerance, were fired from their jobs for their political views.  

Less fully unhinged from reality is Eugene Volokh (UCLA), whose lengthy discourse on the case might have misled a casual reader into thinking that the e-mail in question had been sent by a social science researcher to a colleague doing research about IQ and heritability, as opposed to what it actually was:  an e-mail sent by a third-year law student at Harvard who was obviously in the dark about the evidence, but all-too-willing, despite that, to entertain the most vicious racist stereotypes as possibilities.  Since Professor Volokh appears to be as confused about heritability and genetics as the Harvard student, it is perhaps not wholly surprising that he should rise to her defense.

At the other end of the spectrum, not surprisingly, was Orin Kerr (George Washington) who notes fairly that one e-mail, even one reflecting sympathy with racist stereotypes like this one, is not a sound basis on which to assess someone's intelligence and character.  That, I think, is the most charitable thing to be said about this whole affair.  Or to paraphrase Ms. Grace:  "we should absolutely not rule out the possibility that Ms. Grace is not really a right-wing racist and neanderthal."

UPDATE:  More on IQ, race, evidence and possibilities here.

Posted by Brian Leiter on May 1, 2010 in Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Student Advice | Permalink | TrackBack

July 07, 2009

Li-ann Thio, NYU's Anti-Gay Bigot and Visiting Professor

Several readers have now sent links to this story about a Singapore professor who will be teaching human rights law at NYU this fall, who is captured on video arguing at length against the decriminilization of homosexuality (the links to the video can be found in the story linked above).  The most striking thing about the video is its embarrassingly low intellectual level--she mostly just regurgitates Lord Devlin's side of the Hart/Devlin debate, which Hart won, both intellectually and as a matter of English law.   There isn't even the pretense of a response to the obvious Hartian and Millian objections to her Devlinesque position.   Now perhaps Professor Thio isn't as dumb as this performance suggests, and perhaps she has done good work in other areas--there are plenty of anti-gay bigots in the academy who have done important scholarly work (John Finnis is an outstanding example).   Still, this is all a bit embarrassing for NYU.  One imagines she will not receive a warm welcome in Greenwich Village this fall.

UPDATE:  A colleague elsewhere writes:

In addition to your observations about the purely analytical deficiencies of Professor Thio's performance before Parliament, I think that this video helps to point out the deficiencies in the human spirit that she brings to the debate.  The qualities of compassion, enlightenment, and living within the truth (to borrow Vaclav Havel's phrase) that a person exhibits in making an argument about human behavior -- or, conversely, the qualities of condemnation, bitter small-mindedness and unconcern for the humanity of others -- are sometimes as important as the purely analytical forces that one can marshall.  This particular debate, which depends so much upon the basic, threshold question of recognizing the humanity of another, is one of those instances.

This is well-said, though I suppose we must concede that elite law schools have never been able to pretend that they weigh empathy or human decency as important factors in hiring decisions, but they do at least pretend to care about analytical smarts.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 7, 2009 in Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack